Jackie flopped across the short wooden table, resting her head on her outstretched good arm. With the tips of her fingers, she awkwardly yanked a section of her tangled hair over her eyes to shield them against the flickering of the fluorescent light above her. She shifted her hips, trying to get comfortable on the ancient wooden chair. As she moved, the chain attached to the shackle around her ankle jingled on the cold concrete floor.
Contrary to what the breakfast club had told her, she hadn't been immediately deported to Stonegate. Instead, she'd been led to this small, windowless room, parked on this godforsaken chair and told to stay put.
The following hours had been filled with a parade of visitors. Cops, used to interrogating devious suspects for hours to get confessions, were pleasantly surprised when Jackie agreeably admitted to everything from the armed robbery at the convention to the parking tickets that she'd never paid. A cafeteria attendant with a greasy hairnet brought her a styrofoam clamshell container with a dry bologna sandwich and a carelessly halved apple. A nurse had brought her another round of painkillers. She vaguely recalled the medication orders being for once every eight hours, not every four, but she was hardly going to argue with anyone offering her any kind of respite from this nightmare.
There was no clock in this room, but she was fairly certain that it was somewhere around suppertime. No one had been in to see her for what seemed like hours. Maybe they'd forgotten her. Well, there was certainly time enough to get some rest in. She nestled against the hard wooden table and did her best to imagine that she was in a soft, pillowy bed underneath a heap of toasty blankets.
The door cha-chunged open again. "Jacqueline Baker?"
"Jackie," she corrected automatically, not moving from her makeshift resting place. The urge to sleep filled her head like a hot, cottony cloud. She cuddled down closer into her arm, wishing the man would just go away.
"Mmm," the man said absently, seating himself across from her. Paper rustled. Jackie slitted one eye and saw a stack of folders six inches thick placed a few inches from the hair flopped carelessly over her nose. "Would you mind sitting up?"
"Yes," Jackie said.
There was a moment of silence.
"I would mind sitting up. I'm tired."
"This won't take long. Up, please."
Jackie dragged herself upright with uncooperative muscles and lounged back in the chair, thudding heavily against the chair back. Suddenly, she was grateful for the four-inch bolts attaching her chair to the floor. She could have fallen, and the floor looked so far away...
No. That was the medication. Get it together, she yelled at herself inside her head.
"So...Jackie," the cheerful bearded man across the table said, "tell me about yourself."
"Um...not much to tell, really," she mumbled.
"You know why you're here, don't you?"
She sighed. "Yeah. Because I got caught."
"Could you tell me a little more about that?"
"I don't want to," she said, an embarrassed blush fighting through the haze of her painkillers.
"Well, what shall we talk about then? How about the Riddler?"
"Eddie?" Jackie glanced up. "How is he?"
"I wouldn't know. They've taken him to Arkham Asylum."
Jackie sighed and sank a little lower in her chair. Arkham. She'd known that he'd probably gone there, but hearing it made it seem more final, somehow.
"You seem upset."
"Well, yeah," Jackie agreed.
"Why is that?"
"Because Arkham's bad."
"What makes it bad?"
Jackie stared at him. Aside from Eddie's extreme dislike of the place - if she recalled correctly, he'd rather be shot than go back - what Gothamite didn't loathe and fear the building that housed so many viciously violent supercriminals? "It's Arkham," she explained, slowly and carefully, like a parent explaining to a toddler that sticking forks in the toaster is a very bad idea.
"I see." He made a note on his legal pad. "All right. I understand that you live with the Riddler?"
"For how long?"
"Oh. Um...five months, I think?" she said, trying to remember back. Days of the week and calendar dates didn't mean too much when your day job didn't involve an actual job. "It depends on when you start counting, I guess."
"And what made you move in with the Riddler?"
Jackie stiffened. She wasn't upset by the implication that she'd pursued him. (In fact, she had pursued him, right across the city with a fire extinguisher in one hand and a blaze of fury in her heart.) No, the thing that caught her attention was the sneering, dismissive spin on the word 'Riddler', as if Eddie was no better than a dead mouse on the kitchen floor.
