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Chapter 21


I waited and listened until Amy got into the shower before going into the kitchen to take a coffee thermos from the cupboard; then I went to the liquor cabinet and took out the bottle of expensive vodka and unscrewed the cap. The bottle was half-empty; I had gotten into the habit of helping myself when no one was around. But it wasn't like they would miss it, anyway; they only kept the vodka in case they had someone over who wanted a vodka drink, which was never, especially now that Manni had come along. They probably wouldn't even notice it was gone.

I poured vodka into the thermos with the idea in mind that I would only take half of what was left, but then I did a couple of little harmless top-ups, just so that the amount in the thermos didn't look quite so feeble. When I screwed the cap back on the bottle and put it back in the cabinet, it was nearly empty. I stared at it for a long time, thinking I should just take the rest of the it and take the bottle to the recycling on my way out. They wouldn't notice that it was missing.

But I was out the door and my way to the ground floor in the elevator before I thought to go back for the rest. With the lid of the thermos secure, I took a sip and winced; it was good shit, the best money could buy, but it didn't make it taste like anything except paint thinner. Not that it mattered, for it was on my tongue for only a second before I swallowed it down and then it felt cool and warm at the same time, delightfully numbing, and I cradled the thermos against my chest with one hand, already wanting another sip but remembering to pace myself. It was a long enough drive to Arkham Island.

In the lobby, the doorman smiled at me and I slowed my steps to show him that I was waiting. I motioned to the door with my finger. "Just waiting on someone."

I had the perfect excuse in mind if he ever wanted to remind me that he could just call up when it arrived: the baby was asleep, no phone calls, please. But he didn't say anything; he knew it was none of his business.

I didn't have long to wait until the car appeared outside at 11:00 am, just like the first time; I nodded goodbye to the doorman with a little smile and didn't say anything in return when he bid me goodbye. I got into the back of the car and closed the door as quickly as I could, so that we could start the drive to Arkham.

It was the same driver, and with him came the same polite chit-chat. How are you doing? Some weather we're having. The traffic's been especially bad these days, wonder why. The entire time I helped myself to little sips from the thermos, trying to make it look more like I was really enjoying a coffee rather than trying to steel my nerves from this impending visit to a madhouse.

By the time we had crossed the bridge and I was opening the door to the entrance of the Visitor's Center, my vision was fuzzy and my head felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. I made my careful way up the steps, staring down at my feet so as to make sure they went up the stairs, one at a time. If the driver suspected my sudden impairment, he didn't say anything; he just watched me ascend the steps and go inside the building.

The unhappy receptionist took one look at me and picked up the phone; as I sat down heavily into one of the chairs in the waiting room, I could hear she was announcing my arrival to someone, likely Dr. Quinzel, and telling her to come fetch me. When she put down the phone, she didn't look at me; she didn't ask me for any information, or to check in, or anything of the sort. I was happy with that; I didn't want to talk to her either. So I sat in the chair and sipped from my thermos, looking down the long, dark hall where I knew Dr. Quinzel would emerge from. I listened for the telltale sound of her clacking high heels.

Well, what would the good doctor have to say today, I wondered. I blinked rapidly and sipped from my thermos; I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, for suddenly they felt more than tired.

But I must have dozed off or gone completely out of it for a time because the next thing I knew I could hear Dr. Quinzel's voice overtop of me.


I was so startled that I gasped a little, opening my eyes and looking up at her as though she had, indeed, appeared out of nowhere. She stared down at me with her crystal-blue eyes, wide behind her glasses but soft with concern.

"Are you okay?" she asked, searching the features of my face as though that would tell her everything. "You don't look very well at all."

"I'm fine," I told her, and shakily got to my feet. Dr. Quinzel stepped back as though to give me some space, and yet she looked ready to spring forward in case she needed to catch me.

"Are you sure?" she asked, now sounding very worried. "Do you want some water?"

I shook my head, but then realized what a horrific mistake that had been and squeezed my eyes tightly together to keep the room from spinning. "It's okay, I just have a headache."

"Oh," she said, in a quiet and timid voice. "We'll get you some water and some Advil when we get upstairs, sound good?"

The pristine white of her coat made me think of a nurse's uniform, and I trusted her suggestion implicitly.

"Yes please," I said, but was suddenly introduced to the idea that I would have to get upstairs first.

