Pie In The Sky Part Four
Ivy continued giving her the cold shoulder, but once she was released into the relative hubbub of the rec room Harley forgot to stay down about it.
To most people the rec room was just a slightly shabby and decidedly institutional quarter of the asylum. There was a caged-off television occupying one corner, a few ratty sofas congregated around it. The battered pool table jostled for space with several cafeteria-style tables that once belonged to the dining room, all bearing the scars of countless hours of bored graffiti with whatever slightly sharp implement (normally a plastic spork) the artists had to hand. But throw in the two-dozen high security mental patients and the handful of criminally insane inmates who shared this space, all of whom often wanted to watch different channels or play pool simultaneously, and it was clear why Harley loved the daily hour of rec-room time so much.
"Hi guys!" She called cheerily, waving to the small group who had claimed the two least-ratty sofas with the best view of the television. They muttered their greetings with varying degrees of enthusiasm as Harley vaulted over the back of the sofa to land with a bounce on the empty seat to the left of Jonathan Crane.
"Back so soon, Harley?" Asked the slight man, looking more insubstantial than usual without the straw padding of his scarecrow costume.
"Yeah, Professor. Not exactly how I planned to spend my weekend, y'know?" She shrugged at the minor inconvenience of being locked back at Arkham in the grand scheme of things. "But it's nice seein' you all again. How goes the whole reigning-the-world-through-terror deal?"
"Splendidly – thank you for asking." He smiled, a glint appearing in his eyes. "In fact very soon the walls of this asylum will tremble with the screams of guards rather than inmates! Then they'll know the true folly of their…"
"Oh don't encourage him." Nigma interrupted in a bored tone, breaking both Crane's speech and his train of thought. "He's been spouting various vague threats along those lines for the past three weeks, but there's been precious little sign of any following through with any action."
"You'll see." Crane muttered quietly to himself. "Just wait until I find some of my old supplies. You'll eat your words when you're cowering behind this sofa."
Eddie smiled smugly. "I'll believe it when I live it, Johnny."
"You two are worse than an old married couple sometimes." Ivy pronounced as she arrived on the scene. With only two seats left, she faced a choice between acknowledging Harley again by sitting next to her or having to squeeze in between Harvey and the Hatter. Given the smirk on both sides of Harvey's face, the former option seemed to be the lesser of two evils and Harley brightened as her friend took the seat next to her.
"I think they'd make a cute couple." She offered, buoyed by Ivy's at least partial recognition of her existence. "It's pretty socially acceptable these days too. There's, like, gay wedding planners and everything." Crane and Nigma both glowered silently and shifted imperceptibly further away from each other.
"It's wonderful how the quality of conversation seems to improve whenever you're with us." Harvey commented with a gravely tone as he eyed up Harley from the opposite sofa. "There's been not one mention of gay weddings at all in the past two months. I don't know how we've coped."
"Glad to be of service!" Harley beamed, oblivious to the sarcasm. Ivy narrowed her eyes in warning, needing little invitation to dispense wrath in Dent's direction. She still might have been annoyed with the scatty blonde but she wouldn't tolerate any additional inanity from the male juvenile idiots she was forced to spend time with while confined at Arkham.
"It must be quiet on the outside with everyone stuck in here. Thanks to Batman." Dent growled the name, which resulted in a predictable glare or twitch from the surrounding villains. They had all had their admission to Arkham courtesy of the Bat on more than one occasion.
"Miss Quinn?" A voice called out across the room.
"Who's askin'?" Harley asked without looking turning her head, cautious to establish what the deal was before volunteering for something she might later regret. The fact that half the inmates in the room had paused in what they were doing and were staring in her direction was somewhat of a giveaway but she stuck to her guns.
"I've got some personal effects that were requested from storage."
"Ooh – it's me! It's me!" She bounced out of her seat and rushed over towards the door and the impassive guard who was clutching a cheap cardboard storage carton that seemed to have seen better days.
"Shelves down there are stacked to the ceiling with contraband and unclaimed junk." The guard grumbled as she excitedly grabbed the box from his arms. "God know why we bother keeping it all."
"Yeah, well, no one asked you, bub." Harley muttered, ignoring him as she returned to the group of curious observers.
"What's in the box?" Eddie enquired.
"Stuff I left behind after my last 'unscheduled discharge'." She prised open the box and rifled through it, disturbing a fair quantity of dust. "My drawings from art therapy – I was getting' good! And the doodle Mistah J did for my birthday – Batsy being eaten by the Babies!" She clutched the crayon-covered napkin to her chest.
"So it is just junk then?"
"It's not junk!" She replied indignantly. "We don't all think walls covered with question marks is this century's highpoint of interior design."
"It's a theme!" He shot back hotly, but Harley had returned her attention to the contents of the box.
"Hey, this ain't mine." She pulled out a dog-eared copy of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Harvey's eyes narrowed. "Gimme that!" He leaned across and snatched it from her hands, flipping through the first few pages. "This is mine! Those incompetent bastards who run this place said they'd lost it the last time I got out."
Harley heard Ivy mumble something about 'being a walking cliché', but stayed focused on Two-Face. "What's your book doin' in with my stuff?"
"It must have got mixed up when they were re-organising that black hole they call a storage locker. If they threw out all Nigma's stupid puzzle props-"
"-and the dozens of hideous suits the Joker's had confiscated over the years, maybe there'd be a bit more space."
Harley moved more drawings aside and produced a plush Batman doll; a toy made by the same local company as her Joker plushie. "This sure as hell ain't mine either!"
The latest find provoked a barrage of comments.
"Who in their right mind would have a Batman doll?"
"This is Arkham, remember? There aren't a whole lot of right minded people about."
"Why hasn't it been dismembered, or melted or something?"
"Does it talk? I bet it spouts self-righteous drivel just like the real thing."
Professor Crane brought the discussion to an end by swiftly plucking the toy from Harley's grasp. "It's mine thank you very much; a prop for one of my experiments. And if you don't mind I have work to be doing." With that he stood up and stalked across the room, requesting to be taken back to his cell and heedless of the confusion left in his wake.
"Is it just me or is Johnny getting more screwy?"
"Maybe he's tryin' out voodoo," Harley suggested. "Y'know – sticking pins in it and givin' Bats a headache or indigestion."
She returned to her work, rummaging down to the very bottom of the box and triumphantly brought out her Mistah J plushie – resplendent in a miniature purple suit with a neatly hand-stitched grin. "There you are Mistah J! Don't worry, you won't be shut in a box with that nasty Batman any more." She cuddled the dusty doll tightly, then sneezed several times. "Geez haven't they heard of vacuum storage? He's a collectable!"