Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to "Batman" or any of its characters, including Scarecrow, nor do I own any rights to the comics or the films. I own nothing save for any original characters I have created.
A/N: I want to give a huge "thank you" and a line of credit to M. Michele for her help in writing this chapter. I couldn't have done it without her! She is a fan of Crane and an excellent writer to boot, and I would highly recommend reading her fics. You can find a link to her profile and stories listed in my "favorite authors" section of my own profile.
This is going to be a two-part chapter, because I have a lot I want to convey and I want the chapter to remain a quick read and not be too long.
Chapter Ten: Spite, Part I
Crane was surprised by how familiar Georgia felt upon his arrival; although he had not felt clods of clay-like dirt underneath his feet or smelled the earthy scent of soil and pollen in over ten years (save for his toxin-induced excursion in Arkham's basement), the sensations were so ingrained into his memory that he felt as if it were only yesterday that he last walked the worn path that led to Keeny Manor. He had expected that his return would stir within him a variety of emotions—dread, anger, sadness—but as he he walked towards his childhood home he felt strangely calm. The hold Granny Keeny had on him was long-gone; he was free from her hate and her abuse, and she could never hurt him again.
He'd made sure of it.
The heat of the sun felt pleasantly warm on his back and he removed his coat, slinging it over his shoulder and crooking his finger into its collar. He puckered his lips and began to whistle quietly; it was not a usual habit of his and his performance was off-key at best, but the simple act itself gave him spiteful satisfaction. As a child he had not been allowed to whistle, hum, or sing; Granny Keeny had considered music to be one of the many tools the Devil employed to lead the weak and impressionable astray, and banned everything from church hymns to lullabies from their home. And now here he was, openly defying her inane rule by boldly whistling to his heart's content as he stood on the doorstep of Keeny Manor and fished in his pocket for the front door's key.
The inside of the house smelled sour and stale, a sickening contrast to the fresh air he'd so enjoyed during his walk. A thick layer of grimy dust coated the interior and pricked at his throat and nose, bringing tears of irritation to the corners of his eyes. The house had been left to rot after his departure; with both Crane and Granny Keeny absent, there had been no one to care for the numerous mundane task having a home entails and the end result was the state of unswept filth and decay that greeted Crane. He had often fantasized of taking a match to the place and watching with great amusement as it burned to the ground, but something always held him back from taking that final, permanent step; he supposed in some bizarre way he was attached to the manor, despite the many horrors he had endured during his time there. It was, after all, the only home he had ever known.
He was now more than grateful for his hesitance, for it had allowed him to set into motion the beginnings of a plan that would be impossible without the manor's existence. Both the home's seclusion in particular would work in his favor; there would be no one around to see or hear the night's events.
Crane smiled with cold, serene delight as he ascended the stairs to begin his work, leaving dusty footprints behind in his wake.
Billy Lee Walker stumbled out of the front door of the small town's only bar and into the thick, humid night air, tripping over his boots in the process. He surprised himself by regaining his balance; his usual drunken floundering often resulted in him landing on the ground and adding yet another rip or tear to his jeans. He dipped a hand into his coat pocket, roughly searching for his keys with fumbling oil-stained fingers. Billy's moral compass was horribly skewed, and if it ever occurred to him that drunk driving was both an unsafe and selfish act it either did not disturb him enough to break the habit or he simply did not care.
Billy's accomplishments after high school consisted of a job at the local auto repair shop, two marriages and two divorces, and a succession of arrest for charges varying from public intoxication to domestic violence. Perhaps Billy would have been motivated to leave his cramped hometown had he not discovered the numerous joys that alcohol provides, and he instead chose to spend the years following his graduation ceremony in a constant state of drunkenness. An aggressive personality and alcohol dependency are rarely a good combination, and his bullying grew to extend beyond the schoolyard into other facets of his life—his job, his relationships, even his day-to-day activities. The town's citizens feared Billy, and many went out of their way to avoid interaction with him lest they invoke his wrath, whether it was an expletive-ridden insult or a punch.
