#2 THE MURDER GAME
Some time later found Hailey, her body humming with very pleasant feelings of satisfaction, gazing down at a sleeping lover, idly running a hand through her hair. "You really are so beautiful..." She spoke softly to the sleeping woman, and she meant it, because Sylvan -was- beautiful, inside and out--very much so. It was a crime that no one else seemed to know that but her, not even Sylvan herself- not really. But then, that was common, wasn't it? Most people didn't see what was best in themselves nearly as easily as they saw the worst. Hailey considered herself different than the norm in that way, in that... well, she had never really had the knack for judging herself. Was she a good person, a bad one, something between, or something else? Was that even a real question? She knew she was beautiful, knew she liked herself quite well, or had until recently with the whole thing with Lisa making her doubt herself like she never had before. It had gotten to where, now, she was finding it hard to tell even that. Did she like herself anymore? She honestly wasn't sure she even had an opinion about that now, or if she did, if it was still a positive one, and the uncertainly bothered her.
If it were anyone else, she'd say the best guess would be that she was avoiding her own feelings, her own self, to cope. And maybe that was the answer, trite and depressingly mundane as that seemed. She certainly couldn't come up with another theory at least, at least not one that seemed more likely. But neither could she find evidence within herself to support that most likely of psychological diagnosis either. Other than that... perhaps she'd simply became numb somehow, or broken in some way she couldn't quantify...? or maybe she could quantify it and she just didn't want to? That was probably it, actually. The reasons were really very obvious, if you thought about it honestly after all...
"So, honesty is overrated sometimes..." She told her sleeping lover softly, touching her hair and forehead fondly as she got up and turned away, getting out of bed and going to get dressed. She cast an occasional contemplative glance at Sylvan as she did, and when she was ready, she looked at herself in the mirror and she wasn't Hailey Quinn anymore, she was The Harlequin. She smiled in a way that sent a thrill of anticipation through her and walked forward, through the mirror and into another world that looked as though it were made of glass or polished crystal.
One of those party favors she'd taken from Gem City was the technology Evan McCulloch (better known as The Mirror Master) used to enter this other-dimensional world, having killed him one night after he'd said something she really hadn't been able to forgive. While she'd been in The Gems, she'd made friends with James Jesse, The Trickster, and they'd collaborated on improving his flying shoes, which had left her with the design schematics too (he was that one friend she had that didn't live close by- he'd stayed in the Gems when she'd left, and, as of now, he was in Faucet City, pulling con after con with a new boyfriend who was pure trouble, but just delicious to look at, and especially to fuck).
She'd also 'appropriated' the Weather Wizard's control rod too, after he'd tried to sell everyone else out to Grodd for a payoff and she and Lisa's brother, Leonard Snart (Captain Cold), had put him in the hospital for it. She had Len's cold gun too- had taken it after his unfortunate (for her) death. She'd considered leaving it for Lisa as a small way of saying sorry, but she hadn't done that. True, she'd been to blame (undeniably, stupidly to blame), and the death of a beloved brother was no small thing to forgive, but even so, she still mostly believed that Lisa should have forgiven her--they'd been in love after all. So... that was her small bit of petty, utterly stupid revenge.
The real treasure though, was what she'd gotten from Abra Kadabra, the time traveler from the future whose technology was so advanced it looked like magic to the present day world. That, she'd wanted just because she couldn't resist the idea of it--the mystery, the wonder, the challenge of it. She'd befriended him, used her skills as a therapist to kind of get in his head, tell him what he wanted to hear. It hadn't been hard, really--he was such a lonely sort--which wasn't a surprise, because he wasn't really an easy person to like. She didn't really like him either- or she kind of had at first, but then he'd raped James... So of course that was when she'd gleefully tortured (she usually wasn't the type to torture people, but in this case, she'd made an exception) and killed him with his own technology- which he hadn't really thought she'd be able to understand, but, of course, she had been. She'd figured out how to use it with a good deal more skill than he could, in fact (it wasn't as though he'd invented anything, he'd just used what was commonly available in his time and stolen a restricted time travel app to come back here and make trouble because he couldn't fit in in his own time and he wanted to... well, matter, she supposed).
