22 December 2015

Soundtrack: "The Red Door."


01. Bloc Party - "Zephyrus (Phase One Remix)."
02. She Wants Revenge - "These Things."
03. Royksopp & Robyn - "Monument."
04. Coucheron ft. Eastside & Mayer Hawthorne - Deep End.
05. Beyonce - "Ghost/Haunted."
06. ROB - "Doll." From the motion picture "Maniac."
07. IAMX - "Mercy."


08. Scratch Massive - "Pleine Lune."
09. Royksopp & Robyn - "Monument (The Inevitable End Version)."
10. Tommy Tallarico - "Media Tower," from “Tomorrow Never Dies (PS1).”
11. Tommy Tallarico - "Arms Bazaar,” from “Tomorrow Never Dies (PS1).”
12. ROB - "Headache."
13. Nightbreaker - "Nyx."


14. ZHU - "Stay Closer."
15. Eli Escobar - "Work It."
16. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - “Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix).”
17. Subdue - "Horizon (Kolt13 Remix)."
18. Lady Gaga - "Judas (Hurts Remix)."
19. The Presets - "Kicking and Screaming."
20. The Faint - "Violent."
21. ZZT - "ZZafrika (Gesaffelstein Remix)."
22. Dead C.A.T. Bounce & You Killing Me - "Abyss (Kolt13 Remix)."

23. The Weeknd - “The Hills.”
24. How to Destroy Angels - "Is Your Love Strong Enough?"
25. Sisters of Mercy - “Neverland (A Fragment).”
26. Michael McCann - "Detroit City Ambient Part 1," from "Deus Ex: Human Revolution."


27. Harry-Gregson Williams - "Opening Infiltration," from "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty."
28. Daft Punk - "Encom Pt. 1," from "Tron: Legacy."
29. Brian Tyler & Danny Elfman - "Avengers: Age of Ultron Title Theme."
30. Solar Fields - "Edge & Flight," from "Mirror's Edge."
31. Harry-Gregson Williams - "It's the Harrier!," from "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty."
32. Harry-Gregson Williams - "Yell Dead Cell (Harrier Alternate)," from "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty."
33. ‎Kazuki Muraoka - “Hind-D,” from “Metal Gear Solid.”
34. Florence & The Machine - "Seven Devils."
35. Solar Fields - "Pirandello Kruger," from "Mirror's Edge."
36. Tommy Tallarico - “Infrared,” from “Tomorrow Never Dies (PS1).”
37. Mike Pummel - "CIA Rooftop Escape," from "Mission: Impossible (N64)."


38. Michael McCann - "Singapore Ambient Part 2," from "Deus Ex: Human Revolution."
39. Shiny Toy Guns - "Stripped."
40. Tommy Tallarico - “Pressing Engagement,” from “Tomorrow Never Dies (PS1).”
41. Röyksopp & Robyn - "Every Little Thing."
42. David Arnold - “Helicopter Ride,” from “Tomorrow Never Dies.”
43. Patrick Doyle - “Get Out,” from “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.”

44. Blaqk Audio - "Between Breaths (An XX Perspective)."
45. Solar Fields - "The Boat," from "Mirror's Edge."
46. Harry-Gregson Williams - "Countdown to Disaster," from "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty."
47. Michael McCann - "Everybody Lies," from "Deus Ex: Human Revolution."
48. Harry-Gregson Williams - "Father and Son," from "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty."


49. The Engine Room - "A Perfect Lie (Gabriel & Dresden Remix)."
50. Röyksopp Ft. Susanne Sundfør - "Running To The Sea (Seven Lions Remix)."
51. Kavinsky - "Nightcall (Astre Remix)."

23 July 2014

Soundtrack: "ASYLUM."

