Batman: Bad Jokes, Chapters 29 and 30
Batman returns to the cave and discovers something fishy about Mayor Webster's murder, and Gordon gets attacked by a mess of Arkham crazies...
“Where have you been?” is Dick’s first question as I join the small group gathered around my computer.
“I’ve been insuring that matters in this city don’t get any worse” I respond.
I pass through Dick and Oliver and take my seat at the computer. After talking to Joker, I need to review the tape taken from Webster’s office to confirm that Joke-Man was his killer. Joke-Man insinuated that the tape might have been tampered with, trying to convince me of his innocence. Even before then I was skeptical about Joke-Man’s notions, but now I am dreadfully unsure. I start the security video and watch as intently as possible with Dick and Oliver behind me.
“What is that supposed to mean exactly?” Dick asks.
“Be more specific, please” I respond.
“More--!” Dick throws his hands in the air. “I can’t win for losing with you! It’s like talking to a damn computer! What did you mean by ‘insuring matters in this city don’t get any worse’?”
“I went to see Joker.”
“How did you find him?”
“Using the description you gave of the warehouse in accordance to distance from the break station at which you stopped.”
“So, the old clown’s back in Arkham now, eh?” Oliver asks.
“No. I’m letting him go on this one.”
“What!” Oliver and Dick exclaim in unison.
I turn my chair towards them. I knew that the two of them wouldn’t understand the gravity of the situation.
“With Joke-Man headlining in Gotham’s press, Joker’s been in a very vulnerable state as of late.”
“So, what,” Dick asks, “did you feel sorry for him or something? Too bad for him then. You should have gave him a tissue and sent his ass packin’ back to Arkham.”
“With his ego bruised, Joker was very susceptible to influence. Before I intervened, Joker was willing to let Joke-Man kill Robin. Now, Joker’s going to go after Tim.”
I turn my chair back to the computer and begin my analysis of the video.
“That’s a good thing, why?” Oliver asks.
“Two other things could have happened: either I left things the way they were and Joker never would go to the Church home this Friday, or I could have taken Joker back to Arkham and the same would have happened” I explain.
“Again, why is that a good thing?” Dick asks.
“If Joker doesn’t follow according to Joke-Man’s plans, then none of us can predict what will happen. If Joke-Man doesn’t get what he wants, then he could very well turn his frustrations towards the city.”
“He hasn’t done that already?”
A distortion in the video catches my eye.
“What do you mean ‘no’? He pumped four bullets into me! You’re watching a damn video of him killing Mayor Webster right now!” Oliver shouts sarcastically.
I stand and point to the distortion on the screen.
Dick and Oliver both approach the computer and lean in to look more closely at the monitor. Next to Joker-Man on the screen is a clear distortion, though not easily visible to the naked eye. There isn’t much too be seen, but someone has taken imagery from Webster’s office and used it to cover something…or someone.
“What is that?” Oliver asks.
“Someone else was in that room with Joke-Man when Webster was murdered” Dick answers.
“Exactly, and whoever it was had someone else erase them from the video” I explain. “Joke-Man knew about this, which means that he was most likely a part of it.”
I search the screen for more distortions. If Joke-Man knew that video had been tampered with, then it’s likely that he was the one that ordered it to be done. He had said that the video’s inaccuracies would show that he was innocent. Therefore, something was done to make it appear as if Joke-Man had killed Webster.
Fast forwarding to the moment when the scissors meet Webster’s throat, I begin to examine things very closely. Without a doubt, I know that it must be the scissors that were added to the video. This being more than a hunch, I’m not surprised when I find another distortion around the scissors.
“Joke-Man didn’t kill Webster” I announce.
“So, those scissors were put in too?” Dick asks.
“Yes, and without Webster’s body to observe, there’s no way of telling that he’s even dead. For all we know, Joke-Man may have Webster held captive somewhere.”
This is all very unnerving. Could Mayor Webster still be alive? Not only does this mean that Joke-Man didn’t kill Webster, but it could also mean that Joke-Man didn’t kill any of those police either. Should that be the case, then that raises more questions. If all of the police that Joke-Man supposedly killed are still alive, then where are they? More importantly, could it be that those police where working with Joke-Man?
“So, how do we approach this now?” Oliver asks.
“Someone else is in that video” I remind them.
“Yeah,” Dick exhales, “so what about that?”
“Webster is clearly afraid in the video. He makes mention of the scissors, but we know that the scissors aren’t there.”