"I had nowhere else to go and he very kindly took me in," she said coldly.
"Indeed, how very kind of him," the man repeated. "And is he still kind to you? Did he promise you money and pretty clothes? Did he tell you that everything would be alright as long as you never left him?"
She glared at him through bloodshot eyes as all of her life's recent irritations built up into one unstoppable force. "No, he held me in a deathtrap until I promised not to run away," she snarled. His pen flew over the legal pad. "That was a joke," she said, narrowing her eyes at him.
"It wasn't a very funny one," he said absently, finishing his sentence with a flourish.
"Well, I'm not working for the Joker, am I?" She fought down an urge to stick her tongue out at him and settled back in her chair, wincing as her arm began to throb gently. She took a deep breath to calm herself down. Losing her temper wouldn't help anybody. Then, with a small smile on her face, she volunteered "Joker did sit it up."
"Sit what up?" the man asked, peering at her over his glasses.
Oooh, this was fun. She thought for a moment. "Hiding it onto you."
The pen clattered to the table as the man frantically patted himself down. Finding nothing, he scowled at Jackie and picked his pen back up. "That was also not very funny," he informed her stiffly.
"It was pretty funny from this chair," Jackie said, smiling cheerfully at him.
"You don't care much for authority, do you?" he asked flatly.
"Is there a particular authority you think I should care for?"
"I think you should have a care about what you say to me," he explained grimly. "Cooperation would really be in your best interest."
The pain in her arm began to slowly and steadily crescendo upward. "Fine. What do you want?" she asked, focusing more on what was happening inside her cast than what was going on across the table.
"What did the Riddler do to get you to live with him?" he spelled out, slowly, patiently, and with a spark of irritation burning in his eyes.
"He said yes," Jackie shrugged. "I told you, I had nowhere else to go, and I knew I'd be safe with him."
"Safe?" He raised an eyebrow. "Safe. The man brought you to a party and ordered you to throw Robin into an electrified puzzle trap - "
"He did not! You weren't there, you don't know." Jackie shoved her hair out of her eyes with her good hand and breathed a short, sharp sigh. "You didn't see how brutal he was. He wouldn't stop hitting him and somebody had to do something."
"And you volunteered?"
"I didn't know the trap was there," she said defensively.
"Of course you didn't." The man patted her arm condescendingly. Of course, he chose to pat her bad arm, which meant that it took an extreme amount of willpower to not immediately punch him in the face. She bit her lip and wheezed, trying to will away the starbursts of colored pain exploding in front of her eyes.
"If you're quite through with the dramatics," the man interrupted, "we have some more things to discuss. I need you to tell me everything that you've done with the Riddler."
"Everything?" Jackie said, eyes watering.
"And if I refuse?"
He smiled at her - a friendly, professional smile under his friendly, professional mustache. "The nurse is out there with your medication," he said pleasantly. "I can't allow her to come in until we're finished."
"Abduct a roofing husky! Fine." She took a deep breath. "He burned my house down, okay? We were playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey and the fire extinguisher was full of kerosene and then Jervis wanted won tons but Crane was pissy about the slippers and Harley put pretzels in my bra and Question almost shot me in the head and then Eddie broke everyone out of Arkham and we went to the beach and then we robbed the convention and now I'm here. End of story." The man was staring at her, one eyebrow raised. "What?" she snapped.
"Nothing," he said, shuffling his notes back into their folders. "You'll be moved shortly." And with that, he strode out of the room, locking it firmly behind him.
Jackie sighed and gently thumped her forehead back onto the table, doing her best to appreciate her last few minutes in a relatively minimum-security facility and dreading the sound of the key in the lock.
Eddie sprawled on his narrow bed and glared at the closed door of his cell. His ankle, which had been shoved into a small elastic support, twinged painfully with every beat of his heart.
They hadn't kept him in the hospital wing for very long. Two days of observation was long enough for them to determine that he'd survive on his own, so he'd been dumped back in his old cell like an unwanted toy being thrown into a toybox.
