He hadn't meant to buy the burlap. It just sort of happened.
Joan's birthday was coming up shortly and Arkham was planning on throwing her a little surprise party. Joan Leland wasn't Jonathan's favorite person in the world, but compared to the rest of the staff she was the most amicable and he admittedly enjoyed spending time with her. And as such, he wanted to at least get Joan something nice and she had been mentioning a small draw-string handbag for her wrist in conversation. If he recalled correctly it was to hold little treats and nick-knacks for when she was loaned out to the children's hospital.
It was a sensible item that served a purpose and Jonathan had decided that would be better in the long run than flowers or some trinket that would collect dust on her desk. It would probably last longer, too considering the state of most pre-fabricated products these days.
So, the Arkham doctor found himself wandering a fabric store downtown (as Jonathan had no intention of purchasing said bag because it would be cheaper and probably more well-done if he sewed it himself). His ability to sew had been picked up from his childhood and days on the farm helping his, Jonathan took in a breath, grandmother. It was not a talent he chose to brag about, but he was very good if he said so himself.
Jonathan had been looking for some silk when he saw the mound of fabric sitting there: Special discount - burlap material left over from the Halloween sale. That scratchy, ugly fabric that had been used to make the scarecrow in his old farm yard was just sitting there in a little stack. It couldn't have been more than two or three yards of fabric, but it was there and Jonathan couldn't stop looking at it.
The doctor tore his eyes from the fabric and started to head to the other end of the store. He needed some silk for a small purse, not some ugly dirt brown Halloween costume fabric. Maybe a light blue would look good on her or something with a little pink. Jonathan ended up circling the store two to three times before he settled on the perfect fabric for the purse. He ended up with a pale, pastel pink with little white and red stripes. It reminded him a bit of a candy cane, but Joan did say Christmas was her favorite holiday.
A quick trip through the thread isle to pick up a few spare needles and matching thread was all that remained. Everything neatly in his basket, Jonathan headed for the check-out and ignored the stares of everyone else in the store. The biddies acted like they'd never seen a young man in a suit before purchasing fabric. Regardless of the slight irritation, Jonathan managed to pay for his things and leave the store.
The ride home was short and the key fit into his apartment door lock like always. Though, instead of going into his usual routine of putting on a kettle for some tea and light reading, Jonathan decided to sort out the fabric and materials so he could get to work on Joan's present later that evening after supper. Jonathan started to pull the items out of the bag and onto his tiny, wooden kitchen table one by one and stopped when his hand felt something scratchy in the bag. Jonathan swallowed when he pulled out the large folded piece of burlap and sat it on the table. The browned spots resembled eyes almost as they sat on the irritating fabric.
Jonathan couldn't remember when he had even picked it up to throw in his basket let alone purchase it. Yet, there was; staring at him. Jonathan swallowed and shoved the Burlap back into the plastic bag and threw it on his couch. He'd deal with that later – for now, Jonathan just wanted a cup of tea.
"Oh, how pretty." Joan exclaimed while holding up the little bag in her hand. It was a drawstring purse that had a separate Velcro loop for her wrist so she could open and close the bag without taking it off. But what really stood out was the hand stitching. Joan knew a machine job when she saw one and this was done by hand. Though by the way Jonathan was twitching it probably wasn't the best idea to point out he made the purse himself; even if the stitching was flawless. He'd probably be embarrassed. Joan was lucky he showed up to her party at all considering how little he hung out with the other staff members. "This is just what I needed to put the kid's candy in. Thank-you, Jonathan."
"You're welcome, Joan." Jonathan tried to smile politely before sipping at his drink. He really didn't want to be here at this little party in the staff lounge, but he was obligated to show. Jonathan would have much preferred dropping the gift off on her desk and being done with it. "It's nothing."
"Well, thank-you again, anyway. I really do like it." Joan smiled and could see Jonathan was still tense. She bit her lip thoughtfully and thought of a good way to thank him for the effort. Joan put a hand to her lip suddenly with an "oh!"
Jonathan lifted an eyebrow at the shocked look. "Is something wrong?"
