Crane had primo connections in the underworld. Hell, as director of Arkham Asylum, he had had contact with most of Gotham's major crime bosses, getting their arrested thugs sent to Arkham instead of prison for money or favors.
Once he—and Schiff, under his supervision—had concocted enough supplies of the liquidized fear toxin, he'd shopped his new drug around until he found a willing buyer, a mob boss known as the Chechen, who was rising in power now that Falcone's drug ring had been dismantled by the Batman. The Chechen was eager to become the leading drug lord in Gotham. Only problem was Batman was driving him nearly out of business by cutting off the suppliers. That was where Crane came in.
The Chechen had been skeptical of Crane's product at first. First of all, after Crane had made contact and a meeting had been arranged, he had shown up wearing his mask and referring to himself only as "Scarecrow". Schiff had accompanied him, but had been instructed to remain silent throughout. The Chechen considered Crane a freak but realized if he wanted to get to the top in the current climate, he'd have to resort to dealing with criminals more eccentric than the usual element.
Crane had opened a briefcase to reveal the product, medical vials filled with a yellowish liquid, which could be extracted through a needle and injected into the skin.
The Chechen eyed the vials warily, picked one up and held it to his face to examine it closer. "Vhat is this, piss?"
"Don't insult me," Crane had replied. "It's a unique compound, one that I created myself and hasn't hit the market yet. Buy from me and you'll have a monopoly on it."
The Chechen tapped the glass with a dirty fingernail. "And this stuff, is good, yes? You guarantee?"
Crane had smirked beneath the mask. "I guarantee this: My compound will take you places…"
Schiff was watching the entire proceedings, standing a few feet behind Crane with his arms crossed. The Chechen had thugs of his own behind him, three of them. One of them held his own briefcase, closed. Crane and Schiff were outnumbered two-to-one.
The Chechen's face betrayed no decision yet. Crane took the vial back, put it away, and snapped his briefcase shut.
"I have ten boxes loaded in my van, enough to keep you supplied for months. If you're ready to pay up, you can go home with it all tonight."
The Chechen scratched the black hairs underneath his chin thoughtfully. "Hmm… I don't know. I like to have my product tested before I buy. What say we have trial period?" He snapped his fingers and one of his bigger, uglier thugs came rushing forward to grab the briefcase from Crane but before he could, Crane sprayed him in the face with a concentrated dose of fear gas. The thug fell screaming to the ground.
Instantly the other two thugs came rushing forward.
Two loud shots were fired, the sound echoing around the empty parking garage.
Schiff held a smoking semi-automatic in his hand. One thug had been hit in the knee; he was rolling on the concrete in agony, screaming. The other had been shot in the head and didn't move. The briefcase that he had been carrying lay on the ground beside him.
The Chechen merely narrowed his eyes, ignoring his incapacitated men, looking from Crane to Schiff and back to Crane again.
"No one gets anything for free in Gotham," Crane said. "If you don't want what I'm selling I'll take it to someone who does. Sal Maroni has already expressed an interest…"
"Maroni? That spaghetti-sucking bastard?" the Chechen fumed. He rubbed his hands over his face and then smoothed back his hair. "All right, Scarecrow. We have deal."
He retrieved the fallen briefcase from the ground, opened it, and held it out to Crane. It was filled with blocks of cash. While Crane took out a brick and flipped through it, the Chechen said, "One moment," and walked over to his fallen thug, the one who had been shot in the knee and was still groaning audibly. He pulled out his own handgun and shot the thug in the head. "Finally," he said, tucking the gun back inside his jacket, "some peace and quiet."
Meanwhile, Crane, satisfied as to the amount and authenticity of the bills, nodded, and closed the briefcase. "Looks like we're in business. Thomas?" Crane called. "Unload the van."
Before the Chechen drove off with his goods, he called out to Crane. "Scarecrow: I let you get away with that little stunt you and your friend pull tonight, but it won't happen again. Next time, I bring dogs. Understood?"
