Up in (Technicolor) Smoke
Roleplaying Log: Up in (Technicolor) Smoke
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Lena Zelle gets a visitor.

Other Characters Referenced: Bruce Wayne
IC Date: July 11, 2019
IC Location: The Punchline, Gotham
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 26 Jul 2019 01:44
Rating & Warnings: G
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

One of the men hired for security came to deliver a message during business hours.

The party was in full swing with a number of notables in attendance. The favored and tragic son of Gotham, Bruce Wayne, among them.

Lena Zelle had been biding her time, waiting for an opportune time to cut in and make conversation. Unsurprisingly, this proved difficult as a rich and influential man surrounded himself with his rich and influential friends.

But here another man was. A man in her employ, delivering a verbal message.

She tried to return it to sender, but he’d none of it.

And thus, quietly, hopefully without anyone noticing, Lena Zelle disappears from the floor and makes her way to the few rooms upstairs. Her bedroom’s down the hall, but that’s not where she goes.

No, instead, she makes her way into the business office that she’s established for herself.

It’s not dressed up the way the downstairs is, rehabilitated to a shine. Instead, it shows all the signs of its humble and crumbling existence before she and her mysterious partner whirled into its awareness. Once-sumptuous fabric wallpaper, faded. The plaster walls and hundred year old hardwood, unwaxed and susceptible to the not-so-rare creak, lets the loud band music filter through from downstairs with only just a little muffling. The ceiling has been repaired, at least, and sports a new coat of plaster and paint—the promise of renovations still to come. She’s found an enormous red Oriental rug to spread across the floor, hiding the worst of its shortcomings, and a large sprawling desk sits atop that.

Built-in bookshelves—clean but unpolished—are sparsely filled with a handful of books, a few ledgers, and few decorative urns. The fullness of Russian literature consorts with a vapid romance novel or two there.

The windows are bare, letting the dim light of the wall sconces bleed into the Gotham night and the alleyway below.

When she steps inside the office, Lena’s countenance is a frustrated one. Her dark hair with its exquisite finger waves frames her delicate features beautifully, even as it settles against the shimmering silver of her beaded T-length gown and her pale skin.

“This is really a terrible time,” comes the snappish opening from forth her wine-red lips. “Perhaps you should come back in the morning during my office hours, when I don’t have a full house downstairs.”


He'd been quite insistent. He's typically been the type to breeze in and out of people's lives as is most convenient for him, but he's always entertained a certain demand for an audience, much in the fashion of a grisly car accident. And there's been so many of those lately. No one can tear their eyes away when even the fire trucks are running off the road.

The room, at least for the moment, is dominated by that sprawling desk. Consequently, he's taken great care to take over the chair at the head of the desk, long limbs slung over and folded into the plush reds of recovered and aged grain leather. The reds clash garishly with the purple bolt of fabric that sags over one armrest, a folded corner of the tail of a longcoat. The elaborate and lush card suit patterning of the coat's silken lining forms a stark contrast to the dressed up environs of the otherwise barely-in-repair detail of decorum.

Speaking of.

"Ha ha ha ha…." slithers his mirth as she speaks.

The man is otherwise silent as Zelle snipes at him, turned away from her and facing the open windows of Gotham City, leaving only the vagary of his coat as clue to his presence. The slightest rock can be heard, the springs of the chair suspension squeaking with the sort of barely audible timbre that carries only after the woman is done threading words together. The rocking forms a sort of tempo to his thoughts, idle and waiting. There is a mild asymmetry to the thing, as if the rhythm of things were all wrong and all out of sorts. The jangled metronome folds in on itself several times, pausing for beats, a telltale heart palpitating on the weathered luxe rug.

A beat too betrays his final motion, an incisive pause lingering overlong as he confidently wastes her time, bleeding it all over the floor. It is only when the thought occurs that the man turns in his chair, a long shadow stretching on the table in throes as each sconced light in turn illuminates his silhouette. The black thing he is lies outlined by the last of these, and it is only enough that he can be seen in the barest glimpse, a thing longer than ..really, truly need be slung across that proprietor's chair.

He quietly sets a revolver on the desk between them, gloves leaving no finish on the gold inlay along the drum. The gunmetal raps at the desk, sounding for all the world the beginning to a very mean knock-knock joke.

"Office hours are for the sick and the mad," he comments mildly. He grins sardonically, the crack visible for two inches too long. "I'm not sick…." the Joker replies openly, carrying the premise to its conclusion when he asks her plainly: "Are you suggesting that you're a doctor?"


