Through the dinner with the lovely Vicki Vale though, Bruce did not feel like dining this even, for all he kept worrying about were Xack and Eddie. If anything was wrong...they would phone me... They have the batwaves...and Alfred... Everything...must be fine, but why do I still worry?
"Bruce...is something wrong?" Vicki asked curiously, with some concern in her voice. Her and Bruce sat across from each other at the small table, so the woman leaned forward a bit towards him.
Bruce's eyes averted back to his date; letting reality set in as he took in all of his surroundings. There were the extreme rich and wealthy eating and chatting of things that would be insulting to ears of the poorer. There were the tables, with the elegant cloths and the finest silverware anyone has ever seen. Then there was his date, Vicki. Bruce had to admit, the dress she had on was rather...revealing, yet not so appealing to him. She happened to be wearing a dress of very light blue -- almost a white, someone could say. With straps as thin as angel hair pasta, and cut low to show much cleavage. Some men may have drooled to see a woman wearing this gown, but to Bruce...he thought Vicki could of found something better to wear.
"Bruce, what's wrong? Why aren't you answering me?" By the tone of Vicki's voice, she sounded more concerned, yet starting to get impatient with Bruce's behavior. Why was he acting this way? Vicki wished she knew the answer.
Bruce shook his head to the side slightly as if to escape any of his previous thoughts. Now his attention turned to Vicki. Thinking of her and only her now. "I'm sorry..." Bruce answered to her in a apologetic manner. "I am just...worried about leaving my manor unattended..."
Vicki raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean by that?" She asked with slight suspicion. "Alfred is at home, isn't he? I'm sure this isn't the first time you left him alone." Bruce gave a nod of agreement, but he couldn't say truthfully that he was more worried about the children's sake.
Vicki cleared her throat, "I suppose you have heard about Joker and his kidnappings?"
Bruce nodded solemnly, "Yes, I have."
"Well, I have heard that Joker is doing this because of a young woman." Vicki was surprised to see Bruce suddenly interested. She continued, "From what I gathered, that sick clown is obsessed with this little girl at Arkham Asylum -- so obsessed, that he's determined to stay out of Arkham until...until..." Vicki scoffed, "I...actually, no one, not even us reporters, knows why Joker is really doing all this." She leaned in more and put a hand on Bruce's, "What do you think of all this? With...Joker doing this?"
Bruce sighed and leaned back, but kept his hand with Vicki's. "Well, for starters, where did you get that information?" He wondered, curious as to how a reporter like her can find information about Arkham's patients.
Vicki smirked, "I'm sorry Bruce, but reporters can never revel their sources..." Bruce frowned at that.
Now, Bruce decided to think of Vicki's question. "I just wish...that the police can find Joker and rescue the missing people before the matter gets worse..."
"Or, hope that Batman saves the day," Vicki piped up, and she took up a glass and sipped her fine wine.
Bruce raised an eyebrow, "You actually believe that Batman will rescue everyone, and bring Joker down?"
Vicki shrugged and scoffed, "Yes I do, but...it's a matter that the police arrest him as well. After all, I know everyone is dying to know the Batman's true identity. Don't you wonder that, too?"
Bruce averted his eyes elsewhere as he took up his own wine glass and drank from it. "I suppose..." he mumbled, trying to hide his true opinions on that matter.Nighttime, perhaps even past midnight, the streets of Gotham were still bustling with life. No matter what, it always was. The dark though, still has roads that people have forgotten or don't desire to drive on anymore. Such is a great advantage to Joker and his henchmen, who were driving cautiously, silently down the deserted streets.
Joker sat in the back of his van, smiling broadly, appearing to stare into space as his mind wandered on to thousands of thoughts. One could never know what the clown is truly thinking, but whatever anyone thinks up, most likely Joker is envisioning it.
Suddenly, as Judy drove the van, the vehicle jumped when the mute, husky clown drove over a small pothole. This action caused the Joker to escape his thoughts and his attention now turned to the two unconscious bodies that lay on either side of him. To Joker's right lay a little boy named Eddie, while to the left is the young girl Xack.
