Disclaimer: I do not own 'The Batman'.
Betaed by: Zim'smostloyalservant and Trackula
She had only encountered him briefly, but it rushed back now. He was a bizarre looking man. His hands stood out unusually large as he tapped his fingers together as he looked down at her. His face was long and jowled, fitting with his overweight shape, but it was a poker face. His late-stage male pattern baldness was the most normal thing about him, and how long his hair was made that odd, too.
Hugo Strange. Surely an immigrant name, changed from something else by his parents or grandparents. But what, she wondered?
"Hello," she greeted, offering a hand. He took it, and sure enough, those giant hands were real. Not nearly as calloused as many a cop's hands she had felt, but not weak either.
"I thought I wasn't scheduled for a session yet."
"You are correct, Detective Yin. But I thought you might appreciate a face-to-face sealing of details.
"I believe that, barring a session before your release, we should hold the sessions at Arkham," he told her.
"Arkham Asylum?" she asked flatly.
"Now now, despite the reputation it has gained as a place for holding dangerous patients, it is a place of medical treatment first and foremost. I can confidently say that I believe I can best do my duty in your case from the offices there. Surely a police officer can appreciate the difference between public perception of an institution and the reality?" he said. That voice, so precise.
"But I think it would be better for the first session prior to your release to your home to be held here at the hospital," Strange concluded.
"But of course, as the patient you have the right to take a role in your treatment, is this acceptable?" he asked.
She frowned. There was a nurse watching from the door. It felt like the padding was hugging her face, but maybe still better than that uncontrolled face on display.
She wanted to get back in the saddle quickly. If that meant staring down Arkham's gates every once in a a while, fine.
Ellen's face looked bad. There was no other way to put it and not lie.
Not a perfect split, but just looking it was close enough as to make little difference. The skin had healed enough for them to let it breathe freely now. Saying it was better, however, would sound like a joke.
It was an angry red, verging on purple in some places as her head tilted. Tight, leathery looking. Painful to look at.
Her cheek was withered, her lips on the bad side gone, revealing both rows of teeth on that side yellow and veined black, emerging from reddish purple gums.
The bad eye had swollen, glassy and useless, lidless. Surely the size was more optical illusion from it being naked?
Her scalp was not spared, her usual long thick black hair scalded away, the scalp scarred and wrinkled, only a few stray strands of black catching his eye.
She was examining it in the hand mirror she had been holding when he was admitted. He stood behind her as she sat up on the bed. Using the mirror to look himself.
Ethan was more than a little ashamed of staring, but it was so hard not to. Even the clean side only made the scars stand out worse.
Running her index finger along her exposed molars, she frowned, glancing back at him.
"Banutt," she remarked.
"Oh, caught in the cookie jar?" he tried to laugh it off.
"Euw are no worse then the nuse. Just don't dare say… it does not look so bad," she paused, trying hard to get the words right.
Before he could think of anything to say to that, she went on.
"At least you din't bring 'Ayne. He ud, would, say that," she managed.
"Bruce means well," Ethan defended his friend passively. Ellen frowned and he decided to just take her retort on his friend. Then she sighed, and didn't take another shot at all.
'Okay, that can't be good,' Ethan thought.
"Have the brass given you a new partner?" It was easy enough to tell what she was saying, he decided.
"What? They know I have a partner."
"They're going to try and bench me for this. The Chief saying something about sympathizing as they push me into a desk job in records or something."
"Well, taking it easy for while maybe-"
"I'm a cop. Not a desk jockey with a badge and uniform. They can say what they want, but I will not be put down, Ethan. I'll prove to them that that clown didn't break me.
"So don't do anything stupid because of me. I don't need you or anyone to be a knight in shining armor."
"Please don't tell me you're beating yourself up over this? Ir wasn't your fault."
"I know, people tell me. But-"
"If its anyone's fault, it's Batman's."
"You don't agree."
"I think the Joker is guilty enough."
"Well, that we agree on," She said. Ethan left soon after, hardly reassured.
