"Good afternoon, James."
"How many times must I tell you not to call me that?"
"There is no limit. You may stop telling me anytime you wish."
"That's not exactly what I meant. Still, I suppose I never should have let out my true middle name."
"I'm sorry you feel that way. But that is why you are here; for me to make you well again."
"Doc, if I ever thought you stood a chance in hell of accomplishing that, I'd consider you a very dangerous man. Be glad, for your sake, that I don't take you more seriously than I do."
"Really, James, just because you've done some bad things, and because you've demonstrated on occasion an ability to escape, don't think that I consider you more dangerous than I do."
"Say that without guards in the corners."
"Regulations, James. You are, after all, a medium security patient. In most any psychiatric facility other than Arkham, save but a very few, you would be in maximum security. However, I should like to inform you today that that may soon be changing."
"Oh? Why's that, Dr. Bart?"
"I've noticed one overriding trend in your profile over the years, and that is your intense desire to be taken seriously, your choice of pseudonym notwithstanding. Certainly you enjoy games, kidding around. But you have also committed serious crimes, including murder, when you've deemed it necessary. Despite this fact, you have taken pains to ensure that neither you, nor anyone in your employ, kill anyone unless absolutely necessary- at least in your own considered opinion. Further, there are crimes you would never commit under any circumstances. And in fact, I believe there are people you would not kill to save your life."
"All true. What of it?"
"The point, James, is this: you have never been as violent nor as mad as those you choose to consider friends. And you have been improving for the past year or two. When was the last time you killed anyone?"
"I haven't seen the need. Why, just today I could have killed a patient. One who would have deserved it. But it would have bothered me; not the killing itself, but the perceived motivation behind it. It could have seemed that I did it merely to prove I could and would. This person reminded me in a way a bit of you, except for the insults. It was the attitude that I'm not as mad or as criminal as I should be- well, you wouldn't say 'should be,' of course. The point is, if anyone was familiar with our disagreement, they might see it more as a demonstration than as a killing for a good reason: that the person simply annoyed the hell out of me."
"Ah, but you're good at demonstrating madness, when it suits you."
"You refer to my brief stay in Blackgate, some years ago. The first time the Bat caught me."
"Just so. You didn't want anyone thinking you were sane, for that would, in your mind, have made you less important, less interesting, and generally less worthy than the patients here."
"The interesting ones, anyway. You do have some fairly common nutjobs here, too."
"You also made the same sort of threat earlier, when you said I should be glad I don't stand a chance of curing you."
"Yes. You've got me there, Doc. I will do things purely for demonstration. When necessary. The person who taunted me wasn't dangerous. No threat was posed to my accepted status."
"Perhaps so. But I feel you yourself have become less dangerous. I don't think you'd kill anyone for any reason you've ever used before. Perhaps in defense of self or another, but that wouldn't make you insane."
"You're treading on dangerous ground, Doctor."
"So you say, James. So you say. But you have rarely been less than a model patient. Oh, you escape sometimes, and you play your head games. I'm sure I can't trust nearly all you tell me in our sessions, but much of it is undoubtedly truth. You don't start fights, and rarely join in when others start them. By and large, you behave yourself. Even on the outside, you enjoy a life of at least partial normalcy. You are an artist, a scientist, and a businessman. You have strong moral directives in your criminal activities, and insist upon running your legitimate enterprises... cleanly. I think your madness has always been for the most part a desire to fit in. You always thought you didn't fit in with normal society, so you latched on to a subgroup, people you decided to fit in with because they, too, did not fit in with normal society. Also, you needed to lash out at that same society, for rejecting you, making you an outcast. But at the same time, you built yourself legitimate means of entry into normal society. You don't need your madness or crime anymore. You're a good person, a thinker, a philanthropist. You wish to make the world a better place, as long as you can have some fun in it. It doesn't have to be destructive fun. Why, even in your delusions of interdimensional travel-"
"That's real. You're not the only Dr. Bart I've had sessions with. It's just that the other ones were treating me for 'delusions' that I was a great criminal, rather than for actually being one."
"You grew bored with your friends, and wished to change them, but without abandoning them. You are a very loyal person. And so you created this fantasy of parallel worlds, where you could meet different versions of your old friends... Even when they have all but abandoned you. It doesn't matter how much you respect them, James. They recognize that you're not one of them. They don't like you anymore. But you still can't bring yourself to abandon them entirely, and so feel compelled to replace them... with them. Only, other. Hence your delusions of the past..." He stopped to consult his notes, flipping through pages on a clipboard. "...Oh, the past year and a half, or so."
"It sounds a reasonable theory, Doc, I'll grant you that. But the fact is that I really have travelled between dimensions. I know! Why don't you and I get outta here and I'll take you to some other world? Of course, you'll have to be unconscious while I take you to my hideaway...."
"You know I can't agree to that, James."
"Well, you're not much of a scientist, are you? Refusing to even consider examining evidence of a claim that doesn't fit into your narrow-minded paradigm of how the Universe works. But then, psychiatry isn't a science, is it? They say it's not an exact science, but of course you and I know it isn't a science at all. Especially when you completely ignore and scoff at the scientific method."
Dr. Bartholomew sighed deeply. "You know that's not what it's about."
"...Putting aside the matter of your strained relations with your so-called 'friends,' let us examine the nature of your recent delusional excursions. You have not come across any worlds including those friends, or Arkham, or Gotham, or even superheroes and supervillains, for some months now. Oh, except one, a few weeks ago, and you spent most of your time then in Los Angeles. For the most part, the stories you've been telling me of late are almost pure anthropology and philosophy, science and theory. What do you make of that, James?"
Kidder just shrugged, leaned farther back in his chair, and said, "Iunno."
"Very well, then. I shall tell you what I get out of it. I believe your delusions are becoming more benign, and one might say mundane, because of your improving mental health. You are growing into your true self, scientist and philosopher. You are not a villain, James. You had a hard life. Your mind found ways of coping, but it was never your fault, and the good person inside you always tried to temper your madness. He didn't always win, but he mostly did. He's been doing so more and more. Let me help him- let me help you win the final battle, and end this inner war once and for all. The world is your oyster, James. You can have the life you always wanted. GJK Enterprises, STAR Labs, all the good and true things you've got going for you will still be there. You don't have to be an outsider anymore."
"I get the point, but is there an upswing to this spiel?"
"James, I'm going to move you to minimum security, and with your cooperation in my revised program of treatment, I am confident that you will be ready for release within the year."
Kidder calmly stood, made brushing-himself-off motions, and said, "Well, Doc, you make a very convincing case. I think I could almost agree with you, except that-" and he launched himself violently across the table at Dr. Bartholomew, knocking him across the room, jumping on him, pummeling him, choking and bashing and kicking and biting....
The guards were on him within five seconds. He threw them off and continued at the doctor, but the guards were quickly back on him, pulling him away. He struggled, but to his surprise could not again shrug off their grasp. They gave him a shot and dragged him, unconscious, out of the room and back to his cell. Orderlies meanwhile brought in a stretcher and took Dr. Bartholomew to the infirmary, where he would stay for a month. He would not return to work for another month after that.
While in the infirmary, for the first week he was frequently in and out of consciousness. Doctor Thornton, who had been assigned most of his case load for the duration of Bartholomew's recovery visited him that first night, hoping for some advice in dealing with the Kidder, whom he would have to see the next day. Bartholomew, in one barely lucid moment, simply rasped, "Call him James, you must c-" and slipped back into unconsciousness.