I make my way down the dreary, ill lit hallway of Blackgate Prison. For the past six hours I've been psychoanalyzing the buildup of undiagnosed inmates, determining whether or not they were fit for prison life or care at Arkham Asylum. The patients, however, grew no less rowdy at this information and continued to interrupt my questioning and analyzing with derogatory remarks and crude statements. Not to mention that some of them were incoherent all together.
To put it quite plainly, I hate this part of the job and try to avoid it at all costs. I love my job at Arkham and the patients there aren't the nicest either, but dealing with the Blackgate inmates is a whole other story. I believe that the patients at Arkham can be helped, but the inmates here… I’m not so sure.
I've only been stuck with this job three or four times before in the past, but today I seem to have drawn the short end of the stick. The analyst that had been here this morning is currently in surgery at the newly rebuilt Gotham Memorial Hospital. An inmate somehow managed to lodge a pen halfway into his stomach. A felt tipped pen. The other doctors at Arkham were all too focused on the newest addition to the asylum: the Scarecrow, otherwise known as Dr. Jonathan Crane, to come here. This, of course, left me to come down here and do the dirty work.
I glance down at the chart that the guards gave me as I briskly move towards the last door on the right. I breathe in a sigh of relief when I see that I'm on my last patient of the day. I quickly scan over the basic information to find out that Carsen Evans is a policeman gone awry. He killed three of his fellow men in blue, attempted to murder his wife, and had been aiming a rocket launcher, with the full intention of using it, towards a series of police vehicles when he was finally apprehended. From what I gather, Carsen Evans doesn't seem to be a very nice man.
I scan the temporary badge they gave me at the door and the scanner makes a loud beep as it unlocks. I pull the door open and I'm faced with the familiar sight of an inmate being strapped to a steel cot. Like most inmates I've seen today, this one doesn't seem to be too happy about it.
"Good afternoon," I greet with professional courtesy. "My name is Dr. Quinzel, I'm going to be doing some psychoanalysis testing on you. This is to see if you would be in better hands here or at Arkham Asylum."
He spits at me, which I easily avoid, and begins to struggle beneath his restraints. The restraints pull upwards with him, straining against his wrists and ankles. I write his name at the top of a blank page on my clipboard and hover my felt tipped pen over the next line down. Here we go.
"Let's start out with some word association," I suggest, although he doesn't really have a choice. "I'll say a word and you tell me what pops into your head, okay?" He responds with angrily resisting and tugging at his restraints. "What's the first thing that comes to mind when I say law enforcement?"
"Fucking pigs," he growls in response. "I used to be one of 'em. The best really. If I could get out these restraints I'd show you just how good."
"What comes to mind when I say regret?" I continue to question, ignoring his previous commentary. Threats are a common courtesy around here. He grumbles angrily towards me and continues to thrash. "I know that you don't want to be here talking to me right now, but the sooner you answer my questions, the sooner you can get out these restraints. Okay?" I ask, trying a compassionate approach.
"Okay," he agrees, giving a hard tug at his restraints. In one swift motion, his hands slide free of the cuffs and he heaves upwards, angling his body towards his feet. His hands claw at the foot restraints, roughly beginning to undo them.
My clipboard clatters to the floor as I leap from the chair, my hands automatically reaching for the sedative in my coat pocket. I hurriedly pull it out and tear the cap off. I tap the syringe once and give it a small squirt, then make a run towards the door. Getting out of the room and leaving this mess to the guards is my main goal. Getting close enough to use the sedative, on the other hand, is my last resort. I'm not sure just how easy it would be to sedate a 6'4, 200 pound, police trained convict.
There's a thud as Carsen's feet hit the floor, successfully free of his restraints. I'm almost to the door, only about five or so feet away from it. I hear the grim sound of his feet padding on the floor behind me, trying to catch up.
He throws himself towards me, hurtling us both against the wall. I take most of the impact, or more specifically, the right side of my head does. My vision goes fuzzy and Carsen, hardly fazed by the ordeal, grabs me around the neck and begins to squeeze. I claw at his hands, pinching and scratching, but he doesn't budge.
I bring my knee up hard, successfully hitting him in the groin. He eases up just enough for me to shove him off of me, allowing just enough room for me to slip past him. I slide through the gap between us and back as far away from him as I can, eyeing the door that he happens to be blocking.
