Author's Comment: I understand that this story may not be entirely consistent with Nolan's Batman. Mostly this will be a result of my growing up with Batman the Animated Series.
Also, if you want a specific visual on Harley, if I could have chosen any actress to play her, it would have been Brittney Murphy. May she rest in peace.
"You must be Ms. Sullivan."
"Please, call me Chloe."
"Chloe," the woman corrected, accepting Chloe's offered hand. She had long, thick blonde hair and large, innocent blue eyes, but the thing Chloe noticed most about the woman in front of her was her vivacious, enchanting smile. Wide and full of laughter, she was easy to befriend. "I'm Dr. Quinzel."
She smiled cheerfully at Chloe.
"I understand you're writing a book, then, Chloe?"
Chloe nodded. She had expected to be more than a little uncomfortable on this errand, having not a small phobia where psych wards were concerned. Quinzel, however, was so at ease in her surroundings that it was hard not to take comfort from it. "Yes. I'm researching the criminal mind and not only it's effect on society but society's effect on it. Arkham is one of the world's most infamous assylums, and I felt that this was the best place to begin some of my heavier research."
Quinzel leaned forward across her desk. "A fascinating subject, of course. You'll find it interesting, I think, that most of the patients here are merely victims of circumstance, not true criminals."
"But that certainly can't be true of all of them. This is a high security asylum for a reason." Chloe could have swallowed her entire foot. The dark look that flashed across Quinzel's face told her that she was now treading on extremely thin ice, but suddenly the doctor's face brightened again.
"Well, you'd be surprised. I assume you'd like to interview the patients? I've no doubt that some of them may well change your mind about that once you start getting to know them. I think you'll find some of them can be quite enchanting. They can bring out a side of you you never knew you had."
Chloe smiled back. She doubted it, but she kept that to herself. "I'm sure you're right."
"Well, I have work to attend, but I'm sure you can find your way around? There are guards posted at every doorway in case you get lost."
Chloe's brow furrowed ever so slightly. The way the woman said it...it was as though she thought the guard's only purpose was to provide maps...and that was pushing it.
But Chloe also took it as a cue to leave the woman to her work. She exited the office silently, and once outside, she took a calming breath. She hated this place, hated being there. Everything about it terrified her, and she couldn't wait until she was finished and she could watch it vanish into the distance behind her.
As it was, she could hear wild laughter echoing from down one of the hallways. She chose to avoid that wing for the moment.
Chloe had one purpose and one purpose only for being there. She was on a recruiting mission, one to find Batman, and the giant rodent was impossibly difficult to get a hold of. She had six months, six measly months in Gotham before she had to return to Metropolis. It was all the time she was willing to allot herself to find the bat. Victor could keep a handle on Watchtower while she was away, but she didn't like being so far from the home base for so long.
In her attempt to learn more about Batman, she had just about hit a dead end. Nearly anyone who might be at all an authority on him was unwilling to talk about him. Save for Commissioner Gordon, the majority of the police force was utterly useless, and Gordon's lips were sealed tightly. She didn't blame him for trying to protect the guy, but on the other hand, it was immensely frustrating. It meant she had to resort to posing as a writer in order to interview criminals who had been locked up by Batman. If she could at least talk to them...maybe she could get some insight on what about the Bat was fictional and what facts she could use to start closing in on his identity.
"Nervous?" asked a voice that made Chloe start in surprise. The man chuckled darkly. "Isn't it interesting how the slightest little sound, even a perfectly friendly voice, can make you scream when you're already afraid of something else?"
During this speech Chloe had turned to see a man, one of the prisoners, behind a glass wall. He was smirking at her knowingly.
Chloe collected herself. "And you are?" she asked.
"Doctor Jonathan Crane." He was leaning up against the glass and leering at her. Chloe had to force herself not to take a step back. Tall and lanky, he had scraggly red hair and his long face was sunken in, his cheeks sallow and his smile dark.
"Doctor? Really? Where did you get your PhD, Doctor Crane?"
His face darkened. "From the same worthless university that fired me."
"Ah. I see. I'm sorry."
The leer returned to his face. "Don't be. Why don't you tell me what it is you're afraid of, Miss..."
"Call me Chloe," she smiled, trying to appear less anxious than she felt. "And I'm not afraid of anything."
