"Dr. Quinzel!" a voice urgently calls as I make my way towards my office. I turn around to see Dr. Sarah Cassidy hurriedly making her way towards me. "Dr. Arkham's been trying to reach for you for the past half hour."
"I was in traffic and my phones off. Why has he been calling me?" I question nervously. Had something changed? Was he taking me off of the Joker's case already?
"Someone from the district attorney's office is coming over today." She glances at her watch briefly. "Actually, make that ten minutes. I'd get up to Dr. Arkham's office if I were you."
"Thanks," I mutter, quickly making my way back over towards the elevator. I step inside the metal compartment and jab at the fifth floor button repeatedly in my haste, but the doors seem to purposely delay shutting. When they do shut and the elevator begins to move, it feels sluggish. The doors finally open and I all but run towards Dr. Arkham's office. I'm saved the time of knocking on the door because the man himself is standing right beside it with crossed arms.
I step inside his office, with him at my heels, to find an unfamiliar man sitting in front of his desk. "Dr. Quinzel, this is Dr. Simon Brody, the DA sent him over. He's a psychiatrist from Metropolis. Dr. Brody, this is Dr. Harleen Quinzel."
"Nice to meet you," Dr. Brody tells me, coming over to shake my hand. I shake his hand warily, my eyes subtly looking him over. Dr. Brody appears to be in his mid-forties and is of regular stature, although he does lean more towards the scrawny side. His beady brown eyes almost appear to be black and right off the bat, I don't have a good feeling about him.
"Nice to meet you too, Dr. Brody," I reply politely. "I was under the impression that the DA was sending someone down in about a month."
"They were," he quickly informs me. "The abrupt change and lack of notice is on my part, I'm sorry to say. I came down here for a psychology conference and since I'm usually the one to visit and help assess patients, I thought I'd drop in. The DA agreed that this is a more convenient and cheaper alternative to sending me out here again in a month. I hope that me being here isn't an inconvenience for you or the other staff members."
"No, not at all," Dr. Arkham tells him pleasantly. "Dr. Brody's going to be joining you on your session with the Joker today," Dr. Arkham adds, turning towards me.
"Don't worry, I'm not here to step on any toes," Dr. Brody assures me. "The court would like a second opinion on the patient's mental status to weed out any discrepancies or favoritism, that's all. Today's session is all yours. I'll just be there to observe and make remarks or ask questions when I need to. Take control of the session anyway you see fit. I'll be having my own session with the patient this Friday."
I nod, unable to muster up a reply. I'm a bit insulted at the idea of having a DA employed psychologist overseeing and making note of my work, but more than that, I'm worried. How will the Joker react to having a second doctor in the room? I doubt he'll take it well.
"Let's all have a seat," Dr. Arkham suggests, feeling the taut tension in the room. I take a seat next to Dr. Arkham on the couch against the wall opposite his desk and Dr. Brody takes a seat in the armchair diagonal to us.
"So, Harleen," Dr. Brody begins, turning towards me, "is it alright if I call you that?"
"Sure," I reply, although I don't really want to be on a first name basis with Dr. Brody.
"I understand that this is going to your first session with Patient 4479? I hope you don't mind if I call him that, it's just that I feel calling him the Joker plays into his idea of having power," he explains. I'm not sure what I'm more agitated at, the fact that he's probably right as to what we should really be calling the Joker or the fact that he's pointedly insulting Dr. Arkham's intellect. Dr. Arkham isn't exactly my favorite person in the building, but he’s still my boss, and I didn't appreciate having my boss be called out by one of the DA's pawns.
"Yes, this will be my first therapy session with Patient 4479," I confirm, emphasizing the patient number a little too obviously. "I've spoken with him before, though."
"Really?" There's a hint of suspicion in his tone. "So then you know him on a personal level?"
"No, I don't. I've never met the man outside of a high security building. I'm the doctor who analyzed him at Blackgate," I clarify.
"Oh, so you're the one who deemed him in need of mental help," he deduces. "Must've been a tough decision."
"No, not really," I reply to whatever he's implying. "I just went over his answers and behavior like I would any other patient." Dr. Arkham clears his throat awkwardly, hearing the undertone of irritation in my voice. I attempt to push my irritation aside, but it's proving to be a bit of a challenge.
"I'm sure you did, I didn't mean anything by what I said," he reassures me. "It's just that it's got to be tough knowing that your career could be ruined if it turns out he's not actually insane. You seem awfully young, I'd hate for you to have something so negative playing against you at your age."
