La Mort Rit En Dernier
Clopin had been considerably unnerved by his encounter with The Joker,
and made his way quickly to the Lotta Wine Tavern. Shaking off his discomfort
quickly, he entered ostentatiously, calling out greetings to the people
he knew, vigorously kissing each of the barmaids who laughed and swatted
him, before finally sitting down, removing his hat and running one of his
large hands through his hair with a sigh. He ordered a tankard of beer
and gulped it down quickly, then asked for another. At least things were
going to plan, he mused to himself. Never mind the maniac. He won't succeed
in his scheme.
Behind him the tavern door burst open, slamming against the wall with
a shudder, letting in the sounds of the wind and cheerful voices from outside.
Clopin raised an eyebrow as he gazed into his drink. Someone was rather
upset. The tavern door slammed shut again, closing off the outside noise,
and quick light steps hurried themselves over to him before two shaky arms
encircled his waist in relief and a head leaned against his back. Turning
around in some astonishment, and with difficulty as his embracer would
not loosen her grip, he was surprised to find Mirage, clinging to him and
"Mira!" he exclaimed in relief and considerable concern, and swept
her small form into his arms. "Whats wrong, darling?"
Mirage gave another shudder and controlled herself. The girl rarely
let tears get the better of her, and this instance was no exception. Taking
a few deep breaths she rested her head against Clopins' chest gratefully,
and let herself be soothed by gentle hands stroking her dark head. Clopin
was not renowned for his patience, however, and cupping her face in his
hands lifted it to look into her eyes. "What's wrong with you?" he questioned
gently and playfully in an attempt to get her back to herself. "You're
only like this once a year, and it's not that time yet!"
Mirage sat up a little, resting both hands on Clopin's shoulders. "I
know, I know. Clopin, I've just seen the most awful sight of my life!!!!"
Concern again leapt in his chest, and he pulled his friend closer.
"Are you all right? What was it?"
She nodded. "I'm fine. Can we go back home? I need to be somewhere
that feels safe."
Clopin nodded, laid a few coins on the bar for his drinks, then hustled
Mirage out of the tavern. Outside, the weather had turned, as was common
with August, and the wind was blowing wildly, with a considerable bite
to it. It was coming to late afternoon, and the citizens of Paris were
rushing about their last duties, eager to get back home and out of the
fierce wind which ripped at their hair and clothes and blew dust into their
eyes. Clopin put an arm around Mirage and the two hurried through the streets,
careful of potential pursuers, before coming to one of the hidden entrances
to the Court of Miracles, a small sewer opening. Clopin lowered his long
body in carefully, then held up his arms for Mirage to jump into. A few
minutes later they were safe and warm in the Court, empty apart from the
children who ran quickly back to the tents at the adult's arrival, not
willing for any of their mischief to be discovered.
Clopin hurried Mirage into his tent, running another large hand through
her hair, and getting her a little drink of wine. Although outwardly she
was the picture of calm, and her usual good humor, Clopin knew his friend
far too well to be fooled. She sipped the red wine gratefully, looking
over the brim of her glass at Clopin with large mellow eyes. Clopin again
felt that peculiar knot in his stomach, and leaned on the back of a chair,
watching her carefully.
Mirage gave him a look that was meant to be furious, but came out as
a lopsided grin. "Where on earth were you all day, Gypsy Fool? I spent
hours trying to find you in my frenzied state! I went to the tavern three
He grinned at her and shrugged. "I've been all over the city today,
sweet. I've had a lot of work to do, and two disobedient gypsy girls to
He furrowed his forehead meaningfully at her and she pulled a face
at him. "You know I will never obey your foolish orders, 'King'," she said,
unconcerned."I know too many of your deep dark secrets to treat you like
a boss!" She looked at him slyly. "Like escapades with tiger tails and
other related foolishness."
He grinned at her again. "Hey, you know I love that tail! Don't bring
up any of that rubbish! And besides, Mira, when I tell you to do something,
it's to keep you safe, darling."
Mirage wrinkled her nose. "I hate it when you're like this. Can't you
act like yourself again?"
Clopin frowned at her. "No, damnit. I met our enemy today, and it hasn't
sat well on my stomach to know you and your pixie friend have been running
the streets with him about."
