Regardless of that undeniable knowledge, the idea is also kind of brilliant. Well, it will be brilliant if it works. The Joker is opposed to order and methodical planning and it's no secret that nearly everything about our therapy sessions, aside from the actual conversations themselves, are planned out from the day that they happen to the room that they're in. Meeting in the cafeteria, however, is far from planned and methodical. Compared to everything else, it seems sloppy and hints at desperation. The Joker will either admire the tactic or rip into it. Hopefully, either reaction will bring in something that we can use in his case against the DA.
The DA, on the other hand, are going to absolutely hate this approach. They're undoubtedly going to try to write this session off in court for showing patient favoritism or something like that. Hopefully, whatever we get out of this session will overthrow the court's immediate dismissal of the session. If not, we'll only have two or three more sessions to get something usable out of the Joker.
I step into the cafeteria at promptly 8:05 am, holding a hand held video camera in my right hand, and spot the Joker sitting alone in the same spot he was in on Wednesday. As far as I know, the Joker is completely unaware that his therapy session has been moved to breakfast and as I walk over to him, I silently hope that he won't react negatively towards me due to the surprise of the situation. But then again, he'll probably be able to figure out within the first few minutes of seeing me that I had no prior idea either.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. J," I greet pleasantly, taking a seat in front of him. His eyebrows knit together in confusion as I place the camcorder on the table, facing the lens towards him. I swing the small screen of the camcorder out and flip the on switch up. "This is Dr. Harleen Quinzel overseeing Patient 4479. The date is Thursday, November 28th and the time is 8:05 am. The session's location has temporarily been changed to the cafeteria."
The Joker leans forward and, as if it's a secret, whispers, "Is this a dream?"
"No, this our therapy session for the day. Dr. Arkham thought it'd be nice to change the scenery."
"Good, I thought I was having that dream again," he retorts, pushing his Styrofoam plate of food away. I faintly, but worriedly, notice that his food is just as untouched as yesterday's. The only thing he's touched is the carton of milk and the once sealed plastic cup of various fruit. He hasn't even glanced at the main meal, which is some sort of lumpy sludge that somewhat resembles oatmeal.
"And what dream is that?" I question, trying to keep the eagerness out of my voice. Dreams are a good start to the conversation, they could tell us something about his subconscious.
"I've only had the dream once really, but it was strange, even to a guy like me. It must've been the drugs," he muses. "It's not something you want to know, doc. It starts with you, uh, ripping your face off and it just gets real messy after that," he brushes off.
"Ah," I conclude, unable to form a complete response. Skin typically represents a shield or a protection of one's inner self in dreams. But if he's the patient and we're trying to see under his skin, why would he dream about me ripping my skin off?
"Did you like my present?" he questions, his voice breaking me out of my thoughts. He puts his hands on the table and I watch the gesture warily. The only thing shackled in here are his feet, leaving his hands unbound so that he can eat normally. The lack of handcuffs worries me.
"It was a nice painting, very skillful," I answer cautiously. "However, behavior like that won't be tolerated here."
The Joker sighs. "Tolerated this, tolerated that. You doctors and guards sound like broken records."
"This is the second time that this-" The Joker raises an eyebrow and I quickly catch my mistake, swearing silently in my head. It certainly wouldn't look good for me to just now mention the flower I found on my desk on his first day here at Arkham. "I mean, this is the first time you've broken out of your cell," I correct. "Dr. Arkham and the rest of the staff are going to be lenient with you this time, but you can't let it happen again. Are we clear?"
The Joker rolls his eyes. "Mm-hmm," he drawls.
"I'm serious," I tell him firmly. "Stunts like that play right into the DA's hands. You're practically feeding them excuses to send you to Blackgate. Is that what you want, to be locked up in a five by five cell with two inch thick steel walls?"
"I'm not going to Blackgate," he replies, leaning back in his chair. "No, I'm not."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Uh, call it intuition," he replies with a smirk. "Speaking of places to be, why are you here?"
"Didn't you say it's Thanksgiving? Shouldn't you be with family, having some big heartwarming dinner?" he muses. "Shouldn't you be a part of all of the little family, uh, traditions. Ya know, like lying about your job to your family, making it seem better than it really is? Or pretending to like your parents when deep down you really loathe 'em?"
"I don't hate my parents," I reply. "And no, I'm not doing any of those things today. None of my family lives here in Gotham. Let's get back to the-"
"Where's your family from? Brooklyn?"
"How did you know that?" I demand, feeling a wave of nervousness. Did he pay one of the guards to spill the details on my family? My mind automatically jumps to several of the worst conclusions.
