An Arkham Tale
Chapter 3: Now What?
After her outburst in Dr. Bartholomew's office, Poison Ivy found herself in isolation for an additional day. This time, at least, there was no straitjacket. But there were also no common room privileges. Ivy was glad not to have to suffer Joker's vile presence, but she was disappointed she wouldn't be able to see Harley. And knowing Harley would be in there with Joker, that was very much a fright.
"C'mon Quinn, no dawdling. Get your ass in gear."
Harley practically snarled at her tormenter. She had spent the entire walk from her cell trying to connect with "Dadi," the new guard assigned to escort her. She tried to make the woman understand: She was a little skittish about going to the common room and seeing Mistah J again. She and Mistah J were two lips that made but a single grin, two hearts that beat as one—until that damn octopus came between them! Didn't Dadi ever have a love like that? Maybe in high school? Maybe there was some special guy, we'll call him Pete. And what if Pete threw Dadi over on the big senior ski trip, threw her over for some cheap cheerleader, Helen, then what? Huh? Then after the ski trip, she has to go back to school, back into the cafeteria, and see Pete again and face all her friends. Wouldn't her stomach wrench up? Wouldn't she feel all sickly and short of breath? Well wouldn't she?
Not an iota of empathy. Harley felt herself being shoved through the doorway into the hostile crosscurrents of the common room without a moment to prepare herself.
"Oh yeah," she called back, "I can see why Pete threw you over, Dadi, you're a real cold fish. And nobody likes fish! Nobody. 'Cause they're all slimy and they stink like the ocean and… and… AND MY FIRST JOB WITH MISTAH J WAS AT THE FISHERY!!"
Harley's wailing cries reverberated off the bare walls of the common room, making the occupants pause a moment, glance in her direction, and then all returned to their various activities.
Harley was put out. Anxious as she had been about what her reception might be on returning from her misadventure with Two-Face, she wasn't prepared for this. No one was pointedly ignoring her; but no one was paying attention to her either. She quickly saw the reason: Fresh meat.
The name rogues were all huddled around a new figure, one Harley couldn't quite make out over Frieze and Wesker's backs.
"Who's the new one?" she asked aloud. Although no one had come to greet her, she clearly felt a presence to her left side, someone standing near enough to have heard, so she expected an answer. Getting none, Harley turned to face her rude companion and repeated: "I SAID who's the new—oh."
Harley's anger subsided when she saw who it was she was standing next to: the troubled creature known only as The Mime. Disdaining noise, The Mime made a career of stealing noise-making things in the hopes of making the world a quieter place. She also refused to speak, so it wasn't surprising that Harley's question received no reply.
"Any idea who that new person is?" Harley asked again slowly, now supplementing her words with an improvised and meaningless sign language, although the girl could hear perfectly well.
In answer, The Mime struck a pose, hands on waist, hips thrust out, and batted her eyes. Then she struck another, hands on knees, with a sexy pout. Then another still, hands behind her head, tossing her hair back and forth, an exaggerated look of carefree abandon frozen on her face. Then it all stopped. The Mime pointed back at the new arrival, a blank look overtook her features, and she stiffened. She turned and walked away with the rigid mechanical movements of a robot.
"Oooo-kayfine," Harley chirped to no one in particular.
"Hiya, Miss Quinn," a shy voice ventured.
At last, someone had noticed her. Turning to see who it was, Harley was embarrassed not to recognize him.
"Um, hi… there," she began, safely. For the life of her, she couldn't remember—was this Duo or Ditto?
"You look awfully pretty today, Miss Quinn."
"Huh? I do? Well uh… thanks?" The silence was uncomfortable, so Harley added, "So do you." More silence. "You know anything about Miss Popular over there, the new one everybody is fussing over?" She hadn't really expected him to know, it was just something to say. Surprisingly Duo (or maybe it was Ditto) did have an answer.
"A SUPERMODEL!" Harley Quinn paced impatiently in Dr. Bartholomew's outer office, and his temporary assistant Brian was starting to get scared. "That's what we've got to compete with now! A six foot salad-eating coat hanger with legs mustn't-eat-carbs-or-I'll-balloon-up-to-a-size-four giraffe is in there monopolizin' my Puddin' AND I NEED TO SEE MY PSYCHIATRIST!"
"I… I… I'm sorry, Miss," Brian stammered. "One of the morning sessions ran a little long."
"Ran a little long," Harley sniffed, "Fucking amateurs. Fifty minute session, ten minutes to organize the notes, top of the hour, it's MY TURN TO GET IN THERE!"