The leer became enhanced. "Ah, ah, ah, Chloe. Everyone's afraid of something. In your case, I'd guess agateophobia."
"Which would be?" she asked, a grim smile in place. She knew what it meant.
"You're the one writing the book, Chloe. You tell me."
Chloe's mouth twitched. "How did you know I'm writing a book?"
"Miss Sullivan, I have nothing to do all day but listen to what goes on in that office. The acoustics around here are simply marvelous. It's a perfect nightmare for an onomatophobiac."
"Fear of hearing certain words or names," Chloe supplied.
Crane looked at her approvingly, and Chloe wasn't sure she liked it. "I see you have done your homework, Chloe."
Chloe nodded, smirking. "Always. So tell me about yourself, Dr. Crane."
"Oh, please, dear, call me Scarecrow."
Chloe swallowed. "Why don't I call you John? The name suits you better."
For the first time, something akin to friendliness appeared on the man's face. Chloe wasn't certain she liked that either, but it did make him slightly less intimidating.
"Fair enough," he said. "What's to tell? I sit in a glass cell all day. I'd rather hear about you."
Chloe hesitated, but she knew there was no point in trying to force him to talk the first day. She expected to be here every day for weeks. She wondered if she should talk to a different prisoner everyday or several each day.
What on earth made me think this was a good plan?
"I lived in Smallville most of my life before moving to Metropolis," she began, walking over to grab a chair that was at the end of the hall. She brought it back to the front of Crane's cell, ignoring the eerie faces watching her as she passed. "Which is where I was born and have lived for the past several years. What else would you like to know?"
He smiled evilly. "What's your darkest fear?"
But Chloe shook her head. "What's yours?" she challenged, and noted his pallor with triumph.
"Fine. What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you?"
Chloe opened her mouth to respond and then closed it. "You know, that's actually really difficult to say. I've had a lot of scary things happen to me, most of them you wouldn't believe."
"I'd rather not. Will you settle for the most credible 'scariest' thing that's ever happened to me?"
He nodded, shrugging one of his shoulders slightly, clearly disappointed.
Chloe thought, partly sorting through memories she didn't usually care to relive, and partly deciding how much of the truth to give him.
"I was once buried alive," she said, her expression mute.
If possible, he pressed closer to the glass, a manic glint of excitement in his eyes. "By whom?" he asked, fascinated.
"A...cop who was trying to make a name for himself. He kidnapped me so he could be the one to rescue me." She had nearly made what she was sure would have been the mistake of saying 'a psycho, homicidal cop.' She needed to be careful about what she said around there.
She could almost read in his eyes that he could see her real thoughts on the subject though. He didn't seem to mind, just took some sort of grim satisfaction in it. "Sounds like a man at the end of his rope. How did you escape?"
"I almost didn't. My friend was able to find me at the last second. It was nearly too late when he got there, though."
"Sounds like a real hero," he said, an ever-so-slight snideness in his tone. "But then, I suppose it's fortunate, or else I wouldn't be having my first visitor since confinement." Once again that strange flash of twisted kindness entered the man's face. Chloe thought about vomiting.
And yet, a small twinge of pity entered her. He had never had visitors. He was probably a sociopath, someone who had never made friends, perhaps had no family, or no family that cared anyway. "The pleasure is all mine, John," she said, trying to be kind. She had to be kind to these people. Caring wasn't difficult, not for her, she cared too easily, it was warming up to them that was the difficult part. She had done some research on these people, but had decided, all in all, that she wanted to find out their stories first hand before she read up too much. Otherwise she would come in with premature opinions.
"So you're from Metropolis? Is it your book that brings you to Gotham?"
"Why not stay closer to home? Belle Reeve is certainly a much happier, prettier asylum compared to Arkham. Or," he leaned forward again, "is that not the right breed of lunatic for you?"
"I plan to do some research at Belle Reeve as well, but I came out to Gotham first because I plan to move out here, and I can combine my time interviewing here with my time apartment-hunting," Chloe lied easily.
"Moving from Metropolis to Gotham? And all alone? Perhaps you are braver than I thought."
Author's Comment: Thanks for reading! Please do me the favor of visiting my homepage to take a look at what I'm working on and to give me feedback of what you'd like to see.