“Agent of Chaos” (part two of ?)
Sitting in the parked car, he was a tad disappointed. Exiting the vehicle, he thought about delving into Karen Magee’s past and it made him nearly long for more of a challenge. It wasn’t so much of how he would break her, but would it be this easy? She seemed mainly held up by the success of her sporadic novels and mundane charity work. He was hoping it would take more than some skilled manipulation, petty revenge and shifting of digital funds to make her his.
Willingly, that is.
Sean had asked why he was doing this. Was the Joker actually tired of sating his virulent carnal appetite with the occasional high class hooker left alive, but scarred, or the gutted streetwalker or his latest victim in general? Truth was, just as now, he sometimes wanted more of a challenge than doped up whores and whiny dupes. It didn’t take a genius such as himself to suspect Ms. Magee was obedient in bed, given her violent imagination and lack of control in her life. His study of her had proved said need to serve and he was surprised how much he wanted to be the one inflicting that exquisite suffering.
There was another reason for his pursuit of her. It was an all too common occurrence; he saw so much more potential in her, the possibility of such hedonistic greatness, of decadent indulgence and libertine experience. It was all being held hostage by a dam of ethics and scruples, holding back what could be a wildly epicurean person, if she’d only allow it. But her sense of right and wrong, no matter how detrimental it had been to her life, prevented it. He never believed the only option other than great genius was great evil and she was a perfect example. Ms. Magee was proof that one’s brilliance could be tempered by too much of a conscience, living a lackluster existence and unfulfilled dreams, partly due to her poor upbringing and the sheer fear of what would happen if she permitted the fury within to take over. The plain notion this could have been what became of him had he not found his true being, and the mere idea of what she was denying herself, was disturbing, even downright infuriating.
Book in hand, he thought she would appreciate the direct approach, so he walked in the front door of the bookstore alone. There was a book signing that night and she was the featured author. Not wanting to draw attention to this meeting, he’d waited until the end of the session before making his appearance. He looked around at the mostly empty establishment, spotting Karen sitting at a table at the end of a long hallway directly in front. Her books were in stacks on either side of her.
The lady next to her did a double take upon seeing him, then laughed. She remarked to Karen, “You’ve got another clown. Oh dear, this one is a Joker clone. That’s two Jokers and three jesters for tonight.” Then she directed her comments to him, “You’re late, dear! The store is closing, but you did such a fine job of dressing up, we’ll let you in!”
Ms. Magee had her head down, stuffing files into a carry bag. He approached as she said, “You have to give them credit, Lakin. They go through a lot...” she looked up at him, then took a second look of her own, seeing his walk, his clothes, his Hellish expression...and her eyes began getting wider and more frightened by the second. Never looking away, she quietly said, “Lakin...”
In front of her now, he placed a finger to his distorted lips. “Shhhhh, we don’t want another ‘public spectacle’ here tonight, do we?”
“No.” she managed to say.
“Then let’s keep this quiet.” He reached over and grabbed a chair, sitting in one swift movement.
“Oh, wow!” said Lakin, her assistant, who had been momentarily distracted. “You’ve even got the voice down pat!”
“Want to see if I’ve got the talent!?” he gleefully retorted.
Quickly interrupting, Karen said, “Lakin, would you excuse us for a moment?”
Surprised, she acquiesced. “Um, sure. Just call if you need anything.” She gave him a leery look while leaving the area and he smiled widely at her.
He looked back at Karen, who was more ordinary than he expected in person. “Surprised to see me?”
Her eyebrows raised. “Yes, actually, I am.”
“How did you know it was me?”
“You’re unique.” she quipped ironically, then nodded at his jacket pocket. “That knife, the handle, the blade; only the...that’s yours; it’s a favorite. I’ve seen it in pictures in the paper, on the ’Net. Nobody else would have that.”
He took out the knife in question, looked at it, placed it back and nodded in approval. “You are astute! I like that.” He also liked the fact she’d examined him to that level.
She folded her arms loosely on the table, seemingly resigned at his presence. “Shouldn’t you be trying to finish burning down City Hall?”
He hid his stab of anger at the reminder of his failure. “Nah. I’m savoring Gotham’s paranoia right now. They don’t know when or where I’ll strike next, so I’m just having fun watching all the sheep trying to hide from the big, bad wolf! Why, aren’t you scared?”
