Crane watched Machiano on the floor, his breath coming in short gasps, his muscles still twitching after all the writhing he had done for the last several hours.
I'm amazed even he could keep it up for that long, Crane thought in curiosity. His horrors must have been intense indeed.
Now Crane was most fascinated in the eyes. Machiano would not meet his gaze, shrinking from his stare as though unnamed terrors lurked in his pale blue eyes.
(Good! Let him fear us! Let us savor that Fear, whispered Scarecrow.)
We were foolish to let our guard down, especially with one so dangerous as him, Crane thought. I should have known better. I have dealt with his kind before.
(Let's hear his screams again! His terror! His terror is so sweet, hissed Scarecrow.)
Crane knelt down on the filthy floor and looked at Machiano. Quickly Machiano averted his eyes from the doctor, trembling to look at him. As Crane felt Machiano's pale skin, he realized it was covered in damp, cold sweat and he was shivering.
"Don't – don't touch me," Machiano gasped. "Don't – don't touch!"
"I find it amusing you don't wish me to touch you. How many times did your victims beg you not to touch them?"
"Please don't! It – it hurts – the claws."
Madness, the beginnings of madness induced by the toxin. I think that last toxin worked out quite well.
Ignoring Machiano's pleas, Crane uncurled Machiano out of his fetal position and looked at his face, though his eyes remained clenched shut in fear.
"Scarecrow! Bugs with teeth," Machiano cried. "My skull won't close! My brains will fall out! Veronica with a hook waiting! Please stop! Make it stop!"
Fascinating! His madness includes not just the object of his induced psychotic delusion – Scarecrow – but a past victim – Veronica Kestrel – who presumably is tormenting him in his mind. I must document this.
Crane loomed close to his victim, gripping his arms tightly.
"Oh, the madness won't stop," Crane whispered. "It's just beginning for you, Mr. Machiano. You see, I've cured you! This is your cure! You'll hurt no one else now! No one! The world is safe and I've saved it! I've saved everyone from you! Open your eyes! OPEN THEM!"
For a brief moment Machiano was gazing at him, staring in horror not at Crane, but Scarecrow looming close to his face, but then the light from his eyes faded and he was lost to the horrors and delusions of his own mind.
"Scarecrow," he gasped, faintly tossing his head from side to side. "Scarecrow."
Crane drove in the plush Italian leather seat, his hands swathed in gloves while his patient was firmly buckled into the passenger seat. Machiano was not trying to escape while Crane drove Machiano's own red Ferrari, though just a day ago he would have killed Crane if he even so much as tried to touch his precious car. Crane rounded the corner and stopped at Birmingham Street, just a few blocks away from Falcone's familiar haunts. Crane scanned the intersection carefully and saw that the area was deserted. Quickly and quietly he parked the car along he curb and slipped Machiano out of the passenger seat. He was like a limp rag doll in his arms, a blank stare in his vacant gray eyes.
"Scarecrow," he gasped.
Yes, Scarecrow. You are mine now, gloated Scarecrow. You will never be free of me. Never!
But at this point Crane was more interested in covering his tracks. Although Machiano was so much dead weight in his arms and Crane was not an athletic man, he managed to carry him a few feet away from the car and laid him down to make it appear he collapsed. Crane slipped out a sedation needle and gave Machiano a quick injection. In 10 seconds his eyelids drooped and the persistent muttering of "Scarecrow" faded from his lips.
Now one final touch.
Crane slipped from his own suit jacket the deadly sniper gun Machiano prized so much.
You won't be needing this anymore. You won't kill again, but Falcone will be looking for this. It will be suspicious if they find you and you don't have it.
He placed the gun back in Machiano's jacket and gazed long at him sleeping on the cold, wet ground. It was odd, but he was hesitant to leave him, hesitant to give up his patient and the "therapy."
No, Falcone's men will be around soon and I mustn't be seen here. Now I leave you in the gutter, like you left so many others. Goodbye, Snake.
Crane walked away, leaving Machiano and the car in that lonely, dark street. He wasn't worried about himself or his way home. He knew these streets so well; it wasn't far from the place he first was forced to accept the drug CliMax in that dark alley long ago, a drug Falcone himself had forced on children in the Narrows, the same drug he had perfected into a toxin, turning Machiano, the deadliest hit man of Falcone, into a vegetable.
Arkham Asylum was quiet at this time of night. Crane enjoyed coming here the most in this early morning hour, when most of the patients were either asleep or so heavily sedated they had no choice but to sleep in their beds under the ever-watchful eye of the camera. He walked silently down the sterile, white halls, beneath the flickering fluorescent lights, past the absurdly cheery sign that said "Welcome to Arkham Asylum! All Guests Must Sign In." If Crane had his way he would rip the sign down each time he brushed past it.
