Arkham Asylum has always been the gothic, horror movie cliché with it's isolation, notorious history, and grim demeanor. The people who work there tend to border on the line of insanity that so many of their patients have already crossed. The building has been bombed, raided, flooded and set alight several times throughout it's use as an asylum, and it's caretakers all have a knack for being deranged, sadistic, corrupt and power-hungry.
The newest addition to the staff seems the one exception to this outline of Arkham Faculty, and seems to be the only one approved for treating the asylum's newest addition to it's patients.
She looks up sharply, startled and fumbling with her attaché and purse and almost drops both. "O-oh! Goodness! Yes?" She gingerly bends down in her pencil skirt to pick up her phone and several other effects that had spilled from her purse.
The parking garage is barely lit, and it unnerves the young doctor to have someone call her name without showing themselves. She quickly pulls her keys out of her purse, her toffee-hued hair tied back in a tight ponytail. "Is someone there?"
"Sorry, doctor," A young man steps forward in a black trench coat over a suit and has a pair of sunglasses over his eyes. "I was hoping I could have a word with you about your recent agreement to work at Arkham Asylum."
Doctor Quinzel sees the tape recorder in his hand, her jaw instantly setting into a frown. "I'm afraid I'm far too busy to spend time chatting with the press."
"But is it true that you're the only doctor in Gotham that's been given clearance to treat The Joker?" The reporter hisses, Doctor Quinzel backing up against her little red Jetta. Quickly she opens the door and jumps in, starting her car.
"No comment!" She snaps, revving the engine, backing out of her parking space, and speeding off. Sighing, she shakes her head, her thick-rimmed glasses askew in front of her icy blue eyes.
The cell phone in her purse rings, and she jumps in her seat, rummaging to answer. "D-doctor Quinzel, how may I help you?"
"Good evening, Doctor." She instantly recognizes the voice as Commissioner Gordon and lets out a sigh of relief.
"Good evening, Commissioner." She breathes, stopping at a red light. "Can I help you?"
"First, is everything alright?" He asks on the other end of the line, and he sounds genuinely concerned. "You haven't been getting calls again, have you? We can have your number changed again-"
"N-no, Commissioner. No more calls." Doctor Quinzel answers, adjusting her blouse before stepping on the gas. "I did get some letters, though. But it's not a big deal. Not everything is a laughing matter when you're a doctor…"
"Are you sure you're up for this?"
"Commissioner," She frowns, signaling to turn into the next lane. "I agreed to take this job because I was told that it had to be done, that it was the right thing to do, and that Harvey would have only entrusted me to do it."
"He said you're one of the best…" The commissioner sounds vague, and Doctor Quinzel hangs her head. Harvey Dent has been dead for a month now, and it was a blow to her when she found out. They'd been best friends in high-school and through college. Many people thought Harvey and Harlene were long lost twin siblings, and it had shaken her to her core when she'd been told he was murdered.
And now she was getting death threats of her own. For agreeing to treat the Joker.
"I am," She answers, voice firm and cold. "No one else has the balls to do it… and actually, I was just on my way to pay you a visit."
"I have company, but I'm sure you'd want to talk to him also." When the commissioner says this, Doctor Quinzel assumes he's speaking of the new DA or the new Mayor or something along those lines. Still, she keeps her mind open to another candidate. Maybe he's chatting it up with the Batman.
"I'll see you in a bit," She says, hanging up a moment later.
The commissioner's office has its curtains drawn and the door is locked, leaving the Doctor no choice but to knock and wait. When she steps into the room, she steps back against the door, but doesn't make any noise.
Standing by the commissioner's desk is the vigilante. Doctor Quinzel adjusts her glasses, blinking a few times. "Commissioner…?"
"It's a very long story, Doctor." Commissioner Gordon sighs, "One you need to know if you're going to be dealing with the Joker."
And so, Harlene Quinzel is debriefed the story of what happened to Harvey Dent and his fiancé. She's told of how he left the hospital he'd been recovering in, his vengeful tirade, his physical and mental breakdown, and by the time the tale is over, the doctor's head is bowed and her sapphire eyes are closed.
"It wasn't his fault." She says sharply, cutting into the commissioner's condolences. "He had lost everything. He had lost his mind. He wasn't entirely responsible for his actions, no matter how much he thought they made sense."
