Harleen immersed herself in the files of one of The Joker’s previous clinicians, a Dr. Henry Vaughn. Both she and Dr. Wallace spent half an hour digging out the five boxes of files, notes and recorded audio of the sessions Dr. Vaughn had spent with The Joker. Harleen was lost in one particular recording, her ears filled with the sounds of Dr. Vaughn and The Joker coming from her ear buds. She watched as Dr. Wallace came through her office door; so focused on the conversation she did not even hear him knock. She pressed the pause button on the player and took out her ear buds.
“I’m glad you had some time.” Harleen answered.
“What can I do to help?” Dr. Wallace asked. “I hope it’s not to lug all this back to Records.”
She shook her head before handing him a file folder. “Dr. Vaughn’s fourth session with Joker.”
Dr. Wallace perused the file. “What about it?” He tapped the paper. “Seems pretty standard.”
“You told me The Joker had Vaughn wrapped around his finger by session three.” Harleen replied. Dr. Wallace nodded. “So why is Vaughn making requests for tighter security?”
Dr. Wallace rechecked the paperwork. “A request to have two additional security personnel to be present inside the room during Joker’s sessions.” He and Harleen exchanged looks. “It’s unusual, since Joker is always restrained in sessions.”
“But why would Dr. Vaughn need it?” Harleen asked. “Especially if Joker was already in control of him.”
Dr. Wallace gave it some thought. “The Joker wanted them there.”
Harleen pointed to him and smiled. “He needed an audience to see how futile going against him is.” She got up from her desk. “The Joker is a walking, talking contradiction. In my last session, he said control is a bad joke. However, he needs to exude it in order to bring about the chaos he causes.
Dr. Wallace went back to the file. “The request was never fulfilled. Denied on the spot.”
“Which made The Joker change his plans with this one.” Harleen speculated. “He’s adaptable.” She grabbed her files. “I can work with that.” Red lights flashed outside her office and the hall was filled with the annoying sound of an alarm. “What’s going on?”
“Patient escape.” Dr. Wallace said as he dropped the folder and ran outside. He grabbed a guard as he ran passed. “Who was it?”
“Nygma!” the guard shouted as he resumed running.
“Wonderful!” Dr. Wallace yelled as he threw his hands up. He turned around to Harleen. “Hopefully the city’s budget committee will listen to the board after this one.” He shook his head. “We’ve had too many escapes.” He sighed. “Given the circumstances, I can’t say I’m comfortable with you having a session today.”
“Like an escaped inmate is going to stop me.” Harleen answered with confidence.
“No, but it may tempt Joker to escape. That’s the last thing we need right now.”
Harleen remembered how The Joker played footsie with her, flirted and smiled. She knew he had his own plans. “I don’t think it will be a problem.” Dr. Wallace said nothing, but moved a few steps and allowed Harleen to walk passed with her notepad in hand.
Harleen waved hello to the guard standing at the door to the Interview Room. It was the same guard as last time, nodding his own hello to her. He grabbed the door for her and opened it, looking through the archway to Joker, who was busy clicking his tongue and whistling while tilting his head left and right. He was still in his strait jacket, ankles chained to the bolted down chair and he smiled at the sight of Harleen walking through the door.
“Harley…and here I thought I was going to be stood up today.” Joker greeted her.
“Edward Nygma escaped a few minutes ago.” Harleen answered as she pulled out her chair.
“I heard.” Joker answered with a smile, his yellow teeth sticking out through it. “Good for him. He doesn’t get out enough. Terrible social life.”
“What about you?” Harleen asked.
“Oh, I have tons of friends.” Joker answered. “They all live right inside my noggin.” He smiled.
Harleen knew it was an answer just to hear himself talk and nothing worth noting. “I meant you don’t feel tempted to escape?”
“Well, I’m sure I will, eventually.” Joker answered, eyeing her. “But for now, I see no reason to leave.” His smile grew bigger.
“Is that so?” Harleen asked. Joker was silent; he only nodded. “In that case, I have something I’d like to talk about.”
Joker leaned in. “And what would that be, dear Harley?”