Well, he wasn't going to stay for long. Not this time. Not when they were taking Jackie who-knew-where. If he was going to break her out of anywhere, he'd much prefer to do it when she was still incarcerated in a relatively low-security place rather than Stonegate.
And yes, his ankle was going to slow him down. On the other hand, they wouldn't be expecting him to make an escape attempt with such an obvious handicap. The old bunched-up-blankets-in-place-of-himself trick would fool them for a few hours - more than enough time to get him safely home.
A night guard strode down the hallway, flashing his light into each cell and illuminating the inhabitants. Eddie shut his eyes and feigned sleep as the guard's light flicked over him. Then, when he was sure the man had gone, he rolled out of bed and slipped his hand under the mattress. A lockpick dropped into his searching fingers.
He took a moment to carefully rumple the blankets so that it would appear that he'd tucked himself completely under them. After another quick glance to ensure that the coast was clear, he picked the lock on his cell and slipped out of the door, closing it as slowly and gently as he could. Then, alert for any sign of an approaching guard, he limped down the hallway, biting his lip to keep from gasping as his weight rested on his injured foot. The halls were empty. He hobbled to the nearest set of stairs and began the long, painful trek to the lobby.
Four flights down with a sprained ankle was painful and exhausting. By the time he reached the lobby doors, sweat had curled his hair into damp little twists and gathered in moist patches at the neck and armpits of his jumpsuit.
He opened the lobby door a tiny, tiny bit and peeked out. No-one was there. Even the night receptionist had deserted his post. Eddie hurried into the lobby and limped determinedly toward the huge, inviting lobby doors.
One of the doors began to open. Eddie stopped dead in his tracks, horrified, and searched for a hiding spot. There - a statue of Elizabeth Arkham, seated on a bench, skirts decorously spread to make an Eddie-sized shield. He flung himself behind it, squeezing himself tightly between the cold bronze of the statue and the rough stone of the wall. His head ducked safely out of sight just as Batman appeared, dragging the Joker inside by the back of the neck.
"Easy on the suit, Bats," the Joker wheezed as his toes scrabbled hastily on the linoleum. Eddie straightened up ever so slightly so that he could peer through the small peephole formed by the statue's arm and side. Batman, with a stony look on his face, raised the Joker in the air and dropped him flat on his feet, marching him deeper into the asylum without stopping to let him get his balance. Eddie winced slightly as he saw that the clown's purple suit was shredded from neck to heels, as if he'd been bounced around inside a giant cheese grater. Maybe he had. Nothing was impossible when it involved the Joker.
Robin followed behind them, an unconscious and equally torn-up Harley Quinn dangling from his shoulder.
A small army of orderlies burst out of the hallway, followed closely by the night receptionist. Batman silently held the Joker out to them like a housewife disposing of a dead rat. "Thanks, Batman. We've got him," one said, grabbing the Joker's arm in an iron grip.
"I'll take her," another volunteered, catching Harley as Robin lowered her off of his back.
Eddie held his breath as the vigilantes turned to leave. Batman flicked open a panel on the back of his glove and tapped a few buttons, noting the result with a slightly grimmer set to his lips as he moved toward the door. Heart pounding in his ears, Eddie clung to the statue and did his best not to make a sound. A black beetle crawled idly up the statue's back. He leaned away from it ever so slightly, muscles screaming protests as he moved. Just a few more minutes. Just a few more minutes and they'd be gone -
His pained yelp reverberated through the air as a black-gloved hand grabbed him by the throat and yanked him into the lobby. Batman glared down at him and dragged him across the freshly waxed floor to the cluster of orderlies frisking the Joker. "You can take this one, too," he graveled, shoving the Riddler at the only orderly who didn't have nervous hands pressed against the Joker or his henchgirl. "This time, try to keep him in his cell."
The orderly seized his arm. "We will, Batman. I promise." The orderly pinned him with a terrifyingly intense scowl that promised retribution by the truckload for his impudence in sneaking out. The last time he'd seen that look on anyone's face, he'd spent the next month chained to the bed in a cell with electrified doors.