The Batman stands in the corner of the room, trying to ascertain the doctor's demeanor. Stoic and unyielding, she's set in her own system of thoughts and doesn't once lose her composure.
"Thank you for telling me this, Commissioner." She sighs, standing and turning to the faux murderer in the corner. "I never truly believed you killed him, you know. It's against your belief structure."
Instantly, she's got him pegged, and the Batman inwardly frowns further. Just what he needs- a shink able to pick him apart like he's not wearing a mask at all. Doctor Quinzel slips her glasses back on and picks up her purse, turning to Commissioner Gordon and resting a hand on his shoulder.
"I'll be starting tomorrow."
The drive back to her apartment is silent, and Harlene's face is set in an mask-like appearance, void of all emotion. When she steps out of the Jetta in the parking garage, she rests her forehead against the open door before shutting it and heading to the elevators. The doctor has a hard time opening her door- someone tried to pick the lock again, and she'll have to get it replaced tomorrow while she's out.
The door shuts, and Harlene takes a breath before crumbling to the floor. Head in her hands, she sobs dryly, grieving for her old friend all over again, now knowing the truth to his death.
"A moment, Doctor?!"
"No goddamn comment!" Doctor Quinzel snaps, heading up the stairs that are the front entrance to Arkham Asylum. "And you can quote me, you packrats!"
She knows she's playing the part well- the part of secret Batman advocate and open Joker wet nurse. And she hasn't even talked to the psychopath yet. She walks down the hall with her head held high, her black heels clicking on the floor, her black pencil skirt pressed, her white blouse wrinkle-free, her posture that to rival any trained soldier's, and her face yet again an emotionless mask.
"No comment, you fuc- oh!" She spins around, realizing she almost cursed out her boss. "I am so sorry, Doctor Rory. I've had a stressful morning."
"Do I look like I care, Quinzel?" The pudgy, gray-haired man scowls, leaning forward to glare right into Harlene's face. "Press or no press, you're late, and I only got so much patience for that nut-job. Snap to it!"
She rolls her eyes and turns on her heel, walking into her office and shrugging her blazer off. She pulls on her white uniform coat and grabs the thin folder off her desk and a clipboard, heading down the hall a moment later for Maximum Security.
"Hey, Harlene." The cop at the end of the hall gives her a small smile. Officer Goyer is a nice young man with a handsome face and charming demeanor. He's always polite to Doctor Quinzel and he winces down the hall. "I take it Doctor Rory isn't in a good mood?"
"Neither are the reporters," Harlene replies wittily, and Officer Goyer chuckles. Harlene takes a breath, steeling herself as the police officer opens the cast iron gate to Maximum Security. She gives him one last glance before heading down the hall.
The cells are all individual, sound-proofed against each other to enhance the notion of solitary confinement. Doctor Quinzel heads down the hall, her heels tapping and echoing on the cement floor and walls.
Coming to the last cell, Doctor Quinzel takes a deep breath, trying to prepare herself as she pulls out the key to the cell. She straightens her coat out, and slowly unlocks the door.
One third of the cell is separated from the other by a thick, clear plate spanning the entire space of the room. Doctor Quinzel steps in, shutting and locking the dead-bolt door behind her. It clangs with an ominous echo of finality that resonates through the cell.
"Time for needles, nurse?"
Doctor Quinzel looks up, heart hammering in her throat.
He stands in the corner of the room, leaning against the wall, legs crossed and arms bound in a ragged straight jacket. His gaze is fixed on Doctor Quinzel, who steps forward to the glass, face stone-cold and eyes returning the intense stare. His pants are torn and faded gray, and his face is dark, marred by the scars across his mouth and otherwise untouched.
Even without the face paint, he's intimidating.
"Not at the moment…" Doctor Quinzel trails off, not sure what to call him. 'Sir' sounds too polite, and this beast doesn't deserve the respect, yet she can't think of anything more to say. "…I'm Doctor Quinzel- I'm your doctor, and we're going to be having happy hour for three hours every day except Sundays."
He steps forward to the glass, tongue darting out across his lips, his head inclined back slowly before he answers. "Sounds like fun… Doc."
Doctor Quinzel's lip curls in a disgusted gesture, and she pulls up a chair from the corner and sits before the glass, crossing her legs. "So what do you prefer? Joker, the Joker, Mister J…?"