“Of course I am!” she insisted. “But I think the publishing company who put out my book has left me a little emotionally pummeled.”
He laughed. “I know the feeling.”
“Besides, if you wanted to hurt me or anyone else, you would have done it by now. At least to this point.”
“To this point?”
“You’re never that simple.” she replied.
He was about to say something else, then stopped, instead giving her his copy of the book. “Sign it for me.”
She was slightly amused. “Really? Sure.” She opened the cover and said, “With a capital or small ‘J’?”
He growled the words, “You know better than that.”
They eyes met and he saw it again, that hollow, mutual understanding, the warped affiliation between them. He had never told anyone to call him the Joker, it just happened. It was a calling card he’d never used or endorsed, yet was applied to his actions and deeds. That moniker had been given to him by his henchmen, his enemies and the media. He accepted it in lieu of other, even more ridiculous references. In her book, the court jester had been abandoned as an infant, raised in an orphanage, then the corrupt King cut up his face as a youngster, hence calling him “Grinemal,” saying he looked like a smiling animal. She understood once you became someone else, you can’t even acknowledge your prior existence. That character had no original designation, just like him.
It suddenly occurred to him that was what she saw in him. As before, it wasn’t the fellow perception most mistook it for; she didn’t want what he had, she wasn’t jealous. She wanted to be like him, someone different, a more terrible and removed form of his previous self. She envied him, admiring his ability to fully exit his old life for one of public menace. It was the ultimate juxtaposition of not caring what others thought of you and yet still loving the fact everyone hates you. It made him want her all the more.
She shrugged. “Do you want me to make up a name for you?” Before he could answer, she said, “Hell, I already did. Wait, here...” She inscribed something on the inside cover, then handed it back.
He took it and loudly whispered, “Thank you!” Flipping it open, he read, “To my own Grinemal...without you, I would still be alone.” It was the last words Perity said to the jester in the novel, as they made their escape, a very touching, emotional scene where she reaffirms her bond for him, yet acknowledges their love is defective. “I see you like happy endings.”
She chortled a bit. “Um, a lot of folks didn’t think that was a happy ending, them getting away like that.”
“Depends on your perspective, I guess.”
He looked back at her expectantly.
“Is there anything else?” she asked, truly curious.
“Yes.” he said, sitting upright. “I have a proposition for you.”
“And that is?”
He cocked his head and let his hand drop close to hers. A purple-gloved finger lightly caressed her pale arm and she watched in horror, saying nothing. “I said...I have a proposition for you.” he reiterated, his voice warm, deep, lyrical. “As Grinemal had for Perity.” She looked at him shocked, bewildered. He continued with, “I admit, my reading your work was accidental, but did you think I would not be motivated by so many comparisons and resemblance? Hell, I should sue you for copyright infringement! I must confess the drop-dead gorgeous knife made my cock hard, but then you, my dear, you!” He snickered manically, ending in a low rumble. “Let’s just say ‘Perity’ has been strangled either by my come or my hands or both and more than once! You see, I’m not a hard man to figure out, but I am still...a man.” he said with a wink. “And that’s it. What do you think?” he concluded, sitting back.
She lowered her head, obviously stunned. Clearing her throat, she said, “Well, I don’t know what to say. I hadn’t considered that you’d, um, want me. Not really, I mean.”
“You should have thought of that before you told the press about alike your jester and I were. I probably would have never read it.”
She shook her head. “Forgive my confusion, but, just like my character, you seem like the type who wouldn’t bother to ask.”
“True enough.” he said. “Depends on the one I choose at the time.” He leaned forward, his finger once again performing a tiny dance on her hand. “Why? Did you automatically think I would rape you? Take you against your will?” He jovially said, “Let’s do an inventory of those that have done that to you already, shall we? What about the older ‘friend’ you, um, ‘knew’ when you weren’t even a teen? He was what, thirty-nine? True love, if I’m to judge! And what about that lady you went into business with? Didn’t she steal all your ideas, employees, money and leave you in a lurch? Great way to invest all that hard earned cash, time and dedication. And did you really think your boss’ car had broken down the night you gave him a ride home?” He mockingly sobbed. “Oh, the gullibility! Here you thought of him as a father and, well, he was your daddy that night!”