“So, Webster was seeing things?” Oliver asks.
“Yes. There’s only one person in Gotham that can provoke hallucinations and fear on this scale.”
“Scarecrow!” Dick exclaims.
I quickly stand from my chair and head towards the motorcycle.
“Dick, I want you to investigate the remains of Gotham Central. Look for any remains.”
“Remains of what?”
“People. As soon as you find something, I want to know.”
“On the job, boss!”
“Oliver, do me a favor and try to track down Scarecrow.”
“Sure, I’ll follow orders for once. So, what are you gonna do?”
I turn back to Oliver with my concerns plastered on what little of my face that is exposed.
“I’m going to my Father’s school.”
-Commissioner James Gordon-
I’m lying here in bed, begging for just a minute of a sleep. Sleep doesn’t come and doesn’t show any signs of doing so. I haven’t slept in three days, and I’ve got the bags under my eyes to prove it. My eyes are as sore as my feet, which also haven’t been given a rest in three days. What’s worse is that when I did get to sleep those three nights ago it was only for five hours before Bullock was on the phone.
Joke-Man insists on calling me “friend,” but he’s going to be the end of me. Whether he shoves a knife between my ribs or not, eventually this sleep deprivation is going to kill me. I wish I could just get my hands around his throat for one more second. Is that so much to ask? I just want him to not breathe for one more second; I hope that second feels like a lifetime.
After a long wait, I got a call from the governor yesterday. He’s finally going to send in the National Guard to help with the situation. Frankly, I think things will only get worse with those military meatheads shoving there weight around my city, but we need all of the help we can get. If I can get to sleep, I can forget all about this for a couple of hours.
Yesterday, the press broke the story about Webster’s death. I had wanted to keep his murder low key as to avoid panic. Of course, the press does whatever they want without any concern for anyone else. Now, I’ve got civilians in uproar about how I “lied to them.” That, and people are looting all over the city. Funny, isn’t it? Gotham loses next to all of her police force, but it’s only when the people find out that the mayor’s been murdered that anyone starts to panic.
Another reason for keeping Webster’s murder under the radar was the fact that we never found the body. That there is reason enough to believe that he might not even be dead. There is pretty solid evidence on film showing his throat getting slit by Joke-Man with a pair of scissors, but the wound might not have killed him. Either way, looking for Webster is one of the last things on my mind right now.
I roll over and look at the clock.
12 o’ clock on the nose.
In exactly 24 hours, Joke-Man is going to act on his threat to kill Robin on live television. I highly doubt that Joke-Man is actually intending to kill the boy, but tomorrow is nonetheless going to be eventful. It’s clear that Joker is Joke-Man’s primary target. All of the other activity is just some kind of show leading up to his big finish. That’s all it is really. For him, this is all some kind of game.
I eventually give up on sleeping and sit up in bed. I reach over to the nightstand for my cigarettes. After a minute or so of feeling around, I can’t seem to find them anywhere. I feel around for the lamp switch and, finding it, turn on the light. Only a little surprised, I find that my cigarettes aren’t there.
Now, if Barbara had been staying here tonight I would have suspected that she had taken them. She’s been known for throwing away my cigarettes in the past. However, I’m home alone tonight.
I open up the drawer in the nightstand to get my gun. A little more surprised than before, I find that my gun is also missing. Now it’s clear to me that someone’s broken into my home. I never forget to put that gun in there. Someone took it out while my back was turned, obviously moving very quietly as they did so.
There are only two people that could have gotten into this house without my knowing it, and one of them is on my side.
“Didn’t we already have a discussion about your smoking, Commissioner?”
I turn to see Joke-Man standing in the doorway to my room, waving the cigarettes through the air.
“For one so concerned about my health, you’re doing a good job of keeping me up at night,” I return.
“Do you know what tonight is?”
“Is it the night you’re going to play your third joke and kill me?”
Joke-Man tosses the cigarette pack aside and walks towards me. Without much concern in his body language, he lowers himself and joins me in sitting on the bed. I look over at him, giving him a look that should imply to him that he shouldn’t be sitting next to me. I hear him chuckle quietly and then he reaches inside his jacket. A second later, my gun is in my lap.
“It won’t be much use to you now,” Joker-Man says, reaching back into his jacket, “I removed all of the bullets.”
When he brings his hand back out of his jacket, I can see all six bullets lying in his hand. Then, one by one, he flicks them all out of the open window with his thumb. Each one of them explodes as they hit the pavement below. The sixth bullet leaves the window, and a second later there is brief whine from a cat down below.
