Edward Nygma left the empty classroom with a self-satisfied smirk on his face. Whistling, he headed for the library, reaching his hand into his pocket and making sure what he had just stolen was still there.
He was suddenly grabbed and pulled into a corner. "Eddie Nygma, just the guy I wanted to see!" said the Joker, beaming at him. "How ya doing, pal? It's been forever!"
"I just saw you…yesterday afternoon," stammered Nygma.
"Yeah, well, a lot's happened to me since then, Eddie," said Joker. "As you may have heard, I threw my hat into the ring for this whole class president election."
"Y…yes, I did hear…something of the kind," said Nygma, slowly.
"But you weren't there for that assembly, were you, Eddie?" said Joker, grinning. "Everyone else in the whole school was, but you weren't. You've actually been missing out on quite a few assemblies. You've been wandering around the classrooms while the teachers are out and stealing…certain things," he said, reaching into Nygma's pocket and pulling out a test answer sheet. He smiled at him. "It's a little naughty, wouldn't you say? Both the stealing and the cheating. Is the title really worth having if you didn't win it fair and square?"
"I…think so, yes," retorted Nygma.
"Hey, me too!" exclaimed Joker. "You're a man after my own heart, Eddie! I feel kinda bad for beating you up all those times. Not bad enough not to do it again if you ask for it, though," he said, picking him up and slamming him against the lockers. "So here's the deal, Eddie," he hissed. "I don't tell your little nerd friends or anyone else that you're cheating to get your good grades, and you do a little favor for me."
"What…what kinda favor?" gasped Nygma.
"Oh, just a small, little, tiny, unimportant thing, Eddie!" chuckled Joker. "I want you to rig my election."
Nygma stared at him. "I'm…sorry?" he stammered.
"Rig my election," repeated Joker. "I wanna win that class presidency, Eddie, and I don't care how I do it. Kinda like you and this whole valedictorian thing, huh? So I'm gonna keep your secret, and you're gonna win this election for me. That's fair, right?"
"But…but I don't know how to do that…I don't even know where to begin!" exclaimed Nygma.
Joker laughed, dropping him to the ground. "Then I suggest you head off to the library and read some books," he said. "Smart guy like you's gonna have no problem figuring it out. At least, you better not, unless you want me telling Principal Leland what you've been doing, and get you disqualified from this whole valedictorian competition. And I know you, Eddie – you'd never live down the shame of not being named the smartest guy in school. Beaten by the likes of Johnny Crane and Jervis Tetch, no less. Wouldn't that be such a shame?"
"How…how did you know?" demanded Nygma. "About the cheating…"
"Oh, c'mon, Eddie!" laughed Joker. "Hundreds on every test? No one's that smart! Unless they're smart like a fox, if you get my drift. And you and me, we're both smart like a fox. I'm just a little smarter than you!" chuckled Joker, patting him on the head.
"I won't be blackmailed by the likes of you!" snapped Nygma.
"Ok, then," said Joker, shrugging as he pocketed the test answer sheet and headed for the stairs. "I'm just gonna give this to my old pal Leland…"
"J, no!" cried Nygma.
Joker turned to him slowly. "Hmm…I guess you're right," he said, glancing over the sheet. "Much better that I just keep it for myself. In fact, I'll make our little deal even better, Eddie…for me, that is!" he giggled. "You share every little cheat sheet you swipe with me, so I can bring my grades up. After all, it wouldn't do for the class president to be failing outta high school, would it? See, you're already helping me with my image! But I guess it's the votes that really count. And you're gonna get 'em for me, aren't you, Eddie? Or am I gonna go give Leland a little present?"
"But…but J, I…" stammered Nygma. "I…I…yes, I'll…I'll figure it out."
"There's a smart guy!" chuckled Joker, slapping him on the back. "Well, I'm off to think up some campaign slogans – I'll leave you to do the real work! Let's see – 'Vote for J – he's ok!' But I'm much better than ok, so that won't work. 'Vote for J – he knows the way!' What am I, a baptist preacher? 'Vote for J, or else you're gay' – that's really offensive to the homosexual community. I like it!" he laughed, wandering off.
"You'd better win this thing, Harv!" snapped Pamela Isley, watching her boyfriend Harvey Dent pacing up and down the track field at lunch. "I'm not sharing my ideas for prom with that clown!"
"Pammie, right now prom is the least of my worries, all right?" snarled Harvey, kicking at the ground. He saw something shiny staring up at him, picked up the revealed coin, and began flipping it nervously.
"What's to be worried about?" asked Selina Kyle. "You're way more popular than J, Harvey. There's no question of you losing…"
"Do you actually think J's gonna fight fair?" demanded Harvey, rounding on her. "No, I don't trust him. I don't trust this whole running for class president thing. He's up to something. It's just a cover for one of his stupid jokes, but I don't know what it is! And I don't want it to blow up in my face! This is my last year to be class president, and I'm gonna go out with a bang! And not a bang set up by J!"
"So we should find out what he's up to," said Pamela, nodding. "Ask around. Persuade some people to talk," she said, studying her nails.