The Next Day, GCPD:
"Detective Cash Tankinson, ready to hit those streets and take whatever they hit back with," the man said. Ethan raised an eyebrow at the other cop. Shades, close-cut blonde hair, and a jacket based outfit that seemed almost out of a movie.
He glanced to the Chief, sitting behind his desk and looking as grumpy as usual.
"Well, pleased to meet you. GCPD can always use another cop," he said, shaking hands with the man.
"Oh, I think you'll find Cash Tankinson is not just another cop," the man in shades said.
Wondering why he was here, Ethan looked back to the Chief.
"So you want me to show Detective Tankinson around or something, Chief?"
"Yes, as his new partner, that is your responsibility," the Chief said.
Ethan paused, taking a moment to wonder if he had heard right.
"I already have a partner," he reminded the Chief. The Chief put a hand on the top of his desk and started to drum his fingers on it, mustache twitching slightly. But it was Cash who spoke first.
"Ah yeah. Ellen Yin. Tragic what happened. Hear she was a grade A cop until Joker melted half her face off.
"Tragic. But bird with a broken wing can't fly. So now you get the bull — Cash Tankinson won't go down to no clown easy, I can tell you that!" the detective declared. Declared, yeah that was the word. Ethan was more puzzled someone talked like this than he was angry at him.
"Chief, can we talk in private?" Ethan asked.
"Hey we're partners. What you say to him, you can say in front of me," Tankinson objected.
"Detective Tankinson, get some coffee," the Chief said.
"No need, sir! Cash Tankinson punches fully fueled and ready to go," he answered crisply. The Chief glared at him. Shades didn't conceal his smug expression slipping.
"Yes sir, I'll get a cup for Detective Bennett," he said.
"Don't hurry back, make a fresh pot," the Chief instructed. The strange man closed the door behind him, leaving the Chief and the detective alone in the office.
"Well, Bennett, say what you need to say," the Chief ordered.
"Ellen Yin is probably the best cop in this department. And you want to send her to a desk?" Ethan demanded calmly.
"Want to? No.
"You think I'm quite the ogre, don't you Bennett? Too harsh on my personnel, too strict on your beloved Batman. Just too everything, right?
"Well, you might have a point, thinking I'm not on the streets knowing what it's like these days. But you out there only see a part of the big picture I work with here and across the city.
"I don't want to put the best cop in my department out to pasture. She's the best, and she has the right attitude about Batman. But that doesn't change the fact that taking her off the street is the right choice. The media has been tough enough to keep from stirring up this story into a sensation as is."
Ethan had something to say to that, but the Chief plowed forward, glaring at him.
"A woman getting mutilated is bad enough. If she were a man, then right or wrong, people wouldn't get so upset. But a woman whose 'beautiful before' picture they can wave around? I've pulled plenty of strings just to keep her from becoming big news.
"And that all goes down the drain if she is walking a beat with half a face. People will demand to know why we couldn't protect our own. Why we thrust her back out into danger like some old time General sending shell-shocked troops back into the trenches. We won't be seen as as having 'faith' in her. We'll be seen as callous to our officers, or desperate enough that we would do something like this.
"That moron I sent for coffee? He is literally the best transfer we've had in too long. Gotham has become a place where cop careers go to die. Because cops here are seen by too many as jokes, who get shown up by flashy vigilantes, and get led around by the nose by freaks in costumes.
"How much worse will that be if Ellen Yin, a pinnacle of a cop, getting chewed up and spat out becomes major news?"
"I'm not done.
"You know how these creeps started coming out of the woodwork after the Batman? Well, what I worry about most isn't new freaks. I worry about Batman copycats. After all, if the people decide the police are useless, why not just pull on a costume rather than dial 911?
"But these won't be highly trained, tech-armed vigilantes like the Batman. These will be civilians with some delusion or other going out and getting chewed up and spat out. Or they have some bite, but lack that restraint Batman has that you harp about. Just imagine, some masked vigilante with a crowbar beating a mugger's skull in. Or carving some 'justice' slogan into a drug dealer with a stiletto.
