Hayley has an evening routine: every night after dinner, she would take her father's newspaper and spread it out in her room, looking for anything connected to Bianca Steeplechase – photographs, mentions of her Jazz club, even stories about Batgirl and her sidekick. Whatever might be relevant to Bianca's operations.
Figuring out where she might have a hand in has become Hayley's favorite pastime. She wants to know everything about her, from the perfume she wears to who runs errands for her. Somewhere in all this might be the key to finding a chance of getting close. To finding a place by her side.
Hayley – sweet, suburban schoolgirl Hayley with her perfectly regular life – has perhaps aspired to become a doctor, a lawyer, or a Congresswoman, something more elevated than mere housewife or teacher, while still embodying the principles St. Agnes instills in its girls through rigid guidelines and sterner looks. Never would she have imagined herself slipping into Gotham's criminal underbelly had not Bianca's sinful smile on the tabloids caught her eye. Prayers had long been empty words to Hayley and she was slowly beginning to understand why.
At first, curiosity had prompted her to read up on the successful businesswoman. Then intrigue. She began to notice Bianca's connection to dirty cops, bought politicians and corrupt judges, which only added to her interest. She should have known that Bianca would not have become this successful using honest means, and maybe Hayley had known all along. Bianca's smile was entirely too knife-like for an honest person. It was part of her charme.
Hayley had been job-hunting there, hoping to score something part-time, but no deal. A fake ID and a pretty smile might have gotten her through the doors but not into business. Especially if she made the mistake of asking a gay bartender about it first. It turned out not to have been a mistake after all, because he called the owner on Hayley, to let her deal with this.
"I like girls with a rebellious streak," Bianca smirked as though Hayley was a particularly delectable morsel of honeyed fruit. Under any other circumstance, Hayley would have readily given herself up on a platter. Yet she couldn't risk Bianca growing bored after her first bite. "Give the girl a drink. We don't want to be rude to our customers, do we?"
"But it's ille—" The guy's stammer broke off at a mere glance from Bianca.
"A greyhound with extra grapefruit. On the house." While the barkeep started mixing, Bianca turned to Hayley again. She knocked a white packet against the counter. It had an ice blue snowflake printed on it. Hayley had seen those around. Nicotics, or Nics for short, were all the rage among her peers. "Do you smoke?" Bianca asked, offering her one, filter-first.
"Thank you." Hayley accepted although she had never even puffed on a cigarette before.
Bianca lit them, took a deep drag from hers and let the smoke curl out of her mouth on a slow exhale. "What brings you here, dove?"
She tried to play it cool. It was difficult to concentrate when Bianca was showing off so much bosom. Hayley could see the edge of her brassiere beneath her blouse. "Just lookin' for business."
"Business," Bianca repeated, savoring the word like good wine. "What kind?"
"Pretty much whatever you got."
"Whatever, hm? I don't have a lot of openings right now, but I think we might find something for a pretty thing like you."
The topic strayed from job opportunities after that. Bianca asked her seemingly innocuous questions, which Hayley supposed would uncover her strengths and weaknesses to Bianca's trained ear.
In a nutshell, that was how Hayley got into distribution. Bianca gave her a name and an address where she would meet the guy she'd be answering to from now on, if she stood the test.
It was a sweet enough deal. Hayley, as the normal, trustworthy girl from next door, would give out free Nic samples to get people hooked. Then she could exploit their addiction. They'd pay pretty cash for their next fix.
Anything for Bianca. And for the sense of adventure Hayley's life had been lacking before.
Bianca is everything to her and then one day she's gone, and Hayley at a loss for what to do. She's mired too deeply in the Nic trade now to back out. And part of her doesn't want to. Even if she could get out safely without repercussions for her or her family, it would feel like turning her back on Bianca.
For a while, Hayley smokes herself into oblivion. Her mother has something to say about the stink, but Hayley doesn't listen. Couldn't the woman give her some space, damn it? Hayley's going through an emotional time she can't talk about and doesn't need anyone breathing down her neck.
She was in love with a woman who was a mob boss and, going by the reports, most likely dead. Somehow Hayley doesn't think her parents would be able to sympathize.
She flirts with everyone, indiscriminately, fishing for the ones who underestimate young girls. Especially the cute blonde ones. It suits her fine. That way, no one will suspect she's just leading them on, just getting them to buy more product. She'll only smoke Nics after all and if they can't give her any, why, she can't stay out any longer. Mama will get mad. It's a school day tomorrow.
