May 6, 2000

The curtains blew about in a sudden wind. The man in the bed turned to look at the window. It was open. It hadn't been a moment ago. Or maybe he'd been unconscious again, lost some more time. He turned his head again, and now he saw a shadowy shape standing at the foot of his bed. Perhaps he was too dazed, tired, to be startled. Or perhaps he was simply used to his visitor's sudden appearances.

"Doctor Bartholomew. I hear you're doing better."

"If by that you mean I'm staying conscious for longer periods of time, and I'm more lucid while concsious, then yes. I suppose I am."

"I'm sorry to trouble you, I know you need your rest..."

Bartholomew sighed. "But I'm sure you wouldn't be here if it wasn't important."

"I don't know if you've heard, but Kidder escaped three nights ago."

"I... hadn't heard. But I can understand their desire to keep it from me. Do you think he'll try to finish me off? I doubt it, myself."

"So do I. Nevertheless, security has been tightened around your room."

"And yet you got in, undetected."

A slight grin crossed Batman's face, and just as quickly was gone. Even so, Bartholomew thought it was probably the first time he'd ever seen the man smile at all. "Jim saw to it a few of his men were looking the other way."

"Friends in high places. Has its advantages," replied the doctor. And sighed again. "But I'm getting tired. So you'd do well to get to the point of your visit."

"Of course. The trouble is, Kidder hasn't done anything since his escape. He hasn't been seen. Not by any of his friends or associates, either criminal or legitimate. The police have been scouring the city, as have I. No luck. Do you have any ideas?"

Bartholomew thought for a minute. Finally he said, "He has been in doubt. He's questioning himself. Everything about himself. He doesn't know how much of his memory he can trust. How much of anything he thinks he knows about himself is based in reality. But I suppose Dr. Thornton has told you all this."

"Dr. Thornton... will not speak to me. He won't speak to anyone. He barely had the strength of will to attend his sessions with the Kidder. He has every reason to be afraid, of course."

"But you've read his notes, no doubt."

"He hasn't written much of anything down. He's afraid of Kidder reading anything he writes."

Bartholomew tried to nod, but couldn't quite manage it. "Reasonable. I'm sure he's read my own notes on him, often enough. And notes on other patients here."

"Was there anything else you could think to tell me, Doctor?"

"No. Just that he'll try to find the truth about himself. Most likely he'd return to his hideout, try to use his technology. Interdimensional travel, time travel, and such impossible things. If he finds those things don't work, if his delusions and hallucinations end... I have no idea what he'll do. Possibly kill himself."

"Do you know of anyone who would know where his hideout is? Joker, perhaps?"

Bartholomew shook his head, and regretted it. "He doesn't trust anyone. He told me once that he took someone called Tempus there, but even if that's true, he wouldn't have let him see the way. ...Also, you know he was in a coma for some time. He... dreamed, while he slept. Most of his interdimensional delusions came from the time spent in the coma. Delusions of other realities similar to our own, where he met alternate versions of the criminals he calls friends. Even alternate versions of enemies, and me. I think... I think he'll hate himself for what he did to me, but... he might really kill me if I told you one aspect of his dreams."

"It's okay, Doctor, you've already been more help that I could have expected...."

"No. I don't want to hold anything back if there's the slightest chance it could be useful...." And he told Batman something that no one else in this or any other Universe knew. It probably wouldn't be of any help, but... it probably couldn't hurt. Batman certainly hoped it wouldn't hurt... especially not Bartholomew. He promised not to repeat the information to anyone. Especially not the Kidder.

conversations part 2