"You're accent comes out in certain words, no matter how hard you try to hide it with that, uh, professional tone of yours," he retorts. "I don't know why you'd want to hide the accent in the first place, it's much more interesting than that dull tone you're using now."
"Oh," I reply, relieved that my fearful thoughts have been squashed. "I need to know if you actually got out of your cell last night or not, for paperwork reasons," I tell him, trying to bring the conversation back to the problem at hand. "You don't have to tell me a name if you got one of the guards to put the painting in my office for you," I assure him.
"Now why would I pay the guards to something for me, hmm? If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself," he tells me, waving an index finger towards me. "Sometimes ya gotta have help, but don't let the little players mess around with the big things. No, no, they're bound to screw something up."
"Then you were the one who put the painting in my office," I deduce.
"Mm-hmm. I wouldn't have had to if the, uh, finger painting people would've given it you like they said. See, I told you, ya gotta do everything yourself."
"If you were already out of your cell, then why didn't you try to escape?" I press, confused. Any one of the asylum patients would have leapt at the chance to escape like starving animals to meat.
"I'm here because I want to be here, not because anyone's forcing me. I don't want to escape," he tells me simply. "I want to help you, Harley."
"Help me?" I repeat incredulously.
"Mm-hmm, help you to see the real you. To be honest, doc, the real you is a lot better than this, uh, uptight professional one. You fit the role of it nicely, don't get me wrong, but it just doesn't suit you. You've got so much more... potential."
"That's very nice of you to want to help, Mr. J, but I'm the doctor and you're the patient. I'm here to help you."
"Everyone needs help sometimes, Harley," he tells me knowingly.
"It's Dr. Quinzel and you're the one who needs help right now, not me," I tell him. "Dr. Brody's only had two sessions alone with you and one with me in the room and he's already beginning to file his analysis. He's been studying all of these tapes and notes and I'll be honest with you, it doesn't look so good."
"It's never going to look good to them, Harley, no matter how hard you try. I'm surprised that you haven't picked up and quit already."
"It's Dr. Quinzel," I remind him again firmly. "And why would I do that?"
"I'm a lost cause, doc. Any sensible doctor can see that."
"You aren't a lost cause," I argue. "You're just in need of some help, that's all, even if you're unwilling to admit it."
The Joker laughs, the sound startling me. "Face it, doc, you're obsessed with me. And not just because you want all the, uh, benefits of curing me either. No, you're intrigued, interested, drawn to me." Mentally, I don't deny that statement. I am drawn to him, in a purely professional, learning type way. I've always had sort of a preference for extreme personalities. "You just can't get enough of me."
"You're an interesting character," I admit. "And I do want to help you. There is no magic cure."
He chuckles lowly, the sound close to a growl. "I don't need help, Harley. I kill people because I want to. I blow things up because I want to. I threaten and endanger the lives of all of Gotham's little citizens because I want to. Sensing a pattern yet, doc?" Uh-oh, this definitely wouldn't look good to the courts. "You can't fix me."
"Why's that?" I ask, impulsively switching the camera off. The Joker raises an eyebrow at the gesture.
"You don't see the way that I do. Not yet anyways," he mutters. "But once you do, you won't be trying to help me. No, you'll see why I'm trying to help you. I'm not the crazy one here. No, no, I'm the only person who can see this city and all of its people for what they truly are. And let me tell ya, doc, it's not a pretty sight."
"I think that's enough for today," I tell him, standing up and grabbing the camera. I want to see things from his perspective, but not in the way that he's describing it. I want to see it from a doctoral point of view, not whatever view he wants me to see it from.
"Would you like to know which part of your picture I think is the best?" he questions, drawing my attention back to him.
"The smile. Know why? 'Cause a smile on that face would be a perfect. Too bad I've only seen you smile once, and that time wasn't even genuine. I bet a real smile on you would look even better than on me." He lets out a small chuckle. "Come on, Harley, give me a smile."I'm not sure what compels me to do so exactly, but as I turn around to leave, I find myself managing a weak smile.
The next day, sometime around five o'clock just before I'm about to leave, Dr. Jeremiah Arkham enters my office and shuts the door behind him. He's silent for a long moment, eyeing me with an expression that I can't quite make out, and a shiver of nervousness runs through me. Something is clearly wrong if he felt the need to come directly to my office, but what is it? I rack my mind for something that I could've done wrong, but I can't think of anything, which leads me to the conclusion that this is about the only other person that Dr. Arkham and I talk about in such confinement.
"Dr. Arkham," I greet, breaking the heavy silence. "What brings you to my office?"
"You're off the case, Harleen," he tells me, his voice solemn and morose.
