The Barrington Building: a modest 21 stories of neo-gothic limestone, architectural giant of its day, stubbornly holdings its ground amidst the steel and glass towers that grew up around it. Batman always liked the Barrington. It had character. Even if its gargoyles were too recessed to accept the batline and even if its patinated bell tower was too low to make an effective lookout, he admired it as a landmark of Old Gotham.
He glanced down at it as he swung west towards Fairmont and a possible but unlikely Hacienda location in its Lipstick Lounge. Batman didn’t really expect to find anything. Lips, lipstick, dentures, teeth, these were so far removed from the laughter motif that he wouldn’t normally waste his time, but since he had no good leads to follow, he would tack two or three of these longshot locations onto each patrol. It let him feel he was accomplishing something, at least, instead of waiting passively for… what was that?
Batman shifted his body, mid-swing, and released the one batline as he fired another to slow his approach to the Barrington roof.
“Lenses engage,” he ordered. He had seen light and movement on the eighteenth floor. Not much, but enough to justify taking a look, particularly when he had new equipment to test. “Thermal residue scan, engage,” he said, entering through the window closest to the movement he’d observed. “Calibrate for last ten seconds… recalibrate and overlay fifteen seconds… twenty… twenty-five… twenty-six…”
“Gotcha,” he thought, noting the faint echo of a heat bloom. More interested for the moment in mastering his new crimefighting tool, he continued to increase the temporal range of the scanners. Noting the intensity and movement of the heat blooms as he counted up to thirty seconds, to forty-five, to sixty seconds in the past, he was developing an understanding for the sensor and how it displayed. In the future, he would be able to instantly assess if an intruder passed through seconds or minutes before.
And the tactical cost was minimal. To gain that future advantage, he’d given this particular intruder a few extra minutes to proceed with his crime unaccosted, but Batman knew that Ederline Inc. had the only safe worth opening in this building and it would take a typical thief this long to reach the door and unpack his tools.
At least that was his theory until he reached the outer office and heard an odd rhythmic whirr coming from behind the door. Prudence demanded finding out what the noise was before entering. Safecrackers sometimes used explosives, and they didn’t always take the precautions that they should. Rather than bursting through the door as originally planned, Batman moved silently to the window… He inched along the ample ledge that made old buildings like this so accommodating to the modern crimefighter… and then… batarang in hand… he peered through the window to the inner office to see…
Catwoman sitting at the desk, on an angle in the high-backed executive chair, her right elbow propped on the headrest, her own head resting on the her hand in a posture of infinite boredom. With her left hand, she listlessly spun the dial on the open safe door.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he demanded, crawling through the window without any of the theatrics another burglar would merit.
“There you are,” she practically yawned. “Took your sweet time. What the hell were you doing out there?”
“Calibrating the thermal echo lenses. I asked what you’re doing here.”
“We need to talk,” she said, shifting as quickly as any cat from languid boredom to crisp, all-business efficiency.
“You have a comlink,” he said severely.
“Didn’t feel like using it. If I said ‘meet me on the Moxton roof in five minutes,’ you’d say what? ‘Is it important?’ or ‘What’s it about?’ or ‘Can it wait ‘til I’m done tying the Triads in a knot?’ I figured this way, if you were free you’d drop in, and if you were busy you’d keep going. Either way I don’t have to get into the whole thing on the OraCom.”
This was the nightmare: feline logic meets Bat Mantle. He wanted Catwoman to become his partner, he wanted her to share in his mission—he did not want her inserting feline logic into the process.
“Fine, Moxton roof, five minutes,” he said, since there was no point in prolonging an inquiry once feline logic had entered the conversation. Her reasons made sense to her, and she didn’t care if anyone else saw it that way or not.
When he reached the Moxton roof, however, she was uncharacteristically hesitant.
“Well?” he prompted.
“I’ve got the break you’ve been looking for,” she said tentatively. “It’d be nice if you could embrace that part and not get how you get.”
“More specifics and we’ll see,” he said grimly.
“I know where Joker is—or at least, I know the Hacienda he’s calling home at the moment. Harley asked me to come over in the morning.”
