AN: Rewritten! Because any character of mine is never given a name just because, I will tell you that the name Joanne is stolen from a character in Rent. No relation to the character, I'm just uncreative with names, and I was in a production of RENT at the time when I first wrote this chapter (Seven years ago! Yikes).
Mr. Skaff could just make out the indisputable sound of a fast-paced stride approaching his office. A moment later, his door swung open.
"Someone needs to restrain that man. I think it's safe to say he doesn't like me very much."
"He's a top-security sociopath, Joanne, of course he doesn't like you,"the superintendent answered dryly, taking the folder she gave him, shoving it in his desk and pulling out another one, "I've got a new case for you that I need you to start right away."
"Because I don't have enough already,"she said, rolling her eyes, "How bad is it?"
"Nothing we haven't seen before. Homicidal; killed two kids in one night, one death still under investigation. It's the patient that we don't know much about."
"What's his history?"
"Doesn't have one."
"….No history of violent behavior before admission, or…?"
"No, I mean no history at all,"he said with a frown, "No medical records, no birth certificate - we can't even find a social security number. All we have is a name, and I don't even know if that's real."
"Okay, well where is he from? Was he admitted by family, or...?"
"We don't know that either. We got a call from an unidentified resident of a small hick town barely on the map saying something or another was causing mayhem and that he would pay for admission if we took him off their hands, and then again from the sheriff of that same town an hour later. Nobody knows what happened, just that he caused a lot of trouble and people didn't like it."
"Is he restrained?"Joanne asked, looking uneasy, "How do I even work with him if I don't know what I'm up against?"
"He is for now. Can't say if he needs it, though. He tried to bite himself, but who's to say he might not try to bite others. You'll have to let me know what level of security you think he needs. So far he's just been sitting there. Doesn't talk or do anything. He doesn't even sleep, unless we knock him out ourselves. "
"That's encouraging,"she muttered sarcastically. That's just what she needed - a sleep-deprived serial-killer.
"You'll be fine. He's just a kid."
"A kid?"she asked, raising an eyebrow, "Why is he even here if he's underage? Can't Juvenile take him?"
"He's a special kind of kid. Half-bat." She hesitated, waiting for the punchline.
"I don't get it,"she finally said.
"There's nothing to get. I just told you. The sheriff that brought him here said he's half-animal. Half-bat, half-human. Literally bat-crazy." He smiled at his own joke.
"Of course he is,"she said, rolling her eyes, "Is he part bird, too? Should I be worried that he's going to sprout wings and fly out of the window?"
"You laugh, but just wait. You'll see." She regarded him a little more seriously, beginning to wonder.
"You can't be serious,"she finally said when he remained resolutely silent.
"Shouldn't he be taken to a vet?"
"The vet who admitted him didn't seem to think so,"he said, catching her surprised look, "Besides, he looks human enough to me."
"Okay, well, what did you put him on? Is he even coherent right now?"
"He's not on anything. Knocked him out with general anesthesia on the way in. Took an initial blood test while he was out, but it came out completely clean. The lab technician said he's never seen a healthier sample. Advised us not to give him anything until you had a look at him, said nothing we have is animal tested, that the wrong dose might kill him."
"You want me to go in and talk to a fully conscious, homicidal animal?"
"Half-animal,"he corrected, "Or so I'm told. I'll have security on stand by for you just in case."
"Jesus, can he even talk?"she asked, looking flabbergasted. This was, by far, the strangest thing she had ever heard. And that was saying something considering she worked in a hospital for the criminally insane. She was used to frightening cases: murderers, rapists, dangerously insane men and women who had done things so disturbing, even their family couldn't know. But they were at least human. This...this was something she wasn't remotely prepared for.
"Jesus, Joanne, just go see for yourself." He handed her the folder, which was, as predicted, completely empty except for Skaff's unmistakable scrawl on the side tab. Edgar Parker. She took it tentatively, apprehensively wondering what it was she was getting herself into.