Mirage remembered why she had been so anxious to find Clopin, and the
smile fell from her face. Clopin pulled a chair over to her and sat down,
clutching his hands in hers. "What did you see, today, Mirage?"
"I saw him," she said dully. "I saw the magik he uses. It's true. What
those women said. It makes people laugh, they cannot stop themselves. They
laugh like madmen, Clopin." Mirage's eyes were shining, and Clopin hastily
put a hand on her cheek. Mirage would never let her tears fall, and he
didn't know how to react if they did now. "I couldn't stand it, I had to
Clopin pondered for a moment. "What about Irea?"
Mirage's chin trembled. "I don't know, we agreed to split up. I don't
know where she is, I haven't seen her anywhere."
The girl gulped hard, and breathed deeply again. Crying never helped.
Clopin, thankfully, had pulled her to him again. He didn't particularly
want her to cry either, worried about the effect it would have on him.
Concern for Irea was beating in his skull, but the little dark-haired girl
in his arms was a welcome presence. Mirage was his very best friend, and
he wasn't sure how life would go on without her. He hated it when she was
upset, which was thankfully rare, and would do anything he could to keep
her her usual, smiling, prank-pulling self. Was it Mirage who made him
feel so strange? In a way, it would make sense. Inseparable since childhood,
it seemed sensible that these feelings would be a natural progression from
their close bond. Mirage was beautiful and clever and a lot of fun. And
his best friend. When he thought about it he really would rather spend
time with her than with one of his women.
Stroking her hair, he cupped a hand under her chin and lifted her face
to look at him. Her eyes widened in surprise at the expression on his face.
"Clopin, why on earth are you looking at me like that?"
Well, he would have to find out sooner or later. This would be the
best way to do it. Stroking her cheek, he lowered his face to hers and
kissed her. Mirage's eyes boggled open in surprise, but she didn't pull
away. She couldn't think of a single reason for Clopin kissing her like
this - like he kissed his women - but in a way it was comforting. After
a moment she closed her eyes and kissed him back. Her arms went up around
his neck and his were around her waist and for a long while the two friends
held onto each other and kissed passionately.
For a while the world faded out and they concentrated on each other's
mouths, exploring the one thing they knew nothing about the other. If
he tries to get me over to the bed I'll have to kick him though, Mirage
thought. She didn't think Clopin would do that, but one could not always
be sure with the Gypsy King. Slowly, they drew apart and looked at each
After a moment, Mirage laughed and ran a hand through her hair. "Why
Clopin, why didn't you tell me before?" she said teasingly, though her
heart beat fast. As nice as the kiss was, she hoped there wasn't anything
behind it, except a moment of over-enthusiastic friendship. She didn't
feel that way about Clopin, and wouldn't know what to do if he did.
Clopin, meanwhile, was feeling more confused than ever. Kissing Mirage
had been lovely, and had answered a question he'd often asked himself (what
it would be like to kiss his best friend), but it had also become clear
that he wasn't in love with Mirage, and didn't want her in that capacity
either. Irea then? An image of the pretty, snub-nosed gypsy-faerie girl
ran through his head. She was wonderful, but she'd been around for such
a short time. Clopin's fazed state faded as he thought he would simply
have to find out the way he had with Mirage. He tousled his friend's hair
and grinned down at her. "A kiss can be the most soothing means of comfort,
darling Mira. You know I would do anything for my best friend."
She was relieved. "I'm sure, either that or just an excuse for a kiss.
At least it shut you up for a while."
Clopin tweaked her nose. "Ah, but not for long! Enough of this, at
any rate. Our people are working hard on the streets above us, you and
I should join them. Let's go and find Irea!"
Mirage put her hands on her hips and grinned triumphantly. "So I have
the King's permission to do something, eh?"
He waggled a finger at her. "So long as you don't leave my side!"
They laughed together and kissed again, this time a chaste and only
Joker kicked open the door of the small cottage he'd "borrowed" for
a while. "Honey, I'm home!" he shouted cheerfully, and danced into the
warm, cozy living room where three frightened figures gazed fearfully at
him, and one glared.
The glaring one was Irea, tightly tied up and lying on the floor. The
other three were the houses's residents, a man, his wife and their child.