I was expecting the kneejerk: “No, absolutely not, the Bat has spoken, grunt.” Instead, I got to see that incredible mind go to work. Those eyes flickering ever so slightly, sifting through every conceivable possibility with all that strategic awareness. That mind that authored protocols that could bring down the Justice League, it was churning, churning… it gave me such a rush, I could have torn off the costumes and done him right there.
“No,” he said finally. “There’s no way to use it.”
“Let’s not be defeatist about this. There’s always a way. No matter how many cameras or motion detectors they put up, no matter how many armed guards and biometric scanners and inches of reinforced titanium, there is always a way.”
“This isn’t a vault,” he said (with that typical crimefighter lack of imagination).
“Sure it is. It’s problem-solving. Getting into a vault is nothing but problem solving.”
He had this scowl, like in the old days when he thought I wasn’t getting it (stealing is illegal) when in fact he was the one missing the salient point (I didn’t care).
It was frustrating. He is SO SMART except for that big blockage of crimefighter dumb sitting right smack in the middle of it.
“Look, I know you can’t go plowing in there tonight when Harley just gave me the address, but tomorrow’s a whole new story…
I really felt if I could just break through that stiff, inflexible prig part of his psyche…
“I mean, we’re sharing a roof right now, right? Look at you, standing there doing the whole ‘I’m Batman.’ Cape, bat on the chest, acid indigestion look on your face…” I stepped closer (which is really the only way to short circuit the inflexible prig in my experience) and let a clawtip trace the bottom of the emblem batwing as I said “Who’s to say you’re not slipping a tracker on me right now… You could... put a hand anywhere, and I doubt I’d notice when I’m so preoccupied by your—”
Typical pushback. Literally. It broke my heart the first time he did it, but now that I know what it means, I rather like it.
“See, right there,” I smiled. “Mission accomplished. I’m sure I’m wearing some terribly clever, obscenely expensive piece of undetectable bat-tech now, something you can use to follow me tomorrow when I meet the tassel twit, and then once I’ve left—”
“No. Selina, this is not a conversation. You are not accepting any invitations to a Hacienda, not when he’s ‘test-driving’ other Rogues’ themes. Not when the Cheshire Cat is nothing but a disembodied SMILE. I don’t care what I said, I don’t care what I promised. You’re not going. This is not negotiable.”
Remember when I talked about that fine strategic mind of his? Scratch all that. Because there wasn’t a worse thing the mind that authored protocols could have said, and if he was half the strategic genius he’s said to be, he would have known that. I’ve got a kneejerk of my own: when a stiff-necked crimefighter tries to lay down the law with me, that law must be picked up, batted around until the stitches break apart and all the catnip and stuffing starts spilling out the seams, and then the whole mess laid at his feet like a mostly-dead chipmunk.
The Cheshire Cat really hadn’t occurred to me, but now, thanks to Captain Thou-Shalt-Not, I was honor-bound to go to the Hacienda tomorrow and see what Harley wanted.
“I’ll be careful,” I said, thinking of that classic John Tenniel wood engraving with the Cheshire Cat’s head floating without a body over the King and Queen of Hearts.
“No, Selina. You can’t do it. I won’t have it.”
“Bruce,” I whispered, “What happened to ‘we don’t put the rules in a drawer because it’s Joker?’”
“What happened to you not caring what the rules are in the first place? Selina, you can’t do this. It is too dangerous.”
It’s a paradox that being independent sometimes means you get backed into doing things you don’t really want to. Now that he’d put that damn Cheshire Cat image in my brain, I didn’t particularly want to go to the Hacienda. But I absolutely could not let Batman forbid it like he’s my lord and master.
“What if you met her somewhere else,” he began, and I leaned forward. If he actually had a way out of this tangle, I would overlook that the fact that Bat-prick was getting his way. “Somewhere near this Hacienda but public. I can secure the location beforehand, keep an eye on you, know you’re safe…”
“And then follow her home,” I murmured. “That’ll work.”
