13: It's Your Party
Chapter Thirteen: It’s Your Party…
Bruce had promised Buffy that all he and Richard were going to do was check out Arkham Asylum as quickly as possible, and then be back in time for the party.
It was not his fault that plan had gone up in smoke.
Arkham Asylum was in the Narrows, and they had pretty much become the hotspot for criminal activity for the city of Gotham. While the police still managed to keep the asylum under control and use it for housing the more deranged of the criminal element, it was not an easy task to get to and from the asylum for anyone.
Including, Batman, apparently.
And it was obvious that Arkham Asylum was no longer under any kind of control. Because all of the “bad element” were out and about in the Narrows.
The plant woman, whatever she called herself, had been gardening. Buildings were covered with thick foliage dotted with huge red flowers that opened up and spat ten-inch spikes at the Tumbler as they drove by. By the sound they made when they hit the vehicle, they seemed to be made from steel, or something like it. Batman drove through quickly, fearing what the spikes would do if they managed to hit a tire. The tires were hard to puncture – bullets bounced off of them like they did the rest of the vehicle – but he did not want to take the chance of these spikes being more resolute, and getting through the Narrows any other way was not something he would relish doing.
Men were darting in and out of the shadows, keeping an eye on the Batman as he drove to the asylum. Bruce really wished he had sent Richard – Nightwing – on to the party with Buffy, but the boy had been insistent and, truth be told, Bruce didn’t mind the company. His norm was to have Richard stay in the Tumbler, for safety, but he wondered now if it was going to be safe enough now.
His only other alternative was to take the boy with him when he went in to investigate the asylum. That didn’t sound like a good idea either.
Amazingly, the final stretch of road to Arkham was clear of bombarding plant life, and shadowy figures. Batman slowed the Tumbler down, practically inching up to their destination, the set of his eyes grim inside his cowl.
“Lack of opposition is not a good thing, right?” Richard asked from his seat. He had to curl his legs under him and sit up on his knees to look out the windows.
Batman nodded, bringing the Tumbler to a halt, but making no move to turn off the engine or to get out. He would be exposed once he did exit the vehicle, and, armor or not, he wasn’t very keen on his chances of making it inside the asylum.
“I don’t think anyone is around,” Richard stated, sitting back in his seat. “I think they want us to go in.”
“Me,” Batman corrected. “They want me to go in. You are staying here.” His tone brooked no opinion or argument whatsoever on the subject.
Richard sighed, but said nothing.
Batman, leaving the engine running, prepared to get out of the Tumbler. That was when the com rang.
“Darling. Sweetheart. Love of my life. I hate to be a bother,” Buffy whispered calmly into her phone. “But where in the hell are you?”
“Arkham.” The answer simple. The voice…not so much. Buffy knew without a doubt that she was not talking to her husband, per se. She was talking to the Bat.
“I know,” she said with a sigh, glancing around from the corner she was all but glued into. “But he said that wasn’t going to take very long. Just a quick look around, and then you would get yourself here. I don’t know any of these people, honey.” Vampires, demons, an apocalypse here and there, but she was in the company of the elite, the rich and the restless, or something like that, and she could feel the panic coming on. Definitely coming on.
“Change in plans,” was all the response she got.
“There you are. All up with the cryptic again.” She sighed, also again. “So, what’s the dire?”
“Don’t know exactly, but I will get back to you.”
And just like that, the conversation was over.
Buffy stared at her phone, feeling as if she were either going to pitch it across the room with all her Slayer might, or break down and start crying. Looking up, she could see that people were casting subtle glances her way. They were either wondering what a strange girl was doing standing in the corner, looking like she was about to go mental, or they were wondering what Mrs. Bruce Wayne was doing standing in the corner looking like she was about to go mental, why Mr. Bruce Wayne was not with her.
Great, she thought, now I have to not only mingle, but come up with an excuse as to where my husband is, all the while not looking like I have a day pass, or something.
Gathering her wits, Buffy stuffed her phone into her small purse, and detached herself from the corner. Planting a smile on her face that she hoped at the very least looked sincere, she stepped out, trying to play her role, the role of the Prince of Gotham’s wife, and glided (yes, she glided) across the room, snatching a glass of champagne on her way.
Smiles were returned to her. Nods given. So far so good.
Buffy was not sure who exactly to mingle with, and no one – absolutely no one – looked familiar to her in the slightest, even though she knew there had to be a few people here, at least, who Bruce had introduced her to at one time or another. She was about to plunge in head first when she was thwarted just in time.