"I just remembered I had some records to file, but I was dragged off to the party before I could. I forgot all about them." It was true enough, even if Dr. Bartholomew already told her she could turn them in tomorrow while dragging her down the hallway. "I really should go back and do that."
"And leave the party?" Jonathan raised an eyebrow. Just because he didn't want to be there didn't mean Joan wanted to go. Actually, that was a good excuse. "Don't be absurd. It's your party, why don't I go file those for you?"
"Oh I'd hate to ask you." Joan smiled inwardly. She just knew he'd take the bait. "It's my work."
"Nonsense, I don't mind at all." Jonathan smiled and set his cup down on the table. "Just tell me where they're and I'll be more than happy to."
"You're sweet, Jonathan." Joan smiled and toyed with the little bag. "They're on the corner of my desk with a blue folder on top. Thank-you, again."
"Happy Birthday, Joan." Jonathan nodded to her while he strolled out of the small office. He didn't remove his glasses to rub his eyes or let out the long sigh until he was out of listening distance to the room. Filing paperwork was far preferable than trying to keep up that damn cheery smile. And knowing Joan it was probably one or two files that would take barely a minute.
No one would miss him if he never reappeared at the little party. And in fact, this was a perfect opportunity to squeeze in a little research. All of the doctors were preoccupied with the party so he'd be relatively unsupervised. The guards rarely paid attention or cared what the doctors did so he was pretty safe on that front. Joan's office was settled next to his own, so it was a piece of cake to grab her few files from the edge of her desk and pick up his own, personal briefcase as he headed downstairs to the filing room.
After two minutes of shoving files into their proper place, Jonathan was on his way down to the building's basement. Arkham had the most wonderful series of old rooms and tunnels beneath its pristine, sterile white halls. Down here it was dark, dingy, and murky. The perfect atmosphere for his fear experiments; he couldn't have asked for a better location. He hummed to himself as he pulled a key ring from his pocket and stopped in front of cell 306. He opened the door with a soft click and smiled at the whimper.
"Hello Peter." Jonathan's voice was even, calm, and pleasant. The way he always sounded when talking to patients. Peter merely whimpered louder and tried to push himself farther into the wall. "How are you doing today?"
"Fi…fine. Dr. Crane."
Peter Larkins had been under Jonathan's care for a little over two years. The doctor hummed to himself as he set the case on the table and clicked open the locks. One and a half of that time was spent in Dr. Crane's office with the standard couch, pen and paper. Jonathan had learned that Peter suffered from mild schizophrenia that often resulted in very violent attacks against his peers. Aside from not seeing that he was hurting others, Peter was in fairly decent mental condition. This, for Jonathan, made him the perfect test subject.
As such, it was a most unfortunate event when Peter 'escaped' from the asylum due to a 'negligent guard' standing post in his hallway. Poor boy walked right of his cell without anyone to stop him. Jonathan just so happened to pick him up and guide him down to his new cell like the good doctor he was. After two months, the staff just gave up looking. "What did Justin bring you for lunch today, Peter?"
"Be…beef sandwich." Peter covered his head with his arms and tried to breathe evenly.
"Was it good?" Justin was one of the guards that appreciated money more than his work ethic. The man had no problems making small trips to the basement to feed a scared and shaking man. Jonathan made sure to tip him extra for his discretion. "I know you like beef."
"It was good." Peter swallowed. Dr. Crane had pulled out the needle. The needle always meant bad things…but if Peter didn't answer Dr. Crane would say he was a bad boy and never pull out the second needle. Then the bad stuff never went away and first needle bad and needed to be a good boy to get the second needle. "Really good."
"That's wonderful." Jonathan pressed the plunger lightly and watched a single drop of his precious drug flow down the needle. "Are you ready to start?"
Peter shook his head no. He didn't want to start and take the needle. "N..no."
"Are you being a bad boy, Peter?" Jonathan strolled swiftly across the room to where the man was huddling. "I don't have a lot of time today and I'd like to see how this new drug interacts with your system. It should work much faster today. If you're a bad boy I'll have to make you wait even longer to get your second dose."
