Batman: The Salem Protocol

Chapter 2: Cardboard Masks

It felt odd, driving around in broad daylight in the Robin suit. Tim tried to concentrate on the road ahead and ignore Roy. The older crime fighter was jabbering animatedly into his com-link.

"You're saying they didn't run his prints, didn't verify whether there was a guardian or power of attorney… Tell me, Oracle, how did it go down exactly? Someone answered the doorbell at Arkham and found 'Wing tied up in a straitjacket with a note saying 'please take good care of our little Pierrot—he's a coupl'a dancing bears shy of a circus act—and the docs just smiled and said 'wow! And us with a vacant cell! Let's keep him'?"

Tim couldn't hear what Barbara was saying on the other end, but she clearly wasn't making Roy any calmer.

"What do you mean, I need a court order to get him out? They sure as hell didn't have one to stick him in—Thorazine? Are you freaking kidding me? Look!"

He paused for about five seconds, before ranting on. "You're damned right, I'm shouting. I'm about ready to tear that place apart brick by—" He hesitated, then continued in a slightly quieter voice. "NO, I don't want Scarecrow and Hatter on the street… I'll tunnel in under the outpatient wing, okay?"

There was a longer pause.

"A writ would work too, I guess. Can I at least lock the docs up in solitary? Key Arkham's car? Run a fake ad under his name in the personals column?" He sighed. "You know, you're making this a lot less fun than I thought it was going to be."

He let out another deep breath and activated the mini computer built into the Redbird's dashboard. "Okay. I'm online at the judicial forms site. I'm downloading the writ now. Got it. As long as your sure you'll have the right details in the system by the time anyone tries to verify it... Fine. I'll check back with you once we've got him. Red Arrow out."

Robin took his eyes off the road long enough to glance at the other vigilante. "So?"

Roy smiled. "Everything's fine, Robin. Keep your mind on your driving."

The younger man complied as he tried to figure out exactly what it was about Harper's smile that terrified him.

"I… know this place," Bruce said slowly. "But, I don't live here."

Dinah nodded. "It's one of your safehouses. According to Barbara, you've got a few." She frowned as she looked at the keypad situated to the right of the door, level with the brass door handle. "I think it's…" She tapped in a sequence of numbers, then pressed down on the handle. The door remained locked. Dinah laughed self-consciously and tried again. "I don't believe this," she muttered. After her third failed attempt, she grimaced and turned to Bruce. "Would you excuse me for one second, please?" She asked sweetly. "I need to make a call." So saying, she pulled out her cellphone and hit a speed-dial button.

Bruce looked curiously at the pinpad as Dinah waited for her party to come online. It was comprised of four rows of three buttons each. The buttons of the top three rows were numbered from one to nine, with the bottom row consisting of a pound key, zero, and asterisk. Without realizing it, Bruce's fingers moved slowly but surely to the pinpad and pressed five keys in quick succession.

The door opened readily as he pressed down on the handle.

"Never mind, Babs… it's… under control," Dinah was saying. "Bruce? Did you remember…?"

Bruce's eyes moved from Dinah, to the pinpad, to the now-open door. "I don't know what I pressed," he said slowly. "It just…" He closed his eyes. "Yesterday, before I was arrested, I remember… I was attacked. I fought back, but the moves I used… they weren't typical street moves." He frowned. "And don't ask me how I know that, either."

He followed Dinah inside and up two flights of stairs to another door—heavy oak with brass fittings. There was another keypad—this time, directly below the door handle—comprised of two columns of numbers plus the first and last six letters of the alphabet.

She looked at him. "Want to try?"

There was no hesitation this time. His fingers brushed the brass buttons and automatically tapped in the proper code. He looked over his shoulder at Dinah's hopeful expression and shook his head.

"It's…" He tried to explain as they entered the well-appointed apartment. "I can picture a map of the city in my head… and if you were to give me landmarks, I think I could pinpoint their locations." He looked around. "I've seen all this furniture before… I must have chosen it… but I…" He shook his head. "Never mind. Perhaps it'll come to me." He paused. "I imagine I must have credit cards or debit cards, and I probably know their access codes—even if I can't say them offhand. From what we've just seen, I have to have retained some memory of them." He frowned. "I'm analyzing… everything. I find that I'm taking note of details without even realizing that I'm doing so… until I put everything together. I think…" He blinked. "Am I a detective?"

Dinah smiled. "One of the best in the world. And that's not flattery—it's fact."