“It should. But when Joker is involved, no matter how sound the plan, expect the unexpected.”
♫- BUMP bump-a-dum ba-DUM… ♫
Okay, now Harley was really worried.
♫- BUMP bump-a-dum ba-dum… ♫
Talking to the plants was bad enough.
♫- The minute you sprout through the dirt, I can see you are a flower of distinction, a real acid-squirter. ♫
Now he was singing them show tunes.
♫- So flowry, leaves so lean. Say wouldn’t ya like to know what made my hair just as green? ♫
Puddin’s way of just talking to the plants—all “Daddy” this and “Daddy” that—seemed to be… well, she didn’t like to think of it this way, but it was almost like he was mocking Red.
♫- Do ya wanna have fun? Fun? Fun? How about a few laughs? Laughs? Laughs? ♫
Which would go over even worse than the implication that Puddin’ could do her theme better than she did.
♫- Hey, big Joker… ♫
Red could be a bit much when she got to calling the plants her babies and all that.
♫- Hey, big Joker… ♫
But she never called herself “Mummy” when she talked to them.
♫- HEY BIG JOKER! ♫
And she certainly never sang to them.
♫-Pourrrrrrrr a little water on me. ♫
It was agreed that Selina wouldn’t wear a comlink. Harley alone was not a concern, but if she wasn’t truly alone, if she was fronting for Joker, there were too many variables to consider. Joker had made alliances with Luthor, Brainiac, and countless other high-tech villains in the past. If this was a Joker operation rather than a simple meeting with Harley, the risk of a link being scanned for and discovered was simply too great, given the negligible benefits.
So Batman could only watch the proceedings from a discreet distance. Selina had picked an upscale midtown chocolate shop and café for the meeting, and Matches Malone was deemed too “scruffy” for the surroundings. He’d assumed a blander, less conspicuous disguise, which still left him dissatisfied when he actually got to the location. There were no men in the shop, not one. He felt out of place, and he knew that feeling conspicuous in his surroundings was even more dangerous than looking it. So he’d simply bought a paper and a chocolate bar and gone across the street to wait for a bus.
He sat at the bus stop reading his paper, saw Selina’s approach, saw her note his new location, and saw her go inside. Through the window, he saw her approach the counter, place an order, and take it to a table where he had an excellent view (Good Kitty). Then he saw Harley arrive, and—to the extent that he could find anything connected to Joker amusing—he was mildly amused to see Harley had taken none of the pains he had with a disguise. “Conspicuous” didn’t begin to cover it. Chocolate-colored fedora and trench coat, dark glasses, and red shoes with a black and white harlequin-patterned heel. Only Harley Quinn…
After almost half an hour of chit-chat, both women stood, Selina paid the check and they left together. They walked side by side to the corner, and Bruce felt his insides churn at the nightmare scenario that presented itself: Harley must have extended an invitation to go back to the Hacienda, and for reasons defying understanding, Selina had accepted.
Feline logic! Whatever incomprehensibly dangerous thing she was attempting, that was going to be her explanation for it. Feline logic. Feline logic tainting the mission. Feline logic ensnaring the Bat mantle. This was so unspeakably unacceptable—
Then Selina hailed a cab and Harley turned the corner heading towards 38th Street.
Bruce swallowed hard, willed his heartbeat back to a normal rhythm, and followed Harley home as planned. He couldn’t risk a cell call to Selina while he was tailing Harley, so he was unable to debrief her for over an hour. He was pleased, however, to find her waiting in the satellite cave instead of in the penthouse.
“We did it again,” she said with a grim scowl that seemed completely out of place on her lovely features, but which reminded Bruce of himself. “We scared ourselves silly because it was Joker. And we did it to ourselves. Ha. Ha. Ha.” After the desert-dry delivery, she broke into an eerily hyper-wide smile that made Bruce’s blood run cold.
“Please don’t do that,” he graveled.
“His Mad Hatter scheme has nothing to do with the Cheshire Cat, Bruce. Nothing at all. Know what he’s planning for Jervis? Beer hats.”
