A/N: I do not own The Batman, Batman: the Animated Series, DC Batman or anything of the sort in any way, shape, or form. WARNING: This fanfiction contains the following-Language, violence, mild canon-crossing elements, alternating first-person-view narratives, severe fancharacter/OCxCanon/OCxOC use. If you do not wish to be subjected to any of that, this is not the fanfic for you. NOTE: This fanfiction is a companion to my other "The Batman" fanfic, "Twisted Souls." I highly recommend you read both fanfics as they will connect and overlap in some places and events. Finally, all fancharacters used (including my own) are credited back to their creators in the copies of the "Cry Wolf" chapters that are in my deviantArt gallery, as these chapters were uploaded there first.
Chapter One: Just Another Day?
How many people do you know have alarm clocks that play the theme from Happy Days when they're set to go off? Well, if you didn't know any before, the count just totaled 1. And trust me, nothing wakes you up in the morning quite like a rousing chorus going "We'll make you hap-pyyy…" The only reason I've kept the clock is because it works and at least it wakes me up with the expectation that every day can be a good one.
So when a bad day comes along, I just have to resist the urge to take a sledgehammer to that stupid clock.
I'd been in the middle of a really odd dream that I couldn't quite remember when it started to play again, and I woke up, rubbing my eyes tiredly before fumbling around to find the 'off' switch. My hand found my glasses instead, and I hurriedly shoved them onto my face, the world coming into focus as I finally turned the clock off.
O blessed silence!
I pushed myself out of bed and swayed on my feet a bit, trying to remember what day it was. Friday…or was it Saturday? It was Saturday, I decided. The library opens earlier on a Saturday, meaning I have to be there by 9:30 to help set up before the patrons come in. I stumbled downstairs to the kitchen to prepare my breakfast, noticing three unheard messages on my voicemail machine. I pressed play and shuffled to the fridge, pulling out a carton of skim milk.
"Jeanette?" my mother's voice came from the speakerphone first, "It's your mother. Listen dear, I was just calling to check up on you, see how you're doing. You hardly ever call me any more and I get so worried, what with you being holed up in Gotham City. I just saw the news recently and it was featuring something about that wretched Penguin attacking the west side. That's not too far from where you live, isn't it?"
It's on the opposite end of the city, mother. I decided to heck with it and just took a drink from the carton. No one else I know who even bothers to come visit drinks skim milk anyway.
"Anyway, give me a call back soon, honey. I miss you."
The first message ended and the second started up.
"Miss Harker? This is Sky Reichied, from Blockbuster Video."
He sounded a little uncertain, like he wasn't sure where he worked, but my heart skipped a beat anyway. The really cute Cherokee employee from Blockbuster? What was he calling me for?
"I just noticed that you've got an overdue video that needs to be returned. I believe it says here…" There was a pause and I heard the sound of a keyboard being consulted, "It's a DVD copy of 'Gosfield Park'? Anyhow, if you would just return that to us as soon as possible, it would be most appreciated. Thank you!"
Oh, it figures! Even now it's still Michelle who gets all the masculine attention, not me.
Not that one has any bitter feelings still left to smolder.
The third message began.
"Hey Jeanette? It's Heidi, and I need you to do me a really really big favor! I know you're probably sick of the library and all that—ha ha, I know I am!—but I need you to pick up my Monday shift, if that's okay."
Heidi, you may be my friend, but honestly, someone who doesn't like working at the library? I'm not sure how we became friends in the first place.
"You'll do it, right?"
But of course!
"Oh, please say you will! Give me a call on my cell phone to let me know! Sorry, and thanks!"
The machine beeped and set to work erasing all the messages as I poured the milk into a bowl of Cheerios and dug in. My mother still disapproves of my eating habits, but she's not here, so she can't complain. I walked over to the mini-whiteboard on the side of my fridge, uncapped the dry erase marker, and made a note of what I had to do. Return the DVD to Blockbuster and pick up Heidi's Monday shift.
I do NOT consider calling my mother a mandatory thing, so it doesn't get written down EVER.
