(A Sequel to "Shadows of the Mind")
By Azina Zelle
Dr. Jonathan Crane stood in front of the glaring lights behind the heavy maple podium. He would seem unremarkable to the casual psychiatrist, notable because of his youth in a field when many respected psychiatrists in the field were in their mid-30s or older as well as his piercing blue eyes and lanky, almost delicate body. He sweated, but not from nerves; hot lights beat down upon him on center stage and the stagnant air was near suffocating in the crowded auditorium hall. Normally the hall was attended by 200 to 300 psychiatrists from across the country, but this year the number swelled to 500, particularly because Crane was guest speaker at this particular function. Word on his controversial treatments had spread even beyond the sphere of Gotham City, some from his fellow colleagues and his now infamous psychiatric paper published in Psychology Today "Fear Itself: Studies and Treatments On the Criminal Mind."
Dr. Crane gazed at the huge crowd, waiting for his first words. He always relished this moment, enjoying making them wait with anticipation what he would say, but he also knew there only would be so long before frustration and boredom set in, exacerbated by the stifling heat of the auditorium and the crowded situation. He waited for the coughs to die down, then gave a slight grin and began without once looking at his heavily outlined and detailed notes.
"Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow colleagues in the psychiatric profession, we do ourselves a grave disservice to our patients by coddling them as so many do nowadays, as if afraid their minds will shatter with the least distress. If any of you are familiar with my work – I have not done this with my patients. The mind is more resilient than we give it credit for and when it comes to Fear – Fear is something that must be confronted head on. Make no mistake, Freud, Jung, Maslow, they all had their quaint ideas on Fear and where it stems from. Fear must be confronted, yes. But we must go one step further, ladies and gentlemen . . . We must unleash their Fear in order to cure it."
A general murmur stirred in the audience, a murmur Crane had expected long before he began his speech. He didn't smile, but gazed at his audience in dead seriousness as psychiatrists either looked at him or each other in confusion.
"Oh, I know what you're thinking," Crane continued. "This treatment has never been tested – but it has. It has been used for several years at Arkham Asylum with great success. Patient 2042 – Mr. Jeremy Sanders suffered from delusional paranoia and was unable to function in normal society. After numerous therapy sessions and mild sedatives, Mr. Sanders was able to confront his paranoia."
"That's not what I heard!"
Everyone turned to a man in a black suit, standing solitary in a sea of seated psychiatrists. He was in his early to mid-40s with brunette hair and a slightly receding hairline.
"Sir, there will be time for questions after my talk," Crane said, a slight tone of arrogance seeping in.
"Not when you're spewing lies throughout your 'talk,' Crane! Talk therapy? Mild sedatives? Don't make laugh! Everyone knows the horrors you put the poor tormented souls through you call 'patients' at your nut house!"
"That is quite enough. Please sit down, sir."
"What do you do? Lace their food with your poison? Slip hallucinogens into their water? I hear you can hear their screams even through the brick walls!"
"Security, please escort that man out of this lecture hall," Crane said.
While Crane watched security haul the struggling man out, Crane felt the metal structure of the Fear Toxin air pressure gun hiding beneath his suit jacket sleeve.
That fool! If he were alone, I would give him a taste of my Fear Therapy Treatment up close and personal. Then he will see how it really feels to confront his own Fears. He will be too busy worrying about his own Fears than to be concerned over Arkham and my patients!
"Don't listen to him! Lies! All lies," the man cried out as the door closed, muffling out his screams.
"Well, now that that slight interruption is over with we can move on," said Crane. "Ah, yes. Fear treatment at Arkham –"
Crane was surrounded by psychiatrists after the lecture, pressing in close in the hallway outside the lecture hall as he shook hands and tried clarifying the finer points of his Fear Therapy.
"While in theory your treatment appears logical, you remain far too general without enough details on how you go about unleashing your patients' fears, Dr. Crane. You talk of therapy and medication. Do you induce regression, hypnotherapy?"
"I try to tap into my patients worst fears in order to unleash them. I am merely a conduit, Dr. Westmeyer. I have developed a medication, which, with my patients' full consent, will unlock in their minds their fears. Once they confront their fear, although painful and terrifying initially, the purgative and curative effects are almost immediate on my patients. They are able to lead fuller and richer lives, no longer imprisoned by their fear."
