Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, plot, etc. are the property of DC Comics. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
On her first day of internship at Gotham City's Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane, Dr. Harleen Quinzel found herself being led through the buildings numerous corridors by Dr. Joan Leland, an experienced and long time resident of the infamous institution who had been assigned as the freshly graduated psychiatrists guide and mentor. The first thing Dr. Quinzel noted, as she was led through the various wings housing the places many inmates, each area of a varying security level, each separated by a floor, was how the building began to transform from something reminiscent a nursing home, to that of a maximum security penitentiary. Where the guards had been few and far between up above, she wasn't even sure she had seen any except for a nice man named Emanuel at the check in desk in the lobby, they suddenly were everywhere, at every corner, around every thick metal door they past by. Up top, she had been aware of certain patients allowed to roam the hall ways, or if they were somehow incapacitated, carted around in wheel chairs by the myriad of orderlies on hand. But the further they crept in to the bowels of the asylum, the heavier the atmosphere grew. And despite the more intense level of noise, Dr. Quinzel noted that the screams of anguish and despair seemed to grow in volume as they entered the highest security level of the institute, the air below was strangely dead, subdued, bringing an eerie, almost menacing calm to the space. There was no conversation here, no exchange of pleasantries or idol chatter. Everyone held a look of extreme stoicism and, Harleen noticed, all their faces were drawn and exhausted, bags showing visibly beneath the eyes of the nurses and security staff alike.
Already the young doctor began to recognize some of the names which stood out in bold, steel lettering from the placards across the barricaded cell doors. Where most of the names she'd come across on the uppermost levels had been largely unknown to her, every pen she past here bore a patient she had, at some point or another, heard about on the evening news or read about in the Gotham Gazette. Of course, there had been some in the mid-level security area she recalled hearing of, such as Pamela Isley, better known to Gotham City residents as Poison Ivy. She had peered in to the strange woman's cell for a few, brief moments, curious because she had been told, to begin her internship, she would most probably have the opportunity to serve as therapist to the often dubbed "bio-terrorist". Isley had killed, Dr. Quinzel knew, which led her to question why the inmate was considered only to be a mid-level security risk, and it had been explained to her that Pamela Isley was not a violent personality, that there had never been any incidents involving her which had resulted in physical harm to any of the staff. She had escaped now and then, but never through force or her own planning, only through having been freed by some external cause, and at those times she had simply walked out, never bothering or attempting to hurt anyone along the way. Then there was Edward Nigma, also known as The Riddler. He too was regarded as a mid-level security risk. Very intelligent, but not violent. He didn't kill, as far as Harleen was aware, but he did at times attempt to leave the facility, and he had to be looked after with a fairly vigilant eye, as he often outsmarted the system and was continually coming up with newer and better ways to beat it each time out.
But down here? Down here were the patients regarded more so as prisoners. Arkham was an institution for the "criminally insane", but until you reached this particular area, you couldn't possibly begin to comprehend or appreciate what that term actually meant. Dr. Quinzel walked gingerly along the corridors, listening as her guide gave a brief introduction and description of each inmate they past by.
Dr. Jonathan Crane, known to Gotham residents as The Scarecrow, and formally one of the countries leading psychiatrists himself, until he went mad and began testing a specially developed, fear inducing toxin on his patients. He had only gotten worse since that time, craving more and more to see his victims writhe around in agony, gripped by visions of their nightmares seemingly come to life.
Or Harvey Dent, Gotham City's once sterling and proud District Attorney, driven to insanity after having acid hurled in his face by Sal Maroni, former head of the Maroni crime family. He was now known by most as Two-Face, due to one side of his visage having been burned completely away, while the other side remained in tact, as boyishly handsome as it had ever been.
And Waylon Jones, recognized largely as Killer Croc, a misshapen man cursed with an appearance closer resembling that of a reptile then a human being, and possessing a strength also more akin to that of the cold-blooded creature he was named after.
Dr. Harleen Quinnzel wasn't a woman easily shaken, however, and she walked the halls with an apparent air of confidence and focus. The young psychiatrist had graduated from Gotham University with top honors, as head of her class, and Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, heir to and head of the asylum, had been impressed with her credentials, and her show of bold determination in wanting to work there. She was smart, and she was driven, and you needed to be both to last more then a few weeks in a place like this.
