Honestly, I had no idea why Jonathan looked so surprised.
The good doctor knew that if he wanted to keep me from getting in, he would need a good deal more than a camouflaged hideout and an ill-concealed keypad (with a five-digit code!) to do it. After all, measures like that were meant to keep out Gotham's police force, and those louts could barely count to five. No, if he were really opposed to unannounced visits from yours truly, he would have made entry at least a hint of a challenge.
That established, there was no reason for him to be staring at me as if my appearance actually constituted breaking and entering.
"Good morning," I said smoothly, just to keep things moving. I smiled winningly. "You are aware it's morning, aren't you?" It was a little after four thirty, but firmly in the ante meridiem.
Jonathan narrowed his eyes—a sound feat, considering they were already half-lidded from a very apparent lack of sleep. Then again, this was Scarecrow, master of fear but not of basic physical needs. One would think a doctor would keep up with such things. Didn't psychology cover the effects of sleep deprivation? "Edward—"
"So you haven't forgotten me!" I braced my cane behind my back with both hands and strolled in. I was not subtle about my search for seats. What furniture that existed was ancient and rickety, inspiring little confidence in its ability my weight. (I have always been a bit heavier than Jonathan—and thank goodness.) Then, too, most of it was alarmingly grimy.
Jonathan shut his laptop irritably, fingers splayed over its surface. "What are you doing here?"
I finally found a suitable chair and landed backwards in it, folding my arms over the back. "A pleasure to see you, too, as always," I assured him.
He ran a hand through his hair, making it, if possible, even more of a horrendous mess. I refrained from pointing out that combs were conveniently cheap, as the comment wasn't strictly relevant and had not been met with the appropriate gratitude before. "I'm in the middle of something," he stressed.
"I'd be happy to help—"
I huffed. I knew he could be stubborn about accepting my superior expertise in psychology (and especially chemistry), but there was no need to be rude about it. "Well! Let it be known that I offered."
"I wish you wouldn't," Jonathan said coldly. "What do you want?"
Never one for small talk, was our dear Doctor Crane. It was such a shame. I folded my hands with an even smile. "Why, Jonathan, old friend, whatever makes you think I want something?"
He let out a loud and entirely unnecessary snort.
Very well, straight to business it was. "Since you ask," I began delicately.
Now he rolled his eyes. It was difficult to find a more actively unappreciative audience, and considering the social circles I kept, that was saying something.
"Since you ask," I repeated, "I came to tell you that, to no one's surprise, I have had a brilliant idea that I believe would benefit us both. One that calls for collaboration, as a matter of fact." This stroke of genius was a new one, having arisen from a recent incident. In fact, the idea did not precede my current circumstances. One could say that it illustrated the incredible speed and adaptability of my mind.
If one were more inclined to put things in simple terms, one might even say I had only come up with this idea just now. But I would personally consider that description a little rude.
Jonathan expertly arched en eyebrow. With a longing glance at his laptop and the doubtless derivative theories therein, he allowed, "Go on."
"I know where the Batman is at this very moment." I beamed at the sudden interest that sparked in his expression. "I suppose I have your attention now?"
"How?" he demanded.
"Why, by leaving a trail of clues, of course," I declared in my best show voice. "Gotham's favorite detective can't resist them. And in this case they have led him right to the fabled witch's house—to my own doorstep and into a trap."
The good doctor mulled this over. "What are you proposing?"
"A trap," I replied confidently—an instant before realizing I could have taken more care with the wording. "That is, an improvement on current circumstances, to better make an example of the vigilante who has hung over us for far too long. Your fear gas may have limited uses—no offense, Jonathan—but it can be singularly handy when—"
"Wait." Jonathan held up a finger. "Edward, he is trapped, isn't he?"
Blast. "Of course."
"As we speak."
"By... well, doubtless by his own dull single-mindedness and stunning inability to get into any of my hardware," I scoffed hotly. Obviously that was the case.
Jonathan folded his hands on his knees, an ominous gesture. "As some of us have slower minds," he said, enunciating each word, "you'll forgive me if I repeat your proposal back to you, just to make sure I have it right."
I didn't like his tone. "Of course."
"Batman found and broke into your hideout." His voice was laced with false patience. "And now you want me to come help you get rid of him."
Heat rose to my face, and I knew I had gone an undignified shade of pink. "You're twisting my words!" I accused.
"That is it, isn't it?" At my brief silence (a bout of offended—nay, betrayed—speechlessness), Jonathan promptly opened his laptop and began working again. "As entertaining as it was to listen to you of all people complain about someone barging into your hideout—" He made a shooing motion with one hand. "Out."
"I never thought you a fool, Jonathan," I declared haughtily, coming to my feet. "At least not enough of a fool to give up a golden opportunity like this."
He rubbed at his temple and eyed me with spectacular indifference.
I brought my cane sharply to my side and stormed away. But my gait slowed when I checked the security feed on my phone, which showed that Batman was indeed still there and actively disengaging the last lock. He was such an idiot; he hadn't attacked any base of criminal operations, but my one remaining hideaway, which served no function besides a place to sleep and store my things. Which I needed.
Surely I could persuade someone more reasonable to take up arms on the issue. Even if I couldn't, well, the genius of Edward Nygma always prevailed eventually.
Sooner rather than later would be nice.
"Wait," Jonathan called grudgingly.
I looked over my shoulder in genuine surprise, both at his voice and at the fact that my pace had apparently slowed to a crawl as I neared the door.
He was frowning sourly at me. But then he said, "You can stay here until he's gone."
I brightened. "Jonathan, you're a peach," I declared.
I landed back in my previous seat, one foot propped on a rung. "What if your new pet chemistry project stumps you?"
It was, much like the command not to enter his property unannounced, a rule our dear Doctor Crane proved totally unable to enforce.