The storm raged on, wind whistling through the cracks in the windows, the rain beating heavily on the roof. It showed no signs of slowing or stopping, only seeming to grow as the night continued. A group of men sat in silence, neither one looking at each other. They had been waiting in the boss's hideout for what felt like hours. Each and every one of them had learned that it wasn't their hideout and it never would be. Some had found out the hard way, earning them a bullet to the face or a knife to the heart. No, it was the boss's and it was going to stay that way. One of the men stood from his position on the floor and shuffled towards the broken television, being careful not to trip over the passed out clown that lay sprawled out on the carpet. He tried to turn it on but was greeted with a black screen. After attempting several times to get it to work, he resorted to pounding on it with his large fists.
"Damn it! Why isn't this thing working?"
Someone behind him made a sound of irritation and he turned to glare at them.
"Maybe because there's no electricity? Why do you think we're using candles? God, Snoozy you can be really dense at times."
Snoozy gritted his teeth, preparing to lunge at the other man when there was a sudden noise from outside. It had probably just been the wind knocking something over...at least, that's what Snoozy hoped. However, the door swung open, allowing the wind and rain to pelt in before it was slammed shut. The henchmen looked at the figure who had just entered, fear settling in their stomachs. Snoozy wondered if he should offer him a towel. Maybe it would put him back in the boss's good books? Feeling hopeful, he hurried over to the man.
"Boss? Do you need a towel?"
The soaked man slowly looked at him as if he had just said the most idiotic thing in the world.
"No, I need a blueberry bagel and a trip to Disneyland..."
Some of the goons looked at each other in confusion, making the painted man roll his eyes at their stupidity.
"Of course I need a towel!"
Snoozy jumped in fright before hurrying out the room. The Joker took off his coat and hung it on the back of a chair so that it could dry. Then, without so much as a glance at the others, he walked over to the large fridge in the conjoining kitchen. After discovering that there was nothing other than a piece of cheese that was growing some rather odd looking mould and some left over chinese food from weeks ago, Joker turned to look at his men.
"Didn't I tell one of you to get more food, hm?"
He stalked over to the group, dark eyes studying them. They landed on the clown that had passed out on the floor, a bottle of alcohol in his hand.
After a swift kick to the gut, the man woke spluttering and coughing. He looked around wearily before gasping when he realised who stood in front of him. The Joker crouched down so that they were eye-level. Sinister brown meeting bloodshot grey.
"Did you do what I told you to do?"
The clown nodded out of reflex. If you didn't do what the boss said then you were just asking for death. Then again, even if you did do what he said it didn't guarantee that you would live. The Joker shook his head, tutting at the answer.
"I don't think you did, Stumpy. There's no food in the fridge."
Stumpy's eyes grew wide and he quickly got to his feet. He swayed from side to side as he attempted to steady himself. Closing his eyes to try and clear his alcoholic stupor, he suddenly realised he was on the floor again. How had that happened? The Joker spat at him in disgust, cracking his knuckles. That fat lump should be grateful that he was only getting a punch for now. Later he would be getting what he deserved. Snoozy came back with a towel in hand and shakily handed it to the younger man.
"It's about time. Did ya get lost?"
While Snoozy thought carefully about the rhetorical question, Joker proceeded to dry his wet hair, shaking it like a mad dog before throwing the towel back at Snoozy. He decided that he would have to get one of his more 'sensible' goons to carry out the rather simple task that the other had failed to do. He caught sight of a man who had quietly been staring at the ground ever since he had arrived.
"What's your name again?"
The clown looked up, rather shocked that he was being spoken to. Nobody ever spoke to him...
"M-Me? I'm M-Marcus."
The Joker shook his head and went to sit next to him on the couch.
"I mean your clown name. You don't get to have a real name when I'm around, Maaarcus."
Marcus flushed, his cheeks going a deep red shade as he tried to splutter out the words that seemed to be lodged deep within his throat.
Joker, his patience wearing thin, pointed to the door.
"Go and get food before I have to take drastic measures and eat one of you bozos which, by the way, would not be very good for my health."
Marcus leapt up and scurried to the front door. He didn't have any money to buy anything but knew better than to ask for it. The last person who had asked for money had been killed in such a horrific way that it still gave him nightmares. So, shuddering at the memory, he left to carry out his errand. The Joker clapped his hands and looked around at them all. He seemed to be in a better mood but one could never be sure.