"Hello, Dr. Crane," murmured Nurse Pam Sweeney. "I'm surprised to see you here at this hour."
Crane stood at the nurses' station and gazed briefly at the clock: 1:36 a.m.
"I'm just coming to check up on some paperwork I failed to finish earlier," Crane said.
The nurse gazed at him earnestly.
"There's no need to lie to me, doctor. She's down the hall. I won't tell Gooding."
"Thank you, Pam."
Crane slipped her a few bills, despite her protests, and walked down the hallway, absently gazing at the darkened windows, flashing at him like watchful eyes. Up ahead he could see a faint light glowing from one of the windows; it always seemed to glow even in the dead of night at the asylum; she had grown afraid of the dark now, yet another fear she had accumulated since the attack. Crane swiped his ID card into the door and it clicked open.
Even in the dim light he could see she wasn't sleeping, her eyes gazing wide and blank at the ceiling and she lay on her back upon the stiff, simple bed.
"Mom, I'm back," he whispered.
"Jonathan, you've been gone long – so long," she whispered. "I thought you had abandoned me here – left me for good."
"Never, mom. I never will. You will be free, mom, free as I have promised."
Crane sat down in the simple plastic chair by her bedside. She didn't turn toward him, but continued to stare up at the ceiling.
"Sometimes I think if I stare long and hard enough, I can see the sky, that the ceiling will crumble away, that I will see the clouds and birds again," she whispered.
"And you will, mom. You will." Crane took her hand in his. "That man who hurt you – he will hurt you no more."
She turned her eyes toward him; her cracked lips parted in bewilderment.
"He will hurt no one ever again," said Crane, a slow smile spreading across his lips.
"Jonathan – he's dead?"
"No, much better! Cured! I cured him! And I can do more, much more – now that I know what will cure the criminal mind."
"Jonathan! How amazing! I'm proud – so proud of you!"
She turned, to reach toward him, to give him a weak embrace, then he saw the scratch marks upon her left cheek. The smile quickly faded from his lips.
"Mom, did you do that to yourself?"
"No! I didn't! They did!"
"And who is 'they,' mom?"
"The others, Jonathan. Don't you see them? They're here, in this room, right now!"
She slid up from reclining on her bed and gazed wide eyed around the room, staring at phantoms Crane could not see.
"They are friendly sometimes, whispering, keeping me company, telling me you're all right. But some are mean, Jonathan! Some of them whisper awful things! Some tell me you are cruel and evil! Some say I will be here forever, that I will melt into the bricks and mortar like they have, becoming one with this place. I don't want that, Jonathan! I don't want that at all!"
"And the scratching. When, do you scratch yourself?"
"I don't! Didn't I tell you! They do! THEY DO! They claw at me sometimes when I don't listen, when I don't believe them. They've been here for so long, Jonathan. They say I will be too – and that when I die, I won't leave, but stay here, peering at the mad ones with eyes from the walls!"
"Mom, please stop!"
"And the monster, Jonathan, the monster, he won't stop, coming, poking with needles, asking, prying, binding me to the chair."
"Soon he will be gone, I promise you."
"Do you, Jonathan. Do you? How? Tell me."
Crane's heart sank as he was gazing at the mirror of madness in his mother's eyes, a wild, frantic look in eyes once so warm and comforting. He kept looking back at the claw marks, so red and raw upon her flesh. Her hands reached up and gently grasped both sides of his head, her thumbs upon his temples.
"They say, the others say, a monster walks the halls, seeking fear, feeding on fear."
"Gooding, you mean Gooding," Crane said.
She faintly shook her head and continued to look closely into his eyes, studying them.
"You're eyes are different, strange, so strange, so cold. Does a monster dwell in them, Jonathan?"
"Mom, that's absurd. You've been talking crazy all night, but that truly is the most insane thing you have said to me."
Crane slipped out of her grasp and stood up from the chair.
"Clearly you have problems sleeping, I can prescribe something for you, if you'd like."
His mother's face changed in an instant, from being curious and concerned for her son to melting into anguish.
"Oh! Don't you play the doctor with me too, Jonathan! I'm your mother!"
"You just seem agitated and lack of sleep clearly –"
"No! I don't need anymore shots or pills or therapy! I'm just glad you're back, Jonathan! I'm so glad they were wrong about you! I don't believe them! Really, I don't!"
She threw her arms around him and hugged him firmly, her wild, tangled hair brushing against his face.
"I love you, Jon," she whispered, her arms holding him close. "I love you so much!"