Dr. Quinzel led the way just like before; I kept my spine rigid and walked slowly, one foot in front of the other, ever mindful of the cameras watching me as I went. I held my thermos in one hand and snuck the last few sips as Dr. Quinzel blathered away about happenings within the asylum, things I didn't care about or want to hear about; I supposed it was her way of putting me at ease, appearing like a ray of sunshine in the darkest, dankest Hell imaginable. See how happy I am to be here, Jane? There's nothing to be afraid of.

We got past security and got into the rat's cage of an elevator; I grasped the handle bar and kept myself as still as possible. My stomach started to stir and a very real fear that I might vomit suddenly washed over me like a cold, sick sweat.

At one point I heard Dr. Quinzel chime something in my ear, and looking over at her I was met with her lovely pixie-face, smiling at me.

"Sorry, what?" I asked, blinking at her.

"I was just saying the Joker's had an eventful few days," she said, as though it was the most delightful thing in the world to her. "Ever since your first visit."

I couldn't even put together in my head what she was talking about; something about Jack, to be sure, but what exactly?

"Oh…yeah?" I asked, trying to make at least some effort to show I had been listening.

"He hasn't said too much more during his sessions," she said, sounding slightly disappointed. And then she perked right back up again. "But he's been interacting with the other patients in new ways. Dr. Strange thinks it could be a good sign."

I closed my eyes for a moment; the ascending motion of the elevator was getting to be too much. I wanted to ask her how much longer it would take, but I was afraid to open my mouth at all.

Dr. Quinzel didn't even seem to notice; she was talking away about something, completely oblivious to my struggle.

"I don't know what Mr. Tetch said after that," she said with a touch of awe in her voice. "But the Joker almost beat him to death by the time the orderlies got to him. He's been in solitary confinement ever since. I hope he's a little more responsive with today's session."

My stomach gave an uncomfortable lurch; I had been focused just long enough on not vomiting to forget, for a few precious moments, that shortly I would be back in that little room looking through the two-way mirror at Jack, knowing that he suspected I was probably there watching and listening to his session. What kind of stunt would they pull today, I wondered? Maybe Dr. Strange would insist I go into the interrogation room personally so Jack could have another look at me in the flesh, something to get him to start talking.

At fucking last the elevator slowed to a halt, and Dr. Quinzel smiled as me as she led the way out of the rat cage and into the winding halls. I kept my eyes trained on my feet as I walked, making sure I didn't stumble or fall down completely, and then held my head up high and my shoulders down to keep from swaying. My footsteps had slowed, but Dr. Quinzel was still talking away as though she hadn't noticed.

We came to the door that led to the waiting area for Dr. Strange's office; Dr. Quinzel held the door open for me, and I struggled to keep my composure as I made my way inside. I looked up, and as soon as I laid eyes on Dr. Strange, I saw the look of displeasure appear on his features. He had been standing there outside his office, waiting for us stoically with his hands behind his back, but as soon as he saw us he stood up straight as though affronted, and then he scowled deeply.

"Are you intoxicated, Ms. Morland?" He asked.

I felt Dr. Quinzel freeze and then snap her attention to me; I didn't even look at her, but I could feel the look she was giving me: mortification.

"No," I said, a little too forcefully. I could see by the way he looked at me and by the sound of my own voice that there was no way I could play it off like I was totally sober. "I'm just a little…buzzed."

If looks could kill, I would have died on my feet and fallen to the ground like a big hunk of dead weight. The man was livid.

"Oh Jane," Dr. Quinzel said, coming up beside me and taking my arm. "Why didn't you say something?"

But before I could open my mouth to tell her it wasn't any of her business, or shake off her hold and tell her that I wasn't a fucking child, Dr. Strange cut us both off with a snap of his deep voice.

"Take her inside, will you Dr. Quinzel?"

I kept my head down to watch my feet go forward, one step at a time, as Dr. Quinzel carefully led me into Dr. Strange's office. Instead of leading me to one of the chairs at his desk, she sat me down on the couch against the wall. Then, as though she hadn't clued in to it before, she saw the thermos in my hand and gently took it from me. She unscrewed the lid to take a sniff, and as soon as she realized what it was, a soft, sad look came over her face.

Dr. Strange stalked into the office behind her, his footsteps heavy like bouts of thunder; he went around to his desk and rummaged through his drawer.

"Dr. Quinzel, would you please fetch Ms. Morland some water?" He asked, in a tone that demanded more than asked.