“No,” Lena snaps back with a restrained heat, “I am suggesting that I have other priorities than darting to and fro at the pleasure of madmen.”

She glances to the revolver, and then her kohl-limned blue eyes turn back upwards with an skywards prick of one dark eyebrow. The dim lighting of the office makes her dark hair and the shadows of her high, sharp, and rouged cheekbones seem just a little darker, and her skin a little more pale. Not as pale, perhaps, as the argent gown that sparkles atop every deep breath she takes…

…but paler than most. A blanching of features some might suppose in deference to the uninvited guest who intrudes upon her dominion.

“I have powerful guests tonight who need attending.”

An eavesdropper—deathwish and all—might think that she is daring to exclude the one at her window from the list.

Her head tilts, and side parted hair obeys gravity to reveal more of her sun-starved brow.


The white edge of his smile is unmistakable even in the dark.
See? His lips are wine red as well.

Her powerful rebuke is reflected in the gold inlay of his gun as he favors the pistol, spinning it on the desk with brisk, cavalier motions, letting it come to a stop wheresoever the barrel may point, which is just as much him as it is her, and everywhere else inbetween. The gangster confidently whiles away the time as she stands up to him as little more than an annoyance. "Then," he thinks aloud, "you're in poor luck."

"Madmen are everywhere, you see, and there's no stopping a-one of them!"

With a flourish of his free hand, fingertips spread and limned in violet leather, he finishes the thought with all of the availed grandiloquence of a blockbuster show. In this, the meaning of the gag is portrayed as so plain and expected that it almost breaks the horizon of making sense to the sane.

"But," the gangster continues, all but one of his spread fingertips curling up into a fist, "you're almost right about one thing."

"You have a powerful guest to attend to," he replies in an all too subversive way, "and he needs a favor."


Lena’s eyes drop to the desk, to the revolver. She watches them both, one spinning and one still, and the dance of purple-sheathed fingertips that could at any given moment find the curl of a trigger. It keeps her rapt attention until, after a parade of separate eternities, her office’s squatter deems he’s had enough of the game and leaves it to lie.

“Now it’s your turn to experience a fickle fortune,” she tells him, chuckling with all bravado, as she brings her cautious eyes back to his features and observe him. Her right eye, for just a moment, squints with the intensity of her consideration.

Her long and bare fingers come up to drape across her clavicle, to draw a line along her bared collarbone, as her other arm wraps about her waist and her hips sway from side to side and setting the delicate beaded fringe brushing against her knees. “You see, I think the bar ran out of favors. But maybe you could try the establishment next door?”

Because vacant warehouses, they may stock them?


Even over the faint din of the music, one can hear his glove creak audibly as his fist tightens.

He seems to be set off by her initial refusal, and though no change can thoughtfully be noted in his mannerisms or demeanor, the tension ramps noticeably as Lena swishes tauntingly. The beaded fringe of her dress catches his eye in lazy moments, and he comes to adjust his lapel in due time, before straightening. He stands, taking great care not to move too quickly. His motions are like that of something other, something more than an animal but less than human. There is a deliberate nature to everything he does, as if all the world were a show.

Always sanguine, the purple-clad man is dangerously ambivalent as he tucks away the revolver, dropping it not even into a holster but in the deep pockets of his coat, with no more care than if he were tucking a comb for his hair. "Oh," he minds, wagging his finger at the young proprietor, "I have it on good authority that there's always a full bowl at the Punchline," he reminds her.

"After all, didn't it get such an auspicious start? It would be a shame to hear that the financier's investments have gone so south so quickly," the Joker opines, gladly skipping to Miss Zelle. If she isn't fast enough, he'll gladly loop an arm around her shoulders, to showcase the Gotham skyline outside with one grand sweep of his hand. Look at that view.

He reaches beyond the breast of his coat then, and something grey tumbles between the two of them in a feat of slight of hand before he catches it. Like the magician, he's turned a pistol into a live grenade, the baseball-like shell balanced precariously on a flat palm held prominent, held as safety only considering the pin, whose oversize ring is looped lazily around the Joker's gloved thumb.

"But then again," he contemplates, "fortunes can change in a single night. There's nothing throwing another big bash won't cure, will it?"


She isn’t fast enough.

As her guest is brazen enough to touch, to set his jacketed arm around the bare of her own arms, Lena’s back arches to protest the contact. She’s no desire to linger there. …And then he pulls out a hand grenade.