"Love you, mom. No will hurt you," Crane vowed. "Not ever again, I promise."
The door slammed shut, the metal bolts locking automatically under the door's weight. The first pale rays of dawn still didn't creep through the barred window of the patient's room and Arkham still didn't stir from its sleep.
"Good morning, Mrs. Crane. I hope you slept well. It's time for our early morning session. I pray you didn't forget," said Dr. Henry Gooding.
He didn't look up from the briefcase he was carrying, heavy with a thick tome on psychotic behavior and a hard case of hypodermic syringes with different vials of medications.
Let's see, what shall we try today? The woman has been growing increasingly hysterical. That's to be expected given the circumstances, Gooding thought smugly.
He looked up and was surprised to see the bed where Mrs. Crane slept was empty – and in her place stood Dr. Crane, his eyes icy, his face contemptuous.
"So pleasant of you to drop in so early for a visit, Gooding," Crane said. "Although I hadn't expected you to come at 4 a.m. … That's a bit odd, don't you think? I wonder what sort of 'therapy' merits depriving a patient of her sleep?"
"Crane! You get out of this room this instant and bring back my patient! She is mine if you recall!"
"Yes, you have made that point quite clear, but now it's time for me to make my point clear, Gooding."
"You will make no points unless I make them for you! Now you bring her back and leave this room or you not only will be terminated from Arkham, but barred from psychiatry permanently in Gotham! Don't cross me Crane! I have the connections and I will use them!"
"No doubt you do, Gooding, but once again you underestimate me, as you always have."
Crane coolly placed upon the table his briefcase and snapped it open.
"Like everyone, Gooding, you have ignored me, pushed me aside, bullied me and took credit for all my genius."
"That's enough, Crane!"
"But what you don't understand is I'm quite used to it. You see, I've dealt with that sort of ill treatment my whole life." Crane gave a tightly controlled grin. "In fact, I probably could have endured it for many more years at your hands, that is until you brought in her."
At the mention of "her" his grin vanished and a creepy, piercing stare, on par Gooding believed he had seen in the eyes of some of his worst mental patients, was burrowing into Gooding's skull.
"Once you brought in her – my mother – well, let's just say, it was the end. No more Gooding, no more."
Gooding tentatively made his way to the speakercom and pressed the button.
"Nurse," cried Gooding. "Bring me security, right now!"
There was no response from the speakercom.
"Speakercom has been disabled, as is the door temporarily. The camera video also is on loop from a few hours earlier." Crane smiled indulgently. "Don't worry, Gooding. We are quite assured of our privacy here."
"Okay, Crane, what do you want? You want your precious mother released? Fine!"
"Oh! Is that what you think I want? I'm sorry to give you that false impression, doctor."
"Then what do you want, Crane?"
"I want you to see my mask."
Gooding stared in dumb shock at the young man as he slipped from his briefcase the burlap mask and slowly unfolded it.
"I only have used it on one patient before with great success and, as a fellow psychiatrist, I want your opinion on its future possible use in therapy treatment."
"Have you gone mad, Crane?"
"I'll take that as a rhetorical question."
As he slipped on the mask, he savored watching Gooding fruitlessly press the speakercom button over and over again, shouting into it, screaming for help, yanking with all his strength and weight at the securely locked door.
"Now, Gooding, I want your honest opinion on this 'new therapy' for our patients."
Gooding stopped briefly from his efforts to gaze at him wearing the hideous burlap mask – the guise of Scarecrow before him.
"I want your FEAR!"
Gooding screamed even before he inhaled the toxin aimed straight at him.
Crane felt elated for the first time in many years, although he couldn't show it. At Arkham a somber, almost funereal atmosphere settled upon the staff like a heavy shroud. The nurses didn't smile. The usually flippant, unprofessional behavior of the younger orderlies wasn't present today. All talking was done in hushed tones. Crane had prepared himself long before the official "announcement" when he arrived that morning. He was completely ready when orderlies, nurses and few of the interns swarmed about him, telling him the same thing in their panic: Gooding had been found in Mrs. Crane's cell collapsed on the floor. While Mrs. Crane appeared to be okay, Gooding seemed to have suffered a psychotic breakdown.
Crane had rehearsed a shocked face several times in the mirror back in his apartment and was confident enough he could pull it off convincingly. In that moment he registered his shock, but quickly appeared strong for them and calm, giving them orders to take Gooding to the sick ward and he would temporarily resume Gooding's responsibilities in his stead until he recovered. The staff seemed soothed by his confidence and calmness in the midst of this unexpected turn of events. Dr. Gooding suffering a sudden psychotic breakdown! Who would have thought? Crane smiled inwardly in his mind while keeping his visage cool, collected and emotionless.
