There was no party like a Gotham party, particularly when billionaires were involved. Charles Griffith's expansive mansion buzzed with the susurrus of the wealthy wandering about, eating, drinking, dancing, and pointedly not mentioning how they'd received their invitations. Everything in the room gleamed with the soft glisten that only shows up on things worth more than an average person's yearly salary. Tuxedoed waiters with heavily laden trays drifted through the crowd.
A slightly pudgy hand snatched a glass of champagne as it sailed by. "What I don't understand," Dr. Carlson said, squinting at the crowd, "is why so many people showed up! Our last fundraiser was a complete disaster."
Bruce Wayne shrugged his expensively dressed shoulders and took a bite of a caviar niblet. "I understand that Mr. Griffith's party planner is very...persuasive," he said, tipping the rest of the treat into his mouth.
"But this?" Carlson stared in jealous awe at the swarm of socialites occupying the intricately laid parquet floor in front of him. "I'd like to meet this party planner sometime."
A faint smile slipped across Bruce's face. "I believe you already have. Oh, Natalie! I'd like you to meet Dr. Carlson, director of Arkham Asylum."
"Former director," Carlson emphasized, shaking the hand of the willowy blonde being shoved at him.
"Natalie is Mr. Griffith's daughter. She's doing her thesis paper on schizo-something or other - "
"Schizophrenogenesis," Natalie corrected.
"Right. That," Bruce agreed. "Maybe you could share some insights with her?"
"Oh, no, I don't want to bother him! It's really not that important," she protested, blushing slightly as Dr. Carlson smiled at her.
"For the daughter of the man who is trying to save Arkham Asylum, I would move mountains," he said gallantly. "And talking about schizophrenogenesis is hardly an inconvenience."
"Really?" She perked up, absently setting her champagne glass down on a handcrafted set of Promemoria nesting tables.
"Really. Are you concentrating on the dopamine theory?"
While Batman was interested in mental illness, or at least the bits of it that made his nights so interesting, Bruce Wayne was more interested in pretty girls. He excused himself from the conversation and mingled his way toward a cluster of beautiful-looking potential alibis.
An elbow bumped into his. "I'm sorry," both men said, turning to face one another. "Bruce Wayne!" Jim Gordon exclaimed.
"Commissioner," Bruce smiled back. "And Barbara," he said, smiling at the redhead as she wrestled the enormously fluffy skirt of her yellow dress in between party guests. "I thought you'd be attending with a different date. Everything all right with you and Dick?" he added as he registered a pinched, tight look lurking behind her party-manners expression.
"Oh, that boy!" she snapped.
"What's he done now?" Bruce said, one eyebrow raised.
"It's...can we talk privately?" she said, looking around.
"We'll be back in a minute, Daddy," Barbara said, grabbing Bruce by the arm and towing him into a hallway just off of the ballroom. The party-manners smile immediately disappeared from her face as she yanked off her satin gloves.
"Rogues in a van out front," Barbara said tersely. "They haven't made a move yet."
Bruce shrugged out of his jacket and popped off his tie. "How many?" he asked, rapidly unbuttoning his shirt to reveal his chest armor.
"At least seven," she answered, wriggling out of her fluffy dress. "Nightwing's on the roof, watching them. The GCPD are on the way, but they won't be here for another ten minutes." She pawed at the layers of her skirt, revealing a kind of saddlebag stuffed with her Batsuit. A further two yielded her cowl as well as his. "There's got to be a better way to hide these," she said, yanking her hair through the carefully cut hole in the back of her cowl before settling it down on the bridge of her nose.
There was a better way. Unfortunately, that better way was holed up in Griffith's immense kitchen, teaching a handful of caterers how to make a perfect batch of lemon madeleines as per the plaintive request of Charles himself. Such were the perils of being the Batman's batman.
The discarded tuxedo sailed into an enormous bronze urn, followed shortly by the almost spherical pouf of Barbara's dress. "Let's go," Batman ordered, heading toward the ballroom. Batgirl skittered after him, yanking one glove on with her teeth as she clipped her belt into place with her other hand.
Dr. Carlson had rather enjoyed his evening. It wasn't often that a pretty young thing cornered him to talk his ear off about psychiatry. "Did he really faint when they pulled the gauze out of her nose?" she asked eagerly.
"Well, of course in his letter he denies it," Carlson said, chuckling, "but-"
A gunshot cracked into the air. Natalie squeaked and darted behind Carlson as he rose on tiptoe to see what was going on.