"No." Peter did not want the needle. He was a good boy! He shouldn't have to get the first one and wait for the second. Peter wouldn't need it if he didn't get the first one!
Jonathan frowned slightly. Peter had shoved himself further away and was being quite obstinate today. Sure he imagined no one enjoyed hallucinating and having their worst nightmare brought before their eyes but Jonathan needed his data and Peter needed to start cooperating. Jonathan leaned in closer to try and get the needle to the man's arm. "Hold still, Peter."
"NO!" Peter didn't know himself why he did it but he struck his arm out at Dr. Crane. Something just moved his arm all by itself. Dr. Crane's face was bleeding. There was blood everywhere and the needle was on the floor. The bad needle was on the floor with Dr. Crane.
Jonathan winced as he held his nose. This was not how he had planned his afternoon. When he got his hands on Peter he was going to – Peter. "Peter, put that down."
"Dr. Crane's been a very bad boy." Peter mumbled as he held the needle in his hand. Dr. Crane was also a very small man now that Peter had the needle.
"Pete-" Crane hissed when the man leapt and stuck the needle in his leg. He watched the plunger drop and was instantly on his feet throwing the laughing man off him. He had give or take two-Crane stopped dead in the room when he heard the chirping. Peter was laughing somewhere in the distance and he was burning up. He couldn't hear him either; the room was filling with bats.
Somewhere between the screaming and flailing of his arms to swat the little rodents away, Jonathan realized that this batch worked far faster than previous doses.
The swarm of bats were clawing at him from all directions and Jonathan took to muttering 'it's not real, it's not real' over and over. Bats of all things. Why couldn't it have been crows? Jonathan wouldn't mind hallucinating crows. That would have made more sense considering his grandmother used to attack him with them, but no, it had to be bats. Dirty creepy little things. "They're not real."
Peter laughed. Dr. Crane was screaming and swatting his hands everywhere like Peter usually did. And there was blood on his face and on his nice white shirt and oh. Peter stopped laughing when Dr. Crane started to smack at the case; his hands were shaking. Peter got up when Dr. Crane had the good needle but didn't make it. Dr. Crane was mad. Really mad.
"Peter." Jonathan hissed as he calmed his breathing down. He was thankful he was lucid enough among the effects of the drug to get to his case and the antidote. "You have been a very bad boy."
Peter just cried.
It was itchy, rough and brutal fabric and yet Jonathan was sitting on his couch and running it over his fingers and playing with the almost blanket sized piece of burlap. He hated to admit it, but Jonathan was still quite a bit shaken from this afternoon. Why he was taking comfort in a piece of burlap, he still couldn't quite figure out. Maybe it was because it reminded him of that scarecrow in his lawn at his grandmothers. A fear that made sense instead of that irrational terror of bats that Jonathan had yet to be able to explain.
Heh, the scarecrow. That could be it, too. Jonathan mused as he messed with the fabric and the little knots in the fabric. The scarecrow was, ironically, the least frightening thing on the farm. In fact, it was one of the few things Jonathan sympathized with. It wanted to be big and scary, but ultimately it failed and ended up as the guinea pig for whatever his grandmother was cooking up. Not to mention they shared a name. Jonathan could still remember the cackling of his fellow peers as they taunted 'scarecrow scarecrow' due to his lanky nature.
Or as far as he knew even the school children could tell he had more in common with the scarecrow in the field than with them.
It was a shame Jonathan had lost Peter. The doctor stuck his hand under the burlap and bunched it together to resemble the scarecrow head on a post. Looking back, overdosing the poor lad into a coma with the excess toxin in his case had probably been a little harsh. Not that Jonathan could be blamed. He had hardly been in his right mind coming down from the poison to have been held responsible for the decision. Or the manic laughter as Peter choked to death. Jonathan needed a faster working antidote.
Or at the very least a new method of delivery. Jonathan had misjudged Peter and the close proximity to inject the drug was his downfall. He needed something he could inject from a distance. A drink maybe? But tricking his patient into drinking the concoction would only work once. Repeat trials wouldn't be possible. A powder or cream would require the close contact yet again. So what did he have left? Solid, liquid - gas.