Bruce nodded. "Except… something doesn't fit. I suppose that—if I'm successful at my profession—I might be able live in a certain style." He held up his hand. "It appears that I've had a manicure, and not long ago," he said thoughtfully, "but these are laborer's hands. They're callused, the fingers have been broken in several places, and there are scars—some fresh, some years old." He frowned. "Ever since I woke up in an alley yesterday, even when I've been surrounded by people speaking street slang, I haven't resorted to it. I've understood it perfectly, but, my natural… speech patterns seem to be—"

"More polished," Dinah completed. She nodded slowly. "Okay. So far, your observations are on target. What else?"

"How do I know you, again?"

"We've worked together."

Bruce's eyebrows arched upwards. "Really? You said that before, only…" his eyebrows drew together. "I may not know who I am or where I come from—and maybe the only things I know about my past are what I've been able to piece together through observation—but my memories about other things seem to be intact. For example," his voice hardened, "I have no problem remembering, Ms. Lance, that you frequently go by another name. So, perhaps you can tell me why the current Chair of the Justice League would have worked with me in the past, and why she'd be so interested in my condition… Black Canary."

She hesitated. "If I tell you, I'm not sure you'll believe me. And it might be better if you remember it on your own."

"I'll believe you if you're telling me the truth," he snapped. "And I'll know if you aren't. Answer me."

Dinah remained silent, considering.

Bruce's eyes narrowed to slits. "Tell me! Why does my condition matter to you? ANSWER ME! NOW!"

"YOU'RE BATMAN, DAMN IT!" Dinah shouted. Instantly, her hand flew to her mouth. Of all the stupid… Bruce was confused, disoriented, trying to connect the clues, of course he was going to be angry that she was keeping things from him. Maybe he shouldn't have yelled at her, but she shouldn't have yelled back. "I'm sorry," she said. "I know this has to be rough for you."

He was staring at her. "I'm… Batman?"

She nodded.

"I'm Batman."

Abruptly, he spun on his heel, opened a nearby door, and walked through, closing it behind him.

Dinah waited a few minutes, then cautiously followed.

The door led into a bedroom. Bruce was sitting on the double bed, looking in the mirror. He appeared to be talking to himself.

"I'm Bruce," he said. Then, a moment later, "I'm Eric." He paused. "I'm John. I'm Batman. I'm Grey Ghost. I'm Wildcat." He frowned. "I am Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire. I own a mansion and a yacht."

Dinah giggled.

Bruce turned to her. "I do own a mansion… don't I?"

She nodded. "I'm not sure about the yacht, but it wouldn't surprise me. What are you doing?"

"An experiment." He propped his elbow on his knee and rested his chin in the palm of his hand. "I was trying to see if I could detect a difference in my reaction to statements which you've told me are true, versus random guesswork on my part."


He sighed. "And I still don't know whether I'm considering your words more trustworthy because you, at least, seem to know who I am, while I'm still trying to find out, or whether you have, in fact, been telling me the truth… but I think I believe you. At least, for now."

Dinah smiled. "Glad to hear it." She laughed again. "Elmer Fudd?"

"Yes, well," Bruce coughed. "I had to throw at least one name into the mix that I knew couldn't be right."

"Thanks, Gary, much appreciated." Roy grinned. "You know, one of these days, we ought to get together: you, me, Sarge, Winston…" He broke off. "Okay, later." He closed his cell phone.

"What's with the change of clothes?" Robin demanded. Roy now wore khaki Dockers, a cream-colored button-down shirt, an olive green tie, and a tweed sports jacket.

"I can't go into Arkham as Red Arrow," Roy said. "As far as they're concerned, I'm Arsenal, aka Roy Harper. Sometime hero, sometime agent of Checkmate, member of the Suicide Squad, Titan, Outsider, babe magnet…"

"So, Arsenal wears street clothes and Red Arrow doesn't?"

Roy shook his head. "Red Arrow is a member of the JLA," he said, suddenly serious, "but Roy Harper has links to Checkmate. We need those links right now. At the same time, I don't want too many people connecting the dots between Arsenal and Red Arrow. See, Roy Harper has a little girl who's been endangered a few too many times. I'm trying to keep my JLA identity secret. Luckily, since this particular mission calls for a few favors I racked up during my Agency days," he ran a hand through his hair, "and since I'm not about to rack up another enemy with an axe to grind against me and mine on a job like this, I don't really need the JLA credentials this time out," he adjusted his tie, "so I'm ditching the spandex."