Joker kept starring intently at Xack, thinking hard on what he is going to do with her. This was all going according to plan. He had it all worked out. No witnesses, no police, no Batman...not even traces of evidence that suggest of where he could of gone. Nothing. Joker knew that this is probably the best show he ever played out.
Joker grinned as he shuffled through his pants pockets until he found what he was looking for: a needle containing a strange chemical with an odd color to it; almost a combination of a white with a light green. As Joker pushed on the spot to make the liquid jet out, he tapped on the vile to make sure all went through okay.
When everything seemed right, Joker gently took up Xack's arm, and finding a visible vein, he injected the chemical into her. The clown heard the girl gasp out in pain softly, and he guessed that it must of stung her, even though she remained unconscious through it. Joker hovered a hand above her head, initially planning on running his fingers through her hair as comfort, but decided not to. He quickly retracted his arm back to his side.
Still, Joker leaned over her and a warm smile came upon his bleached face. "Don't fret, dearie, we're almost home..." he cooed softly to her, even though his words fell on deaf ears.
Then, his body turned to the other side as he eyed Xack's younger brother, Eddie. His face suddenly contorted into a nasty expression. How he hated everyone that got close to the one he was obsessing over. How he hates Eddie -- hated the boy ever since he first laid eyes on the child. One day...Joker watched as a small child entered the recreational room with a few guards in toll. How that small boy saw his sister and immediately ran to her; trying to hug the girl as he was so happy to see a family member. Even though Xack was happy to see Eddie that day, she just didn't like to be touched, and thus, she refused the boy's hugs.
Joker though, sat by Xack that day and saw this. How shocked he was to see this, and how the anger started to bottle up inside him. No matter who you are, Joker did not want anyone to get close to Xack, family or other.
"And you...you chubby little brat..." Joker growled lowly as his eyes narrowed in disgust to the little boy. "You'll get what's coming to you, just like the rest of my...'clowns'..." He began to chortle through clenched teeth, holding his gut as this never seemed to fade away in due time.
"I think it's time we call those detectives soon, don't you agree, Eddie?..."
Water splashed on the tires as Bruce drove home through some light drizzle. It was now just after the young billionaire dropped his date off at her apartment. "Not even a kiss..." Vicki had thought disappointingly, as she stood at the door and crossed her arms. Somewhere in his mind, Bruce knew his relationship with Vicki was dimming down badly, but for some reason, he was not at all saddened by this fact. In a way, he is glad that perhaps he and Vicki won't be a couple anymore. After all, they both believed in different things, and Bruce was just too busy to make Vicki try and understand his job and other 'nightly activities.'
The rain...it's been raining for awhile now... Bruce wondered when this rain will end, for he was tired of looking at the dreary weather.
"I'll call you as soon as I am done with dinner." Bruce had told Xack a long while before. "Xack...the children..." He reminisced this, and quickly took out his cell phone to call them. Pressing a few buttons, Bruce put the phone by his ear and waited for someone to pick up.
No answer at the manor. This somewhat made Bruce nervous, but didn't linger on it long. "Guess I'll see them when I arrive at the manor," Bruce thought to himself, and drove silently home, not thinking of these matters anymore.
Although, when he arrived at his mansion, all seemed well; the electricity was still powered, and everything else just appeared to be in the right order. Yes, as Bruce parked his car with the many other vehicles in his large garage, he happily walked the steps up to his doors and knocked to be let in. Even though he could let himself in by his keys, he wanted at least Xack or Alfred to answer. This is Bruce's way of knowing all is well with his guests and his trusted friend.
Upon waiting long seconds, Bruce slightly furrowed his expression as he knocked on the doors again. He waited a bit longer, but no one answered. Sighing, he went into his pockets and withdrew his keys to unlock the large doors. Trying not to think of the worse, Bruce concluded that perhaps everyone is asleep and that no one heard him. He didn't want to imagine that something might have happened.
Unfortunately, as he unlocked the doors and opened them, his eyes widened when he saw a lone playing card about a few feet in front of him. Bruce quickly walked up to this object and took it up in his hands. No... turning it over numerous times, he realized that this card belonged to none other than Joker.
