|Interviewing the Joker|
|What: The question meets the joke.|
Arkham Asylum. The very name conjurs images of stormy nights and gloomy cells filled with leering prisoners of the most dangerous sort. Deep within the bowels of the Asylum, the most well-known occupants are stored. Kept far from daylight, and hopefully breakouts. The guards here know their jobs, they know /exactly/ who they guard, and they take precautions with each one.
Today, though, they have a visitor coming. As per policy, anyone within this wing receiving a visitor needs at least a day's notice. The guard's station is stocked with fresh... everything, and the guards themselves have ramped up patrols in anticipation. One sits behind a desk, watching a screen that displays a live image of the entryway, allowing him to screen those whose wish to enter, and buzz in the one's who have clearance.
There are certain things about the Riddler which are entirely recognizable when he arrives at Arkham. Unfortunately for the Arkham staff, they just aren't smart enough to recognize them.
The man's name is Alexander Star. Or so his identification says, and the identification stands up to close scrutiny. That an Alexander's Star is a dodecahedral puzzle with a similar purpose to that of a Rubik's Cube... well, that seems to dawn on nobody. Batman will surely figure it out later. He has a press pass too, and all the other assorted geegaws that mark Star as a reporter. A tabloid reporter, no less -- his business card marks him as staff at The Tattler.
"I made an appointment to see the Joker," he informs the guards, and he did -- two days ago, from a disposable cell phone. Batman probably already has the thing in his possession.
The guard chews on a couple of sunflower seeds for a few seconds, reading the information off the ID. His attention shifts slowly to the visitor listing, as if he has to check it. It's rare to get more then one prisoner down here a month, which means Star's name is the only one on the registry. In fact, the guard had been constantly eyeing it all day, seeing as the other options for entertainment were extremely limited.
"Yeah alright. Stay on the yellow line and follow the guards. You got half an hour." His hand lazily presses down on the buzzer, unlocking the door for Alexander as two more guards wait to receive him. One takes point, while the other follows behind, and they begin to direct Star to the very last cell in the hall. As they get closer, a sound drifts along, a sound that never seems to stop. At first, it's faint and hard to pick up on, but towards the end of their journey, it becomes evident what it is.
The soft giggle of a madman, hidden behind a solid plexiglass wall.
As if he doesn't know where the Joker is kept. Star follows the line, though, smirking faintly to himself underneath the bushy, ridiculous mustache he's wearing. Batman would spot it from a mile away. In fact, it can be something of an amusement to see how much he can get away with -- how obvious he can be.
To be fair, the Joker scares even his fellow psychos, and Edward Nigma, for all the evil he's done in the world, is sane enough to be among those scared of the Clown Prince. Still, he steps up to that plexiglass window. He abandoned his fedora at the guard station -- it could be concealing a pin, it was reasoned. His tie tack is gone as well. What is left is a trim, balding man in a brown suit and emerald tie. "Joker," he says. "Thanks for the interview."
It seems his fellow psychos aren't the only ones who are afraid. A chair has been set up in front of the wall, and once Nigma has been shown the way, the guards take several steps back, 'for privacy.'
"Interview?" Comes the reply from the shadowy interior of the cell, lightbulbs being one of the hundreds of things Joker is not allowed to have near him. "Oh right! Alex Star! Ace reporter, chasing stories wherever they may be, even into the depths of hell itself."
With a loud bang, Joker's face suddenly appears pressed up against the glass, having thrown himself against the wall with a gleeful smile plastered on his gruesome face. He's strapped into a straight jacket, arms tucked tightly to his chest, and barefoot. His eyes roam, taking in Star's appearance, and the laughter starts up again, growing into a loud cackle withing seconds.
Thank heavens for privacy. Riddler would rather not be taken into custody here and now. He jerks back when Joker flies against the plexiglass wall separating them -- you never know when such things will shatter unexpectedly, and even with Joker in a straight jacket... well, Riddler has seen 'Silence of the Lambs', but Joker makes Hannibal Lecter look like a pussycat.
"Hello, Joker," says Riddler, taking the chair that's been left for him, fishes a battered notebook out of the pocket of his jacket, and produces a pen from somewhere or other. "How's life treating you?"
"Oh, you know," Joker responds casually, dropping down instantly into a cross-legged sit while he grins outwards to his visitor. "My cell is cold, the bunk is stiff, and I've got a /dreadful/ itch on my nose I just. Can't. Scratch." He giggles, faintly, as if this is amusing to him, before he continues, "But I like to keep a smile on my face." When Nigma takes out his notebook, Joker 'Ooo's and presses his face up against the glass again, twisting slightly so one eye is closer then the other. "Whatcha' writin', Eddie? Is it about me? Oh! Did you get that part about the smile?"