"I don't think he's faking," I reply steely.
"I'm sure we'll find out soon enough. Speaking of your age, I hope you don't mind me asking, but how old are you?"
"I'm twenty eight."
"Twenty eight," he repeats with a short nod of his head. "Are you still doing your internship?"
"No, I'm a little over a year into my residency."
"So young," he clucks. "Tell me, Dr. Arkham, why did you pick such an inexperienced doctor for this case?" I can feel myself glaring at him and force myself to push my anger aside, which is becoming increasingly harder and harder to do, considering he keeps making jabs at me.
"Dr. Quinzel's a very promising young doctor," Dr. Arkham informs him. "I thought that maybe a fresh pair of eyes could take a look at the situation and give us some new insight."
"That's an interesting choice of perspective," Dr. Brody muses. "The last thing I want to be is rude, but are you sure that she's up to the task?"
As Dr. Arkham goes to answer, I mentally sigh. This day is already turning out to be much worse than I had expected.
I stand in front of the Joker's interview room, my nerves high on end. I have an hour in there with him to prove that he isn't in his right mind. It was worrisome enough having to deal with him alone, but one on one with that intense stare of his and knowing that the best, highly trained doctors have been broken in that very room, now that’s terrifying. Not to mention I have to deal with Dr. Brody's scrutiny on top of all of that.
I square my shoulders and open the door. The Joker's eyes lazily roll upwards to meet mine, but when he sees who I am, he sits up in his chair and his look deepens. There's a spark of intrigue and (I think) glee in his probing gaze.
"Harrrrley," he greets, as if I were an old friend. "I knew I'd be seeing you again," he tells me knowingly, shaking his index finger at me.
"It's Dr. Quinzel," I remind him firmly, taking my seat in front of him. I turn towards the camera beside me and pop the back of it open, revealing the square grey battery.
"You're late," a familiar voice in the back of the room chides. I turn my head to see Dr. Brody sitting in a steel chair against the back wall of the room, pen and paper in hand. "I can see that punctuality isn't one of your strong suits."
"I was getting a new battery for the camera," I tell him with a forced smile, holding up the grey square. "This one's battery is low." He makes no remark as I switch out the batteries. My hands tremble lightly as I do so, mainly out of nervousness. The Joker's eyes don't miss a single shake or tremor.
I stow away the battery that needs to be charged in my coat pocket and turn on the camera. "This is Dr. Harleen Quinzel overseeing Patient 4479. Dr. Simon Brody is also present. The date is Thursday, November 14th and the time is 10:05 am. Are you ready to begin the session?" I ask the Joker directly.
He licks his lips and drums his finger along the table. "Ready when you are, doc."
"Alright, I thought we'd start with some word association," Dr. Brody begins from across the room. The Joker raises an eyebrow at the disbelief that's probably taken hold of my once professional expression. I clear my throat loudly, turning to look pointedly at Dr. Brody. "Oh, right, it's your session. My apologies. I'm just so used to teaching around young novices."
Let it go, Harley, I tell myself, part of my nervousness being overcome by anger. Don't lose your composure. I take a deep breath and turn back towards the Joker, focusing all of my energy on him. The Joker, however, has fixated his attention on Dr. Brody. He leans back in his chair and smacks his lips, turning to look at me and then Dr. Brody again. He looks somewhat agitated.
"We don't need a, uh, chaperone," he tells Dr. Brody.
"I'm not a chaperone. I'm a psychiatrist from Metropolis and I'm here to determine whether or not Dr. Quinzel made the right choice in bringing you here," he explains with a superior smile. "I'll be having these kinds of therapy sessions with you as well. The first one's tomorrow, on Friday. I'm looking forward to it."
"And will Harleen-"
"Dr. Quinzel," I automatically correct.
"Dr. Quinzel," he rephrases, "be at these, uh, sessions?"
"No, I won't," I answer truthfully.
"Mm." He sits back in his chair and narrows his eyes at Dr. Brody. "Then why are you in our session?" He makes the word our sound much too personal for my liking. I'm almost certain that Dr. Brody caught onto the personal undertone as well. I can practically imagine him putting a check mark next to favoritism under my name.
"I already told you why," Dr. Brody replies calmly.
"Then you need to, uh, skedaddle," the Joker tells him, making a shooing motion with his hands.
"Let's start the session," I quickly suggest, trying my best to take control of the conversation. "I see that the doctors changed your medication to Seroquel. How's that been treating you?"