Truthfully, Billy quite enjoyed being a bully and the perks that the role provided. He enjoyed being strong and he enjoyed being intimidating, but most of all he enjoyed being feared. His power was made possible by the fear he created; without it, he would be nothing more than a grease monkey with a thinning hair line and a seemingly-endless trail of failures.
The road ahead of him was a blurred mess, due to both the alcohol and his unwillingness to wear his prescription-strength glasses outside of his home (in his opinion, there was nothing intimidating about a man in glasses), and he leaned forward and squinted his eyes in a vain effort to improve his vision.
A harsh jolt from underneath his truck caused him to snap upright, his eyes wide and his heart racing. Oh God, he thought to himself. I've finally done it. I've finally run over someone. The thought was enough to bring the burning alcohol from his stomach to his throat, and he suppressed a retch. His concern was not of the innocent life he was so sure he had just ended, but of the assuredly harsh punishment that lay ahead. He had managed to skate by on his previous charges with little more than the legal equivalent of a slap on the wrist, but there would be no avoiding prison for vehicular manslaughter. He was going to the big house and his life was over.
Unless he could hide the body.
Filled with fresh hope, he opened the truck door and drunkenly slid out of the passenger seat. He stumbled towards the front tires and looked underneath the truck, expecting to see gory evidence of his crime; instead he was greeted with the sight of a large wooden board adorned with several long, rusty nails jutting sharply into his tires, which were quickly deflating.
Instead of relief that he had not killed someone with his selfish and illegal actions, Billy felt rage. Someone had left their junk in the middle of the road, and he had been the one to pay the price for their carelessness and stupidity. Well he'd make them pay, alright. He'd find out who did it if he had to interrogate every single person in this worthless town, but he would find them and then they would pay.
He was so immersed in his fantasies of revenge that he didn't hear Crane slowly creep towards him, camouflaged by the night, much less have time to react after the syringe plunged into his neck and sent him into a darkness of his own.
When Billy awoke his first thought was that he did not recognize the room he was in. There was no light, save for the beams of sun shining through dusty window blinds, and as far as he could tell he was alone. As he gathered his thoughts, he realized that he was seated in a chair; he tried to rise and found that he could not—his body was strapped down. His hands, his legs, his shoulders, even his neck—all bound. By rope? No, too thick. His binds dug into his skin and felt strangely sticky—duct tape! He was tied down by duct tape! And if he could somehow get to the knife he carried in his pocket, he'd cut himself loose and then use it on whoever the hell brought him here.
But who would do such a thing? He had no shortage of enemies, but he knew no one with the gumption nor the bravery to pull off such an act. Most people wouldn't dare look him in the eye, much less knock him out and drag him to God-knows-where for God-knows-why.
He would have to sit and wait for an answer—not that he had much choice in the matter.
After what felt like an eternity, he heard footsteps and the turning of a doorknob.
"Hello?" Billy called out, unable to turn his head to welcome his visitor. "Who's there?"
He heard the door open and close, then more footsteps moving closer and closer towards him until he was sure that his assailant was right behind the chair, staring down onto the top of his balding head.
"I said, who's there?"
Billy licked his lips apprehensively. "Look, I don't got much money in my wallet, but you take me to the bank and I'll get you whatever you want out of my savings account. I got a nice chunk of change in there." It was a lie; he lived paycheck to paycheck and no longer even had them direct-deposited into his account. "Just let me go get you some money, and we can pretend this never happened, okay?" Another lie. He hoped his sounded convincing.
"I don't want your money," a quiet voice said, breaking the silence. Judging from the voice, his assailant was a man, and his reserved tone struck Billy as familiar.
"Well, what do you want then?" Billy replied, wracking his brain to determine who the unknown man was. "Listen, buddy, name it and it's yours."
"Anything?" the voice asked, and the way he spoke sent chills down Billy's spine and made him almost regret the proposition.
"Yeah, anything." Why not? What did he have to lose? If only he could get one of his hands free...
He felt the man move from behind the chair to his side before slowly stepping in front of him, his face still obscured by the darkness.
"I'll tell you what I want, Billy." The man leaned forward, the beams of light illuminating his face, and Billy's jaw dropped open in shock and confusion when he saw who he had been speaking to.
"I want revenge," Crane said, his smile wide and dangerous.