Well, everyone, this is it. The end. The grand finale. El fin. Thank you all for reading and for your reviews. I loved writing this fic, and I hope you all enjoyed reading it. With your help, it went further than I ever dared to imagine. I hope this last chapter pleases you and provides a fitting close.
The favorite characters sure were spread across the board. Schiff, Crane, and Joe were all in close contention.
Joe was a heavy sleeper, but by no means an immobile one. Within ten minutes of falling asleep, he shifted his position twice. He went from lying on his back with his arms resting at his sides to lying on his side with his left arm pinned beneath his body and his right arm flopped on the bed. The position didn't look comfortable—Joe's left arm was probably suffering poor circulation—but Joe didn't stay posed for long.
Danielle watched, mildly fascinated by Joe's erratic, unconscious movements. She'd had very few opportunities to watch people just sleep and perform no other tricks. Of her half-dozen or so boyfriends, she'd only had the chance to watch one of them sleep next to her, and he'd been a rock; he hadn't moved, hadn't snored, and had hardly seemed alive except for the breath that whistled in his nose. With only one young man's sleeping habits in her experience, Danielle couldn't decide whether Joe's restlessness or her ex-boyfriend's stillness was the norm.
"I bet he wakes up every morning to find the pillows and blankets on the floor."
Danielle and Sophia looked towards the door and were surprised to see not a nurse or a doctor but a cop standing there. Instantly, Danielle recognized the officer as the one who'd saved them from being murdered in the taxi. The cop didn't enter the room any farther without asking for permission.
"I won't bother him; he definitely needs his rest more than I need his statement. But if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions," Montoya said.
"I don't mind at all, officer. You pretty much saved our lives—thanks for taking down that psycho, by the way, it was awesome—and I'll tell you anything you want," Danielle said.
Montoya now entered the room and produced a small spiral-bound notepad from her pocket.
"I've already got a basic summary of what happened, and I won't make you relive any of the ghastly details. Can you tell me where exactly you were held? If not an address, then a description of the building?" Montoya asked.
"I don't know the address and I never really saw the front of the building. But I know it was an apartment building, at least three stories tell, and not all that far from where you found us. The room Scarecrow kept us in was on the third floor, and it was painted white. We entered the building through an emergency exit door that led out into an alley. And there was a dumpster really close by. The Scarecrow forced Joe to park in front of the dumpster, and Joe was worried the rats would eat his seats and wiring."
"Excellent. We should be able to find the building now. Three stories, alley access, and a dumpster filled with rats," Montoya said, scribbling in the notebook.
"Officer, uh, I left some stuff in the building. Can I get it back somehow?" Danielle asked.
"Of course. Just define "stuff" and I'll make sure it's collected and kept safe."
"Joe picked me up at the airport, and I had my suitcase with me. When the Scarecrow dragged us to his hideout, he made me bring my suitcase. We were in way too much of a hurry to grab it when we escaped, and all my clothes are inside."
"Suitcase filled with clothes. It will find its way back to you, I promise," Montoya said.
"Oh! I left more important stuff in the taxi!" Danielle exclaimed.
Montoya had been planning to ask about certain items found in the taxi, but since Danielle had raised the issue, now seemed like the best time.
"If you're talking about the card and the gift, those have been recovered. I've been kept in the loop," Montoya said, pointing to her radio. "But can you tell me who the gun belongs to?"
"The gun? That's the damn Scarecrow's. Joe got hold of it and threatened the Scarecrow with it. That's how we got away," Danielle said.
"Mystery solved. I didn't expect it to belong to you or Joe, but I had to ask. As for the other items, I can have them dropped off here if you'd like," Montoya said.
That was excellent news. If the police could deliver her grandmother's birthday gifts to the hospital, Danielle could present them only half a day late.
"Those presents are for my grandmother, who's incidentally sitting right here next to me. She's 80 years and one day old today," Danielle said.
"Happy birthday. I'll get on the radio as soon as I'm done with my questions and get someone to bring your gifts over."
Montoya ran through a list of expected questions—what was the Scarecrow wearing and things of that nature—before wrapping up with an open-ended question.
"Is there anything else you remember that might be helpful? Anything at all."
Danielle paused. There did seem to be one enormous topic that Montoya hadn't asked about at all: Scarecrow's weird little accomplice.
