"Curiouser and Curiouser": After following Marionette to a warehouse, Nightwing is surprised to find the Mad Hatter waiting there, having selected Mali as his new Alice. Unfortunately, the Hatter has foun
- You know, a lot of times people get manipulative like that because something big blows up in their life. They cling extra hard to whatever shreds they can, to whatever they do have control over.
Appearing in "Curiouser and Curiouser"
- Mad Hatter (Flashback and main story)
- Drexell Chemical
- Kanium Carbonate
Synopsis for "Curiouser and Curiouser"
After following Marionette to a warehouse, Nightwing is surprised to find the Mad Hatter waiting there, having selected Mali as his new Alice. Unfortunately, the Hatter has found a way to control the mind of Nightwing's civilian roommate and reporter Michael, who was there with Det. Maxwell Morgan, who was staking the warehouse out. Naturally, the Hatter is eager to see Nightwing dead, upon spotting him, and Dick is forced to defend himself against his own roommate. Reluctantly, he and Marionette decide to ally themselves against the Hatter, if only temporarily.
After checking on Michael, though, Nightwing learns that he isn't wearing one of the Hatter's trademark hats, which begs the question of how they are being controlled. The Hatter quickly realizes that his thralls are outmatched, and uses a machine gun to cover a wider area. Michael's phone is damaged in the chaos, and the control over him fades, prompting Nightwing to deduce that the cellphones were the means of control. Mali spots a phone that has an open call, and she grabs it and Detective Maxwell as she and Nightwing escape through a skylight. By the time Michael and Maxwell realize where they are, Nightwing and Marionette are gone.
Alone with Nightwing, Mali explains how her memories are only brief images of how the Mad Hatter kidnapped her, and tried to make her into his Alice with sick experiments and mind control. When she failed to satisfy, he shot her, and left her fr dead in the gutter. The experience messed with her mind, giving her a condition her doctors call "personality slipping" - she isn't sure that Mali is even her real name. She also developed the ability to mimic the behaviour of others. Having seen several doctors of different kinds, all they could agree on was that the Hatter broke something in her, and she believes that he is the only one who can put her back together. In the meantime, she has been taking Kanium Carbonate in order to stay baseline, but it's not a fix. Unfortunately, it's a controlled substance, and she has to steal it to get it. Reading the worry lines on her face, Nightwing decides that if there's a chance Hatter can fix her, Mali should take it - and he intends to help.
Upon returning to his shared apartment, Dick finds his window stuck shut again, requiring him to go to his stash of clothes on the roof and go in through the front door. He soon discovers that his roommate Joey has begun throwing his things into his room as under the pretense of "decluttering" while she babysits a girl named Jen. As Jen dumps Dick's shoes into his room, he warns her to stay in there for a minute while he has a private talk with Joey.
Dick complains that Joey's penchant for cleanliness is bordering on the obsessive and that micromanaging him is not okay - including shutting his window on him. Offended, Joey suggests he look for a new place to stay, and Dick agrees that it would be best. Unfortunately, while they argue, Jen happens to discover Dick's Nightwing uniform in his closet.
Having struck a deal with Drexler Chemical, the Hatter annoys the CEO by dropping in to the head office. He insists that he will have his Alice back, and they will help.
By the time Dick meets with Mali, she has already discovered the Hatter's whereabouts. The plan, as far as Dick knows, is to do a simple snatch-and-grab job, but within moments of entering the building, Mali kicks him in the face, and triggers the alarm. As she speeds ahead, leaving Nightwing to face security alone, he realizes that she intends to kill the Hatter, and determines that he can't allow it.
By the time Dick arrives at the CEO's office, he is surprised and confused to find the Hatter alive - but all of his tea has been stolen. Sniffing one of the Hatter's teacups, Nightwing recognizes the odour of the Kanium Carbonate. Recognizing the look on Nightwing's face, the Hatter realizes that he's fallen for the same lies that Mali has told other people. He never mistreated her - he just had Kanium. Now, while Nightwing is sure that she wants a cure, he can't trust anything else Mali told him.
At his bartending job at McClellin's, Dick learns from Michael how his visit o the doctor went after he was controlled by the Hatter. Maxwell is annoyed with Michael, now, because since the Hatter experience, Michael decided to stop being Maxwell's pawn, and the Detective didn't take it well. Dick comments that when people become manipulative like Maxwell was, it tends to be because of things going on in their own lives. They cling hard to what few things they do have control over. His own words suddenly remind Dick that Joey is doing just that, and her micromanaging isn't personal.
Upon arriving at home, Dick apologizes for his harsh words from before. He puts it together that her being at home all the time for the last few weeks might mean that she lost her job, and that is what's been frustrating her. Tearing up, she explains that she was told they didn't think her personality was a good fit. Sympathetically, Dick hugs her to him, and insists that they were wrong about her and that he will do all he can to help.
They are interrupted by a visit from Jen's parents Cheryl and Greg, come to pick her up. As she leaves, Jen gives Dick a knowing glance, and promises that they'll see each other tomorrow, raising his suspicions.
- This book was first published on January 15, 2014.
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