I finished off my Cheerios with less enthusiasm than you see in the commercials, dumped the dishes in my sink, and raced back upstairs to get ready. I didn't get a shower, since I took them at night, so all I really needed was to put up my hair, get dressed, and put on a light layer of make-up. I don't care for the latter at all, but a little foundation, blush, and eyeshadow never hurt anyone, and it didn't make me Michelle. God knows I always hated how she would slather make-up on as we were growing up. It looked like she was attempting to paint herself with colored mud, but somehow she was considered 'gorgeous' in high school. Even to this day, it STILL makes no sense in my mind. But hey, that's high school.
I selected pastels to wear and since it was early summer, so I could get away with wearing my favorite pair of sandals to work.
"Miss Harker, I daresay I find you remarkably attractive this fine day!" I laughed at myself in the mirror as I pulled my hair up into a ponytail.
That there? Just me daydreaming. No guy in his right mind would go for a four-eyed, Shakespeare and Austen-quoting, pottery and cooking-obsessed bibliomaniac who worked as a children's librarian.
But hey, a girl can dream, can't she?
A vase reflected in my mirror caught my attention and I turned to look at it, smiling with pride. It was one of my first vases I sculpted when I entered my program for my Associate's in pottery, and I loved it so. I'd painted a scene from my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, on its side, and I kept it in my bathroom just to remind me that some day, maybe some day, I'd find someone for me.
But more likely than not, I would just end up selling this vase before too long. I'd sold a lot of my other pieces so far. Sooner or later I would just have to give up this nonsense.
For the time being though, I could allow myself to dream.
I gave the vase one last smile and left the bathroom, pulling my sandals on and digging for my purse in the mess of books that's always cluttering up the mythical floor my bedroom supposedly has. Generally I've kept my townhouse spotless, but I never seem to be able to get the books back on their shelves in my own abode. I think my coworkers would have kittens about it if they ever decided to drop in on me.
Finally I located my purse and my keys and dashed from my townhouse, locking up on my way out to my car. The Neon purred like a cat when I started her up and pulled out, heading to the library.
I was halfway there when I got a call on my cell phone from Marcia, who pleaded with me to pick up some coffee. There's a Starbucks on the way to work, and if my coworkers manage to catch me before I drive by it, I usually get bullied into stopping there before I come in. I don't mind too much though, because they pay me back when I get to work, but I try to avoid making that stop if I'm able.
"Oh, come on, Jay, please!" Marcia pleaded, "Chantelle's in one of her moods this morning, you've just GOT to pick up some coffee!"
"Marcia, sweetie," I chuckled dryly, "Have you ever tried just suggesting that Chantelle bring in her own coffee-maker one of these days?"
"Have you?" she shot back.
Chantelle's our supervisor, and the way she runs the place, you'd think we were all seamen and the library was our Navy ship. You have to get used to Chantelle before you can learn to tell apart her moods, of which there are ever only three: amused, bored, or pissed off. And trust me, it takes a while to work out which is which. But when Chantelle is pissed, the best way to placate her is with a mocha frapp.
I should know. I've had to pick them up for her plenty of times.
Which is why the second I walked into the Starbucks, the guy at the counter waved at me.
"Hey, hey, Jeanette!" he called. "Nice to see you again!"
"Hey, Bradley!" I called back with a smile, and he grinned around his lip piercing. Bradley was not my type—he still looks like he's not graduated from his Hot Topic-going, pierced and tattooed punk phase—but he's a nice enough guy once you get to know him, and really friendly.
Plus he knows my order front to back and in reversed mirror image.
"Three mocha frapps, a venti doubleshot with mint, and a Chai latte with extra foam?" he asked sweetly, raising a pierced eyebrow at me.
"You've got it, Brad!" I chuckled, digging through my purse.
"Comin' right up!" he said enthusiastically, grabbing an assortment of cups from underneath his side of the counter. I fumbled in my purse a moment, trying to find my debit card as Bradley spoke with another customer. I love my purse and all, but sometimes the blasted thing is like a miniature Bermuda Triangle I just carry on my person. Finally, I found the card I needed and held it out, only to have Bradley wave me off.