Edgar wasn't sure how long he had been lying there, but he knew it must have been a long time when he finally heard the knock on the door jog him to full attention. Groggily he sat up a little, his head spinning wildly, his arms barely able to sustain him, he was so exhausted and weak. He had been so adamant to not sleep, to not subject himself to the nightmares he knew would follow, the drowsiness had made him temporarily forget what was coming.
The door creaked opened and a woman slowly stepped in.
Instantly, Edgar's senses were alert, and all thoughts of sleep and hunger were banished from his mind. It wasn't until that moment that it really hit him how terrifying the thought of facing another human right now was. There was nothing to guarantee that this introduction would turn out any better than his last. Immediately he tensed, wishing he could sink right into the wall and turn invisible. There wasn't much he could do with his arms pinned down like this, though, so he conceded by bringing his knees up to his chest.
"Edgar Parker?"the woman asked, spotting him hiding in the shadows. The sound of his real name sounded strange to him, like a foreign word. It didn't belong to him.
He held his breath, his heart thudding heavily in his chest. She stepped back when the light from the hallway hit his face, illuminating his bat-like features. The light blinded him for a temporary moment, making it impossible for him to see her face, or her reaction. The light couldn't hide the small gasp that escaped her throat, though.
She shut the door without waiting for a response, her face quickly masked and composed before he could get a chance to see the look of incredulous surprise that had spread on her face. She did not approach him or make a move to get comfortable, instead opting to stand close to the door in case she needed to make an escape, a safe distance from his side of the room.
"Do you... understand any English?"she asked slowly.
He didn't respond, his throat suddenly too tight to speak. Instead he brought his knees closer and willed himself to disappear. She was a middle-aged woman with short brown hair and glasses, staring at him with an artificial stiffness that told him she was mustering every ounce of self-restraint to not run, or at the very least, stare. Immediately he wished she would go away so he could curl back into a ball on the floor. He didn't want to do this. He couldn't do this.
With all the bravery he could muster, he slowly nodded. Joanne looked helplessly toward the door, then back at him. The gesture was not lost on him. He could hear the hesitancy in her voice when she spoke.
"...Alright. Well...Mr. Parker, my name is Doctor Nelson. I'm a psychiatrist who specializes in rehabilitative therapy. I'll be checking on you intermittently throughout the week from now on to talk with you, access treatment possibilities and an appropriate level of security. During that time you may talk to me about whatever you want. Whatever you say in here will be kept confidential to everyone except myself and my supervisor," she said, every syllable drawn out slow in a silent prayer that he could understand anything she was saying, "You're not required to talk at all, but just know that I can't help you if I can't communicate with you. Do you understand?" Joanne herself felt like hiding, but she didn't have that luxury. He looked human enough at first glance. At least, he didn't have any wings or horns, and he didn't walk on all fours as far as she could tell. But now that she had a closer look at him, the reality of his strange predicament was clear. The pointed ears, pale, hairless skin, the large eyes, even his mannerisms as he sat suspended, only his feet touching the floor - all pointed to something undeniably animal-like. Even still, he was clearly nervous, and human or not, he couldn't do anything to her as long as he remained in the straight-jacket. She was safe as long as she stayed near the door.
"Do you...understand?"she repeated after a moment of silence on Edgar's end. A beat, and then Edgar quietly nodded.
"Okay..."she said shakily, slowly producing the file she had brought and opening it, "Why don't we get started." He didn't answer. He didn't know what a therapist or psychiatrist was, and even if he did, he didn't think he would trust one anyway. He felt self-conscious as he surrendered himself to her intensive scrutiny. He wished there was some way to hide his ears. He hated how she stared at them. She couldn't even look straight at him; her eyes kept swerving over to the side of his head. He was scared to talk; if he opened his mouth she would see his fangs, too.
"Do you want to tell me why you're here?"
Slowly he shook his head.
"How are you feeling right now?"she asked instead. He hesitated, unsure if he knew for himself, and even less sure that he was ready to speak at all.
"...Scared,"he finally said, his voice coming out no louder than a whisper. Her surprise at hearing him speak didn't go unnoticed.
"...Scared of me or scared or your situation?"she asked after a moment recovering from the shock. He still wouldn't look at her.
"Both,"he replied quietly. Talking wasn't too bad, he realized with relief. As long as he kept his head down and his mouth covered. And she didn't look so surprised.
