Breaking Dr. Arkham
I stare blankly at the computer screen in front of me, like I have been for the past hour. The word document that I type up will arguably be one of the most important documents in the Joker's entire file. It will be the first document, the first analysis, and the first record in his Arkham file. I'm the first person to psychoanalyze him, the first person who decided that it was in his best interest to be put in Arkham. My shoulders are heavy with the weight of importance and despite all of this, my word document is, for the most part, blank. All that I've written down are the basics, which will probably be changed as soon as I turn it in anyway.
Name: Unknown. Refers to himself as the Joker.
Age: 28-32 (DOB unknown)
Condition Upon Arrival: Minor cuts and bruises. No serious injuries.
Everything else on the document is blank. I keeping trying to word my thoughts on his mental health, but I can't seem to find the right words to describe him. I can't find the right diagnosis either. It's as if he studied the definitions of every possible mental health disorder and made it so that he didn't fit any of them.
I'm so focused on racking my brains for at least something that I don't hear my phone ringing until it's at the fourth ring. "Hello?" I answer, not bothering to check the caller ID.
"Hey Harls," the familiar voice of my best friend, Pamela Isley, greets me. "Why are you still up?"
"Why did you call if you thought that I was going to be a sleep?" I challenge in response, rubbing my probably bloodshot eyes. Physically, I'm exhausted and feel like I could sleep for week, but my mind's racing. Even if my mind and my body coincided with each other, I'd have to stay up and finish this frustrating report anyway.
"I was going to leave a message," she replies innocently. "Anyways, since you're already up… why don't you come on over. I've got a new batch of antidotes for you."
"Alright," I sigh, giving in. "I need a break anyway, but I'm bringing my work over." She sighs loudly on the other end of the phone and I have the feeling that a lecture's coming.
"You work too much, Harls," she tells me pointedly.
"Red," I warn, using the nickname that revolves around her fiery red hair. "Don't start."
"Fine, fine, bring your work over," she surrenders. "I just think it's a little much, that's all. I mean, it is after midnight."
"Work that needs to get done doesn't go away just because you've punched out for the day," I mumble into the phone. "I'll see you in twenty minutes. Don't try to kill me when I come up to the front door."
"That was one time," Pam retorts flatly. "One time."
I make my way down to Pam's "hideout," which is a ratty, run down abandoned house on the edge of town. The entire areas practically deserted, making it an ideal hideout for criminals. Cops hardly ever roll through here, but when they do, their search is far from thorough. I'm surprised that no one else from Gotham's underground has taken refuge here. Or maybe they have, the point of a hideout is to hide after all.
"Pam," I call, stepping through the barely standing front door. I pass through the main room and enter one of the far back doors to find her watering several indoor hanging plants. "Pam," I repeat. She doesn't respond, too lost in her world of gardening. "I'll be in the den," I tell her with a sigh, glancing back at her transfixed figure one last time, looking for any indication that she had heard me, before finally leaving.
I exit her miniature indoor garden and go down to the farthest room on the right, otherwise known as the den. The den isn't really much of a den at all, it's more like a cross between a living room and a bedroom. There's a twin mattress shoved up against the far left corner of the room, which had come from an undisclosed source. A recliner and two sofa's sit around a coffee table in relatively good condition, all of which were undoubtedly stolen somewhere along the way. There's a long since working fireplace that's missing several of its stones against the right wall and beside it, tucked away in the right corner, is a small TV running on stolen cable.
I plant myself in the scratchy, half torn recliner and open up the psychology textbook I brought. The Joker won't be an exact match for any of these definitions, I know that, but maybe he'll fit one just enough for me to have some sort of diagnosis. I sigh aloud, half wondering if I can get away with just writing that he "suffers from a distorted view of society."
"She even brought a textbook," Pam mutters, entering the den.
Ignoring her more than usual commentary, I ask, "So, what's this antidote you want me to take?" She’s always creating new toxins or fatal spores or producing pheromones to harm the non-eco-friendly world with. Her "antidotes,” which ae really just concoctions that make the taker immune to whatever it is she’s created, typically involves me getting poked with a sharp, questionable needle.
"It's just a precaution, in case things get a little out of hand," she replies with a shrug.
"What are you planning?" I inquire, not sure if I really want to know the answer.
"It's in your best interest that you don't know," she tells me with a wink. She usually says that when her plans involve murder, whether it be potential or planned. She usually spares me all of the bloody details, knowing that I don't want to hear them.
"That bad?" I muse.