"Oh." It still didn't make much sense to Tim, but he didn't see the point in saying so. They drove in silence for a few minutes, until they passed the Asylum's main gate. Finally, as he pulled into the visitors' parking lot, Tim ventured again, "So, how are we going to get him out?"

"You grabbed a pair of Dick's shoes before we left?"

"You saw me stick them in the back seat. How are we getting him out?"

Roy smiled. "I'll keep my com-link open. Listen, learn… and get ready to move in if I have to switch to Plan B."

So saying, he exited the car and slammed the door shut on Tim's plaintive, "you haven't even told me Plan A, yet!"

Jeremiah Arkham did not have a personal secretary. He had a security guard with a stun baton positioned outside his office door. That didn't faze Roy in the slightest. He barreled down the hallway, directly toward the heavyset man—who gulped and clutched his weapon more tightly.

Before he came in range of the baton, Roy slowed his pace, reached deliberately into his jacket pocket, and slowly pulled out an ID wallet. "Roy Harper. I'm a private investigator. I need to speak with Doctor Arkham."

The guard tightened his grip on his weapon. "What about?"

"What're you? His receptionist?" Roy demanded. "Tell Arkham that if he doesn't want this place to get sued out of existence, he'd better find a few minutes to talk with me, fast."

The guard swallowed. "Stay here." He disappeared into the office. A moment later, he emerged and beckoned to Roy.

Arkham was shuffling reports as Roy approached his desk. "Mister… Harper, is it?" He sniffed. "You're away from your normal stomping grounds. Is there something I can help you with?"

Roy smiled. "You could say that." He slid his identification across the desk. "I've been taking on some PI work in my spare time. Heroing doesn't pay the rent and, well, I've got a five-year-old," he said affably. "You understand."

The director frowned. "I'm not certain I do."

"All right." Roy picked up a paperweight from the desk. "In a nutshell, I got a call last week from Bruce Wayne. Apparently WayneTech's about to unveil some new supergadget or other that's going to blow the competition out of the water, revolutionize the industry, the usual hype. Except," he dropped his bantering tone, "the competition decided it likes the water, thank you very much. So they warned Wayne that if he went ahead with the product launch, they'd go after his oldest kid." Roy's expression turned grim. "Wayne asked me to keep tabs on Dick Grayson, which is what I was doing. Everything was fine—until yesterday, when he went for a lunch date. He never showed up, and he hasn't been seen since."

"Oh?" Arkham sniffed again. "So, you've misplaced your charge. Unfortunate… but that still doesn't explain why you're here."

"Bear with me, Doc," Roy said. "I'll explain." He pulled a picture out of his wallet. "This is what Mr. Grayson looks like, today." He pulled out a second photograph. "And this is a photograph of Pierrot Lunaire, whom, if my sources are to be believed, you admitted as a patient yesterday afternoon. Looks like a case of mistaken identity to me, doesn't it?"

Two bright spots of color appeared on the director's cheeks. "Really, Mr. Harper, while I can understand your distress at failing to protect your client's interests, I can't have you disturbing my patients on some madcap notion that one of them is your missing person. It is the policy of this institution to disallow visits for the first seven days in order to acclimatize our new patients and get them settled into the routine. I can't set that aside because you have some… some bizarre notion that we've somehow admitted the wrong person."

Roy blinked. "You're saying you don't have Mr. Grayson here as a patient."

"That's correct."

"You're sure?"

Arkham nodded. "Quite sure."

Roy shrugged. "Ok," he said easily "I guess that's that." At Arkham's confused double take, Roy nodded. "I mean," he said, "going by the information that would have been presented at the hearing, there's no way that it could be anyone but Lunaire, right?"

Jeremiah frowned. "I believe that's what I—"

"Exactly. So, I guess I'd better be moseying along." He turned as if to go, then doubled back. Oh, Doc?" Roy said, still in a friendly tone. "Just one more question, if you don't mind? Where would I get a transcript of the hearing?"


"Where," he repeated, still smiling, but now speaking slowly as though to a particularly dull child, "would I get a transcript of the hearing? I mean, considering that Mr. Lunaire was spotted on a motorcycle driving through the Gotham warehouse district within the last forty-eight hours, and you've had him less than a day—well, that must have been one speedy arrest and trial." His eyes danced. "So speedy, in fact, that I defy you to find an arrest record, or a civil commitment order, or anything else stating that you've got any legal right to hang on to this patient."

