The Joker escaped three days ago without a word. One of the orderlies on his payroll had let him out of his cell. All of the other information is a bit of a blur and that blur involves two dead nurses, three dead guards, and a clean getaway. Batman had shown up at one point, or so I've heard, but the Joker managed to distract him long enough to get away. How exactly, I don't know. All I know is that he's gone... again.
At least he's free. I'm more satisfied by the thought that he's gone and free, instead of gone and at Blackgate. Deep down, as much as I hate to admit it, I'm hurt that he didn't make any move to say goodbye. Then again, if he had, I probably would've been used as Batman's distraction once again. I know that he's gone, I'm hollowed by it, but I have a feeling that I haven't seen the last of him. Not yet anyway.
As much as Dr. Arkham wants to somehow pin the escape on me, he simply can't. He had probed and prodded at me for details, hints, anything. He had even gone to great lengths to subtly question me here and there, even though I hadn't even been in the asylum at the time of the escape. Despite the questioning, I don't think Dr. Arkham's looking for a confession or something to use against me, but rather I think he's searching for answers. He has some sort of irrational idea that I somehow know where the Joker is, although I frustratingly don't have even the slightest of a clue as to where the Joker could be.
He hadn't left me any kind of clues, or even an indication that he wanted me to find him. He hadn't left me any paintings or weapons or joker cards. All he had left behind were dead bodies and sheer frustration. I wonder, late at night, if instead he'll find me. Then I try to convince myself that he doesn't even care and then I argue that if he doesn't care, why would he string me along for so long? He had said just the other night that I was in for a lot of fun.
None of this, of course, helps my ever growing insomnia. For the most part, I found myself up in the wee hours of the night with some sort of internal struggle. I had tried, at times, to busy myself with paperwork and such at night, but my jumbled thoughts tended to get in the way of things distractingly so. I hadn't forged any more sleeping pill prescriptions yet, but the more nights that pass, the more tempting it becomes.
My cell phone rings, the shrill sound snapping me out of my thoughts and unfinished paperwork. I dig the device out of my purse and check the caller ID. Selina Kyle. Huh, she never calls during work hours. I glance at the clock above my office door briefly. 6:02 pm. Well, it isn't exactly work hours anymore, but something still feels off.
"Dr. Harleen Quinzel," I greet, mainly out of habit.
"Is she okay?" Selina asks. "I know they roughed her up last night and all, but is she okay?"
"Is who okay?"
"Arkham didn't tell you?" she replies in disbelief. "Batman caught Pam last night. They kept her down at the police station all night. Bats had some sort of antidote or something to keep her powers at bay while they questioned her. They transferred her to Arkham around four or so, it was all over the news."
"No, Arkham didn't tell me," I grumble to myself. "What happened?"
"Bruce Wayne was hosting some kind of a, um, what do you call it? I don't know. It was some kind of fund raiser or something down at the botanical gardens last night. Pam couldn't resist making an appearance and as soon as she did, Batman showed up. She tried using her pheromones on him, as usual, but this time Batsy was prepared. He had some kind of spray with him that he used on her. It made her sick, sick enough to be grabbed. I think it depletes all of those lovely plant powers of hers, it's probably some kind of pesticide."
"Batman used some kind of pesticide on Poison Ivy?" I repeat, incredulous.
"Looks that way."
"It's horrible, I know. That's why I'm calling you, to see if our little plant friend has any lasting effects."
"I don't know, Arkham hasn't told me anything at all. I didn't even know that she had gotten caught," I tell her. "Let me go talk to him. I'll call you back." I end the call and tuck my phone into one of my coat pockets, then stride towards the elevators. I press the fifth floor button, anger bubbling up in me with each passing minute.
He's just busy, I try to tell myself, getting off at the fifth floor. He hasn't had time to tell you yet, that's all. I rap on his office door two sharp times and wait, trying to force my anger down. It's nothing personal, he just hasn't had time to tell you... in the day and a half he's known about it. Even my false reassurances are starting to falter.
"Come in," Dr. Arkham calls. I step inside his office and shut the door behind me. "Ah, Harleen, what can I do for you?"
"Is it true that Pamela Isley was admitted here earlier today?" I question, cutting to the chase. Dr. Arkham's pleasant smile droops.