"Only one person's getting out of here, doc," he tells me. "I'll be needing that ID of yours to leave."
"Listen to me Carsen," I begin, holding up my hands in a nonthreatening gesture. "You don't have to do this. You're only making it harder on yourself. I know you don't want to live this way. I know you feel bad about hurting your friends. But killing me or the guards or escaping from here isn't going to fix that grief."
"Don't tell me about grief," he snarls, lunging towards me. My instincts take over and I flip to the side, swiftly avoiding his tackle. I land on my feet about a foot away from him, narrowly missing being crushed against the far wall. I don't think I've ever valued my gymnastics skills this much in my entire life.
I seize the split second when his back is turned towards me to jump onto it. I latch myself onto him with a vicelike grip, clinging to his neck with one hand and desperately grabbing for the sedative with the other. He growls something unidentifiable at me and savagely jerks his head back.
The back of his head collides with my nose, sending an explosion of pain throughout it. There's a cracking sound and I feel my nose begin to trickle blood. He uses my moment of brief distraction to ram his back, with me clinging onto it, against the wall. My head and my back hit it hard, but I refuse to let go.
I pull the syringe out of my pocket and drive it into his neck, slamming the plunger down before he can claw the needle out. The now empty syringe clatters to the floor as I loosen my hold on him and drop to the ground, barely catching myself. He lets out a disgruntled howl and rushes at me, but not before the sedative begins to kick in.
Halfway towards me, he stumbles a bit and then falls completely. He twitches for a few moments, fighting the drug, then falls limp. I stand up slowly, eyeing his unconscious body warily. I nudge him in the ribs with the tip of my shoe, but he appears to be out of it.
Now safe from being attacked any further, I probe at the right side and back of my head gently, trying to determine whether or not I have a concussion. I decide against it, although both parts of my head are swollen up like a goose egg and the hit to my forehead seems to have broken the skin. My nose is definitely broken, I decide, and will probably need to be snapped back into place.
I take a few deep breaths, pick up my fallen clipboard, and make my way over to the locked door. I let out a sigh, today is turning out great.
Two hours, that's how long I was stuck in the prison filling out paperwork and being looked over in the infirmary. As well-known as Blackgate is for not following protocol, the extensive amount of paperwork was surprising. Although, I had the sneaking suspicion that they didn't want a lawsuit to upturn some questionable stones in their facility.
Besides the paperwork, a good chunk of that two hours was spent at the infirmary. I assured them that I was fine and could fix myself up at home, but they insisted that they do it instead. Despite my four years of med school, I had to have my nose snapped back into place by an infirmary doctor and be rechecked for a concussion. After that, they slapped a piece of medical tape on my nose, cleaned the blood off my face, gave me some more papers to sign, and then sent me on my way.
I'm halfway out the door when one of the guards stops me. "Ms. Quinzel?" he questions, coming over to me.
"That's me," I confirm. What now?
"The cops just brought in an inmate that needs to be psychoanalyzed immediately," he tells me. "They said that they need to know if they should bring him to Arkham right away or prepare a cell for him in the prison."
"I'm sorry, but you're going to have to get them to send someone else down here. I'm not really fit to be psychoanalyzing at the moment, my boss wouldn't want me to." Sure, I don't want to analyze anyone, but my reasoning isn't a total lie. We’re always being told never to talk to patients, potential or not, on a really bad day or after something stirring. Some of the patients have a tendency to feed off of whatever they can to get a rise out of the doctors.
"Dr. Jeremiah Arkham?" the guard asks.
"That's the one."
"My boss just spoke to him." Oh great. "He cleared you for this one. He said it's vital that you analyze this inmate now, when he's at his most vulnerable."
"Who exactly is this inmate?" I question.
"I don't know, I told you everything that they told me. Judging by the urgency, I'd say that this criminal is pretty important to the police," he muses. "I'll take you up to the fifth floor now, that's where they're holding him."
"Alright," I sigh, giving into the whims of Jeremiah Arkham once again. Work always seems to find me after hours. The guard leads me past the several stages of security and towards an elevator. He unlocks it and leads us silently up to the fifth floor, where I'm faced with several police officers.
"Ms. Quinzel," one calls, breaking through the crowd of officers. I recognize the familiar face of Jim Gordon, one of the leading detectives on the GCPD. Although I've never personally met the man, I've seen him enough on TV to feel as though I've got some understanding of his character.