His tongue probes at the inside of his cheeks for a moment, then he leans towards me. "They sent him here because of that little, uh, mishap I had with the last doctor, didn't they?" he questions, holding his handcuffed hands up to the side as if to stop Dr. Brody from hearing him.
"I'm right here," Dr. Brody calls, which the Joker blatantly ignores. This session is not getting off to a good start. I can feel my chances of ever treating the Joker again slip farther and farther away with each passing minute.
"Is this really necessary?" the Joker asks me.
"Is what really necessary?"
"The chaperone in the corner. It was just one little doctor, I did for the sake of progress really. If you ask me, I did the rest of these doctors a favor."
"Do you really expect the staff to thank you for killing Dr. Chen?" I question, half curious, half incredulous.
The Joker shrugs. "Well, a card would be nice…"
"Let's move on," I suggest, taking a moment to gather myself.
"You know, Harley-"
"Dr. Quinzel," he rephrases again, "this would go a lot smoother if the, uh, chaperone were to leave."
"I'm not leaving, unless there's a specific reason as to why you'd like to talk to Dr. Quinzel alone," Dr. Brody tells him.
The Joker raises an eyebrow, catching onto the hidden meaning in his question. "Look," I tell the Joker flatly before he can respond to Dr. Brody. "We're both just trying to help you here. It may be for different reasons, but we've both got the same goal in mind. Can you please at least try to cooperate with Dr. Brody in the room?"
The Joker laughs, the sound sharp and maniacal. "That's a good one, doc," he tells me, as if trying to cooperate with Dr. Brody in the room is completely absurd. He taps his finger against his chin, then turns to me. "You ever hear the joke about the pawn trying to become a knight?"
"No, but I don't think jokes are therapy appropriate-"
"There's this pawn who's morals and plans and priorities are all over the place," the Joker begins, cutting off my protest. "He had a pretty wife once, and a daughter too, but he, uh, well he worked too much and the family had enough of cold dinners and missed school plays, so they decided to split. What was left of the pawn's perfect little family left their perfect little city for a grittier one, a dangerous one, 'cause that's where the wife got a job. See, she's gotta support herself now and their old city... well let's just say it's not really fit for the, uh, poor. The pawn's pretty upset about the whole ordeal, but he's real worried you see, 'cause there are some real freaks in this new city his wife's in."
"Mr. J," I warn, having a hunch that the story he's telling isn't a joke at all. The storyline doesn't fit me, which leaves only one other victim in the room
"One day, the pawn sees an, uh, opportunity of sorts to put down one of the big bad wolves that could be a threat to his broken little family. It's a chance to be the hero his wife always wanted him to be. A chance to make his family feel safer. A chance to pick up and glue together all of the tiny little pieces of his shattered life," the Joker continues, as if I hadn't spoken at all. "He thinks that if he takes this, uh, opportunity, he'll win his family back and be their knight in shining armor. He won't be of course, 'cause his wife's sleeping with the pizza boy and his daughter, well she hates him, but that's beside the point."
"That's not a very funny joke," Dr. Brody observes and I can hear his calm tone beginning to falter. "I don't appreciate it when patients bring a doctor's personal life into the conversation. I don't know where you got this information of yours from, but I won't stand for it. I'm going to have to request that there be some form of punishment given, Dr. Quinzel, because this kind of behavior is unacceptable."
"Don't be so serious, doc," the Joker drawls, a grin stretched widely across his face. "I'm just getting to the, uh, punch line."
"I don't think that's such a good idea," I tell the Joker warily. He doesn't acknowledge that I said anything at all, keeping his eyes firmly rooted on Dr. Brody.
"Ya see, all of this work the pawn's doing to become a knight is really, uh, useless. All the work that he did just drew the big bad wolf closer. He thought that he outsmarted the wolf, when really he just gave the wolf an, uh, opportunity of his own. Ya want to know what the real kicker is?"
"No, I don't think that's-"
"The pawn's family ends up getting slaughtered. As for the wolf... well, let's just say he's not going hungry." Dr. Brody stands up and the Joker laughs loudly. The sound of his laughter fills the room as I nervously glance at Dr. Brody, who seems to have turned three shades redder and is gripping his clipboard so hard that his knuckles are turning white. The Joker, running out of oxygen to fuel his hyena-like cackles, gets out several more laughs, bangs his fists on the table, and takes in a deep rasp of air.