Dr. Steven Westmeyer, nodded and smiled. He was slightly older than Dr. Crane with blondish hair and hazel eyes. His path was very similar in many ways to Crane, working through school, studying late nights and working weekends to become one of the brightest young minds in the field.
"Well, whatever it is, I would be fascinated to hear more of the details. This new drug you have synthesized and patented for your patients sounds like a godsend to psychiatry and you must share it if it truly unlocks the fears of the mind. How many countless hours of therapy we wouldn't have to waste if the patients could pop a pill to unlock such a secret so quickly!"
Crane frowned slightly at his colleague's last flippant remark.
"It is not in pill form, Dr. Westmeyer, it is an inhalant, but it is much more than just one dosage and the patient is cured. There is extensive therapy involved as well, as I'm sure you are aware of. I take great pains with all my patients."
"Oh, yes, that I know, Dr. Crane. You are gaining quite a reputation." But then he leaned close to Crane's ear so as not to be overheard by the other psychiatrists. "A reputation that is not always favorable. Be careful, Jonathan."
Crane gazed at Westmeyer, a slow grin spreading over his lips.
"Ah, Dr. Westmeyer. You must agree that we are all slaves to Fear to some degree, but when we master that Fear, subjugate it and then use it – yes, make Fear our slave rather than our master – then we shall be a potent force."
"And have you mastered your Fear, Jonathan?"
The grin vanished from Crane's lips and he gazed in all seriousness at him.
"I have confronted it and seen it in the eyes of one very dear to me. Yes, I think I am as close to mastering it as I shall be."
"Jonathan, you need not do this alone, you know." Dr. Westmeyer handed him his business card. "You know where to find me."
Crane gazed at the business card while he was crushed in again by other psychiatrists asking him questions and drilling him on the finer points of his methods.
"Hey, you quack!"
Crane looked up icily toward the harsh voice; his face suddenly changed from regret and sadness to a cold, contemptuous mask.
"You don't want to listen to the truth so you kicked me out and continued to spew your filth for all to hear," cried the man who interrupted Crane once before.
He rudely was cutting his way through the crowd of psychiatrists who patiently had been waiting to talk to him, shoving many of them roughly aside.
"You can't shut me up forever, Crane! I know what you do at Arkham, the sickening tortures you pass off as 'therapy'! You unleash their fears – and they're screaming for days! Don't you deny it!"
"And pray on what foundation do you base these slanderous allegations upon Mr. –"
"Mr. Syler. And they are far from 'slanderous,' not when you destroy lives!"
Crane gazed at the rage flashing in the dark eyes of the man and half-wondered if a relative was a patient of his. Whatever it was, this man hated him for some reason.
(Why do we care, hissed Scarecrow. Let him taste Fear! Make him Scream! He deserves to scream after insulting us! He shall writhe in torment!)
No, not here. Too many people and this place is far too public. We need our privacy and certainly such a show merits being back in the comfort and convenience of the asylum?
Scarecrow's laugh echoed through his mind.
"I see. Well, Mr. Syler, if you have any doubts regarding my good intentions and the humane conditions of my patients, please feel free to visit Arkham Asylum at any time."
Dr. Crane carefully placed Westmeyer's card into his jacket and plucked out his own, depositing it into Syler's hand.
"Please visit me any time," Dr. Crane leaned close, his eyes gazing clear and cold into Syler's. "I shall be waiting for you."
Crane then turned to the rest of the psychiatrists and held up his hands.
"And now, ladies and gentlemen, my fellow colleagues thank you for an enjoyable afternoon. As much as I wish to remain here for the rest of symposium, my duties at the asylum are many, unfortunately. Please excuse my absence and feel free to call or visit me if you wish to discuss further the therapy regimen of my patients."
A flurry of questions erupted as Crane politely, but insistently slid through the swarming crowd, using the side of his briefcase to cut through particularly tight spots.
(Use the toxin on all of them! Make them all scream! Make them experience Fear, shrieked Scarecrow)
Crane fought rolling his eyes as he cleared the crowd and briskly walked down the hallway.