The first words out of my mouth are, "What?" He can't take me off the Joker's case, not now. I was finally starting to make a breakthrough. The Joker was talking to me, actually talking.
"I'm taking you off of the Joker case."
"You can't just take me off of the case!" I exclaim, standing up. "I'm the only one who's gotten through to him. I'm just now starting to make progress. Yesterday's session didn't end that great, I know, but we're finally starting to get somewhere with him."
"I know, I know," he admits, running a hand through his dark brown hair. "If it makes any difference, you aren't the main reason as to why you're being kicked off. There are several factors coming into play here and this... this is the best course of action."
"Whose fault is it?" I demand.
"Dr. Brody's," he tells me with a sigh. "He doesn't think that you're fit for the case. He said that if I don't take you off of the case now, he'll tell the DA that the Joker's initial analysis was biased because you showed signs of favoritism towards him." Before I can even begin to rant, he holds up a hand to stop me. "I know you weren't biased, I do, but if he were to go through with that accusation it could ruin your career."
"If you take me off of this case, then the Joker's fate is pretty much set. Unless you can get him to speak to another doctor, he'll go to Blackgate."
"Even if I were to let you stay on this case, you'd probably only get one more session with the Joker before the DA shut you down," he informs me. "Would it really be worth it, Harleen, to lose your career over a psychotic clown who will probably end up in Blackgate anyway?"
"It's not fair to the Joker," I tell him, crossing my arms. "Each patient deserves a fair share of analysis before they're condemned to four, two inch thick, steel walls."
"Some people would argue against that point. He's a menace to society, he's probably better off at Blackgate anyway."
"You're giving up that easy?" I question incredulously. "What happened to advancing the psychological field and making a big breakthrough for Arkham?"
"We're still going to try," he snaps. "I'm just telling you how I see it and from the looks of it, the situation isn't good."
I take a deep breath, trying to keep my professionalism in check. "Who's going to break the news to the Joker?"
"Dr. Brody said he'd tell the Joker during their session," he glances at his watch briefly, "which should've finished by now. My advice to you is-"
He's cut off by a nurse abruptly busting into my office. "Dr. Arkham, come quick," she tells him breathlessly. "It's the Joker. He managed to get a gun off one of the guards. He's threatening to shoot Dr. Brody."
"Dammit," Dr. Arkham growls. "Take me to him and get a sedative ready. If we can't talk him out of doing anything drastic, then we're going to have to take action." I stand up to follow Dr. Arkham, but he quickly stops me. "This doesn't concern you, Harleen, you'll only make the situation worse." As he strides out of the room, I waver for a moment and then sit back down at my desk.
I, the only person who could probably make any progress in trying to calm the Joker down, would only make the situation worse? I laugh to myself. Fine, let Dr. Brody die, I think to myself. He wasn't doing much good anyway.
It takes me a full moment to realize just how terrible that thought alone is. What's wrong with me today?
At around six thirty that night, I find myself in one of the shady backrooms of the Iceberg Lounge. Pam and Selina have somehow convinced me to come to the place where quite a few people would be more than happy to kill me. I didn't see any of the previous Arkham patients on our way up here, but there's a faint sense of paranoia in the back of my mind. That paranoia doesn't just stem from the possibility of running into someone who wants to kill me either. It would look awfully suspicious if someone saw me, an Arkham doctor, entering one of the backrooms with the unmistakable, slightly green skinned villain, Poison Ivy.
"If you want, Harls, I can take a trip down to Dr. Brody's house and see if he's got any valuables," Selina offers from her seat on the couch beside me. "He's working for the DA and can afford to live in Metropolis, surely he's got a few goodies lying around. If not, I can always trash the place."
"Mm," Pam agrees, taking a sip of her cherry vodka. "If he uses plastic bags or bottled water, I'll be happy to suffocate him, for the good of the environment of course." On second thought, she tentatively adds, "Although, maybe this is better for you in the long run."
"What are you talking about? This could make Harley's career," Selina defends. I sigh and take a deep sip of my mojito. I'm tempted to giggle uncontrollably at the fact that two vigilante criminals are arguing over the wellbeing of me, an asylum psychiatrist, but I quickly squash the laughter, knowing that Pam would undoubtedly use the uncharacteristic giggles to prove her point further.
"He could kill her," Pam replies flatly.
"Anyone at Arkham could kill her," Selina points out. "That danger is nothing new to her."
"Gee, thanks," I snort.
"You know it's true," Selina shoots at me. "Harley knew the risk when she took the job. Besides, she's perfectly capable of handling herself around criminals. I mean, look at who she's with right now. A crazy plant lady and a cat burglar. If she can put up with us all the time, I'm sure she can handle a psychotic clown once a week."
