"We've looked at your credentials," the tall, balding man in the white coat was saying. "I think you just might be what we're looking for, Harleen."
She blinked. Once. Twice. She pinched herself. She wasn't dreaming.
"Really? Are you serious, Mr. Arkham?"
He smiled, charmed by her enthusiasm. He'd liked her the moment she had walked in the doorway. "Of course. I think you're capable enough. You've impressed us a great deal, Dr. Quinzel. And for someone so young!"
She blushed. "Yes…well…I've only been interning for a few months…"
"Still, we'd like to have you on board. Right now we need all the help we can get."
Oh God, she thought, I made it…all that work and I'm finally in!
"Should we put you with Crane? His old doctor called it quits a few days ago…"
"Actually, there's someone else I've wanted to work with for a very long time."
"Oh? And who's that?"
She sucked in air. "The Joker."
Arkham's friendly smile fell and his brow furrowed. The clown was damned impossible to redeem. Already, three doctors had given up on him. This girl…so young! So vulnerable! The clown would have a field day breaking her.
"No," he said flatly.
Her mouth trembled into a pout and he could see that she was trying not to look disappointed.
"It's for your own good, Dr. Quinzel. He's a hopeless case. Crane's a mess, but even he might still have a chance at being rehabilitated. You have to understand."
"Yes…I understand." But she didn't. She was disappointed as hell.
"Dr. Arkham? I don't mean to pry…but…is there anything I can do to treat him? Can I at least try at least one session with him? Just to test things out?"
"Dr. Quinzel," he said firmly. "I don't want you getting into something out of your hands. He's been here for only five months now and already he's broken down some of my finest doctors."
"But I could try…I need to try…he's still a human being, isn't he? Doesn't he deserve a chance like everyone else?"
"We've tried to give him a chance. He doesn't want to let anyone in. He doesn't want to talk. He just sits there and plays mind games."
"But I can reach him, I know I can. Please, sir. I've come a long way for this chance…I…"
She was giving him puppy-dog eyes. Honest-to-goodness puppy-dog eyes. Her young face was the portrait of determination. How could he say no?
"Alright. Fine. One session. If you get him to talk…then you can have him."
Her heart leapt in utter joy. "Yes! Thank you, Mr. Arkham sir! I won't let you down, I promise!"
He chuckled at her zeal. He liked her quite a lot. Not only was she pretty to the eye, but she genuinely seemed to care about her work; a trait that was lacking in some of the other doctors here. But did she have any idea what she was in for?
Harleen Quinzel stood up and brushed a strand of brown hair from her face. Her blue eyes sparkled with radiance and her smile seemed to light up the room. It was enough for him to push the uneasy feelings aside.
"Thanks again," she said, shaking his hand earnestly. "You'll see. Everything will be fine."
As she started for the door, he stopped her.
She turned; her round peach-pink face eager to please.
"Please…above all else…be careful."
She smiled again. "Of course I will, sir. That's a promise."
She turned and exited, trying her very hardest not to skip down the hall in elation.
You did it, Harl! You made it at last! At last!
Dr. Arkham sat in his chair and stared after her.
I really hope nothing happens to her, he thought. Oh please, dear God, don't let anything bad happen to her.
And so it began…