"I'll visit you Crane," screamed Mr. Syler. "I'll visit you and see what a phony you really are!"
Good! Visit and then you will be mine along with all my other patients, thought Crane, a smug smile growing on his lips. Then we'll be one happy family and I'll especially enjoy discovering what your Fear is.
Crane was not looking where he was going, playing the image of Syler screaming before him as the toxin was released in some deserted, dark room back at the asylum. He bumped hard into a woman going in the opposite direction and although it didn't faze him much, the papers she was balancing in her arms burst dramatically into the air and fluttered down on to the floor like oversized confetti. Scarecrow was laughing at the distraught woman, but Crane was more disgusted at the delay this would cause.
He had seen some men continue to walk when they had done such things, but it reminded him far too much of his days back in high school. Bullies would trip him to drop his books and laughed as he struggled to pick them up while they kicked them out of his reach or trampled his meticulous homework underfoot. Crane sucked in a breath and bent down, helping picking up the papers his unfortunate collision had knocked over. Absently he gazed at the woman in the silvery white blouse and navy blue skirt. Her long, brunette hair had fallen over her face as she frantically was snatching up pages off the floor.
"Please forgive my clumsiness. I am sorry, Ms. –."
Crane picked up the last of the papers just as she had finished grabbing the last paper on her side and he added his pile to her own. She straightened up and brushed back the hair that had fallen over her face. A sudden shock of realization came over Crane, then he thought better of it.
No, it can't be, he thought.
"Miss Andrews," she said, then paused as she gazed at Crane. "Emily Andrews. You – you can't be –"
"Jonathan Crane," he whispered.
Emily gazed at him a moment, stunned. The last time she had seen him was under the hot sun on a distant June afternoon while they both wore blue graduation gowns. Jonathan was a gawky, thin 17-year-old, often wearing clothes that hung loose and ragged on his bony frame. Gone were the poor clothes and teenage awkwardness. He dressed more sharply than many men, wearing a black suit neatly pressed and a gray wool sweater over his white dress shirt and burgundy tie.
But for all that had changed, the eyes were unmistakable, those pale blue eyes Emily always found to be his most striking feature. Although she had to admit those eyes seemed different somehow, not as warm or inviting as she remembered from high school. His gaze seemed more guarded, his thoughts closed to her.
"Em – excuse me – Miss Andrews, what a pleasure. How have you been?"
"Oh, please, Jon. Why the formality? It has been eight years, but don't make me feel so old as to address me as Miss Andrews. That's what they call me at work."
"Work?" Crane gazed at the huge pile of papers she held precariously in her arms. "Are you too here for the psychiatry symposium?"
"Oh, no. There's more than one lecture taking place here today. Early childhood psychology is down the hallway. I just came from there. Dr. Angela Meyers is exceptionally good in her field and she offered some insight I can use back at the daycare center."
Crane's eyes widened.
"You work at a daycare center? Why does that not surprise me," he said in amusement. "You did seem to love the children if I recall from our behavioral study back in high school."
"Yes, they are wonderful, if you can get past the temper tantrums, the sticky fingers and the flu season, it can be fun," Emily said, smiling.
"Dr. Crane! Please, one more question about this Fear Therapy of yours," asked a psychiatrist, who suddenly spotted him.
Crane sighed and turned his cool eyes toward the psychiatrist.
"Dr. Crane," Emily gasped. "You're a doctor – at your age, Jon? You must be the youngest doctor ever!"
"I'm a doctor of psychiatry, that's all," said Crane.
"Since you are not returning to Arkham so quickly, Dr. Crane, perhaps you will answer my question as to the implementation of your Fear Therapy," said the psychiatrist.
Crane's smile faded suddenly as he turned to the psychiatrist.
"I will be more than happy to answer all your questions, Dr. Gate, but right now I am talking with a good friend of mine." Crane brusquely handed him a card. "Visit me at Arkham and if you have any more questions, I will give you a full demonstration of the therapy regimen."
"Thank you, Dr. Crane! Good day, Miss!"
Emily's mind was swirling with even more questions as she watched the psychiatrist gratefully take Crane's card and depart down the hallway.