"I think I've had enough for today," Dr. Brody announces, hastily striding over towards the door. "Dr. Quinzel, wrap this session up quickly. I think you've achieved enough for the time being." With that, he exits the room, leaving me alone with the Joker.
"That kind of behavior will not be tolerated in my therapy sessions," I tell the Joker sternly, trying to regain some, if any, control over the session. "Stringing people along like puppets will not get you anywhere, not in here. We're trying to help you, but if you keep toying with people like this and don't give the doctors anything to work with, then they are going to send you to Blackgate."
"Are you saying that I'm not, uh, crazy enough for this place?"
"What I'm saying is that if you don't help yourself, then the other doctors and I can't help you. The first step in the rehabilitation process is realizing why you're in here."
"Rehabilitation?" he repeats with a raspy laugh. "You think you're going to, uh, fix me?"
"Do you think there's anything that needs to be fixed?" I reply swiftly.
"You're good, doc," he tells me, shaking his index finger towards me. "Always trying to avoid those pesky questions."
"The DA thinks that you're faking insanity," I inform him, ignoring his previous comment. "Are you?"
"So then you think you're crazy?"
"Crazy people don't think they're crazy, doc, they think they're sane. Sane people are the ones who think they're going crazy. I suppose sanity is kind of like what you said about good and bad, it's all, uh, relative." He pauses for a moment and his eyebrows knit together in thought. "I think that's a quote."
"It's not relative to the DA, they will send you to Blackgate if they think you're faking insanity," I tell him, ignoring his remark about relative sanity being a quote, although I'm faintly sure I've heard it somewhere.
"I like you, doc. You're different from all of the other doctors. As much as you want to be like them, you're not." When I don't respond, he leans forward and adds, "That was a compliment."
"I think that this is enough for one session," I decide, knowing that Dr. Brody will have me pulled out of the session if I don't end it soon. Being complimented by the patient seems like a pretty good indication to end the session anyway. "Have a nice day, Mr. J." I flip the switch on the camera down, shutting it off, and stand up, my mind whizzing with a thousand different thoughts.
"Harley," he begins.
"Dr. Quinzel," I absentmindedly correct.
"I'll see you again soon, Harley."
Without bothering to correct the name a second time, I turn on my heel and swiftly leave the room.
"That was great!" Dr. Arkham boasts, once I'm in his office. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Brody is nowhere to be found. I stare at Dr. Arkham in disbelief for a long moment, wondering how he could possibly think that the session went even remotely well.
"That was terrible," I argue. "The Joker practically ripped the DA's toy to shreds."
"But he didn't rip you to shreds, Harleen. This is a big advance."
"It doesn't matter what advance I made, Dr. Brody's probably already made up his mind by now. He's going to send the Joker to Blackgate, especially since he blatantly threatened his family," I point out sullenly.
"Dr. Brody can't diagnosis him based on one bad therapy session."
"No, but who's to say that there won't be more bad therapy sessions? He might talk to me, the key word here being might, but Dr. Brody is a whole different story. You know that the Joker's not going to let up. He's going to keep picking and tearing at Dr. Brody until he snaps, or worse, transfers him to Blackgate out of loathing instead of logic."
"We'll worry about that when the time comes. For now, let's take a step back and look at how much we've accomplished in this session alone," he suggests.
"We didn't accomplish anything!" I exclaim. "He ripped Dr. Brody to shreds, just like all of the other doctors. It wasn't any different."
"Yes it was, Harleen. He talked to you. He engaged in conversation with you. He was interested in talking to you. It might not have been much, but it could be the beginning of progress. Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Then stop sulking around, change doesn't happen overnight," he snaps. "I want you to go back in there again. I want your visits with him to be like routine therapy sessions."
"Every Thursday at ten in the morning, that way we have a sense of organization and it'll give him a long enough break in between the sessions. I have a feeling that if we do too many he'll get restless. Besides, the DA will like that the visits aren't scattered all over the place."
I nod and Dr. Arkham opens his mouth, then shuts it again, debating something internally. "Can I ask you something?" he finally concludes.
"Sure," I reply, somewhat nervous.
"Why do you think he talks to you? I don't mean to be so blunt here, but do you think it might have something to do with your appearance? You are the youngest doctor in this hospital that's ever engaged in conversation with him."
"No, I don't think that's it," I tell him honestly. "He doesn't strike me as the type to cooperate based on looks." No, he strikes me as the type of person who always has at least some vague idea of a plan or a grand scheme, despite how much he outwardly opposes other people's schemes, but maybe that's because their schemes are organized, planned, and susceptible to failure. Maybe his plans are so chaotic that they can't fail, or maybe his plans don't even have a specified outcome.