"You don't need to be scared,"she assured him, "I'm just here to talk to you." He nodded stiffly, trying to believe her, but finding it hard to do so when he could practically feel her own fear radiating from across the room. Even her speech was painfully slow, like she assumed he was stupid and needed help understanding. He put his head on his knees without responding, feeling sick, weak, hungry, unbearably tired, and completely alienated.
"How about we get the boring stuff out of the way first?"she offered, producing a pen from her coat pocket, "I noticed that you don't have any records on file." Edgar frowned with a quick glance at her, confused. What was she talking about?
"No address, no phone number, no birth records, no medical history, not even a social security number…,"she said, staring wonderingly at the empty lines inside, "Can you tell me what that's about?" He continued to look completely lost.
"Had you ever been given an official diagnosis before being admitted here?" Edgar stared blankly at her, only his eyes visible from behind his bent knees. What?
"Do you know your medical history?" Another beat of silence.
"Where is your home?" She waited a moment, then he slowly shook his head. It wasn't like he had one anymore anyway.
"Is there anybody I can call for you? Do you know their phone number?" Again, Edgar looked helpless. He had seen Meredith and Shelley using phones before, and he understood what she was referring to, but he didn't have a clue how a phone worked or what a phone number even was.
Joanne patiently waited for an answer, any answer, but his silence wasn't helping her nerves, either. The more guarded he was, the more Joanne had to wonder how she was going to survive this next hour. How did she even know he could understand her? For all she knew, he was only silent now because he was planning when he could pounce on her.
Deciding to change tactics when he remained silent for a full minute, she asked instead, "Let's just get to know each other a little first. May I ask if you have friends or family, Mr. Parker?" He didn't like being asked questions. Questions required answers. Grudgingly he shook his head.
"Oh come now, everybody has somebody. For a long time, Edgar didn't say anything.
"It depends on what you consider "family..."he finally answered, his voice no louder than a whisper. The incredulous look on her face and the raised eyebrow didn't go unnoticed. So he was capable of more than one-word answers, she thought wonderingly.
"If I may ask, are you from England?" The ridiculousness of the question baffled him for a moment. Slowly he shook his head.
"Your accent,"she explained, "Is very distinctly British." He shifted, looking uncomfortable, wondering how to explain himself.
"I practiced English with BBC language tapes,"he explained quietly. Just hearing him talk was baffling.
"Oh? What was your first language?"
"….Bat." There was a beat of silence.
"I'm sorry?"she asked, tilting her head, "Did you say…?"
"Bat,"he echoed quietly, "I grew up in a cave."
"You...you were raised by bats?"she repeated, a little disbelievingly. He hesitated, wondering if her incredulous tone hinted more at surprise or accusation.
"For how long?"she asked, genuinely curious now. Edgar shifted uncomfortably. He had talked past his comfort level as it was, shrugging his shoulders in lieu of a verbal response.
"Aaahhhh. Well, okay then,"she said, laughing uneasily as she made some notes in the folder, "That would explain the lack of records. You wouldn't have been civilized, so you wouldn't have access to that kind of information." Edgar's eyes narrowed, unable to help feeling defensive. A flash of anger surged and it was all he could do to hold his breath and not say anything to keep himself calm. He couldn't lose it. Not here. But he would be lying if he said he wasn't at least a little hurt that the human world would so ignorantly call him uncivilized when the animal world he had lived in would think the human world insane for half the things they did. The silly rituals of getting dressed, eating in unnatural, man-made containers, acting certain ways to certain people - that was insane. And the fact that she was so surprised by the fact that he was indeed "civilized" made him feel all the more bitter about it.
Joanne saw the look on his face and knew she had somehow offended him, though she didn't know how.
"Uh...So...How long did it take you to learn English?"she asked quickly to circumvent the ice that had just formed between them. Edgar pursed his lips, looking away before wordlessly holding up nine fingers for her to see.
"Nine years?" He shook his head. It took a long moment for Joanne to figure out what he meant. Even when she had connected the dots, she almost couldn't bring herself to say it out loud.