Bruce frantically surveyed the main entrance hall to see if there was any trace as to where the children were, or to even Alfred could be. "Alfred!" Bruce called out, but all the young man could here was his own voice echoing off the walls. This actually scared him. No children, no Alfred. Just where could they be? No doubt that Joker has the children in his possession, but would the crime clown take the butler as well? This seemed unlikely, but with Joker, anything can happen.
"Alfred!" Bruce called out again, louder and more panicked than before. "Alfred!" He hurriedly checked all the rooms on the present floor, planning on working his way up if the loyal butler was not to be found here. From Bruce's point-of-view, an obvious place for Alfred to be was the kitchen. Bruce would always form a smile when he saw his one family member making wonderful meals for any occasion. Alfred is always happy to serve up dishes for his master, or for the many special and unusual guests Bruce would bring along.
As Bruce pushed on the swinging doors to the kitchen, he was stunned to see many pots and pans scattered all over the floor, as if someone came in, rummaged through all the cupboards, and decided to throw all cooking objects to the ground.
Bruce circled the large kitchen counter that stood in the middle of the room, and as he rounded a corner, he found Alfred lying on the floor. Bruce immediately dropped to his knees to check over the butler. Alfred appeared to be in good condition, all for the exception that the older man had a noticeable red mark on his forehead. Bruce knew that Joker must of clogged Alfred over the head with a pan.
Bruce gently began to shake Alfred. "Alfred..." Bruce called concerning to the butler. "Alfred..."
Bruce felt relieved to hear Alfred groan just slightly, knowing that the older man was alright. Alfred opened his eyes and starred up at the ceiling, then his eyes shifted to the young man kneeling before him. "Master...Bruce?..." he spoke groggily, as if he wasn't sure if it was actually Bruce before him.
Bruce smiled in reassurance, but quickly faded as he asked Alfred, "Alfred...what happened here?"
Bruce helped Alfred off the ground so he could try to recollect his memories before he fell unconscious. "I...cannot recall at the moment, Sir..." Alfred responded, touching his forehead lightly to see how badly the pain stung. Touching it, he quickly withdrew his hand as the pain set in immediately. His eyes suddenly widened as images ran through his head. "The children!" He cried out, "Joker, he--" Alfred staggered back a bit as his body has not fully awakened.
Bruce sighed and tilted his head downwards. "Alfred...they're gone. Joker's already been here..." He flashed Joker's playing card for Alfred to see, and now the butler was the one to look saddened.
"I am very sorry, Master Bruce. I should have seen this coming..." Alfred apologized mournfully. "I take full responsibility for the missing children."
Bruce shook his head, "Alfred, don't blame yourself for this. Joker wanted the children, whether Batman was around here or not. Joker would do anything to get them...especially Xack..." His eyes then fixated on Alfred's bruise. "We should apply some medicine on that," he pointed out. "We'll take more about this as I call the police..."
Then, Bruce courteously escorted Alfred out of the kitchen. Before he left, Bruce took one more look around the room, thinking on what to do at this point. With Xack in the clown's possession, Bruce knew Joker was close to carrying out his plan, but what could it be? And what did this plan have to do with Xack and Eddie, as well as the rest of the missing people?"Xack Hathaway...and Adam Edward Hathaway...gone..." Detective Bennett stated quietly, as he and Detective Yin sat silently in their small office. The two were seated across from each other, watching the light ran trickle down the windows. "Joker is really starting to piss me off with this."
Yin sighed and gave a nod in agreement. "I know..." she replied softly. "Any traces of where Joker could of drove to...are now washed away from the rain..." Yin then looked at her partner, "Do you think we should question Mr. Wayne about the kidnapping?"
Bennett scoffed and shook his head, "Yin, Bruce is a good man; he never wanted this to happen. Besides, Bruce was out when Joker kidnapped the kids, and we already questioned his butler."
Yin rested her head on her hands, feeling a large headache coming on. "Bennett..." Yin's partner turned to her. "I...don't know what to do... I don't even know where to look anymore." She tried best to hide a few tears as she mumbled, "I hate to admit this but...I think Joker has won..."
