Edward Nygma was very bored. Sitting at his desk in his brand new office, his arms crossed and his hat hiding his eyes, the man was waiting for someone, something, to interrupt the heavy silence. The red-haired man had put aside his criminal activities. He had thought about it for a very long time; being a villain had been fun, but it often made him end up with broken ribs and bruises. The man hated having bruises; especially on his face. He was extremely proud of his good looks, and needed to feel handsome in order to be happy; thus, having a black-eye or a busted lip made him most unhappy.
The fact two other villains he knew had started to become slightly more normal also made him want to change; the Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter were still criminals, and rather great ones, but Becky and Alice's presence made their lives a little brighter. Though he didn't want to admit it, Edward was quite jealous; he hadn't had a girlfriend in a relatively long time, and did not understand why two freaks could get one. After all, Nygma was smarter, nicer, and much more handsome ! He wasn't a murderous maniac like the two others, and was way more charismatic. Then again, maybe the two young women that had fallen for them had peculiar tastes. They had both met him before being in a relationship with the men; if they were normal, they would have fallen for him and abandoned the two criminals, of course ! Not that the man would have liked either of them; Becky was smart, but too weird and not pretty enough; Alice was beautiful, but way too young and wasn't good at solving riddles.
Nygma sighed. He hadn't seen them in six months. In the last month, he had started renting this office, situated in the center of Gotham, and he had paid for publicity… Though he was supposed to keep low profile, as he was currently hiding from Batman and the police, he had paid for rather large posters to be put everywhere in town; he had printed at least a thousand of them, all of which had his face on it, and this slogan : "When you have no clue, we find some." Under this sentence, the name E. Nygma was printed in green. His number was written on the right, along with his office's address and the title : "Private investigator".
Yes, that's what he was now. A private investigator. It was a great opportunity; instead of having to submit riddles to Batman to feel smart, he would have people bring him riddles ! He would get paid to solve them ! And once the Dark Knight would realize the Riddler was reformed, he would let him be ! It might take time; the Caped Crusader wasn't known for letting the Rogues do whatever they please. After all, he had tried to catch Jervis on Alice's birthday, at night. He didn't manage; but he had tried. And he had gone to Becky's apartment the following day, looking for her; fortunately, the girl had already left it, taking all of her belongings to the Scarecrow's lair. She knew he had visited the apartment, because she saw pictures of him rushing out of it in the Gotham Tribune. At least that was what she had told to Edward on the phone, a few days ago.
Nygma took off his hat, biting his lower lip. He was honestly surprised Batman hadn't visited him already. Perhaps he was waiting for him to commit an actual crime… Nygma had been caught and put back in Arkham right after Alice's birthday party, and had escaped after five months. He was far from the asylum before Batman or the police were even aware of his disappearance. Apart from escaping, he didn't commit any crime in the last month. They were probably thinking he was planning something big, and were waiting to catch him red-handed… Until then, Batman and other vigilantes ignored him. It wasn't so hard to do so : he had stopped wearing his mask, and wore casual clothes. Well, as casual as he could… he wore a lavender silk shirt, and green pants. His shoes were rather expensive looking, shiny, and of a dark shade of purple. His bowler hat was the only thing he had kept from his costume; his orange hair, that was now long enough to cover his ears, looked simply marvelous when coming out from under the emerald hat. The man had discarded his old cane, preferring one that didn't have a question-mark on it. He now looked almost normal.
"If I'm so normal looking, why the hell don't I have any clients ? The only people who visited me are old ladies who knocked at the wrong door, and a bunch of kids who wanted to pull a prank on me. Did people forget how smart I am ?"
"Damnit." The Riddler whispered. "I'm going to have to steal things if it keeps on going like this." He still had much money left from his previous crimes, but he wouldn't be able to live with that for such a long time… Especially since he had such a taste for expensive things. How could people not come to him, with all the posters he had paid for ? They knew where to find him. They had his phone number. With all the thefts, murders and aggressions committed in Gotham each day, people should need his help… Batman didn't have time to help everyone, and the police wasn't very efficient. He was another alternative; surely people could appreciate that.
"Well Eddie, if people don't come to you, you should come to them. Why not go out and distribute business cards ? Sure, you could get henchmen to do that; but a pretty face sells better. And you have an extremely pretty face."
Satisfied with the compliments he gave himself, the red-head got out of his chair and took off his hat, running a hand through his shiny hair. He checked his reflection in a pocket mirror before exiting the room; his foundation was still in place, even with the extreme heat that made him sweat a little. Yes, the man sometimes wore foundation; he felt makeup shouldn't be worn only by women. After all, a man could also want to have a nice skin ! Nygma had very expensive foundations and concealers made by brands like Dior back at home; he had to put some on in order to feel good enough to get out. He used a lot of skin products to prevent having rashes or zits, but he sometimes had some, and couldn't bear to go out and be seen without burying them under makeup. He did the same with the occasional black-eyes he could get from his encounters from Batman. He didn't feel like using makeup was very strange; after all, male models wore foundation. Why couldn't he ?
He put some foundation on the makeup sponge and applied some on his cheekbones and chin, then grabbed his cane and opened the door. Sitting at her desk, his secretary looked up from her computer screen when she heard the man walk past her.
"Going out, Mr. Nygma ?"
"Yes, Marion. I'll be back in an hour or so. Call me on my cellphone if needed." He said with a smile. "Oh, and please call me Edward. I may be your boss, but I think that being called Mr. Nygma makes me look like a fifty years old man."
"Sure, Mr… Edward !" The brunette said, blushing slightly.