"Who told you that?" he demands and I raise an eyebrow in response. Was it supposed to be kept a secret from me?
"Does it matter?" I challenge.
"No, I guess it doesn't," he mutters. "Yes, it's true. She was brought to the asylum a little over two hours ago. We had a special cell prepared for her, which she's currently residing in at this moment."
"What do you mean by special?"
"We've installed a few extra ventilation units in her cell," he replies. "We filter in an agent that depletes her of her powers, making her easier to handle. The guards don't have to worry about being swayed by certain abilities when they come to bring her food or take her to therapy sessions. We've also had several syringes filled with the mixture for when she's out of her cell."
"You're feeding her pesticides then?" I deduce angrily.
"You could say so, I suppose."
"You're hurting her."
"Would you prefer the guards to die by her hands, Harleen?" he shoots back. "Or her psychiatrists?"
Ignoring his snide commentary, I ask, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I thought it'd be better for you to remain clueless," he replies. "She used to be your friend, I didn't want there to be any kind of conflict. I know you would've found out about it sometime, but it's her first day here and to be honest, I didn't want you to ruin anything."
"Ruin?" I repeat. "What would I ruin?"
"I don't know. You might interfere with things, doctor ideas, treatments, things like that. I just... I don't want us to have another Joker mess on our hands."
"Are you saying that the Joker's actions were my fault?" I snap, incredulous. How dare he blame me for all of that. If anyone besides the Joker is to blame, then it's Dr. Arkham himself. He was the one who took me off the case, which resorted in a dead doctor. He was the one who tried to send the Joker to Blackgate, which is probably what triggered his second escape in the first place. Even though I was the one to tell the Joker about the board meeting, I'm sure he would've found out anyways.
"No," he retorts with a wave of his hand, dismissing it all together. "What I'm saying is that you're biased towards Poison Ivy. I don't want your past interfering with judgment calls, like bringing her plants or contradicting doctor's treatments or fighting us every step of the way. I want this criminal's visit to go smoothly. You're smart, Harleen, you see where I'm coming from, don't you?"
"Yes," I reply, forcing myself not to clench my jaw. "I'd like to see her."
"No, absolutely not," he immediately rejects. "That is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. She's not your friend anymore, you've got to realize that. She needs help and that is why she's here. She isn't here for you to rebuild some college friendship."
"I know that," I snap, trying to push my fury away. "That's not what I'm trying to do."
"Then what are you trying to accomplish by seeing her, hmm?" he challenges. "You think she'll spill her guts out to you, let you in, because you two were buddies once upon a time? No, she's not your friend anymore and she doesn't want to be. She is a psychotic plant creature that will do whatever it takes to get out of this place, including using your so called "friendship" against you. Is that what you want, Harleen? To be used like the Joker used you?"
How dare you? How dare you say that to me? I think to myself in angry disbelief. Push it aside, Harley, this is what he wants. Don't give him the reaction that he wants.
"First of all, Dr. Arkham, the Joker did not use me. Secondly, calling the patients ‘creatures’ is a little unprofessional, don't you think?" I continue on before he can reply. "I don't want to be Pamela Isley's psychiatrist, I just want to say hello and maybe try to chat for a bit. Don't you think she might appreciate seeing a familiar face?"
"No, I don't," he retorts vaguely. "Is this all you wanted to ask me about, because I've got some very important things to do."
"I won't waste anymore of your time," I tell him, turning on my heel to leave his office. I'm tempted to slam the door shut, but refrain. I make my way over to the elevator and punch the button for the eighth floor, which just so happens to be the floor where they keep all of the special needs patient's cells. I shouldn't be doing this, deep down I know that I shouldn't be doing this, but I have to see Pam. She's my friend, regardless of what Dr. Arkham thinks he knows. It's my job, as a friend, to make sure that she isn't physically suffering at the hands of Dr. Jeremiah Arkham. Although, if she is, I'm not quite sure how I'll be able to stop it.
I buzz myself into the farthest corridor on the eighth floor and I'm faced with several very untraditional cells. Immediately to the right of me is Dr. Victor Fries cell, otherwise known as Mr. Freeze. As of the moment, he's running rampant through Gotham, so the icy chamber that takes a deep toll on Arkham's electrical bill is momentarily empty. We continue to keep the cell running, though, for when they catch him again.
