Chapter 17: The Pursuit

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I rode my motorcycle all around the darkest parts of Gotham City. Turns out it was very difficult tracking down the Joker. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when he had hid in plain sight in Gotham for the past five years as he watched over me. But also I hadn't been looking. I was a highly resourceful woman, and living in the ghettos of Gotham had taught me a thing or two about getting information. I asked around in the streets, desperate to get any clues. To my misfortune, there were only whispers of his whereabouts and rumors that he was seeking out some very dangerous criminals to aid him in his next master plan.
Despite my pestering, no one could name any particular criminal he could be targeting. I was feeling frustrated at my lack of findings when I remembered something. There was one man in Gotham that knew everyone... And I knew him. I rode through the city streets until I reached what I was looking for. The neon sign in the shape of an umbrella signaled that I was in the right place. Oswald's. I had heard that the Penguin had retired from directly running this night club, but he would visit quite often to ensure it was continuing to be run according to his design. I walked inside, the club just starting to fill with people as the night went on. My heart was beginning to sink as I couldn't spot him. And then there he was, sitting legs crossed, a cane in his hand. He hadn't aged well, his eyes had sunken in and over consumption of alcohol caused his stomach to protrude from his shirt. I strode up him and he turned to me in question. He analyzed me for a good minute. "Penguin Cobblepot. I don't know if you remember me, Lilly Valeska." I extended my hand out to him to spark his memory and he took it and placed a kiss to my hand just as he had before. But this time I didn't squirm. He laughed in amazement. "Yes, of course! Mrs. Valeska, how are you? To be perfectly honest, I thought you died at Ace Chemicals along with Ecco." He said and I was reminded that this man had betrayed Jeremiah and I felt my blood boil. I took the gun from my pants and shoved it into his stomach, shielding the action with my body to not draw attention to us. "Let's not dance around the subject... Five years ago, you warned Barbra that Jeremiah was coming after her. As a result, I watched my husband fall to his death which I didn't learn until recently that he survived. Now you are going to tell me where he is." I ordered and the man before me stuttered and squirmed. "Y-your husband has become a very dangerous man..." He replies, avoiding my question. "He's The Joker, I got that. Now answer the damn question. I know that you know where he is." I demanded, grabbing him by his collar and pressing the barrel of my gun more forcefully into his skin. "In case you need more convincing on how serious I am about this, I've splattered brains before and I'm not afraid to do it again." I told him, referring to Ecco and I saw his eyes widen in fear. He hadn't known that I was responsible for such a horrific slaying and I couldn't help but feel pride swell in my chest. His eyes were searching the club frantically, as if someone would come to his rescue. But his efforts were useless as no one was paying any attention to us. "Okay, okay... I heard that he has a meeting with the Riddler tonight around 6. He needs his help getting revenge on the Gotham Bank. He wants to drain it if every last cent and Eddie has some knowledge in the field." The Penguin informed me and I released my hold of him. He seemed to know the Riddler personally as he had called him by his first name. It was interesting to me how all of these criminals seemed to evolve from ordinary people into notorious murderers. "Where?" I prompted and he sighed in relief. This man had always been a coward. "I believe they are meeting for dinner at the Riddler's house. If I give you the address will you promise to leave me alone and never speak of this?" He begged me and I complied. He scribbled the address down on a napkin and handed it to me. I gave him a false smile. "Thank you." I said, returning my gun to it's place in the back of my pants. As I walked away I heard him grumbling. "Just like
her husband.. Fucking lunatics." He mumbled to himself and I found myself snickering. I don't think I've ever been compared to my deranged husband. But oddly, I liked it. I returned to my motorcycle, and right before I was going to hop on, a dark figure appeared. "You shouldn't be in this part of town. It's not safe at this time of night." Batsman rasped out, and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. "Don't worry about me Batman... I'm a big girl, I can take care of myself." I told him, not caring that I was being rude when he was just looking out for me. But I didn't know him, not really. I encountered him once before when I was attacked getting groceries, but it was the Joker who had actually saved me. Besides, Batman was a threat to my new life. The life I planned to share with Gotham's top criminal. The hero narrowed his eyes at me. "I'm trying to find a woman who may have escaped the attack on Arkham Asylum. You match her description. Are you Harleen Quinzel?" He interrogated and I scoffed, boarding my motorcycle. "I'm flattered Batman, but that's not my name... And I am no psychiatrist." I said, the words liberating as they left my mouth. Batman seemed confused, but stayed quiet as he watched me carefully. "Well, I wish you the best of luck trying to find her. I'm sure she's traumatized after what happened." I dismissed him, and he just nodded in response. I gave him a wave before I hoped on my motorcycle and rode away. After I had put enough distance between myself and the vigilante, I felt more at ease. Batman could not know what I planned to do, or where I planned to go. After all, I was about to crash a meeting between two of Gotham's most notorious criminals. I should have been afraid of the people I was going to encounter and of the repercussions of chasing after the Joker. But I couldn't bring myself to, as this was what I wanted. To be apart of his world I had to first insert myself in it, and I knew he wouldn't be happy about it. But eventually he will accept that he can't get rid of me. I figured that once his defenses were down I would see if he had truly changed at all, or if it was all an act to scare me away. My thoughts were going wild as I sped off into the outskirts of Gotham, towards the forest and towards the Riddler.

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