Arkham Asylum is the one and only institution for the criminally insane of Gotham City. The ancient, bleak and desolate structure sat on the city outskirts for decades, but its security measures made their best efforts to keep its inmates in, and making it difficult for the employees to get in. One rather ambitious young blonde woman always took twenty minutes to get through the metal detectors, fingerprint scanners and bag search before getting to her desk on the Psychiatry level with her files in one hand and her poorly brewed lobby coffee in the other.
She sat down at her desk, tossing her ID reading Dr. Harleen Quinzel MD on her calendar. She did not need it after going through security, and her first therapy session was not for another hour. Not ten seconds after sitting down to review her files a knock hit her door. A head poked through the threshold.
“Oh, good. You’re in.” the man said as he walked through her door carrying a thick file under his arm. “Good morning, Dr. Quinzel.”
“Good morning, Dr. Wallace.” Harleen answered. Dr. Wallace ran the Psychiatry department of Arkham for the last few years, promising real progress with their patients and inmates by hiring the best of the best in the field, just like Dr. Quinzel.
Dr. Wallace pointed to one of her office chairs and she nodded, allowing him to take a seat. He sighed as he set down the file in his lap. “Harleen, the last seven weeks seem to have flown by, haven’t they?”
“They have. Mr. Cobblepot is beginning to show remarkable progress.” Harleen answered with a smile. “I was hoping to cover a few more aspects of his past and the—” she paused, seeing Dr. Wallace had something he needed to say. “Is everything all right?”
“Yes.” Dr. Wallace answered. He drummed his fingers on the file, thinking carefully about what he wanted to say. “Your case is actually why I’m here, Harleen.” Dr. Wallace replied. He cleared his throat. “Dr. Reagan will be taking over Mr. Cobblepot’s case at my request.”
“Is everything all right?” She asked.
“Nothing’s wrong, it’s just…” he cleared his throat once more. “…we had a readmission come in last night and I figured you would want to take a crack at him. He might be the challenge you’re looking for.”
“A readmission?” Harleen asked. Dr. Wallace nodded. It did not sound like much of a challenge. “What made him come back? Relapse? A breakdown?”
He shook his head. “Batman.” He answered. Dr. Wallace could see that got her attention. “Given your current tenure here at Arkham, you haven’t worked with this patient yet. And with your stellar academic career, Miss Top-of-the-class, I think you can bring about the best results.” Dr. Wallace placed the heavy file on Harleen’s desk. “I’m hoping that with your training, you could get the best read on his mental state.”
“That’s it? Just evaluate him?” She asked, hoping for more.
“For now. It will take a few sessions to get a basic read.” He pushed the file closer to Harleen. “I think you’re more than up to the task.”
Harleen pulled the file to her and opened it, her eyes filled with surprise at the patient’s photo. Her gaze darted back and forth between the file and Dr. Wallace. Her face almost lit up from the surprise. “Are you serious?” He nodded. “Like, really serious?” She asked again, making sure this was not a prank.
“He’s already been brought to Interview Room 6.” Dr. Wallace said as he got up from the chair. “Take as many notes as possible, quote him if you can manage it. I would like a very detailed report for each session.” He paused in her doorway and turned around. “One word of advice: challenge everything he says, even if you believe beyond a doubt it’s true.” He closed the door behind him.
Harleen looked out at her patient through the two-way mirror looking into Interview Room 6. Her patient’s feet were cuffed to a bolted down chair, wearing the standard Arkham jumpsuit under an off-white strait jacket, tapping his white slipper-fitted shoes on the cold concrete floor. He hummed to himself while looking up at the ceiling. She sighed in an effort to compose herself and walked to the door, stopping to give the guard standing by the door a hello.
“You’re here if I need you, right?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am.” The guard answered. “He shouldn’t be too much trouble with the jacket on him.”
She stared at the door handle, reluctant to grab hold and go inside. Somewhere in herself, she found the courage to grab the door and enter the room. Intense eyes started to peer down from the ceiling, locking onto Harleen, causing a pair of red lips to smile largely. In the dead silence of the white washed room with a two-way mirror as its only accent, Harleen found herself with the toughest patient of her blossoming career: The Joker.
“Hello, beautiful.” He said, smiling. “I know what you’re thinking. It’s the first question on everyone’s mind.” Harleen looked in silence. “Is his hair naturally green?” He twisted his head left and right to give her both profiles of his slicked back green hair. “The answer is yes. Yes it is.”
Harleen cleared her throat. “My name is Dr. Harleen Quinzel, and I have been assigned to work with you now that you’re readmitted to Arkham.”
“Harleen Quinzel?” The Joker asked, giving it some thought. His thoughts ended with a rather promiscuous smile.
“Yes, I’m a psychiatrist; and you and I will spending three hours a day in here talking and getting to know what it is that makes you tick. From there, we can determine a course of treatment best suited for your needs.” Harleen said.
