Gotham City in daylight is just as dangerous as it is in darkness. Sirens are always wailing. Petty crime. Brawls. The ever so very often supervillain attack. There was no rest for the citizens of the city. The best they could do was skirt around the chaos on their way to work. Stay home and call in. Stick in close groups. So, honestly, it was unsurprising that so many people stopped caring about when they went out. Those who walked at night knew the dangerous to take care of themselves. Or they lived in areas too protected to be bothered. As for those elsewhere, the light of day brought no hope for salvation. You did what you had to do to survive, you went when you needed to go. There was no true fear of the dark because you knew what lurked in the shadows.
Or at least many thought they did.
The Narrows. Too easily a place for easy pickings. Not forgotten but specifically ignored. The backyard playground for Arkham Asylum and its inhabitants. Escapees had their sights set on that place first and foremost if they didn’t have a hideyhole to escape to. It makes me wonder why the Batfamily doesn’t just keep one of them posted there at all times to catch the scurrying rats. But, if they were there, then I would have slimmer pickings. And I’ve managed to keep my path from crossing with the bats, I’d like to keep it that way.
The amount of escapes from Arkham is astounding, really. It’s almost as if the management wants them out of there. How the place stays funded and staffed is beyond me. They should have learned their lesson with the dear Harley Quinn. How many members of that staff had been killed? How many had been turned into criminals themselves? How many had become an inmate too? Let’s be honest. Arkham was not a place to help people, it was not a place to come out clean. It was a prison. A horribly managed prison.
Part of me wanted to perch on the walls surrounding it and scoop up meals when they inevitably passed me.
But where was the fun in that?
The narrows was the perfect feeding ground of any. Too many people that wouldn’t be missed. Because why would the city care about the poor and downtrodden? Why would the city care for the purse thieves and those peddling drugs? Why would the city care for anyone other than those standing at the top? Which is why my hunting ground was always full. From the amateur criminals to the escaped inmates that barely ever even hit the fifth page of the newspaper. It kept my hunger sated.
Which is why I always had the tendency to stumble upon Gotham’s Rogues Gallery much more often than the dear Batfamily. I would see the helpless be taken off the streets. I would see the young be taken from their bedrooms. Many whispered about what happened to them. And some we saw moonlighting later, corrupted and betrayed by the city they had called home. So many faces were so easily recognizable in the papers. On the news. Bodies. Victims. The tortured. experimented on. The food.
And, sometimes, the best way to learn about your prey is to pretend to be one. I stepped out of the shadows and onto the street. I was visible, more visible than I had let myself be in a while. To have to keep out of the way of others. To have to wait for cars to go by. To hear people beg me for money. It was so...exhibitionist. But I needed to be seen. I knew where the hunting grounds were. I knew how those who walked alone were taken so quickly. Head down. Look afraid. Look like an easy target. Walk into the wrong area of town. Lost? Maybe. Maybe not. Look as though I don’t know what danger am I truly in. Take the wrong turn. Walk down the wrong alley.
And let myself get jumped.
Let myself get taken away.
It had been a while since Crane had been able to delve back into his passion. Being cooped up in Arkham had dulled his senses, but now back where he belonged, he felt them flourish once more. He felt the familiar sensations rush through him as he worked. It wasn’t ecstasy, no. He did not gain sexual pleasure from this. He wasn’t Zazz. He was purely scientific.
A knock broke through the gurgling of his patient. The doctor didn’t look up as he called for the knocker to enter. One of his lackeys threw something to the ground. It hit the floor with a dull thud. A body. The almost nonexistent exhale of breath meant that the body was still alive. Good.
“Thank you,” Crane said as he stood up. He took off his gloves and headed to the sink. “Take that one back to its cell.” The lackey crossed the room, undid the binds, and did as he was told. Before he left, however, he bound the other victim to the chair. Only when the door shut did Crane speak again. He looked the body up and down before saying, “This one’s different. This one is…” he couldn’t put his finger on why his new patient was different. There was just something...off about them.
But, no matter. The population of the city was diverse and he had no need to ponder what each of his victim was like. That was for another day. Now he just needed to see how his new batch worked. Weight, height, measurements, heart rate, doing what all good doctors should when they examine a new patient before testing.
The person didn’t rouse when the needle pierced their skin. Nor did they react as the toxin entered their system. Crane sat back and waited. He knew they were alive, but whether or not they were cognitive was a different matter. There had been times when his men had given comatose patients before. If they were one of them, he would be highly upset, he didn’t like wasting his weapons. And only time would tell if they would wake up or not.
And when they did finally wake up, there was no start. There was no flutter and squinting of the eyes. There was no intake of breath. The eyelids parted and the gaze focused smoothly. So unconcerned...potentially a reaction to the situation. So many forgot that freeze was also a human reaction. So many fought, so many tried to flee, Crane much more enjoyed those who froze. Those were so much easier to work with.
“Glad to see you’ve awaken,” Crane said, not even lowering his voice. The woman didn’t respond verbally or really physically for that matter. Her nostrils just flared as she took a breath. He saw them crinkle slightly. “I’m not going to bother with formalities, you’ll probably die from this anyway. I’ve just injected you with a fairly high dose of my Fear toxin. You should be feeling its affects now. So, tell me, how do you feel? What do you see?”
The person blinked and opened their mouth. “Tell me, doctor,” they turned her head to him, “what do you see?”
Their gazes locked and, for the first time, Crane didn’t enjoy fear. He felt reality pressing in on him. The knowledge of his mortality bubbled to the surface and overflowed, washing down him like a roaring current. Crane could hear it in his ears, the erratic pounding of his heart. He could feel the possibility of death with every fiber of his being. His skin crawled. His blood ran cold. He was terrified.
The person placed their thumbs over his lips as they straddled him. How did they get out? There was no way, the restraints were too tight. This wasn’t right. The person didn’t speak as they kept their gaze locked with Crane. Crane couldn’t drop his gaze from them , he couldn’t tear away. No matter how much he tried, they held him there with ease. They opened her mouth and there was a flash of something. Of teeth? Impossible. They were fanged, sharp, wolfish. Crane couldn’t help but feel, but know, that this person...no, this monster, was about to eat him.
But they didn’t. They broke the gaze as they placed their lips on his. Their sharp nails dragged across his cheekbones, but they didn’t break his skin. Crane didn’t know how to respond. This monster knew what they were doing. They knew just how to manipulate the human body to their will.
The monster broke the kiss and leaned to his ear. Their voice was low and sounded like a growl. “I’ll leave you alive, dear doctor, because I like what you’re doing. As for your men, well,” he could feel them smile, “it is time for me to have a meal.” They let out a low chuckle and kissed his forehead.
Then I was off of him. Out from the shadows and down the hallway. I had to hand it to the big criminals of Gotham. Dimly lit places where the lights liked to flicker. It made me feel oh so good as I stalked down those hallways. I wanted them to see me coming. I wanted them to know the true terror that would be upon them. Of course the first few tried to stop me. Quick to violence, but not ready for the way I fought. The best thing about being in the Batfamily’s shadow was that no one had read up on me. No one had videos to watch and study. I was something entirely new to them. And so I took my time with the first. Play with my food, work up my appetite. I deserved this feast, after all.
I wouldn’t devour all of them. No, I would leave enough alive to allow for Crane to still have his little group. Some would turn tail and desert him. But not enough, I wouldn’t allow all of them to leave him.
Crane was...the Scarecrow.
A man who could command fear. A man who could cause it to blossom in others.
A man after my own heart.
Oh, I would show him what true fear was.