“The nine bodies in East End and the printing factory.” Harleen answered. “You said you didn’t have a reason, you just did it.” Joker moved his head round like he were a bobblehead. “Why those people? Why the printing factory?”
“Why not?” Joker asked, shrugging his shoulders. “It happened to be there.”
“Just standing there…doing nothing…mocking you?” Harleen asked, throwing a line out.
“Mocking me?” Joker asked before laughing loudly, but it died down fast. “Nice. Trying to get me to make an opinion about my self-worth.” He titled his head once more. “You want to know why that particular print factory?” Harleen said nothing, wrote nothing down. He smiled. “Let’s call it…a couple of decades’ worth of back pay.”
Harleen started to write. “Back pay? You worked for that newspaper?”
“Worked? HA!” Joker shouted. “Child labor is easy to afford when you offer a quarter for every newspaper you deliver.” His smile vanished. He did not look sad, but Harleen saw something close to it. She was taken aback by it, but knew that Joker needed to show how in control he really was. “I delivered ten newspapers every day before school.”
“Two dollars and fifty cents a day?”
“A small pittance compared to the millions the company made in advertising alone.” Joker said. “Two months of hard work to buy a bicycle and they threw me to the curb like the evening edition.”
“You blew up an old newspaper printing factory over two hundred dollars you didn’t get when you were a child?”
He made a face. “It was a really good bicycle.”
“I find that hard to believe.” Harleen answered.
“Well, I’m interested to hear your theory.” Joker replied.
“Do you really?” Harleen asked. He nodded. She set down her pen and paper before folding her arms. “I think you’re playing me.” Joker smiled. “I would like one straight answer from you.”
“If I could use my hands, I’d shake on it.” Joker answered. “One…straight answer.”
“Is it for pleasure?” Harleen asked. Joker was silent. “The things you do. Everything.”
“Harley, there is no rhyme or reason in anything anyone does. I told you yesterday.” Joker explained. “I’m a doer.”
“All for that warm fuzzy feeling when you do something fun, I remember.” Harleen answered. “I get you find it fun.” She shook her head. “That’s not what I asked.”
Joker’s silence broke with a grin. “You think I get a bit more than a warm fuzzy feeling between my toes.” He chuckled. “Smart play, Harley. I’d tip my hat if only I had a hat.” He made a face of curiosity. “Think they’ll let me have a hat to tip?”
“No.” Harleen answered. She stood up, adjusting her lab coat.
“Where are you going?” Joker asked.
“If you’re not going to be serious, I see no point in wasting any more time on you.” Harleen answered.
“It’s not very professional, leaving in the middle of a session.” Joker threw out there.
“Beautiful thing about Arkham—there’s more than one doctor.” Harleen responded as she walked to the door.
“But, but it’s our second date, sweets.” Joker called out.
Harleen turned around. “Give me a reason to stay.” She folded her arms across her chest, but her seriousness vanished when she saw him attempt to stand up. The chains jingled. “What are you doing?”
“You want something serious?” Joker said with the deepest baritone he could muster. He tilted his head. “You see that, there?” Harleen looked at the base of his neck. The pale white skin looked somewhat burned near the collarbone. “That’s chemical.” He sat down. “Older than anything else I’ve got on my body.” His sight sharpened, his focus turning to tunnel vision with Harleen square in front of him. “My uncle worked in the chemical plant near my house. Joined us for dinner almost every night before heading home to my aunt and three cousins, twice removed.”
“They had five, but the oldest two were taken away. It’s basic math.” He snickered. Harleen went for the door, not wanting to deal with the bad jokes. “ Five minus two equals three? Jokes are no fun when you have to explain them. Anyway, one night he comes to our house after his shift. Little did we know it was his last one. The plant shut down, he was fired.” The chair creaked as he fidgeted. “He had a sealed bucket in his hand. My father let him in, bucket and all. Mom set down dinner for us, and…” He made a splash noise and screams. “…threw some clear liquid all over the kitchen table. Some of it got on me and it burned. It burned bad.” He watched as Harleen walked back to her chair. “Dad asked why he did that. Dear ol’ uncle said nothing but threw the bucket across his face before running out the door.”