"It's just not fair," I interject into their argument. "I was finally starting to make progress with him and," I finish my sentence with a gulp of alcohol, feeling no need to retell the injustice of my day. "Stupid DA psychologist. He's the one that's biased, all because the Joker got under his skin and made him quiver in his polished shoes. What did he expect? For the Joker to be nice and polite and cooperative?" I let out a short, irritated laugh. "It's practically the Joker's job to break people down, did he really expect the Joker to act any different just because he's locked up in a cell?"
"How did the Joker get under his skin?" Selina asks curiously.
"He said that he'd kill his family, but I don't think he actually meant it. He finds everyone's fears and plays on them, it's nothing personal. Well, I suppose it is, but he just does it to get what he wants. Fear is his number one weapon."
"You're defending him," Selina tells me incredulously.
"I'm not defending him," I argue. "I'm just giving a reason as to why he says things like that."
"You like him," Pam announces.
"I do not like him," I dismiss, taking another sip of my drink. "I'm just trying to see things from his perspective."
"You like him," she repeats knowingly. "Why else would he keep you up at night, hmm?"
"Because he's an enigma," I justify. "The way he talks, the way he toys with people, the things he talks about, he's just so…" I pause, looking for the right word, "intriguing. Not to mention it's so incredibly frustrating trying to diagnose him."
"Well, what does he think of you," Selina presses.
"Me? I don't know."
"You've got to know something," Pam tells me. "You did say that you're the only doctor he hasn't tried to kill or mentally break."
"He said I wasn't like the other doctors," I reply with a shrug. "Maybe he thinks I'm the only one genuinely trying help him." Even to my own ears, that theory sounds weak. "Or maybe he thinks I'm playable and is going to use me as a pawn," I add with a sigh. "There's no way of knowing now. He'll be locked away in Blackgate before Christmas time."
"Don't be so glum about it," Pam soothes. "Think of it as an opportunity."
"An opportunity for what?"
"An opportunity to put away a man who endangers the city."
"There could be something wrong with him that makes him do the things he does," I explain dismally. "Something that we can treat or help. If there's something wrong with his mind or if there's a deep rooted problem that can be helped, then he might be fit to rejoin society after years, or maybe even decades, of therapy. They're taking away his only opportunity to be helped, if he does indeed need help, which I think he does."
"From what you've told me, Harls, he doesn't exactly seem to want help," Pam replies.
"It doesn't really matter if he wants it or not. It matters if he needs it. Him not wanting it doesn't mean that he shouldn't get it, it just means that it'll be harder to give."
"You sound a little too invested in this case," Selina notes. "I know it sucks and all, but I think you just need to take a step back and breathe."
"I'm not too invested," I dismiss, taking a deep sip of my drink. "I just want to help, that's all."
"You psychiatrists belong in that institution more than we do," Pam announces with a laugh. "You've got to be crazy for trying to help us."
"There's insanity in everyone," Selina muses. "Some more than others."
"You've got that right," I mutter, glancing around the room, just now taking it in. It has the signature Iceberg Lounge theme of icy white floors and blue walls, along with icicle lights, but it's far less exciting than the main club room, not that I'm complaining. I don't particularly like being surrounded by sweaty bodies and music so loud that it shakes my ribcage.
The music is still audible through the walls, but it's considerably less loud. Thankfully, this room also happens to be free of a dance floor. Instead, it has a large icy looking table in the center of the room with ice themed chairs all around it. There are three silver couches in the back, which the three of us are sitting on, but for the most part, it seems more like a meeting room than an actual club room.
"How did you manage to score us this room?" I ask Pam curiously.
"I do a few deals back here from time to time," she informs me. "Cobblepot usually lets me back here whenever I want with no questions asked as long as I give him a cut of the pay."
"Yeah, you know, for some of my toxins? I don't give anyone anything important of course, but I exchange some of my more well-known poisons from time to time," she replies.
"Right," I murmur. We hardly ever talk about her criminal life, so it's news to me that Poison Ivy makes some of her money here, in one of Gotham's most posh clubs.
"What about you, Cat?" Pam questions, turning to Selina. "Have you ever done any deals here?"
"Ah, once or twice," she replies with a shrug. "Deals aren't really my thing, I prefer to keep the proceeds all to myself. It's cleaner and less faulty that way, not to mention I get more of a profit."
I'm about to reply when my cell phone goes off. "Who is it?" Pam asks skeptically. I glance at the caller ID, which reads Jeremiah Arkham.
"It's work," I reply hesitantly.