“Three hours a day?” he asked. The chains on his ankles jingled as he adjusted himself in his chair. He could not move anywhere since he was chained to the chair and the chair was bolted to the floor, but he still had some room to move. “What will we do to pass the time?”
“We can start with what brought you back to Arkham for the…” she checked his file. “…fourth time.”
“What brought me back?” Joker asked. “It’s more of a who. A wonderfully fun guy brought me back last night. A crazy man who likes to run around Gotham in the middle of the night dressed like a giant bat. I’m sure he sounds familiar, he’s quite often in the news.”
Harleen nodded. “So it had nothing to do with the nine bodies found in East End and the explosion of the old newspaper printing factory?”
“Certainly not. Though the headline was great: BOOM. Front page news, guaranteed.” The Joker answered very seriously, but still could not help but smile at his own bad joke. He leaned in close to the table. “Has anyone ever called you Harley?”
Though she did not show it, hearing that question, that name, made her feel nostalgic. “Uh, how is that relevant?”
“I was just wondering.” Joker answered as he leaned back in his chair.
She shook off the question and tried to stare him down, but all the Joker did was look up at the ceiling, resuming his shoe tapping. There was not much of a rhythm to it, but Harleen did not believe that was the point. She believed he was testing her, seeing what got on her nerves and what did not. “So, what was the motive behind the crime?” He looked down and to her. “All criminals have a motive.”
He gave her a look that said nothing but ‘seriously?’ “All the bad criminals do. You wanna rob a bank? Gotta have a reason. Wanna rig a few charges? Need a reason.” He leaned in again. “I do it because I can. For that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you do something fun.” His smile grew bigger, showing slightly yellowed teeth beneath the deep red lips. “Everyone, everywhere, has those little things in the back of their minds that eat away at them. Those…tiny little voices that tell them to do things, and they’re subdued by the larger voice that says no.” He let out a few chuckles.
Harleen listened intently to his speech, writing it down in her notes almost verbatim. She paused and looked at him. There was something; something in the smile that intrigued her. To her, he was hiding something from her, and he was not hiding it very well. “Do you hear those voices often?”
“Oh, not at all. I’m the voice that tells the little voices what to do.” He answered. He clicked his tongue and smiled. “What do your little voices tell you?”
She shook her head. “I don’t have little voices.”
That smile of his did not go away. It was almost intimidating. “That’s a shame, Harley dear. I’ll have to introduce you to mine one day. They’re quite submissive, hostages, really.”
“You keep your own mind hostage?” Harleen asked. Joker only smiled. “How does that work?”
“My mind is like the prize inside kid’s cereal.” The Joker smiled. “You never know what you’ll find inside, and there’s no guarantee it’s what you hope it is.” He leaned in once again. “You sure you want to find out?” His smile went away, replaced by a stern gaze in his eyes, as though he was trying to analyze Harleen.
Harleen adjusted her thin black framed glasses. “It’s my job to find out.”
“And what has your job told you so far?” The Joker asked. “Narcissism? Severe emotional detachment? Daddy issues?” The smile came back. With each time he smiled, Harleen began to notice small changes in each one, almost as if he had a unique smile for everything.
“What do you have against your father?” Harleen asked.
“Oh, I was talking about you.” The Joker answered. “It takes a rather large ego to judge others for their state of mind. Your career says more about your state of mind than it does mine. Maybe we should compare notes.” He chuckled again. “If we’re lucky, they’ll let us share my cell.” He gave her a wink.
Harleen said nothing. She hoped it did not show, but his comments were a low blow. Harleen knew that as much as she wanted to, she could not show any reaction. She did what any professional would do; continue. “You didn’t answer my question. What do you have against your father?”
“He didn’t love Mommy enough.” The Joker answered, his sarcasm more than apparent. “That’s the cliché, right?” He chuckled lightly. “He couldn’t love Mommy like I could, or something. I’m sure it’s all been said before.” His chains jingled more as he stretched out his legs, gently touching Harleen’s leg. Despite the restraints, the chains were longer than average to allow him to walk.
She did her best to ignore what The Joker was doing. As long as she made it look like it did not bother her; there was nothing The Joker could do to faze her. “Is that why you shoot bazookas into buildings and launch gas grenades into cafés?” Harleen asked. “Because Mom and Dad need to see just how much their little boy has grown up?”
The Joker’s eyes darted in several directions, making Harleen think that struck a chord. “I answered a similar question not that long ago.” He smiled. “I do things because I can. You see, I’m a doer. People like me go out and live life while others cower on the couch, waiting for the good things to come to them. That’s the choice, go out and get it; or wait for it to come to you, knowing that it will never come.” He giggled like a child on a sugar rush. “Everything we do starts with the choice. Frankly, the whole thing is a bad joke. Being able to control ourselves through the choices we make?” He shook his head. “Not even close. No, you either make the safe choice…or the ones that give you the most kicks.” The Joker smiled, pushing his foot closer to her. “I’m one of the few that looks for the kicks in life. Otherwise, what’s the point?” He licked the bottoms of his teeth behind his smile. “What do you look for, Harley?”