“Stop it!” she snarled, her eyes filling with tears.
“Fine, just realize if I wanted to hurt you like that, according to your own pattern, I’d have to ‘befriend’ you first.”
“Well, I hate to disappoint you, but my pain levels are much lower than my character’s. Perity is about a ten and I’m barely a one.”
“You were attending that BDSM club less than five months ago.”
Deflated he seen through her ruse, she said, “I had to because it was becoming less of a hobby and more of a preoccupation. Doesn’t matter, I’m still not to the level you’re looking for.”
“I’m a good teacher!”
She nodded, sarcastically saying, “Oh, you think you’d enjoy such mundane dalliances?”
His voice took on a low, seductive quality, “Oh, my lady! I do not believe you could ever be boring while serving.” His kohl-encircled eyes swept over her appreciatively. “Honestly, I surmise you would be quite gifted. I am eager to see if I’m right.”
Honor and titillation at the flattery was visible for a few seconds in her, then was dampened. She sat back. “You’re serious.” She said it as though it were just sinking in.
Unsure about how to proceed, she nervously glanced around. “Um...can I think about it?”
“Sure.” Then, he started on a seemingly completely unrelated topic. “Don’t you just love the U. S. Postal system? They bring all kinds of goodies and treasures to your door. Okay, I do admit, a lot of garbage and grief as well.” He paused, then pointedly said, “Get any good news lately?”
She looked at him, her eyes growing astonished. “Yes,” she breathed. “I got a letter...” she trailed off, her sight becoming distant, her mouth growing slack.
“Karen?” asked Lakin, who was standing in a doorway. “They really want to close up.”
“Give me a few minutes, please!” she snapped, her tone hitched and strained. She looked back at him. “You…did you...do that?” she struggled to ask.
He nodded exaggeratedly, feigning humility. “Yeah, that was little ole’ me! Tell me, Karen, how does it feel to be debt free?”
Totally lost, she babbled, “But, why?! I mean, how could you possibly...that bill was over twenty-thousand! I don’t see how-“
He cut her off, “Two dollars, twenty thousand, a million, who cares!? Point is it’s done, out of your life. Like most, hospitals don’t care where the money comes from, as long as they get paid.”
Still shaken, with nowhere left to go, she said, “What...if I say no?” Her voice was near panic.
“Then...I walk away. As I said, I’m not here to force you. But you might want to keep this in mind.” With that, he threw her a small, clear plastic bag, which she caught out of reflex. Looking at the contents, she dropped it, gasped, coughed deeply, panted hard, then ran to the nearest garbage can, emptying the contents of her stomach. He pocketed the severed finger while she retched convulsively.
“Karen?” said Lakin, coming out from the back. “Are you alright?”
“Too much Starbucks.” he said, pointing to the cafe.
“Right.” Lakin said. “It’s time for you to leave.”
“Lakin, no!” said Karen, who finally stood upright. “We’re almost done. Please, I’ll explain everything later. Just a few more minutes, okay?”
Lakin gave him an evil look, then retreated. Karen sat back down, her eyes watering and gabbed a few tissues. Her eyes were down, her hands shaking. “What...whose is that?” She said, her voice breaking.
Glibly, he said, “I believe her name was Lela Wynt. She made your life an utter Hell for years while you worked with your friend, the lady who stole your business. Actually, Lela was the one who convinced your ‘friend’ to rip you off. And she did it simply ’cause you were a good person, ’cause there was no one to stop her, because you make such a perfect victim.”
Appalled, she said, “I read about that in the paper! They found her body horribly mutilated. I couldn’t believe it was the same person.” Her brow knitted, not making the connection. “But...why would...you hurt her?”
He suddenly, but gently, took hold of both her hands, his tone imploring, “Because I had to convince you I can be an asset to you! All I ask,” he said holding her gaze, “is for your ‘attentions’ and secrecy. In return, I can give you the retribution your sorry, pathetic life so richly deserves.” He smiled. “Think about it, Karen, I can be the spine you never had!”
Trying to recover, she attempted to dissuade him with suspicion. “Why would you do this for me? I hadn’t realized you were so considerate.”