Bennett leaned over his desk and patted Yin's hands. "We can't give up yet. Something has to turn up. We're overlooking something. There has to be something we're missing--"
"Something..." Yin interrupted, and she lifted her head up now, "That's the problem Bennett: we don't even know what that 'something' is..."
Suddenly, Yin's personal computer began beeping. She sat up and typed in a few keys to see what new information had come up. Hoping to be some sort of evidence or traces to where Joker could of ran off too, she searched frantically through files until she found what she looking for. Yin groaned.
"What came up?" Bennett asked, trying to sound hopeful.
"Police have been informed...that a Shaun Hathaway has just arrived at StepHen Suites..." Yin narrowed her eyes in suspicion at this. "I wasn't aware of any other relatives to the Hathaway children..."
"Neither was I," Bennett added. "I wonder...how he's related to them..." He seemed puzzled, but then his mind flashed-back to when he was chatting with Hugo Strange about the Hathaway children before Bruce arrived. Why didn't the doctor say there was another Hathaway in the family? "Maybe we should have another chat with that Dr. Strange character. I have a feeling he knows more about Joker and the Hathaway's, than what he's telling us." Bennett told Yin.
Yin nodded, "Wouldn't hurt to do so right now. We need all the information we can get on this case. Anything can be helpful into finding the missing people."
Just as Bennett and Yin rose from their seats, the young woman's cell phone began to ring. Not thinking of anything suspicious about the call, she casually took the phone out of her jacket pocket and flipped it open to speak. Before Yin could even greet who's on the other end of the line, she froze as she heard a familiar, giddy voice spoke to her. The exception though, was that this voice turned to that of a serious tone, and it only said a few words:
"Gotham...Bay... Heh, heh..." --click.
Yin left her mouth agape as she slowly closed the phone and placed it back in her pockets. Her shocked expression made Bennett concerned for her. "Yin...what just happened. Who called you?"
"Joker..." Yin answered, as if she was saying this to herself rather than to Bennett.
"Joker?" Bennett wondered, surprised to hear this from her. "Are you sure?"
Yin nodded quickly, "Yes, it was him, but all he said was 'Gotham Bay'."
That was all Bennett needed to hear, for he hurriedly grabbed his coat off the chair and walked towards the office door. "Let's get down there now then, and we'll bring backup incase something goes wrong."
As Bennett exited the room, Yin sighed depressingly, "'Something', Bennett...we don't even know what that is..."
Unfortunately for Bennett, Chief Angel Rojas accompanied Yin and everyone else, as the Gotham PD expeditiously got to their vehicles and drove down the busy streets to their destination: Gotham Bay. During the day, Gotham Bay was full of life, with many sailors and the likes setting out to sail around, or even just to enjoy sight-seeing. Children were the ones to become excited more as they roamed the seas around Gotham. At night though, the bay appeared to look like some sort of ship graveyard, rather than a lively place with boats and ships. The area was filled with crates and colossal boxes that can basically hide anything from the public.
When the police and detectives arrived, everyone took major precautions as they never know what could be lurking on the ships, boats, or even around the docks. The area was huge, and no one knew what to expect from this place.
"You sure Joker said 'Gotham Bay', Yin?" Chief Rojas asked, sounding a bit unsure of the situation.
"Yes, he did, I'm sure of it," Yin answered boldly, although she wished she could feel as bold as how she sounded.
"Be on the alert!" Chief Rojas boomed to the rest of the policemen. "You never know what that sick clown planned for us!"
What angered Chief Rojas, is that most of the policemen seemed a bit nervous as to what Joker wanted from them all at the bay. The chief grunted and rolled his eyes to their paranoid behavior.
As the police surveyed the many boxes and crates in the area, the two detectives carefully made their way to the docks to check on the boats and ships. They figured whatever Joker had for them, might be on something like that.
Then, something caught Yin's eye: an odd, little rowboat that sat between two large ships. The young detective blinked and edged slowly, carefully to this suspicious looking rowboat. As she got closer, she spotted terribly painted lettering on the side of the boat. Her eyes grew wide when the words read out, 'SURPRISE!'
Yin gasped and hurriedly jogged over to the rowboat and peered inside. Her eyes bogged out of her head, and mouth left agape in fear, shock...and even 'surprised.'
