A/N: This fic will be 4 chapters long and has already been completed, so updates will be quick. Originally written for the Nolanverse Challenge "Why Do We Fall?" Theme at Batfic_Contest on Livejournal, now revised. Thank you for reading.
Excerpts from Arkham
Excerpts from the journal of Thomas Schiff, Arkham Inmate #230446, written over a 6-year period.
Green beans for lunch today. 1 slab of chewy meat in a brown sauce – Couldn't tell what it was. Apple sauce with the usual pills crushed in. They taste like cinnamon.
God knows how long it's been since I picked up a pencil. Dr. Quinzel said that keeping a journal will help in my rehabilitation. She isn't even making me read this to her – Only share what I want to. So I feel okay writing that she has way too big a rack to be wearing a blouse that low. No wonder half the kooks have the hots for her – or at least pretend that they do. Personally I think she's trying too hard – like she likes the attention. You'd have to be one crazy broad to want the attention of the crackpots in here.
Couldn't eat the green beans today. They reminded me of the Boss. Wondering where he is. If he's okay without me. When he'll make his escape and take me with him.
They keep him in another wing of the Asylum. In Solitary. Don't know where that is. Don't think I could find him. One of the big guards is blond and gives me the creeps – reminds me of Dent. Get the shakes just passing by him to the cafeteria.
I sent a thought to the Boss last night. I was thinking it really hard so it would make it through the walls of my cage. I told him I was sorry but I was helpless to save him and he'll have to find a way out on his own. I told him I was waiting for him and to please come get me. I think he heard me. I know he did.
Half the cells are filled with us, it seems, his henchmen. They can't hold us in here forever. Not even the Batman. Nightly I hear the screams of my comrades, calling for freedom. The guards are getting antsy – even the Blond seems nervous at times – like they all know it's a joke. One big joke the Boss started telling a long time ago and soon the punchline's gonna come and we'll be the last ones laughing.
Maybe Dr. Quinzel was right. I do feel a little better writing this down. Less lonely at least. Can't talk to my cellmate. Can't stand him. He's always bitching at me when I sing. Guess you're my only friend, Journal, till the Boss comes to get me.
Baked potato burned the roof of my mouth at lunch. Carrots piled in a mucous gel. Special surprise for desert – strawberry shortcake. We never get strawberry shortcake.
Bigger surprise just after Lights Out last night. I was lying on my bunk staring up at the cot above me. Kicking it with my foot to the tune of "Hush, Little Baby" sung in my beautiful tenor. Zsaz used to hate it when I did that. He'd poke his head down and curse and spit at me and tell me I was a goddam bastard with screws loose in my head. Then he would go on and on ranting about that "sonovabitch quack" that got him holed up in Arkham in the first place – prison would have been better than this – and how one of these days he was gonna take him the fuck out. He was always ranting about that. Usually I'd let Zsaz rave on uninterrupted but that ugly bastard was really starting to get on my nerves, so last time he went at it I pounded the springs above me with both feet so hard Zsaz fell over onto the concrete. Then he broke my nose. The guards came and took him away a screaming cussing mess and I haven't seen him since. Last I heard, he attacked a nurse and got himself locked up in Solitary. My nose grew back crooked. Only thing I regret about getting rid of Zsaz. I hope the Boss still recognizes me when he comes to free me. Oh God what if he takes one look at my crooked face and is so disgusted he leaves me here all alone? Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with the thought of it and feel the tears streaming down my face, down my busted beak.
Anyway, like I said, it was after Lights Out and I was singing "Hush, Little Baby" and lying in the dark, kicking the cot above me as hard as I liked, picturing Zsaz was still up there helpless to do anything about it. The old springs above were squeaking loudly as I kicked them, and I was halfway through the verse "Hush, little baby, don't say a word, Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird…" when I heard the buzz of the keycard being used to open my creaky cage door. It was completely dark in my cell, and I could only see the outline of the two figures standing in the doorway. One was big and bulky and I recognized him as the Blond Guard. I admit, I panicked at the thought of him coming in here. I swept my feet down quickly, keeping them as tight to the mattress as possible, hoping he hadn't heard me making a disturbance. I sent him a thought as strong as I could that I was good that I wasn't doing anything wrong and please don't shoot me I was just following orders. The second outline was slightly taller than him and much lankier. I heard the crack of handcuffs being undone – the lanky figure started rubbing his wrists and the Blond barked he didn't want any trouble out of him. Then he barked at me that the asylum was full up and they'd had to place my roommate on short notice and he trusted I'd get along better with him than my last one – or else. "Yeah, you two are gonna be real good pals, you hear?" he threatened. Then the door swung shut with a rusty clang that cut the silence and here was I, trapped in my cage with an Intruder. One it was too dark to see clearly.
For a split second my heart leapt at the possibility that it was him – the Boss – that we'd been reunited at last. That somehow for some reason he'd got a transfer – maybe time out of Solitary for Good Behavior.
But then I heard the voice, that sweetly sarcastic, mocking voice that I only knew too well, even though it'd been a long, long time since I heard it.
"And if that mockingbird don't siiiiiiing…" the Intruder crooned, continuing the verse from where I'd left off, lifting his arms up for the big crescendo, giving his slightly off-key all to an invisible audience, "Mama's gonna buy you a diiiiiamond riiiiiiiing!"