All three were tightly bound to armchairs in the room. They'd been having
their midday meal when their strange guest had burst in, dragging the gypsy
girl by her hair. Frightened by the man's height, his glowering and evil
smile, and his strange manner of speech, they'd quickly given in when Joker
had proved his adeptness in knocking the man out as he rose to defend his
family. He leered down at Irea who struggled against her bonds, unable
to use her magik with her hands tied up.
"Aw, why so cranky, cutie-pie? We're gonna play a game now!!!!"
Hoisting Irea up unmercifully by her hair, he sat her down on another
small wooden chair and pulled the gag out of her mouth. She spat at him
ferociously and tried to bite his hand but he pulled it away and waggled
a finger at her. "Naughty naughty! You're breaking one of the rules, and
believe me, you don't wanna do that."
Irea refused to say anything, just glared from her angry black eyes.
Joker perched on the edge of the table and smiled at his captives. "Now
the game we're gonna play folks, is called 'Three Questions'. And it works
like this. I ask our lovely little gypsy friend here a question, and then
she answers it."
"The hell I will!" Irea finally spoke up. Joker pulled a face of mock
horror. "Now say, are you trying to cop out here? You don't wanna do that
honey, cuz ya see, if you're gonna ruin it for everybody else, it's bye
bye daddy first, then mommy, then sweet little tot. You see this?" Joker
pulled out his shiny black object. "This is called a gun. I'm gonna show
you what it does now, and I'm sure you'll be dying to play along once I
have." Joker shot the man between the eyes. The impact knocked the armchair
back onto the floor, and the man's head lolled sickeningly, his eyes glazing
over. His wife and child widened their eyes, and struggled hard against
their bonds, trying to scream through their gags. Irea just stared, her
mouth open slightly, not believeing this strange, dangerous weapon.
Joker coughed. "Hmm...better make that 'Two Questions'."
In the Vicomtesse's carriage, Harley watched Ginevra through suspicious
eyes,her arms folded across her breasts, as the wind beat hard against
the thin glass of the windows. "So, how you gonna get me back to Puddin'?"
The Vicomtesse raised her imperious gaze to Harley and brushed it over
the girl's face. If Harley had been sane, she might've been intimidated
by this look, but she wasn't so she just glared back. "The Joker is coming
to the Palace of Justice this evening," she lied glibly to the girl. "If
you come back there with me, you'll be in a position to apologise for your
folly and win back his affection."
Harley's forehead creased. Man the chick talked weird. But Harley understood
enough to know that she could meet up with Puddin' tonight and be blissfully
reunited with her one true love. Harley couldn't figure it. This chick
had seemed like a totally cold fish last night. Certainly not the kind
to do something outta the goodness of her heart, like Columbine. So how
come she was being so nice to Harls now? "So, you came out all along the
streets today to find me and tell me this?" she asked in suspicous confusion.
The Vicomtesse delicately raised her eyebrows. "By no means. You have
to do something for me as well."
HA!!! She KNEW it! Harley grinned smugly. "Oh yeah? Like what?"
The Vicomtesse smiled cattily. "You have to give me some information.
For example, tell me what your lover really has planned for the city."
Harley gaped. "HELLO! You already know! Yer boyfriend's in on it, remember?
The Vicomtesse's smile faded quickly. "Don't play games with me, child.
If you think I trust that lunatic for a second, then you're quite mistaken.
Now tell me the entire truth."
Harley pouted. Everyone was trying to bully her these days!!! Well,
she wasn't gonna tell this woman ANYTHING, nuh-uh! "Look, Belladonna,"
she said cockily with a matter-of-fact expression. "I - "
The Vicomtesse's iron grip encircled Harley's wrist, and her eyes blazed
furiously at her. "What did you just call me?"
"OUCH! Hey let go, ya buxom bully!"
The Vicomtesse's face was a hard cold mask, but she loosened her grip.
"What kind of game are you playing now?" The
Vicomtesse glowered at Harley. "You have no right to take such a liberty.
Address me as the Vicomtesse, and nothing else."
Harley pulled a mimicking face, but changed it quickly under the Vicomtesse's
stare. She did a mock salute. "Yes sir! Er, I mean 'ma'am'!!" Harley was
feeling very cross and very naughty. This chick reminded her of some school
teacher she'd had back in the seventh grade. Well, she wasn't going to
tell her anything. Coughing in pretend politeness Harley began again. "Well,
Vicomtesse, all I can tell ya is this! Puddin wants to paint the city green
and purple so it'll match him. That way it'll make great camouflage when
the King of the Potato People leads the Spud Patrol down the green green
grass of home to attack him and OUCH!"