"Of course," she said, and she took my thermos with her. I watched her go, wanting to tell her that the thermos was mine, she had to give it back, but she was gone in a flash, leaving the furious Dr. Strange and I alone.

I sat there in a daze and watched, haphazardly, as Dr. Strange pulled his chair over towards the couch and sat down, giving me his full attention. He didn't have a notebook in front of him, but what would have been the point of that anyway? Our session obviously wasn't going to start yet; he looked as though he was ready to launch into a complete tirade.

"Ms. Morland," he began, obviously trying to keep his tone as civil as possible. "Will you please explain why you came to this meeting in such a state?"

I scoffed at him before I could help myself, and then I started to rub my face with my hand. "I'm surprised you don't do it every day."

"We had agreed upon what I thought was a reasonable arrangement," Dr. Strange said, ignoring my quip. "Your coming here in this condition is an affront to this institution and yourself."

"Holy fuck," I said before I could swallow it down. "I'm not drunk, okay? And I didn't even mean it. I just had a few sips to calm my nerves. Get off my back."

In the back of my mind I was mortified to be speaking this way, and yet at the same time relieved that I could get at least something off my chest.

Dr. Strange opened his mouth to say something, but at that moment Dr. Quinzel came hurrying inside with a tall glass of water. She leaned down in front of me and held it out, giving me a sweet little mothering smile.

"Here, Jane," she said, making sure I took the glass firmly between both hands. "Take little sips, but make sure you drink it all, okay?"

You're not my fucking mother, I wanted to tell her; it was practically sitting on the tip of my tongue. Instead, I took some water to swallow the words down, and Dr. Quinzel smiled widely, stood up, and excused herself from the room, closing the door behind her. I wanted to call after her and tell her to pull up a chair, just like Dr. Strange had done; she was going to hear everything I said anyway, might as well just share the room with us.

Alas, not. I swallowed the cold water, immediately disappointed that it wasn't vodka; too much more and I'd lose the buzz and become just too fully aware once more of where I was and what I was doing, all behind my family's back.

Dr. Strange stared at me for moments, watching me take water. He looked so thoroughly disgusted, you'd think he'd never had anything to drink in his life before.

"You don't look well at all, Ms. Morland," he finally said, breaking the ice with his sharp voice. "How have you been sleeping?"

I snorted a little into the glass. "How d'you think?"

He remained silent and stewing, watching as I drank my water slowly; it occurred to me that maybe I could draw out the length of our session just taking sips of water, never having to say anything, and then our time would be up and there'd be nothing to say to Jack. Maybe they'd write the day off, put me in the car, and make me go home. Maybe they'd call off this whole twisted experiment altogether.

But Dr. Strange wasn't about to wait, not for my inebriated ass.

"Feel free to lie down on the couch, Ms. Morland," he said as he stood up to go to his desk. "Rest your eyes if you need to while we talk."

Something about that made me feel vulnerable, like if I was lying down with my eyes closed I wouldn't see him coming at me with a syringe full of something about to be jabbed into my neck. But my mind didn't even gauge the concern; if it happened, it happened. Whatever. So I set the glass down on the table next to the couch, put down my bag on the ground, slipped off my shoes, and stretched out on the couch, flexing out my feet and letting my hands rest on my stomach. I stared up at the ceiling; the room ever so slightly began to spin, so I gave in and closed my eyes.

I listened to Dr. Strange move about the room, as though he was checking to make sure I couldn't escape the session; he seemed to check the doorknob to make sure it was locked. He went to his desk as though to ensure the pistol he had ready to shoot me with was locked and loaded. He then sat down in the chair close to the couch and faced me; for someone so large, he moved so silently. He didn't seem to take a breath. All of his movements, despite his stature, were quiet and calculated. He didn't do anything without thinking about it first.

At last it seemed he had settled in the chair; I could feel his eyes on me, smiling murderously from behind his coke bottle glasses. I have you now, my pretty. Sure enough, I felt as though I was at his mercy.

"Why did you come to the asylum in this state?" He asked.

I sighed, far more dramatically than I could have. Why didn't I come to the asylum drunk, was the better question. How did anyone stand to set foot in the building completely sober? If the receptionist splashed some bourbon in her coffee, who could blame her?

He didn't wait for my response. "Problems at home?"

I held a breath and counted to 10; I wanted to snap at him that my home life was not the reason I was there, forget that I was being kicked out of my sister's home and made to go back to Metropolis.

