Art Therapy Part Four

Her poor Puddin looked so vulnerable; hurt and alone in that starkly institutional cell. She felt a single silent tear run down her cheek.

Harley had held back as long as she could from running down to check on the Joker. Dr Leland had been trying to arrange to have a chat with her, following news spreading of her little tête-à-tête with Batman. She had begged off, citing paperwork to be completed for her other patients and trying to play it down as a minor exchange blown up by staff gossip. Joan seemed to have bought it and said she would catch up with her later.

She waited in her office, silently watching the clock until she thought the medical staff would have finished roughly patching him up, and the guards would have departed after moving him back to the maximum security wing. She had an excuse prepared – she would claim she needed to assess whether he would be medically fit to resume therapy the next day – but the guard at the entrance to the secure wing had buzzed her through without a second glance.

She'd managed to keep the professional demeanour in place until she reached the far end of the corridor and saw him lying still on a cot behind the Perspex wall of his cell. His arm was now in a cast, nose swollen and covered with gauze, and his beautiful white face was darkly mottled in several places as bruises began to form. Every now and then he seemed to twitch slightly and mutter something she couldn't hear through the holes in the screen, or chuckle very softly.

Harley raised a palm and placed it against the transparent wall, her heart aching at not being able to touch him and soothe his injuries with gentle hands.

"I love you Mistah J…" She whispered, almost too softly to hear.

Then behind the Perspex there was a sudden spasm of laughter, and the Joker's pale body contorted as he clutched at himself in pain before collapsing back on the thin mattress. Harley wasn't sure what had prompted it; she hoped it wasn't hearing what she had said. She still decided it was time for her to leave before anyone got too suspicious, and quickly turned to walk down the hall trying to ignore the pull of her heart back towards the cell and its occupant.

A few of the other patients were still in their cells and not in classes or therapy sessions, and gave her a curious look as she passed. She tried to ignore them, but a redheaded woman with a shrewd gaze called to her.

"Hey, what did Batman do the clown this time?"

"I really don't think that's any of your business," she read the name on the security chart outside the woman's cell. "Ms Isley."

The woman gave a satisfied grin. "It's just I've heard something about a broken arm and that was my pick in the predicted injury pool. Whoever wins gets to choose the TV station in the rec room for the next month."

The old Harley probably would have just said something prissy about patient confidentiality. The new Harley wanted to slap her, but was conscious of both the nearby guards and the Perspex wall in the way. Plus this "Miss Isley" had to be in the maximum security section with her Puddin for good reason (something about a wacky obsession with plants seemed to ring a bell) and she probably wouldn't take well to being slapped.

Harley came to a compromise and stuck her tongue out at the woman, causing raised eyebrows and a slightly bemused look in response as she turned her back on the cell and continued down the corridor. Within minutes she was back in the solitude and relative safety of her tiny office, and she sat at her desk feeling almost too numb to cry.

What could she do to help her poor angel?

She just wanted to make him happy. It seemed such a simple thing to ask. But what would he want her to do? She could never second-guess his brilliant mind, but she tried to think of the broad strokes of his desires.

He doesn't like it here. He won't want to stay trapped in here. He'll want to escape again.

Well that was simple enough. Her Puddin's genius was certainly wasted cramped up in this dingy dungeon, although she was eternally grateful that fate had brought them together within its damp walls. But now her angel shouldn't have to spend a minute longer locked away than she could possibly help.

He might not have be able to use her assistance for his last escape, but this time it would be all her and she would make him proud.

She sat at her desk and thought and plotted, trying to come up with a plan that was truly worthy of being carried out in his name. Explosives? Mysterious chemicals? Elaborate set-ups? She abandoned her attempt within moments. She shouldn't even pretend she could come up with plans like he did – his genius was awe inspiring. Anything she could think up would serve as a mere homage to his brilliance. So she dialled down the complexity and tried to think of what she could do in her own simple way that would still show its inspiration from his creative genius.

By the time she was satisfied it was growing dark, and few people noticed as she slipped out amidst the shift change.

