Disclaimer: I own plenty of DC memorobilia, I own myself and I have an odd hold over Mon Capitan and Number One, but other than that...I's is broke.
This story is part of the CATverse, the story listing of which can be found at freewebs dot com slash catverse. It takes place in Arc Four, after my story "A Minion's Memoirs."
For the first time in a long time, Jonathan Crane awoke from a deep and peaceful slumber, fit as a fiddle and ready for-
Well, certainly not ready for love, but ready for anything else the universe felt like throwing at him.
Over the past few weeks, he'd managed-for the most part-to stay out of trouble and consequently woke on Thanksgiving morning without a single bump, bruise or abrasion on his person.
It was miraculous that he found on Thanksgiving, he actually had something to be thankful for.
The feeling was short-lived, however, when he remembered what else happened to be today.
November twenty second.
Another year older, another year closer to death. A voice, which had belonged to a henchgirl who had spoken those very same words close to a year and a half prior on her own birthday, reminded him sourly.
Whatever tiny shreds of the good mood he woke up with were ripped apart at the seams by the reappearance of thoughts of them.
Even gone (he no longer fully believed them to be "dead") they managed to wreck what little contentment-or at least the small lull in misery-that he'd found.
He wanted to hate them…he really did…but try as he might, all he could muster was a case of mild irritation.
Crane felt his own forehead, curious as to whether or not this change of heart was brought on by an illness.
Nope. No fever.
Maybe it was because he'd slept so well...or maybe it was because he wasn't marred by any horrible bruises...
Or maybe it was a God Damn Thanksgiving Miracle™.
Either way, he didn't hate them today…he was just irritated with them. He didn't need them, any idiot could see that, but his rumbling stomach felt differently about the matter. One of the Captain's Thanksgiving day banquets was sounding rather good right about now…although he knew he's never get another one of-
Instantly on the alert, Crane leapt from his bed, fear toxin in hand and at the ready to attack whoever had dared to intrude on-
Wait…they rang the doorbell? Who'd he know that would ring a doorbell?
Hell, he hadn't even known his new lair had a doorbell. It never occurred to him that an abandoned engineer's shack by an equally abandoned train station would need a doorbell…
Crane scrubbed a hand over his face thoughtfully before a rather devilish look crossed his features.
There were three possibilities that he could figure on in this situation.
One: His-The girls weren't dead and were finally returning to him.
Two: They'd sent someone in their stead as they had last Christmas with a basket of goodies.
Three: Some poor unfortunate wanderer had managed to come across the new hideout of the Scarecrow.
For some reason, all three of those options were rather attractive.
It was probably because regardless of the outcome, he'd still have an excuse to test out the new toxin in his hand. If it was the girls, he could feign innocence and say "I didn't realize it was you…what with you being dead and all."; and only a slight variation on that theme would be necessary if his visitors were friends of the Captain, Al or Techie.
If it was just some random passerby, though…
Well, the very prospect filled him with such scientific glee that he darted for the door and swung it open to find-
What in the name of-
He found, to the left of the doorframe, a shoebox not unlike the one he'd found under Techie's bed the month before. This one, however, had no lid, and instead of a stack of chaotic papers and keepsakes, there was a remote control inside. Crane's suspicions rose immediately and he narrowed his eyes at the box appraisingly. He stuck out one foot and nudged the box cautiously with his shoe.
Well, nothing blew up or caught fire…that was always a good sign.
Crane's eyebrows knit together and he glanced from side to side out the doorway, looking for any kind of indication as to who would leave this…whatever it was on his doorstep.
He crouched and poked around inside the box and discovered, beneath the electronic device, a sheet of paper bearing three different messages in three distinctly different-but vaguely familiar-scripts.
Beware geeks bearing gifts.
Revenge is a dish best served cold-Old Klingon Proverb
He stared at the first line intently, recognizing the spiky, almost illegible script immediately. It was the same ridiculously messy handwriting he'd read in that diary…
And the two lines beneath hers…well, it didn't take a mathematician to figure that this equation equaled CAT.
As for the remote control…
Good God. This was some contraption of their design.
He dropped the box immediately, realizing that if Al had a hand in this, chances were the device would blow up just because she'd been a part of the design process.
If it didn't spontaneously combust due to the Captain's influence first, that is.
But surely…if this was a genuine…'gift' from the girls…as the note implied…
They'd never hurt their Squishykins, would they?