He doesn't answer, but regards her a moment, head still inclined back. "You like your job, Doc?"
Doctor Quinzel's icy eyes glare up at him, and she frowns further. "It pays the bills."
"Yeah, but you're dealing with me." He steps back to lean against the wall. "That ain't required reading- do I have a secret admirer?"
Doctor Quinzel sighs, writing down at the top of the file, this is going to take a while…
"Of course not, Mr. J." She finally answers, opting for the impromptu nickname as she glares at him. "I'm here to give Gotham all the right reasons to have you executed. I'm here to put to rest the injustice you set loose on Harvey Dent. And I'm here to make sure that by the time everything's said and done, you won't have anything to laugh about."
The man on the other side of the glass lets his tongue dart out once again before he grins. "I'm looking forward to it, Doc."
Harlene looks over her notes in her office, frowning at them. The Joker is a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy. There's nothing consistent about him, only that he is completely and incurably insane.
Harlene looks up to see a timid young doctor standing in her doorway, his sandy hair covering his green eyes, his hands nervously tucked into his pockets. She recognizes him and grins.
"Doctor Tetch." She smiles, spinning around to address him. "Busy day, hmm?"
"Not really. Just the routine stuff." He answers, giving her a shy smile in return. "S-so how was your first big day?"
Harlene slips off her glasses, running a hand over her eyes and exhaling. "Ugh, you don't want to know. That thing can't even be called human."
"Really hate him, don't you?" Doctor Tetch observes, to which Harlene nods.
"He's a psychotic criminal," She ripostes, putting her glasses back on. "He's killed innocent people for no reason, ruined lives and put Gotham through more grief than even this city deserves."
Doctor Tetch nods to himself, looking at his pockets before plucking up the courage to ask a question. "W-well if it was really so stressful, maybe we can grab a bite or get a drink together?"
Harlene gives the timid young man a sincere smile, yet shakes her head. "I'm sorry, Jervin. I've got a lot of paperwork to process and I just want to get some sleep."
"O-okay, that's cool." Doctor Tetch says, nodding to himself and making his way out into the hall as Harlene closes up her office.
"Consider it a rain check," She says with a kind, sympathetic tone. "I'll take you up on it some other time."
In fifteen minutes, she's stepping out of the main building to her Jetta parked in the parking lot. Nervously, Harlene looks around; she feels like she's being watched and quickly gets in the car and speeds off.
Batman stares after Doctor Quinzel's car, focused on trying to find out more about her. All he knows at the moment is that she was former friends with Harvey Dent and moved to Gotham not two weeks ago to begin working at Arkham. Before that, she'd been living in Philadelphia.
It's not hard to follow her car through the late traffic. She's a creature of habit, it seems. Predictable and fastidious in her methods- the same route to and from work. The same attire of a pressed skirt-suit and the same glasses and cold expression.
She's everything the Joker was not, and Batman realizes that this is probably why Harvey would had wanted her to take on the job. She is a pillar against the Joker's psychological storm. The only question Batman has is if the pillar will stand firm, or slowly grate away in the constant assault.
Bruce turns around slowly to see who addressed him. He knew it was Harlene, and gives her his most charming smile. She stands in a long black coat, glasses poised on the bridge of her pale nose. "I didn't think I'd see the Prince of Gotham here."
The cemetery is quiet in the fall weather, Bruce and Harlene both looking down at the graves, placed side by side- Harvey Dent and Rachael Dawes.
"I didn't think I'd see anyone here, let alone a beautiful woman." Bruce wittily replies. Harlene flushes and fights back a small smile.
"Doctor Harlene Quinzel." She introduces herself, extending her hand. "Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Wayne." In the hand that Bruce doesn't take is a bouquet of deep red roses. Sighing, she places six at the base of Harvey's grave, and the other six on Rachael Dawes'.
"You're the doctor treating the Joker, aren't you?" He asks, trying to sound clueless. Harlene nods slowly, closing her eyes for a moment.
"Yes, I've been treating him for almost two weeks now." She replies, recounting each grueling day in her mind.
"I wouldn't be able to do it." Bruce admits, thinking to himself, I'd beat him to a pulp in the first hour. Harlene sighs, shrugging to herself moreso than to him.
"He's in a box and he's a hopeless case." She answers, not concerned with patient-doctor confidentiality. "He'll rot in there for the rest of his life, thank God."