"Breaking curfew, Eddie? Naughty, naughty," the Joker chided, somehow managing to still look dangerous even when clad only in his smiley-face boxers. Batman turned on his heel and strode out of the building. "What, no good-night kiss?" the clown called at the receding cape. His only answer was the resounding slam of the door.
"Come on," the orderly snapped, dragging Eddie away by the arm. "I know just what to do with you."
Eddie did his best to keep his feet beneath him as he was propelled down the hallway. Escape plans and bribery plots sparked across his brain, each one frantically discarded as useless in his present situation. Well, anything was worth a shot now, right? They were alone in a service hallway, with no troublesome witnesses to spoil anything.
"Ten grand if you let me go," Eddie offered.
The mouth is one of the most sensitive areas of the human body. The amount of pain experienced when someone is, say, punched squarely in the teeth, is astonishingly great.
Eddie spat blood from his split lip and tried again. "Twenty?"
Being knocked unconscious, on the other hand, doesn't hurt at all. Eddie's last thought before he hit the floor was "not again".
Jackie spent the next few days laying listlessly on her bunk. Really, there wasn't much else to do in the little solitary holding cells other than lay there or get up and pace, and with her broken arm throwing her off balance combined with her loose, flappy sandals, she didn't think she could effectively pace without knocking herself silly on the floor.
A guard clanked a set of cuffs against the bars. "Rise and shine, Baker," she said. "You're going to your new home."
Jackie got to her feet and extended her hands, biting back a yelp as the icy cold metal clicked around the bare skin of her right wrist. The other cuff clipped - just barely - around the wrist of her cast. The guard rolled the door open and led Jackie out into the cold, drafty hallway. "Where am I going?"
"Dunno," the guard shrugged. "Does it matter?"
"I guess not," Jackie sighed. At least maybe at Stonegate she'd get to leave the cell every now and again. Hooray.
After a few rounds of paperwork, they loaded her into the back of a police cruiser and set off. Jackie stared with eager eyes at the outside world. Cars! People! Little kids riding in strollers! Oh, she'd missed seeing it all, and she hadn't even been in jail for a week. She didn't want to think about how long it would be before she saw it all again.
At least she wasn't going far. If she was going outside the city, they would have put her on a bus or an airplane. She'd never been anywhere near Stonegate, but she'd certainly heard stories about how awful it was. Well, she'd heard stories about how awful most prisons were...well, okay, so she'd seen an episode or two of Oz, but that was more than enough to convince her that it would not be a good time.
They were winding their way through a bleak and barren landscape. Funny, she'd thought that the prison was closer to the city...And then she saw something that made her heart leap.
A huge iron gate arched over the road, with the words 'Arkham Asylum' picked out in forbidding metal letters. "I'm going to Arkham?" Jackie yelped.
"Yeah. Where'd ya think you were going?" a cop from the front seat snickered.
"But. Stonegate. I'm supposed to go to Stonegate," Jackie stammered, adrenaline fizzing in her veins.
The cop in the passenger seat twisted slightly so that he could look her in the eyes. "Not with your psych profile, you're not."
"I'm not crazy!" she protested.
"Sure you aren't." The cop turned away to look out of the windshield.
They thought she was crazy? Crazy enough to be sent to Arkham? Why on earth...oh. Oh, that guy with the beard. Maybe calling him an idiot in several flavors of anagram hadn't been such a good idea. Now she was going to Arkham, where the worst of the worst were housed. Arkham, where ethics went to die. She'd be trapped in Arkham, locked up with the Joker, and the Scarecrow, and -
The cop car pulled to a stop in front of the massive brick building. "Welcome home," one cop said cheerfully, sliding out of the car.
They pulled Jackie out and walked her up the steps. "I'm really going to Arkham?" she asked tremulously.
"Yeah." The cops tensed, ready for a last-second escape attempt or a plaster-covered arm swinging at their heads.
Instead, Jackie did a happy little jig, nearly tripping on her sandals. "Fantastic!"
Author's Note: Eddie's experiences with electrified doors and such were taken from the Batman: the Animated Series episode 'Lock-Up'. Eddie and Jackie's adventures will continue in 'The Big House'. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!