She sharply inhales in shock, her nostrils filling with the scent of dust and must and him.

Her oft-long step is then traded for a few skittering paces as he demonstrates the window, and she moves to cut free and spins to face him instead. The long, beaded fringe whips against the desk as she draws near it with a light, quick rhythm that sounds nearly like rain against a window pane. Face him she might, but she can only back up until her bead-covered derriere hits the front edge of the desk that reminds her that it has no intention of letting her contemplate too much of a retreat.

Her wide eyes look over the long form belonging to the other mortal in the room—although some rumours challenge that mortality—before resolving to fix themselves on the sharp features of his face, where shadows have life breathed into them by the dim office lighting.

“What do you want?”


The problem isn't necessarily a lack of speed. Though the heels she wears certainly do not do her spirited retreat a justice, there is a measured grace in even the most frenetic of escapes. It's not really speed, or agility, or anything of the nature that keeps her nearby. It's that he is so unapologetically and mercilessly long.

For every one of her paces, he only needs take one, and every inch of him drinks in the space. The effect is worse even now that he is between her and the exit, and he is holding an almost assuredly live grenade. As a result, he feels no pressing need to chase after her as she makes an escape from his casual embrace, dangling the M67 by the pin absently as he straightens his dark violet tie, a western string affair.

"Just to deliver the reminder that we could all be a little kinder," the Joker lies, tilting his uneven stare just so as he shoots a look beneath his brow. the light playing off of his ghost pale face and lengthening the effect that the smoke face paint along the lower orbits of his face stand out like twin black splotches. As he does so, he begins to dance, throwing himself across the room on his wingtips gracefully, the grenade jangling visibly as he goes, the pin remaining in the grenade only by an act of severe luck. He bears this no mind, flicking the weapon back into his hand, the spoon landing square into his glove with a harsh, sharp sound to punctuate his thought. "Though, I would find it finer to have more Bats to throw in the grinder…" he mulls aloud, his ogre's smile saved for Lena entirely.

And he is so, so very nearby.

"I'm going to need you to deliver something for me," the gangster explains winsomely, his wrist wagging the explosive back and forth, as if it were a hypnotist's pocketwatch. "To a dear, dear friend of mine. Hmm?" he cues, brightly.


Some scholars say that the Holy Bible is a flat text, when translated into English. That part of the original challenge in translating the Latin into the vernacular is that English is—by and large—an uninspired tongue by comparison to Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. That the full faceted nature of chosen words are lost, unless you have a very thorough footnote and explanation for the key words where this occurs.

To the sane and mortal ear, the expression of the Joker’s needs is fairly simple. But, like the original Biblical Greek, it is actually setting the English language on its ear. Words and turns are phrase are filled so full of additional tone, feeling, and meaning that they stretch the seams to nearly bursting.

But Lena, perhaps, only grasps the singular dimension in the same way that she curls her hands around the desk’s edge as it presses into the small of her back. She grasps it tightly with meticulously kept and wondrously soft hands, and she grasps just enough.

Her chin tucks and her proud shoulders curl in, and she turns her head to hide behind a few wisps of her dark hair.

“If this is about hurting someone, I don’t want anything to do with it,” she replies slowly. “This is, after all, a legitimate business.”


To that end, the Joker grins. "Perish the thought."

Then he flicks his thumb, and a pin clatters to the floor a moment later.

Even with the jewel-light clatter of a pair of spring steel pins across the floor It's hard to fully internalize what happens over the course of the next few moments. A gun has a habit of distorting all memories around it. Just before being shot, a person can tell with great detail exactly what the gun looked like, with no memory at all spared for the face of the man holding it.

"Quite the opposite, you see." The grenade is held in his grip firmly, the spoon depressed as he steps in smoothly, the edges of his long coat wisping along the exposed length of her leg with proximity. The ghosting touch drinks in her silhouette with his own, boxing the proprietor in to something catastrophic, the grenade held between them like a promisory ring.

It's a form of manipulation. If she moves, if she even flinches, she'll give the clown prince exactly the moment he needs to take her by a single fey wrist.

"Now, this is a message you're going to bring to the only girl in the world for me," the Joker explains warmly, educationally. He is rough, when he minds it. He is not above a scuffle. Really, she could give him the cold shoulder. She could fight him off rather easily, truly. But every moment, every breath she resists is another chance he could just simply — drop the grenade and kill them both, and probably a few downstairs.

Or she can accept his gift, letting him slap the M67 into her hands, rough steel against soft skin. The choice is hers to make. At least she'll have his message to ponder over.