"I uh…I'm not sure how to tell you this, Jeanette," he said with a weak chuckle, and pointed toward the door, "But, uh…he just paid for your order."
I spun around, and saw a figure disappearing out the door, a tall man with long hair slicked back on his head, wearing a very expensive looking Italian suit.
"Oh, no!" I gasped in horror, running. I don't accept free handouts, ever, and I couldn't just let him—
"You're not going to make it, you know." Brad remarked. "He's too fast."
I threw the door open anyway, but to my astonishment, he was right: the man had disappeared like a phantasm.
"How dare he…the nerve of that man!" I spluttered in anger.
"That's just what he does." Bradley remarked.
"Brad, you know that person?" I asked, rounding on him.
"Hey, chill hon! I don't know him know him. He's an infrequent regular, so I don't even know his name, and he always gets something different…But he said to tell you if you had any objections that he thought you were, um…" he snickered and blushed, " 'A beautiful desert rose in an otherwise colorless and disheartening urban wasteland.'"
"You're kidding me, right?" I scoffed at him. No man would ever say that about me.
"You could have just yelled 'thank you' and he might have turned around, you know." Bradley said simply, and I fell silent. Why hadn't I just been able to accept that?
Simple. Because Jeanette Marie Harker refuses to be treated like a begging homeless wench!
Mind you, my coworkers laughed at me when I told them.
"Why can't you just accept that someone did something nice and thoughtful for you and move on?" Leslie laughed. Leslie's a sweet girl, and her round cheeks are always pink and smiling, just on the verge of a giggle.
"Because!" I answered in a somewhat shrill voice, "It's just not right!"
"But it was a nice gesture!" Marcia protested, "Not a lot of people do nice things like that these days!"
"He still could have hung around for me to thank him!" I muttered.
"You mean, for you to nag him and talk him out of doing it," Heidi scoffed at me, "Please, Jeanette! Don't be such a prude!"
"I'm not a prude!" I protested, feeling my cheeks go pink as I sipped at my frappucino.
"If you are all quite done gossiping?" came Chantelle's cold voice, and I nearly jumped. I looked up at her, forbidding as ever with her high blonde bun and hawk-like eyes and swallowed. Even with her frappucino, she was still testy today. We all went silent as the grave as we looked up at her, feeling rather silly and childish. "Good. Now, regardless of who bought who coffee, we need to open. Miss Harker, if you would attend to the locks, please?"
She handed me the set of keys and for a moment, I was stunned. First some mystery man buys me the coffee, and now CHANTELLE is letting me unlock the doors?
Surely this wasn't just another ordinary day.
"Come on then, hurry up!" Chantelle snapped, and I jumped to my feet, taking the keys and strolling out to the front doors.
Maybe the morning was just off to a weird start and I was being paranoid because I don't like my routine disrupted.
Yes, the bibliomaniac imagining things. It made sense.
But as it turned out, I wasn't.
Less than three feet from the first set of double doors, my vision exploded in a flash of light and color and I was flung backwards off my feet. My glasses nearly came off my face as I landed hard on my side, and I gritted my teeth with pain as I tried to readjust them on my face. A high laugh, somewhere caught between that of a mischievous child and an evil demon, pierced the smoke and falling debris, making me shudder.
"My, what a drag! Don't you people know you open right during the middle of Saturday morning cartoons? Think about what you're doing to all the poor kiddies, preventing them from rotting their brains!" the laughing voice said in a menacing way, and my heart began to pound in fear. No! It couldn't be!
"Punch, Judy? I think we need to give this old place a makeover, don't you agree?" the Joker cackled as he stepped into my view, green dreadlocks, red eyes, and all. I coughed as I got to my feet and froze in horror at the sight of a flamethrower in his hands, painted to look like a smile.
My books! My library! My job!
Joker was going to torch the Gotham City library!