Grinning, the man walked to the elevator. Marion only had her looks to make up for her lack of intelligence. The girl was slim, tall, with big blue eyes and a fair skin; Eddie pretended to be interested in her only so that she would accept working extra hours when it would be needed, when there would be tons of clients rushing to Nygma's office. He felt that time would come soon.
The man was riding the train to go in a rather bad part of the town, hoping to get clients there. He never really enjoyed using the subway, as it implied bearing with other people's loud stupid conversations, disturbing body odors and weird looks. He used it nonetheless, thinking that if he wanted to get clients in this part of town, he would have to act like they do, or at least pretend to. Sure, he would have adored having rich men and women as clients; but he had to start at the bottom. He planned to quickly climb the ladder; his extreme intelligence and charm would allow him to do so.
The Riddler brushed invisible dirt off his shirt, and got out of the train, along with a dozen other passengers. He climbed the stairs to the exit, frowning when an old woman stopped in front of him to get a better hold of her multiple, large bags. She seemed to have a hard time carrying them; Nygma glanced at her and quickly moved to her left to walk past her.
"Those annoying old ladies. They shouldn't be allowed to go out when they can barely walk and are just an annoyance to everybody."
Edward wasn't exactly the nicest guy, and was aware of it; he had tried to be nice when he was a child, and that didn't turn out so well. "Don't be such a fucking pussy !" His father used to yell at him. "Stop asking questions about everything and do something manly, like soccer !"
His father considered generosity was a woman's quality, and wasn't something a man should be proud of. A man should be, in his opinion, a brainless, handsome jock capable of breaking a wall with a single punch. Every other types of men were "queers". Nygma had managed to fulfill his father's desires on the handsome part; but he lacked physical strength, liked books too much and was too soft in general. In order to avoid more beatings from his father and more humiliations, he had decided to simply not care about anyone but himself. His own needs were a priority, he had to win everything, and he had to show everyone he was the smartest. Knowledge was the only thing that made him better than others, the only thing in which he dominated his peers. As a man, he simply had to dominate. He was smarter than his father; he thought that would make the man proud, but it made him beat the child even more. But having parents who are proud of you is overrated anyway, isn't it ? Eddie was extremely proud of himself; that was more than enough.
The man sighed when he was finally out. The wind blowing in his face was pleasant, after the half hour he had spent in the hot, suffocating underground. He looked around, and he saw a few buildings, a super-market, a pub… He checked his right pocket, and felt a few coins and some bills.
"Nice. Let's go to that pub and see if we can find clients there…"
With a smug smile, the red-head walked to the door and pushed it. Most people had preferred to go inside rather than on the tables set in front of the small building, to be wonderfully refreshed by the air-conditioning. Nygma went to the bar, sitting gracefully. A woman sitting at his left glanced at him, and he smiled at her. The woman wore a black dress, which contrasted with her blonde, bleached hair. She had a lot of black eye shadow on her eyes, and bright red lipstick. She looked gorgeous, but cheap; almost vulgar.
"Could I have a coke ?" he asked to the bartender. The man nodded, grabbing a bottle from the freezer.
"A coke ? Don't ya drink ?" The woman asked.
"Never on the job. Besides, it's a little too early for that."
"On the job ? Are ya a cop or somethin' ? Ya don't look like one."
"That would be because I'm not one. I'm much better than that. I'm a private investigator !" He said cheerfully.
"No kiddin' ? Like in the movies ?"
"Exactly." He grinned, after taking a sip of the soda. "What about you ?" He didn't really care about the woman's life, but he had to pretend to be interested if he hoped to have her give him a job, or talk about him to other people.
"I'm a singer."
"Yeah. I sing in some bars at night."
"Hmm. That's an admirable career. Have a stage name yet ?"
"It's Cherry. But my real name's Marie. Yours ?"
"Edward." He chuckled. Marie didn't even frown at the name; she had not recognized him. It was amazing how a new haircut could fool most people. The mask he wore when committing crimes didn't hide his whole face after all; he should be easily recognizable. Maybe the woman was already too intoxicated to realize who he was… She did seem to have drunk quite a lot already.
"So, Edward, whatcha you doin' these days ? Are you chasin' anyone, or takin' pictures of wives that cheat on their husbands ?"
"I wouldn't be there if I did. I just opened my office, and business has been slow. Why ? Do you need me to chase anyone ?" He took another sip.
"Nah. But if ya have so much free time, we could hang out… ya seem pretty cute." She put a hand on his left thigh. The man almost jumped at her touch; he had the urge to push her hand off, but he couldn't be that rude in public.
"Oh god, please don't touch me. Please, you're repulsive…. Oh god. She has horrible fake nails. How can she grab stuff with those things ? They look like Freddy Krueger's knives !"
"Wanna come back to my place ?" Marie asked, with a look she thought to be seductive.
"Um, let's talk some more before that. Tell me more about your job !"
The fake blonde frowned, but did as asked. "Well, I sing every night of the week in bars… I don't get paid much, but it's better than nothin'…"
Suddenly, the red-head felt his cellphone vibrate in one of his pockets. He quickly took it out and answered it.
"Edward, it's Marion. There's a man waiting for you in your office… he says he has to see you now. I think… I think it may be Harvey Dent." She finished with a whisper.
"Well, if it's so urgent, I better get going ! Tell him I'll be there in half an hour. Offer him some coffee while he waits. Thank you for calling me, Marion."
He hung up and rose, taking his half empty soda bottle in his hand. "I'm sorry, but my secretary just called. I have to go to my office."
"Um, 'kay… Can I have your phone number ?" The woman asked, disappointed.
Edward took a business card out of his pocket, and handed it to her. No way he was going to give her his personal number.
"I don't know what you want, Harvey, but I'll have to thank you for saving me from that dimwitted girl."
He threw some bills on the counter, and left with a grin, eager to get out.