As I walk down the path to his rundown amusement park, some thugs dressed in clown suits come out of the shadows. Poor souls, thinking they'll make a difference; how does he find these characters?
I dispatch them in the same manner that I have so many times before and, like clockwork, his laugh echoes from a small hut in the distance. As expected, he sits waiting, with that demoniacal grin.
"Hello again, Batsy! Oh, what a wonderful sight for sore eyes!"
"Poisoning an orphanage, Joker. This may be a new low for you."
"New low? It was a new high! Did you see their faces? Such wonderful smiles. They loved my jokes, unlike some snarky snark we both know."
He sat there, waiting my usual cold response of "You're insane," or "I'm bringing you back to Arkham." But, I don't know, I just wasn't up for it anymore. Not with him anyway.
"How old are you?" I ask him.
"Ooh, thinking of asking me out, Batsy?" He strokes his hair in a clumsy attempt of a satirizing sexy pose. "Thirty years younger, my gloomy friend, and who knows what would have happened?"
That was obviously a clue.
"That would have made you around 35 years old when you killed Murray on live television." Remembering that terrible night.
"Oh my! Does Batsy like'em young instead? I mean, looking at Catwoman or Batgirl, I would guess so."
He's avoiding the topic. Joker may be unpredictable, but we've doing this for so long that I've picked up on some hints into his bluffs.
"That was 40 years ago, Joker. But you don't look a day older than 30..."
"Oh, hush, you makin' me blush!"
"75 years. And more than half of your life after me. Testing and poking to see if I would break my rules. Four decades of a back-and-forth that frankly it's not only getting old, but also..."
He stays silent. First time since ever.
"Aren't you tired? After all this time, you should have already suspected that I'm not going to change my mind. Wouldn't you like to stop? To focus on something worthwhile that, I don't know..."
His grin turns sour. "... on something that is not only getting old but, also, well lets face it: unfunny?"I nod.
"Just like me! Hahaha!" He maniacally laughs.
However, a small smile creeps out of me too. I can't help it; that was actually funny.
"And there it is, old friend, the chuckle I've been looking for."
'Chuckle'? Not 'smile'?
He also told me to 'hush'.
And he greeted me with 'a sight for sore eyes'.
I waive my hand in front of him. He doesn't react.
"Somebody went quiet. What ya thinkin' about? Has the Batman figured it out? Hahaha, of course you have. Jealous? I'm more like a bat than you, Batsy! Hahaha!"
I take out my portable CT scanner from my utility belt and point it at him. And, there it is: a tumor the size of a baseball in his medulla oblongata, the part of the brain that controls involuntary actions like breathing, cardiac rhythms... like sight. It's inoperable, and growing slowly.
He must be in terrible pain.
"Why so glum, chum? Didn't like my new friend? I think I'll name it: Brian. Like Brain? Get it? Hahahuh! Cah, cof. Uh. Hoo, hoo."
The choking in his laughter was impossible to ignore.
The rate of growth of the tumor is also problematic: without treatment, it will surely kill him, but it is going to take decades to do so. Decades of not knowing if the next breath or heartbeat is going to be the last. It is going to be hell.
"Oh, so much inner monologue, Batsy! Aren't you going to lock up the naughty Joker, the baddy batty Joker? Your parade by the Gothamites awaits!"
"No... not this time."
"Whaaa?" His mouth, wide open, was almost cartoonish.
"I can help you. Let me help you. Let's end this, and let's do it on a good note. Please. Let's just stop."
A beat of unending silence overwhelmed the hut. His stare turned sad for a millisecond. But...
"No, Batsy. It's too late for that. Cof, cah..." He stares blankly into the distance, and with an impossible sweetness he smiles at me. "Hahaha. 'On a good note', nice one!"
"Ha... didn't realize the pun. Hehehe" I chuckled. That's right. Chuckled.
Then I started laughing out loud, and he joined me, as we both started to tear up. Our joined laughter was a perfect melody that blocked out our joined cries.
I've always wondered why I kept the gun that I was going to use to kill Joe Chill (my parent's murderer). And I wondered even more why I always kept it in my utility belt.
It is now clear why.
I pull out the gun and point it at his forehead.
"Goodbye, old friend."
"I always knew I could count on you, Batsy. Hahah..."
His blood spatters all over my cape, and as he falls to the ground, I realize: 'Count', Get it? Like Count Dracula? A bat? He he he. Ha...
Ha ha ha HA HA HA HA ha ha he he he... ha... aahh ahhh!
AHHH! AHhh! ahh... ahh... ehh ehh... sigh...
... so you left me too, old friend. The only one that actually understood, even when I couldn't. I hope you're happy. He he he...
I remove my cowl and throw it along with the gun. They land beside his body.
I sit at his side as I hear the police sirens getting closer.
I take out my handcuffs and fit them onto my wrists.
I still have my rules, old friend: I will accept my detention as the consequence of your freedom.
He he he... funny.
I just realized that you were right all along, Joker: life can be funny sometimes. I'll try to remember that.