It was a mutually beneficial partnership that Crane and Schiff had, living together in Crane's downtown apartment hideout. Crane got a willing worker and assistant, someone to help him produce mass quantities of the toxin, as well as a bodyguard who, unlike Crane, was skilled in the use of firearms. Schiff started out as the sole muscle of the operation, but once the deal with the Chechen went through, Crane was able to hire some more thugs. He had two of them he kept on call, lowlife losers he liked to refer to as Larry and Moe, even though those weren't their real names, due to their intelligence or lack thereof, but they served their purpose well enough.
As for Schiff, out of the arrangement he got safe lodging, hidden from both Batman and the police, who were eager to round up all of Arkham's escapees, cash, and perhaps most importantly of all, drugs (as Schiff liked to call them, "Not the fun kind"). Crane had stockpiled a large supply of various pharmaceuticals, including antipsychotics, from his doctor days, and he made sure that Schiff took them daily. While they were together, Schiff was fairly balanced and functioning. He was doing so well, in fact, that he had taken to cooking all of their meals. Schiff, it turned out, was a marvelous cook.
It surprised Crane to suddenly have meals ready and waiting for him when he came home. He had never had a roommate before, being a solitary man. As for Schiff, well, he had had a roommate, back in Arkham, having never been put in Solitary, but in Arkham it wasn't possible to cook for your roommate, even if he had wanted to (he didn't; he hated that bastard). Crane was different, though. Schiff liked Crane, which was funny to him when he realized the fact, considering he hadn't cared much about him one way or the other back when he was his doctor. But then, Crane had never gotten into pharmapsychology because he wanted to help people. It was more about controlling people—every fiber in Crane's body craved power. Financial power… psychological power…
"Sit down, Thomas…"
Schiff sat down on the couch in their living room opposite Crane. He didn't give a second thought as to obeying. Whatever Crane said, he did.
It was after dinner. The curtains were open in the living room, revealing the large sliding glass balcony door through which all of Gotham could be seen from the high rise apartment, the city lights glittering all around in the dark.
"It's time for me to take my medicine, Doctor Crane. Can I have it?" It was imperative to Schiff that he took his medicine on time. He started to feel antsy if he waited too long between doses.
Crane said nothing, merely took a pill bottle out of his jacket pocket and opened the lid, taking out a small red capsule. Thomas always refused to take any medicine that wasn't coated; this way it didn't taste bad.
Schiff held out his hand, but Crane made no move to hand it over. "Not yet…" he said. "I've been thinking, Thomas, about something I read in your file back in Arkham. It said you were suspended once in high school. Do you remember?" Schiff didn't answer, so Crane went on. "Suspended for a hate crime, if I recall correctly. And Thomas? I always recall correctly." It was true. Crane had a photographic memory. "Your file said you beat another boy, Billy Schilawski, age 15, unconscious, in the hallway. Unprovoked. Why did you do that?"
Schiff was avoiding Crane's gaze now, staring at the floor, unmoving.
"Doctor Crane? I'd like to take my medicine now…"
Schiff started to answer but his voice faltered. He was still avoiding Crane's gaze, staring intently on the carpet. Schiff's voice came out low and small. "B-because he was a faggot."
"Now, that's not a very nice word, is it?"
Schiff shook his head no, sweating visibly.