"No," I said with a touch of dramatic flare, like a saucy child talking back to her parent. "Everything's just peachy-keen, y'know."

I could have sworn he was about to get to his feet and hit me in the face, right there where I lay. I wouldn't have been able to do anything about it, either.

He shifted slightly in his chair as an odd hush settled in the room; I could almost hear his thoughts churning about inside his head, like he knew a different approach was in order. But what approach, especially with a subject who would rather have been anywhere in the world than lying on that couch inside that asylum right at that moment.

"You have been unfairly thrown into the spotlight since the night atop the Prewitt Building," Dr. Strange said suddenly, and it made me jump a little. "Has it caused significant tension between you and your loved ones?"

I was sure if I got to my feet I would have fallen right down; hence, it took every ounce of my willpower not to stand up and charge out of the room. Red-hot fury flashed through me, but then I willed it down and calmed myself. He had a point, and I'd never had the chance to talk about it with anyone, really. Matt and Amy tried to pretend as though nothing ever happened, and I hadn't seen enough of Mom and Dad for the topic to come up and be discussed at any real length.

"Some," I admitted, my voice sounding small and faraway.

"Would you like to talk about it?" He asked, sounding somewhat more gentle.

I hesitated, mostly because there was a part of of me that didn't want Dr. Strange to know any more than what was absolutely necessary about Matt and Amy. But the words started to gather on my tongue, what I suspected was an influence of the vodka, and before I could hold them back and swallow them down, I was letting it all out.

"They don't like to talk about what happened," I admitted, thinking about how odd things had been in the last six months. When they weren't talking about Manni, or Matt's work with Wayne Enterprises, or anything else going on in their lives, there was that elephant in the room that hushed everyone up and everyone refused to acknowledge. There might have been questions, inquiries: Jane, what happened that night? Really? But it was unspoken and swallowed down, never to reach the light of day. And I wouldn't offer it otherwise. "They almost pretend it never happened."

Dr. Strange made a contemplative sound in his throat. "Why do you suppose that is?"

I shrugged. "I think they just want to forget everything that happened, everything about the Joker. They just want things to go back to normal."

"Surely they know that's impossible," Dr. Strange said, sounding ever more suspicious of what I was telling him about them. "Everything has changed."

"They know," I said. "They just don't want to talk about it. They just want things in their lives to go back to the way they were."

Things quieted for a moment; the air in the office took on an eerie silence, but I didn't mind it. For once it wasn't completely tenuous, and I actually felt a little more relaxed, weirdly.

"You don't really have a place in their lives, do you?"

I opened my eyes; the room wasn't spinning as much as it had been before, so I took a chance and looked over at him; he was staring down at me very seriously, unblinking, and I wondered how he could have the gall to suggest something so insensitive. Amy was my sister, I lived in her home that she shared with her husband and her child, how could I not have been a part of their lives?

But I knew immediately what he was getting at. Amy didn't want to know what happened in the years between Eric and coming to live with them, and they didn't want to know what had happened with Jack. It wasn't as if they weren't interested, they just didn't want it to penetrate their otherwise perfect lives.

I looked up at the ceiling once more so he wouldn't see the unshed tears in my eyes, just waiting to spill over.

"I guess not," I admitted, and hearing it aloud hurt more than I could have imagined. "Not really."

"They have their own ambitions, their own priorities," he continued. "But you and your needs have never really featured there, have they?"

"That's not fair," I said, sounding more offended than I was, saying it more so to myself than to him. "They took me in without question. I couldn't pay them any rent, I couldn't give them anything-"

"Except some peace of mind, on their part," Dr. Strange suggested. "You're warm, you're fed, you're safe. Their obligation to your physical needs are fulfilled; surely they've done enough, why should they cater to your psychological needs also? Perhaps they don't have the capacity for it."

I hugged myself; more and more I was not liking where this was going. It was making me feel oddly vulnerable.

"They've done their part, surely," he said. "But everything else is beyond their control, not their concern. Why should it be? You're an adult woman; you have your own life, and they have theirs."

"They do," I said, and thought about it for a moment; had there been a time where I really resented the fact that they didn't want to know what had happened with Eric? Of in the years between then and now?

I sighed heavily; suddenly I didn't feel much like talking about Matt and Amy. Between talking about them in therapy and seeing and talking to them every day at the condo, it was beginning to feel like the whole world revolved around them. Not that they would have minded that, I was sure.