“Maiming and killing specific targets requires little more than a couple extra steps. Just don’t ask for a partner in your volunteering.” He quickly sat back, his tone fierce, “Just tell me you’re sorry I did it and I’ll leave and you’ll never see me again.”
Her eyes went thoughtful. There, he’d done it, struck a nerve. Lakin came up from behind, ignoring him. “Karen?”
In one of the quickest about-faces he’d seen in a while, Miss Magee suddenly, brightly said, “Yes, me and um, the gentleman here were just ending our discussion. You have touched on many great points, sir, and I will take them under advisement.” She stood and extended her hand. He took hold of it and surprisingly she encased his with both of her own. “Thank you.” she said, her words reading sincerity. “If I am interested in any further endeavors, I will contact you.”
He nodded slowly, happy she appeared amiable. “Thanks for speaking with me. Here is my card.” he said, sliding the usual notice toward her, at which Lakin rolled her eyes. “I hope to hear from you soon. Good evening, ladies.” He said with a wink to Lakin, who looked away. He left, book tucked neatly under his arm and tossed the bagged finger in the trash.
A lot of folks did not follow the news regularly. He always felt that was such a mistake. Depending on the publisher, it could always provide the most wonderful entertainment. Be it shameless sensationalism or thinly-veiled propaganda, there were fewer ways to see humanity at its rotten core than the way the news was reported. Of course, that made it easier for him, to analyze and categorize when laws were changed by which politicians, when crimes where reported and how and, half the reason he bought the paper, the comics section.
I still miss ‘Calvin and Hobbes.’
He was flipping through pages of “The Gotham Times,” as Sean talked in the background.
“What do you think, boss?”
“I think it’s a great idea.” he parroted, as Sean went off on another tangent, explaining his latest plan to help them commit mayhem. When it came to Sean’s schemes, the Joker had gotten it down to a science, being able to filter out most of the inanity, while listening for actual nuggets of insight, which the young sap occasionally did have.
“Perhaps at the banquet next Saturday,” he heard him say, the smile evident in his voice, “when your girlfriend will be there.”
Sean’s eyes got big, as if he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Um, you know that author lady. It’s in the paper, section C. She’s doing some charity thing; threw it together in a short time, too, put a lot of money into it. It’s a big event.” The Joker was already tossing sections aside, searching for the article. He didn’t have to look long, seeing it was plastered on the front page of the “Living” section. He read the words at a rapid pace, his anger increasing by the second. Meanwhile, Sean kept talking, “Looks like she’s auctioning off some great stuff that came from her books, including that knife you like. I guess only five of that quality were made and this is the last one. Bidding starts at five grand! Lot’s of important folk are gonna’ be there as well. Did you, um, see what she said?” He picked up a page and showed it to him.
The reporter asked her, “Are you worried the Joker will show up that night?”
“No.” she replied, confident. “He’s still dealing with not fully burning down City Hall!” Smiling she added, “Although I am curious to know what he would bid on the knife. It does make me wonder where he would display it. Probably in some dirty warehouse.”
He threw the paper down in disgust, his mind racing. “That, that harlot is taunting me!”
Sean looked baffled. “Um, how?”
“She knew I was not going to attack anywhere now! I don’t have the manpower or supplies, made obvious by my last attempt, which she rubs in my face!”
“Well, you do kinda’ have a rep with even the bad guys now, boss. Not a whole lotta’ folks wanna’ die just to do a job for you.”
He had to calm himself before he proved him right. “Which makes it particularly interesting when someone does work for me.” he sneered, at which Sean rolled his eyes. The Joker picked up the paper again, staring at the picture of her. “AND she flaunts what should be mine, given away to the highest bidder.”
It made him furious she would hold said function, complete with public figures and substantial media coverage, fully aware he could do little about it. True, he could amass a small crew and proper funds in that time, but it would mean risking failure again. However, he could not let her get away with thinking she could trouble him as such. He would take the knife just to spite her. Evidently, it was going to take more than just his offer to win her over. Yet, through his rage, a tiny part of him was thrilled she was proving to be more of a challenge than he initially thought.
part three soon(I really want to apologize for the posting errors I have been making. I am not used to LiveJournal and it is really kicking my butt. It has taken me *way* too long to make this one. simple. entry. :::sobs:::)