"It'll be good for the plants and that's all that matters. I'll be right back." Pam abruptly leaves the room and I go back to mulling over psychiatric disorders. I pass the A section of disorders far too quickly for comfort and move onto the B section. Bipolar Disorder could be possible, but I hadn't spent enough time with the Joker to see or hear any symptoms. I mark it down in the notebook that I brought and put a question mark beside it.
"Harley," Pam snaps, breaking me out of my concentration. I look up to see that she's standing in front of me with a syringe full of greenish clear liquid in her hand.
"I didn't hear you come in."
"Clearly, now put the book down and roll up your sleeve." I oblige, setting the book down on the coffee table and rolling up the left cuff of my red sleeve. She goes to jab me with the syringe, but I quickly stop her.
"Let me do that," I suggest, taking the syringe from her. I wince, pressing the needle into the vein at the crook of my arm. I push the plunger down slowly, allowing my body to get used to the new liquid. It burns a bit, but it's not as bad as some of the other antidotes that I've taken from her.
"I may not have an M.D., but I can use a needle," she informs me flatly.
"I wouldn't go around saying it like that if I were you," I tell her with a smirk, picking my textbook back up. "Did you already give Selina one of these?"
"Yes, but she's out of town this week. She said something about going to get new equipment. I gave her one just in case, but she was pretty certain that she wouldn't be needing it."
"That's good," I murmur, already submerged in my book again. "What kind of supplies is she getting?"
"Probably a new safe cracker or something like that," she replies, peering over my book. "What are you doing anyway? Trying to prove that someone has to be crazy to kick your ass?"
"Huh?" I ask, caught off guard by the question.
"You came in here with an angry red knot on your forehead and a piece of tape stretched across your swollen, purple nose. Did you think that I wouldn't notice?" she asks incredulously. "I'm not blind."
"Oh," I realize, touching the tape on my nose briefly. I wince at the pressure. "No, no, that's not what I'm doing. I've got to fill out a psychoanalysis report for a new Arkham transfer before I go to work tomorrow. Dr. Arkham wants it on his desk as soon as possible. However, this particular patient doesn't seem to fit any of these disorders."
"Sounds important," she notes. "If your new project didn't beat you up, then who did?"
"He's not my project. I'll probably never see him again, actually," I reply. It’s true, I probably won't ever see the Joker in person again. Dr. Arkham would have to be incredibly desperate to allow me, a resident psychiatrist, to treat the Joker. "As for the injuries, one of the inmates at Blackgate got out of his restraints while I was analyzing him."
"You say that like it's normal."
"It's all part of the job," I mumble. "At least all that I got was a broken nose and a bump on the head. The other analyst got a pen lodged halfway into his stomach," I retort. I flip through the C section of disorders with no luck and move onto the D's. I pause on Dissociative Identity Disorder, but quickly rule it out, leaving me ultimately empty handed.
In the H section, I land on Hypomania. From what I’ve seen on the news, he could very well be subjected to and act on euphoric or irritable moods. Hmm, but I’m not entirely sure that he has Bipolar Disorder, which is what Hypomania is associated with. Then again, this specific manifestation of the disorder could be caused by sleep deprivation and the Joker doesn't seem like a man who gets much sleep to me. I mark it down in my notebook with a question mark beside it as well. So far, all I have are a bunch of maybes. I need something more definite.
"How are you feeling?" Pam asks, breaking my train of thought. "Is the antidote burning or anything like that?"
"No, I feel fine so far. I'm getting a headache, but I think it's from the paperwork."
"If you're never going to see this patient again, then why are you diagnosing him?" she questions. "Isn't that going to be his psychiatrist's job?"
"Well, yes, but this is the first information that's going down in his file. I'm trying to give the other doctors something to work off of. Not to mention I have to give a valid reason as to why I transferred him to Arkham. That valid reason should have something to do with seeing signs of potential disorders," I respond, flipping to the next page in my book. Something immediately catches my eye.
Impulse Control Disorder, that fits, or at least some of it does. He acts on impulse, doesn't he? I'm sure he has plans, or at least some vague idea of what he's doing, but he had talked about straying away from the "plan" at one point. He likes chaos, so surely impulse is involved in bringing that upon Gotham, right? I let out a sharp exhale, frustrated. I write it down in my notebook with a question mark beside it, just like all of the other ones, and move on.
"You need to take a break," Pam says flatly, picking up on my frustration.
"You're right," I sigh. "I'm overthinking this." I set my textbook down on the coffee table and rest my head against the back of the recliner. "I'll just write down my general thoughts and what I gathered from the analysis. This patient's mind is too... complex to categorize."
