"Next up for probation review, inmate/patient 127225, Harleen Quinzel." Dr Arkham, head of the review board announced, as Harley stepped into the office, accompanied by a large, Arkham nurse. "Ms Quinzel, you've spent the last sixteen months as a patient here at Arkham. Your doctors say you have been a model patient, and that you made considerable strides in your therapy sessions. Do you feel you have been rehabilitated?"
Harley bowed her head for a moment, her hair split dyed between red, and black. Her blond roots showed from the angle. The chains of her shackles clinked quietly together. "Rehabilitated? Well now, lem'me see. Ya know, I don't have any idea what that means." Her voice is soft, and maybe a bit tearful.
Dr. Arkham leaned forward a little, and folded his hands in front of him. "It means that--"
"I know what it means, Doc. To me its just'a made-up word. A politician's word, so that young fella's like ya'self can wear a suit, an tie and have a job. What do you really wanna know? Am'I sorry for what I did?" Her shoulders shook like she was going to cry.
"Hahahaha, I'm sorry. The scene was just too perfect. An I just love that movie, The Green Mile." She looked Dr. Arkham in the face then, still giggling to herself.
"Actually, I think that was from The Shawshank Redemption." Dr. Arkham removed his glasses with a sigh.
"Well, I knew it was a prison movie. Give a girl props for quoting from memory." She tried to cross her legs, but the chains didn't give enough. So she settled on a girlish, hands-on-the-knees sideways pose, her white skin is a sharp contrast with the orange patient uniform.
"This is a serious matter Ms Quinzel. Now, part of your probation is work related. If, if, you are chosen today for early release, you will be put in the custody of a volunteer hero for a set amount of time. After which you will (barring probation violations) be granted full freedom. So again I ask, do you feel rehabilitated? Do you feel you are no longer a danger to yourself, or others?"
"No Doc. I think I'm ready to be a good guy." She smiled.
"And why is that Ms Quinzel?" Her answer would determine the out come of this meeting.
"Because it sounds like fun Doc." She replied, seemingly serious, for the first time.
"Thank you Ms Quinzel. You can retire to your room while we convene on this matter."
"Should have started with a joke, huh?" She asked the large, male nurse as she walked back to her cell.
"Really doubt it would have helped." He unlocked her cell door, then removed her shackles though the designated openings. "You're too insane to them."
"Folie d'une personne est la réalité d'une autre personne." Harley replied softly, as she sat on her bunk, her back against the wall. She thought back, (not for the first time) to that day, years ago, that had changed her life.
Two years ago....
S.T.A.R. Labs, Metropolis,
"Dr. Quinzel, we are so glad to have you on the S.T.A.R. team. Regulations won't let us operate without a licensed psychiatrist on the payroll. With the kind of work we do, we really can't afford people having breakdowns." Dr. Slates grip was firm, and he held her hand for just a little too long.
"Well, I did have an offer at Arkham asylum, but doing employee psych evaluations seems like a safer use of my profession." She replied, and discreetly wiped her hand on her pants.
"Much safer." Dr. Slate agreed quickly. "We have no documented accidents for this site."
Something about the way he said that made her uneasy. "No documented accidents?" She asked.
"Well, if its not documented, then it didn't happen." He chuckled, like they were sharing a joke. "So, how about getting the tour? Then you can start working tomorrow."
"That sounds good Dr. S."
"Oh sorry. I used to call my professors by their last initials. Old habit." She smiled. Actually it was a nervous habit, but he didn't need to know that.
* * *
The first few days on the job were blissfully uneventful, and she had settled easily into her routine. Then she had a session with Clyde Phillips, an employee suffering from anxiety, and severe depression. His wife Jewlee had miscarried their first child, and the resulting stress had put a strain on their relationship. Harley had made the only sensible choice, and had recommended he be put on medical leave. Unfortunately, H.R. had decided it was more efficient to cut him loose, and rehire him at such a time he could work again. This had pushed Clyde over the emotional edge.
Harley remember clocking in that day. Remembered the gunshot, and the screams of panic. Remembered her own fear, as he had stormed up the steps, gun in hand.
