In my fear and disbelief I let go of the hill and plummeted to the merciless rocks below….
With Charlie and Jack disposed of the Joker felt underwhelmed, for twenty long years he had rotted in his cell, his already fractured mind becoming more and more disjointed and the one desire that kept him from ending it all was revenge. It had burned deep within him, nobody could ever begin to guess at his motivation for doing the things that lead to him becoming the stuff of nightmares. After his arrest people had debated why he dressed like he did and why he left a Joker playing card with all his victims, signed The Oregon Joker. Psychologists postulated that it was some traumatic childhood event and the media ranted and raved about pornography and violence on television and in films, whilst leering at camera shots of Britney Spears with no underwear. The Joker knew all the answers though and he felt there was logic to all of his actions, whatever logic can be attributed to a madman. The answer was simple, the Joker did such terrible things because he liked it. His mother and father had loved him and never got divorced or even spoken a cross word to him as a child, he had gone to a nice school and gained a good grade-point average. His proud parents had packed him off to college with a peck on the cheek and a shiny new car, a reward for all his honest hard work. What they didn’t know was what he did at night, in the abandoned warehouse. What they didn’t know was that he was responsible for the upsurge in people disappearing in their area, his preference was for young women. To him they were like delicate flowers in the sun and he liked to watch them wilt and die. Why? Because he liked it, something inside of him had always known and one day when he was about 15 he killed for the first time and he was finally able to be true to himself and give in to his desires. He came up with the idea of the Joker because he had always felt sorry for the Joker in a deck of cards, the Joker was always discarded and never part of the game and he could relate to that. So he had made a new game that included the Joker and included him. So that was the terrible truth about the Joker, in many ways more horrific than his crimes, he did what he did because he enjoyed it, there was no other reason.
And now to feed his hunger and make up for his disappointment in Charlie and Jack, he had struck upon a perfect way to truly return as The Oregon Joker and to strike terror into a new community. He had had high hopes for Charlie, he had hoped he would put up a bit more of a struggle, he would have liked to have tormented him a little before he killed him. But Charlie had been a scared shadow of his former self, not the strong bull-headed individual of his youth and his death had been unsatisfying. The Joker smiled to himself and licked his lips, the taste of the garish red make-up exciting him as he contemplated the deed ahead. It would be exquisitely poetic, his next act would return him to the collective consciousness of a terrified public and he would be able to savour the long torture and satisfying kill of his next victim.
He had easily discovered where Charlie had been living and now he crouched with excitement outside the home of Sophie Black.
Sophie Black was worried. She had been calling Charlie constantly since yesterday morning when he didn’t arrive back on the agreed bus. He was now over 24 hours late but the fact that she hadn’t heard from him since the day he was due to meet Jack was the thing that really concerned her. It was practically unthinkable that he wouldn’t send her a text at least every couple of hours as he knew how she worried about him. He would never just change his plans without letting her know. She had called the police but they advised her that they wouldn’t really count him as a missing person just yet because he could have lost his cell phone or his bus could have broken down. She guessed they were right but she was sick with worry and beginning to panic. Charlie had agreed to check in with her as soon as his meet up with Jack at Yaquina Head had finished, when he hadn’t she had sent him a message but got no reply and when he didn’t arrive home her mind went into overdrive. She knew this had been an important step for him, he had been doing so well, but she bitterly regretted not going with him.
Sophie heard the floorboards creak on the front porch and her heart leapt with joy and relief. She excitedly checked herself in the mirror, ready to welcome him home and tell him how proud she was. She unlocked the front door full of anticipation, but what greeted her on the other side was such a shock her mind was in disarray. A broad-shouldered hulk of a man with his long-hair braided to the sides giving it the appearance of some kind of hat, familiar images began to piece themselves together in her confused daze. That was it, it was a jester’s hat, the sort of hat a Joker wears. All these thoughts flashed through her mind in an instant, a joker. The Joker.
She now looked at his face, his terrible face, she had heard all about it from Charlie. The roughly applied mascara, the black eyes, childishly applied red around the mouth, white gloves with tiny bells on them. A huge hunting knife gripped in his hand, he was a hideous distortion of an innocent figure. “Hi honey, I’m home” he cackled and quick as a panther he lunged at her with deadly purpose.
Sophie screamed and ran towards the back of the house, her mind focused on escaping through the back garden, she knew that Charlie kept a gun in the garage if she could somehow get to it. The Joker was uncannily fast though and before she could get half way across the room, he was blocking the exit. He must have been in his mid-50’s but he was still built like a line-backer and he looked toned and menacingly fit. She tried to change direction and make for the stairs but she slipped and hit her head on the coffee table, she could feel the warm flow of blood making its way into her eyes, she scrambled backwards on her bottom shuffling frantically but the Joker was now towering over her. “Don’t worry Sophie, this is going to be long and painful, I know in the movies they say quick and painless but this ain’t Hollywood and I really am the kind of guy who likes to take his time” He laughed a full- throated chuckle and grabbed her by the hair and almost pulled her to a standing position with one hand. She struggled and began to cry and shout for help, he hit her hard in the face and she was sent sprawling, the wind knocked out of her. The Joker put a mock expression of sadness on his face, “Ah poor little Sophie is scared, shall we call Jack and Charlie to see if they can help?” His face took on a maniacal gleam, “Oh no wait, we can’t do that because they are both dead and rotting in the ground” He cackled again and stepped closer still to Sophie. He pinned her to the ground and savored her struggling form, he rubbed the blade of the knife along the side of her face. “It’s good to be back” He put his face right next to hers.
