A Return to Hell
by Melissa Minners
Disclaimer and Other Information: It should be noted that all of the characters and many of the locales in this fan fiction are not mine. They are owned by The WB. This fan fiction is somewhat of an homage to the series, though I have used a little liberty here with events. The story takes place some time after No Kill Policy, so if you haven't read that particular fanfic, I suggest you do before reading this one. Warning: Parts of this fanfic may be graphic at times. Reader's discretion is advised. I hope you enjoy.
Carolyn hurried back to the apartment as dawn embraced New Gotham. Carolyn had left while Dinah was sleeping and she wanted to be back before she awakened to find her mother gone. She hated leaving Dinah alone, but Carolyn had to get hold of her contact and she couldn’t do it from the apartment. The paranoia that Carolyn had learned long ago as an undercover operative was ingrained. She trusted Dinah of course, but Carolyn couldn’t shake the feeling she had to speak with her contact alone.
Carolyn shook her head as she expertly guided the Firebird through the streets of New Gotham. She hadn’t actually spoken to her contact. Instead, she had to settle for trusting a middle man to deliver the message and arrange for a meet. As Carolyn pulled in to a parking space, she frowned. Dinah wasn’t going to be happy with what she had done, but Carolyn was certain that Bruce Wayne wouldn’t let the Joker get away with murder this time. At least, that was Carolyn’s fervent hope.
* * *
Light flares across her field of vision. She catches a glimpse of green; a clown-like face. She hears sinister laughter, a loud clap, a scream. And suddenly the light that blinds her softens, revealing a sight so unbearable, she screams.
The sound of Dinah’s scream chilled Carolyn to the bone and she raced the length of the hallway to her apartment. Her heart skipped a beat as she thrust open the door, silently cursing her self for leaving her daughter alone and vulnerable. She entered the apartment, prepared to tear the heart out of her daughter’s attacker.
But the apartment was empty, save for the blonde teenager sobbing on the bed at the far end of the room. Carolyn rushed to Dinah’s side and cradled her in her arms as she cried.
“It’s okay, Baby. It’s just a dream. It’s okay. Shhh…”
Dinah pulled back, tears streamed down her face as she stared directly into her mother’s eyes.
“No! You don’t understand! It’s not a dream! They’re never just dreams! I saw what the Joker did to Barbara! I saw Helena’s mother die! I saw Helena….And now Barbara! I saw her! I…saw…”
Her words became incoherent as painful sobs wracked her body. Carolyn pulled Dinah close, holding her tightly, hoping against hope that Dinah’s dream was just that – a dream and not a premonition.
* * *
Bruce glared at the blank television screen, eyes ablaze with fury. Beside him lay a simple manila envelope delivered by Detective Reese an hour ago. He turned his attention to the envelope – normal, but for the two words written in large black block letters: ATTENTION: BAT-FREAK. Reese had found the package on his desk when he had arrived for work that day. He asked around the station, but no one remembered having seen anyone place the package there. Knowing who the package was meant for, Reese had rushed it over to Wayne Manor. Alfred had accepted the package from Reese and sent him off to visit with Helena while he delivered it to Bruce.
Bruce had been hesitant to open it at first – had even run the package through a quick scan to ensure it was safe to do so. The package contained a single video cassette, nothing more. Before Bruce had viewed the tape, he had inwardly cringed, imagining just what the Joker might want him to see. Now that he had viewed it, Bruce realized that he had not been fully prepared for what he had seen. And if he had been unprepared for what he had seen…
Bruce glared at the television a moment longer, as if he could somehow burn a hole into the Joker through the airwaves. Finally, he rose and ejected the tape, leaving the study and heading off toward Helena’s room. Bruce paused outside her door wondering if he should show her the tape. But in the end, he knew that he had to. Regardless of the pain it would cause, Helena needed to see what was on that tape. He knocked once, then entered.
“What the hell do you want?!” Helena growled, rearing forward in her bed.
“Helena!” Reese placed a firm hand on Helena’s shoulder, fearful that she might spring out of the bed and attack her father.
Bruce ignored the hate in Helena’s voice, the threat in her movements, and held up the video tape.
“I have something you should see,” he said, his voice devoid of the emotions that were churning inside him. “The Joker has made contact.”
Helena’s eyes widened. She eased back against the pillows as Bruce walked over to the television at the opposite end of the room. He placed the video in the VCR, then turned to face Helena.
“I have to warn you…You’re not going to like what you see.”
Helena’s eyes narrowed at Bruce’s warning, then focused upon the television screen as it came to life. Insane laughter filled the room as the Joker and Harley danced into view. Joker’s clown-like features filled the screen as he leaned in to the camera.
“Knock, knock! AAAAAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAA! Long time, no see, Bat-Freak! Oh, how I’ve missed you! Would have said hello sooner, but Arkham can be sooo uncooperative when it comes to outside visits. Thought I may never have the chance to see my old friends again, but suddenly, opportunity sprung! HAHAHA! Get it? Sprung?”
“Sprung! Ha! Good one, Mr.J!”
“But of course! Anyway, Bats, I’ve been trying to find you. Wanted to drop by and say hi. But folks around here can be sooo damn uncooperative! Isn’t that right, Harley?”