She hadn't told anyone but James, even Lisa, that she'd done it- to the others, he'd just disappeared, gone back home to the future or whatever, and since he didn't actually have any friends, in this time at least (sad as that was), no one looked for him, or even seemed to miss him. No one but James knew what she had, or just how very dangerous a person she'd become. She hadn't really used it for anything big yet, mostly because she just didn't feel like it--mostly because she was still getting over what happened with Lisa. Not that she was under any illusions that she'd actually ever really get over it. If past experience was any indication, she never would, she'd just manage to get to a place where she could live with it better, and then go looking for another woman to break her heart again... or, hopefully, not break her heart. That's what kept her going, really. That, if she kept trying, she'd get there eventually--find the one for her. When that happened though? When she met someone new and stopped feeling like she wanted to just hide away from the world? Then, oh then she was going to make some noise--and the world was -going- to listen. It wouldn't have a choice!
Still and all, for all the 'magic' of the future-technology, the mirror tech was really interesting too. The mirror world was beautiful, truly. She'd spent days in here once, just walking around and sightseeing, having packed a few things to tide her over. It was like one big crystal palace. She walked along in no hurry until she found herself at her destination: A mirror in the master bedroom of Cecily Carter's palatial up-town penthouse. She walked through, easy as a regular person would step from one room to another, and saw her there, laying in her bed, asleep, curled up contentedly between two prostitutes (one male, one female).
She felt herself grow cold inside looking at the scene. She was here because this woman and her two brothers, Jenson and Michael Carter, owned a furniture business, passed down from their now deceased father and mother, that was responsible for clear-cutting acres of forestland to make their obviously un-needed products. She'd already paid a visit to Jenson, as a matter of fact, and Michael was next on her list... but, seeing the scene before her, she found herself even more eager. She'd known Cecily Carter paid for prostitutes, so had Jenson in fact (though, in his case, he'd had a steady lover recently, so hadn't done so for the past few months), it had come up when she'd looked into the finances of the company, but seeing it in person was a lot different than seeing sums on a page.
Then she thought of what to do and she smiled, delighted by her own ingenuity and sense of fun once again. "Let's play a game, won't we?" She asked the room softly, touching each of them lightly on the forehead and using her future-tech to put them in a sort of sleep-lock that they couldn't wake from without her releasing them from it. She then went about grabbing dear Cecily by the hair and unceremoniously pulling her out of bed, then tying her up and hanging her from a hook in the ceiling. She considered the scene a second, then decided to gag her too. She wasn't really in the mood to hear... well, -whatever- Cecily might have to say. It was blatantly evident that she deserved what was coming, after all. A mass tree-murder and a Jane?--she deserved this and then some. Of all the completely mad and nonsensical things people did in general, people who paid for sex were one of the things that just... really, truly irked her. It was like... you know, watching a sunset with your girlfriend and someone walks by with a dog and starts kicking the dog because the dog won't fetch a Frisbee right. And she despised people who kicked dogs as much as she despised, well, anything in the whole entire world really.
The scene set, she snapped her fingers to release her audience of sleeping beauties from her spell. She then clapped her hands loudly. "Wake up and be happy, prospective new friends of mine." She told them.
The two prostitutes blinked the dreams from their eyes and sat up, looking around in half-awake confusion. Hailey laughed just a little. "Aw, cute." She told them, getting out a knife. Alter all, one of the reasons she despised dog kickers so much, was because, obviously, she liked dogs. And, in the sunset analogy, the dog was representative of prostitutes- not a flattering analogy, some ill-informed people might say, but she was not an ill-informed person, and dogs, in her opinion, were one-hundred percent amazing.
The woman of the pair's eyes caught hers and widened a little, widened further when her gaze traveled over to poor doomed Cecily Carter and the knife in Hailey's hand. "Shit..." The woman swore softly. "Jason... I think we're... in a lot of trouble somehow." She spoke to her male counterpart.
Jason turned and looked where she was looking. "What the..." He backed up in bed a little and got quiet. "What do you want?" He asked, his face suddenly growing closed and weary in that way someone gets of being weary when they've lived on the streets and had to do a lot of things they'd really rather not have had to do in order to stay alive and provide something in any way approaching a life for themselves.
"Her. Dead. She really does deserve it. Do you disagree?" She asked.
Jason remained quiet, watching her with a calculating look. He wanted to say something, but wasn't.
"I wouldn't know." The woman answered for him.
"Honesty. See? I knew I was going to like you. Tell me your name?" She asked hopefully.
"Holly... Robinson." She replied.
"Well, Holly and Jason--I'm The Harlequin, and I'm pleased to meat you both. So, now that we know each other a little better, would you like to play a game with me? If one of you wins, you'll be rich?" She offered enticingly.
"And the one that loses?" Jason asked, voice still weary and cold.
"A consolation prize, you mean?" Hailey asked delightedly. "Hm, well, how about I just let the one who loses riffle through Cecily's jewelry box or something--sound fair?"