Looking over my shoulder, I gazed up at Dr. Strange. "What did Jack say?"

Dr. Strange's interest piqued; I could tell by the slight way his eyebrows twitched behind his glasses, and he tilted his chin just a touch.

"I beg your pardon, Ms. Morland?" he said.

"From our first session the other day," I said, letting my mouth run away a little bit. "What did Jack say about me being here?"

The man stared at me as though he thought I was playing some kind of game, a game he didn't like, and he was obviously trying to catch me in the ploy so he could put a stop to it and make me feel like I was an inch tall. His eyes narrowed and his lips pressed together in a thin line, his expression becoming entirely too calculated.

"As a matter of fact, he's been very silent since your last visit to the asylum," Dr. Strange said, slowly, as though he was trying to gauge my reaction to this news. "He made no comment to your presence whatsoever."

I smirked. They could ask him all they wanted, but I was sure there was plenty he wanted to say about it going around and around inside his head, perhaps just waiting for another day in which I might show up so that I could hear it all with my own two ears, a day where he could look through the two-way mirror at his own reflection and just know that I was on the other side staring back at him.

Taking in a breath, I closed my eyes once more.

"He used to do that with me too," I said. "The whole silent thing, I mean. When I first met him."

And just like that the air froze, and I could have laughed a little more. All of a sudden it felt too easy; they wanted to hear about Jack, after all. They didn't want to hear about poor Jane and her shit home-life situation, no, of course not. And I was in the mood to happily give any information possible that meant I didn't have to talk anymore about Matt and Amy and the prospect of returning to Metropolis with my parents in a few short weeks.

"When you first met him, Ms. Morland," Dr. Strange said, and it was not a question at all but a confirmation of what I'd just revealed: that I knew him before the Prewitt Building encounter. "When was that, precisely?"

"Last year," I said, sighing heavily; it was crazy to think that a year ago I had still been in that shithole hotel cleaning shithole rooms, and here I was today lying inside an insane asylum talking about my personal history with the worst terrorist Gotham had ever seen. "Can't say when, exactly."

"And under what circumstances?" he asked, and I could hear it in his voice: he was chomping at the bit, desperate to know more. I could almost feel Dr. Quinzel on the other side of the wall listening intently, careful to pick up everything she could.

But that didn't seem important at the time, for whatever reason, so I ignored the question. And I could sense Dr. Strange's acknowledgement of my feeling and, for whatever reason, he chose to respect it.

"So he was silent when you first met him," he said, almost carefully, as though trying to gauge whether or not I'd want to answer this question. "Did that change at all in your interactions?"

"After awhile," I said. I was weirdly feeling comfortable enough to nestle into the couch and go to sleep. The combination of the vodka and the water and being able to lie down was a strangely comforting combination.

"How did it change?" Dr. Strange asked.

I shrugged. "I guess he got used to me. He asked me questions. We made jokes."

"Jokes," Dr. Strange breathed, as though he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "What did you joke about?"

I tried to think back to the days at the Palace, to those surreal moments when Jack would say something funny, or something totally outlandish that I couldn't help but find it funny. There'd been the comment he made about chocolates on the pillow that one time, i-rony. And then about the greasepaint, in the budding years where he was slowly turning into the Joker, experimenting with the trademark look that would soon be recognized as a beacon of horror across the country.

And the coat. I couldn't help but laugh a little; what the hell was it about that stupid coat joke? It was so disgusting and creepy, and yet it made him laugh like a gleeful little kid having just heard a fart joke. Everything changed after that one little comment, hadn't it? The idea that Estelle would skin both of us and wear us as a coat, what the actual fuck.

"We joked about a coat once," I said freely into the room. "The Coat. Ask Jack about The Coat, maybe he'll open up to you guys."

Dr. Strange quieted but I could feel his eyes watching me intensely, as though wondering if I was bullshitting him. I couldn't blame him; it would probably sound like bullshit to me too, if only I hadn't been the one making the damn joke.

But I nestled further into the couch, still with my eyes closed, and shook my head. "Forget it. He won't remember."

Dr. Strange didn't say anything for awhile, and in that time I felt the greatest need to just slip into sleep. Why not? The truth was out. Yes, I knew him before the Prewitt Building and the ferries. Yes, I knew him before he became the Joker. Letting it out in that room where Dr. Strange and Dr. Quinzel could hear it was like confessing the deepest, darkest secret, and despite the ramifications I felt like I could have fallen asleep on that couch, even with Dr. Strange watching me, and slept until I was dead.