"Sooo, what have you all been doing while Daddy was away?" he asked in a sweet voice, pretending that he actually cared about their insignificant lives.
Snoozy, never wanting to miss an opportunity, smiled widely.
"I was trying to fix your tv."
The other man gave him a deadpanned look, resisting the urge to throw a cushion at him.
"Well then you're just an idiot, aren't you? Trying to fix a tv when there's nothing wrong with it...stupid, stupid boy."
Snoozy nodded and looked down at the floor, ashamed of himself. He always hated it when the others called him that but if the boss said it then it must be true. Looking back up, he wanted to apologise but realised that the Joker was no longer interested in him and was now playing around with a deck of cards. The shuffling of cards was the only sound in the room before they were slapped down onto the glass table in the middle. They were fanned out before the Joker took them away one by one, leaving three next to each other.
"Someone pick a card."
The clowns stared down at the cards, wondering what was going on. Joker tapped his foot impatiently on the floor before smacking one of the men on the back of the head.
The clown jabbed his finger onto one of the cards, his bottom lip quivering. As the card was turned over they saw that it was the Ace of Diamonds. The Joker glared down at the card as if it had just insulted him before slowly pulling a gun from his waistband. Without looking away from the card, he fired a couple of bullets between the chosen clown's eyes.
How dare he pick the Ace.
By this point, the rest of the henchmen were petrified. Upon realising that nobody was going to volunteer, one of them took a deep calming breath and pointed at another card, praying that it wasn't the last thing he would see. It was turned over and was revealed to be the Jack of Spades. The henchclown closed his eyes as he felt his heart skip a beat. This was it. He had picked the wrong card and was now going to pay.
"The Jack of Spades..."
The Joker held the card between two of his fingers, moving it closer towards the candlelight. He seemed almost entranced as he watched the light shine off the thin plastic. The rest of the men didn't know what to do as they sat there, still terrified but also quite curious. None of them had expected their boss's mood to dramatically change, even though it shouldn't have surprised them. The Joker held the card close to the flame and allowed the corner to catch fire before softly blowing it out.
"You boys wanna here a story..." he said, his eyes half-lidded as they continued to look at the card.
It wasn't a question...
He had went over the plan numerous times in his head.
Get in. Get out. Don't look back.
Hoping that there wasn't going to be any trouble though highly doubting it, Jack took a breath and slowly walked up the grey stone steps to the front door. His legs felt like jelly as he stood trying to calm his pounding heart. Anyone who passed by and saw him would think that he was having some sort of mental breakdown.
Or just thought he was a crazed lunatic.
Finally finding the courage, Jack pushed the door open and stepped into the house. He was relieved to see that it was empty. Quickly, he took the stairs two at a time and made for his room at the end of the hallway. His hands shook slightly as he tracked down and packed away all the things he would be needing for university. His medicine books were scattered all over which made them more difficult for him to find. After a good five minutes, he had found all his supplies and was out his room, rushing back downstairs. Feeling elated, Jack smiled when he reached the front door. He was on his way to the University of Chicago, finally ready to begin his life and fulfill his dreams.
What was that?
The young man slowly turned, his eyes darting around the darkened hallway. He tiptoed to the livingroom, cursing the creaky floorboards and peeked in but saw nothing but black. The noise continued and he realised that it was coming from the direction of the basement. Fear and panic took hold of him in an icy grasp, shivers chilling his body.
Something was wrong down there.
Jack wondered if he should just turn back and get the hell out of there. It was none of his business anyway. However, he was frozen in place, hardly able to breathe as the fear continued to build within his mind. The peculiar noise had stopped, an eerie silence filling the house once more. It was soon interrupted by a low, pained moan that came from behind the basement door. Jack just couldn't walk away, could he? His father had always told him to keep his nose out of things if he knew what was good for him. Nevertheless, the brunette shuffled forward to push the door open. He had no idea what he would find on the other side but was preparing for the worst. The hinges on the door squeaked from not being used too often. Jack peered into the darkness, blinking to try and see more clearly. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he was knocked to the floor. Something had grabbed onto him and was tearing at his clothes, ripping at his flesh. A bloodcurdling wail came from beside him which made his heart leap into his throat. Whatever had attacked him continued to strike, mostly aiming for his face and neck. Jack struggled and fought but was having a tough time breaking free from its grasp. A bang echoed around the basement, ricocheting off the walls. Jack's attacker had stopped and he heard them slump backwards before tumbling down the stairs. Shakily getting to his feet, he blindly groped around in search of the light switch. Once he had found it he flicked it on and was startled by what he saw. At the bottom of the stairs, lying in a bloody heap on the floor was his mother. She was lying on her stomach, a bullet wound in the back of her head. Her strawberry blonde hair was soaked in blood and hung in her face, hiding it from view. Jack couldn't believe what he was seeing. His mother had been the one who had attacked him?