Crane slapped his forehead, realizing that he'd just mentally referred to himself as 'Squishykins'. He glared at the box and its contents indignantly.
He would have left it there where it sat, but since one of the more dominant traits present in a scientific mind is curiosity, he couldn't do so.
But he wasn't going to touch that…that thing until he was properly prepared.
He had rubber gloves somewhere in the lab, so that would keep him from being electrocuted (the word 'Shockity' was not confidence inspiring) and if he donned his mask there'd be no chance of being exposed to any sort of airborne toxin.
That wouldn't help him much if it was a bomb, of course…but still…
Once he was properly outfitted, he carefully lifted the odd looking remote from the box and turned it over to examine it. It had at least a dozen different buttons on it, all in varying shades of green, yellow and red, from pale to dark, and on closer inspection, he found a small yellow Post-It note tacked to the back, in that same unbelievably messy handwriting that he identified as Techie's.
Green means go, yellow means go faster, red means…well, you'll figure it out.
Frowning beneath his sack cloth mask, Crane gave one of the palest green buttons a wary push, careful not to exert too much pressure.
He pressed a little bit harder.
Typical. It doesn't even work…whatever it is.
His upper lip curled in disgust and he was about to toss the useless thing back inside the shoebox when the strangest urge to press the brightest green button overtook him.
Now to be perfectly clear, Jonathan Crane was not a man who gave into urges like that…he was not reckless…
But something told him that if he pressed that button, something spectacular would occur.
The word 'spectacular', when used in reference to his former-dead-but-clearly-not-dead Henchgirls was rarely a good thing…yet he pressed the button anyway.
He was rewarded with a sharp, loud yelp from somewhere outside the shack.
He pushed the button again and once more, a loud noise that was somewhere between a choked scream and a bark met his ears.
Hmmm…this bore investigating.
Crane stepped back outside and pushed the button, listening closely for the source of the noise.
"YOW!" came from the left.
Another press of the button.
And another yelp, from inside the station terminal, best he could tell.
It was just a few quick steps before he was inside the terminal, pressing the button repeatedly and following the odd, barely human sounds every step of the way.
After about sixty paces and twenty button presses, Crane found himself staring at one of the numerous benches that the patrons of the train station once used to wait for their rides, which seemed to be where the racket was coming from.
He pressed the button once more and again another muffled shout.
Whatever was making the noise was awkwardly stuffed underneath the bench.
Crane peered beneath the bench and found-
A potato sack?
A potato sack tied with ribbon?
Curiouser and curiouser.
The sack wriggled and a muffled noise came from inside it, adding to Crane's mounting interest in this little scavenger hunt he'd been sent on by that cryptic note and this strange electronic device.
A muffled grumble came from inside the sack and Crane found himself smiling in spite of himself.
A captive in a sack. This was definitely their style.
After all, hadn't they brought him…gifts like this before?
What, he pondered, could be better than the grand reveal of a bloodied henchman, Mister Freeze's disembodied head in a hatbox and a bound boy wonder?
Only one way to find out now, isn't there?
With a sharp yank, Crane pulled the bench aside (nearly straining his back in the process) and stared at the wriggling sack.
"Mmt mmph mmopmh mph mere!" It said.
Roughly translated, Crane figured that was what 'Let me out of here' sounded like when someone had a gag in their mouth.
Whoever was inside the sack was obviously tied up within an inch of their life…so there was no threat to him if he did open the sack…
The ribbon tied around the sack's opening was easy enough to get past and as the rough fabric fell away, Crane was treated to a sight he never thought he'd get the chance to see.
There, in the middle of the pooled potato sack cloth, with a ball gag in his mouth, his hands tied behind his back and a strange looking collar around his neck (of the same material and coloration at the remote), sat Lyle Bolton; alias Lock-Up, alias every villain in Gotham's worst nightmare.
It didn't take Crane long to figure out that the collar he was wearing was a modified shock collar…especially since the 'cryptic' note that came with the remote wasn't very cryptic any longer.
This, however, wasn't the most amusing part of the scenario.
Bolton looked absolutely murderous and Crane was grateful he was wearing his mask at that point in time…the look of sheer delight on his face would have gone a long way to ruining his reputation. Even if it was sadistic glee, it still would've made him seem less of a villain if it ever got around.
Pinned to Bolton's shirt was a note which read in big, bold letters:
Happy birthday! Have fun with your new toy!
Wondering what happens next? Check out my story "Smash Success" to find out!