“STOKES YOU FUCKING LUNATIC” The Joker turned in utter confusion recognising the voice but not believing it. Stood in the doorway was a filthy and blood stained Charlie Derwent, his arm was bandaged up with some old rag and he had a bad head wound, but his eyes were utterly focused and he was holding a handgun.
The Joker had stood up now and was facing Charlie from across the room, before the Joker could utter a word Charlie fired twice hitting the Joker in the chest and through his cheek. The Joker slumped to the ground, Charlie stepped into the house and fired the remaining rounds point-blank into the Joker’s chest, he wanted to make sure he was really dead.
Charlie had discovered the truth about the Joker’s escape from prison over a crackly phone line. After his fall from the cliff, he had somehow managed to survive and badly bleeding with a broken rib or two he had made it back up the cliff via a tiny trail. It had taken him hours but he had made it back to the little village and had found a phone in a little cottage. The startled owner of the cottage had wanted him to stay whilst she summed the local physician but Charlie made one phone call, to Agent Patrick. After Patrick had calmed him down, he’d made Charlie repeat that there were no such things as ghosts. Stokes, he explained, had escaped from prison. Patrick promised Charlie he would come straight away to help look for Jack. Charlie agreed to wait for Patrick but really had no intention, he knew the Joker and he knew he would be going for Sophie, so he had cleaned up as best he could and made his way home, praying that he wouldn’t be too late.
Charlie now utterly exhausted and in great pain collapsed by the body of the Joker. Despite all the anguish he felt no tears would come, he looked with hate at the Joker’s shot up body and then screamed into the heavens. It was a primal sound, 20 years of grief and torment shattering the quiet of the peaceful suburbs. He went to Sophie and she collapsed into his arms, sobbing with relief and shock.
That was how Agent Patrick found them, by the time he had reached the lighthouse he had known that Charlie would be long gone and so he had had the foresight to dispatch a team to Sophie’s house. At the lighthouse Patrick had found poor Jack, his broken body lay lifeless and distorted by the Joker’s handiwork. Patrick blamed himself, he knew he should have called them the moment he heard of Stokes’ escape, he had only wanted to protect them from unnecessary worry. If they had captured Stokes he would have been back on death row and Charlie and Jack needn’t of ever known, unfortunately he had under-estimated the Joker’s obsessive desire for death and revenge and it had cost Jack his life. He had run from the lighthouse and into the awaiting helicopter hoping his own failings hadn’t cost Charlie and Sophie as well. He comforted them now as the paramedics zipped the Joker’s body away, he made them drinks and took their statements.
As Charlie and Sophie sat huddled on the sofa, listening to Agent Patrick, Charlie smiled, he now had something he felt for so long he didn’t have, a future. The Joker was dead, it was finally over.
As Leyland wheeled the latest “customer” into the morgue, he couldn’t resist taking a sneaky peek. He knew it was against the rules but he wanted a photograph, after all it wasn’t everyday they got a “celebrity”. The paramedics had told him that this was “The Oregon Joker”, he unzipped the body bag and whistled quietly to himself as he recognised what was left of the Joker’s face. His buddies at bowling would sure get a kick out of seeing a photograph of the infamous Raymond Stokes. The Joker’s face was distorted, not just by the make-up but by the gunshot wounds, half his cheek was missing. As Leyland put his phone back into his pocket he nodded his head in disgust, thinking that there were some real freaks in the world. He chuckled to himself as he considered how mad Dr Gray would be if he knew he had taken this gruesome keepsake. With this amusing thought in his head he made his way back to the door to collect the next “customer” that awaited him upstairs.
As Leyland wheeled the next body in he stopped in numb horror as the Joker’s gurney was empty. He looked frantically about the room, checking under all the other gurneys and even in cupboards, but he couldn’t see the body anywhere. He would be fired quicker than he could sneeze if he had lost a body, especially one as high-profile as the Oregon Joker. He was thinking up what excuse he could give to Dr Gray when heard a rustling noise from the supply cupboard on the far side of the room.
“Jansen, if that’s you messing about, I’m gonna kick your stupid ass”
There was no reply.
He made his way to the cupboard and noticed the door was ajar. From within he heard what sounded like laughter, but there was something off about it, it had a strange quality as if he was hearing it underwater. He opened the door fully and stepped into the large supply cupboard, there was nothing there but he could still hear laughter and it was louder now he was in the room. He followed the noise into the far left hand corner and there on the floor was a little digital dictaphone and echoing from it was the cacophonous noise of laughter but whoever it was sounded out of their minds. He smiled to himself, turned off the recorder and put it in his top pocket. His overactive imagination had almost gotten the better of him. He left the room and closed the door behind him, suddenly the recorder came back on and the laughter rang out over the empty morgue, Leyland grumbled to himself and fumbled for the dictaphone. The laughter then stopped again and a rustling noise came from the recording device, as if whoever had made the recording had put it into their pocket. He listened closely to the device to see if he could discern any other sounds, suddenly the rustling stopped, “Boo”, the voice was harsh and sounded deranged. The laughing started again but Leyland realised that this laughter was not coming from the device in his hand but from above him and before he could process this information something fell on him. He was wrestled violently to the floor and the laughing was now more like an hysterical howl. He found himself pinned with great strength to the floor, he couldn’t move his arms but he managed to turn his head upwards to face whatever was on top of him. Staring down at him was a vision of evil, a clown with half of his face missing and just as it was too late he realised what his brain refused to believe because it was impossible.. “The Oregon Joker” was alive.
©John de Gruyther 2013