So an inhalant, then.
Jonathan threw the burlap make-shift blanket on the couch and rose to his feet. He was still tired and shaking slightly from the drug, but he'd get over it. The antidote just hadn't completely worked its way through his system. Either way, he didn't have much time left in the day to get started on the next batch. The sooner he could get the toxin started the sooner he'll want to test it.
That did wonders for the motivation to hunt out the next test subject.
"Ah, Joan." Jonathan looked up from his case files at Joan who was staring at him, hair falling slightly in her eyes. She had pulled a mint out from her new purse and was handing it towards him. "Thank-you. Just get back from the hospital?"
"That's right. The kids loved getting their mints from the purse. It was a big hit with the kindergardeners."
"I'm glad." Jonathan forced the smile and closed his folders. He had been browsing his current patients for a good prospect to test his gas on, but wasn't coming up with much. It was getting rather depressing actually. "What brings you here?"
"I actually have a patient I was hoping to pass to you. I think his case is going to require a bit more complicated prescription than I initially realized. He's not responding well to standard dosages so I felt our local psychopharmacologist might work some of his magic to help calm him down." Joan smiled softly but rang her hands a little. She knew Jonathan had a heavy load right now, but this man was requiring such a specific mix of drugs she wasn't sure she trusted herself to prescribe.
"Who is it?" Jonathan reached out for the folder she had under her arm. "Because I don't know about taking him on full time but I'm sure I could help you mix his meds."
"That would be great. His name is Matthew Penny. He's here for viciously attacking his fellow workers at a construction site."
"It looks like he's just a common bully." Jonathan remarked after reading the papers. It was just offense after offense of the big brute pounding on the slighter men at the site. It was almost disgusting and started to bring up bad memories. "Are you trying to give him sedatives?"
"Something like that. We're hoping to balance out his temper enough to have a decent conversation. Right now it's so bad we can't calm him down without throwing him completely under."
"I'll see what I can do."
"You're the best, Jonathan."
I know. "Have a good afternoon, Joan."
Matthew Penny was the slime of the earth. Jonathan snarled as he worked in his lab. He knew exactly who was going to be his first test subject when he perfected this gas. As the solution sat in the beaker, Jonathan started to rub the sliver of burlap he had in his hand. He couldn't carry the two yards of fabric with him, so he merely cut out a few strips to sit in his lap. Rubbing the rough fabric was proving very therapeutic. And Jonathan needed that to concentrate.
He should have known that name was familiar.
Jonathan hadn't realized it until he had seen the man face to face in the hallway. Matthew Penny. The brat who lived three blocks down from his house. They had class together at school. The bane of his existence. Leader of those little- Jonathan took a deep breath and smelled the burlap. It really did help calm him down. He'd need an even head for his reveng-experiment. Jonathan paused and looked up. He was not resorting to something as base as revenge for the boy who made it his mission to beat Jonathan up every day after school. To taunt him. To call him names. To scare him so badly he almost preferred staying home with his abusive witch of a grandmother instead of going to school.
Scarecrow! Scarecrow! Johnny is a Scarecrow!
Matthew Penny was merely an overweight ape who fit the bill to be the next subject to test his fear toxin. Yes, Matthew Penny would know what it's like to be so scared he wets himself and then Jonathan would be satisfied. But he was curious as to what scared Matthew Penny. Was it death? Birds? Bugs? Jonathan really had no clue; the boy had seemed so fearless when Jonathan knew him.
Jonathan did have a certain amount of success in creating phobias in patients by mixing the fear toxin with certain items in the room. He had one guy terrified of rabbits just by having a bunny in the room. While there was joy in bringing out a patient's worse fear, it was far more interesting to create a new fear in the patient. Far more informative in how fear works and functions. And despite not knowing what scared him, Jonathan did know what he wanted Matthew Penny to be scared of.
The burlap suddenly felt heavy in his hands. Jonathan knew exactly what he wanted Matthew Penny to be terrified of. He held up the strip and looked towards a mirror. He got a tiny crooked smile and pulled the fabric over his face, looking through the little holes he had worn through it from rubbing it over and over. He looked like a scarecrow.