The Scarecrow, gun held in one upraised hand, observed the crowd through the ragged holes in his burlap mask. He stepped forward, beckoning behind him with the gun. A loose cluster of other rogues filed into the room, taking their positions to his left and right. The Joker, with Harley Quinn at his side, tossed a mock salute at a red-faced four-star general. Poison Ivy eeled into place beside them, blowing a kiss to one of the caterers. Two-Face, the Riddler, and the Mad Hatter jostled into position on the other side, subtly shouldering one another out of the way before coming to a halt just behind the Scarecrow's left shoulder.
"Knock it off!" the Scarecrow hissed as the Joker mouthed something to someone in the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen," the Scarecrow said, "I hope you're enjoying yourselves. Quite a supercilious gathering, wouldn't you say, Edward?"
"Indeed. Most mellifluous," the Riddler agreed gravely.
The Scarecrow picked up a gleaming engraved invitation from a small table by the door, read it briefly, and flicked it toward the buffet table. "It's such a shame we weren't invited - although, to be honest, I'm not certain that I would wish to attend a gathering of such uninspired conspirators. Rebuild Arkham Asylum? Bah! What nonsense! Well, we won't stand for it. You fools wouldn't..." The Scarecrow paused, seemingly thrown off balance by the sudden appearance of Dr. Carlson at the front of the crowd. He shook it off and continued his tirade. "You wouldn't know a good idea if it hit you on the beck! Uh, bit you on the neck. I mean - "
"Timothy?" Carlson asked gently.
The Scarecrow shook his head. "Timothy?" he squeaked. Then, in a deeper voice, he stammered "T-timothy? No. No, I'm Jonathan Crane, the Scarecrow!" He stuffed the gun into his waistband and fumbled a canister out of his pocket. "Stay back or I'll - "
"Timothy, can you please take the mask off?" Carlson asked, still maintaining that gentle, patient tone in his voice.
"But I'm...oh, fine." The man ripped his mask off and tossed it on the ground. The face that was revealed was, indeed, not that of Jonathan Crane. "How'd you know it was me?" he snapped, wiping the sweat off of his forehead with the back of his arm.
Carlson considered him for a moment. For one thing, the real Scarecrow didn't have a beer belly poking out over his rope belt. For another, he knew the real meaning of the word 'supercilious', much as the real Riddler knew the proper usage of 'mellifluous'. But most of all, Carlson couldn't fathom a scenario in which Crane could order the Joker around and then turn his back on him without immediately being shot in the back of the head.
"The real Jonathan Crane is taller than you," he said.
"Yeah, Jane said I should wear heels to make me taller, but I tried walking in them and psssshhh!" he said, miming falling flat on his back. "I don't know how you girls do it," he added to an appalled society matron standing nearby.
"Jane?" Carlson asked suspiciously. "Have you been associating with Jane Doe again?"
"Associating? Well, we're dating, does that count?" Timothy asked, retrieving his mask from the ground.
Carlson shook his head. "Timothy," he said, disappointment in every word, "I thought we agreed that you'd stop seeing Jane as soon as possible. Remember, you said that you were going to break up with her?"
"Yeah. I tried that. She didn't like it." His eyes darted right for a moment. "Besides, she really likes me. She helped me with my Scarecrow voice and everything. I think we've got a real connection starting up, you know?"
"The voice was good," Carlson agreed amiably. "But Timothy - "
"Stop calling me that!" Timothy snapped, throwing the prop fear gas canister to the ground. "I'm not Timothy! I'm the Pirahna!" He gnashed his teeth dramatically at the crowd.
"I thought you were calling yourself the Remora," Carlson said.
"Yeah, well, the whole suction thing wasn't really working for me. But check these out!" The Pirahna dug in the pocket of his Scarecrow pants and pulled out a set of extremely dangerous-looking pointy false teeth. He crammed them in his mouth and growled ferociously at the crowd. "Cool, right?" he said somewhat indistinctly. "Wanna see how sharp they are?" He lunged at a socialite in a silver gown.
The air went white. Shrieks echoed through the room, accompanied by the flat, meaty sounds of a pummeling in progress. When Carlson's vision returned, he saw all seven of the fake rogues in a heap behind a pair of expired flash bombs on the ground. Batman and Batgirl moved among them, gathering weapons and checking identities as Nightwing double-checked their restraints. Most of them, unused to the gentle methods of the Bat-crew, were out cold.