"What kind of doctor wishes her patients won't get better?" Bruce wonders with a smirk tugging at his lips. He slips on his sunglasses as Harlene holds back a small laugh.
"When your patient is that man, you learn that all doctors have their limits." She explains, looking around. "So, I should scoot. Perhaps I'll see you around, Mr. Wayne."
"I hope so, Doctor." He answers, again shaking Harlene's hand.
"You going to tell me how you really got those scars, Mr. J?" Doctor Quinzel asks, checking her watch for the time. The Joker glances over at her from his corner, wetting his lips with his tongue before speaking.
"So is Quinzel supposed to be your whole name, or do you got a first name?" He asks- he always answers the questions he doesn't like with a question of his own. Doctor Quinzel rolls her eyes and humors him.
"My name is Harlene Quinzel." She answers, and the Joker's face cracks into a marred grin. He stands up slowly, walking over to the glass.
"Aaaah, yes…" He hisses, forehead resting against the pane. "Best buddies with Harvey Dent once upon a time. Y'know he didn't look too bad with half his face melted off. It was a really dynamic look-"
"Shut your fucking mouth!" Harlene screams, slamming the clipboard down on the floor and launching to her feet. "I've had to put up with your crazy little antics for two weeks, you vile little…"
Doctor Quinzel steps back and takes a deep breath. "We're cutting sessions down to an hour a day. When you're ready to tell me something genuine, we'll be talking more. Other than that, don't expect much more human interaction."
She'd already figured out the anarchist's need to effect others, and taking that away from him had been psychologically crippling, yet it didn't stop him in all entirety. Picking up her clipboard and folder, the doctor realizes that some of her hair has fallen loose from it's ponytail, and she glares over at the Joker.
Sitting again in his corner, he watches her, giving her a wide grin when she looks his way. "Goodnight, Doc."
Harlene growls under her breath, storming out of the cell and locking it. She rushes past Officer Goyer and out of the institute to her car. Eyes welling up with tears, the doctor shakes her head. This one man shouldn't be getting the best of her like this. This one man shouldn't be getting under her skin, into her head, past all the facades and pretensions.
She slams a fist into the car door, and the glass fractures, but doesn't shatter.
Before she can think it over, she's retracing her steps into the institute, getting stopped in the hall by Doctor Rory. "What the hell is going on?"
"Listen, Rory, I'm handling it." She glares at him with no relevance to manners and pushes past. Doctor Tetch peeks out of his office to say something, yet the murderous look on Doctor Quinzel's face is enough to deter him. Officer Goyer asks no questions as he lets her back into the cellblock.
She opens the dead-bolt door, leaving it open as she slams a fist against the glass. "Listen to me, puddin." She growls, a finger pointing at the madman on the other side of the pane. "You aren't getting out of here unless I say so, and the only way I'm ever letting that happen is if you're in a body bag. I hate you and everything you are- you may not have set the bomb off, but you and I both know that Harvey's death is ultimately on you."
The Joker looks at her with raised eyebrows and a bemused smile. "Puddin?"
Doctor Quinzel clenches her teeth, face flushed with her anger. "I will figure you out, you sadistic asshole. I swear."
"What's the damage?" Batman asks from the shadows, Commissioner Gordon spinning around to address him.
"This guy came in here with a bunch of little robots, blew the locks and took everything." The commissioner explains, running a hand through his hair. "We got a list- over 850,000 worth of electrical equipment. X-ray machines, microscopes, state-of-the-art technology."
"Anything special?" Batman asks, arms crossed.
"Handheld CAT-scan and MRI devices," The commissioner reads off a print out. "Neuro… neuro-"
"Neurometrical sequencer," Batman intervenes. "It reads brain waves. What else?"
"Half-hour later, they raid a museum," Commissioner Gordon responds, "Weird thing is, all they take are hats. Some of them date back as far as Ancient Egypt, so they'll sell very high on the black market."
"The chances of this guy selling the hats are slim." Batman observes. "They're a kind of trophy." The commissioner nods, face set with a grim expression as he hands Batman a photograph of the culprit. The picture was taken from security footage; a tall man of an extremely small build, his face partially obscured by the brim of his large top hat, which matches his suit that he wears.
"He's calling himself the Mad Hatter."