Chapter Five: Ha Ha Ha

HA HA HA!

HE HE HE HE!

HO HO HO HO HO!

HA! HO! HE! Snort.

HELLLLLOOOOOOOOOO GOTHAM CITY.

how wonderful it is to be here tonight

i look forward to …

be-eating

Your batMan.

see you soooOOOoooOOOoooN BATS.

Hehehehehahahahahahoohohoooooha

Part One: Marcus Toure

You should be getting combat pay,” Rebekha tells me. I’m taking dinner out of the oven while she cleans her gun.

“I’m not a cop,” I tell her. I set the hot plate on the kitchen table and she puts the gun and the rag down. “That’s your job.”

She sits down at the table, smells the lasagna. She smiles. “Mmmm.” She cuts a piece out and starts eating. “Gordon gives us combat pay,” she says. “Your publisher should do the same.”

“How can he afford that?” I ask.

SHe puts a fork of hot lasagna in her mouth and panics, drinking almost her whole glass of wine. “Hot, hot, hot,” she says.

“It just came out of the oven, dummy,” I smile at her.

Rebekha says, “He’s a goddamn hero. After that Falcone thing? The city will give him anything he wants.” She takes another fork of lasagna, blowing on it this time. “You’re a goddamn hero. Your paper should do the same thing.”

“I just report the news,” I tell her, taking a sip of wine.

“Bullshit,” she says. “At least I can carry a gun.” She looks at me that way again. I shake my head.

“No,” I say. “I’m not doing it.”

“It’s in the closet if you need it,” she says. “I took it off one of Falcone’s men. Untraceable.”

“That doesn’t make it any better,” I tell her. “Or easier.”

We sit at the table for a little while, just eating. Finally, I tell her, “What about this clown guy?”

She shrugs. “Another idiot playing dress up,” she says. “Like that quilt guy. No big deal.”

I reach across the table. “I worry about you,” I say, taking her hand in mine.

“I’ve got a gun and backup,” she says, looking at me. “What do you have?”

I squeeze her hand. “I’ve got you,” I tell her. “That’s all the backup I need.”

She smiles, her eyes getting misty. Then, her phone buzzes. “Shit,” she says. “Got to go.”

“Take some with you,” I tell her. “I’ll wrap it up.”

She smiles. “Jim loves your lasagna. Wrap some up for him, too.”

She puts her gun on. That always makes me nervous. “Where you going?” I ask.

“Chemical plant,” she says. “I’ll call you later.”

I give her two Tupperware boxes. “One for you and one for him,” I tell her.

She kisses me. “I’ll call,” she says. She takes the Tupperware and walks out the door.

Part Two: Christopher Ramsay

Two weeks later, and I was back on the job at Wayne Tech. The arm was working like a dream, and it was easy to forget that it’s not the one I was born with. The other guys told me it’d been quiet since I’d been gone, and that they were happy to have me back. Henderson, the guy who covered for me while I was gone, was an asshole.

I was on my rounds, running about half and hour ahead of schedule. I had shocked myself when I stood up from my station on the ground floor to start early. I hadn’t done that since the night I had an up-close meeting with Batman.

Advanced R&D was still my baby, and I didn’t hesitate unlocking the door into the Concept Labs. Hindsight being what it is, I wish I had. The door slid open to a handful of thick-necked men in t-shirts, combat pants, and rubber clown masks pulling hard-drives out of network racks.

“Hey!” I instinctively yelled, and reached for my sidearm. My flashlight dropped to the floor and spun, lighting up the space like a night club. Two of the clowns already had weapons at the ready, and their pistols belched flame. I dove to the right and my left arm moved up, so fast it was almost of it’s own accord. I heard bullets ricochet, and felt only the slightest sensation that something had struck my new appendage. I landed on my side and rolled behind a cabinet.

More gunfire, and glass broke and showered over me. Sparks flew from electronics and wood splintered. Panicking, I reached for the mic on my radio. “This is Ramsay in R&D!” I shouted. “Armed robbery! I’m getting shot at. Four – maybe five guys in clown masks!”

A clown stepped around the cabinet I was hiding behind and raised his weapon. I felt a slight tug at the sleeve of my uniform, and I raised my left hand up in a defensive gesture, my eyes clenched shut. There was a high-pitched whine, a flash of light I could see through my clenched eyelids, and no bullet came. I carefully opened my eyes to see my assailant laying on the floor – breathing, but unconscious.