Riddler turns the notebook so Joker can read what he's been writing. It is, in fact, a fabricated interview with the Joker -- the sort of thing that the Tattler would doubtless print. Joker's painful childhood, his overbearing mother, early experiments in animal torture, blah blah. It could be the life history of any serial murderer. And yes, a mention of the wild red smile that could madden the sanest of men. "I figure," he says, "that if I were actually going to publish this tripe they'd give Alex Star the Pulitzer. An insight into the Joker's mind!" His eyes roll. They'll give prizes for anything, won't they?
But across the bottom of the page a question is printed: 'Why is corn so hard to escape from?' And his brow rises as his pen briefly taps the second to last word a time or two. Because he's curious, really -- how will Joker get out of this place this time?
Joker reads the text, his rictus grin only growing. "Oh goodness, you've captured my life story /perfectly/." He chuckles and tips backwards slightly, chuckle growing into a cackle, "One of them, anyway." His eyes slide down the page to the last sentance, and when escape is tapped a couple of times, Joker tilts his head slightly before shaking it at Nigma. "No mazes, this time, and no telling. That'll spoil the surprise! It's going to be a blast!" Cue maniacal laughter as Joker tips all the way backwards, rolling onto his back and kicking his legs freely in the air.
That was probably enough of a hint right there, wasn't it? Not that Riddler's going to tell anybody. He smiles, though thinly. "The streets just aren't the same without you around, Joker," he says, scratching out the riddle and resuming the prose. "Mostly they're safer, but a lot less interesting." More scribbling as he jots further notes on Joker, the dimness of his cell, his demeanor. But really, it's the Joker. His demeanor is pretty much a constant.
"Admit, you miss me, you ol' softy," Joker glees, slamming his forehead against the wall as he suddenly rights himself. Once he does though, his laughter, but not his smile, fades, and he glances first to the guard on Nigma's left, then his right, then back to Riddler himself, "So, tell me... is Big Petey still quitin' the smokes?" Just in case he wasn't clear enough, Joker throws a thoroughly non-stealthy jerk of his head back down the hall, giggling quietly to himself as he accidentally bounces his skull off the plexiglass again.
Riddler briefly glances back over his shoulder, noting the two guards watching from a distance. They can probably pick out the tension that shows in his eyes if they're bothering to try. Sure, he's a tabloid reporter constructing some new sob story about the Joker's youth -- but he's still human. Joker could put anybody on edge. "Man's about as jittery as one of your henchmen," he replies, turning back to his green-haired colleague. "He's got about twenty toothpicks chomped up in an old ash tray."
This. This makes Joker really laugh. For nearly a minute straight, only stopping when he runs out of breath. When he finally pulls himself back together, he looks to Nigma, batting away tears of apparent joy. "You know, I'd count it as a favor if you found your way to sending him a carton." What Joker could possibly gain by having one of his guards smoking again, isn't really clear, but then again, there's a good chance he's doing it just to screw with his head. The guards themselves are clearly trying to avoid looking over towards the lunatic in a cage, steadfastly ignoring the repeated thumps and laughter.
This causes the somewhat nervous grin on Riddler's face to brighten slightly. Who likes the Arkham guards? They are no challenge whatsoever, but messing with their heads is practically the only entertainment allowed the inmates of this wing. "I'm certain Alex Star could send him a thank you gift," he says. "He was so -very- helpful."
Riddler's comment causes a giggle from Joker, and for some reason, he licks the wall of his cell, shoving his eye up against one of the hole again as he looks out at his colleague in crime. "You're such a doll. Hey, I'll tell you what, when I get out of here, I'll bring you a great big bouqet of ivy!" He slams his head against the wall again and stares out at Nigma for a half second, still and quiet for the first time in awhile, before he cackles again and says, "Oh, I think your time's up, Mister Star. Remember, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, eat all your vitamins, and drink a glass a milk to grow BIG and STRONG!" Joker giggles softly at first, which grows louder and louder, until his laughter is ringing across the entire wing, never ceasing. Never slowing, or quieting.
Yeah... with that laughter, and directed at -him- no less, it's definitely a good time for Mr. Star to make good his escape. "Well, thank you again to consenting to this interview, Joker," he says as he rises. "It's been very informative -- and I'm certain our readers will enjoy learning more about you." All of this while he's backing up, playing the role of cowed reporter to the hilt -- in large part because this guy scares the hell out of Riddler himself. When he gets to the guards he mumbles, "Jesus, get me the hell out of here. That guy..." Here he feigns a shudder, and leaves it at that.