Bennett, who was a bit of a ways from Yin, saw the odd movements of his partner and decided to investigate whatever she was gazing at. "Yin, what's the matter?" He asked calmly.
Yin didn't answer, but Bennett did follow her line of sight to see what made her freeze over. Bennett saw, and he called out to the other policemen and chief to come on over and see for themselves.
Chief Rojas and the policemen arrived on the scene seconds later, "Bennett, what did you find?"
Bennett pointed into the rowboat and answered in a monotone voice, "Chief...I think these kidnappings are more serious than we thought..."
The chief growled in frustration and started to shove away the semicircle of cops, so that he could see for himself what was in the boat. "Don't give me shit like that Bennett, just tell me what you found--" Suddenly, Chief Rojas stood at the edge of the rowboat, looking down into it, speechless now.
Inside the rowboat was a little boy tied up from below the neck to his knees. What stunned all the force wasn't the fact that this child was secured all over, but his face is...bleached! Yes...this child's skin was white from face to toes, with bloodshot red eyes, light green hair, and to top it off, the boy had a permanent red-lipped grin. By the look on this child's face, it seemed he was forced to smile so, as if he didn't want to grin. Everyone heard the young child give off psychotic cackles, and tears were streaming down his face. It's almost as if someone was controlling this child's movements against his will!
"Oh my God!" Chief Rojas exclaimed as he leaned in to get a better look at this child. His eyes caught sight of a piece of paper on the child. The chief took a hold of this note and read the message. "Smiles Gotham!" The paper said.
"Call paramedics, now!" Chief Rojas ordered Yin. The young woman made no hesitation to reach into her jacket and grab her cell phone.
Chief Rojas shook his head. "Oh my God..."Bruce was in the batcave, seated in front of the terminal; waiting for any information the police could be sending about the missing children. Even though he is proud of himself for linking police reports and 'news flashes' to his computer, but still he ponders in his head if it was a mistake to highjack into police files for evidence, facts, input -- anything!
He kept staring at his enormous monitor hung on the cave walls and waited...waiting...and waiting...but no matter how long he starred at the screen, nothing seemed to be appearing onto it.
They young billionaire jumped in his seat as he heard the private elevator being used. He knew Alfred was on his way down, and Bruce hoped the butler had some good news to give...or just something.
As the elevator doors opened, Alfred casually exited the device and approached Bruce in no rush or hurry at all. "Master Bruce, please do turn on the news," he announced to his master. "The police have found one of the kidnapped citizens."
Bruce blinked at Alfred, then his attention turned back to the monitor, tapping a few buttons to make the picture come onto the screen. The young man quickly flipped through the channels until he found the one he assumed he's looking for. On the screen, Bruce could see a young woman reporter wearing all black from head to toe, and in the background, he could see that she and the policemen were at Gotham Bay. He leaned back in his chair, hand on his chin, waiting for the reporter to give the news.
"This just in:," the reporter began, "Gotham Police have found one of Joker's kidnapped citizens, and it appears..." She walked closer to the captive, to what appeared to be a small boy on a medical stretcher. Bruce's eyes widened as he saw that this child's skin was bleached, having that same, sadistic grin as Joker's.
"That child...the boy..." Bruce whispered, hoping that whatever he was thinking isn't true.
"The police have identified the child to be Adam Edward Hathaway--"
No...no! Bruce slammed a fist down on the keyboard, which made Alfred become astonished with his sudden action. "Goddamn that Joker!" Bruce hollered.
"It appears..." The reporter continued, "This isn't the usual Joker gas that the crime clown dispenses onto innocent people, but medical experts confirm that this child might have been thrown into a chemical vat of sorts. Unfortunately, the experts cannot conclude to what chemical concoction the child gotten into."
"Is this what that sick clown plans to do to everyone? To-to make the kidnapped people into clowns like himself?" Bruce was furious, and even frightened about the whole ordeal. He shielded his face in his hands. "And just what does he want with Xack? I know there's more into making her a clown like himself. He wants something more from her, but...what?"
Bruce had heard enough. He quickly turned off the monitor and rested his dreary self against the keyboard. He let out a depressed sigh as he reached into his suit pockets and took out a small ring box. He opened it, and Alfred saw a beautifully made, golden ring with exotic looking symbols.