"Timothy Owens. Chuck Hunter - looks like he's lost some weight since we last saw him," Batgirl commented, nudging the Riddler mask off of Chuck's face with the toe of her boot. He winked flirtatiously at her and was rewarded with a slightly harder nudge to the cheekbone.
Batman undid the false Hatter's ascot and used it to wipe the makeup from the girls' faces. The green disappeared to reveal one of Two-Face's ex-henchgirls. The harlequin mask and white makeup came away to reveal -
"That's Harley!" Batgirl gasped, staring at the undeniably recognizable face of Harleen Quinzel. Nightwing immediately kicked the Joker onto his back. His green wig fell to the floor in a shower of badly-attached bobby pins, revealing his highly tanned and slightly receding actual hairline. The thick white makeup smeared on his chin was smudged in the shape of a fist.
Batman inspected the henchgirl a little closer. He ran a finger under the edge of her cowl, grimaced, and peeled off her face.
"Jane Doe," Batgirl said, relieved. "Wonder if Harley knows she has an understudy."
A dozen members of the GCPD swarmed through the door, surrounding the heap of costumed nobodies occupying the floor. "Come on," one sighed, heaving the Pirahna up by his tethered arms.
"I bit my tongue," Timothy muttered.
"So where are we going? Blackgate?" Timothy said with interest.
The cop scowled at him. "Prisons aren't for crazies. You're going back where you were before, ya fruitcake."
"Well, you can't mean Arkham," Timothy said, thoughtfully wriggling a bruised shoulder, "so...aw, no, not Gotham General's psych ward again. I was just there this morning! You should see what they call breakfast," he whined to another cop. "The toast is all burned and soggy, and the juice is gross!"
"Can't you just take him to another city?" one of the partygoers asked over Timothy's complaints.
"I'd love to, ma'am, but he's got to stand trial - "
"And I have to stay local until then," Timothy butted in, "and since there's still a bunch of trials or hearings or whatever left for me to show up at, looks like you're not getting rid of me that easily!" He grinned cheekily at the party as the cop dragged him backward out the door. "See ya real soon!"
"Is that true?" an aging gentleman demanded of Commissioner Gordon.
Gordon cleared his throat. "Well, yes. City statutes say that the mentally ill have to go to a mental facility, not a prison."
"And until then, they're putting the rogues in the hospital?" The partygoers exchanged worried glances. If Timothy Nobody could get out of the hospital that easily, how easy would it be for the Joker? How many more of their parties would be crashed, robbed and ruined by the rogues without a secure place to hold them?
Charles Griffith climbed up onto a chair. "We're here to rebuild Arkham," he said gruffly. "Anyone care to increase their donations?"
There was a genteel, subtle, and mildly panicked rush for the fancy gold-trimmed chest that held their pledges. First in line was a mildly sweaty Bruce Wayne, checkbook held in one slightly bruised hand.
And so money flowed in an emerald stream toward the contractors of Gotham City. The building itself was still fairly sturdy, but a small army of architects and construction workers made it rock-solid. Dripping pipes were replaced, faulty electric systems were rewired, and every lock in the place was replaced with a top-of-the-line model that would possibly take the Riddler five entire minutes to pick (a significant improvement on the old thirty-second models).
And, slowly but surely, residents started to trickle back. As the Happy Cow became the Mad Cow, as Mighty Maids turned into a mighty mess, and as the telemarketers learned a valuable lesson about forgetting to give the Master of Fear and the Prince of Puzzles their monthly bonus, the halls of Arkham began to echo with their old familiar lunacy. It was almost as if the place had never been closed.
Dr. Carlson surveyed the mountain of paperwork on his desk. New doctors on staff, new guards to outfit, new security measures to implement...ah well. He took a sip of coffee, signed a form authorizing a weekly ice-cream night in the cafeteria, and tossed it in his outbox.
"Dr. Carlson!" An intern raced in, clutching a clipboard to his chest as if it was a shield. "Dr. Carlson, there's a gigantic azalea bush trying to hammer its way into the west wing!"
Carlson gulped down the last of his coffee. At last, the world was back to normal.
Author's Note: The gauze-in-the-nose story refers to Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Fliess, and their unfortunate little whoopsie of leaving half a yard of gauze in someone after her operation. Thanks for reading!