"You don't have any definite possibilities as to why that freak is crazy?" Dr. Arkham asks, half incredulous. In his hands rests my psychoanalysis report, the very report that kept me up all night.
"He's not a freak, he's a patient," I correct, trying my best to be polite about it. "I have possible reasons as to why he acts the way he does, but he doesn't seem to fit any disorders entirely. I know, I went through a textbook looking for something that fit."
"On what reason did you bring him to Arkham then?" he demands. "A whim?"
"He dresses up like a clown, blows up half the city, and burns thousands of dollars worth of money for fun. No, I did not go out on a whim." I take a deep breath, trying to rationally put my thoughts into words. "They didn't give me much time to talk to him, it wasn't enough for a complete analysis. I did what I could in the time that I had, but I had to fill in the rest of the blanks myself."
"You aren't supposed to analyze him by news coverage," he chides.
"They gave me just enough time to have him answer three word association questions. That's hardly enough time for an analysis at all." I take another deep breath, pushing my frustration aside. "I judged what I could from his answers. My thoughts on each one are in the file."
He sighs, rubbing his temples. "You did your best?"
"Yes, I did."
"Alright," he caves. "Thank you for the effort, Harleen. All I need for you to do now is to sign the transfer papers. I put them on your desk last night." Taking that as a dismissal, I turn to leave the room, but his voice halts me. "Oh, and Harleen," he calls.
"When you finish signing those papers, take the rest of the day off. You look terrible and I mean that in the nicest way." I want to be offended by the statement, but deep down I know that he's rightfully concerned about my appearance. The patients would quickly pick up on the fact that I had a long night from my appearance and they might try to use that information to get under my skin. It wouldn't work, not on me anyway, but still. "Oh, but if you want to watch the Joker's first session before you leave, it's going to be at ten. The doctors are going to gather in room 28 on the sixth floor to watch the live footage."
"Who's going to be his doctor?" I ask curiously.
"I am," he replies. "I figured I might as well take the first crack at him. Make sure you get those transfer papers on my desk before five, that's when I'm clocking out."
"Will do," I assure him. I exit his office and make my way down to the third floor. I scan myself into the last corridor and enter my office, which is the second door on the left. The first thing that I notice on my desk isn't the transfer files, instead it's a single red rose in a slim glass vase.
I stride over to it and pick up the tag that dangles from the stem of the flower. "Come see me, -J," I read aloud. Immediately, my mind comes up with the assumption that the Joker put this here. I quickly reject the idea, knowing that he couldn't have been in my office. He simply hasn't been here long enough to slip out of his cell or pay off a guard. It has to be some kind of joke from the staff making fun of the fact that the Joker had let me call him Mr. J, although I'm not quite sure how they would know that. If it isn't a joke, then it has to be from a secret admirer on the staff whose name starts with the letter J.
I duck my head out the door to see Dr. Joan Leland walking by. "Dr. Leland," I call, stepping into the hallway.
"Did you happen to see anyone bringing in flowers this morning?"
"No, I'm afraid not," she replies. "Why?"
"Someone put a flower on my desk, but they didn't leave their name."
"Looks like you've got a secret admirer," she tells me with a smile. Dr. Leland usually gets here pretty early, if she didn't see anyone then the delivery must've been pretty late. I bite my lip absentmindedly, running through possible explanations in my head.
"Do you know where they're holding the Joker?" I inquire, allowing myself to give into the possibility.
"He's on the fifth floor, Block C, number 281. Why?"
"I'm just wondering what floor I should be looking out for," I joke. She smiles, pats my shoulder, and then continues on her way. I debate for a long moment, then make my way over to the elevator. If anyone asks, I'll tell them that I’m just checking up on the Joker, making sure that I had made the right decision in bringing him here. That’s believable, right?
I soon find myself faced with the Plexiglas walls and steel doors of Cell Block C. I walk towards the end of the corridor, ignoring the loud remarks of some of the rowdier patients. My eyes watch each cell number above the doors on the left side pass. 271…273…275…277…279…281. I stop in my tracks, turning to face the Joker's cell. He lounges leisurely on the cot inside and a smile stretches across his face once he sees me. I can tell that they've cleaned him up since I last saw him, but I don't take the time to study him, too afraid that he might play off of the gesture.
"Would you care to explain how a flower came to be on my desk?" I question, getting straight to the point.