"It could be important!" I shoot back. "One of the patients could be loose or holding a hostage or something like that. It could be an emergency."
"Fine, but you're buying the next round of drinks," Selina warns.
"Deal, now everybody shush." I accept the call and bring the phone up to my ear. "Dr. Harleen Quinzel."
"You're a hard woman to find, doc," the Joker's voice greets my ears. I feel my face turn a sheet whiter and sense Pam and Selina's eyes on me. "It took me a while, but I finally gotcha. Even if it isn't in person," he tells me, sounding almost disappointed.
"Mr. J," I greet cautiously. "What did you want to find me for? Is everything alright?"
"Well, I gotta admit, doc, I was little, uh, hurt when I heard that you had given up," he clucks. "I didn't think you had it in you."
"I didn't give up," I tell him slowly. "Who told you that?"
"Oh, just an old friend," he replies, smacking his lips on the other side of the phone. I have a feeling that his old friend is a DA employed psychiatrist. "The problem is, this friend of mine is a schemer. And with schemers, ya never know what's true and what's not until you can see how it, uh, benefits the person. Ya see, I like to get to the bottom of things- like you, so I thought that I'd call and make sure that my friend here really is, uh, scheming. I hope I'm not... interrupting something."
"You're not interrupting anything," I tell him lightly. "Does Dr. Arkham know that you're using his phone?" I question, trying to bring the subject away from Dr. Brody. First and foremost, I have to make sure that Dr. Arkham is okay because I doubt that he gave the Joker his cell phone without some sort of fight.
"Of course, Harley. He's right here, uh, supervising."
"Can I speak to him?"
"Uh, he's a little busy right now." I can hear the faint sound of muffled voices in the background, as well as a few panicked ones. "Where are you, doc?" he questions and I can hear the sneaking suspicion in his voice.
"I'm at home," I lie.
"No you aren't," he retorts, popping the last t. "Lying doesn't suit you, Harleen," he chides, the use of my full first name making him sound almost like a scolding parent. "You sound like you're at a bar. It's still pretty early," he muses. "You aren't an alcoholic, are you?"
"No, I'm just out with some friends," I tell him truthfully, seeing no use in lying to him.
"More like having a pity party actually," I reply honestly. "It was my friend's idea, they thought I needed some alcohol to lift my spirits."
"Mm, and why would your spirits need, uh, lifting?"
"I could've been jobless before the month's end," I tell him. "I suppose we could be celebrating that I didn't actually lose my job, but it doesn't really feel like something that should be celebrated at the moment." This is the most honest I've ever been with him and it worries me. What worries me the most isn't how easy it is to be honest with him, it's what he might do with that honesty.
"Who, uh, threatened your job?"
"It's not really my place to name names."
"It's not really certain doctor's jobs to lie to their patients."
"I'm not lying to you," I justify.
"I'm not talking about you, Harley." He lets out a breathy laugh on the other end of the phone. "The doctors in this hospital always try to make their job seem like it's the most important," he tsks. "Ya know, it doesn't matter how important you are, only that you do your job. 'Cause if you don't do your job, then someone else might just take it. There are two kinds of take, though. The kind where do it 'cause you want it bad enough and the corrupt kind of take. The stealing kind."
"Couldn't you argue that they're the same?" I question, standing up to pace around the room. "If you take something because you want it bad enough, couldn't you do so in a corrupt way?"
"You tell me, Harley," he challenges. "Was it corrupt of you to take my case when you knew that there were doctors more, uh, qualified for it than you?"
"Well, no. I don't think so," I answer slowly, thinking it out. "But-"
"Mm, and what about our little chaperone?" There's a sinking feeling in my chest. "He might not have, uh, taken your job, but he sure did squash it. You wanna know why?"
"Because he was afraid?"
"No, no, no. He thought you weren't doing it right. He thought that you were in the way, so he took action. I told you, Harley, when the masks are off everyone becomes the opposite of morality. Our little chaperone revealed his dirty side this evening and I bet his, uh, employers wouldn't be too happy if they found out what a schemer he is. Especially if that little, uh, trait turned up in court. I bet they'd turn on him, fire him on the spot without a second thought. They'd cast him out into the street and leave him to rot," the Joker muses. "Ya see, Harley, society doesn't care who you are before the mask comes off. As far as they're concerned, you're just a dog with rabies and you know what society does to dogs with rabies?"
"What?" I question nervously.
"They put 'em down." There's the sharp BANG of a gunshot on the other end of the phone that sends my right ear ringing. "Oh, and by the way, Dr. Arkham's just dying for you to pay him a visit."
There's the sound of maniacal, hyena-like laughter and then the line goes dead.