She continued to pace. Brian felt his neck tense as he returned to his typing. How that woman unnerved him. She might seem like a quirky good time girl from a distance, but not to one who had scheduled her appointment. That morning Brian had, following the directions on the stained and dog-eared instruction sheet, scrolled through the In-Residence list to the Qs, clicked on Quinn, Ctrl-Shift S to import her into Bartholomew's schedule, then dragged the name down to the open 2 PM slot. The moment he released the mouse, a line of little colored icons appeared next to her name. Warning flags that Brian had no idea how to decipher. He counted fourteen of them, which is all there was room for on the line. And here she was, pacing back and forth, clearly upset about something and no one else handy to take it out on besides him.
Fortunately, just as Brian was preparing to leave to pursue a career sculpting Bonsai trees, Bartholomew's door opened and admitted Quinn to his office.
In a quiet corner of the common room, the four members of "Club Hugo" whispered in conspiratorial tones. Although their invitations to Hugo Strange's cell meant they could have avoided the common room if they wished, the rumors about the new arrival were too tantalizing to ignore. They had to be confirmed, and none would believe the truth if they hadn't seen it with their own eyes. Now that they had, a frightful decision had to be made.
"Somebody has to tell Strange," Blake insisted.
"No," Crane countered, "As soon as he finds out, I fear there will be no more invitations—not for us."
Nigma nodded. "Right. Invitations for her, yes! Not for us. No more pizza, no more stirfry…"
"In my opinion," Blake decreed grandly, "that is small."
"Let's put it to a vote," Nigma said, "All those in favor of telling Hugo the new inmate is a mannequin say 'Aye.'" Blake and Frieze both raised their hands. "Opposed?" He and Crane raised their hands.
"Deadlock," Victor noted.
"Do a Dent," Crane said.
A coin flip later it was decided. That night, Hugo would have to be told.
"Her name is Miranda. She was a fashion model. She worked for Glass, Klein, and Hoston." Eddie paused and took a bite of what he was sure would be his last taste of barbecue for a very long time.
"At first, modeling is all she could do," Blake took up the tale—which Eddie found annoying, "German by birth, she didn't speak that much English when she first came here. But she learned, and once she became proficient, she started to pursue an acting career."
"Until the explosion," Frieze said with an air that bespoke the bleak inevitability of Greek tragedy, "The fire ravaged her face and skin, forcing her into a protective mechanical suit."
Nigma cleared his throat. He could not prevent this pointless exercise, but he could certainly stop them dwelling on the details of that suit of gold-plated polymer, articulated with servo-motors. The suit which absolutely guaranteed the self-styled Manikin would be supplanting Batman as Hugo's grand obsession—and supplanting them on Hugo's guest list.
Knowing it was futile, he nevertheless tried to downplay the mannequin angle and talk up her less attractive qualities: "She is pathologically convinced one of the designers who 'used her beauty' placed a bomb in her car to prevent her leaving them for the acting career. She killed two of them, put the third in the hospital. Batman caught up with her when she tried to polish him off. The end. Could I have another biscuit?"
"She… is a mannequin?" Hugo asked in reverent awe.
"No, she's a walking eating disorder that kills people, Hugo. You don't want any part of this, trust me."
"I don't know, Edward," Blake cut in, "her legs do go all the way down to the floor. Reowrl."
"I would very much like to meet her," Hugo declared, "If I put a little table in that corner, we could have a candlelit supper."
Eddie shot looks of death at Blake and Frieze for their votes. He couldn't rightly blame the coin, but he made a mental note to punch Two-Face in the mouth at the first opportunity.
Bartholomew looked at the thick coating of moss on his window as if he could see through it to the garden beyond. Victor Frieze was droning on and on, and the doctor felt guilty for tuning him out. In many ways, Frieze was his most promising patient, aware of his obsessions with his wife and avenging the accident that trapped her in cryogenic suspension and him in a sub-zero vacuum suit. But if Frieze was the most promising patient, and perhaps the one most open to working through his psychosis, he was also—by far—the most depressing individual one could be forced to spend an hour listening to. And a session with him was a dreadful way to start a new day. When Miss Vicens returned to work, he would have to tell her to tag Frieze for afternoon appointments only.
Again, Bartholomew looked at the window and tried to think which of his many patients would make the more agreeable first appointment. Certainly not Joker, cackling, ranting, erratic, and pathologically homicidal. Not Nigma, always trying to outsmart him. Or Crane, forever trying to maneuver and manipulate. Dent, perhaps. Half the time, a session with Harvey Dent was an hour of dead silence, for he flipped the coin at the start of each meeting, and if it came up "scarred," he would sit in the chair and speak not a word. Of course Harley Quinn had good days as well. As did Pamela Isley. But all three were erratic. And for the first session of the day, one preferred a patient that was consistently manageable. Roxy Rocket, he decided, was the best choice. A Type-T thrill seeker and danger fetishist, Roxanne Sutton was least encumbered by the dementia, delusions, obsessions, compulsions, and behavioral schisms of the typical Arkham inmate. Yes, when Miss Vicens returned, Bartholomew decided, he really must tell her to make Roxy his first appointment of the day whenever she was in residence.