All I know is that I have a disconcerting hunch that the Joker is planning something and the only reason he's talking to me is because I somehow fit one of the roles in his grand scheme.
Naturally, that night I can't sleep, so instead of hopelessly tossing and turning while my mind whizzes with today's events, I make my way over to Pam's. I tried calling her first, but the line said that her number is currently out of service. I decide to drive there anyway, despite the fact that it's a potentially stupid and dangerous decision on my part, but I can't take the restless feeling in my apartment. If I stare at the same four walls any longer, I feel like I might start to lose it.
I bang on the door to the abandoned house three sharp times, then open it and make my way inside. "Pam," I call loudly, announcing my presence. "It's just me, don't try anything!"
"That was one time!" she exclaims, coming out of her indoor garden. "Would you let it go? What are you doing here anyway? Isn't it late?"
"It's only two in the morning," I tell her with a shrug. Pam rolls her eyes at my sarcasm. "I couldn't sleep and tossing and turning was driving me crazy. I tried calling you but it said your number was out of service."
"Yeah, the cops were getting close so I had to trash the cell phone," she replies casually, acting as if cops chasing her is a normal thing. Then again, I suppose it is relatively normal for her, considering she poisons and kills people who harm or get in the way of her saving the environment. "I'll get another one sometime or another. Want something to eat?"
"What do you have?" I question.
"Nothing right now. Selina's robbing the gas station right outside of the neighborhood, call her if you want something."
"What? Why is she robbing a gas station?"
"She said she was hungry and needed a break from her diet. I think she said she wanted ho-ho's or something," Pam replies nonchalantly. "She better recycle that plastic wrapping, though. Have you any idea how quickly those wrappers can pile up and taint the environment?"
Ignoring Pam's more than usual nature rant, I ask, "Is she, you know...?"
"Dressed up as Catwoman?" she finishes for me. "No, she's just wearing a mask and some gloves. She said it was too much trouble to put on the suit to rob one little gas station."
"Why didn't she just walk in and buy something instead of going to all the trouble?"
"You're the psychiatrist, you tell me," she retorts with a smirk. I roll my eyes and follow her into the den, taking a seat in the ratty armchair. "So, speaking of psychiatry, does work happen to be the reason why you're here at two in the morning?"
"What's Arkham piled on top of you now?" she questions with a sigh.
"It's that patient I was telling you about, the one I analyzed down at Blackgate about a month ago. Arkham gave me the case, I mean it was kind of as a last resort, but he actually gave me the case. I agreed to take the case and I want to help this patient, but he worries me. He worries everyone, he terrifies them."
"You're smart, Harls. I'm sure you can find some way to help this patient of yours," she reassures me.
"He's broken down three doctors, Red, he even made Arkham himself snap. Two doctors have attacked this patient, one with the outright intention of killing him. We're talking about experienced doctors here. He even managed to get under the skin of one of the DA's psychiatrists. Not to mention he killed a doctor yesterday."
"Who is this patient?" Pam asks, now intrigued.
"It's, uh, well, I'm not really sure that I should-"
"Harley, you're talking to someone who they're trying to put in that hospital of yours. If anyone realizes that you told me something about this case, they're not going to be worried about what you were saying, only who you were talking to. Now fess up."
I pause for a moment, debating. "It's the Joker."
"The Joker?" she repeats. "As in the guy who runs around blowing things up in clown makeup?"
"That's the one."
"You can't possibly think you can fix him. The guy's a real nut job. I'm not perfect, but the Joker's on a whole other spectrum of crazy."
"Thanks for that, Pam," I mutter. "That's exactly what I wanted to hear."
"It might not be what you wanted to hear, but it's true," she retorts firmly. "He's going to manipulate you, Harley. And if he can't manipulate you, who knows what he might do. I just don't want to see you get hurt."
"I'm not going to let him manipulate me, or at least I'm going to try not to let him. As for safety, that's not a guarantee with any of the patients."
"I'm not telling you this to be mean or discourage you, I'm telling you as a friend," she justifies. "If you think you can fix him, then go for it, but be careful. I don't want to see your face on the news with some gruesome caption beneath it."
"I don't want that to happen either," I murmur, no less anxious about the Thursdays to come. You can do this, I assure myself. Treat him like you would any other patient at Arkham.The only problem is that the Joker isn't like any other patient at Arkham.