“Oh, yes, Mr. J. I mean, just look at what happened when we asked Helena Kyle.” Harley’s face took on an expression of mock-sadness. “Here I was thinking she was dying to tell us…when all she was doing was just…well…dying.”
“Made a smashing exit though.” Again, the insane laughter filled the room as the two criminals reveled in their perceived cleverness.
“I even asked an old protégé of yours, but she’s just been so…well…see for yourself.”
The picture blurred as the camera was turned. When the picture came back into focus, every muscle in Helena’s body tensed. The camera had come to rest on a woman. Her arms were suspended above her head by chains. Her bowed head and limp body suggested that the woman was unconscious. Helena silently prayed that the vision on the screen was someone else, anyone else. But the shock of red hair covering the woman’s features was unmistakable.
“Wake up, Starlett. It’s time for your close-up!” Harley grabbed a handful of the prisoner’s hair and forced her head back. Helena gasped as Harley revealed Barbara’s face and the Joker focused the camera in on the bruised and bloody features of her mentor. Barbara grit her teeth in pain, but didn’t make a sound. Instead she glared straight ahead, the look on her face that of pure hatred.
“Say hello to your old pal, Batman. I’ve been telling him how uncooperative you’ve been in helping me track him down. And all I wanted to do is pay a friendly visit and discuss old times. Tssk tssk. Ah well. Maybe you’ll change your mind now. After all, it must be boring for you…just hanging around and all. Maybe you’ll decide to inject a little excitement into all this. Waddya say, Sweetheart?”
Barbara continued to glare at the Joker for several seconds. Then, slowly, she dropped her eyes to the floor. In a dejected tone, she muttered, “Alright. Alright…” The rest of the sentence was inaudible.
“Babs, Babs, Babs. Didn’t anyone ever teach you that it’s impolite to mumble? You’re a teacher for crying out loud! You oughta know better. Now speak up so the rest of the class can hear!”
Joker leaned forward in eager anticipation as Barbara took a deep breath. She locked eyes with the Joker, then jut her head forward and down, slamming her head into the Joker’s nose with a resounding crunch. Joker howled in pain and moved out of the camera’s range.
Watching the scene play out, Helena had to smile. She had seen the spark of defiance in Barbara’s eyes; the hatred. She knew Barbara well enough to predict just what she was about to do. The sound of the Joker’s nose shattering was enough to make Helena want to shout out in victory. But the smile left Helena’s face as soon as a very angry Harley Quinn entered the picture. She attacked the shackled Barbara with a vengeance, protesting the injury inflicted upon her lover and hurling obscenities, punctuating each sentence with a particularly vicious blow.
As Helena watched Harley’s hellacious attack on Barbara, she imagined she could feel every punch, every kick, every blow to Barbara’s already badly beaten body. She clenched her hands so tightly that her nails dug into her palms, drawing blood. Helena’s jaw tightened and her eyes began to change shade as she watched Harley Quinn torture her mentor, her best friend, her family, while she lay there helpless to stop her.
The Joker visage once again filled the screen, his nose a bloody red pulp, his eyes searing with anger and pain.
“Meet me at the Gotham Publishing, Inc. warehouse at midnight tomorrow, Bat-Freak! You don’t show up…” The Joker turned and pointed at Barbara, who was once again unconscious, kept aloft only by the shackles that bound her to the room’s ceiling. Helena’s teeth ground together as Harley delivered a particularly vicious kick to Barbara’s kidneys. “…You don’t show up and I promise you, you won’t be able to recognize what’s left of your former protégé.” The Joker reached out a hand toward the camera and the screen went black.
Helena continued to stare at the blank screen, her body shaking with the force of rising adrenaline. Suddenly, she tore off the covers, spun around and planted her feet on the floor. Bruce Wayne rushed to the side of the bed before she could get any further.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked.
“Did you see what they just did to her?! Haven’t we waited long enough?! Or are you going to let them kill her?! I won’t lay here, hiding, while they use Barbara for a punching bag…or worse!” Helena stared straight into her father’s eyes, daring him to stop her.
“And where will you go? How do you intend to stop them? What’s your plan?” he asked, calmly.
“My plan?! Ha! My plan is to get Barbara away from those bastards! That’s my plan! But don’t worry, you don’t have to come along! We all know how fearful of the Joker you are! No big deal! I’ll do it myself!” She ignored the pain in her back and headed toward the door.
“Really?” Bruce asked. In one deft movement, he caught Helena’s right wrist and twisted it behind her back. The pain in her back soared to new heights and she found herself forced to her knees. Her father dropped to one knee beside her and spoke calmly in her ear. “I have every intention of helping Barbara – rescuing her from those psychotic goons. But we need help, Helena. You’re in no condition to do this alone, and I…well…it’s been a while. I’m meeting a contact for lunch who is willing to help. I know that I’ve never given you a reason to trust me before, so I’m asking you to go on blind faith here. You can’t help Barbara if you are too weak and end up captured as well. I promise you, we’ll get Barbara away from them – alive – but you have to trust me.”
Helena twisted her face to glare at that of her father, the cat-like eyes staring directly into Bruce’s own. His gaze was unwavering and Helena turned away at last, looking down at the floor.
“Alright. I’ll wait. But you had better come up with a way to get her out.” Her eyes met his once again. “Or I swear, I’ll kill you myself.”