Chapter 2

The Joker Turns Himself In

Much like the guys on the subway, and his compatriots in his apartment, Arthur Fleck hadn’t known he was going to do it until the deed was done. He’d been off his meds for two weeks. The benefit they’d had for him had become painfully obvious: he was paranoid, angry, and felt himself less than a full person. He’d ended seven lives in a very short period of time. And some of them hadn’t had it coming.

By the bright lights of the stage, in front of a live audience as well as those watching from home, the Joker blew Murray Franklin’s brains out. A massive scream rose and there was a mad dash for the exit. Arthur stayed where he was, staring at his handiwork.

His arm dropped into his lap and he held the gun with both hands. He was sweating and panting. This had been his worst kill yet. Everyone in the world had finally seen who he was, what he was capable. He was not proud of himself. Far from it. He simply felt that he couldn’t help himself. Like something inside him had come to a head and there was nothing he could do but begin to lash out, to break things, to make his un-humanity felt. But, to judge by the clown masks showing up throughout Gotham, he wasn’t alone. Killer. Psychopath. Yes. Champion of the people? No. Rather a symptom of their decline. And who could blame them?

Out of the corner of his eye he saw the security guards massing at the edge of the stage, unwilling to be the first to risk a bullet.

Arthur grinned at them.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t even know I was going to do it.”

None of the guards had guns. The police would surely be here soon enough to close that discrepancy.

“Is this it?” he asked no one in particular. “Am I done forever?”

He turned the gun around and brought the muzzle up under his chin and thought about it. The easy way out. He’d never felt life especially worth living, though somehow, over the last few weeks, when it had gotten worse than it had ever been before, it hadn’t been without a certain kind of hope. Disturbing as it was, he’d become a symbol, had captured the starving public’s imagination. Should he end it now, before seeing how it might play out? Maybe not. But that didn’t mean he didn’t want to. People were dead because of him. People were fighting because of him. And if they hadn’t discontinued his meds perhaps none of it would have ever happened.

Still with the muzzle pressed under his chin Arthur looked at the guards and started to cry. The strength it took to hold the gun suddenly melted away and it fell out of his hands. He lay back on the couch and put his right hand over his eyes to block out the bright lights. The guard didn’t miss their chance: they rushed forward and pulled him off the couch and pinned him to the floor.

“You son of a bitch!” one of them barked. “What have you done?”

“I’m sorry,” Arthur replied. “I didn’t mean it.”

“Turn the fucking cameras off,” yelled another. “And the fucking lights while you’re at it. I don’t want to look at this filth.”

The guards held him down until the police arrived a few minutes later. They cuffed him and marched him out of the studio. What Arthur saw outside, what he had missed for the several hours he’d been on the set of The Murray Franklin Show, would stay with him forever.

Clown. Clowns everywhere. Chants. Crowds. Riots. Looting. Police officers, some in riot gear and some not, hopelessly outnumbered, afraid and lacking a clear course of action. Like it or not, the Joker had lit a fuse, and the city was burning. It must have been a long time coming, for the flames to reach so high.

The four police guards flanking him didn’t seem to know what to do. Some of the cruisers were on fire, and some had their windshields and windows busted out. Maybe on of these belonged to Arthur’s captors, so what could they do with him now?

And, further, the longer he stood there, the more Arthur came to believe that he was being noticed. No doubt the news of what he’d done to Murray Franklin had spread everywhere. Now they even knew his name.

“Arthur Fleck!” he heard someone yell, though he couldn’t pick them out of the mob. “This is our night, Arthur! Get him! Save him! He’s not going to jail! Hell no!”

And then, all at once, the crowd surged towards him and his arresting officers were instantly overwhelmed in the swell. They let go of him and were gone. Arthur, still weak, fell to his knees. He closed his eyes, bowed his head, and listened to the bedlam. He realized now if it hadn’t been he and the boys he’d killed on the subway it would have been something else. But still, should he not bear upon himself some responsibility? Did he want to? The public had come to calling him the Joker. Did that mean it was a joke? He with his depression and schizophrenia. He with his old, pathetic mother. Thomas Wayne, who’d wanted nothing to do with him.