Her eyes kept to wondering over each name plate, observing with more curiosity then fear. The cells down here, unlike up top, did not allow her to look inside, the only window in being a small, barred space near the top of each door, above her head, and a slot which could open only from the outside, obviously for pushing plates of food and water through. Dr. Leland continued to talk, but her voice drifted in to the background as Harleen came to a stop in front of what appeared to be the final holding pen of the corridor, her attention caught by the placard across the thick metal. Every other plate she had seen bared the inmate's given name. As was to be expected, the doctors and staff here were told never to refer to any of the patients by their adopted titles, as it only further encouraged and validated the persona they had created to go with it. But here she stood, gazing along a name plate with the letters ironed out as distinctly as on any other, and what it said momentarily vexed her. Unknown. It read Unknown, a four digit serial number printed in smaller lettering underneath, as with every other resident of the place. She couldn't work that out, her mind confusing, drawing blank on an explanation. The idea that the cell might be empty crossed her thoughts for a brief moment, but then, that didn't make any sense either. The door would simply been devoid of any name had that been the case. No, this plate bore a name, or at least, a title, a means of identification.
She flicked her vision up to the barred space above, and nearly jumped, her heart catching in her throat as she saw two eyes looking down upon her, watching her. And she starred back, transfixed, noticing then their color. Such an unusual, unnatural color. A bright, almost florescent green, pure and clear, seemingly devoid of any shade but that one alone. And she realized all too suddenly whose eyes it was she was starring in to, and for the first time since entering this place, she felt a chill run up her spine and her fingers go vaguely numb.
"Dr. Quinzel!" She was shaken out of her mesmerized state by the sound of Joan's voice, a slight hint of urgency running through it. She blinked, finally looking away and towards her mentor, who had turned and was now walking quickly in her direction.
"Is that…" She heard her own voice begin.
Leland didn't answer her, didn't even seem to hear her, but simply grabbed hold of Harleen's arm and pulled her away gently, but with purpose.
"It's best to not linger, I still have much of the facility to show you."
Dr. Quinzel looked back as the older woman dragged her away and saw the same, unblinking eyes still watching her, following her down the hallway.
"But… his name?" She asked. "Doesn't he have a real name?"
She had never heard The Joker referred to by any title other then that one, it was true. But then, she had never realized it was for any reason other then sensationalism on the part of the media and press. They so often referred to all the well known criminal's by their easier to remember handles.
"We don't know his real name." Dr. Leland answered her quickly, nearly cutting her off, continuing to pull her along. "We don't know a damn thing about that one." Her voice held a noticeable amount of irritation and distress as she spoke, and she had seemed to mumble that last remark to herself more then to Dr. Quinzel, peaking Harleen's interest even further.
"How is that possible? How can you not know his real name?"
Dr. Leland stopped moving then, turning to the young doctor. "Harleen, it's probably best you don't worry about it." She lifted her head in the direction of The Joker's cell. "He's a... special case." She paused, eyeing her protégé with a look of warning. "And he's dangerous." She said flatly before turning away. "So let's move on, shall we?"
Harleen knew better then to push the matter and instead allowed her self to be guided through the remaining parts of the facility, even momentarily forgetting about her sudden interest in the asylums most famous inmate when she was introduced to the other doctors on staff. Dr. Bartholomew, Arkham's longest lasting and probably most respected psychiatrist. Dr. Anderson, a relatively young and idealistic therapist. Dr. Silva, a middle aged woman who brought with her years of experience from other institutions. And Dr. Arkham himself. Harleen and Joan were the only other women on the staff, and Harleen was by far the youngest and most inexperienced of the lot. Still, her grades and her drive had been enough to get her in, and they all seemed nice, though some of them, she noted, regarded her with clearly skeptical eyes.
By the time she had been shown her office, back again on the top floor, she had already begun to settle in, feeling at ease, pleased with how things had gotten off. It was only in the quiet of the small room, when she had been left to decorate and arrange things as she saw fit, that her mind drifted back to The Joker.
To his eyes.
They had been so clear, so cold, and yet, so fiercely intense. Deep and intelligent and still, as though a beacon of calm in a raging storm. Beyond their strange and brilliant coloring, Harleen had been held captive in that gaze by what she was certain was a great worldliness and wisdom, as if those eyes held a knowledge she, nor anyone else, could or would ever possess.
She'd heard much about The Joker, about his criminal exploits, about his constant encounters with another famous Gothamite in Batman. She had even developed a passing interest in him for a few months while she studied for her degree in college, but it had dissolved quickly as she found herself having to focus her attention more and more on course work and tests.
But now she found her interest was peaked again and, on her second week of internship, she slipped down to the filing room she'd been shown her first day, pulling from a large bin a thick, manila envelope, filled with page after page of studies, tests and diagnostics run on Arkham in-patient 0284, a.k.a. "Unknown", a.k.a. "The Joker".