Batman had logged more man-hours analyzing Joker’s pathology than anyone alive, but no amount of experience ever prepared you for the next insanity. In the time it took him to process the syllables (and prevent his mouth from dropping open), Selina went on:
“Apparently, our favorite couple had quite a spat about it. She: Disrupting electrical and chemical activity in the brain to inhibit judgment and paralyze the will? HOW? He: Duh, Harls, BEERHAT!”
“That’s his Mad Hatter scheme? Just hats? No playing cards, no Cheshire grin?”
“Don’t get too excited, Handsome. It’s still plenty Joker-sick. You know how the typical beer hat works, right? Like a baseball helmet with a container on each side, with drinking tubes leading down. Jack’s idea is to lock the hat onto someone’s heads, basically. Fill the containers with a binary explosive: stuff that’s inert separately but mixed ‘em together, big boom. He feeds those tubes down into a bladder where the chemicals will come into contact if they’re released, and of course, guess who’s holding the remote control.”
“Like strapping a hostage with explosives to make them do what their captors demand.”
“Right. Not the regular type of Mad Hatter mind control, but he’d be making people do what he says… with hats. Mount a little camera on the helmet, earpiece to give the orders. ‘Now go and pants that bank manager, hahaha.’”
“I asked you to please not do that.”
“Well anyway, that’s the Mad Hatter scheme, when and if he gets there. You know she didn’t call me to rat him out on Jervis.”
“No… What’s he going to do to Ivy?”
“Piss her off.”
“That’s a given. Did Quinn have any specifics?”
“Not the ones you want, not the Who-What-When-Where for what happens next. She was specific enough about her own fears though. Ivy loathes Joker, everybody knows that. Joker starts picking on the plants, Pammy’s going to go after him and Harley gets caught in the middle. Ivy kills Joker or Joker kills Ivy, or one of them misses and hits her. There’s no way to spin it that doesn’t end catastrophically bad for Harley—and yes, before you say it, it’s all bad for Gotham too, but these are Harley’s priorities we’re talking about.”
“Noted. Unfortunately, without specifics, knowing he’s taken up Ivy’s theme isn’t enough. Particularly if Cobblepot’s information is correct and he’s still planning something with birds.”
“You dismissed that idea. You said he probably got bored with Ozzy or that he just forgot about it.”
“Yes, but now he has a detailed Mad Hatter crime in development when he’s superficially moved on to Ivy. There’s mounting evidence that he could act on anyone’s theme at any time, or even mix and match.”
“Mix… and match?” Selina said, blanching with horror.
It was a beautiful day at the Gotham Botanical Gardens. A cloudless blue sky looked down on the preparations for the 103rd Annual Orchid Show. A cloudless blue sky that assured all who were planning to attend that they could don their prettiest flowered hats and leave their umbrellas at home.
The Grenvilles were attending, of course, Eleanor Grenville having founded the first Gotham Orchid Society back in 1893 and co-sponsoring the first show with the Van Geissen Garden Club several years later. The Ashton-Larrabys would be attending as well, since Randolph Larraby was exhibiting—in theory. All he’d really done was admire some orchids at a farmer’s market in Winter Park, Florida when he was passing through on a business trip five years ago. He’d chatted with the fellow running the stall, not even about orchids but about golf courses in the area, and they played a few rounds during the course of his stay and exchanged addresses at the end of it. When he got back to Gotham, Randolph sent the guy a postcard with a picture of the famous 14th Green at Bristol Country Club, and his new acquaintance wrote back. He’d sent a postcard from his own business, picturing a prize orchid. Gladys saw it, and when Randolph told her the story, she zeroed in on the orchid. All of a sudden he had a passionate interest in horticulture whether he wanted to or not.
Gladys was holding court at the display of his prize cattleya citrine, explaining that it might have been “dreadfully recherché” for a quickrich industrialist to be breeding orchids back when it was the Fords and Morgans trying to rub elbows with the Waynes and the Vanderbilts, but today with “all these new internet people” arriving on the scene, an old-fashioned industrialist was practically an aristocrat by compar…
Her voice faded into the burr of a dozen others, and Randolph was free to wander.