That's when I sat straight up in my bed. He was in the middle of giving his bows, muttering phrases like "Please, you're too kind," and "Sorry, I don't do encores," when I worked up the courage to utter his name.
Crane's head snapped in my direction and peered at me through the dark. I could feel his gaze piercing me. I could feel it even though I couldn't see it.
"Schiff?" he said finally. "Inmate Number Two-Three-Oh-Four-Four-Six Thomas Schiff? Oh my God – I can't believe of all the cells in all of Arkham, of all my former patients, I end up with you! How's it going, Tommy boy?"
Crane swooped in dangerously close when he said that, shoving his face close to mine. His tone wasn't pleasant. It had that familiar, condescending quality to it. My temples started to sweat, just like they used to back during our sessions. Crane had always liked to interrogate me in a way that made me uncomfortable, too direct – too penetrating. Quinzel was good about keeping her distance. She'd hardly glance up from her chart at me, like I could barely hold her interest – which was great because she barely held mine. Crane was different. Crane was intense. Once, I'd let slip in one of our sessions that the only person who'd ever called me Tommy was my father, and Crane had called me that ever since. He loved tormenting me that way.
Crane's eyes squinted at me, trying desperately to adjust to the near total darkness. Suddenly his hands darted out at my face and I jerked back, trying to remain still as he slid his fingers across the crooked bridge of my nose. "Geez, what happened to your face, Tommy? You try to take on the Batman yourself or something?"
I started to stutter some response, and Crane let out a cruel cackle, so unlike the mellifluous laugh of the Boss.
"Oh please, don't go out of your way for me," he said, "I'll just make myself at home," and he hopped onto the top bunk. I almost felt relieved of his presence, but then I could feel it, seeping towards me through the cot, pressing in on my head, getting in my ears like a swarm of mosquitoes buzzing. I swatted uselessly.
"Long time no see, Tommy. So, how've you been? Still crazy I see. Me too, according to that dumb bimbo the geniuses in this city put in charge. To think what's become of my beloved asylum," Crane sighed.
"Y-you've met Dr. Quinzel?" It was a stupid thing to say, I admit. Of course he had, otherwise he wouldn't be here. What can I say, I panicked.
"Met her? I've fucked her. 'Course, that was years ago. I got out of here once before, you know, legit and everything. Yeah, I had Harleen's little predecessor wrapped around my finger. I said all the right words, did all the right things – I'm a psychiatrist for God's sake, I know how to play the game. So there I was, on the outside, lying low, biding my time. Waiting for someone to give the Batman what he deserves. Maybe I'm not the guy to do it, I know that now. But I thought that other fella, the new guy, that wackadoo, the Joker… now he seemed like he was ready to put out the Batman's lights… before he was stupid enough to get himself locked up here."
"THE BOSS ISN'T STUPID!" I screeched, kicking the cot above with every inch of my strength. Crane went flying and landed with a slap on the concrete.
Instantly all of my courage was gone and I was a quivering ball of fear. I don't know, hearing the Boss insulted like that just got me worked up. I had reacted impulsively. I regretted it now. I squeezed my eyes shut, tears already trickling at the thought of how messed up my nose was going to look now.
A few moments passed, and I opened one eye. Crane was sitting on the floor, rubbing the back of his head.
"Interesting," he said.
"W-what?" I sputtered, terrified of the blow that was sure to come.
"'The Boss,' you said. You called the Joker your boss. Oh Tommy, Tommy, Tommy. Is that why you're back in here? They pegged you working for the Joker? I let you and every other nutcase in Arkham out to have the whole run of the Narrows, the whole run of Gotham, and first chance you get you take orders from a guy wearing too much makeup? Looks like someone still has dependency issues."
I didn't have a response to that. Mostly I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that somehow Crane thought he was the one who let everyone out of Arkham. And he had the gall to say I had issues. Last I heard, Crane was just as nutso as everyone else in here.
"So h-how'd you end up in here?" I finally worked up the courage to ask.
"Ah, Quinzel, of course," Crane said, climbing back onto the top bunk. "That bitch has had it out for me for years. She really relished how far I'd fallen, thought it'd be fun to push me down even deeper. She had a warrant cooked up, forced me into an evaluation. I played my part straight, but you can't win a rigged game. Bitch had me committed – said I'm a danger to myself and others. She should talk. That cunt's crazier than all of us. I should know – I dated her. She's got everyone fooled, but I'm telling you, there's a real nut running the nuthouse."
"Like you used to," I blurted. I didn't mean to. It just slipped out. You see how sometimes I have a problem holding my tongue.
But Crane cawed with laughter, and I let myself breathe. "Yeah, like I used to. I tell you, Tommy, if I ever get out of here, I'm going to make Gotham pay…" Then he went on about the big plans he had. I didn't have any plans of my own. That's what the Boss was for. Finally, when a few moments of silence had passed, Crane clapped his hands together once. "So! Are you gonna finish that stupid song of yours or what? Just don't kick the mattress, ever, or I'll bite your crooked fucking nose off."
I laid in stunned silence for a moment before belting into the next verse, the one about the looking glass.
"You always did have a nice singing voice, Tommy…"
I made it through the entire song three times before the soft sound of snoring signaled Crane had fallen asleep.
A/N: In Batman Begins, Victor Zsasz's name is spelled Zsaz instead, so I went with that to stay true to the Nolanverse.