Meanwhile, Victor Frieze continued his pained progression towards… whatever he was progressing towards. The arrival of Manikin, similarly confined to a special suit because of an accident and similarly consumed with revenge, clearly had a profound effect on him. He hadn't stopped talking about it since the session began.
"And how does that make you feel?" Bartholomew asked automatically, returning his attention to the window.
It must be nice for a Type-T like Roxy, to throw caution to the wind and not give a damn. He might try it himself, if he were younger. Skydiving maybe. Or Bungee jumping. Maybe even a costume. Heh. Wouldn't that be something? After all these years listening to the villains prattle, he could probably make quite a splash if he tried his hand at it. What would he call himself? THE HEADSHRINKER! Heh, heh. Oh my, wouldn't that rock the Alumni Newsletter. Dr. Leland Bartholomew, MD, DCP, PhD, Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, lurking in the shrubbery outside Arkham, trying to set the crazies loose before they could be admitted.
Nurse Chin arranged the Post-It notes on her blotter: "Bring me dirt or bring me a diet," her contact at the Tattler said. It was easier said than done. In the infirmary, she could only view the end-results of whatever happened. Figuring out the cause could be all but impossible. And in this case, she couldn't even work out the order in which the dominoes fell.
Dr. Bartholomew restoring Poison Ivy's social privileges certainly could have started it. So Chin took the green Post-It with Ivy's name and moved it to the far left…
The first thing Poison Ivy saw on entering the common room was, just as she feared, Harley prancing around like a performing seal trying to get Joker's attention and him ignoring her ("What is that noise? Did someone speak?") like the sadistic brute he was.
All his attention was focused on a new woman, tall, in a plastic suit that covered even her face. This, Ivy knew through the grapevine, was Manikin.
"Well that's what you did wrong, Cutiepie," Joker addressed her in a sticky patronizing tone, "Never save the best kill for last. Now you wanted to off three people. Some might say that is a little pushy for a first timer, but I say No! The girl has fire in her belly. I can admire that. But remember," he shook a finger at her as if she'd forgotten catechism, "killing sprees require a schedule. Make a list. Check it twice. You want to make sure they're dead, you have to off 'em before the coppers can put the EverReadys in that oversize flashlight and call in Batsy. How is Batsy by the way? Still breathing?"
The woman once known as Miranda, who could now only think of herself as Manikin, looked at Joker in disgust. She stood, pronounced "Ex- cuse- me" in her distinct, mechanized delivery, and then walked away. She approached the new face in the room, Poison Ivy, whom she had not seen before.
Nurse Chin moved the yellow Manikin Post-It next to the green one. Manikin and Ivy seemed to have bonded at first. From the conversations Chin herself had had with Pamela Isley, she could guess the topic on which they connected so quickly.
"Men suck," Ivy declared.
Miranda agreed, and retold the story of her maiming at the hands of the very designers who had profited from her beauty, then destroyed it.
But if Ivy was by herself by that time, thought Chin, and Harley Quinn was in the common room, then the Two-Face news must have come first. Chin carefully picked up the Ivy and Manikin Post-Its and moved them together to the right. Then she took the pink Harley/Duo Post-It, and placed it in front of the others.
"Harley," Pamela asked when her friend stopped lapping up Joker's scorn long enough to greet her, "what do you know about those new fellows, the ones in the corner. They look like henchmen."
"They are," Harley confirmed with a happy nod.
"Why are henchmen in here with us instead of at Blackgate?"
"Well, don't spread this around, Red," she whispered, "'cause I wouldn't want to cause them any trouble, but they're a little crazy." Pam waited patiently, having found that where Harley is concerned, silence often brought more logical explanations than asking questions. "They say they're twins," Harley explained.
Pam regarded the two men critically. One was tall, early 20s, and Hispanic. The other was 30ish, a pale redhead, and short. "I see," she said calmly, "Harvey's, I presume."
"Yep. Duo and Ditto. But I can never remember which is which."
"The young one seems to have a crush. He's been watching you all day."
"Oh I don't think so, Red. He just makes a point of being nice so I know there's no hard feelings from when I shot him, accidental like, when we were practicing for the big stickup."
Nurse Chin stuck several more Post-Its next to Ivy's… The revelation about Harley Quinn and Two-Face working together had somehow triggered Patient Blake, now in Bed 4, and KGBeast, now in Bed 1, to complain of violent nausea—associated, they claim, with the smell of Lemon Pledge.