The Vicomtesse's hand whipped out like lightening and slapped Harley
hard. Too amazed to even react, Harley clasped her stinging cheek and gaped
at the Vicomtesse. The Vicomtesse spoke in a biting voice. "I warned you
not to play games with me. Now you can either tell me everything you know,
or you can wait in the dungeons for your lover to join you tomorrow."
Harley's eyes widened even more. "WHAT?" She demanded "Dungeons? Yer
gonna put my Puddin' in the DUNGEONS, didja just say?"
Being unable to take Harley seriously had worked against the Vicomtesse,
and certain of the girl's idiocy she continued without compunction now.
"That's right. Your lover is a lunatic, so are you, the dungeons are where
you both belong."
Harley's eyes were blazing as furiously as the Vicomtesse's. "The heck
with that!" she screeched, and punched the Vicomtesse hard in the face,
before wrenching the still moving carriage door open and leaping down onto
the streets, ducking through the crowds, and quickly down a side alley.
The startled and shocked Vicomtesse sat up dazedly, clutching her mouth
where Harley had hit her, and recoiling at the sight of blood on her hands.
Rapping furiously at the small window between herself and Erik she screeched.
"Don't just sit there looking like an idiot! Go after her!"
But Harley had disappeared.
Columbine was thinking hard. Stop Joker's plan. But should she somehow
get Joker to bump off Clopin? Columbine had gone down to the Court of Miracles
as Harley had told her to do, and stopped at Trouillefou's tent to see
him in a highly passionate and very involved embrace with his friend, Mirage.
The sight had made Columbine exceedingly unhappy. Trouillefou had deliberately
tugged Harley's heartstrings and Columbine did not feel particularly inspired
to help him. She'd left the Court and decided to make her own way about
the city, doing what she saw fit. The hell with the gypsies. She'd do what
she could to help Harley and that was it.
Columbine caught a glimpse of a familiar carriage rolling past, and
darted forward gracefully to peer quickly in it's windows before moving
swiftly on. The imperious woman was alone, with one hand over her cheek
and a furious expression on her face. Columbine was glad; she hadn't trusted
that woman one whit. But where was Harley now? Back in the Court? Looking
for Columbine? Columbine's brow creased. She didn't want to leave Harley
wondering where she was, but she also did not want to return to the Court.
Maybe Columbine should simply cut a few corners and track down Joker herself.
She could stop his plan, then find Harley and the three of them could happily
go back to the twentieth century and forget this filthy place. Columbine
found this to be an excellent plan.
Joker's victims had long since been discovered and the people of Paris
were panicking and heading indoors at a frenzied pace to barricade their
doors and kneel beneath crosses praying frantically. Those who did not
were beating on the doors of the Cathedral and the Palace of Justice and
calling out for guards and prayers and answers. Those who did not previously
know anything about the mysterious deaths quickly found out as they called
out questions to their neighbours. But the Romany still patrolled the streets
tirelessly, hunting down Joker's bombs, leaving no stone unturned in their
pursuit. With the loss of their audience, the Romani gathered in groups
in taverns or under trees or by fountains. The Rom children meanwhile,
played cheerfully in the Court, delighted at being left alone for so long,
running wild and doing things they would not normally dare.
Inside his new cottage, Joker was unaware of what was happening outside
on the streets. Irea wasn't given a chance to wonder. "First question,
toots. Who's the gypsy with the purple mask and the big hat?"
Clopin??? Why did Joker want to know about Clopin?? She couldn't
tell Joker anything!! But if she didn't - Joker's gun was pointed firmly
at the Parisian's woman head, even as teers pooled around her gag, her
eyes red-rimmed and terrified. She was a gadje. If she saw Irea
on the streets she would be likely to shout at her to move on. But she
was also just a woman - with a child.
"I'll give you the count of three, cutie. One - "
"The Gypsy King!" Irea blurted out. "He is our King, and he rules over
us and protects us from the gadje."
Joker grinned. "His name?"
Irea looked into the woman's eyes and sighed. "Clopin."
Joker winked. "Thanks, toots."
And blew the woman's head off.
"NO!" Irea screamed "You lied!!!!!"
