Credits for the title of this story go to David Usher and his song Black, Black Heart.
This story is going to follow a dark, destructive "relationship" between Dr Crane and a new nurse at Arkham. Don't consider it a romance. It's not love. It's something darker. And it's lurking behind their backs...
I named my character Pearl after the subject of the song Siren Song by Bat for Lashes. The character of Dr Crane is based on Cillian Murphy's portrayal of the character in Chris Nolan's movie Batman Begins and on the New Earth story arc.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Dr Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow or any other DC Comics characters that might, or may not, appear in this story. Pearl Jones is my character. This particular story belongs to me.
Bear in mind the fact that the first chapter may not always be the most interesting thing on the planet, but things always get exciting afterwards. Lorien Urbani
A new job and a new city usually meant a new beginning. Everything became new; the streets, the friends, even the habits and consequently, one's own life. The bitterness of the previous life would evaporate and welcome the sweetness and expectations of the new one.
To Pearl, it felt as if she had returned to the past. She had not walked the polluted streets and the deserted parks of Gotham for a full decade, but the city still felt incredibly, almost disturbingly familiar. Before her coming back here, she thought she was going to start afresh, but now she saw that in reality, what she was really going to do was to pick up the threads of her old life. Perhaps, that was why she chose to return in the first place. She could not really call Gotham home, but it felt good, like a warm, fuzzy sweater against cold skin. The absence of any change was very welcoming. Gotham had not changed one bit; even its scent had stayed the same. The black fumes of crime were looming above the city, but even that was old news.
She realized that leaving Sacramento, her home for the last decade, was the easiest thing she had ever done in her life. Everyone she had ever cared about was gone and they had all lived in Sacramento, once upon a happier time. It was in Gotham that her life began, and where she spent the first fourteen years of her life. Although no one she knew, no one she loved, lived in the city anymore, she was happy to be back. The city welcomed her; it was one of the unspoken truths that Gotham stayed in your blood, no matter where you went or who you decided to become.
It was easy to buy an already furnished apartment in a pretty respectable part of the city. Her inheritance money had made her quite a wealthy woman, so she could actually afford buying a place to stay, not just renting one. However, she was not one to spend her days living on her inheritance. She had big plans for her future. For one, she would finally go to medical school and become a doctor herself. She loved being a nurse, but she craved for more. She had always dreamed of having her own, cosy little office and help people in need. She had always wanted to become a psychiatrist. She put her dreams aside for the sake of her family, and she had gotten really used to and content with her life, but she knew she had to move on and make her dreams a reality. If not for herself, then for him. He would have wanted her to do it, to be happy and finally fully content. It was his last wish he said aloud.
She stroked the wedding band on the fourth finger of her left hand with gentle affection and took a deep breath.
"I guess this is it, Dom," she said to her wedding band and looked through the driver's window of her 1991 dark blue Toyota Tercel. It was not the best of cars, and she could buy herself a prettier, and foremost, a better vehicle, but she loved her old car. Old was good; not everything had to be new. She, somehow, wanted to keep a part of the other city by her side, one way or another.
Her gaze lingered on the impressive building across the parking lot. Her new working place, the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. She could still hardly believe that she got the job. Every time she remembered her interview with the cold, arrogant, clearly self-important head of the asylum, she shuddered inwardly. The interview felt closer to an inquisition and an intellectual battle combined, and afterwards, she actually hoped she would never be called back. But she was, by the head himself, and she supposed for a second that she should have felt grateful that the famed Dr Jonathan Crane took his precious time to tell her himself how he deemed her "appropriate to join the staff", but she still resented him for saying that "after all, on such a short notice, we cannot, in all honesty, afford to be all picky and finicky." Apparently, they were often understaffed in Arkham; the majority of nurses did not have the nerves to feed pills to such dangerous specimens of humanity, as most of the inmates were criminals with unusual medical conditions that prevented them from staying in regular prisons. Their latest gem was the notorious serial killer Victor Zsasz. She had never been around a serial killer before, and now she would most probably see Zsasz at one point.
Pearl Jones, however, was not afraid. She was not indifferent, but she saw her new job as a great opportunity. Even though some things frightened her, she would not let them get to her. She almost felt as if she were on some kind of mission, and people on missions did not take backward steps, but walked forward proudly.
She knew that becoming a psychiatrist was not an easy task. Four years of college, then four years of medical school and finally, four years of psychiatry residence training. College was behind her already; she had a bachelor's degree in biology and was proud of it. She had a nursing degree as well and had been a good nurse so far. All of it had been accomplished before her twenty-fourth birthday. She guessed that her education and good resume impressed Dr Crane and led him to hire her. As soon as she thought about it again, she scoffed and mumbled something resentful under her breath. No, he was most probably not impressed; he was not the type of man to ever be impressed by anything or anyone, rather than his brilliant self. He was probably just reassured by her credentials that he was not going to hire an incompetent dolt.
The worst thing was that she deeply admired the man. He was not yet thirty-three and could already boast about being head of a psychiatric hospital. She supposed he was one of those intelligent people who graduated from college before others, and who accomplished some things before average people could even start thinking about getting them one day. His researches and articles on the psychology of fear and phobias were nothing short of phenomenal, and she had read all of them with eager anticipation for more. She would have chosen him as her mentor any day, but now that she got to meet him face to face, she was really disappointed.
It was the sin and major flaw of all geniuses – the terrible feeling of self-importance, which led to their inability to act like normal human beings when interacting with other less gifted wretched souls.