"Nah, that won't work with J," retorted Harvey. "He doesn't confide in anyone except himself."
"Mmm, don't be so sure," said Selina, glancing over to where Harley sat reading under a tree. "Y'know after he pied the new girl in the face, he apologized to her."
Harvey stared at her. "J doesn't apologize to anyone," he snapped. "Who'd you hear that from?"
"Alice," said Selina. "She doesn't lie."
"Nah, she's too dumb to do that," agreed Harvey. He studied Harley. "You think J's sweet on her or something?"
"Ugh, please, Harvey, don't make me sick," said Pamela, making a face. "The thought of that thing being sweet on someone is disgusting."
"Maybe," agreed Harvey, flipping his coin again. "Or maybe it can work to our advantage."
He turned to Selina and Pamela. "You two were mean to her, weren't ya?" he asked. "Go apologize."
"I don't apologize, Harvey, because I'm never wrong," snapped Pamela, folding her arms across her chest.
"I want her on my side, Pam," retorted Harvey. "Especially if J's sweet on her. It'll be a blow for him to see her helping me out with my campaign. And I wanna strike the first blow."
"Hello, Harley," said a voice. Harley looked up to see Selina and Pamela standing over her, smiling.
"Oh…hi," she said, slowly. "Can I help you?"
"We just wanted to apologize for the way we treated you during cheerleading practice," said Pamela. "That was really mean of us, and completely uncalled for."
"We think you're a nice girl, and we'd like to be your friends," continued Selina. "What do you say? Will you hang out with us again?"
"Uh…sure…I guess," stammered Harley, picking up her book and following them.
"Hi Harley, great to see you again," said Harvey, smiling his charming smile. "What did you think of my little speech earlier?"
"Oh, it was…uh…great," said Harley. "Really great. J doesn't stand a chance."
"No, I don't think so either," agreed Harvey. "Any ideas as to why he's doing all this? I don't think he's told me his real reason – you know him, Mr. Insincere! They don't call him the Joker for nothing!"
"Uh…no," said Harley, slowly. "No, I…I dunno any more than you do, Harvey." She stared down at the ground, feeling herself blushing slightly. Harvey was right – she shouldn't trust a guy who called himself the Joker. But the idea that he was doing this whole campaign just to take her to prom was kinda sweet.
"Oh my God…you like him!" gasped Pamela, noticing her blush. "That's just…oh God…excuse me, I gotta go be sick somewhere!" she said, rushing off.
"I think he really likes you too, Harley," said Selina, smiling. "And in my opinion, you two would make such a cute couple. Why doncha go for it? Ask him out?"
"I…I don't…uh…I don't think…that would be a good idea," stammered Harley. "And I don't like him in that way, really. He's a jerk."
"Oh, c'mon, Harley," said Selina. "J has his good points." She thought for a moment. "I can't think of any right now, but they're there."
"And, y'know, maybe if he started to like you, and trust you, he might tell you what this campaign is really about," agreed Harvey. "And then you could tell me, and I could make sure he doesn't win it. I mean, you don't want him to win, do you, Harley? The man has no sense of responsibility – prom would be a disaster! This place would fall apart under his leadership!"
"So if you won't ask J out because you like him, do it for Harvey," said Selina. "Do it for your school. Arkham can't have that madman running it."
"And I'd be so grateful to you, Harley," said Harvey, smiling. "And it's no bad thing to have the class president in your debt. I could certainly arrange a few favors for you."
"Oh, I don't…uh…know, Harvey," said Harley, slowly. "I would feel bad pretending I was interested in a guy just to spy on him. I wouldn't want to use anyone like that. So I really appreciate the offer, but…"
"Your folks are poor, right, Harley?" interrupted Selina. "Alice mentioned something along those lines, in a very kind way, of course."
"Oh…yeah…they are," agreed Harley.
"I bet you winning a college scholarship would mean the world to 'em," continued Selina. "And you know Harvey knows everyone on the scholarship committee, right? I'm sure he could put in a good word for you."
"I certainly could," said Harvey, nodding. "In fact, I could almost guarantee you'd get that scholarship, assuming you help me out here, of course."
Harley stared at him. "You'd…you'd do that…just for me getting some info outta J?"
"Sure I would," agreed Harvey. "Now that's not being unreasonable, is it, Harley? Just make him tell you what he's really planning, and you get a free ride to college! Couldn't be simpler! And there's nothing really wrong or unethical about this, after all. You don't have to sleep with the guy or anything. Just be interested in him. Get him to trust you. Make him talk. You can do that, can't you, Harley?"
She nodded slowly. "Yeah, I…guess I can."
"Great!" exclaimed Harvey, beaming at her. "Selina, why don't you, Pamela, and Alice take Harley to the mall after school for that makeover you were talking about? She needs to be irresistible for J. And couple her natural beauty with a few tweaks here and there, and he doesn't stand a chance!"
"Good idea, Harvey," agreed Selina. The lunch bell rang. "See you after school, Harley," said Selina, following Harvey inside.
"Uh…yeah…see ya," whispered Harley, watching them go and wondering what she had just agreed to.