"Let me be very plain, Thomas. We hate what we fear. For example, I had a patient once, a man who hated bees. He had no car and every day on his walk to work he had to pass by a tree with a giant bee nest, and they would come buzzing all about him. He hated them so much he would get panic attacks, and it got so bad he could hardly come in to work. But when I prodded him about why he hated bees, it became apparent that what he really did is fear them. No, what he really feared, I got him to realize, was not the bees, but being stung by bees. So I asked him, 'Have you ever been stung by a bee?' and the man didn't even pause to think, immediately he answered 'No.' He was afraid of something that he had never even experienced. So I told him what he must do, I told him he must allow himself to be stung. Well, as you can imagine, he thought I was crazy. And it took weeks of prodding, but I finally convinced him that in order to conquer his fear, he must do it. So the next day, he comes into my office and he tells me he did it, he got stung by a bee, and he shows me a little red welt on his arm as proof. And I asked him how bad it was. And he told me it hurt and then he went home and put some ice on it and after a few hours he was okay. And I said, now, do you think a little bee sting is something to miss work over? And he agreed, no, it wasn't, and I never saw that patient again. He was cured. Do you see, Thomas? What we hate is what we fear and sometimes what we fear… is within ourselves. What I'm saying is…" Crane, still holding the red capsule in one hand, took off his wire-rim glasses, folded them and placed them aside on the coffee table so that his large blue eyes pierced Schiff unfettered. "What I'm saying is… you need to get stung. Metaphorically speaking."
Schiff's eyes went wide. "I don't understand, Doctor Crane…"
"In high school, you hated Billy, yes? You must have hated him in order to beat him unconscious. Well, I posit that you didn't really hate Billy, you were afraid of him. Now, what about him made you afraid?"
Schiff's eyes darted all around the room, like he was looking for some sort of escape. There was none. Finally, Schiff felt compelled to talk. It was hard to keep anything from Crane. "Billy shared lockers with me. The school didn't have enough lockers for everyone, so everyone had to share. We were assigned the same locker. Billy was always acting really friendly toward me. He was… out, you know. And I was afraid… I was afraid he would try to kiss me."
"But you've never kissed a man, have you?"
Schiff shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The interrogation was unbearable. "Please, Doctor Crane. I just want to take my pill now."
Crane's blue eyes lit up. "That's an excellent idea, Thomas. Here, I'll give you your pill…" Crane held the little red capsule up and popped it into his mouth—didn't swallow it; he was holding it against the side of his cheek with his tongue. "I'll give you your pill… for a kiss."
Schiff spluttered, "What… no way!"
"What are you afraid of? That you'll like it?"
"Of course I won't like it!"
"Then you have nothing to be afraid of. And, like a bee sting, it'll be over in a second and in a few hours you won't care about it."
Schiff stared across the couch at Crane, back rigid, palms sweating. "Why are you doing this to me?"
"Because… I want to help you. I used to have fears, too, before I became Scarecrow. Living without fear is the most freeing thing you can do. So I thought, what is Thomas' greatest fear? And I thought back to your file and our sessions… and I think this is it. If I'm wrong… prove to me you're not afraid."
"One little kiss and you promise me you'll give me my pill?"
Schiff didn't say anything; he just looked at Crane and sort of nodded, too terrified to make a move. Crane did the moving for him.
Crane leaned forward slowly, took the back of Schiff's clammy neck in his hand. Schiff jolted at the touch, and then Crane leaned Schiff's head in to meet his. Their lips touched, Crane's parted, pushing Schiff's open with his tongue. Their tongues met for a second and then Schiff felt Crane pushing something into his mouth… the red pill. Schiff let the pill rest on his tongue a moment, and then he returned the kiss, passing the pill back into Crane's mouth with his own tongue. They continued this back and forth, the kiss growing steadier, more assured, hungrier, and Schiff began clutching at the back of Crane's head and neck too, until finally the pill ended up in Schiff's mouth and Crane released the kiss, pulling his body away.
Schiff stared at Crane across the widening distance and gulped hard. He'd swallowed the pill without even meaning to.
Crane was staring back at him with a contemplative look on his face.
Schiff responded by lunging towards him, catching his mouth with his own. Crane returned the kiss, smiling, as Schiff began tugging Crane's jacket back from his shoulders while Crane started pulling off his sleeves.
Behind them, from the balcony, the towers of Gotham City were alight in the night sky, twinkling like the stars.