Good night and good riddance.
It's a simple enough strategy, but effective. Create a need and they will pay. She learned that in economy class.
For those not interested in a few heated looks and whispered nothings, she'll play distributor herself.
"Hey, Susie. You smoke Nics too, don't you?"
"Usually, yeah, but I'm out. Sorry, Hayley."
"That's okay. I wasn't looking to bum one off you. In fact, I was hoping you'd be willing to trade cash for a packet. You see, there's this singer at the Crescendo this weekend, the Black Canary, and I was really hoping to go. But the thing is, I'm utterly broke and can't even pay the entrance fee, let alone drinks."
"They let you in there?"
"For an extra bit of money. Can you help a girl out? Please?"
So she makes the rounds. The guy in charge of the shipments is pleased enough with the numbers, but he gets careless. So does Hayley. He thinks he can try something when they're alone, and Hayley counts the lack of goons with guns around to her advantage.
When he crowds her against the crates, she sticks a knife in him. Probably didn't think she could take care of herself.
He gurgles something around the blood bubbling from his mouth, then sinks to the floor.
Without thinking, Hayley crams her bag full with the white, snowflake-printed packets. There goes her brilliant career in drug trafficking. Even if she lived enough to sell all of these, it would be the last time selling anything.
Heart clogging her throat, she somehow manages to sneak out of the shipyard without his guards noticing. She was lucky he must have sent them to patrol the perimeter and leave him alone with her for a while. Didn't think she'd put up much of a fight.
Hayley's thoughts are simultaneously blank and racing as she makes her way home. The wind is cutting through her, tugging at her backpack. Halfway there, she realizes rushing home is not the smartest move. She's just killed a man and stolen from – whoever took over from Bianca. Someone dangerous, in any case. The evidence is on her clothes and in her bag. She can't outrun this. They know where she lives.
But she can't turn back either. They'd get her family, make them pay for what she did.
As Hayley slows to think up a plan of action, a limo pulls up beside her. She is hauled inside before she can so much as yelp. After a second of frozen terror, Hayley struggles. But to no avail.
"Did you think you could steal from me and get away scot-free?" a throaty voice asks. Hayley's head snaps up from where it's held between her knees and she stops elbowing her captor.
On the opposite seat, a woman in white lounges with a martini on her fingertips.
The mayor's wife.
"From you?" Hayley blurts. "But you're rallying against Nicotics."
"That is just marketing, dove." The woman smiles and a chill courses through Hayley. She finally recognizes her. The woman has blond hair and a peachy teint now, but true enough, it's Bianca. The new name should have given it away.
Tears rush hot to her eyes as memory uncovers the remnants of her grief. "I didn't figure you for the marrying type," she says in lieu of a sob.
"Desperate times, darling."
There's a silence as Blanche—Bianca nurses her drink. Hayley watches her lips curve against the rim of the glass. She's trembling, but more from excitement than alarm. The fact that she had killed a man and nearly doomed her family to retribution, or even that her elbows are still held in a death grip no longer seem to matter. Anything is possible now that Bianca is back in her life.
"What," Hayley swallows, "is going to happen now?"
She means with her, with them, but leaves the interpretation up to Bianca. She's screwed up royally, after all, and has nothing to bargain with.
"That depends entirely on what you were going to do with my merchandise."
"Honestly," Hayley drops her gaze. This is embarrassing. "I didn't think that far ahead. I—I didn't mean to."
Bianca nods and lights a cigarette, as though she has expected this answer.
"I thought you were dead."
Another moment of silence, as Bianca seems to contemplate the tendrils smoke rising from between her fingers.
"What about Jonah? Is he—"
"Dead? Yes." Bianca waves a hand. Her wedding band catches the light and a spike of jealousy twists in Hayley's gut. "Don't concern yourself with him, he was useless and deserved what he got. You did me a favor by getting rid of him."
With a simple word like 'favor,' hope shimmers on the horizon. "Does that mean I can work for you again?"
Bianca gestures her thugs to release Hayley. When they do, she leans forward, threading her long fingers into Hayley's hair. Her eyes are the green of poisoned apples, her smile that of a viper. "I'm sure I can find a place for you."