For the first time since Roy had begun to speak, Arkham looked nervous. "Well, I'm sure that the paperwork must be here." He walked slowly toward a filing cabinet and pulled open the top drawer. He made a show of rummaging through the files before he looked up with a disconcerted frown. "Clearly, there's a rational explanation," he said with forced joviality. "After all, we can't just shut people away without a hearing."

"Particularly if they're French nationals," Roy smirked.

"Correc—what?" Arkham's head snapped up.

"Oh, you mean that wasn't on the… um… commitment papers that 'must be there'?" Roy asked. "Pierrot Lunaire is a French citizen. Meaning that if that's who you've got here, there'd be a report from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, local police, probably FBI, seeing as this guy's France's answer to the Joker."

Jeremiah stared at him, mouth agape.

"No papers?" Roy asked in mock sorrow. He brightened. "Well… maybe I can help. See," he fumbled through his pockets, "I figured you might not want to compound a felony with a misdemeanor, Doc, so I made danged sure I had a writ with me to get Grayson out before I walked in. Hang on a sec…" He pulled out a folded sheet of paper. "Is this… no, this is my confirmation that I'm on active status with Interpol. Here's the writ." He laid the document down on the desk.

Arkham returned to his chair, sat down, and picked up the paper. "This is a release for Mr. Grayson. I… this will be bothersome, since we have no patient here by that name. It will take time to verify your allegations, you understand."

Roy blinked. "Oh, please." His upper lip curled in disgust. "Please tell me you're NOT going to pull bureaucracy on me after all this. I mean, you can't find the damned papers, so what are you going to stick the red tape on?"

"Yes, well," Arkham harrumphed, "I grant you that there are some irregularities, but…"

Roy reached over deliberately, seized Arkham by the shirtfront, and pulled him forward. "But nothing!" He snapped, all traces of camaraderie vanished. "Listen to me you pompous little paper-pusher! If I'm right, and you're holding Richard Grayson… well," he shrugged, suddenly calm once more, "congratulations. You've just annoyed one of the most powerful men in Gotham City; a man who employs some of the top lawyers in this country… and a man who, incidentally, is also one of your biggest defenders in the press."

He released Jeremiah's shirt and the director fell back into his chair. "If you're right, on the other hand," he shrugged once more. "Again, congratulations. You've just ticked off the government of France and put the US in the goddamned embarrassing position of having to explain how the bloody, blue bleep you run this place."

He grinned. "Of course, you could always take me to your patient, now. If it's Grayson… I'll be sure to tell Mr. Wayne how cooperative you were, and I'll collect my pay, and everyone's happy." For the first time, he sat down in the padded visitors' chair. "And if it's Lunaire, well, I'll be happy to use my Interpol connections to turn him over to the French authorities. They'll take care of him, I'm sure." He swung his feet up and rested them on the desk. "Whaddayasay, Doc?"

Arkham looked like there was a great deal he wanted to say. Instead, he rose to his feet and headed for the door. "Follow me," he ordered curtly.

Roy obeyed, still grinning broadly.

As they entered the patient intake wing, Roy's grin fell away. It was like walking into another century. He remembered Oracle's briefing. A few years back, the historic Arkham Asylum building had been destroyed by a newcomer Gotham—a man known only as Bane. Rebuilding would have taken too long, so the city had cast about for an alternative and found it at the old Mersey Mansion. Six months of construction and renovation to update the building and bring it up to code, and the new site had been ready for business.

The intake wing, however, was located on the lowest levels of the original building, in what might have been a wine cellar once upon a time. No hint of modernity seemed to have penetrated this far down. Instead, the stone walls and heavy wooden doors—complete with barred windows, resembled nothing more than medieval prison cells.

Roy stiffened as he heard a low moan coming from one of the cells further ahead. It might be Joker. It might Two-Face. It might be Tanner, for all you know. Roy tried to tell himself that he hoped so. He knew that most of the people incarcerated here probably deserved to be. But that moan… It was right out of a cheesy Halloween special, but in these surroundings, it chilled him. This is a twenty-first century hospital—not the Marquis de Sade's basement, damn it!

"This way." Arkham walked briskly, his vision straying neither right nor left. Two guards walked ahead of them, two orderlies followed behind. He didn't seem at all perturbed by the scene around them.

A wave of cold fury washed over Roy as another moan echoed down the hallway. It better not be Dick.

It wasn't. Arkham stopped before one of the cells and nodded to the guard to unlock it. Roy walked in, with the others on his heels.

The cell wasn't very big. And, apart from a padded cot and a small toilet and sink, it wasn't furnished. There was a figure slumped on the cot, his head down.

Roy dropped to one knee. "Dick? Buddy?"