I walk down the hallway, glancing into each cell for Pam. I pass Clayface, who appears to have been drugged, and Killer Croc, who is attempting to break several of the chains keeping him bound. I pass a few empty cells before ending up in front of what I think is Pam's cell. There's a heavy layer of red mist settled over the cell, obscuring most of my view inside.
"Pam," I call, tapping lightly against the glass. "It's Harley."
I jump back in surprise as Pam flings herself at the glass, her palms resting flatly against it. "Harley," she rasps, sounding terrible. "My babies... they're killing my babies."
"It's going to be okay," I tell her, watching as she takes in several deep, ragged breaths. Damn Jeremiah Arkham and his unorthodox methods. "Just hang in there. I'm going to get this sorted out."
"My plants... my poor plants," she rasps. "They're murdering them. They're murdering my babies."
I watch Pam worriedly for a few moments. This is the strangest I've ever seen her act. I study her, looking past her mental state for any kind of physical damage. There are a couple of bruises along her arms, probably from being dragged and roughly forced from place to place. There are around five needle marks on her neck from where they had filled her with Batman's awful concoction and probably several sedatives. There's a couple of small bruises on her face and a cut above her eyebrow, which are probably from Batman, but other than that she doesn't appear to be beaten or battered.
"Pam, I need you to listen to me," I tell her. "I know that it's painful that your plants are dying, but how is the mist hurting you?"
"My plants, my poor babies. It burns us," she tells me vehemently. "You have to let us out of this place."
"I'll try, Pam, but-"
"Miss," a voice calls, interrupting our conversation. I whirl around to see one of the guards walking towards me. "You can't be in here."
"I'm a resident psychiatrist," I quickly inform him, gesturing to my ID. "I'm authorized to be back here."
"No, Dr. Arkham said explicitly not to let you through this cell block," he tells me. "He said that if I even see you around here that I'm supposed to bring you to him." He comes towards me and grabs me by my upper arm, as if I'm some kind of criminal.
"Wait a minute," I snap, yanking my arm out of his grip.
"It's a direct order," he tells me sharply, grabbing my arm again and beginning to drag me along. "Let's go, hurry up." I glance back at Pam's cell worriedly as he leads us to the end of the hallway. He buzzes us out and drags me into the elevator, taking us down to the fifth floor. He knocks sharply on Dr. Arkham's office door, then shoves me inside.
"Thank you Parker," Dr. Arkham says with a sigh. The guard disappears out the door, shutting it behind him.
"You hired someone to watch out for me," I tell him pointedly.
"Well, clearly I made the right choice. Otherwise you wouldn't be here," he retorts. "You went against a direct order, Harleen."
"I know, I know," I reply, tempted to hang my head low like a scolded child.
"I think you need to take some time off."
"What?" I repeat, caught off guard. I had expected to get scolded, not this badly punished. "You're... firing me?"
"No, I'm not firing you," he clarifies. "I just think it's time you took a vacation. You work so much, Harleen, I think it's starting to get to you. Take two weeks or even a month off, just take a break. You've been saving your vacation days, now's the time to use them. Don't come back to work until you've cleared your head."
"Don't argue with me, Harleen. Just do what I say."
I glare at him, then hastily leave the room. I reenter the elevator, punching the third floor button with more force than needed. I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and dial Selina's number, putting the phone up to my ear.
"Hey, Harls," she greets. "Did you see how Pam was doing?"
"She's not doing so well. Do you want to come over? Today's turned into a really bad day."
"Yeah, sure. Are you on your way home right now?"
"I'm going to leave the hospital in about five minutes, you can just go ahead and let yourself in. I have to grab a few things from my office," I tell her, knowing that I'll be grabbing more than just a few things. I might as well start boxing up my office now, considering it will be vacant until Dr. Arkham comes to his senses, as if that will ever happen. I sigh and hang up the phone, having an overwhelming urge to see the Joker, as if talking to him would somehow fix this mess.
But the Joker's gone, along with my job for the next couple of weeks.
"Someone ought to break into his house and trash the place," Selina announces after I tell her the events of the day. "What an asshole. I never understood why people like him always get to run things."