"...You learned English... in nine months?"she finally asked in awe and incredulous disbelief. He nodded slowly without comment, the bitterness that had blossomed in his heart only half-masked.
"That's incredible. I never would have thought that was possible. You must be incredibly smart and well-adaptive." In any other situation, he would have shrugged modestly. But he didn't move, more annoyed than pleased. Why did he feel so annoyed that she looked so surprised? Wasn't that the point of learning to be human in the first place? To surprise everyone with his charm and wit?
"Surely you didn't teach yourself that quickly, though,"she commented, "Did someone help you?" He paused for a moment before wordlessly nodding.
"You lived with a human family, then?"she continued, taking note of the emotions playing over his face. He took a long time to respond.
"...If that's what you want to call them,"he mumbled into his knees.
"You don't have a good relationship with them?"she guessed, "Or just not anymore?" Edgar turned his face away, wishing she would change the subject. Finally he made a gesture with his finger to indicate the second one.
"Are you close with anybody?"she continued, looking intrigued by his silence instead of put off. He still didn't respond. He knew where this was headed.
"There has to be someone you care about,"she pressed. Edgar shifted uncomfortably, not looking at her.
"...Shelley,"he finally whispered, feeling his heart break as he said it, "I loved Shelley more than anything in the world." Joanne was quiet for a while. It was the first thing he had said with any real emotion in his voice. The softness and painstaking look of understanding in her expression betrayed his vulnerability, and he quickly looked down, embarrassed now.
"And who is Shelley?"she asked gently. Edgar shifted again, staring hard at a spot on the floor as his hands clenched and unclenched anxiously.
"Did she live with the family you were with?"she continued when he didn't respond. Slowly, he nodded.
"Was she your friend? Guardian, or...?" This time Edgar did not answer. Joanne waited and waited, but the look on Edgar's face told her they were heading into uncomfortable territory. In desperation he buried his head in his knees, willing himself to disappear, or her, or everything.
"What does this have to do with anything?"he suddenly asked, feeling his voice unexpectedly rise as he desperately tried to turn the conversation away from the one thing he didn't want to think about, "You don't need to ask me all these things to know that I'm dangerous. I just am." Joanne couldn't help reacting, her face poorly masked the trepidation and immediate defense she felt at hearing the sudden glint of anger in his voice. Until now she had barely heard him speak except in occasional one or two word answers, and his sudden apparent vocabulary spike, in an honest acknowledgement of his own dangerous nature, no less, was...unsettling. How intelligent was this animal?
"A-all I want to do today is gather information, that's all," Joanne replied, her tone as casual as she could manage, "I just want to get to know you so I can know how best to proceed with your treatment."
"I don't want anyone to know me ever again,"he said dryly, his arms stiffening as he continued to glare at the floor, "I'm reckless, dangerous, whatever you want to label it. I can't be trusted to be around other people. If that's all you wanted to know, then please just leave me alone." He could have made more of an effort to be cordial, but at that moment the past few day's exhaustion suddenly hammered him, making him realize how very tired he was and how sick he was of being here and doing this. He didn't care anymore. He just wanted to be left alone.
"You're being very needlessly defensive. I'm not trying to attack you for liking this girl, if that's what this is about." He held in a breath and counted to five, willing himself to not feel so angry and hurt and tired and hungry. But five came, and he was no less overwhelmed.
"But I am dangerous,"he insisted.
"I never said you weren't,"she said, her assuming tone so final and decided that it made Edgar suddenly want to cry, "But I need to access your ability to be treated. For that I need to know at least a little about you."
"Why would I want to be treated?"he asked loudly, finally looking up at her, "So I can leave and then be dumped right back in here when something else happens? What is it with you humans and your obsession with putting animals in CAGES?" In that brief moment he had spoken, he had forgotten to hide his mouth. She held back a gasp at the sudden sight of his fangs, but couldn't help the surprised expression that appeared on her face a second too late. Edgar didn't miss it.
"Jesus...,"she whispered to herself, but of course Edgar heard her.