"Lieutenant Gordon," I greet.
"It's Commissioner now, thanks to the great work of everyone here. We finally got that bastard." He points towards one of the steel holding room doors, where my mysterious patient undoubtedly lies. They must've caught one of the big criminals of Gotham, judging by the relief and triumph on all of the officers faces.
"Who's in there? All they've told me is that it's vital for him to be analyzed tonight."
"We caught the Joker," he tells me, smiling proudly. "We finally got him."
"The Joker?" I repeat in disbelief. "Commissioner, I've only been working at Arkham for two and a half years, I can't analyze the Joker. I'm just a resident psychiatrist."
He places a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "Treat him like you would any other inmate and most importantly, try not to let him get inside your head. He's been trying that with some of the cops on the force, so be sure not to slip anything too personal into the conversation. He's restrained, but there will be two guards in the room with you just in case. Do you have anything potentially harmful on you?"
"Just my glasses, they took my other personal belongings at the front desk."
"Your glasses are fine," he tells me. "Dr. Quinzel, not that I think you're going to do this, but when you make your decision, please don't allow personal opinion to factor in. We've had several problems in the past with Arkham psychiatrists doing such things."
I'm tempted to remind him that most of those psychiatrists are now locked up in that said asylum. "I understand," I tell him politely. "I'm going to judge the best place for him by his results, not by a matter of personal preference."
"Well, now that that's settled, I'll let you get started. These are for you to take notes," he hands me a clipboard with paper to write on and a felt tipped pen. Gordon steps aside and I make my way over to the steel door, shoulders squared. I take a deep breath and open the door.
"Hello," I greet, briefly noticing the two guards standing sternly against the far wall. My eyes travel over to the man who's strapped to a steel cot in front of them, and I resist the urge to gasp or gawk. The Joker is much more disconcerting in person than on the news. His presence, although he hasn't even turned his head to look at me yet, is practically dominating the room.
For Gotham's latest and greatest villain, he appears to be quite disheveled, although it seems somehow appropriate. His greasepaint is smeared and smudged, with blotches of it missing altogether. His hair is rather unruly and the color looks terrible in the harsh light, not to mention it looks as though it hasn't been washed in weeks. There's a few bruises on the side of his face that I can see, all in various stages of healing. Some of the bruises, however, look as though they've been delivered recently.
"My name's Dr. Harleen Quinzel," I tell him, gathering myself.
"Harleeeeen Quinzel," he muses, testing the name on his tongue. "What a nice name. Rework it a bit and you get-"
"Harley Quinn," I finish for him. "Like the clown harlequin, I know." I walk over to him slowly, reluctant to leave my spot near the door. "I'm a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum. I'm here to analyze your mental health and decide if you would be in better hands here or at Arkham."
"Called in late just for me? I'm flattered."
"That's right," I tell him, taking my seat in the chair beside him. He turns his head now, finally able to get a good look at me. His eyes bore into mine with a startling intensity and despite the urge to, I don't look away. He turns his head back to the center of the steel cot that he's tied to, breaking the intense stare.
"You look like you've have a bad day, doc."
"I could say the same for you, Mr.…?"
"J. You can call me Mr. J," he tells me with a smile. It's disconcerting, his smile, something about it feels… dangerous and mischievous. I can't place my finger on it.
"So, Mr. J, let's start with some word association. I'll say a word and-"
"Who gave 'em to you?"
"I'm sorry?" I question, caught off guard.
"The marks on your face. Who, uh, gave 'em to you?"
"I'm not here to talk about me," I tell him, attempting to avoid the question. "We're here to talk about you."
"Tell you what, I'll cut you a deal," he offers slyly. "You answer my questions and I'll do your little, uh, word association." He smacks his lip in conclusion, his tongue darting at the corners of his mouth. I faintly wonder if it's a force of habit or if it's because the scars irritate the skin that rests there.
"I'm not allowed to cut deals, Mr. J," I tell him firmly, keeping my tone purely professional.
"It'll be our little secret," he promises with a smile. I glance briefly over at guards, who stand with their arms crossed. Right, it'll just be between us and the two guards over there. How reassuring.
"Alright, fine," I agree. Gordon said I wasn't supposed to tell him anything personal, but he wants me to get accurate results, doesn't he? I can't do both. Besides, what is the Joker going to do with the information that I got beat up? Call me a wimp?