"We are this close to losing the people, and with them the city sliding into a full on war zone. So I will bench Ellen Yin if it helps keep this city safe from the madness Batman and Arkham's Rogues have infected it with."
The big man took a deep breath, and Bennett decided it was now or never to speak.
"Those are a lot of assumptions, Chief. You got some experts signing off on this fortune telling?"
"Yes, actually. And being in charge means considering the worst and trying to make it ridiculous-sounding looking back, by making sure it never came to that."
"Yin, if anyone could-"
"Doesn't matter. This is about image and public reaction, not the truth. Fair doesn't enter into it, so don't try and cite it.
"And before you think about slamming your badge on this desk in some dramatic protest, admit that my fears are not beyond the possible. And ask yourself, are you willing to take Ethan Bennett off a force that has already lost Ellen Yin? Or are you going to be the kind of cop this city needs? Which means accepting a hard truth and getting out there and doing your best to make sure Cash Tankinson and the others like him we'll be getting, will be able to keep up with the scariest city in America?"
"…This will break her heart, you know that?" Ethan asked. The Chief nodded, reclining slightly. He was relaxing, he knew he had won.
"GCPD looks after its own. She'll have a good job, a well paying one, a desk job," the Chief said.
"Now, you have a partner to break in. Believe it or not, he has quite a good record. See to it Gotham doesn't end up breaking it," the Chief dismissed him. Ethan nodded and turned to go. But stepping into the bustle of the department, Detective Shades was the last thing on his mind.
Ellen hesitated before the door, feeling the nurse behind her hovering, watching.
Just like a review board, too late to get it of it, just get in there, keep your head on straight, and get it over with, she told herself.
"Hello again, Detective Yin. I am pleased at your speedy recovery in flesh allows us to begin," Professor Strange said. She resisted the urge to touch the padding covering much of her neck and head. She wondered if this cycle of exposure and concealment really worked, or they were guessing. But that was not her current problem.
He had commandeered this room for a session, she had understood. He did not sit behind the desk like a guest, he was at ease sitting there with a fourth floor view of the city behind him.
"Uh, sure. So do I sit there?" she asked, gesturing to an overstuffed-looking chair across from the desk.
"Sit where you like, or stand. One moment please, while I set up to record our session," Strange said. She considered standing, but the chair just seemed the proper place, so she sat down in it, back straight. To her surprise, he was setting up an actual tape recorder, complete with a microphone he was setting up on the desktop.
Since he was involved with that mind-walking tech, she had assumed he was tech savvy. If he noticed her surprise, he ignored it, and seemed to finish with the outdated tech.
"Session one, Yin, Ellen; Professor Hugo Strange psychiatrist, recording for accuracy and medical posterity.
"Detective Yin, how are you?" he asked, tapping his huge index fingers together.
"What do you mean?" Ellen asked. Whether her pain meds were working, or if she was anything but unhappy to be here with him?
"It is a simple question, Detective," he said. His voice, gravelly and slow. Not too slow, but every word said perfectly, pronounced precisely. She felt stiff, looking at his mask of a face.
He scribbled something on a notepad. She hadn't even said anything, she thought, frowning.
"Detective Yin, how would you describe yourself?" he asked.
"I'm a cop," she said.
"Yes, like your father I understand," he commented. Seriously, he was bringing up her parents? Wasn't this supposed to be about Joker?
"You were born in Gotham, and your father was a sergeant for the Gotham Police department. Was it before or after his death that you decided to follow in his vocation?" Strange asked.
"Before," she answered shortly.
"And after your mother's death, when you were seventeen was it, you were moved to Metropolis, to a cousin of your mother's custody."
"I got emancipated shortly, it wasn't a good fit," Ellen supplied, before he could recite that irrelevant fact.
"So it would seem. You pursued a law enforcement education and entered law enforcement in Metropolis. An impressive career, where you were slated to succeed your superior eventually as head of department. Yet you turned this down in favor of a transfer to Gotham, retaining a detective position. Why?"