"A-all right, I can see that perhaps you need more time to... rest before we talk again. Perhaps I should go...,"she said, her hand already on the doorknob. He glared at her as his hands tightened into fists, more than furious, by her statement and by her reaction. It wasn't a reactionary anger, or a hungry anger, though. It was a sad anger. He wouldn't be in any danger of attacking her. She was not the threat. He was.
"...Just get it over and kill me if you're that afraid of me." She had turned the doorknob halfway when she heard him speak. Slowly she turned back to look at him. He could sense it - her fear - like a tangible aura pervading the room, but she composed herself and put on her best mask before speaking again so it didn't show on her face. Edgar knew better.
"No one here is afraid of you,"she said, trying to keep her voice calm.
"That's a lie. You are. You're terrified. I could tell you were from the moment you walked in. I can tell you are now,"he said, raising his gaze to finally look at her directly for the first time, "Call it...animal instinct." He knew he had affected her by the way she stared blankly at him, trying to keep her countenance devoid of any expression. He could feel it. He could feel her fear and uneasiness. She had probably drawn all the connections already: how he killed, what he was, and just how much of a threat he was to her and the people around him. The straightjacket might as well be worthless - she could think of half a dozen ways he could kill her with those weapons in his mouth.
Joanne's voice was weak when she finally spoke. "Nobody here wants to kill you. We just want to understand. All we know is that you supposedly killed two people. There's convincing evidence to say that homicidal behavior is indicative of a deeper problem, but I do want to know what happened from you."
"Here's what happened: The big bad monster bit two innocent people and they died, the end."
"You're not even trying."
"Why should I?"he asked, turning his head back down. He was born this way, and he was sick of trying to prove he could change.
"What do you want to do then?" He slowly sunk back into himself, pressing his head against his knees as he willed everything around him to disappear. Edgar stared at the floor for a long stretch of silence as he seriously considered this.
"I want... to not exist anymore,"he finally mumbled, his voice quieter now with submissive honesty.
"Mr. Parker, to be honest there's not much I can do to help you if you don't want to be helped,"she said gently.
This sounded absolutely moronic to Edgar. Maybe it was the fact that he had known all along that he didn't want to be helped; or maybe the fact that he absolutely hated her "kindness", and still she kept up the false pretense she was helping him. He hated this. He hated her. He hated the fake sincerity she was paid to give. It reminded him all too much of the fake sincerity his own mother had lavished on him.
"Just leave me alone,"he said, glaring at his knees, "Please." He felt a growing anger well up inside him: anger for her insincerity, anger that she was afraid of him, anger at himself for being someone to be feared when all he had wanted was for people to accept him, and most of all, anger that he was constantly being forced into a cage to have weak, hypocritical, human affection maliciously harrowed at him. He didn't need her fake concern. He had done fine on his own before the human's world of God-loving compassion and charity completely uprooted his peaceful solitude. All he wanted was to disappear. Why wouldn't anyone grant him that wish?
"Have you been having suicidal thoughts?"she asked suddenly, making him look up in surprise. Suicide was not a word Edgar had learned, but nevertheless, he understood the intent.
"No,"he lied as quickly as he could, "I don't want to talk anymore."
"Don't avoid the question."
"I just answered the question."
"Many of our patients here are suicidal. Very few are able to pull it off, not while being supervised. Suicide isn't the way to reconcile with yourself, Mr. Parker. Time and proper treatment is." Edgar stared hard at the ground, holding his breath while he waited for her to finish.
"I don't want to talk anymore,"he begged again. For a moment, she considered his request. She didn't want to be anywhere near him, either, but it felt unsettling leaving on the subject of suicide.
"Fine,"she conceded, "I'm going to advise for a small dose of valium to be administered later today. It's a minor tranquilizer. A nurse will be in to see you. I will warn you, though, if we don't know enough about you to safely administer a treatment, the longer you will have to stay in this room." He couldn't help but glare at her. There wasn't hope of a future where anything could get easier with or without some kind of confession anyway. He lived in a world full of pain and hatred, and there wasn't any "treatment" that was going to change that. He would never be able to go back to his place of blissful ignorance with the knowledge he knew now, and he hated her for it, and he hated Mrs. Parker for it, and he hated that town for it. Why couldn't she just leave him alone and let him leave the world, just as horrible and painful as when he had entered it?