"So... you're not going to, you know, kill us?" Holly questioned.
"Hmm." Hailey considered playfully. "Probably not. But let's check, just to be sure. Do you knowingly own, direct, or take significant actions that support a business or corporation that's significantly environmentally or ethically irresponsible? Abuse your lovers? Beat children? Do you murder plants for no good reason? Involved in human trafficking? A protection racket? Kick puppies or other animals? Run a cult that worships insipidly cute glazed mud sculptures and bilks old people out of their retirement money?" She seriously doubted these two would qualify for any of that, especially the last one.
"No." Jason spoke.
"Um, me either?" Holly replied uncertainly.
"Oh good. Then no. No killing you by me. Want to hear more about the you becoming rich game?" Hailey asked.
"Yes." Holly replied impulsively.
Hailey smiled, liking Holly even more. "Ambitious. Good for you. Alright, so here's the deal: Dear despicable Cecily Carter and her two equally despicable brothers have been, well, despicable! So I was planning on doing everyone but them a favor and murdering them all dead. Cecily, for instance is going to be killed with this knife right here. The only question is: Who's going to be her killer? It was going to be me of course, but if it turns out to be one of you, I promise, everything that's hers is yours. Her money, this penthouse, her company, even her brothers' shares of the company--everything she and her two low-life brothers has in fact: Yours. On one further condition: You'll have to close that company down, donate all of it's forest land holdings to conservation groups, and trash any and all logging equipment it owns. Sell even one chainsaw, I come back and kill you with it. Understand?"
"So, you're an eco-terrorist then." Jason spoke.
"It's one of my hobbies, yeah." Hailey replied, annoyed by his tone. "Though I prefer the term 'passionate revolutionary', or 'tree-hugger'--I always liked 'tree-hugging'. Have you ever hugged a tree Jason?"
"Slept in one a few times." He replied.
"Well, there you go then. Insert overly precious, slightly condescending monkey joke here. We're practically family." Hailey tossed the knife in the air and caught it absently. "Annnnywaaay... So how 'bout it? Who wants to get to the stabbing part? Any takers?"
Hailey could already tell Jason wasn't about to take her up on it. The look on his face told her that he held her in contempt, but valued his own life too much to say so and risk her anger. She didn't hold that against him though, even though it was slightly irksome that he apparently didn't think much of passionate revolutionary tree-huggers. Some people could really be thick, you know? Holly on the other hand... Holly was looking at Cecily thoughtfully. She then looked to Jason. He gave her a look that said clearly 'don't do it, you'll regret it if you do'. She then looked into Hailey's eyes and nodded. "She's dead anyway... and it's not like global-warming's actually fake or something. And I... you know, I really hate doing this--being... being a whore. Don't you?" She told Jason. "I'm doing it." She decided, moving forward a little nervously and stepping onto the floor from the bed.
Hailey smiled. "Somehow, I thought it was going to be you." She handed her the knife, hilt out.
Holly took it and walked over to Cecily. She looked into Cecily's terrified eyes. "I'm sorry about this. You were nice to me." She told the doomed woman, stabbing her in the chest.
Her hand dropped from the knife after a beat and she stepped back, eyes wide as the life faded from Cecily Carter's face. A few tears fell down Holly's cheeks, and Hailey went over to her and wrapped her up in her arms from behind in a gentle embrace. "There, there. The first one can be like that. I cried too, if it helps--I still do sometimes. You were very brave." She told her. "And you won. You're rich." She confirmed to her, coming around in front of her and unhooking the dead body from the ceiling, carelessly tossing it through the mirror. She smiled to Holly. "You okay?" She asked thoughtfully, noticing that Jason was beating a stealthy yet hasty retreat, having snatched the jewelry box on the way out. She laughed. "Not so principled after all then, was he?" She smiled. "Good for him." She complemented.
"Huh?" Holly turned around and saw that Jason was gone. "Shit... You... You don't think he'd tell anyone what I did, do you?" She asked.
"Mm, kinda doubt it. If he does, I'll protect you and kick his butt off to some remote tropical island where no one'll ever find him or something, so don't worry about it. After all, we're friends now, you know, or something. If you wanna be, I mean." She told her off-handedly, ruffling her hair a little.
"We... We could be more than friends... if you want?" Holly told her a little apprehensively, approaching her in a hesitantly seductive way, touching her cheek. "I'm apparently rich now.... I could... I could even afford to take you out on a real date?" She offered kind of shyly.