Slowly, the figure looked up. "R-r-r?" An expression of horror crossed his face. He frowned. "Rrrrroy…"

For the first time, Roy saw that he was wearing a straitjacket. "Get that off of him," he snapped.

"Um… sir, that might not be a good idea," one of the orderlies said. "According to his chart, he was extremely violent when he was brought in."

Roy turned his head long enough to cast a withering glance at the speaker. "You don't say," he drawled. "You mean, after he was kidnapped, restrained, dragged here, and shown his new digs? Gee. I wonder why." His voice hardened as he pulled a wicked-looking bayonet out from under his jacket. He grinned as he heard Arkham's sharp intake of breath from behind him. The guards had patted him down when he'd come in, of course, but there were a few tricks he knew to get around that. "Forget it," he said. "I'll handle this myself." He placed a hand on Dick's shoulder. "Hold still a minute."

It actually took several minutes for Roy to saw through all of the straps. Through it all, Dick sat calmly, watching. Once the remains of the straitjacket had fallen away, he rose unsteadily to his feet. Then, without warning, his knees buckled and he sank back to the cot.

"It's the Thorazine," Arkham volunteered quietly. "Until it wears off, he can expect to experience dizziness, lack of coordination—"

"Dryness in the mouth, agitation as it wears off," Roy finished. "I'm impressed. You look that up on Wonkipedia, Doc?"

The director cleared his throat. "Perhaps I could show you both to more… comfortable surroundings. You could wait there until the medication has had a chance to wear off."

Roy turned around. "Somehow, I don't think any surroundings within a two mile radius of this place are going to be comfortable enough. We'll just be going."

He lifted Dick's arm and draped it loosely over one shoulder. "C'mon, buddy. Let's take it slow. One step at a time." He looked down and cursed softly. "Damn. I knew I forgot something. I left your shoes in the car." He sighed. "Good thing we're not parked too far from the door."

And good thing Robin's been listening to the whole thing, and is probably driving up to the entrance right about now.

They were almost to the foyer when Dick stopped. "Don' feel s'good," he mumbled.

Roy turned his head, took one look at Dick's face, and quickly steered his companion towards a nearby mens room. They almost made it. Roy winced. He could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that Dick had let anyone see him in a state like this. "Easy," he said. "Just do what you got to."

Dick finished being sick. "Srry," he said.

"Don't be. Couldn't have happened in a better building." Roy helped him straighten up. "I've got some water in the car. Think you can keep it down?"

"Dunno…'ll try…"

It seemed an eternity before they were across the foyer and down the steps. Sure enough, the Redbird was waiting for them at the bottom.

Robin was grinning as they approached the car. The grin dropped abruptly, though, as he saw the state that Dick was in. "You okay?" he asked as Roy motioned to him to open the back door.

"Shr, I mm."

"He'll be fine," Roy said as he got into the back seat next to Dick. "Once the meds work through his system. We just need a place to crash until they do."

Robin nodded. "The manor's too risky if Black Glove comes back. One of the satellite caves should work fine." He glanced sharply at Roy. "By the way, what happened to the rest of Black Glove's gang?"

"While you were talking to Oracle, I beamed 'em up to JLA HQ and then back down to the GCPD. With any luck, they'll be deported back to wherever they came from."

"Good." He looked over his shoulder. "Dick? You sure you're alright?"

Roy smiled but his tone was serious. "Drive with the window open. Just in case."

Bruce was having a nightmare. Dinah hadn't thought anything of it when he fell asleep on the bed. Between everything that had happened to him within the last two days and the fact that Batman really wasn't a day person, she'd taken it in stride when he'd dozed off in the middle of the afternoon.

She hadn't expected him to start tossing and turning less than a half-hour later.

"No!" She heard him cry out. "What are you doing? You can't! N-n-noooo!"

She did her best to ignore it, realizing all too well what it might mean to startle a man with Batman's reflexes. Finally, she could stand it no longer. She went back into the bedroom, stopping several feet away from the bed.

"Bruce," she called softly. "Wake up. It's okay. It's…" She bit her lip. "It's just a dream."

His eyes slid open. For an instant, Dinah saw a relieved expression cross his face. Then his gaze hardened. "I… remember," he said slowly. "When we worked together."

The smile that was starting to form on her lips froze at his next words.

"I just realized why it is that I don't entirely trust you."


Bruce nodded. "I saw you… watching. And you never did a thing to stop them." His words cut sharper than any scalpel. "They took my mind and you let them!"

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