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.
Gotham Publishing, Inc. was once a high profile publishing company, equal to that of Bantam and Dell. Then came the earthquake that rocked Gotham to its core, virtually destroying Gotham’s business district and shattering lives. Fearful of the possibility of the next quake, several people left Gotham. Several businesses decided to pick up elsewhere. Some businesses, wracked by the damage the quake had caused and either unable or unwilling to start over, simply folded.
Gotham Publishing, Inc. was one such victim. The sole surviving property once owned by the publishing firm was a warehouse in an abandoned part of town. It stood in the shadow of several such warehouses. But unlike its rapidly decaying neighbors, the Gotham Publishing, Inc. warehouse was not exactly in a state of disrepair.
Two years ago, profiteer William Moss had decided that he was single-handedly going to revive the warehouse district. He started by repairing and remodeling the publishing company warehouse, in the hopes that another publishing company might see opportunity calling.
However, somewhere in the middle of renovations, William Moss was found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to 5 years in prison. During his first year in prison, Moss, a mysaphobic, suffered a nervous breakdown, insisting that the prisoners and guards alike were conspiring to contaminate him with several harmful and debilitating germs. Moss was transported to Arkham to carry out the rest of his sentence.
It had been Harley that had suggested this warehouse as a headquarters for the Joker’s return to Gotham. Having been Moss’ psychiatrist at Arkham, Harley had inquired extensively about the warehouse – how much of the renovations had been completed, how visible the interior was from the street, etc. She had intended to use it as a base of operations herself if she were ever forced to abandon her cover as Dr. Harleen Quinzel.
So, when the Joker had griped about the loss of the dockyards headquarters, Harley excitedly told him about a possible new location. She had never liked the idea of using the old dockyards. One of her failed employees had attempted to make the dockyards his home and damned if that invalid and her bat-brats hadn’t spoiled everything.
Harley glared at the limp form of Barbara Gordon. The hatred she felt for this woman held no bounds. This was the woman who had helped Batman imprison her beloved Mr. J. This was the woman who had thwarted her at every turn in her efforts to revive Mr. J’s regime. It was Commissioner Gordon’s spoiled brat who had exposed her true identity, had turned her prospective protégé, Helena Kyle, against her. It was Barbara Gordon who had been the reason Harley Quinn had been imprisoned in Arkham Asylum.
Harley strode up to Barbara’s inert form and clenched her fists, struggling with the urge to hammer the battered redhead with every ounce of her anger. Simmering with unspent volumes of seething fury, Harley longed to tear into Barbara Gordon; to rend the life from her piece by piece. But she had made a promise to the Joker…and he in turn had made a promise that Harley could not resist.
You can have your revenge, my dear Harley. But not until I have the Bat-freak. Then you can have your way with Gordon. I just want him to be here to watch as you tear her heart out. I want him to bear witness what happens to those who try to destroy all that I have worked so hard to build. You can wait that long, can’t you my love?
Harley inhaled deeply and slowly unclenched her fists.
Yes, Mr. J, I can wait. But only for you…only for you.
* * *
Carolyn shimmied through the ventilation shaft, a steady stream of curses muttered under her breath as she struggled to make her way to the agreed upon destination point. The going had been rough. The schematics Bruce had pulled up were old. Changes had been made to the duct system that hadn’t been documented and she had lost precious minutes backtracking through the maze of ducts, searching for the one that would put her on the right path.
Now that she was certain she was headed in the right direction, Carolyn prayed that she would reach her destination on time.
* * *
Dinah and Helena crouched inside the crumbling remains of an adjacent warehouse, waiting for the telltale sound that would signal the beginning of their portion of the rescue attempt. A barely discernable movement from a darkened corner of the opposing warehouse caught Helena’s eye. Moments later, the two sentries guarding that side of the warehouse fell to the floor in crumpled heaps, silently and efficiently dispatched by a batarang that returned to its rightful owner with barely a whisper.
It was the first time Helena had ever actually seen her father in action, and she had to admit that she admired his skill…and his stealth as the moon briefly revealed a shadowy figure as he prepared to climb the warehouse wall to the roof above. She could feel Dinah tense up beside her as Batman paused at the roof’s edge. Then suddenly, he was over the top.
Seconds ticked by with agonizing slowness as the two women waited. Helena hoped that Batman had it in him to dispatch the roof sentries as quickly as he had the two guarding this side of the warehouse. Hers and Dinah’s role centered on the distraction Batman was to supply. If he couldn’t pull it off…
Helena brushed the thought from her mind. She didn’t want to think of what would happen to Barbara if any part of the plan went south.
* * *
Dinah nervously bit down on the nail of her index finger as she watched Batman effortlessly slide over the top of the roof and disappear from view. She quickly stole a glance at Helena to see if she was as Dinah was. But Helena was in full Huntress mode. Dinah was betting that if she were to place a hand on Huntress’ arm, she would experience Huntress’ overwhelming need to be on that roof, tearing off heads and taking names. It was Dinah’s turn to marvel…at Huntress’ restraint.
She just hoped that Helena’s earlier ruminations turned out to be wrong. If they were to go through all of this only to find that Barbara was already dead…Dinah cringed at the thought. She knew that if Barbara was in fact dead, not only would she lose a mentor and surrogate mother, but she would lose a sister as well. Dinah knew with certainty that if they found Barbara dead, Huntress would snap and there would be no turning back.
Dinah shuddered at the thought and turned her attention back to the roof.
* * *
Batman crouched over the skylight and stared down with trepidation. It had been relatively easy to dispatch the sentries, both on the ground and on the roof. That made him nervous. Did the Joker instinctively know what was coming?
Over the years, Batman had almost become an expert on the Joker. He had studied the villain’s every move and had learned to anticipate his every action…almost every action. He had been wrong once; fatally wrong. What if he were wrong now?
The Joker had studied him as well, searching to find any ounce of weakness in his nemesis. He had found one…found a few actually…and had successfully driven Batman from his home, riddled with pain and guilt. All those years rotting away in Arkham Asylum, the Joker had planned for a day when he would have his final revenge on Batman.
One must always anticipate the actions of their enemies.
He remembered the lesson he had taught every one of his protégés all too well. What if it was a lesson that the Joker had also come to learn? He had known just how hard to push…just what buttons to press that would run Batman out of town. What if he had anticipated this move as well?
Sighing heavily, Batman pushed all thoughts of dread from his mind and focused on the task at hand.
* * *
The Joker paced back and forth like a tiger in a cage awaiting his meal. The tension was palpable as the deadline approached and he was on edge. He had posted sentries all over the warehouse and Harley was guarding the bait, but the Joker was no fool. He had learned long ago that the only person he could trust was himself. Several bouts with the Bat-freak and his protégés had taught him that valuable lesson.
Allies in his line of work always turned tail and ran in the end…or ratted you out. Witness what had happened with Selina Kyle. No, the Joker trusted no one but the Joker. And right now, his gut was telling him that Batman had something up his sleeve…one last card perhaps that would topple the Joker’s deck.
No, his mind roared. No! He’s weak…beaten. You made him that way. You destroyed him – sent him crawling away from the city he called home a beaten and broken man. He’s spent years wallowing in self-pity and doubt. You turned Batman into Bat-wimp – a simpering shell of the nemesis you once knew.
The Joker smirked at the thought.
No, the Bat-freak will either turn himself in to save the life of the protégé he felt responsible for, or he would turn tail and run, sneaking off again into the night, never to return.
Lost in the cheerfulness of his thoughts, the Joker never noticed the shadow that loomed overhead. Never noticed until it was too late.