Matthew Penny was about to learn what fear really was.
"Ow." Jonathan growled as he ran the thread through the fabric. He had gone to his burlap fabric and cut out various bits and pieces to sew them together in a patchwork. Scarecrows weren't all that frightening by themselves so he had to improvise. The scarier he could make it without the toxin, the more horrifying it would be amplified. Currently, Jonathan was sewing the mouth shut with thick strands of thread.
He couldn't think of anything more terrifying than being unable to speak.
The thought had crossed his mind once or twice that it was unhealthy to be so obsessed with getting revenge on a bully that he'd dress up as a scarecrow. But the other part of his mind was appreciating the irony of this man being put in his care and soon to be terrified of the scarecrow that he used to beat up. With the fear toxin boiling close to his side as he sewed, he almost couldn't care.
He wasn't crazy. Jonathan scoffed to himself as he roughly pulled the thread through the mask. If anything, this was even more genius. His toxin had been missing something; that interactive element. Sure it was informative watching his subjects react and hallucinate to the gas and they were scared. But they weren't terrified to the point of death. That's what Jonathan needed to achieve. If he could perfect what causes that sort of horror - he could finally work on getting rid of it.
This mask he was creating was a tool. A tool to induce fear in the subject with the aid of an air-borne fear toxin that served a double purpose as a gas mask. The fact he was making it in the resemblance of a scarecrow was merely a coincidence. It's natural that what he creates to aid the toxin is a recognizable figure oft associated with fear. Even if no one thought scarecrows were frightening. The gangly, stringy men who hung on poles and were picked on by crows and thought as of idiots. Jonathan's threading became as rough as his breathing.
Even if people love to rip the scarecrows off their poles.
Shred their straw and scatter them to the wind.
Pull out their eyes.
Call them names and shove them in the mud when all they wanted to do was go home and finish their chores on time to avoid another beating or night spent in the church with the damn birds.
Jonathan took in a deep breath as he stared at the finished mask in his hand. He swallowed deeply and rubbed his fingers against the burlap. The scarecrow mask was just a tool. Just...a tool.
"Howdy." Matthew rolled his eyes and pulled absently at his restraints that held him to the chair on the other side of the table. He expected to be tied down and guarded while in his session with his new doctor, but he hadn't expected it to be down in the basement. Though, he had to hand it to his new doc; whatever meds he was on he hadn't felt this lucid and calm in ages. Just wish the guy wasn't so creepy looking just staring at him with his hands crossed. "What's the deal with the leaky room?"
"Atmosphere." Jonathan smiled softly and turned towards Justin who was standing in the corner. "Justin, this might be a while. I think it might be best if you went out and got yourself some lunch or something. Take the exit down here so no one sees you skipping work. I won't tell."
"Yes sir, Dr. Crane." Justin chuckled. He knew what Dr. Crane did down here in the dark with those wackos. He was getting paid three times his salary to turn a blind eye and get a show. "Have fun."
"Woah," Matthew paused. Something definitely wasn't right. "The guard's leaving?"
"He won't be needed, Matthew." Jonathan smiled and set his brief case on the table. "It's just you and me now. My, this does feel nostalgic, doesn't it?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You don't remember?" Jonathan mocked a smile. "We used to go to school together. The name honestly didn't ring a bell? Crane? Jonathan Crane?"
Matthew gaped openly. Oh, this wasn't good. He suddenly pulled at his restraints just a little harder. "You."
"Oh, so you do remember." Jonathan clicked open the case. "What was it you used to call me?"
"Come on now, Johnny." Matthew pulled harder at the restraint. Guy he used to beat up with access to a hell of a lot of drugs. Guard smirking while leaving so not to be a witness. Matthew tied down. Not good, not good. Oh of all the times to be lucid and aware! "We were little kids. You can't blame kids for being idiots, can you?"
You tortured me. Jonathan told himself but kept the smile on his face and lifted the mask out of the suitcase and held it down in his lap. The dead eyes stared back at him. "I believe you had a rather interesting nickname for me."