As she sat at one of the desks near the back of the room and flipped the folder open, she felt a surge of excitement well up inside, her curiosity suddenly a pressing urge. The way Joan had spoken, it was as though they knew next to nothing about their star patient, but Harleen knew that to be impossible. He had, after all, been in and out of the place for nearly a ten years span at that point.
So as she turned to the copies of carefully printed out information, she found her eyes greedily moving along the words, trying to soak up as much as she could, as quickly as she could.
The first page was a simple check list compiling all of his physical attributes and conditions. His height, six feet, five inches, taller then Dr. Quinzel had known. His weight, one hundred and ninety-one pounds, suggesting a very slight build. His age, listed as unknown, which caught the young psychiatrists attention as something unusual, but estimated to be somewhere between his early to mid 30s. Whether he had any known health problems or family history of. There were none. Any allergies to certain medicines, antibiotics, vaccines, etc… Again, there were none, and a further note of interest was that he had shown extreme physical resistance to most of the medications they had attempted to administer him over the years. It specified that they had regularly needed to supply him with heavier and often times more frequent dosages of anti-psychotics and sedatives in order for it to have any affect at all, and even then, it was stated, the drugs had little to no impact, failing to alter his moods or behavior in any significant manner, if in any manner whatsoever.
Harleen leaned back in her seat, bringing the folder on to her knees before continuing, her fascination growing by the second.
Again she turned the page, coming upon an array of mental evaluation tests, and found she was nearly overwhelmed by the varying and numerous disorders he was said to have suffered from. Everything from anti-social behavioral patterns to extreme primary and secondary psychosis. From OCD to bipolar and multiple personality disorder. It looked as though they had labeled him with every mental illness known to man, and yet, they hadn't been able to verify or confirm any single one, hadn't been able to clearly identify him as suffering definitively or even mainly from anything specific. It appeared to Dr. Quinzel, as she read over the tests, that they really did know next to nothing about him, as though they couldn't even begin to comprehend his mind or how it worked. He had been put through every sort of brain scan and survey. From Rorschach to word association. And there Harleen was met with yet further intriguing results. The Joker's intellect had been measured through an array of differing intelligence quotient exams, and on each one he had scored from between 192 and 200, and no lower then those numbers on any. He was extremely intelligent, to put it mildly. He had even been given a Rubik's cube at one point, which, she saw, he was able to solve in just under ten seconds. She further noted that they had ceased giving him any sort of puzzle he could hold in his hands after he had beaten his examiner to a bloody pulp with the thing. She began inadvertently to tap the top part of her metal pen against her front teeth, consumed by what she was reading. Further still, as she continued to flip through each page, he was described as possessing an incredibly intuitive and brilliant grasp of both chemical and bio-genetic sciences. Many instances of his skill having been displayed in these areas, both in and out of the asylum, were relayed in the pages. She felt a jolt as she read over one occurrence in which he had somehow concocted a lethal toxin in the form of a spray, using some cleaning materials he had come upon in a janitorial closest. Windex had been one of the components. The resulting casualties were numbered at 6.
"Some light reading, huh?"
She was interrupted suddenly by another voice in the room and snapped her head up to find Dr. Leland standing before her, her hand placed on her hip, a look of both amusement and concern on her face.
"Uh, I was just…" Harleen began, trying to recover from her surprise.
Joan glanced down at the folder spread out before the young psychiatrist.
"You know Harleen; I've seen this before, the new doctor wanting to take on this places most challenging case, but…" And she paused, looking deadly serious. "This isn't a game."
Dr. Quinzel felt suddenly defensive, insulted by the insinuation that she didn't fully understand the gravity of her position as a therapist to the mentally ill.
"I know that." She said, allowing the hurt she felt to show in her voice. "I was just interested, is all."
"Flip to the back of the folder." Dr. Leland nodded towards her.
"Look at the last page." Joan instructed once more.
Harleen hesitated only momentarily before doing as she was told, and there she found a list of over a dozen doctor's final prognosis' on patient 0284. They all said the same thing.
She looked up at the older woman.
"As much as I hate to say this Harleen…" Joan began. "The Joker is as close as I've ever come to thinking there could be a hopeless case of mental illness. There's just been no progress made with him, not since day one. Every other patient we've treated, every one, even the extreme cases, have shown some kind of improvement, even if it's only been miniscule, but The Joker…" And she shook her head in dismay. "We just haven't been able to get through to him, not ever."