"I wanted a challenge. Gotham was a city that needed good cops more than Metropolis did," she answered with rehearsed ease.
"So a single policewoman could tip the scales? Is that your assertion?"
"Police work is a group effort, Professor Strange."
"Hmm, yet you have a rather lackluster record for teamwork, I understand. With the exception of Detective Bennett, you are noted to go through partners at an unusual rate. Despite glowing reviews from superiors for your competence and procedural commitment, it seems with your peers you have a history of struggling."
"I… had some rough patches, but I have gotten better."
"Have you received any visitors other than Detective Bennett? Repeat ones."
"Only Bruce Wayne."
"And is he a friend?"
"He's Ethan's friend. I'd pay you to figure out how that works," she joked.
"Earlier you described yourself in a word as a policewoman. The profession you have pursued since at least the age of twelve. Could you describe yourself outside that role? Who is Ellen Yin, beyond Detective Yin?" he asked.
'A pretty woman,' almost slipped out. She wasn't vain, but she saw it in the mirror, and plenty of punks and cops who thought her hearing wasn't so good commented. Thinking fast, she gave him something empty but good sounding. Fortunately, he swallowed it, scribbling it down.
By the time he dismissed her, she was relived. She wasn't normally one to want to drop in bed unless she had earned her paycheck, but this was exhausting.
"So, how did I do?" she asked, turning her head as she reached the door. She frowned, as she had to turn further with that eye out of commission.
"It has been most informative. I will see you again, at Arkham," he told her. Nodding, she turned and left, back into the hall and the bustle of the hospital.
Well, that had not been pleasant, but then, could any time with a shrink be?
But at least it was over.
Arkham was a fascinating structure. Once a mansion of its founder and namesake's family, it had been extended and remodeled extensively during Dr. Arkham's own life. Some of the later additions had gone beyond pragmatic, seeking to create an environment that so-called experts of the day believed would be conducive to healing.
Alas, Amadeus, like so many of his peers, had been hobbled by sheer ignorance. Though he admired Dr. Arkham's dedication to the study, the man could not have helped with the poor tools his era had provided. But Arkham Asylum had endured and grown.
And now that same vision of seeking understanding at all costs could live on in the hands of Hugo Strange.
He had taken the original Arkham office, despite its secluded state in the current layout. Its set up suited him, its isolation yet ready access to so many important areas granted him space and control both.
And now, amidst his books and tapes, he used tried and true tape recording to dictate his thoughts for personal posterity.
"The super criminal, the villain, costumed maniac, and locally termed, the Rogue.
"Rogue perhaps is the best term, born from the very corridors of Arkham Asylum. A human who has not only rebelled against law and society's mainstream, but has rejected any moral or mental normalcy to act out on as grand a scale as they please.
"They have become a neglected field of study. Despite a steady rise in numbers and prominence in the collective worldview of society, they are dismissed, or simply casually labeled by so-called experts whose efforts are juvenile politics.
"Even my own efforts have afforded me only glimpses into this unique new culture of madness. As head of psychiatry at Arkham, my resources for study are second to none, but I fear I am reaching a wall.
"For the so-called Gallery of Rogues houses only finished products. Much can be learned, such as their diverse origins. But what binds them together? Theories without sufficient support are unworthy of documentation, nothing but cluttering data.
"But the patient, Ellen Yin, could present an opportunity.
"A chance to witness and document a person make the transition from a functioning member of society into a Rogue. A priceless chance that, however narrow, cannot be ignored, that could provide pieces to the puzzle that will unlock still more answers within existing subjects.
"And so I shall endeavor to ensure she will travel down this road, to whatever end."
Author's Note: Well here we are again. Kind of hoped it would be over on Queen, but well better success here than nowhere. Work continues on Queen of All Oni, good progress but irregular, lurches and lulls. In other PDJ news Ages of Shadow has actually gotten more of the next chapter written, so at least the PDJ groove seems to coming back in me.
As for this, a short chapter; I think this will be a story with short chapters for awhile. Next chapter I will be filling in some backstory for the good detective as Strange continues his study of her.