"He wasn't alone. The Scarecrow had a lackey who I think was a schizophrenic; Scarecrow called him a "useless schizophrenic," or something like that. Even if he's not schizophrenic, he was strange and obviously not right in the head. He wore two different color socks and couldn't stand still," Danielle said.
"Now that is an important detail. Can you give me a quick description of this guy, and then I'll let you be," Montoya said.
Danielle gave the best description she could, careful to mention Schiff's odd socks and shoes, and Montoya faithfully recorded the details. Once Danielle's memory ran dry, Montoya closed the notebook and thanked Danielle vigorously. The officer promised that the police would do everything in their power to bring the Scarecrow to justice and then exited the room. Once outside so she wouldn't disturb Joe, Montoya got on the radio and asked whoever was currently in possession of Sophia's birthday paraphernalia to bring it to the Metropolitan Hospital.
Half an hour later, a handsome young cop that Sophia showed an untoward amount of interest in delivered the card and present. He handed them directly to Sophia, who beamed like a girl who'd just met her favorite teen singing sensation. Danielle watched the transaction with great embarrassment. There was now no room for doubt in her mind; Grandma Sophia was a cougar.
The cop departed after tipping his hat to Sophia. After he was gone, Danielle glared at her grandmother.
"What's that look for? I might be too old to touch, but not too old to look," Sophia said.
Danielle's jaw dropped. "Next year, I'll get you a subscription to Playgirl for your birthday."
"That sounds lovely. But what did you get me this year?" Sophia asked, looking at the small wrapped box.
"Exotic lingerie," Danielle muttered.
"I doubt it."
Sophia placed the box on her lap and tore open the envelop that held the card. She pulled out the card and laughed.
"Dinosaurs did not roam the Earth in my youth, and even if they did, I would ride a bigger, meaner one than that," Sophia said, examining the image on the face of the card. A cavewoman, brandishing a cane and dentures, was riding high in the saddle atop a Hadrosaur. According to the script below the picture, senior citizens had been driving against the flow of traffic since 100 million BC.
"I promise the present has nothing to do with dinosaurs."
Sophia unwrapped the box. "This will make the jazzercise even better."
A sleek red iPod sat in the box. Sophia picked it up and examined it. For a woman who'd been born decades before even the largest, most clunky computers were built, she knew her way around modern technology remarkably well.
"I figured if you could use a cell phone and computer, an iPod wouldn't be a problem. And you could fill it with all that music that makes your cat's hair stand on end, and listen to it without torturing him," Danielle said.
"Thank you very much. It's wonderful. It's a hell of a lot better than the socks my neighbor gave me," Sophia said. She hugged her granddaughter.
Danielle and Sophia carried on casual conversation for the next two hours. During those two hours, Joe moved a total of sixteen times. A nurse popped in briefly to check on Joe; he grunted once and slept through her quick examination. A visitor who was obviously lost wandered by the door three times before he was sent down the right hall. All in all, it was very uneventful.
So uneventful, in fact, that Danielle started to feel tired. She's slept for about five hours on the flight from Seattle, but the night's activities were starting to catch up to her. Sleep was tugging at her, making her eyelids heavy and making even the poorly cushioned hospital chair comfortable. If she was going to resist its tricks, she needed coffee.
"I need coffee or I'm going to fall asleep on your shoulder and start drooling," Danielle said.
"There was a coffee machine down in the lobby, by the vending machines. I'll come down and get a cup, too. Maybe I'll get a pack of cookies while I'm at it," Sophia said.
"No, somebody has to be here in case Joe wakes up. I'll get your coffee and cookies, if you'll give me a dollar for the machine. How do you want your coffee?" Danielle asked.
"A third sugar, a third cream, and a third coffee. Same way I've had it since I was thirteen," Sophia said.
Danielle took Sophia's dollar, and left the room wondering how her grandmother's body had survived the daily assaults of so much sugar and caffeine. She rode the elevator down to the first floor and found the coffee and snack machines. Standing in front of one machine, and kicking it, was a broad-shouldered man. Danielle wondered if approaching the coffee pot was safe at that moment; the irate guy was saying some rather uncouth words to the vending machine.
"Either gimme my damn dollar back or gimme my damn Snickers. Piece of crap."
Banging once on the machine and achieving nothing, the man turned away from it in disgust. He noticed Danielle standing off a ways.
"It ate my money," the man said.
"Oh," Danielle replied.