I am mourning for the unfortunate breakdown of my dear colleague, Dr. Gooding. I must remember that.
But Crane was relishing at last being the head of Arkham Asylum while Gooding, who lorded it over him for so long, now lay glassy-eyed in the sick ward, bound fast in a straightjacket, muttering over and over again "Scarecrow."
Yes, life was very good for Crane now. He snapped closed his briefcase; about ready to make his rounds to his patients, eager to begin his new cure methods when Nurse Susan Parker approached him, very distraught.
"Dr. Crane, so sorry to disturb you. I know you must be so busy, trying to take over for Dr. Gooding. Oh, poor, Dr. Gooding!"
"Yes, I hope he recovers soon and I'll be able to resume my normal duties at Arkham." Crane paused for dramatic effect, appearing sorrowful at his colleague's unfortunate condition. "Is there something you wish to ask me, Miss Parker?"
"Oh, yes. You have a visitor, Dr. Crane. I meant to tell you earlier, but he doesn't necessarily make – ah – appointments."
"What visitor doesn't make appointments? Tell him to wait. I will see him after I make my rounds."
"Uhh, I don't think you can do that – uh – Dr. Crane, sir."
Crane looked at her sharply, but could clearly see this young, petite nurse was terrified at having to contradict him.
"And pray, Miss Parker, what visitor is so important I must interrupt my busy schedule to see him?"
"He really is Dr. Gooding's visitor, Dr. Crane. I wouldn't bother you, only – you did say this morning you were taking on his responsibilities."
"Who – is – he?"
Hatred and loathing swelled up in Dr. Crane at the mention of the name though he kept his face a mask, his eyes unreadable.
"And pray, Miss Parker, what is Mr. Falcone doing here?"
"I'm sorry, Dr. Crane. You'll have to ask him yourself. He's in Suite 107."
Dr. Crane ground his teeth, his fingers digging into his briefcase.
Instead of visiting my patients and doing some good I get to see the crime boss of Gotham City who hired the scum I just tortured into madness. Just wonderful!
Crane briskly walked down the hall, channeling his frustration into his steps until he reached the suite. Before he opened the door he took a deep breath and opened it. Immediately Crane saw the one man responsible for all the pain and suffering in Gotham City sitting right before him on one of the plush leather seats in front of a lacquered walnut table.
"Mr. Falcone, the pleasure is all mine," Crane said smoothly, favoring him with a smile.
"Hey! What is this," Falcone demanded. "Where is Dr. Gooding? I only meet with Gooding."
"I regret to inform you that he is indisposed today. I will be fulfilling his duties until his recovery." Dr. Crane took a seat opposite him and folded his hands. "And what may I assist you with today, Mr. Falcone?"
Falcone leaned back in his leather chair, completely taken aback.
"I don't get this at all! Gooding should have called me if he was going to play hooky today."
"Unfortunately he is unable, Mr. Falcone. He suffered a psychotic breakdown last night. Causes are yet unknown, but the outlook is still good, if I may say so myself." Crane looked at him with his pale blue eyes. "I will be seeing to his treatment myself."
"Well, excuse me while I get out a hanky, but that doesn't help my situation any Mr. – uh?"
"Okay, see here, doc. Gooding has a contract with me and clearly if he's gone nuts, if you say he has, he can't fulfill his end of the bargain, see?"
"Yes, I see. But I fail to observe how this has anything to do with me."
"Well, it might have something to do with you if you shut up and let me talk."
Crane ground his teeth, his eyes piercing while Scarecrow over and over tormented him to use the Fear Toxin on the most evil man in Gotham.
(You will be saving everyone, Scarecrow whispered. Just think of it!)
Then another will take his place just as quickly, thought Crane. No, let's first see where he is going with this. In due time we will have him, one way or another.
"Now doc, tomorrow one of my guys is appearing in court. His name is Jimmy Fessanti. Are you familiar with the guy?"
"Yes, serial killer, multiple robberies, heavy mob activity."
"Ah, that's my boy," Falcone crowed. "But you know, doc, the mind is such an unstable thing. The time in prison has proved to be too much for him. Even before this he's been a bit – you know – unbalanced."
"I surmised as much after he shot Adam Tyler when he wouldn't pick up his tab at Monique Restaurant."
"Exactly! You see where I'm going with this, doc. He's appearing in court tomorrow and I need you to use those fancy words of yours that he needs to be committed here."
Falcone snapped open his briefcase and slowly turned it towards Crane. It was filled with neat packets of crisp, new thousand dollar bills.