"I'll be back tomorrow at the same time,"she said, oblivious of his thoughts, "With any luck, you can get the straightjacket off tomorrow and be moved to a different room, provided that the medication does its job and you can provide a fuller picture of your medical history. That's up to you and your cooperation, though." He didn't move his head at all, determined to remain silent. He just sat there staring at his knees. He didn't even know what she was talking about, but whatever she wanted him to tell her, it would be useless come tomorrow.
"I'll see you later, then,"she said, stepping back toward the door, "Get some sleep." She turned without waiting for his response, trying to make it to the door as discreetly as possibly. It wouldn't have mattered either way to Edgar - his head was in his knees before she had finished her sentence.
Once she was outside, she heaved in a heavy sigh, a little shaken. Twenty-one years working in a hospital with mentally deranged people and never once had she ever felt more unsure about her own safety than it had been with that...thing. After all was said and done, she was more unsure about him leaving then she was coming in. Who knew what a half-animal was capable of? Who knew how close she really was to the edge of provoking him? He was right to not be left out in the world, but she couldn't even imagine someone like that out and interacting with other patients here. If he couldn't be let outside, and he couldn't be let out here, the only thing she could do was make sure he remained as lucid as possible while she figured out what to do with him.
Taking a moment to steel herself, she resolutely squared her shoulders and started down the hall. Even knowing she didn't have any answers, she had to tell Skaff what little she had found.
Skaff was almost always doing something in his office. Very rarely did she ever see him emerge from his cramped cave, and when he did it was only to deliver short messages. She knocked boldly on his door and was immediately granted access.
"I'm back,"she announced, stepping inside. His office was quite a mess. While he made an honest effort to hide the fact that he was a disorganized slob, there was always evidence lying around-in the way the desk always seemed to have papers he wasn't working on laying on it, in the always-full trash can, in the way he loved to throw unread memos into drawers without even looking at what drawer it was for.
He looked up from his desk, surprised to see her back so soon.
"From?"he asked, pen hovering over some sort of form.
"From talking to the bat boy,"she reminded him.
"Right, right. And? I'm assuming it went badly if you're back this early."
"No, he just didn't want to talk. He's unnerving all right, but he isn't quite as bad as you made me think. Didn't move, barely spoke, but his language actually is quite extensive, when he does speak." Staff snorted.
"What's to think of him? Have you seen him? The kid's a freak show."
"I agree he is extremely odd. His background's certainly unusual. He says he grew up in a cave with bats for most of his life, that he learned English from BBC tapes and - I think, anyway - lived with a human family at some point. I can't say how much he really knows about civilized society, though. He wouldn't talk about the family, but he did mention someone named Shelley. He's a little awkward and insecure, but considering how long he's been around other people, I think it's a miracle he's even able to communicate at all."
"Is he safe, though?"
"No, that I don't think so,"she replied honestly, "He certainly does have the capability to cause some damage if he wants to. I only got a quick glimpse of them, but those fangs definitely aren't there for decoration. He seems adamant that he's too dangerous to be reintegrated into society, but I have a feeling that's just an excuse to get us to look away for a second. If he isn't already trying, he's going to try to kill himself."
"We've already stopped him twice, we can do it again,"he said firmly, not looking daunted in the slightest by this news.
"There are other ways to kill yourself,"Joanne mused aloud, "I'm not terribly worried. I've never known any animals with suicidal tendencies. Regardless, it'll be interesting to see what we can dig up once he's more willing to open up about why he's here."
"Well, do whatever you have to do. We can't have him dying on us,"he replied indifferently, "He's gotten too much publicity. I've already gotten three news stations calling asking if this bat kid is for real, and I don't even know what to tell them."
"I gave authorization for a mild sedative as a precaution,"she said with a sigh, getting up to leave, "A small dose shouldn't hurt him, but if it does, I'll have to figure another way to keep him in line until I find a more permanent solution. I'm not in any rush to be anywhere near him again, though."
"With any luck, you may not have to,"he called out sarcastically after her as she closed the door behind her.