“Why call me Harley?” She asked, twisting her pen between her fingers. “What’s wrong with Dr. Quinzel?”
“Why not Harley? I like the name.” The Joker answered. “Harley brings a cheery smile to my heart and a rush of blood to the head. Call it intoxicating.”
She sighed, jotting down notes in her files. “Would calling me Harley make you more open to talking in these sessions?” Without a word, The Joker nodded and chuckled. “Very well.” She adjusted her glasses once more. “Let’s move on.” She turned a few pages in the Joker’s file, before closing it. “I was wondering if you would be willing to take a test.”
“Am I allowed to cheat?” Joker asked. “I do much better when I’m allowed to cheat.” He laughed a bit.
“No.” Harleen answered, maintaining her professionalism. “We will be doing what’s called a Rorschach Test.” She set a page of blotted ink on the table between them. “Look at the inkblot and tell me what you see. First thing that comes to mind.”
The Joker looked at the card for a few seconds, pursing his lips as though he was trying to look like he was concentrating. “I see a…a deep-fried Batman, julienned.” He looked to her, his eyes intensely locked on to her own. “What do you see?”
In silence, she removed the picture and replaced it with a different inkblot. “And what about this one?”
The Joker repeated his fake level of concentrating, looking down at the blot. “Seven teenagers riding a conveyor belt to a meat grinder…in Arizona.”
“Why Arizona?” Harleen asked.
“Why not? It’s dry and humid and it has coyotes.” Joker answered in a dark tone of voice with a smirk. “What about you?”
“Does it matter what I see in the inkblot?” Harleen asked.
“Isn’t that how it works? I tell you what I see, you tell me what you see and then we bond over ice cream?” Joker asked with a smile.
Near her limit, she finally pushed his foot back and withdrew her own. “I see you answering my questions.” All the Joker did was smile. “And what about this one?” Harleen asked as she switched out the second inkblot for a third.
“Batman riding a pony through the Nevada Desert.” Joker answered with a smile.
Harleen jotted down a tally in her notes. It was the third time the Joker had mentioned Batman. “So, Batman’s a touchy subject, is he?” Harleen asked, hoping to drill down to the bedrock of his thoughts.
“Oh, where to start?” The Joker asked as though a weight was ready to slump off him. “Harley, dear, Batman is by far the most…” he sucked air through his yellow teeth. “…intense, aggravating and entertaining man I have ever had the misfortune of getting beaten up by.”
“And yet you keep trying to kill him.” Harleen stated.
Joker gave her a look of exasperation. “Watch the news sometime, sweet cheeks. Have I ever once tried to kill him?” Harleen gave it some thought. “Don’t get me wrong, I‘ve dropped more than my fair share of bodies. There may have been a few attempts at maiming, clipping his wings, but come on.” He chuckled. “I don’t know what I would do without ol’ Batsy, doll-face. I’d probably go crazy.” He laughed. “Coming from me, that’s saying something.” He sighed melodramatically. “It’s true, I despise the Bat, but what can I say? You can only have so much fun by yourself. When the Bat first spread his wings, I knew I found the perfect playmate to suffer through my games.” Harleen looked at him in silence before writing down some notes in her files.
“So if you don’t want to kill Batman, why have such strong fantasies about succeeding in doing so?”
“Again, why not? All the good things come to an end, Harley. Even Batman, but only on my terms.” Joker answered. Harleen continued to write what he said in her notes. “What are you writing about? Any way I can take a peek?”
“I’m afraid these notes are for me and my superiors.” Harleen answered. “How else am I going to know everything we talked about today?” She smiled. Joker smiled back, but this smile was different. To Harleen, it was softer and less intimidating. It was unlike anything she had seen in the news and articles every time The Joker made a scene in Gotham. “So, it’s safe to say that without Batman…you’d be alone?” Joker was silent. “No playmate for you to share all your gags and jokes with? What would you do with all that free time?”
“Oh, I excel at finding ways to pass the time. They usually involve gunpowder and gasoline and some small little tables covered in overly sharpened precision tools.” Joker answered. “A body will drop here and there. An armored vehicle catches fire. You know; the usual stuff. Time is only as boring as we allow it to be, Harley. The fun part is seeing how far you can push yourself, or others, to do whatever it takes to not be bored.”
She wrote down his speech word for word in her notes, underlying key words she felt she could utilize in the next session. “How often do you find yourself bored?”
“Whenever I’m not out trying to play with the Bat.” Joker answered.
“Are you bored right now?”