"I put it there," he replies simply from his laid back stance on the cot. His hands are tucked behind his head and he looks oddly at ease. Typically patients pace around or strike out at their cells when they're first admitted, not act as though they're on vacation. Then again, the Joker isn't exactly a typical patient.
"I don't think that the guards would be too happy if they found out that you've already been out of your cell."
"If you were going to tell them, you already would have," he retorts knowingly.
"I'm going to let it slide this time because it's your first offense. Next time I won't be so lenient," I warn. He sits up, those intense brown eyes studying me for a long moment, like a predator watching its prey.
"You look tired, Harley. I hope that's not on my, uh, account."
"It's Dr. Quinzel," I tell him firmly.
"I bet your friends call you Harley."
"We are not friends," I attempt to tell him lightly. "I'm a psychiatrist and you're a patient. I'm here to help you in a completely professional way."
"That's cold, doc, even to a guy a like me." He tongue darts at the corners of his mouth and he smacks his lips, raising an eyebrow. "Ya know, you never answered my last question."
"Yes, I did."
He lets out a sharp bark of laughter. "Avoiding and answering aren't the same things, Harley. No, no, avoiding is what they do. The doctors here think that avoiding questions will keep them distant. They think that keeping it, uh, professional will keep me from seeing all of their dirty laundry, but it won't," he tells me, popping the last t.
"Maybe they'd rather not disclose their personal lives to a stranger," I suggest.
"Stranger?" He lets out a high pitched laugh. "We're hardly strangers. They know everything about me, from my height to all of the, uh, ‘bad’ things that I've done. It's only fair that I know a thing or two about them."
"I don't think that the doctors see it that way," I retort, careful to keep my personal opinion out of it.
"Mm, but you don't see things like they do," he growls. "Then, tell me, Harley-“
"That's not what is said," I quickly interject.
"-what's the worst thing you've ever done," he finishes, ignoring my comment. "I promise I won't judge," he vows with a cackle of laughter.
"That's enough," I tell him sternly, refusing to answer his question. "Don't let me catch you or have reason to believe that you were out of your cell again," I warn. "Good luck on your session with Dr. Arkham."
"Dr. Arkham?" he repeats with a frown.
"He's going to be your primary psychiatrist for the time being," I inform him. "Don't worry, he's an excellent doctor. You'll be in good hands."
"Why aren't you going to be my, uh, doctor?"
"I'm only a resident here. There are doctors much more qualified than I am to treat you," I reply honestly, turning on my heel to leave.
"We'll see about that," he mutters, just loud enough for me to hear.
At ten o'clock, I find myself nestled in a leather rolling chair around the large meeting room table of room 28 on the sixth floor. In front of me, like all of the other doctors here, is an open notebook ready for note taking. In one hand, I've got a pen at the ready and in the other I'm holding a cup of coffee. This my fourth cup so far today and I'm guessing that there will be plenty more.
The large screen, typically used to display power points and such for staff meetings, comes alive once Dr. Jeremiah Arkham turns the camera on. The screen is filled with the image of the Joker, whose eyes are boring into the camera with that same startling intensity that I'd seen earlier. I didn't have much time, or courage for that matter, to get a good look at him in his cell this morning, but now I can study him freely.
His purple suit has been replaced with one of Arkham's awfully colored orange jumpsuits. His greasepaint has been completely removed, leaving his scars up for closer inspection. I'm faintly surprised to see that the skin around the scars isn't red, or even pinkish in color. The skin color has mostly returned to normal, aside from the jagged scar lines themselves, which are a darker, reddened version of his skin tone. It's odd looking at him without the greasepaint, it makes him seem more... exposed. Despite that, he still manages to emit an air of danger and mischief around himself, needing no makeup or a purple suit to intimidate.
"The date is Wednesday, October 16th at ten am. Good morning, my name is Dr. Jeremiah Arkham," the director of the asylum greets from behind the camera. "How are you doing today Mr.…?"
"My name's not really a, uh, mystery, doc." I raise an eyebrow at the reply, pen poised over my paper. Does this mean that I’m the only person allowed to call him Mr. J?
"Should I call you Mr. Joker then?" Dr. Arkham asks.
"That's my father's name," the Joker replies with a giddy laugh. Dr. Arkham clears his throat awkwardly, already starting to lose control of the conversation.
"Let's talk about your father," Dr. Arkham suggests, swiftly directing the conversation. The Joker drums his fingers along the table, unimpressed. "What did he do for a living?"
"My father was a, uh, cruel man," he replies, the corners of his lips quirking up into a smile. "He was insane really, especially after what happened. It left me wondering if I would turn out to be just like him."