Hailey considered that a moment. Holly's offer, and her interest, were obviously genuine, but she could also tell that she was looking for comfort and security more than anything. She might also still be a little nervous for her life too, Hailey supposed. She also suspected she was probably kind of Holly's type: A risk-taker, decisive, charismatic, mysterious, exciting, even dangerous, and probably bad for her. All of which Hailey could easily understand, but Holly just wasn't what she herself was looking for in a love interest, and she certainly didn't have any interest in being bad for anyone in that way. Oh Holly was interesting and attractive, someone she'd enjoy spending time with as a friend she thought, but, for a perspective romantic interest? So not going to happen.
Hailey took Holly's hand in both of hers and smiled. "Trust me- you don't really want that. I'm a hand-full and a-half, believe me. Besides, I'm taken at the moment." She let her hand go and touched her face in a fond caress. "I am newly arrived back in town though. I could definitely do with a friend?"
Holly smiled, still seeming kind of nervous. "Yeah, me too I guess..." She told her, letting Hailey give her a hug. "It was probably a dumb idea anyway. Fuck, I really just killed someone..." She told, starting to cry in Hailey's arms a little.
"Don't be sad." Hailey moved back and looked her in the eyes. "It probably doesn't even matter nearly as much as people think it does. From what I can tell, life is like a game really, in some ways at least. And I'm sure it's not like killing someone means they stop existing or anything. I think... they just go on and live another life somewhere else, or something of the kind. Besides, the fact is: To be alive is to kill, one way or another. Plants, animals, humans, aliens, whatever... Even just turning left or right down a street's usually a life or death decision, if you look far enough off into the future at the consequences. The truth is we're all mass murderers of staggering proportion, even if most people try to justify it away because they're too afraid to acknowledge it. We can't help it. So, try to look on the bright side... You're normal." She told her softly, kissing her forehead fondly. "And anyway, you also saved the life of a lot of plant-life today too. Trees are every bit as important as humans, I've seen proof of that. Empirically speaking, you're more a hero than a criminal, Holly. To me at least, and my capacity for reason is far in advance of most people's, even if I am also kind of nuts in some ways, so that's not an insignificant thing at all."
"...Um, thanks, I guess..." Holly replied, backing away and turning her back to Hailey, looking at the bed she'd just been in and folding her arms in front of her. Hailey could very easily tell Holly didn't really believe what she'd told her about being a hero of course, but was just humoring her, and maybe herself, but Hailey couldn't really blame her for it either. After all, she'd seen the proof- Ivy had shown it to her very vividly. The Green--the living community of all the Earth's plant life. Beautiful, vast, hard to comprehend, even for her, but definitely just as alive and worthy of respect and continued life as the human population of the planet. All Holly had was her word on it, and it was reasonable enough for her to doubt it without seeing the proof herself. Not that there weren't a great deal of widely acknowledged practical reasons why protecting the Earth's eco-system was of very great importance of course- though, by her words before, Holly probably understood that at least. "So, how does this work then? Me taking her place?"
Hailey was about to reply, when she heard something and went still. It had been very faint, hardly noticeable, even to someone with her enhanced senses, but definitely there, definitely here, in the apartment with them. And it wasn't Jason- he was gone and Hailey seriously doubted he'd come back, or be able to sneak around so softly. She activated her future-tech sensors app and saw there was indeed someone there.
"What's...?" Holly turned to her and Hailey put two fingers to her lips.
"Oh, sorry, lost in thought there for a moment." She came up close to Holly then and whispered very softly into her ear. "There's someone else here and I'm going to turn myself invisible and go find out who. Don't be scared, okay new gal-pal o'mine?"
She looked into Holly's eyes then and Holly nodded that she understood, and Hailey used her tech go slightly out of phase with reality (making her invisible and completely undetectable to most people), then moved quickly through the penthouse.
In the main living area, Hailey slowed down to a stop and just watched as a woman in black bent down in front of a display of cat statuary and figurines and began to quickly disable the alarm system protecting them. Hailey started to smile as she recognized who it must be by the cat ears and tale on her gear: Catwoman! What a curiously interesting coincidence! Though it was hardly surprising, she supposed- she'd never bothered to become an expert on such things, but she knew from her research that the collection over there was ensured for three hundred thousand dollars, and, of course, the cat theme was an easy match...
She -could- just let Catwoman go about her business of course, it was really none of hers after all, but where was the fun in that?
"Hi there. Is it just me, or is this a surprisingly busy penthouse for this time of night?" She introduced herself, stepping back into phase with reality.