Joker took in a quick breath. “Well, I was at first.” He smiled again, but it appeared more flirtatious than his previous smiles. “Then you happened to show up and sit down for a spell.”
“What’s so entertaining about right now?” Harleen asked. “We’re just talking. Sounds pretty boring to me.”
The Joker leaned in, his arms feeling the sharp edge of the table through the jacket. “Because you haven’t left yet.” He whispered. He smiled again as he relaxed into the chair. “Almost every little doc and orderly won’t come near me without a little liquid courage in a plastic tube with a needle to dull me down. But here you are, with nothing but a table and chains separating me from you.” He pointed his penetrating stare at Harleen. “Am I what you’re willing to do…to not be bored?”
Harleen sighed. “Personalities are my interest.” She gave the Joker a smile. “How can I be bored when I have my entertainment sitting right in front of me?”
“Oh, sweet cheeks, is that all I am to you?” Joker asked like it hurt his feelings. He started to give Harleen what could only be called puppy dog eyes. “And here I thought we had something fun going on.”
Three hours seemed to pass so quickly, and Harley let the security escort Joker back to his cell. Right before Joker left Interview Room 6 he stopped in the doorway. “It’s been fun, Harley. Not bad for a first date. We’ll have to do this again sometime.”
“Tomorrow, of course.” She responded. She turned to look at him. “Three hours a day, every day.”
Joker smiled. “I look forward to it.” His voice went deep, a darker undertone.
“Okay, come on, clown. Back to your cell.” The security guard said as he ‘helped’ him out of the room.
Harleen found herself back in her office after three hours, reading older published articles of the Joker’s past transgressions of Gotham City. Her door banged before Dr. Wallace came into the office. “Good afternoon, Dr. Wallace.”
“Dr. Quinzel.” He said as he sat down. “How was the first session?”
She sighed. “He’s good at evading questions and talking about nothing for minutes on end.” She relaxed in her chair. “Or Batman. That seems to be the only one topic he talks about with passion.”
“I think that is the only true fact anyone has been able to establish about the Joker.” Dr. Wallace replied. “And you? You’re all right?”
“Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?” Harleen asked.
“Joker has had some…negative effects on some of his former doctors.” Dr. Wallace answered. “One of them actually was convinced he was the patient here and Joker was his physician. He’s spent enough time locked in here that he’s learned a few of our own techniques and has the ingenuity to turn it against those who are susceptible to his…charm, for lack of a better word.”
“What happened to him?” Harleen asked. “His former clinician?”
“He’s been a patient on the fifth floor for the last two years, suffering from delusions of persecution. Thinks everyone is a judge, and if he doesn’t appease them, they’ll sentence him to life.” Dr. Wallace answered.
Harleen took the information surprisingly. “How many sessions did he do with the Joker?”
“Six.” Dr. Wallace said. “By the third, The Joker was the one asking the questions.”
Harleen scribbled down more notes for her report before opening a blank document on her laptop. “I don’t think you need to worry about me, Dr. Wallace.” She answered as she took her eyes off her computer screen. “I made the extreme my specialty. I should be just fine.”
“That’s what I hope all your training can do for you, Dr. Quinzel.” Dr. Wallace replied. He sighed. “I need to be clear, Harleen. This is a rough road I’m sending you down, and you need to know you don’t have to walk it alone. If you need someone to talk to about your sessions, I’m here to help.”
“What do you mean?” Harleen asked.
“I mean that I gave you the opportunity to work with one of the most erratic and unsolvable minds I have ever encountered in my career.” Dr. Wallace said. “We have no way of knowing what is true and what is false with him. We don’t even have his real name. Don’t get me wrong, Harleen. You graduated top of your class, published a thesis unlike any I’ve read and in your interview you told me that the eclectic minds of hardened and violent criminals would provide you with the challenge you crave. I can’t deliver anything better than The Joker himself, and I would not offer you his case if I wasn’t positive you could handle it.”
“Thank you.” Harleen answered. “I just want to finish up my notes and I will be done for the night.” Dr. Wallace stood up and left Harleen to her work, quickly typing up her session report on a laptop keyboard. She mouthed the words she was typing as they appeared on screen, and all she could hear in her mind was The Joker’s voice repeatedly calling her Harley.
Joker Session 1 Notes by Dr. Harleen Quinzel
The Joker establishes a strong evasiveness when it comes to questions regarding himself. He can easily find a way to change the subject or tangentially rant about something similar to the topic posed to him. While convinced control is a joke, he seems to demand control over those he attempts to manipulate. The Joker also cannot seem to shake a powerful and violent obsession with Batman, which was established early on in his psychological history. It is my opinion that he believes Batman fills a void within him that he himself may not be aware of. I plan to probe the idea in the next session.
TO BE CONTINUED. SESSION 2 WILL BE RELEASE 2/12
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