It was the worst possible time for a Justice League alert. With Joker free and liable to strike at any moment... Gotham came first for Batman, Clark knew that more than anyone and he also knew that Joker was free, which meant that he fully understood what he was asking.
Bruce had rubbed his eyes for a moment when the signal came in… If West and O’Brien could handle it alone, Clark wouldn’t be asking. He forwarded the event calendar to Oracle and told her to pinpoint the five most probable targets for Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Penguin, Two-Face, Scarecrow and Riddler crimes, and then to assign Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, Huntress and Catwoman to keep an eye on them. He would monitor the newsfeeds and the Oracom if his circumstances permitted, and with any luck, he would be back in two or three hours.
By a fantastic coincidence, Randolph Larraby’s casual wanderings seemed to be steering him straight towards the Persephone Pavilion, the one spot on the grounds where there was not a flower to be seen—but where he could get a drink.
He passed one other truant as he went, standing there under a clear blue sky with the only umbrella in sight. White gloves too, which made Randolph walk a little faster. The stranger might not be fluttering around the brassavolas, but white gloves argued that he was more Gladys’s type of exhibitor than Randolph’s. He kept walking… then felt a slight pang as he passed the fellow and glimpsed his pale skin. A skin condition would explain the umbrella and the gloves, and the only reason somebody hypersensitive to the sun would come to an event like this is if he was a fellow drag-along like Randolph. He turned back to extend an olive branch.
“Join me for a drink in the pavilion?” he asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” a vaguely familiar voice replied, pressing a button in the umbrella handle… “You shouldn’t either.” …and a squeal from the speaker over the Persephone Pavilion announced the garden PA system was warming up.
Music followed, a few wispy strings Randolph felt he should know—which then snapped into recognition when the brass kicked in. The Gotham Opera, Wagner, the Ride of the Valkyries.
“Don’t want to miss the fun” was as much as Randolph heard before the first splat. He foolishly looked up, glimpsing a virtual cloud of birds approaching before an eyeful of foul-smelling glop blotted out the sight.
Randolph staggered back and nearly fell down as another splat and another landed on his clothes. Screaming began in the distance, coming from the main rows of exhibits, then another SPLAT—what the hell was that, a pigeon? SPLAT! SPLAT-SPLAT-SPLAT! and he was done trying to figure out what was happening.
“FLY, MY WELL-FED PRETTIES, FLY!” he heard in the distance as he began to run blindly for the shelter of the pavilion. And finally, the trademark “HAHAHAHAHAAAA” erased any doubt as to who the pale stranger might be and why that voice was so hauntingly familiar.
The transporter in the satellite cave was closer to the Botanical Gardens than the one at the manor, and Selina was waiting patiently when Batman returned. Seeing nothing beyond a missing cape and some scorch marks on his boot, she launched into her prepared speech:
“You know I love you, calm down. It wasn’t Barbara’s fault, it wasn’t Tim’s fault, it wasn’t Cassie’s fault, calm down. Shit happens, literally in this case, and there’s nothing anybody could have done to stop it. Calm down.”
“Nobody got hurt.”
“None of them and none of us, so please—”
“I was gone for less than hour when this started—”
“Stop saying that.”
“We knew Ivy was a possibility. Explain to me why nobody was watching the orchid show.”
“Because we weren’t, Bruce. I was watching Robinson Park, between the zoo and the aviary, that seemed the most likely spot for an Ivy-hybrid crime. Robin was on the west side, keeping an eye on the Hudson campus for the Scarecrow angle, but near enough to Riverside Park if anything turned up there. Cassie was downtown for some Jervis targets but near the flower market. We covered as much as we could based on what we knew.”
“What about Nightwing and Huntress?”
“What does it matter? None of us had a crystal ball. It happened.”
“Yes, when I wasn’t here.”
“Well, that was bad luck.”
“Bad luck?! It was—“
“You know, like when the delivery guy knocks on the door three hours late, at the exact moment when you finally gave in and ran to the bathroom. That’s just the way things work sometimes...”