A figure strode into view from around the corner. He wore a pinstriped grey suit and a black fedora, a cigar hanging from his lips. With interest he looked down at the corpse and turned it over with his shoe. Jack choked and felt his throat close up when he saw his mother's face. It was battered and brusied with several small cuts all over. Her once rosy cheeks were now slashed into a garish smile that stretched up to her ears.
However, that wasn't the worst part...
In the space where her eyes should have been there was instead dark holes. Blood and other types of liquid seeped from the holes along with a couple of stringy veins that hadn't been removed. Jack tasted bile in his mouth causing him to lean over the banister and spit it out, feeling even sicker by the second. What had gone on down here? His father shook his head and with a sly grin reached his hand out, gesturing for his son to come and join him. Jack's polished shoes made a soft noise on the wooden stairs as he slowly descended, eyes never leaving his father's. The older man slung an arm around his shoulders which made him tense up.
"You gotta lightin' up, kid."
He pushed Jack around the corner and into the open space in the basement. Upon seeing his father's mob friends all sitting around a table, he began to feel nervous. They seemed to be playing a game of poker, cards and chips strewn over the table. Each of them wore the same or similar attire to his father which came as no surprise since they all belonged to the same gang.
The North Side Gang.
Everyone in Chicago knew of them due to the many crimes they had committed, including bootlegging, illegal gambling, burglary and murder. However, they were also well known because of their rivalry with the Chicago Outfit and their leader Al Capone. Some gang members looked up when the two men approached while others kept their eyes on their cards.
"Guys, I'm sure you've met my son?"
There was a murmur amongst the men as some agreed and nodded at Jack. His father made his way over to the light switch at the bottom of the stairs and turned it off so that the only light came from the lamp attached to the wall beside the poker table. This made Jack even more nervous as he didn't really like the idea of being in a dark basement with a bunch of gang members, not to mention a man who had just shot his mother after most likely torturing her by cutting her up and gouging out her eyes. His father roughly pushed him into a seat before moving to sit opposite him. The men were all staring at him now, a strange glint in their eyes.
"Now, Jackie Boy. Don't be too upset over mommy," He began to shuffle some more cards and dealt them out. "She wasn't being very helpful, you see."
Jack didn't want to know. The sooner he got out of there the better. His heart wouldn't calm down and he was finding it more and more difficult to hold back the tears that would surely come soon. Crying in front of these guys would probably be one of the worst mistakes of his life so he tried his best to keep control of his emotions. Jack's father looked down at his hand, letting no expression show on his face. The game began with each taking turns betting chips and anything else they had in their possession. Jack's father looked across the table at his son and pointed at him with his cigar.
"You smarter than your mother?"
Jack didn't know how to respond. Instead he glanced around at the other men, curious to see their reactions but flinched when he felt a bullet fly past his left ear and hit the wall behind him. His dad was was now aiming his revolver at him, a dark look on his face.
Without really thinking, Jack nodded, too terrified to do anything else. This must have pleased his father because it resulted in him calmly putting away his gun and turning to the others in the room.
"I'd like to gamble my son."
Jack's mouth fell open in astonishment. What had he just said? The gang members grinned behind their cards, obviously enjoying the whole situation. A hand clapped him on the shoulder, drawing his attention to the man sitting next to him while the others continued with the game.
"Don't worry about yer old da. He's just being an arse because he lost a shitload of money."
Jack felt his spirits lift as he listened to the Irishman. So his dad was just joking around? He wasn't really going to gamble him?
"So...he's just joking?" he asked quietly, making sure his father hadn't heard him. The other took a puff of his cigar and blew a ring of smoke at Jack.
"Nah. He's still goin' to bet yeh." he said with a toothy grin.
Jack let his head fall onto the table in disappointment.
'Never trust the Irish...'