"Fear Therapy? Arkham? Jon, did you just give a talk at the psychiatry symposium?"
"Yes, and I honestly believe they didn't understand half of the concepts I presented," Crane sighed. "But that is to be expected."
Emily's chocolate brown eyes gazed at Crane in curiosity and fascination.
"Well, why don't you tell me? Perhaps I will understand."
His blue eyes softened and a smile slowly crept across his full lips.
"Yes, I believe you will," he whispered.
If Emily had been asked in a wager to guess where Jonathan Crane was at this point in life, she realized by now how badly she would have lost. They sat at a quiet, dimly lit table in Monaco Restaurant. She would have almost thought it was romantic if Jon wasn't such an old friend of hers. Absently she played with the empty plastic bag that once held the Saltine crackers for the soup. The fidgeting was not lost on Crane.
"Are you nervous," he asked.
"You are exhibiting a repetitive sign of nervous behavior." He smiled and pointed to the crumpled cracker bag.
Emily scrunched her nose at him.
"Now you're just showing off, Dr. Crane."
"It's my specialty," he said. "But to answer your question, I've been in charge of Arkham Asylum for three years now, ever since Dr. Gooding suffered a psychotic breakdown."
"Is that a – a normal occurrence for doctors heading that place," asked Emily, taking a large sip of her wine.
"Only if that doctor is unprepared for the strain of the duties that position entails – sadly Dr. Gooding was unprepared."
"I just hope you are prepared, Jon. It must be a very stressful place to work. I don't know how you do it."
Crane slightly grinned, his pale blue eyes flashing in the dim candlelight.
"There is so much potential at Arkham I could not have had anywhere else. There is so much suffering, but so much good I can do. I can help them, Emily. I know I can."
Emily smiled as she gazed at him. Her hand was worrying the tablecloth and then she realized she touched something warm, the delicate fingers of his hand. In embarrassment, she turned her eyes away and slid her hands back to her lap. Crane just grinned, his eyes flickering in the candlelight.
"Now I must ask you my questions. It's only fair since I've been so good about answering all of yours," Crane said.
"And what do you want to know," Emily asked, a bit flustered.
"When did you decide you wanted to go into daycare?"
"Oh, back in college. I continued in early childhood development," Emily said. "I love children and that seemed the best place to be."
"How did your boyfriend take it, from high school?"
"Kevin? We broke up soon after graduation." Emily rolled her eyes. "Frankly, I was getting bored with him."
Crane's heart sank at the news – not for Kevin – but at all the wasted years, all the years he could have been in contact with Emily, but hadn't been simply out of jealousy and self-pity.
(Yes, she would make a pretty test subject, wouldn't she, Scarecrow hissed. Oh, her screams would be sweet indeed!)
Crane kept his face a mask, an ability he had learned adeptly since the emergence of Scarecrow.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Crane said at last. "I hope the daycare is thriving though?"
"Oh, yes," Emily said, smiling. "Perhaps too much so. Twenty-four kids and most of them 3- and 4-year-olds! Can you imagine that? It's a real mad house!"
"I guess that's one thing we have in common between our two places of work," Crane said, slightly smiling.
"Now that you mention it, you have a point." Emily took her glass of white wine and raised it. "To renewing old friendships."
Crane wrapped his delicate fingers around his glass of red wine and clinked his goblet against hers.
"Cheers," he said.
He sipped his wine while she almost gulped hers. As he set his glass back on the table, he gazed at her, his cool blue eyes unreadable in the flickering candlelight.
Author Note: Well, I've begun my sequel to Shadows of the Mind and I hope this first chapter isn't a disappointment. For those of you who have not read my previous story, the back story between Emily and Jonathan can be found in Chapters 3, 5, 9 and 12. But if you don't want to read it, I'll summarize in a nutshell.
Jonathan meets Emily in high school and develops a crush on her in psychology class. They become partners in a behavioral study examining young children and their behavior (Emily loves it and Jon hates it). Jonathan still has hopes of telling Emily he loves her at their high school graduation, but before he does, he realizes she has a boyfriend and that they will be going to separate universities. It seems all chances of a romance between the two of them is lost – or is it? To be continued here …