The man sighed. "One more thing to really make my day. First, I get to work half an hour late. Then I hear Stephens has this serial killer hunting party going on. Course my partner wants in, and I don't argue with her. That went over great, let me tell you. You ever seen somebody get stabbed? Well, I did and I never want to see it again. Goddamn nutty town and its freaks," the man said.
"So you're a cop?" Danielle asked.
"Yeah, Detective Harvey Bullock. Badge number three-five something, something. I'm here for my fellow officer. He's the guy that got stabbed. Who're you here for?" Bullock asked.
"Joe. He and I spent the night keeping the Scarecrow company."
"No shit? You're her? What did Montoya say your name was? Daphne?"
"Danielle. And yeah, I'm her. I'm keeping the vigil, but I need coffee to continue," Danielle said.
"Stephens—the stabbed guy—was looking for you. It was his case and he was determined to solve it. He was real happy when he heard you were found," Bullock said.
"I hope he gets better."
"He will. Look at me, telling you all my tragic crap. I'm going to go find out how the hell I can get my dollar back. Don't feed that machine." Bullock stalked off towards the front desk.
As Bullock walk away, Danielle was struck with a thought that made her giggle. The detective she'd just met had to be the law-enforcement version of Joe.
Danielle retrieved the coffee and cookies without losing her dollar to the devious machine. She took the goods back upstairs, where she and Sophia continued their watching uninterrupted, except for coffee breaks and trips to the bathroom, for another four hours.
Six hours after falling asleep, Joe opened his eyes. He blinked a few times, though that did nothing to clear the glazed look from his eyes or to make him appear any more alert. Slowly, he undid the sheet that had become tangled around his body, and managed to get his feet on the floor. He shuffled like a zombie or a sleep-walker towards the bathroom, paying no attention to Danielle and Sophia, who were seated only feet away.
The bathroom door opened and shut without Joe saying a word. Danielle and her grandmother exchanged glances.
A few minutes later, Joe shuffled back out in the same oblivious state. He again failed to acknowledge the women, and crossed the room silently. He crawled back into bed and was dead to the world seconds later.
It would be another four hours before Joe finally came around entirely. This time, when he opened his eyes, he instantly took note of Danielle and Sophia. They were eating sandwiches a nurse had delivered out of pity. Joe's stomach growled. He hadn't eaten in 24 hours, possibly the longest he'd ever gone without food.
"What kind of sandwiches are those? Never mind, I don't care. Can I have some?"
Joe had already eaten through half a bologna and cheese sandwich by the time a doctor came in to ask how he was feeling now that he'd finally woken up. Through a mouthful of food, Joe said that he was fine, he was hungry as hell, and he wanted out of the hospital because he needed a beer and such things were not allowed on the premises.
"I don't know if beer is the best thing for you to have right now," the doctor said.
"When you've gone through what I've gone through, then you can tell me not to drink. But no man in the history of the world has ever needed or deserved a beer like I do right now. So, chop-chop on the release papers, doc. I want to go home," Joe said.
"I would much rather keep you the rest of the night."
"No way, no how. I'm going to go home, get buzzed, and then do something I haven't done in months. Call my wife. My ex-wife, whatever. I'm going to call her. Discharge me ASAP, okay?"
"Are you officially ignoring my desire to keep you overnight?" the doctor asked.
"Yeah, pretty much."
"Fine. I'll get a waiver you can sign, and I'll release you AMA: against medical advice."
Once the proper paperwork was signed and the hospital's ass was sufficiently covered, Joe was allowed to leave. His own clothes, due to "contamination with bodily fluids" had been incinerated; all that was saved was his shoes and socks. Faced with either streaking or keeping his hated hospital gown, Joe grudgingly put on his salvaged footwear and kept the gown. Sophia patted him on the back and promised to loan him an old blanket she kept in her car trunk.
"No, really, I don't need your blanket. Offering to take me home is enough. Do you want a beer when we get there?" Joe asked.
"I think five cups of coffee is all the damage I should do to my old body in one day," Sophia said.
"Alright. I'd give you gas money but…"
"Don't worry about it. You saved my granddaughter's life. The least I can do is take you home."
The three of them took the elevator downstairs, Danielle and Sophia standing in front of Joe to keep prying eyes from seeing him in his gown. Luckily, they only shared the elevator with a nurse who didn't seem to care. Once they were on the bottom floor, Joe hustled best he could, lest some poor injured soul see him in the knee-length "dress" and suffer a negative reaction.