“Oh my God.” Harleen whispered.
“Mom called the cops and they showed up forty-five minutes later. Ambulances too.” Joker said. “We were barely able to afford the surgeries to fix me and Dad.” He scoffed. “Wore a neck brace and turtlenecks for a while.” He sighed as though it physically hurt him to tell that story. “How’s that for serious?”
Harleen went back to her seat, grabbing her pen and pad writing everything down. She listened to the clanging of his chains played as he sat back down. “What happened after that?” Harleen asked.
“I’m not sure. Never saw my uncle again. I was busy.” Joker answered.
“Standing up to my bullies.” Joker answered with a smile.
Harleen stared in silence. Given everything she knew about the Joker, she found it hard to believe he was a victim of bullying. “You had bullies?”
“Who didn’t?” Joker asked. “I wasn’t always the stoic smiler sitting across from you. I’m what replaced the weak-willed little boy who just wanted to make people smile.” His own smile became the biggest he could make.
“And that was you? The little boy who just wanted to make people happy?” Harleen asked, not believing anything he was saying.
“I said smile, not happy.” Joker answered. “That’s what I do, what I’ve always done: laughter and smiles…’til someone drops dead.” He finally burst out into a loud laughter, tilting left and right, his chair beginning to creak with the shift of his weight. “What’s the old saying? It’s all fun and games, until someone gets hurt…then it’s hilarious!” He continued laughing, but ceased instantly. “Now, I have something I would like to talk about.”
Harleen stopped writing, eyeing him to make sure she heard him correctly. “Really?”
“Yes, and I assure you, it’s something worth listening to.” Joker said with a smile. “It’s about a realization I made last night.” He looked up to ceiling. “I was just lying there in bed, staring at the dim lightbulb swaying back and forth when it hit me: why I’m here right now.”
“Here as in, here in this room?”
“No, here in Arkham, and it has nothing to do with Bats.” Joker answered. “It’s a home away from home, a place for me to feel safe and secure.” He chuckled. “That is, of course if…certain people were here to make me feel that way.”
“And that makes you happy to be here?” Harleen asked.
“Oh, not at all. I still prefer the hustle and bustle of Gotham City and playing Bat and Mouse.” Joker grinned. “But, I’m not sure why…but I think I’ll stick around for the time being.” He looked down at his strait jacket. “Even if it means a few…less than comfortable accommodations.” He sighed that melodramatic sigh Harleen’s heard before. “It’s a small price to pay, I suppose.”
“What certain people?” Harleen asked. Joker gave her a look. “What certain people make you want to stay?”
“Well, I suppose I could argue Nygma was one of them…” Joker said as he rolled his eyes. “And there is one other person—driven, ambitious, easy on the eyes.” He smiled once more.
“We’re done for the day.” Harleen answered, knowing where he was going. She got up and walked to the door.
“Oh, come on, Harley dear. We’re just getting started.” Joker called out as he tried to stand up. “I have something else I want to talk about, too.”
“I have better uses for my time.” Harleen said as she knocked on the door.
“The nine bodies in East End…” Joker said just as the guard opened the door. “…they were just the diversion.” He chuckled. “Nine men and women died simply to let the Bats think I was in East End, when I was really on the other side of Gotham, pressing the detonator on the printing factory.” Joker smiled.
He continued to smile. “Bat and Mouse, my dear Harley.” He relaxed into his chair. “Bat and Mouse.”
“You killed nine people just to get Batman off your trail?” Harleen asked. Joker shook his head. “You find that something to brag about?”
“Bragging? Who’s bragging? I’m simply sharing how I spent my last few hours of freedom before I was brought into Arkham with bat-themed gift wrap.” Joker answered. “From there, I tried to get to Park Row, but I was wonderfully diverted by a little song and dance with the Bat. I sent him a present, you see. He had one for me, as well—a hacked communique, making me think he was on his way to Park Row, trying to divert me nearer to City Hall, where the police had setup a roadblock.” He shrugged. “It was a very well laid out plan, I’ll admit, but that’s what I love about Batsy-boy—always full of surprises.”