“What the fuck?” I heard another say. I looked at my hand, which seemed to have peeled back from my wrist and some kind of emitter was jutting out from it. The end of the emitter glowed with a faint blue light. “What the fuck?” I whispered.

The gunmen rushed me at once, bullets flying. I raised my hand toward them, again reflexively, but this time my eyes stayed open. I could sense, somehow, the emitter targeting my attackers. Bullets flew around me, but sparked off some kind of field that had sprung up around me. The emitter on my arm flashed once… twice… and two gunmen dropped. Energy flashed, and a third crashed into a lab cart and hit the ground hard, and laid still.

The fourth and final clown dropped his gun and closed the distance, putting his hand on my left forearm, lifting the emitter towards the ceiling. His other hand closed to a fist and he tried to hit me, but fortunately I hadn’t forgotten all of my police defensive training. His blow was glancing, and only served to shift my fear into anger.

I felt the emitter pull back into my wrist, and my left hand slid back into it’s proper place. I was able to now grab the gunman’s own wrist, and I squeezed. I could see his eyes through the mask, and they went from anger, to concern, to panic, and his grip on me loosened. He started to grunt, but it’s pitch raised slowly into a high-pitched keen of pain.

Letting go of his wrist, I pulled my left hand back into a fist and drove it hard into the clown’s sternum. The blow drove him back, through drywall, and into an adjoining lab. The clown landed against the edge of the desk and dropped to the floor.

Another of the guards, Jackson Moores, came careening into the lab. “Drop your weapons! The police have been notified of your…”

He skidded to a stop and his voice trailed off, looking at the mayhem.

I rotated my left hand around, and it moved normally. I turned to Jackson. “Don’t worry. I took care of it.”

Part Three: Ignatius Gallow

I step out of the back of the cab onto a street that had seen better times. The houses here are old and we’re obviously once pricy. Not so much any more. I lean down and hand the drive two portraits of Ben Franklin. “The Family thanks you for your continued service in these troubled times.”

I walk across a small yard in desperate need of mowing, up crooked steps, and stop in front of a dark wood door with scratches around the tarnished brass lock. My fist against it rings out like gun shots in the still air. Blood trickles down my arm as I wait. One of the freaks in a clown mask winged me. Luckily my doctor hasn’t skipped town yet.

The door opens a fraction. The man behind the door is thin to the point do being emancipated. Stubble covers his cheeks darkening them around what used to be a smartly trimmed goatee. Dark purple bags are under the doctor’s eyes. Those blood shot eyes widen in surprise. I shove the door open before he can slam it closed. The burglar chain rips from the wall. The doctor falls back, his Arkham lab coat pooling around him.

“You can’t be here.” He slurs at me pushing himself up. Shame to see a once great doctor come to this. But if he had stayed clean I wouldn’t have any leverage over him.

“In point of fact Francis, I can.” I say stepping over him. “You still owe us for all those pretty pills you use to forget the funny farm.” Empty RX bottles and little baggies full of different colored lozenges litter an antique coffee table. I take off my coat before I sit down on a rather extravagant couch. A puff of dust rises up as my weight hits the cushions. “Now unless you want me dripping blood all over your rug I’d suggest you start paying some of your debt.”

The Arkham doctor comes into the room carrying a first aid kit. He clears space on table next to a battered chess board and lays out his tools. “You know I’m a psychiatrist not a surgeon right?” He asks as he begins checking my wound.

“Surgeons tend to hit the bottle not the needle.” I note the track marks lining his left arm. “The sooner you patch me up the sooner I’m gone.”

He works in silence, disinfecting, suturing, and wrapping my arm in gauze. “Cop?” He finally asks.

I shake my head. “New freak in town. Calls himself the Joker. Guy like you could make his whole career off a guy like that.”

I stand up and pull my coat back on. The doc is looking at me with a sick fascination in his eyes. “You really think so? What are his symptoms? A college and I have been exchanging notes on the rising tide of fear in the city. Anything you could tell me would help.”

I can spot a junky from a mile away. The doc’s real addiction was his work, not the narcotics we supplied him with. “Just keep your head down Dr. Markov. There is a war on out there. I don’t want some freak killing my only doctor.”

Part Four: Isabella Fuente

When you respond to a 911 call, protocol says that you wait for the cops to show up before you head in.