Despite being a man who had a butler his whole life to answer a knocking door, Bruce conceded the point... if only to get back to the real issue.
“No well-laid plan can be derailed by ‘luck,’ there has to be a contingency—”
“And we had one. That’s why Nightwing was in the helicopter and Huntress was in the Batboat. So if he hit somewhere we didn’t expect, we could get there fast. With the open space of the park, he could land and pick me up. We couldn’t get to the kids, so ‘Wing and I went in alone.”
“After the fact! Once Joker was already attacking civilians. Because no one thought enough ahead that a flower show might be a prime target—”
“Including you, Bruce.” There was a strange intensity in her response that caught him off-guard. “You’d been here just sixty minutes before this went down, and this flower show didn’t spring up at the last minute. Hell, we both got an invitation to the damn thing, it’s sitting on the mantel right now. It wasn’t on your radar either. We missed it—we ALL missed it. But ‘Wing and I adapted and were able to get there in time.”
Bruce stared at her a moment: the determined glare, the set jaw, and (worst of all) the flat out non-feline logic of it. Had they been discussing anything but Joker-details, he could have kissed her right there on the transport pad.
“What exactly did he do? After what I heard on the com, after driving everybody inside to the ‘bird cage’ he had waiting for them. You said ‘that’s when he really got going with the Ivy thing.’”
“Yeah,” Selina said meekly. “That’s why I want you to remember that I love you. And even when we were enemies, I had a thing for you. I hate, loathe, and despise him, everything he’s ever done and everything he stands for.”
“So if just this once, I think there was a certain… poetry in what he did, don’t hate me.”
“Sublime, inspired, insightful poetry—”
“Such as makes the angels weep, yes. Smiling Jack nailed it.”
“What. Did. He. Do?” Batman asked through clenched teeth.
“Well first, he railed against the hostages for enslaving the flowers and pimping the flowers, exploiting the flowers, degrading the flowers… You get the idea, you’ve heard it enough times when she gets going.”
Batman grunted, and Selina continued.
“So after that spot-on imitation, he noticed the paperwork: check-in forms, posters advertising the orchid show, signs with the admission price, that kind thing. None of the actual orchids in the show were dead, but all this paper meant dead trees, so they had a moment of silence, out of respect. At this point, I’d gotten the back of the cage open and was sneaking a few people out that way while Nightwing came in through the top. Meanwhile, for the moment of silence, Joker put on this green boxing glove and raised a gloved fist in the air.” Selina demonstrated the move soberly and then added the unnecessary explanation “Plant Power.”
Batman shook his head.
“After that, ‘Wing cut his hole through the top of the cage and crashed in. Joker didn’t seem surprised, until he saw it wasn’t you. You’re the one he wanted.”
“And that’s where the poetry comes in. Other than the plants, what would you say is Ivy’s defining characteristic?”
Batman scowled for a moment, then said “Seduction is the obvious answer, but the prospect of Joker going down that road is not something you would describe as ‘poetic.’”
“No,” Selina smiled. “He observed that, stripped of all the bullshit, Pammy does the same thing as Scarecrow: they both rely on chemicals to achieve a desired effect that neither one can pull off very well on their own.”
“No,” Batman breathed, his mind leaping to the logical extension of the premise. “Is Dick alright? I know you said everyone was, but if he inhaled any of the SmileX at all, or—”
“He’s fine, Bruce. He did snort a little—that’s how Joker got away—but ‘Wing popped the antidote, just like you taught him. Alfred’s already taken a blood sample, everyone’s on the SOP… How did you know?”
“About the SmileX? It’s ‘elementary.’ Joker’s take on a theme he describes as ‘doing with chemicals what you’re not too successful at otherwise,’ and you said he was expecting me. What would Joker see as a worthy aim that he could achieve with chemicals and not any other way?”
“Making Batman laugh.”
“…hundred and sixty-one days since the former president declared all life on this planet would be extinguished by a Kryptonite meteor the size of Brazil. I’m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.”
Poison Ivy switched off the television, her hand shaking.