Pearl laughed to herself. She was being truly resentful, sarcastic and hateful, and she had not even started working for her new boss. She would probably not see him much, anyway, she mused. Perhaps, she thought optimistically, he had a bad day when he interviewed her and she only imagined him as being a rude, haughty person. Until proved guilty, she would see him as innocent and acquitted of all of her charges. The thing was that she still admired him as a scientist, and either way, working for such an important and intelligent man would certainly be very inspiring, would it not? She only hoped she was not completely wrong. She had been wrong about people before and she truly had to get rid of her naivety at some point.
Pearl concluded her inner ramblings with a shrug that was supposed to relax her tense muscles. She was a shy person, although she tried to deny it and not show it to the public eye. Meeting new people, especially new co-workers, was never a happy experience for her. She thought that her sometimes unnaturally shy nature might have drawn the previous monstrous image of Dr Crane in her head. People that were stronger than her in that respect never made her comfortable and she even resented them at times. She sighed, hoping that Nurse Clarke, Arkham's head nurse for the fourth and fifth floors, was not a witch, and that all the other nurses would accept her with friendliness. She really did wish to make new friends in Gotham and her new working environment seemed like a good place to start.
She left the car, her bag under her arm, and took a deep breath.
"Here we go," she whispered to herself and started walking towards the main entrance of Arkham Asylum, looking forward to the day ahead with optimism.
Dr Jonathan Crane had been working on Zsasz's profile for a while. It would have to be presented at the next court session when he would give his professional opinion on the man. Crane huffed to himself. For the last year, he had been repeating himself. It was true, Falcone provided them with his services and in return, Crane made sure that Falcone's little monsters avoided real prison, but it was beginning to truly bore Crane. It used to be quite fun to proclaim people insane and sometimes even make them go insane, but Falcone's men were under the mobster's protection, and so, for now, he could not even have his share of fun with them. At least his other patients were not under Falcone's protection. It would be simply awful if years of experimentation had suddenly gone to waste at any point.
Crane removed the glasses from his nose and pressed the ridge with his thumb and index finger.
"Hm, Zsasz," he murmured to himself, "What will it be for you?"
He smiled to himself, put the glasses back on his nose and finished the profile with the words Schizophrenia. Treatment at Arkham highly recommended.
Zsasz was known to have abused drugs in the past; therefore, if anyone asked about the cause of his state, he would mention excessive drug abuse and difficult childhood, perhaps even mommy issues. It always worked like a charm. If any difficulties should arise, he would give the little monster a dose of his own medicine. Then, no one would question Dr Crane's judgement for another second, not even the most doubtful ones like Miss Dawes.
What would he tell them on the stand?
"Hm," he practiced, "In my opinion, Mr Zsasz is as much a danger to himself as to others, and prison is probably not the best environment for his rehabilitation."
That sounded good enough.
Finishing the profile, which was an easy, but painfully boring task, Crane looked at his schedule and found that he had a session with George Hardy in ten minutes. Good, an actual crazy. A very frightened crazy at that. Just the thought of poor, whimpering George warmed his heart and accelerated its usually calm, rigid pace.
Crane turned off his computer and was in the process of rising from his chair when his desk phone rang. He looked at the object sternly and picked it up.
"Dr Crane," he spoke with cold politeness.
"Dr Crane, Nurse Clarke speaking," the woman on the other end of the line spoke. Crane could almost roll his eyes at the sound of her shrilling voice, but he did not. He never did. He only imagined doing it, but on the outside, he always kept his composure, even when he was alone.
"We have just had a situation with George Hardy," she continued. "He is having one of his fits again."
Crane sighed inwardly. "Of course he is," he replied. "I am on my way to him. Do not sedate him yet. Wait for me," he ordered.
He was about to hang up, but the head nurse still had something to say. "Dr Crane, he hurt one of the nurses. The new nurse, Pearl Jones."
Now, Crane was amused. He remembered the nurse he interviewed and hired just a few days ago. If his memory served him correctly, she was one of the nurses working on the fourth floor. Yes, the proud one, the one who was happy to say she had a bachelor's degree in biology and wanted to become a psychiatrist, the one who imagined that she saw right through him, thinking him so very rude and arrogant, and she took the defensive stance, completely unaware of it, completely unaware of how easy she was to read. He knew the type: eager, happy to be a nurse, but wanting more; the saviour complex, the eternal optimist, annoyingly naive and open with her emotions. Afraid of disapproval. One of her many fears. He had yet to figure out her other fears, but that was only a matter of time. For now, he knew she was a frightened little girl who wanted to appear as a tough, impenetrable woman. Eventually, he got to the core of all of his employees. He knew them all, and they only presumed they knew him.
"What happened?" he asked, slightly intrigued. He did not know Nurse Jones would prove to be troublesome on her very first day at work. He should have expected that from an eager new nurse who discarded her education in biology to help the helpless.
"Well, she got too close to Mr Hardy, invaded his personal space. You know how he hates that."
What Crane hated was when the nurses explained the obvious to him, but he listened without interruption.
"He grabbed the necklace she had around her neck, and instead of letting him have it, she tried to take it back. I forgot to tell her that he likes to take shiny things from us, but that we always get them back after he is sedated. So, as I've said, she tried to take the necklace back, but that frightened him. He screamed and actually backhanded her. She hit the nearest wall with her head. It was a strong blow. She may have a concussion, but she won't let us take a look. He is still rambling in his cell."
Crane sensed reproach in Nurse Clarke's voice. That amused him, too.
"As I have said, Nurse Clarke," he replied coldly, "I am on my way there. Wait for me."
Saying that, he hung up and straightened his tie.
His constant prop – the briefcase filled with his necessary working material – in his hand, he left his office.