"I want you to let her know," the Joker tells Lena, "that I'm going to miss her when she's gone."

She can run, trying to save herself in vain if he drops the grenade. Or she can do the right thing and take the grenade in her hands, to save everyone else. She can still be a hero by playing the game.

Only to find out the hinge pin came away with the firing pin, rendering the spoon useless and loose in her hand.


When the Joker closes in, Lena tries to back up even more, only to find that the desk has given as much as the desk is inclined to give. She pushes her back hard and painfully into it, only to gain an inch when the desk groans and slides that far at her insistence.

It’s an inch too easily consumed by a too-long frame, too easily lost to a madman and the physical manifestation of his threat.

Really, now. What harm did words ever do? Surely, words don’t have the same power and sway as grenades? The same ability to cut, explode, and destroy as an extraordinary arsenal?

…except they do. They just leave a different kind of exit wound.

“Please, don’t!” cries she of the grenade, her long-fingered hands coming up in surrender and showing off the gentle palms that still smell softly of the rose hand cream she used to care for them. An old scent for an antique theme, blending with the musty dusty aroma that still clings to the things here upstairs, not so loved as those things below.

“I’ll do whatever you want.”


"Why, Miss Zelle!" the Joker remarks brightly, positively giddy after the fashion of an overstimulated hound. "I never thought that you'd ever be such a good friend."

The scene enters a jangled fracture. There is a brief moment of confusion — terrible, really — where it is not clear exactly what is going on in the tense interplay between the two and their deadly child, the hottest potato twisting between the Joker's hands as easily as a man might unzip a jacket. And though the tumult is altogether hostile. With the closeness and the tension of the thing, it is unclear exactly whose jacket he would be unzipping.

"You know," the clown prince asides, wagging a violet finger candidly. "I've been waiting for a long time for someone to say that to me," he admits to no embarrassment of his own; with vicious glee best described as trademark to exception instead.

"And do I have a laundry list of things that I want," he suggests darkly, his monstrous smile never quite waning no matter which way he looks along the curve of her neck.

"But!"

The connection is broken without so much as a touch. The Joker steps away, giving her the brief comfort of space. Flicking the spoon between his fingers, the Joker sets the grenade down on the desk with his opposite hand and with finality, waving his fingers over it with a circular flourish, as if casting a magic spell. "Business before pleasure, as they say. We have so much business to attend to. And so much to do. Tell you what—give me a few days. I'll think up some real fun for you to get up to. And when you're in your darkest moments, you're going to thank me." :D

The Joker takes it to collect himself from the moment, whiplike limbs cutting the motion of straightening his jacket to a jovial viper's crisp edge. He turns on a heel and takes his leave. "Oh— almost forgot this. You might need it. Ha ha, ha ha…."

Over a shoulder, the Joker throws her the spoon to the grenade, which a moment ago was easily misunderstood to be still attached to the grenade, based on his behavior. It's so easy to forget, with all of the dangers that the Joker presents, that he means everything he does, and the game is always rigged. There's no negotiating, there's no begging, no pleading with men of real ill purpose.

So when he leaves Lena with the live grenade ticking away on a comically overlong fuse, know that he was going to do it from the moment he called her up to start with. It's really nothing personal when you're dealing with people who have lost their minds.

And then the grenade explodes, popping audibly and spraying harmless technicolor smoke into the room. Well. It's mostly harmless.

It's going to stain the hell out of the rug.


As he drops the grenade, Lena’s eyes widen and there’s an audible gasp.

She should run for the door, perhaps, but she finds her feet frozen in place instead.

The fuse—comically long though it may be—still does not provide enough time for common sense to return to Miss Zelle.

And then the grenade explodes. And she shrieks.

The sound is promptly buried beneath the blare of an amplified trumpet from the party downstairs.

When the brunette unfolds the arms beneath which she cowered, she stares at the rainbow cloud about her. By accident, she breathes it in. She involuntarily coughs it out. But, in the end, if does indeed prove mostly harmless.

There is the matter of the rug. A rug which she has loved very much in their time together—a partnership drawn short by the brutal stroke of artistic expression.

She exhales her frustration in a single huff of breath, then goes to get a shower and change, and then go back downstairs to the raucous good time to still be had below. She wears a ruined gown of silver. Maybe change into one of gold?

In the end, it won’t matter what she picks for the underlying message will be clear:

Nothing interrupts the fun at The Punchline.

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