"You!" He said, beyond rage, beyond hate. "You ruined everything! I would have been fine! I could have dealt! But you got me fired with your stupid evaluation!" He screamed, his voice cracked a little, and his eyes were raw from crying. "You like playing God? Ruining lives? Huh? Whose God now?" He waved the gun at her.
"Clyde," She spoke gently, "It's okay. It can be okay. But you need to put the gun down. You don't want to hurt me, or anyone, do you?"
"Think you're going to get in my head with that psycho-babble Dr. Lecture?" He cocked the gun.
"Clyde...Its not too late. Stop this, before you do something you will regret." For a moment he lowered the gun, and a look of uncertainty crossed his face. Then he raised the gun again.
"No. Someone has to pay." She only heard the first shot. Never felt either shot at all. But she remembered falling over the railing. Remembered falling into the vat of chemicals, her lungs burning as they filled with liquid. She remembered dying....
Clyde had surrendered immediately afterward, she later learned. They had fished her body out of the vat, her skin had been bleached a sickly white color, her hair had gone a white blond color. They had tried unsuccessfully to revive her for ten minutes before the paramedics arrived, and gave it a go. She was declared dead at the scene.
She had awoken later, in the morgue, while the mortician dug the bullets out of her naked body. She was awake, aware, but paralyzed. Unable to even open her eyes. Later at Arkham, she'd had a lot of time for introspection. And she was sure it was that time, when she was completely helpless, and facing a very premature burial, that had started her on the road to madness.
Sometime during the night she had regained control of her body, and had kicked her way out of the body drawer. The first thing she discovered was her ghostly white skin. The second was her bullet wounds were healed. Not stitched up, gone. Like they never were.
Stealing a white lab coat to cloth herself, she had snuck out, and walked back to her apartment, keeping to the shadows as much as possible. Luckily it was a warm night, and Metropolis kept their streets pretty clean, because she had been nearly naked, and bare foot. But what should have been the end of the nightmare was only the beginning.
S.T.A.R. was not interested in giving her job back. Bad P.R. they had said. But they were very interested in testing her blood. To which she had made a very unprofessional suggestion, and had walked out. But she found herself not only unemployed, but unemployable. No one she applied with would hire her. And though they didn't say it, she knew it was her appearance. It unnerved people. She didn't recall when the realization first came to her, that if people wouldn't help her, she would have to help herself.
Her first stop was at the party, and costume store. "If I'm gonna live'a colorful life, then I need'a colorful outfit." She nodded to herself. She had been talking to herself a lot lately, but it was okay, cause she gave herself good advice. The store didn't have the look she wanted, so she grabbed from different sets. A red cape here, red, and black corset/skirt combo. Two elbow length gloves, and boots from two different costumes. A red, and a black each. "Should've been a fashion designer." She smiled to herself.
"Um, Ma'me? You're going to have to pay for all these costumes you opened." A annoyed employee called, as she walked to the front of the store, her arms full of her selections. She looked back at the ransacked aisle. "Do you guys take Discover?" She asked.
"Yes. We take all major credit cards."
"Good, cause I'm discover'n myself." And she laid him out with a punch in the nose.
That had been the beginning of a very fun career in crime. She had moved to Gotham as soon as she had saved a little cash up, arriving in a stolen milk delivery truck, and riding a chocolate milk high. And she'd had a lot of fun, till she had been arrested and sent to Arkham, that is.
* * *
"Harleen Quinzel, Your probation came through. Guess you're not so crazy after all." It was the same nurse from earlier.
"Si vous pensez que quelqu'un est sain d'esprit que vous ne savez pas assez sur eux." Harley replied, a slight smirk on her face.
"You know, we didn't all take french in college." The nurse said, annoyed. "This here's Mr. Jack Ryder, AKA the Creeper. He's your new keeper."
"The Creepah's my keepah." She giggled.
"Nice to meet you." The plain clothed gentleman extended a hand.
"Oh, I'm sure the pleasure is all mine." She shook his hand, and smiled.
* * *
To be continued in, DC Re-Imagined: The Worlds Finest.