"Me either," I mutter in response.
"I know that you probably don't want to hear this right now, but we've got a bit of a problem on our hands," Selina begins. "The police are looking for Pam's hideout. They know she stored her toxins there and they want to find them and use them for "scientific" research."
"You mean use them against her?" I correct.
"Oh, men like Jeremiah Arkham will use them for a lot of things," she replies, hinting at the sinister side of things. "The police or the asylum getting their hands on Pam's stuff isn't the main problem here. They know that Pam had friends, or at least that she confided in someone. Our fingerprints are all over that place. They'll have a field day going through who knows how many fingerprints, but they'll weed us out, since we're both in the system. It'll be easy for them to charge me, since I'm all over the criminal system. You might be okay, since the only thing on your record is that you're an Arkham shrink."
"How do they know she had friends," I question, a tremor of nervousness rushing through me. "We were careful."
"They don't suspect us," Selina replies grimly. "I guess one of her toxin deals went sour downtown or some idiot got their hands on it. Anyway, they found some of her chemicals downtown, mixed with various other things. They couldn't get anything out of Cobblepot, so they think she made her deals from home. They want to know who has her stuff and what they're making with it and they want to know now."
"Pam didn't give out any of her good stuff, though. She only gave out fast acting toxins and other plant matured chemicals. It's stuff that they could get off of any advanced botanist, not just Pam."
"You and I know that, but unfortunately Gotham's dimwitted police department hasn't figured that out yet," she replies with a sigh. "Whatever specialist they called in told them that the chemicals they found downtown are a rare poison, so of course they all jumped to the conclusion that it's Poison Ivy's poison. Well, it is, but you know what I mean. It's the kind of stuff anyone can get their hands on if they know the right people. It's not Pam's special one and only creations."
I rest my chin on my fist, thinking it over. "Her uniquely created stuff is-"
"In the hideout," Selina finishes grimly for me. "Exactly. We've got to get her stuff out and then torch the place."
"Torch the place?" I repeat in disbelief. "Have you completely lost your mind?"
"You're the shrink, you tell me."
"Selina, we can't burn down a building!" I exclaim.
"Because that would be committing arson. We'd be breaking a ton of laws and can you imagine how much worse off we'll be if they catch us torching the place?" I demand. "They won't even need to find our fingerprints to convict us."
"Sheesh Harls, calm down. We'll just go inside, grab the important stuff, pour gasoline over everything, and then light a few matches. We'll be out of there before the fire trucks even leave the station."
"You're talking crazy," I tell her pointedly. "We are not going to burn down a building."
"Harley, Harley, Harley," Selina says with a sigh. "Don't you get it? The cops will find out that we were there unless we burn the place down. These cops aren't doing it for the good of the citizens either. They'll find us just to see if we have any kind of toxins or pheromones. Even if they don't find our prints, do you really want all of Poison Ivy's tricks and treats being used against her, or against anyone for that matter?"
"No, I don't want any of that. But this is... insane. I'm a psychiatrist, not an arsonist."
"I'm not an arsonist either," she replies with a mock hurt expression. "I may be a liar and a thief, but I don't participate in every kind of criminal activity. Come on, Harls, sometimes you've got to grow some balls, puff out your chest, and just do it."
"We're talking about committing a federal crime here," I reply flatly. "Something that we could go to prison for."
"I hate to be the one to tell you this, but we've already committed a crime by keeping Pam's hideout a secret. I'm sure you've seen enough movies to know what obstruction of justice is," she retorts. "They're not going to stop there either. They'll pin stuff on us, stuff that we weren't even a part of."
I rub my temples, still partially in disbelief at this entire conversation. I don't want to lose my job or go to jail, but I don't want to burn a building down either. I search for some kind of alternative, some kind of middle ground, but all I come up with are petty excuses that won't hold up in court. I'm sure there's some kind of alternative I'm overlooking, something I'll realize later, but by then it'll be too late. As of right now, it's one choice or the other.
"I don't know," I begin warily. "This is... I don't know."
