❯ In the Shadow of the BatOne Night in Gotham ( Chapter 10 )
“The important thing to remember is,” the hench woman said seriously as she finished painting her face white, “they’re insane.”
“Seriously, Jamie?” the other man noted, pulling on a carnival mask, “Why do you work for them, then?”
Jamie smiled as she added some red lipstick, the older woman’s brown hair falling over her shoulders, “The money’s great, and nobody lives forever, Max.”
Max nodded nervously, pushing his black hair back then adjusting the suit the young man wore. “How do I look?” he asked.
Jamie nodded thoughtfully, “It’ll do. Now, let’s see who else is here.”
There was a odd feeling to the factory, once home to a toy company before it moved it’s operations to Mexico. Colorful boxes lay abandoned in the corners, and broken toys sat in forlorn piles, waiting some craftsman to restore them to life.
“Hey, boys!” Harley Quinn waved cheerfully, the black and red garbed villainess adding, “And girl, of course.” Several other thugs were there also dressed in clown outfits, improvised from regular clothes and wearing face paint.
“Ah HA ha HA ha ha HA!” the chilling laugh echoed as the Joker emerged, the pale skinned man grinning his usual mad grin, his purple suit fitting him like a glove. “Welcome all,” he waved, “to the greatest show on earth!”
“That’s the one you watch out for,” Jamie murmured, “he makes the rest of the city’s maniacs look sane.”
“Mister J!” Harley squealed, rushing towards him…. only to be hit with a mallet Joker had concealed behind his back.
“Now Harl,” Joker said conversationally as he stepped over his stunned lover, “you know I don’t go in for that touchy feely stuff.”
“Right?” Harley murmured, raising her head and shaking off the blow.
“She’s the one that got us together for him,” Max sounded disbelieving as he whispered, “and he does that to her?”
“He’s crazy, remember? They both are,” Jamie answered him softly.
But before anything else could happen, the skylight exploded inward with a crash, figures dropping like avenging angels upon them. Batwoman hit the ground first, her red lined cape swirling as her battle staff dropped a thug, “Surrender, Joker.”
“You had a sex change, Batman?” Joker laughed, “Red is SO not your color.”
“Ah, Mr J that’s BatWOMAN,” Harley said wryly.
“I knew that,” Joker smacked her casually.
The faceless woman seemed to scowl as the Question muttered, “He is really beginning to annoy me.”
Jamie grabbed Max before he could charge forward as she yelped, “Let’s get out of here!”
Max looked at her in surprise, “But there’s just two of them.”
“You really haven’t lived in Gotham long,” Jamie muttered as she grabbed her friend and hurried them out the back door.
“Huh?” Max blinked.
“Never mess with capes,” Jamie said as they heard the founds of pitched battle within the building, “they always win.”
“Surely not all the time….” Max blinked, the air in the alley behind the factory chilled by a light spring rain.
“Often enough,” Jamie paused to pull a cloth from her pocket and scrubbed the white makeup she was wearing off. “Get that mask off too,” she ordered him, “in case any of their buddies are watching.”
“Oh, right,” Max sheepishly ditched the mask, glad that the clothes they were wearing didn’t stand out too much. Thank goodness plain business suits never went out of style.
“Well, that job was a bust,” Jamie sighed, “too bad. Joker usually pays well, too.”
“I could use the money,” Max admitted, “rent’s due.”
Jamie sighed, the two pausing as a caped figure swung by above them. “It’s urgent?” she asked after a moment.
“Yeah,” Max admitted quietly.
“Okay,” Jamie said reluctantly, “let’s go see if we can find a decent hench person job.”
The coin shone as it rose up, glittering, then spun as it fell, the horribly disfigured man catching it on the back of his hand. Both Jamie and Max held their breath as he uncovered it, then they sighed in relief to see the unmarked face.
Harvey Dent would be a handsome man if you could just ignore the acid scarred half of his face, and there was regret in his eyes as he said, “Sorry, folks. If you were twins I’d hire you, though the matching suits are a nice touch.”
“Thank you sir,” Jamie sighed.
Both tensed as the coin was flipped again, shining before it thankfully came up unscarred. “It’s too bad you we’re more into the duality thing,” Two Face mused, “if you can come up with something next time, I’ll put you on my list.”