Joker grinned sharkily. "I'm a notorious liar, doll. But to be fair,
that was just to show you I mean business. You can still save little daughter
though. Tell me what Clo-pahn has planned and I'll let you both go."
Irea glared at him. "You just said you're a notorious liar."
Joker shrugged again. "Have it your way," he murmured and cocked his
gun at the little girl's head. Irea took a risk and lied. "He and his men
are planning to hunt you down and kill you. They've taken away all your
weapons and have thrown them in the river."
Joker felt really, really annoyed. These ignorant peasants had completely
ruined a totally brilliant gag. Now how was he going to pay them out for
that? Bad enough Clopin had ruined his beautiful hat today, now the Gypsy
King looked as though he were going to get one up on Joker. Couldn't let
that happen, now could we. He'd have to think of something really special
Irea took a deep breath and "volunteered" more information. "They have
also taken hostage your woman, Harley Quinn."
Joker leapt up in astonishment. "What? They've got Harley Girl, didja
Irea nodded, glaring at him defiantly. "They've got her. They will
kill her too."
Joker frowned. Now, if anyone was going to kill ole Harls, it really
should be him. These gypsy really were not playing by the rules. Joker
thought for a moment, scratching his long nose. "So all men and women are
up on the streets tracking down my little gas bombs, eh?"
It seemed almost strange to ask that and Irea hesitated before nodding
slowly. Her stomach plummeted when Joker's eyes lit up and a strangely
satisifed smile tweaked the corners of his mouth. "Ya know, come to think
of it, I haven't noticed any wide eyed, barefooted dirty-haired little
gypsy child out on the streets today," he said quietly, almost to himself.
Irea's eyes widened. "What's to bet they're all by their little lonesomes
in your underground hideyhole, eh?"
Looking at Irea's horrified black eyes, Joker got his answer. Then
Harley was racing along the streets, heedless of the Parisians who wailed
at the cathedral doors, ignoring the gypsies who stared at her in astonishment.
She had to find Mistah J and warn him that Frollo was gonna betray him!!!
She couldn't believe this, Mistah J was supposed to betray Frollo!! Soooo
not fair!!!!! Oh but by the time Frollo planned to betray Puddin, Puddin
would already have betrayed Frollo and Frollo would be dead! Then Harley
got confused. But wasn't she supposed to stop Mistah J's plan? Yes!! But
then if she did, Puddin *couldn't* betray Frollo first! So she *did* have
to find him, then they could just go back to Gotham, and try their luck
with Ancient Rome or something. It seemed like a plan to Harley, and her
mind made up, she darted down an alley way then shrieked out loud as two
long, strong arms reached out and yanked her to the side.
She was more than a little relieved to see Clopin, with a wide-eyed
Mirage behind him, was the one who held her. "Clopin!" she said cheerfully
"Hiya, how's it?"
"Where are you running to, Harley?" Clopin asked her pointedly, not
loosening his grip. "Has something gone wrong, where's Columbine?"
"I don't have time to chat, good-lookin, really! I gotta stop Mistah
J and warn him that Frollo's gonna betray him!"
Clopin's eyes widened at that and his eyebrows shot up. "Frollo? What
are you talking about?"
Harley wriggled to get out of Clopin's grip. "NO time, sexy! I gotta
go!" She wrenched herself free and looked up into Clopin's handsome brown
face. Well, it was now or never!!!! "But before I do, I just gotta do this!"
and throwing herself on Clopin she wrapped her legs around his waist and
kissed him vigorously as he started back and put surprised hands on her
back. Mmmm!! He did taste nice! Like spices and wine and other tangy
stuff. And what a tongue! Almost as good as Puddin's!!!!! Finally she
pulled free, gave the startled Clopin a grin and a wink, leapt down from
his arms and resumed her sprint down the streets of Paris. Puddin' Puddin',
where could he be?
Clopin, meanwhile, stared dazedly after Harley's retreating bouncy
form, and despite his concern and worry for Irea, couldn't help but wish
he had taken the opportunity to know Harley a little better. The thought
was knocked out of his mind by Mirage giving him a hard whack on the head.
"Are we going to find Irea or not?" she snapped when Clopin blinked
He shook his head vigourosly to clear it, then grinned down at Mirage.
"Of course, you female fool!"
© Harley Quinn, 2000 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
May not be reproduced without permission.