“Whoops.” Joke-Man says as he gets up, looking out the window. “You don’t have a cat, do you, Commissioner?”
“No. I’m not really a cat person, but my neighbor has a cat that she loves very much,” I answer only a little upset. I hated that cat.
“Oh. Well, then please send her my deepest condolences.”
“You just killed it!”
“It was only an accident. Besides, it was just a mangy little cat. It’s not like it was a dog or anything. Do you like dogs, Commissioner?”
“Are we really having this discussion?”
“Indeed, we are. Would you rather I get to the real reason I came here tonight?”
“Yes, Joke-Man, I like dogs.”
“That’s what I thought. Surely you’ve worked with many dogs in your work; the K-9 unit and whatnot.”
“We had a K-9 unit. You killed them all and the dogs.”
“Well, that’s terrible news. I myself love dogs. Tell me, Commissioner, what’s your favorite dog?”
“Maybe, or the best dog you’ve had or met.”
“Well, my family used to have a beagle when I was boy. Everyone else called him Spot; I called him Danger.”
“Why did you call him Danger?”
“Well, me and him used to always do everything together. He’d always get me into the most dangerous situations.”
“A beautiful thing, a boy and his dog. Whatever happened to Danger?”
“He was shot in a gangland killing. Ya see, I grew up in Chicago when it was still Chicago.”
“So, Commissioner, as one so young, what would you have had done to those that tarnished such a beautiful friendship?”
“If I had the authority then that I had now, if I even had had a gun, I would have seen them all dead.”
“I see. Well, Commissioner, then maybe we can understand each other on one point.”
“I had a dog killed in crossfire when I was a boy.”
Joke-Man returns to the doorway of my room, but only stays there for a second. Then, he just turns and heads down the stairs as quietly as he probably came up them. The only the reason I can hear him go down now is because I’m actually paying attention. I can’t help but wonder what this was all about, but suspicion tells me that something worse is to come.
It doesn’t take long for my suspicions to be proven correct.
Without warning, a bundle of vines bursts through my window, tearing away the frame. I try to make a run for the door, but my legs are soon caught in the twisting arms of the vines. I’m soon dropped to the floor, landing right on my nose. As the blood starts to run over my lips, I’m dragged back towards the window.
I look for some means of cutting the vines, but there is nothing around that would do any good. Wildly, I begin ripping at the vines with my fingers, trying to loosen their hold if only by a little. My struggle is no use. The vines are like steel cables and they continue to drag me towards the window.
Before I know it, the cool wind of the night is hitting me in the face. I look all around me in a panic, searching for the one person I know to be controlling the vines. With the vines whirling and twisting me through the air, I can’t make out any one object. Again, I try helplessly to rip away the vines with my hands. I immediately stop. Even if I managed to free myself, I’d fall and break my neck from this height. I force myself to calm down and wait out whatever is coming for me.
“Okay, Pamela, I think he’s had enough,” Joke-Man laughs. I suppose I do look rather ridiculous hanging upside-down in my boxers with blood gushing out of my nose.
The world stops spinning and, as another group of vines grabs my arms, I am slowly let down onto my feet. As soon as my toes touch, the vines release their grasp and I fall on my ass. Giving the pain a moment to subside, I get up after a good thirty seconds. The vines did some damage to my legs, so standing is difficult. I make way over to the garbage cans and use the larger one as a support. Then, I take in my surroundings.
I’m not surprised to see Joke-Man and Poison Ivy on my front lawn, but there are faces amongst them that I had not expected. The Ventriloquist and Scarface, Clayface (the same one who was supposed to have died in Webster’s office), Scarecrow, Riddler, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, and Killer Croc all stand grouped around Joke-Man. How he’s brought all of these Arkham inmates together I don’t know, but I definitely don’t like it.
“How do you like my motley crew, Commissioner?” Joke-Man asks, standing out from the crowd.
“I’d say it looks like you’ve been making friends,” I reply.
“Oh, don’t make that mistake, Commissioner. None of these individuals are my friends. They’re all killers and thieves, the lot of them. We simply have a common enemy.”
“So, what do you want with me?”
“We want to show you a little something we’ve been working on.”
With that, Scarecrow throws a small bag at my face. The bag hits and releases some kind of powder. Without even thinking, I breathe it in as the bag falls from my face to the ground.
“Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream,” Scarecrow spouts off as I fall into a deep sleep.
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