It was also somehow connected to Patient Nigma, now in Bed 3…
When Miranda finished her sad tale of the depraved jealousy of men leading to her fiery transformation into Manikin, it was Ivy's turn to respond. Respond she did:
"PEOPLE—That's the big mistake—getting involved with PEOPLE! PLANTS make the best friends! You make one or two little exceptions—especially two—and this is what happens. Do you think IVAN would have done something like this? Go running off on a crime spree with the Orchids?—and if he DID, do you think he would have left the Orchids to get pinched along with the Climbing Clematis and the Rhododendrons? And what about the Orchids, anyway—going running off with their best friend's ex! Is that friendly? Is that civilized behavior! Why the little ingrate deserves to get pinched with the henchmen and the sprouts!"
It was all a little too weird for Miranda. She left Ivy with that same flat, mechanical nod she'd given Joker and went to sit instead with Harley Quinn. Positioned as far as possible from both Joker and Ivy, Harley seemed to Miranda to be the most sensible person in the room.
Ivy's outburst, however, triggered some kind of fit in Nigma:
"Unbelievable. A BULB EEL VINE. A BEVEL NUB LEI, even. You are unbelievable! KGBeast was sedated for days just for speaking up about the Lemon Pledge thing. Blake was shock-therapied halfway to a coma! Why do you get to rant and nothing happens to you, huh?? Explain that? You rant about IVAN—he's a dead vegetable! Irresistible? Lady, Blake is out in the hall right now vomiting! How's that for irresistible, huh? He's on his way to the infirmary 'cause of 3 days of aversion therapy and Lemon Pledge!"
The Mime covered her ears as the guards dragged Nigma from the room screaming anagrams for "Green Flu."
When the noise subsided, Harley's voice was heard distinctly in the sudden silence…
"…Ra's al Ghul, he's a real party poop. And he looks like that guy from the ad that isn't getting enough fiber. Anyways, he sent this messenger guy to Twofers, but he didn't want to go, so I went instead…"
Nurse Chin gave up. She collected all the Post-Its, stuck them together, held them suspended over the trash can, then opened her fingers with a flourish, letting them drop with a thud. She could concoct theories for Ivy and Harley, for Blake, KGBeast, and Nigma. But she couldn't, for the life of her, imagine how Joker, Hugo Strange and The Manikin fit in.
Joker was intrigued. Harley, his little Harley, who he himself turned from the dreary hum drum of sanity to the mad thrills of an Arkham inmate, had met with Ra's al Guhl and blew her nose on his lapels. It would've been better if she pantsed him, but it was a nice start.
He badly wanted to hear more of the story, but didn't want to give her the satisfaction of taking an interest. Since she was talking to Manikin, Joker decided he too would talk to Manikin—that would bring him close enough to listen without actually acknowledging Harley's existence.
He just reached Miranda's side when the guard delivered a note.
"Invited- to- dinner-," Manikin read in her mechanical drone, "who- is- this- Hugo- Strange- ?"
"Yuckers," Harley sang out, "Hugo is a creepo."
Joker was incensed. Hugo Strange was back in Arkham? Why wasn't he in the throne room? What did he mean by sending little notes for Joker's own subjects to meet him for dinner?
"Creepo does not begin to cover it. He is HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA a psychiatrist. Ha-Ha-Hannibal Lector without the charming bedside manner HAHAHAHAHAAA."
"What's wrong with psychiatrists!" Harley demanded.
"Well for ONE THING," Joker screamed, "they have NO APPRECIATION of CLASSIC COMEDY! They clutter up the fridge with their girly SlimFast bars and frozen yogurt, they bring the nitrous oxide canisters instead of the SmileX and get Krystal burgers instead of White Castle! They sing like a chipmunk in a food processor!! And they don't even pants The Cadaver when they get the chance!!"
Joker sat outside Dr. Bartholomew's office, sulking to the extent that his permanently affixed grin would allow. His right arm was extended languidly, a single index finger pointing down to hold a book open for Bartholomew's assistant, Brian.
"They sedated me," he slurred at the office temp, "tranquilizer dart in the tush, like some rhino on the Discovery channel…"
Brian compared the bonsai tree on his desk to the one pictured in the book and snipped an errant growth.
"…jussfer telling it like it is about psychiatrists and their… tassles 'n' chipmunk singing Slimfast… no justice… no appreciation of comedy either. Octopus goes into a bar ta play the bagpipes and… no… the bat-pipes go into the bar to screw the octopus… neh… how does that go?"
The intercom buzzed:
:Brian, type up a memo that as Patient J will no longer have social privileges in the common room, it seems likely the difficulties with Miss Isley will soon subside. I'll be driving my car to work again Monday, so the owner of that Honda Civic needs to vacate my parking space.:
Gotham Tattler Exclusive:
Diet secrets of a Killer Supermodel! Shed pounds and inches with the Manikin Method. So easy, it's criminal!
©2003, Chris Dee
Next in Cat-Tales:
The women of Gotham! - and the men they confuse in
WOMEN LACKING COMPLEXITY