"What happened?" Dr. Arkham presses, barely able to conceal the excitement in his voice. He thinks that he’s making a breakthrough. I, on the other hand, am getting a bad feeling about this.
"Oh, lots of things, not that I was around to see them. No, no, I just heard about all of the horrible little things that he had done, like killing his mother. He put her down like a dog," he growls. "Not that anyone knew of course. He was a, uh, respected man. He would never hurt the sick, no, he was there to help them."
"Your father was a doctor?"
The Joker leans back in his chair and continues on, ignoring Dr. Arkham's question. "Not everyone can be helped, ya know," he tells him pointedly, wagging an index finger knowingly at him. "No, no, some people are just unfixable. My father tried to help a patient like that once and that patient... well, he didn't like that. Not one bit. So you know what the patient does?"
"What does he do?" Dr. Arkham engages, intrigued.
"He sneaks out of the hospital one day and pays a little visit to my father's house. My father was still at work you see, leaving his wife all alone in that big house of his. So, the patient sneaks in and decides to, uh, play house with my father's dashing young wife, then he slaughters her. He cuts and slashes her to his heart's content, then carves his name into her stomach and wraps her up in a nice little bloodstained package for my father to find. He even puts a bow on top."
My stomach drops. I already know this story and the Joker isn't the main character of it.
"My father, he didn't like his present. No, it turned him into the very thing he hated most. So, when they finally caught the guy and brought him in, my father tortured him and not just physically either. He twisted the patient's mind like a pretzel," the Joker tells him, smacking his lips together. "When they took me to visit him, sometimes he showed me these, uh, these horrible things and for fun he liked to throw me down the stairs. I screamed and I pleaded, but he just wouldn't listen. Then one day the world realized just what a, uh, monster he truly was and it didn't end well for him. No, no, they put him down the same way he put down his mother, just like a dog."
"You bastard," Dr. Arkham spits, finally realizing that the story is about his uncle, Amadeus Arkham.
The Joker grins. "Does it ever worry you, Dr. Arkham, that one day you're gonna treat the wrong kind of, uh, crazy? The kind of crazy that might just slash your pretty little wife's throat. What was your wife's name again? April? No, no, that's not it," he mutters. "Amy?"
Dr. Arkham lunges across the table, grabbing at the Joker's neck. The Joker lets out a continuous series of high pitched cackles in response, clearly enjoying the reaction he’s getting out of Dr. Arkham. Guards burst into the room moments later, tearing Dr. Arkham off of him, knocking the camera over in the process. We're left with an image of the floor, the swearing and rustling of Dr. Arkham, and the Joker's gleefully haunting laugh.
"So," Dr. Leland begins, breaking the silence of the room. "What changed?"
"What do you mean?" Dr. Hugo Strange replies.
"He cooperated yesterday, but not today," she clarifies. "So what changed?"
"It's probably some sort of mind game," Dr. Strange suggests. "He's probably trying to throw us off."
"To what purpose?" I question.
"Sheer enjoyment probably. If not that, then maybe he's got something up his sleeve that he doesn't want us to know about."
"He's been here a day," Dr. Leland stresses. "What could he possibly have up his sleeve?"
"Maybe he wanted to get caught," Dr. Strange offers. "Maybe that was his plan all along."
"I don't think so," I interject. "He took a pretty good beating from Batman trying to get away. I don't think that it was his plan to get caught, but maybe he's made a new plan. Maybe he has, I don't know, altered his plans to fit his current predicament."
"You think that he could've rethought all of the tricks up his sleeve in one night?" Dr. Strange questions skeptically.
"Maybe, he seems like a pretty fast adapter."
"Whatever he's doing, I want all of you to keep your eyes open," Dr. Leland instructs. "Don't take any chances with this one. If you want to follow the case and you're cleared to do so by Dr. Arkham, which I advise those of you who are to do so for learning's sake, I'm sure he'll have an updated file for you by tomorrow morning."
The room clears out quickly, but I remain seated. "What is it, Harleen?" Dr. Leland asks after everyone has left.
"I know that I'm just a resident, but do you think that since I initially diagnosed the Joker that I might be able to follow the case?" I inquire hopefully.
"To be blunt with you, no, I don't think you'll be authorized to do so. In all honesty, you don't have much experience and this case is pretty advanced," she tells me, patting my shoulder sympathetically. "I know it's frustrating, but the other doctors and I were in your place once too. Keep up the good work, Harleen. You'll catch your big break one day."