Buffy turned her head to the sound of the voice and came face to face with a very tall, very old fashioned, top hat. Looking down, she saw that the top hat was on the head of a short, round man with beady little eyes, black hair that curled down past his shoulders, and a nose that was long and curved, more resembling a beak than anything else.
Her first instinct was to say “Yep, that’s me,” but instead she smiled, and nodded. “Hello. How are you?” She almost sounded robotic. Been there. Done that. Did not want to think about it.
“I am most sound, my dear.” The man swept his top hot off of his head, revealing a balding plate there, and dipped into a bow. “I am Oswald Cobblepot, and it is an honor to make your acquaintance.”
How convenient, Buffy thought, unsure of what she should do in answer to the bow. The guy we are supposed to keep an eye on comes and introduces himself. Before she could react, how she was going to react still unclear, Cobblepot took her free hand in his and kissed it, and it took all of Buffy’s willpower not to cringe, or scream, or send him flying across the room.
His hands were not hands. They were flippers.
Willow had just put Marty to bed and was settling down to read a good book by the fire. Alfred had already retired for the night. He had spent most of the day out at the Manor again, and had returned to say that they should be able to move back in within the week. Just minor touches here and there and all would be ready. The Penthouse was nice, but the Manor was much more secluded, so it would be a welcome change for them all.
She had barely made it through the first paragraph when her phone rang. Setting her book aside, she looked at the number, and her eyes widened in surprise.
“Angel?” She said as soon as she hit the button and brought the phone to her ear.
“Where’s Buffy?” He sounded tense. And he was kinda being rude.
“Out,” she answered. She was not sure how much he knew about the changes in Buffy’s life and by the sound of his voice, she didn’t think he would give her the time for a rundown. “Is something wrong?”
“Have either of you heard anything about an Insurrection?”
“Yes,” Willow said at length. The Insurrection. Right. They had taken care of that already. Hadn’t they?
“I just learned from a contact of mine, that the Immortal is spearheading this Insurrection.” Angel spoke quickly, but in a tone that meant trouble. Big trouble. “Willow, he is going to raise an army of the undead, and rain hellfire and brimstone, and then open the Hellmouth.”
“What Hellmouth?” Willow asked, totally freaked out right now.
“The one that lies dormant under Gotham City.”
Cobblepot stood up, releasing Buffy’s hand, and with a flourish, placed his top hat back on his head. “My dear, I hope this does not seem rude, for you and I have just met, but there is something that I must attend to with the utmost urgency. My friend here will show you around my lovely home in my absence.” He motioned to his left and a thin man, wearing glasses appeared almost out of nowhere. With that, Cobblepot disappeared into the crowd.
“Mrs. Wayne. It is a pleasure to finally meet you.” Buffy wasn’t sure, but there was something about the man that made her flesh crawl. “Mr. Cobblepot was hoping to show you and your husband his fine collection of weapons and armor.” The man made a motion to a set of double doors. Buffy, pretty sure she could take the guy, decided to play along. “Where is Mr. Wayne? I have not seen him yet.”
“Late meeting. Last minute kind of thing. But he will be along shortly.” Buffy went through the one door out of the two that the man opened up. She didn’t even flinch when she heard it shut behind her.
Indeed, Cobblepot had an impressive collection of weaponry. Hundreds of pieces displayed in glass cases and mounted on intricate stands. All were in fine condition, and Buffy had no doubt that many of them were magical, or cursed, or something along those lines.
“I am sorry,” she stated. “I did not catch your name.”
“I am Dr. Jonathan Crane,” he answered. Buffy turned, and found that he was now wearing a mangled burlap sack on his head, complete with eyeholes and a ragged mouth. “But you can just call me The Scarecrow.”
And then some kind of strange dust was thrown in her face.
He had met no resistance going up to and entering Arkham.
Every room he searched was empty. The place was abandoned.
Except for one room.
In the center of the room, hanging from a rope fashioned to the ceiling, was the Joker.
A very dead Joker.
He approached the body. He had to make sure this was not some kind of trap of the Joker’s.
That was when he heard the mechanical chitterling sound. And what came out of the shadows, training guns on him, was almost too much to believe.
It was a trap alright. But not the Joker’s.
Note: I know I haven't been updating very often, not nearly as often as I would like, and I apologize for that. With the holidays coming up, and a short story that I have to get done with if I want it published, my updates, I am afraid, are going to be even farther apart. I will not forget, and I will keep up with it as best as I can until December is done and then I will be back in full swing. I still have a few chapters to edit and upload. Thanks to everyone reading my story, and as always feedback is appreciated.