“We’ll look into it,” Max promised.
“Thank you for your time,” Jamie added as they slipped out of the backroom of the bar, puffing out a sigh of relief once they were outside.
“I think he scares me more than Joker,” Max mused softly as they headed to their next stop, “the Joker may be crazy, but he’s not random.”
Jamie shrugged, “I’ve worked a gig with Two Face, as long as you handle the job right he doesn’t need to flip for your fate.”
“That’s comforting,” Max sighed. “Where to next?”
The man’s skeleton glowed with crackling fire as Doctor Phosphorus sat casually in the back of the Iceberg Lounge, smoking a cigarette. Once upon a time Phosphorus’ powers would have set everything ablaze, but he had gained enough control to wear clothes and interact with others safely, more or less.
“You two up for a killin’ job?” the former scientist asked, drawing on a cigarette.
“If it comes up in a caper,” Jamie answered frankly, “but I don’t go looking for it.”
“Sorry,” Phosphorus shook his head as he said, “I got a score to settle with Rupert Thorne. A deadly score, and the muscle I need’s got to know that.”
“I understand,” Max said, “and Thorne won’t hear it from us.”
“Better not,” Phosphorus said flatly as he looked at them, “if I hear he learned something from you, there won’t be enough left to fill a shoebox.”
Up front both Max and Jamie paused at the bar, getting a coke each. The bartender was smooth and graceful, accepting a tip then sliding off to serve the next customers in line. They both drank, resting a moment even as a familiar figure neared.
“Ah, Jamie, it’s been to long,” Oswald Cobblebot smiled up at her charmingly, his black business suit making the short pudgy man look like his namesake, the Penguin.
“Been awhile,” Jamie acknowledged, “but I’m glad to see you doing well.”
“Thank you,” Oswald preened, “it’s been rough going, but worth it.”
As Oswald strutted off Max looked at Jamie in a little awe as he asked, “How do you know these guys so well?”
“I’ve been on the scene for awhile,” Jamie admitted, “started with the Roman’s mob, then moved on into being a henchwoman when Batman took him down. I’ve worked with most of the big faces in Gotham at one time or another.”
“So… you’ve never made it big?” Max asked.
Jamie snickered, “If you’re in this business expecting a share in the big score, forget it.” She tossed back the rest of her drink, “The few times I’ve made it big I’ve never been able to hold on to the money, something always happens.” She smiled a bit sadly, “No, I figure I’ll keep working till my luck runs out.”
“I never thought of things like that,” Max conceded.
Jamie stood up and stretched, “Come on, let’s hit a few other possibilities. We gotta get your rent paid somehow.”
“Thanks,” Max said, following her obediently.
After checking in with Scarecrow and the supposedly reformed Riddler, the two of them found themselves in the dockyard home of their latest opportunity. “Watch it Sugar,” the puppet Scarface complained, looking like a gangster from years ago, “it’s damp in here!”
Peyton Reily smiled, the lovely blonde Ventriloquist holding Scarface in her arms, “Sorry sir.” She looked up at Max and Jamie, “We do need some help, but we’re only looking for one person for now.”
“I….” Max hesitated.
Jamie spoke up, “Go ahead, Max.”
Max looked at her in surprise, “You’re sure?”
Jamie smiled at him as she said, “It’s okay, go ahead.” She squeezed his arm, “Remember, you need the money.”
Max sighed as he quietly said, “You sure?”
“Take the job,” Jamie insisted.
“Ain’t this special,” Scarface sounded amused as the puppet looked at Max, “nice suit, kid, but you’ll need a fedora.”
Jamie slipped out as they addressed wardrobe issues, pausing one she felt she had walked far enough away from the Ventriloquist’s base. The payphone buzzed as she dialed the number and the answering machine picked up.
“Yo Bats,” Jamie said, feeling only a slight twinge at selling the boy out, “the Ventriloquist is up to something again, operating at pier 5 on the deocks. I expect my usual payment at the mail drop.”
Jamie hung up and walked off, already thinking of what she was going to do with the money. This was Gotham city, and if she had learned anything over the years it was how to take care of herself.
To be continued….