He… he… JOKER! He… Orchids… the most lustrous and beautiful of her babies… Dizzy… Breathing… or not breathing… the harder she breathed, the less air she seemed to have… The Orchid Society… It was the one place humanity actually behaved properly towards plants, cosseting them and pampering them. The orchids were revered and worshiped as nature intended at an orchid show… How could he… he…
Without being entirely sure how she got there, Ivy found herself on the floor, looking up at the ceiling. Her tailbone hurt and so did her head. As the seconds passed, she realized she’d fainted. Then the reality flooded in: she’d fainted because she hyperventilated because she’d seen that news report where JOKER, the obscenity of obscenities, the absolute worst specimen of the bestial human male, had gone to a FLOWER SHOW and attacked it, ranting about its crimes against vegetation!
Now, admittedly, Ivy had a few quibbles with orchid enthusiasts. They created a demand for increasingly—JOKER! JOKER AND HER ORCHIDS!
No… Breathe… Breathe in… Breathe deep… But not too deep… Air in… Air out…
Orchid societies… demand for exotic blossoms… That led to higher prices… which led vile, greedy, smelly men to go tramping into the rainforests to obtain them. They were careful enough to bring the prized orchids back alive, but they always managed to kill other flora as they went…
Ivy climbed dizzily to her feet…
That general objection aside, she had issues with the Gotham Orchid Society as well. For one thing, there was that—OH WHAT DID IT MATTER? JOKER! JOKER AND THE FLOWERS!! JOKER GETTING HIS DISGUSTING LAUGHING HYENA SPITTLE ALL OVER HER PRECIOUS FLOWERS!!!
She threw a planter into the television set, overturned a table, and hurled a bag of potting soil into a row of tulip bulbs she had only planted yesterday. She apologized at once, but the little mounds of dirt seemed to look up at her with an attitude that was not at all forgiving.
Again, she apologized. Again, she reminded herself to breathe.
“They call their refreshments tent the Persephone Pavilion,” she told the rows of dirt contemptuously. “The only reason for anyone at a flower show to come up with a name like that is if they have a passing acquaintance with Greek mythology, right? Persephone was the Spring, Persephone was the rapturous flowering of nature’s munificent bounty.”
She righted the table and began picking up shards of terra cotta.
“Persephone’s story is basically ‘why we have winter,’” she told the nearest fichus. “Winter as in the time of year when all the flowers DIE!”
She threw one of the shards at the television, and again she apologized—this time to the iris whose planter it was to have been.
“The Persephone myth is the first horror story. Dead plants and patriarchy. Persephone, goddess of green, is the ultimate victim. Forced to stay in the netherworld, away from the nourishing sunlight, and all because of the machinations of a so-called husband who KIDNAPPED HER, and because while she tried really hard, she ATE something. Of all the idiotic fine print… specifically the seeds of a FRUIT, speaking of sick jokes…”
That word “jokes” brought it all back again, and Ivy felt her fingers grow cold and her cheeks burn with rage.
Regardless of her objection to the Gotham Orchid Society and their failure to change the name of that pavilion despite her six letters detailing its ideological implications, she would never, ever ATTACK an actual church of flowers right in the middle of their worship. The fact that that, that, that, that, that… CLOWN took it upon himself to turn his sick perversities on PLANT PEOPLE.
That was it, the last straw. Something snapped deep inside of her brain and everything suddenly became frighteningly still. She stood in the center of the room, her eyes internally blinded by white hot rage.
The flowers in the room began to quiver with intensity, and then, slowly, they began to sway back and forth, as if blown by a gentle, non-existent breeze. Large vines and roots suddenly punched up through the floor and started slithering and curling around her feet, splaying out across the floor, up the walls and over the ceiling. They writhed and undulated like a pit of vipers as they encased the room.
In the center of it all, Ivy stood perfectly still, save for the rhythmic heaving of her chest as she breathed in and out, slowly, methodically. In that one instant, everything had snapped into focus—a crystal clarity that shone with a brilliance that drowned out even the blinding rage. And in the heart of that clarity, three simple words glittered like jewels:
To be continued…