"It sucks," she replies flatly. "I know it sucks. I don't want to go out of my way to burn down an old abandoned house either, but our fingerprints are in there. I can't go to jail, Harley, they've already got enough stuff against me. Probably enough to send me to Blackgate at this point. I need your help and Pam does too. We need to get all of her unique stuff out of the house before we burn it, that way the police can't recover anything and all of her research or whatever won't be completely lost."
I take a deep breath, trying to process all of the thoughts racing through my mind at once. "I'll help," I agree uncertainly after a few moments. "We'll just be in and out, no cops, no fire trucks?"
"That's right," she assures me. "They haven't even started combing through that part of the neighborhood yet. We'll be fine."
"Alright," I agree with a long exhale. I just agreed to burn down a building and just earlier today I had been suspended from my job, what is my life coming to? As much as I hate to admit it, the utter disarray is actually a nice change from the normalcy of it all. Although, burning down a building is far from a few of the changes to my life that I had in mind.
"Good," Selina replies with a smile. "I brought you some clothes to wear. You can keep them too, I'm not sure why I bought them in first place. I'm more of an all-black kind of gal, warmer colors don't really suit me. You, on the other hand, can work red." She grabs her black bag from over by the door and drags it over to me.
"Clothes?" I repeat. "You brought me clothes to burn down a building in?"
"Well, yeah. You can't commit a crime looking like that."
"Like a doctor," she elaborates. "If you're going to act like a badass, you've got to dress like a badass." She pulls a red leather jacket out of the bag and holds it up to me, studying it for a moment. "That will fit fine," she muses, setting it down on the couch beside me.
"No one's going to be seeing us," I point out.
"Yeah, but what's the fun in doing something bad dressed like your boring old self?" she retorts, pulling out a pair of black pants. I can't tell what kind of pants they are. They look like leggings, but they're thicker. "Hmm, I think these will fit you nicely. They shrunk in the washer, which made them a size too small for me and a perfect fit for you."
"Thanks, but I've got black pants."
"But you don't have tight black pants," she points out with a smirk. "I didn't bring a shirt to wear under the jacket. You could probably just wear a black long sleeve or something under it. Oh, and wear those boots you got last year. You know, the red ankle length ones?"
"What if we have to run?" I question. "Shouldn't we wear something easy to get away in?"
"These pants may be tight, but they're flexible enough for gymnastics. Trust me, I know. Besides, your boots are heelless, aren't they?"
"Ah," she chides, putting a finger up. "No buts. Go get ready, we don't want to give the cops too much of a head start." I roll my eyes at her antics, grab the clothes, and make my way into the bedroom. I throw the clothes on hastily, pairing the jacket with one of my lighter black sweaters since the jacket appears to be pretty warm on its own. I scrounge around the closet for my boots, but I can't seem to find them.
I exit my bedroom and focus my attention on the hall closet. After moving around a few items, I successful drag them out and slide my feet into them. As I turn to leave the closet, I catch sight of something dark green hidden behind several bags.
The Joker's bazooka, I had almost forgotten about it. I push aside the bags and cautiously pull the large weapon out. I pick it up, surprised to find that it isn't as heavy as I thought it was. It's actually relatively light for being so big.
"Hey Selina," I call, carrying the weapon of destruction into the living room. "I think I've got something better than gasoline and matches."
Selina's jaw drops. "Where on earth did you find that thing?"
"J gave it to me, I'm pretty sure it was intended to be a Christmas present," I reply honestly.
"Who the hell is J?"
Oh right, only I'm allowed to call him Mr. J. "The Joker," I correct.
"The Joker?" she repeats.
"Of all the men you could have, Harley," she mutters. "I think I just gained some respect for the man."
"He gave you a bazooka, at least now I don't have to worry about you having to defend yourself against him," she retorts. I laugh, never having thought of it that way. "Alright, this is great. Now I don't have to go rob a hardware store. The only question is, how are we going to get a bazooka downstairs and into the car without anyone seeing?"
"Oh." I hadn't thought that far ahead.
"Let's wrap it in a trash bag and say that it's a broken light," she suggests.
"It's pretty thick to be a light," I point out. "They'll notice we're lying."
"People believe what they want to believe," she tells me with a shrug. "If they don't want to believe that it's something worse, then they won't. They'll convince themselves that it's nothing but a thick lamp. People want to believe in the good in the world, even if it hardly exists."