He watched as Crane turned the suitcase around and got a look at a disturbing vile of something. Oh god Crane was going to kill him. He pulled harder at the restraints and felt the sweat pouring down his brows. "I don't recall. It was a long time ago and I was an idiot and shouldn't have done those things."
"What." Jonathan paused and tugged at the mask in his hands. The rough fabric feeling better than silk against his fingertips. "Did you call me?"
Matthew licked his lips and watched as Crane reached into the case and set a needle down on the table. It was huge and was already full of something clear. Crane was smart; he probably knew the slow torturing poisons. "I don't know."
Matthew flinched when Jonathan shouted. How low at he sunk; terrified of a man half his size. His eyes flicked to the table when he saw all sorts of other powders in the case. Probably acid which was painful and no one was here to stop him. Damn these restraints! "I."
"Say it." Jonathan snarled and stood up from the table, hands flat on the table with the mask under one. He saw Matthew's eyes go to the burlap and it hit him like a ton of bricks. Matthew's voice was a whisper.
"That's right." Jonathan yanked the mask over his head and smacked the button on the case that released a stream of red gas into the room. His voice was raspy and full of the venom he'd kept inside for years. "I'm The Scarecrow."
The last coherent thought through Matthew's head was his own scream.
"How could this have happened?" Joan gasped as she looked at the poor man in his cell.
"A bad reaction to a drug, I'd imagine. He must have seized in his sleep." Jonathan looked down over the dead body and did everything humanly possible to keep from smiling. Thanks to Justin the body had been transferred to the basement to the man's cell with little to no effort. And for an extra grand the man helped Jonathan clear the security cameras. "It's almost impossible to judge how any drug will act with any individual."
"I hate it when things like this happens." Joan sighed and jumped slightly when Jonathan put a hand on her shoulder. He must be pretty shaken up too underneath to initiate the human contact. His hand was even shaking slightly.
Jonathan was at his limit keeping his giddy excitement under control. He was going to get away with it. He had scared a man to death and was going to get away with it. Matthew had suffered a severe heart attack. The perfect irony to his evening considering the adrenaline from his overwhelming fear had let him break free from the chair and make it out into the hallway. The death was slow and Jonathan remembered smiling from behind the mask as the man whispered "scarecrow" over and over again. "Don't worry Joan, I'll handle the autopsy myself and see just what went wrong. We'll make sure it doesn't happen again."
"Now, why don't we get away from this and clear our heads. Nothing more that can be done." Jonathan put on a slight smile and lead Leland away from the evidence. "Don't you still have to go visit the children today? You're helping some of the nurses with the trauma patients, correct?"
"Ah yes, of course." Joan nodded. Jonathan was such a sweet man. It was a shame he had such an icy exterior.
Jonathan smirked as soon as she turned away from him. Today couldn't possibly get any better. Joan thought he was a doll, he'd gotten away with murder, and the numbers he'd gotten from his latest test were to well, die, for. Jonathan couldn't wait for a repeat trial. If he could recreate those results in someone who didn't have a prior connection to a scarecrow, Jonathan would have really made a breakthrough.
It was such a nice day. "At least the weather is nice."
Joan cracked a small giggle. "Jonathan, that's horrible."
"We can't let all of our patients effect us so much or we'll be worthless."
"You have a point." Joan pushed at his chest. "I'll see you tomorrow, Jonathan."
"So you're my new doctor huh? What's his name said you're the best at prescribing meds." The lunatic leant over the desk. "Wha'cha gonna' do? Drug me back to sanity?"
"Don't be absurd. Drugs aren't everything you know. I like to think I've reached a wonderful balance between medication and a more hands-on practice."
"With a smile like that, I think that you're the nut job." The patient licked his lips and crossed his hands over the desk. "Got a pretty face though. Bet'cha get all the boys."
"It's not that impressive." A pause. "I have a much better face."
"Really? I can't imagine anything being prettier than them blue eyes." Another lick of the lips. "What's your policy on sleepin' with patients?"
A sigh. "Would you like to see my mask?"