"I was attacked by an inmate earlier today. He managed to get out of his restraints during our session," I tell him honestly. "Now, I'm going to say a word and I want you to tell me the first thing that pops into your head." I think back to all of the news stories that I'd seen about him to find a good word. Typically we aren't supposed to use words that stray from the normal list, unless we know enough about the inmate to use something personal that would give us insight into their mind. However, I doubt that the Joker will react at all to the "normal" list, so the information I’ve gathered from the news will have to do.
"Let's start with chaos," I suggest.
"It's not a tricky thing to bring about, all you've got to do is upset the established order, stray away from the ‘plan.’ And you know what they say about chaos?"
"It's fair." I make brief note of his reply on my clipboard, already intrigued by his thought process. "Why aren't you in the, uh, morgue?"
"What do you mean by that?" I inquire, caught off guard again.
"How'd they get the inmate off of ya?" he clarifies. "No offense, doc, but you don't exactly look like fighting material."
"I managed to sedate him," I reply simply. The Joker clucks his tongue in response, his eyes studying me. "What comes to mind when I say rules?"
"The only sensible way to live in this world is without them, a concept I don't think Batman truly understands yet. He think his rules will save him, keep him from becoming like me. They won't and it's not just him either, it's nearly everyone in this city. All the things that make them whole, that make them good, are like a bad joke. When the chips are down and the masks are off, their morals, their codes, their rules, they'll all be dropped, forgotten."
"That's an awfully twisted view on society," I observe.
He lets out a sharp bark of laughter. "We live in an awfully twisted society."
One of the guards clears their throat loudly. "The police said they wanted this done quickly," the guard informs me sharply from across the room. Five minutes is hardly enough time for a proper analysis, especially with someone like the Joker.
"I'll be done in just a minute," I call back, not so sure that this will be enough for a complete and proper analysis. Oh well, I'll have to make do with what I have so far, unless I can squeeze in another word association. "Alright, last one-"
"Ah-ta-ta," he interjects. "It's my turn. Tell me, Harley, what's the worst thing you've ever done?"
"Please address me by Dr. Quinzel," I request firmly. "I believe that bad things are in the eye of the beholder. What some may consider good, the police may consider bad. What the police might consider good, some might consider bad. It's all a matter of relevance," I answer vaguely, swiftly avoiding the question.
One eyebrow goes up, but he doesn't fight me on my answer.
"What comes to mind when I say Batman?" I ask, uncertain that I made the right choice in picking that particular word. It could stir up some serious emotions, not that it would be a bad thing for the analysis, but I'm slightly worried.
"Ah, the Batman." There's a faint fondness in the tone of his voice, which is the opposite of what I'd been expecting "Now there's a stubborn man. He's got all these rules, all of these morals, and it won't do him any good, not in the long run really. His whole existence is a paradox. He dresses up to fight crime, when really it attracts freaks, like me."
"Why do you say you're a freak?"
"Oh, I'm not. I'm not," he pops the last t. "To everyone out there I am, including Batman. No, no, I know that I'm not a freak. I'm just ahead of the curve." His tongue darts at the inside of his cheeks, probing at his scars. "Ya want to know the difference between why heroes and criminals wear masks?"
"Bad guys wear a mask because they don't want to get caught, they're looking out for themselves. Heroes, on the other hand, they wear a mask to, uh, protect the people they care about. The funny thing is, the mask never works. I showed Batman that, but I don't think he really saw the, uh, the big picture. His rules, they sometimes keep him from truly seeing the, uh, message. He'll always have his little rules," the Joker tells me with a dramatic sigh, "but that's what makes it fun."
"You don't wear a mask," I point out, trying to shift the subject away from Batman and back to him.
"I'm on my own side," he tells me. "And on my side, there's nothing to protect and nothing to lose."
"Doesn't that get lonely after a while?"
"Having nothing to lose really opens up the world," he tells me. I wait for him to elaborate, but it soon becomes apparent that he won't.
"Well, it was nice meeting you Mr. J," I tell him politely, standing up slowly. "I'll take some time to review your session, then I'll tell the guards my decision. You should know the results in about half an hour." I make my way over to the door, almost already certain of the decision I'll make. I scan my ID, but as my hand goes to open the door, the Joker's voice floats over to me.