Gotham is a pretty eclectic place, and if you want something badly enough then you can probably find it. That includes a joke shop that's open until midnight. Admittedly it was located in one of the rougher parts of the Narrows, but under the circumstances that was an advantage.

Harley didn't bother changing her outfit; being identified later by an eyewitness or CCTV was no longer a major issue for her. But she did concede to leaving her Arkham name badge in the car; being able to read off her chest that she was "Dr Harleen Quinzel" was just making it slightly too easy.

She strode confidently into the shop, paying little heed to the seedy looking man at the counter. There were unsurprisingly no other customers present and she wondered briefly just why anyone other than her would want novelty toys, gags and costumes after 10pm on a weekday, in the Narrows. Either the place was a front for drug sales or there were some pretty kinky prostitutes in the local area.

Harley scooped up an armful of likely looking equipment that she could adapt for her plan; a popgun, retractable boxing glove, sneezing powder, rubber chicken. That last one raised a smile; she was particularly proud of her idea for using the innocent looking rubber novelty for a rather more violent end – provided she could find a handy broken brick in a nearby alleyway she could stuff it with.

The man at the counter seemed disinterested and barely looked up as she gathered up half his shop in her arms.

Moving on to the costume section she quickly scanned the rails waiting for something to leap out at her, something that would fit in with the theme of the evening. There were a few clown costumes but they were all designed for men and she knew they would swamp her. She wanted something to show her figure off a bit; there was no harm in dressing to impress.

Then she spotted it: a vision of alternate red and black material cut to hug curves, highlighted with a diamond motif, white lacy cuffs and an oversized collar. It even came with a matching headpiece that had bells on the end of the two liliripes. A Harlequin style jester. It was almost too perfect. She draped it across one arm, hoping that Mistah J would really get a kick out of it.

Her shopping spree complete, Harley gathered as much as she could under one arm and fiddled with the boxing glove mechanism with her spare hand as she headed for the exit. The man at the desk finally seemed to take notice and threw his rumpled newspaper to one side as she approached the register, then walked straight past.

"Hey, you planning on paying for all that?"

"Not particularly." She called behind her in a sing-song voice, now reaching for the door handle.

This being the heart of the Narrows after all, Harley wasn't terribly surprised to hear the shotgun being racked in response. She turned to see the seedy proprietor aiming it in her direction.

"Look girlie; if you've got some twisted client who wants you to dress up like a clown and whack him off with a rubber chicken – it aint none of my business. Each to their own. But this isn't a lending library and you've gotta pay for that stuff."

Harley gave a quiet internal chuckle at her kinky prostitute theory being proved correct, and smiled at the man holding the gun. "I wasn't planning on that sort of whacking. Maybe I could demonstrate?" She smoothly released the mechanism on the retractable boxing glove and it shot out, catching the man on the chin and knocking him back into a shelf of oversized chattery teeth. The shotgun fell harmlessly to one side.

A tiny and very distant voice, one she had not heard much from lately, feebly wailed that now she had really crossed the line. This was effectively armed robbery – slightly unorthodox armed robbery, but robbery all the same. Plus this was merely the appetiser to her banquet of planned chaos. The voice timidly argued that if she stopped now, maybe they would only revoke her licence and give her a community sentence. She didn't have to go through with it all…

Harley squelched the voice out with a sudden cackle of laughter. She had robbed a joke shop using a novelty gag weapon, in order to get more novelty gag weapons she could use to break the greatest clown of all out of Arkham. She was doing it for him, and it had been fun! She didn't want to stop.

Humming something jaunty she didn't quite remember the words to, Harley retracted the boxing glove and tucked it back under one arm. She waved farewell to the prone shop owner and skipped merrily out of the store to her waiting car, before driving back to her apartment.

Two hours later her preparations were complete and she got back into her car, bundled up in a long coat and hat pulled down over her face, heavy duffel bag of tricks in one hand. She figured it wouldn't do to catch the attention of any passing cops who might want to check where she was driving to at 1am. Giggling softly as she imagined their reaction to a face-full of sneezing powder, she turned the key in the ignition and headed for Arkham.

[And that's all folks! End of the line.]