For the next couple of hours they played on. The game was starting to heat up, each man becoming more engrossed in it, hoping they had the winning hand. Jack mostly kept to himself but listened in on their conversations. He had now learned the names of pretty much everyone and had even picked up on some of their tactics. After a further twenty minutes of Jack being bored senseless, a ringing interrupted the now silent basement. His father quickly stood and hurried to the phone in the corner of the room.
Jack watched his father's expression, wondering what was going through his mind. From what he could tell it seemed like whoever was on the other end was telling him something important. Curiosity getting the better of him, Jack strained his ears so that he could catch what was being said.
"Alright, Boss. I'll be sure to let the guys know..."
He nodded his head before hanging up the phone.
"That was Bugs. He wants us to meet with him immediately...it's about Capone."
The gang understood, knowing what their boss wanted to speak to them about and quickly gathered their money and valuables from the table. Jack, in his confusion, stood and followed his father.
"What? Where are you going?"
He halted and slowly turned to stare at his son. Gritting his teeth, he stalked forward and seized the other by his collar.
"Do you think it's wise to ask that, Jackie Boy? Didn't I always tell you to keep your nose out of things that don't concern you?" he studied Jack's face and shook his head. Letting go, he moved over to the coat stand to put on his coat. After placing his gun in one of the inside pockets, he felt something else inside and pulled it out. It was a small switchblade that looked a bit rusted but still in good condition. He ran his gloved hand along the blade and tapped the tip softly.
Yep, it was still sharp.
Jack took a step back when he realised his father was advancing towards him, his eyes still examining the knife.
"Come here boy."
Jack took another small step back. What did his father want with him? Maybe he could try and run past him? No, the other members would just drag him back against his will. His father growled and closed the distance between them. He held the knife up to the other's nose and poked it gently.
"Stop ignoring me."
He brought Jack closer until they were only inches apart.
"You hardly smile these days...why don't you smile, Jackie boy?"
The knife was stuck into the other's mouth and pushed to the inside of his cheek.
"Take a deep breath. You won't feel a thing."
Jack drew a deep, shuddering breath, trying to stay calm. Pain overcame his body as the tang of blood flooded his mouth. He began to feel dizzy, his eyes going in and out of focus. Then it was all over and he felt himself being pushed down into a chair, something soft wiping at his mouth and cheeks. His vision became clearer and he saw his father standing above him, using a hankerchief to mop at the blood.
"Right, we're heading out. I want you to start packing some of our things. After this night is over there may be a chance that we'll have to quickly get outta town."
He left with the rest of gang, leaving Jack to sit alone, wallowing in extreme pain. Some time had passed before he finally decided to get up and do what his father had instructed. After switching off the lamp, he stepped over his mother's corpse, feeling grief stab at him when he saw her ruined face.
"I'm sorry, mother."
Then he was gone.
"So, that's how I became who I am today."
The Joker was lying on the couch with his arms behind his head and his legs dangling off the end. A cinnamon stick hung from his lips which he had pretended was a cigar during the course of his story. His henchmen looked up from the floor at him in utter amazement. What a story! Who knew that the boss had came from a family who had been associated with the infamous American gangsters Al Capone and Bugs Moran! It was all just so amazing. The green-haired man waved his cinnamon stick about as if he was conducting an invisible orchestra, letting the boys digest his little story. His gaze fell upon a clown who was lying on the floor in a pool of his own blood. A knife was embedded in his right eye.
Poor Snoozy hadn't known when to shut up...
"Is it true, Boss? Y-Your family knew Capone and Moran?"
The Joker closed his eyes, feeling sleepy which was quite odd for an insomniac like himself. However, despite his tired state he began to giggle to himself when he heard the question.
"Oh you boys. How funny..."
The men looked at each other, not sure what he meant.
"Of course it isn't true. All that stuff happened in the 20s. Do I really look that old to you?"
He stood and made his way around the couch, glad to get away from them and their stupidity. God, you would think those bozo's would at least read a book and known when certain events in history had happened. Hell, it wouldn't surprise him if some of them thought the American Revolution had happened in the twenty first century. As he made his way up to his bedroom he heard them talking to each other, saying that they thought that all that gangster stuff had happened in the seventies. He called back to them from the top of the stairs.
"Oh and don't let me hear any noise. If I do...I'll set Capone on you."
His maniacal laughter echoed around the house, even seeming to drown out the storm that still raged on.