I don’t do well when it comes to protocol, especially if somebody might be hurt. Vega follows me into the house, it’s actually in a pretty decent part of town. Patient is Melvin Reipan, called 911 asking for help. Said he was poisoned.

Vega gets the stretcher while I try the door. Seems only fair, since I’m the one insisting we go in ahead of schedule. It’s open, I head inside.

The front room is an absolute wreck, and I see the patient immediately. On the floor, face down. I look left, right. Lab shit, beakers and test tubes with all sorts of liquid in them. “Chemicals everywhere. Masks?”

Vega’s already on my heels when I look back. He nods and we both mask up. I head to the far side of the patient to give Nate less distance to cover, looking for any visible wounds, blood, any limbs that stick out a way they shouldn’t. He looks fine, but he’s face down.

I check his wrist, searching for a pulse. Slow, weak. I tell Nate, he nods, helps me finish the initial look-over. We find nothing, so we decide to turn him over.

We roll him onto the stretcher and Nate jumps back. “The fuck is wrong with his face?”

I look. He’s got the biggest, creepiest fucking grin I’ve ever seen in my life. His eyes are open, but glassy. His smile is so wide I can see just about every tooth. I move to check for pupillary response while Nate checks the guy’s front. “Fixed and dilated. Pulse is slow. I have no fucking clue what’s wrong with him, call said poison. We should move him ASAP, get him in so they can do a tox screen.”

Nate nods, preps an IV bag. I find the vein on the first pass. Guy isn’t moving, it’s as easy as sticking a practice dummy. We hook up the line, get ready to transfer him to the gurney.

“What’s this?” Something in his hand, a little silver vial of some sort. Nate reaches for it — he’s impulsive, remember? — and a little puff of something hits him in the face. He drops the vial, staggers back. My blood goes cold.

Nate giggles.

Part Five: Nate Briggs

My cab rocked slightly as a new fare climbed in. Big guy, old leather jacket. He looks familiar. Scar across his face. After long enough, everyone looks vaguely familiar though. Guy gave me an address down into the red light district. He seems like part of the outfit, but I don’t recognize him. He doesn’t give any kind of phrase or anything. Honest mark then. Or as honest as it gets in this town.

I did the cabbie bit. Asked his name, where he was from, the same old thing. He told me to call him “Matches.”

“Weird name,” I said.

“Name’s Malone, but everyone calls me Matches,” he answered. I shrugged. Prying isn’t a thing smart people do in Gotham.

Especially then.

The city hadn’t been destroyed by the “war,” if that’s what you wanted to call it, but between the Batman, the police, and the mob, there wasn’t a lot of safe space. It was expanding, but that expansion was slow. And of course, this guy wanted to go to ground freaking zero. Hurray.

Matches didn’t say much to me. I was mostly worried that he was either an undercover cop, or someone from a rival organization. Russians were edging in on the cab business. Maroni wasn’t paying much attention to us. Money kept coming in from him, orders came sporadically. We did our own thing. I hadn’t been asked to do anything heinous. That didn’t mean that I hadn’t. A few more guys had wound up dead. The last one had cornered me in my cab about what was happening. He had fucked up, letting me trap him back there, but it meant that there was enough of a trail that other people might put it together. I’d slowed down since then. The mob was easing up on me. Maybe I could get out without giving myself more nightmares.

Gotham isn’t a city for pleasant dreams.

I let Matches out at the address he gave me. As he’s tossing my fare, my radio crackles loudly. An odd, erratic, broken voice comes from it. It’s a mess of laughter, fitful giggling. No sane person laughed like that. We both just stared at the damned thing. “WatER’s a f-f-fUN-nee thing, ain’t it?” the voice mused. “We’re soOoOo dependent on it. Never knowing what MIGHT BE hiiiding inside.” Another fit of crazed laughter. There was a noise and the radio died down, going back to the droning talk show I’d had it on before.

“The hell d’you think that.. was..?” I had asked, looking back to where Matches had been, just a second before. He was already gone. I hadn’t even noticed him leave.

Credits

Chapters written by Rob Justice
Christopher Ramsay written by Robert Wakefield
Igantious Gallow written by Steven A Skidmore
Isabella Fuente written by Michael Curry
Marcus Toure written by John Wick
Nate Briggs written by Zachary Alan Gourley

Posted in A City Without Hope.

Leave a Reply