I had completely sobered up an hour later, but it didn't make that little dark room any less claustrophobic. Dr. Strange held open the door for me and gave me a pointed look, as though I too was a prisoner in that place and it was time to go back to my cell in isolation. I went in reluctantly with a deep-set frown and my arms crossed; the man sitting at the sound controls didn't turn to greet me or give me a smile or anything, but just stared straight ahead into the sterile interrogation room through the two-way glass. Approaching the glass, I saw Dr. Quinzel sitting at the table going through her files; the little black recorder was sitting on the tabletop to her right.

The door closed behind me and Dr. Strange came into the room. He came to stand directly behind the man working the sound controls, just like last time. I didn't look at either of them, but instead kept my gaze on Dr. Quinzel and that empty chair across from her at the table.

A few minutes went by and then there was a knock on the door of the interrogation room; Dr. Quinzel didn't look up but simply sat as the door opened and the orderlies came inside. I watched as they brought Jack in, handcuffed at the wrists and ankles, and sat him down in the chair opposite Dr. Quinzel. As Dr. Strange whispered into the sound guy's ear, my eyes were trained on Jack. He allowed himself to be sat down in the chair heavily, placing his wrists and ankles out to be cuffed to the chair, as per protocol. The orderlies did everything quickly and then slipped out of the room without another word. Dr. Quinzel didn't thank them or make eye contact or anything.

Jack sat in the chair like a dead thing; his head slumped forward a little, his limbs completely lifeless. He looked thinner than two days ago, if that were at all possible; his hair looked darker and grimier, and due to the length I couldn't see his face properly. From what I could tell he was staring down at the tabletop in front of him waiting for the session to begin.

As if on cue, Dr. Quinzel reached over to press a button on the recorder.

"Taped patient interview 13, it is September 11th at 11:32 am. Present in the room is myself, Dr. Harleen Quinzel," and with the formality finished, she cradled her hands together and let them rest in front of her on the table. "How are you today?"

I looked over at Jack, but he said nothing.

"You've had quite an eventful couple of days," she said with that ever-cheerful lilt in her voice. "Especially yesterday's debacle. Mr. Tetch may lose his eye."


Next to me Dr. Strange let out an annoyed exhale of breath through his flared nostrils; I watched as Dr. Quinzel picked up her pen and twirled it through her fingers for a moment before looking down at her files, perhaps looking for a change of topic.

She looked up at him after a moment, lightly clearing her throat. "I understand you saw Jane the other day."

I sucked in an alarmed breath but realized it could not be denied; Jack had seen me with his own eyes, he knew I had been there. I couldn't be angry with her for bringing it forward. And, just as predicted, Jack didn't seem to care. He didn't do anything.

"What was it like to see her?" Dr. Quinzel asked, as though he wasn't blatantly ignoring her.

I would have killed the sound guy with my own two hands just to have a single swig of Matt's expensive vodka right then.

Jack sat there like he hadn't heard her at all. I chewed on my bottom lip and looked him over; his Arkham jumper looked clean, at the very least, but look at his toned forearms I saw deep red scratches marring his skin. Defensive wounds. I don't know what he had done to this Tetch guy, but no doubt it would have been gnarly.

"We learned something very interesting," Dr. Quinzel said, writing something down in her notes as though it wasn't interesting at all. "You and Jane knew each other before the events of the Prewitt Building."

I looked between them, waiting for something to happen. As much as I didn't think he'd give anything about his time at the Palace away, his stoic silence was only building tension. Something had to make him snap.

"You remember our session the other day when I asked you what Jane meant to you?" Dr. Quinzel asked, looking up at him. "Do you remember what you did?"

He would have killed her given half the chance. Surely we all remembered that.

The room was silent. There wasn't a sound; I wasn't even sure Jack was breathing, he just sat there with his head bent. I looked to Dr. Quinzel to see what she was going to try next, and for an instant I caught a glimpse of something on her perfect features, a slight furrowing of the brow, a slight downturn of the mouth, a look that screamed frustration to me. She started to twirl her pen in her fingers once more, obviously wondering how to proceed.

"You were acquaintances, it sounds like," Dr. Quinzel continued, her tone soft and understanding as though speaking to a child. "Friends, even. Would you say that you and Jane were friends?"