“And that’s what you crave from him?” Harleen asked. “The more surprises you see, the better you feel?”
“The more surprises, the more laughter.” Joker answered. He leaned in. “When was the last time you had a good laugh, Harley?” He gave Harleen a very analytic look. “To me, it looks like a long time. Years, it seems.”
“We’re not here to talk about me.” Harleen answered.
“Oh, not at all. We’ve already established you’re no fun. Here I am trying to put a smile on your face.” Joker leaned in even more. “I want to see what it takes to make you laugh.”
“The fact that I get to work with you is reward enough.” Harleen admitted with a smile.
“Extreme is your specialty.” Joker answered with a smile.
Harleen fell silent. She had said that to Dr. Wallace in the privacy of her office. How did he know she said that? “What did you say?”
“Why else would you work with me?” Joker asked. “You need the challenge.” His smile turned vicious. “Prove you can handle me…and I just might tell you a little more than my bad jokes.”
Harleen sat at her desk, staring at the blank document page she opened for her notes. All she could hear in her head is Joker’s cackling laugh and humming. She did her best to shake it off, but it pulled at her strings, begging her to know more. Her breath quickened, she could feel her heart beat faster. What was happening to her?
A few knocks hit her door. Dr. Wallace entered her office with a concerned look on his face. “Dr. Quinzel.”
“Is everything all right?” Harleen asked.
“Gotham PD just stopped by and arrested Dr. Sydney.” Harleen stared, not knowing who that was. “Edward Nygma’s clinician. Apparently they discovered some evidence that proved he aided in Nygma’s escape.” He sat down at her desk. “Nygma used one of his little riddles to get Sydney to reveal a few of the old building’s sewage lines.”
“I don’t understand.” Harleen answered.
“When this building was being renovated, construction closed off a lot of the old sewage lines to build more structurally sound tunnels the city needed for years.” Dr. Wallace answered. “Quite a few of them are accessible through the subbasement.”
“Why aren’t they better secured?” Harleen answered.
“Why else? Lack of funding.” He answered. “Anyway, to prevent any real temptation for your patient, we’ll be moving your sessions with Joker to the sixth floor.”
“More opportunity to catch him?” Harleen asked. Dr. Wallace nodded. “You really think he’s going to try something?” Dr. Wallace was silent. “If the Joker really wanted to leave, he would’ve done so by now.” She swiveled her chair to face him. “He’s only here because he wants to be here, and he thinks he can use me to do whatever his plans are.”
“You?” Dr. Wallace asked. “In what fashion?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet, but it’s clear as day, with all the flirting he’s been doing.” Harleen answered. “He’s going to learn the hard way not to mess with Dr. Harleen Quinzel.”
Dr. Wallace smiled. “I knew I picked the right doctor for the job.”
“I know you did.” She answered with a smile. “Any chance I can make a request?”
“What kind?” Dr. Wallace asked.
“Video recordings of my sessions with Joker.” She answered. “I want to be able to study his facial expressions after the fact. I may be able to really tell when he’s telling the truth or pulling my leg.” Dr. Wallace did his best not to snicker. “I know what I said, don’t make it worse.”
“Request granted. I’ll have the video equipment brought up to the sixth floor.” Dr. Wallace answered. He got up to go to the door, but turned around. “You really think you can get under the Joker’s skin?”
Harleen looked up and smiled. “Undoubtedly.” Dr. Wallace smiled back and left her office. She turned back to her computer, listening to the Joker laughing in her mind.
Joker Session 2 Notes by Dr. Harleen Quinzel
The Joker again mentions Batman several times in the session. Refers their relationship as a game of Bat and Mouse. Dr. Vaughn’s own notes mention the same game. In my own professional opinion, the Joker seeks to create chaos from nothing and thrive off the mayhem that follows. He is like a child playing with matches in a puddle of gasoline. An analogy I’m sure he would approve of. In the next session, I plan to explore his fascination with Batman further, for it may be the one and only sustainable relationship the Joker possesses.
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