"Now I wasn't expecting to negotiate a new contract. This is not all you will get once you finish the job."
Falcone grabbed one of the packets of thousand dollar bills, thumbing the money for dramatic effect, before shoving it toward Crane.
"That is what you will get to testify in court tomorrow, doc. And this money here," Falcone pointed at the briefcase. "This money is what you will get once my boy is safe and sound in this fine institution of yours."
Crane gazed at the packet of money, then at Falcone.
Blood money from all the crime and corruption he brings to Gotham.
"Why do you want Mr. Fessanti here?"
"Quit asking questions," Falcone said. "That's my business. You just do your job and get rich, just like Gooding did."
Suddenly Crane imagined having Fessanti, the most notorious serial killer, in his asylum, completely at his mercy.
I will cure him, like my other patients. In my hands, at last he will meet justice, just like Machiano. And if Falcone sends others to me, they too will be mine! Oh, they will cringe, not realizing what a great good they will serve. In prison they would just rot and what then? They would be released on Gotham to murder, rape and rob again. But in my asylum they will never be free, never escape. Their screams will fill the halls and I will cure him, like Machiano. They will be harmless then, they will hurt no one ever again. I will save Gotham. I will save them all – save them by Fear!
Falcone smiled indulgently at Crane, like a child who didn't know better.
Ah, he thinks he has me, like so many others, yet another pawn in his twisted, criminal game. But he won't realize – just like Gooding – until its too late, I am the snake under the flower waiting to strike. I am your favorite dessert you have eaten only to realize it has been laced with arsenic. I am the frail boy you think you can bully and beat and takes any abuse, only to turn into Scarecrow. I am far deadlier than any thug with a gun, any maniacal killer in an alley. I am the enemy you cannot see, the one who hides in the shadows, in the darkest recesses only to emerge when you feel safe and secure. I am the hidden enemy … I am Scarecrow.
"So do we have a deal, doc," Falcone asked smugly, reaching out his hand.
"Yes, I believe we have reached an agreement," Crane said, taking Falcone's hand in his.
Author's Note: Like any author I find it difficult to let this story go, but I am even more amazed that what started as a fun little diversion turned into such an all-consuming, sprawling epic. It was difficult not to become completely absorbed in Jonathan's descent into madness. Once I began on his journey, I became fascinated in Jonathan's history and weaving a compelling enough story. I hope I have accomplished that.
Thank you all who have had the patience to wait as I continued on it as a work-in-progress and for your continued support and feedback. I couldn't have done it without all your help!
Blodeuedd: I cannot thank you enough for all the wonderful reviews you have posted for almost every chapter. Not only were they an excellence source of guidance for me, some days they helped boost my confidence (as well as my spirits) as a writer. It means so much to me that you have taken such an interest in my story since you are such an amazingly talented writer yourself. You have such a wonderful grasp on the character of Crane and your prose is more poetically beautifully rather than gritty, as mine tends to be.
Jumana: As a DC comic books fan, I hope you enjoyed this "alternate history" on Crane, though I know it deviated a bit from the "canon." I hope you like what I did with Falcone in this chapter, since we ultimately know where that relationship leads in the movie. ; ) And yes, it does get quite dark with the psychological torture Crane inflicts on Machiano. I actually held back quite a bit on that chapter as amazing as it seems. There's only so much the reader can take and what I can tolerate writing.
Saiyajin-Neko: I hope this ending turned out as you had hoped. And now that it is finished, maybe you won't have to stalk me, then again maybe you will if I don't write a sequel. LOL
Dr. E. Vance: I hope the following answers all your questions on Emily and thank you for your feedback. I really am a glutton for reviews. : )
Concerning Emily: Several of you have expressed either your disappointment in the character of Emily or have asked whether she will return later in the story. As you have noticed by now she has not returned after Jonathan met her in high school. I was doing several things with her character, but I won't bore you with the details. Namely I realized once I was writing her if I kept her around Scarecrow could not maintain a strangle hold on Jonathan's psyche, so I removed her early on from the picture. Needless to say the more I worked on the story, the more I could not see how to fit her back in, which leads me to the next topic …
Possible Sequel: I am not sure if I will write one or not. I have worked out a basic plot in my mind right now and it seems to be promising. Emily will be a major character, in fact it will focus on Emily and Jonathan Crane, but it won't be a sappy romance although romance will be involved. ; ) This takes place mostly post "Batman Begins," so Crane certainly has some major issues with Scarecrow and insanity by that point. It should be interesting, but mainly it will depend on the dynamic between the two and if the story works out well. If it doesn't, well I wouldn't have the heart to disappoint you by posting it here.