"Are you planning on proposing to Miss Vale with that ring?" Alfred asked a bit curiously.
A slight chuckle escaped Bruce's throat, "No, nothing at all like that... This is for Xack. I told her last night that I bought her a present...and this is it." He held up the ring for Alfred to get a better look at. "This is a novelty ring from the movie Lord of the Rings. Xack mentioned that she loves that ring...shown in the movies..." Bruce then brought the small box closer to his chest, somehow he felt nearer to Xack by holding that ring.
Alfred raised an eyebrow, "You actually did that for her? But why, Master Bruce?"
Bruce shrugged, "I...care about her." He titled his head downwards, "I wish she knew how much. She implies that I don't give a damn about her and Eddie...but I care about them both -- deeply."
Alfred placed a hand on Bruce's arm. "I know you do, Sir," he comforted. "Speaking of Miss Hathaway, she left something here for you..." He went to the side and grabbed Xack's drawing book from a nearby table and handed it to Bruce. The young man seemed very bewildered of this. "Miss Hathaway wishes you to look at her artwork. She gave this to me...right before she was taken by the clown."
Bruce gazed at the drawing book in a dream-like state, and then he turned back to Alfred. "Why did she want to leave it down here? Did she know...she was going to be kidnapped by Joker? But...that's impossible..."
"Impossible, Sir?" Alfred inquired. "You do remember that Miss Hathaway mentioned she has the ability to tell when people are lying or not. Perhaps she has some deeper power..."
"Maybe..." Bruce replied quietly, and then he opened up the drawing book and began to flip through it. Just what did Xack want me to see? A picture of...Joker?
Flipping through the pages carefully, Bruce smirked at the many mystical fairies that she drew. Exotic colors, shapes, and designs. He wished Xack could be here so he could compliment greatly at her artwork. It was so beautiful. Stunning. Then...Bruce's smile faded as he turned a page away from another fairy. He started seeing pictures that made him loathe over. It was Joker. Bruce turned another page -- still Joker, but now the clown was fighting off Batman in this scene. Turned more pages -- Joker, Joker, Joker.
Bruce shut the book quickly, his eyes disgusted at seeing the many faces and poses of Joker. No wonder Xack kept this drawing book a secret. She probably didn't want no one to tease her of the artworks of Joker.
Just as he shut the book though, a photo slid out from the end of it. The picture hit the floor, and Bruce bent down to pick it up and examine it. The young man could see that Xack took a photo of this particular Joker artwork, and he guessed that she must of gave it away for he did not see this drawing in the book. This peculiar Joker drawing had himself in many different costumes, but Bruce could see that Joker took many strange faces, and thus, all the Joker's were different from one another. The background, Bruce assumed that it was some sort of rundown carnival.
"...I know he's at the carnival--" Xack had once told him.
Suddenly, Bruce cringed and groaned in pain. Dropping the photo to the ground as a horrific vision appeared in his mind. Where was this? His vision blurred as if he was in his own dreams. After all, no one can see clearly in their dreams. What did Bruce see? In his head, he could see many people...children, adults, all dressed and bleached like Joker. The only thing he couldn't see was...of where the real Joker happened to be. Wait a moment...where's Xack? Both Xack and Joker...where are they? How come he couldn't see that? Just...how is he seeing this?...
"Master Bruce?" Alfred caught Bruce before the young man fell out from his chair. "Are you ill? Are you alright?"
Bruce straightened himself up and had a serious expression on his face. "I know where he's keeping everyone," he told Alfred. "I'm going to the carnival...again."
Alfred eyed Bruce oddly. "Sir? Did you not already check there? I assume you are going to believe Miss Hathaway's words from before?"
Bruce gave a slight nod, as if he was somewhat embarrassed to admit it. "Yes..." He mumbled quietly. "I have to check again for everyone...for Xack's sake..."
"I understand," Alfred responded. "Good luck, Master Bruce."
Bruce risen himself from the chair, and now was more determined than ever to find the missing people...especially Xack. "I'm coming Xack, so please...just hold on! I'm coming to find you -- to save you!"