Sophia's car was parked towards the front of the lot, so the happy trio didn't have to cover much pavement. Joe took the back seat, Danielle rode shotgun, and Sophia claimed her spot as the driver. Danielle buckled her seatbelt as soon as her butt touched the seat. Before Joe could even reach for his, the car shot off like a torpedo.
"Tell me your address and I'll have you there in no time," Sophia said.
Joe, terrified that he'd found the one person who drove faster and exhibited more balls than he did, choked out his address while he desperately buckled his belt. Sophia burned rubber and Joe prayed to any saint or god he'd ever heard of. Danielle was only mildly harried; she remembered that he grandmother fancied herself the female version of Evel Knievel.
In astounding time, Joe found himself outside his apartment. Sophia gave him her phone number, and forced him to promise he'd call if he needed anything ever. Danielle added the number for her apartment in Seattle, since her cell phone was MIA and she never expected to see it again. Joe gave them both his number and after waving and crying, Sophia drove off.
With the key to his apartment back in his taxi, Joe retrieved the spare from the small box he kept buried under the half-dead shrub in front of the building. He hurried inside with it before his neighbors could catch him in the dreaded gown.
Safely inside his little apartment, Joe went directly to the fridge. He grabbed two beers, reconsidered, and put one back. He wanted to have a cathartic chat with his ex-wife, not sob drunkenly at her about being abducted by a maniac and experimented on. He doubted if she would appreciate that after six months of total silence.
Joe popped the tab and took a long swallow. He sighed and refused to put it off any longer. He picked up the telephone, wandered into the living room with it, and dug the number out of his memory.
The phone rang twice and then a woman's voice said, "Hello?"
"Yes. Is that…is that you, Joe?"
"You're on the news, you know. CNN. I couldn't believe it, but there can't be that many Joe Savoca's that drive taxis. They said you and a woman had been kidnapped by one of those costume criminals and that you were in the hospital. But this is your home number on my caller ID."
"I hate hospitals, so I left. I'm all stitched up and-" Joe dissolved into the sobbing mess he'd tried to avoid. His wife followed suit.
For the rest of the night, both of them cried, reminisced, exorcised old regrets and grievances, and made up for lost time.
As Joe and Wendy came to ultimate peace with each other, Danielle ate birthday cake. Sophia's neighbors had chipped in and bought her a small cake, as well as a few cheap presents. Garbanzo, Sophia's overweight tabby, mewled and did a figure-eight around Danielle's legs.
Spitting in the face of such soul-enriching activities as reconciliation via telephone and eating cake, Scarecrow donned his mask and gathered enough fear toxin to destroy the minds of a dozen men. The night was dark, nearly moonless, and it would provide plenty of cover. He would work through the pain and shame of his failures by basking in the wretched screams of his new successes.
By the time dawn came creeping, would Scarecrow be completely rid of his hate over Joe and Danielle's audacity to escape him? Probably not. Would he crawl in the window come morning utterly exhausted and completely satisfied? Maybe. Would the entire city know the Master of Fear had been a very busy boy, sowing his chemical terror and reminding everyone of his power? That was plausible.
And here's bonus material!
Detective Bullock never did get his dollar back.
Stephens recovered completely, and he and Benson spent an entire Saturday watching old cartoons. He enjoyed it immensely, though he pretended not to.
Zsasz was shipped back to Arkham, where he discovered nobody gave a crap about his scars, as the Joker's were much more interesting. He was not pleased.
Thomas Schiff continued to work for the Scarecrow, and spent a good deal of his time terrified Scarecrow would, out of boredom, experiment on him for fun.
Joe's taxi was given a new pair of tires, and Joe loved it more than ever.
Danielle's suitcase was returned to her, and Scarecrow did not steal any of her bras.
THE END (seriously)
Thank you, everyone, for your continued support and reviews. Without your comments, there's no way in hell I could have written this 100,000 word behemoth. What a long strange trip it's been, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for taking the journey with me.
I have no specific random question, but anything you'd like to ask or talk about, feel free to write it in the review. If you're signed in, I'll be sure to PM you.
I love you all, and I expect to have something (hopefully a new chapter for Revenge of the Nerds) posted in the near future. Until then, Night Monkey signing off.