He felt a warm hand on his back.

“Mr. Fleck?”

Someone was kneeling down next to him. Arthur looked at him. It was a young black man with an intent look in his eye.

“The very same,” Arthur sighed.

“Do you need help getting up? Sorry, I don’t think there’s anything I can do about your cuffs.”

Arthur tried to stand up. The young man wasn’t the only one near him paying interest. Indeed he was surrounded by a respectful semi-circle of onlookers who were not participating in the rest of the immediate happenings around them. But Arthur could still hear it, and could still taste the tear gas.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he found himself saying.

The black guy didn’t answer at first, then: “Do you have somewhere you want to go?”

“I don’t.”

“If they find you they’ll take you in for sure.”

“Maybe that’s where I belong.”

“No one belongs there.”

“I killed my own mother,” Arthur answered sickly, “and the most wonderful talk show host this great city has ever produced.”

“If you insist, brother, if you insist. But this all here? This happening all around Gotham? You started it, and it’s far from finished.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

“I guess I don’t know. I guess it just is.”

“It is what it is.”

There were more sirens, flashing lights, sounds of breaking glass.

“My name is Duboce,” said the young man. “I’ll help you tonight if you want it.”

“Thanks Duboce, I’m Arthur. Honestly I think I just want to watch.”

Hands still uncomfortably bound behind his back, Arthur walked towards one of the totaled police cruisers. He climbed onto its roof and sat with his feet dangling where the windshield should have been. Duboce stood on the street next to him, and the celebration went on into the night.

Eventually the sun rose on the shattered storefronts and burned out cars. Arthur and Duboce had stayed up all night paying it attention.

Arthur hopped down from the roof of the cruiser.

“Come on,” he said to Duboce. “I know where I belong now.”

“You want me to walk with you?”

“It’s up to you. I’d like your contact info just in case, and if you come with me I can be sure that you’re on the list, so you can visit whenever you want.”

“Where do you want to go?”

“Arkham. I know how to get there too.”

“The insane asylum? Really?”

“I’m off my rocker without my meds, Duboce. That’s one reason I started killing people. It’s where I should be. I’m an unnecessary danger to myself and others.”

“You think you’re the only one?”

“Come on, come with me. You’ll be made locally famous.”

Arthur started walking down the middle of the street, as there was still no traffic to be seen. After a moment’s indecision Duboce opened up the green backpack he was wearing, scribbled something onto a piece of paper, then ran after Arthur.

“Here,” he said, stopping his quarry a moment and slipping the note into Arthur’s hip pocket. “So you don’t forget me.”

“As you were, soldier.”

The two left Clocktower Square due North on Ellison. It wasn’t much further until they reached Arkham.

Duboce, being near the Joker, wondered if it was wrong of him to help the deeply disturbed man. Horrible, bloody things had happened last night. What must it feel like to do something as awful as murder and be celebrated for it? Arkham probably was the right place for him. But, whether you like it or not, Arthur Fleck was now one of the most important people in Gotham. What might happen around him in the future was surely worth listening to.

They reached the front doors of the complex, where there were doctors and nurses in hospital scrubs and several parked ambulances.

Arthur closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“This is it,” he said, “the last bit of free I might ever enjoy.”

“Well, if you want some company I can visit you every once in a while. Bring you outside food or something. That okay with you?”

“Sure thing. I guess I’m a celebrity now.”

The two entered the hospital, and a few minutes later one of them left. Duboce told himself to guard this memory jealously. Something important might one day happen to Arthur Fleck, and it wasn’t like he had many other irons in the fire either. 

He found a subway station and went and got on a train. Oddly enough, he didn’t see a single clown face on his way uptown. He didn’t know how to feel about this.

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