Dr. Quinzel leaned back, a thoughtful expression upon her face. She hadn't told anyone, and she never would for obvious reasons, but she had requested to intern at Arkham for a very specific purpose. The asylums patients were among the most well documented cases in the United States. Some of them were the most well documented, like The Joker. And being the ambitious and driven young woman that she was, Harleen had, somewhere half-way through her final year of grad. School, decided that if she could land herself a job as psychiatrist to just one of Arkham's more infamous residents, she would be set for life, able to write a tell-all book and gain the notoriety and respect she had always craved.
"Is The Joker currently seeing anyone?" She asked suddenly, confidently.
Dr. Leland eyed her suspiciously.
"Is he currently receiving therapy treatment I mean." Harleen further explained her question.
Joan took a moment to say anything. "Harleen, if you're suggesting that you take over as his doctor then…"
"I'm just curious." She cut her mentor off. "Is he seeing anyone right now?"
Dr. Leland shook her head.
"He hasn't received therapy treatments for a few months now." She admitted.
"But isn't that against state policy?" Dr. Quinzel was quick to point out. "Aren't all patients at Arkham required to receive at least once weekly therapy sessions?"
Joan hesitated before answering.
"Yes, that's true Harleen, but…" And she momentarily stopped. "His last assigned psychiatrist quit after only two weeks, two sessions, and none of our current staff wants to take him on. Of course, eventually, we're going to have to assign him to one of our doctors, and we will, but…"
Harleen was smart, and she knew she had Dr. Leland where she wanted her now.
"They might feel resentment towards the higher ups if they're forced to take on a patient they don't really want to treat, right?" She finished the older woman's sentence for her.
"Harleen, the answer is no!" She said sternly. "You can't be the one to treat The Joker. He's far beyond your experience level. It's just not even remotely plausible that you be the one to administer therapy to him. And besides, you've already been assigned a nice roster of patients. What about Pamela Isley? I know you're an ambitious girl Harleen, but isn't she challenge enough for you?"
Dr. Quinzel thought back to the two sessions she'd so far had with Pamela. And though she found her a moderately interesting case, and had even come in to the initial meeting with the hope that the botany-obsessive might be the one to base her book on, she had begun to realize half-way through the hour that she simply wasn't enigmatic enough a personality, and wouldn't inspire the kind of curiosity that would push print. No, she needed a big wig, one of the dangerous ones, as the asylum staff put it. And there was none more dangerous then The Joker.
"Well why not Joan?" Harleen decided to simply drop the pretence and pitch her bid right then and there. "If no one else is willing, why force them when you've got someone who is?"
"Because it's dangerous Harleen." Dr. Leland immediately countered. "Do you know what's happened to most of the doctors unfortunate enough to have been put on The Joker's case?!"
The younger woman didn't respond.
"Beyond the ones who've been murdered Harleen, and there's been more then a few, half of them have been driven to seek therapy themselves. Some have even ended up in mental hospitals! That's no exaggeration, you can look them up! And the other half? They either quit practicing psychiatry altogether, deciding there was no purpose behind it, or turned to religion. They couldn't reconcile an untreatable case with their line of work. Very few have continued on in any functional capacity. Bottom line is, nobody who's treated The Joker has come out of it unscathed, and I cannot condone sending someone as inexperienced and young as you in to treat that… that monster!" She finished, nearly out of breath from the exertion she put in trying to prove her point. "And anyway…" She began again, "It's not my decision. If you want to be assigned a specific case, you have to go through Jeremiah. But I will not give you my endorsement Harleen."
Dr. Quinzel decided right then that she just had to nab The Joker as her patient. He was her ticket to stardom and wealth, she knew it, and she was going to do whatever it took to land him.
"I understand Joan." She at last answered, politely. "But I don't believe it's conducive to patient recovery if they're assigned a doctor who isn't willingly administering treatment. And I don't believe in any case being hopeless. I'm going to petition to Dr. Arkham himself, with or without your consent. I understand you're only concerned for my well being, but I did graduate top of my class, and I think I'm intelligent enough to handle any challenge. And with you there to help guide me, I think I'll be just fine."
She added that last bit on, trying to play to Dr. Leland's ego a bit.
Joan shook her head.
"I wish you wouldn't do this Harleen. I'm only trying to look out for you. You don't understand what The Joker is, you may think you do, but you don't. Nobody does!"
"Then what difference does it make if I treat him or if anyone else does?" Dr. Quinzel questioned.
"I just want you to be alright Harleen." Was the only response Joan could supply. "I'm afraid is all." She finally relented, seeing the dead-set determination in the young doctor's eyes, knowing now she had no chance to dissuade her.