I hugged myself and rubbed my arms; suddenly that little room felt icy, and a clawing sensation at the bottom of my stomach made me feel very uncomfortable. I looked at Jack, waiting to see what he would say, but predictably he just sat there and did nothing.

A thought came into my mind at that moment. He's too far gone. Whatever had happened to him here in this asylum had shut him down, ruined him, made him more secluded, more violent, more crazy. I shook my head as I realized what these sessions were in the end: a waste of time.

But Dr. Quinzel wasn't ready to throw in the towel yet. She tilted her head at him, again as though she were speaking to a child. "Jane says you shared jokes. She says you joked about a coat."

I was tempted to knock on the glass to signal to her that it wasn't going to work, but I kept my hands to myself. I looked over at Dr. Strange, standing tall and domineering, staring intently through the glass and anxiously waiting for a response.

"Do you remember your joke about the coat?" Dr. Quinzel asked. "What was it?"

Nothing, as predicted.

With that Dr. Quinzel sighed just the tiniest bit just enough to be heard in that little room we stood in. She returned to her files. "Let's talk about something else, then. You stated in one of our previous sessions…"

She trailed out and raised her head all of a sudden, looking across the table at Jack. She'd heard it, too.

I didn't know what it was exactly. I stared at Jack to see if it was just a fluke; maybe he had sneezed the quietest sneeze in the world or needed to cough a little. Maybe he was just clearing his throat. Whatever it was hadn't been obvious, but it had been a sound nonetheless.

The air inside the little room absolutely froze; without looking at them I could sense that both Dr. Strange and the sound guy were watching with apt attention, just as I was. I didn't take my eyes off Jack, didn't dare make a sound, and watched as his shoulders shook just the slightest as he let out another little sound. And then another. And then his shoulders were shaking and his entire body was trembling and the sound he made was distinguishable: he was giggling.

It as dark and eerie and it made the blood run cold in my veins, but that's what it was. A madman's giggle.

For a split second Dr. Quinzel looked over at the glass with a bewildered look in her big bright eyes, as though she couldn't believe what was happening, as though she was looking to Dr. Strange saying, Do you see this? But she was quick to put her attention back on Jack, leaning forward to get his attention, smiling just a little.

"Sounds like you remember that joke," she said in a much more light-hearted tone, as though she was delighted. "Will you tell it to me?"

Jack didn't answer her; it wasn't even clear that he heard her. His giggling intensified. I watched as his hands gripped the armrests of the chair he sat in; his entire body shook with his giggling that was steadily becoming louder and louder. Dr. Quinzel's delighted expression soon melted off her face and was replaced with confusion. She leaned forward and patted her palm on the surface of the table to get his attention.

"Joker," she said clearly, waiting to see if he would stop, and when he didn't she tapped her palm on the table again a little louder. "Joker!"

But Jack was no longer giggling, and it was obvious he couldn't hear her pleas for his attention; he began to laugh, that laugh, and it climbed higher and higher as he threw his head back and let it out into the air of the interrogation room. His body convulsed as though he was trying to get out of his restraints but I could see in his chest, his throat, and just his face that he was overcome with laughter. Just laughing that maniacal laughter.

And for a moment, while I watched Dr. Quinzel stand from her seat and hurriedly call for the orderlies, while Jack began to laugh so hard that he rocked his seat back until it hit the floor and he was writhing on the ground like a lunatic, the smallest of smiles settled on my lips. I don't know what it was in my inebriated mind almost an hour previous that made me think he would even remember that stupid joke about The Coat, but he did. He did and for a flash of a moment I felt overcome with an eerie nostalgia for those simpler days at the Palace, for the days following that one eventful day when the entire dynamic of our relationship completely changed.

I continued to smile even as the orderlies rushed in and crowded Jack to give him a sedative; Dr. Quinzel stood and watched the entire thing with a mortified look on her beautiful face. The laughter was shrieking and intense and then the orderlies were yelling, and then I was being ushered out of the little room but Dr. Strange's powerful frame; somewhere in the back of my mind I registered the sound of his voice telling me that I didn't need to see what was going on in that room.

But I was still smiling when we stepped out of that little room and into the openness of the hallway, where the cold light was blinding and the sounds of Jack's laughter could be heard through the door of the interrogation room.

Didn't I need to see it? Maybe he wasn't too far gone after all.