Disclaimer: Like I bother with these anymore...

A/N: This is part of the CATverse, the timeline of which can be found at http/ www . freewebs . com / catverse . htm (delete the spaces, if you have any sense at all). This is decidely darker than most of the rest of the CATverse, because...let's face it: Jonathan Crane--despite all the calling him Squishykins that we do--is still a villain.

-

She looked friendly enough.

Really, that's all the excuse I can come up with.

She looked friendly enough.

How wrong first impressions can be...

You know, mom always told me never to talk to strangers...especially not strangers you meet on the bus.

Guess I should have listened to her.

The thing of it is, I grew up in a small town in Iowa, where if someone looked friendly, they were friendly.

Apparently, the same doesn't hold true in Gotham.

See, back home, if someone said "Hi, how're you doing today?" that's exactly what it meant.

In Gotham, if someone says "Hi, how're you doing today?" it means something more along the lines of "Please pay no attention to the woman sneaking up behind you with a lead pipe in hand."

I'm still trying to shake the last traces of stardust from the edges of my vision.

But I digress. The woman who disarmed me, charmed me and promptly konked me on the head gave me this little diary and instructed me to write in it.

Since she had a gun in her hands at the time, I was hard pressed to find a valid argument against that course of action.

Only trouble is, I don't quite know what to write. My life story is hardly worth the telling and can be summed up in three words. Well, five.

Small town girl turned tourist.

I won a sweepstakes, if you can believe that; an all expenses paid trip to the city of my choice--Gotham, Metropolis, Gateway, you know, all the biggies.

I picked Gotham. I've always thought that the architecture here was to die for; and since I want to take up architecture someday--provided I ever get enough cash scraped up for college, that is--I figured it'd be a good place to choose.

Boy was I wrong. In fact, I can't remember a time when I've been more wrong.

Long story short, I'm a hostage now…the hostage of some guy named the Scarecrow.

I've heard of him, sure, but come on, he doesn't make it out to Iowa for too many crime sprees, does he?

Still, I'm hoping the guy doesn't kill me. I mean…the girl who brought me here seemed sure that I'd get out of this alive, but she also seemed really nice and we've already established how wrong I was about that.

The odds aren't looking too good right about now.

The first girl--the one I met on the bus--she dragged another girl a little bit older than me in here.

She's in the corner rocking back and forth and she looks like hell. She's got bruises that are just…everywhere. Big and ugly and purple. They're almost Technicolor and her eyes are bloodshot.

The girl who dragged me in gave the other woman a diary too, but she hasn't picked it up to write in it; she seems too shaken up to do it.

I don't even want to know what they did to her.

I tried to talk to her, but she just lifted her head and looked at me with her black eyes watering. I guess it was stupid of me to try and touch her to comfort her, because she screeched and backed away, trying to claw her way through the wall.

Another girl came in just now…brunette. She brought a tray of food and then dragged the other prisoner out of here, leaving me alone again.

I heard screaming. Lots of screaming. Like…like I don't even know how to describe it. It was so anguished.

I didn't eat any of the food the brunette brought in…I couldn't with all that screaming going on. Besides, I don't trust it. What if it's poisoned? What if it's filled with some kind of…something? I don't know what. Something horrible.

No, I'm not going to eat it.

My eyes hurt. There's barely enough light in here to see by and all there is to hear is screaming. It's driving me crazy. I don't know how long I've been here. It seems like it hasn't been that long, but it also feels like it's been forever.

Time has no meaning, that's what it is.

Where's the Scarecrow, anyways? The girl said I was his prisoner, why hasn't he come to see me? Isn't that the way the villains in Gotham work? They like to gloat over their prey? Where is he?

Will he ever come?

Will he kill me?

Did he kill the other prisoner? I don't hear the screams anymore. Who was she?

And why did that first girl give me this diary? Why? What purpose does this serve? I feel like a lab rat in a cage. A lab rat that's being given the means to record its own captivity.

There is a knife on the tray of food they brought, though…maybe an oversight? Maybe intentional? I don't know! I don't know and I hate it!

It must have been intentional. There's a little red light up in the corner there. It's got to be a camera. I'm being taped. They know I'm here. They're watching me suffer. Are they enjoying it? They must be; why else do people do this to other people?

I'm having trouble breathing. This is an awfully small room…I don't see anywhere that air can get in.

God my chest feels tight. My skin feels like its shrunk three sizes. I can't breathe.

How long has it been? I can't breathe. I can't see. My hands are numb.

Claustrophobia. Oh God, the walls are closing in.

I should have just gone to Metropoli--

---

Jonathan Crane watched the security camera feed, clipboard in hand, looking every bit the scientist he was. "Fifteen minutes. That's much too long for my purposes…but it's shorter than the last one, at least that's progress."

The Captain and Al were helping Techie to wipe off all the stage make-up it had taken to get her looking properly beaten.

"I think that the stage acting did a bit of good in helping the paranoia along, however. We'll have to try that with the next batch of toxin as well." He scribbled on his paperwork furiously. "Go retrieve her, drop her somewhere the police will find her."

"Is she going to recover, do you think?"

Crane turned to stare at the girls, dead serious. "Does it matter?"