01. Burial - "In McDonalds."
02. Masami Ueda, Shusake Uchiyama, and Syun Nishigaki - "The Front Hall." From the videogame "Resident Evil 2."
03. Akira Yamaoka - "White Noiz." From the videogame "Silent Hill 2."
04. Akira Yamaoka - "A Stray Child." From the videogame "Silent Hill 3."
05. Masami Ueda, Shusake Uchiyama, and Syun Nishigaki - "Free From Fear." From the videogame "Resident Evil 3."
06. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - "3:14 Every Night." From the film "The Social Network."
07. Boards of Canada - "Reach for the Dead."
08. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - "The Same as the Others." From the film "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
09. Yoko Shimomura - "Hollow Bastion (Piano Arrangement)." From the video game "Kingdom Hearts."
10. Akira Yamaoka - "Cold Blood." From the video game "Silent Hill: Homecoming."
11. Frederic Chopin - "Prelude No.7, Op.28 in A Major."
12. Akira Yamaoka - "Promise (Reprise)." From the videogame "Silent Hill 2."
13. Abel Korzeniowski & Shigeru Umebayashi - "Daydreams." From the film "A Single Man."
14. Akira Yamaoka - "Null Moon." From the videogame "Silent Hill 2."
15. Disasterpeace - "Detroit." From the film "It Follows."
16. Akira Yamaoka - "The Day of Night." From the videogame "Silent Hill 2."
17. Akira Yamaoka - "Pianissimo Epilogue." From the videogame "Silent Hill 2."
18. Akira Yamaoka - "Alone in the Town." From the videogame "Silent Hill 2."
19. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - "What Have We Done To Each Other?" From the film "Gone Girl."
20. NH ØD - "Slave_111."
21. Sergei Rachmaninoff - "Prelude in C Sharp Minor."
22. Akira Yamaoka - "Maternal Heart." From the videogame "Silent Hill 3."
23. Frederic Chopin, perf. by Joshua Bell - "Nocturne in C Sharp Minor."
24. Hans Zimmer - "Eptesicus." From the film "Batman Begins."
25. Abel Korzeniowski & Shigeru Umebayashi - "Swimming." From the film "A Single Man."
26. Daft Punk - "Adagio for Tron (Piano Arrangement)." From the film "Tron: Legacy."
27. Daft Punk - "C.L.U." From the film "Tron: Legacy."
28. Akira Yamaoka - "Never Forget Me, Never Forgive Me." From the videogame "Silent Hill 3."
29. Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow - "Watching." From the film "Ex Machina."
30. Masami Ueda, Shusake Uchiyama, and Syun Nishigaki - "The First Floor." From the videogame "Resident Evil 2."
31. Akira Yamaoka - "The Darkness That Lurks In Our Mind." From the videogame "Silent Hill 2."
32. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - "Consummation." From the film "Gone Girl."
33. Burial - "Prayer."
34. NH ØD - "Black Hole (the_eternal battle)."
35. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - "Please Take Your Hand Away." From the film "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
36. Burial - "Night Bus."
37. Hans Zimmer - "Mount Fuji." From the film "Rush."
38. Akira Yamaoka - "True." From the videogame "Silent Hill 2."
39. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - "Technically, Missing." From the film "Gone Girl."
40. Akira Yamaoka - "Uneternal Sleep." From the videogame "Silent Hill 3."
41. Glenn Miller - "In The Mood."
42. Victor Reyes - "Grand Piano Concerto Mvt. 2." From the film "Grand Piano."
43. Gyorgy Ligeti - "Requiem."
44. Masami Ueda, Shusake Uchiyama, and Syun Nishigaki - "Never Give Up the Escape." From the videogame "Resident Evil 3."
45. Billy Myles - "The Joker."
46. Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow - "Hacking/Cutting." From the film "Ex Machina."
47. Shirley Walker - "Theme from 'Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.'"
48. ROB - "Headache." From the film, "Maniac."
49. Hans Zimmer - "Inferno." From the film "Rush."
50. She Wants Revenge - "All Those Moments."
51. Chromatics - "Broken Mirrors."
52. Massive Attack - "Danny the Dog."
53. Frederic Chopin - "Op.10 No.12 'Revolutionary' Etude."
54. Danny Elfman - "Theme from 'Batman: The Animated Series (600% Slower)." 

08 June 2011

Still Alive.

Still alive, still working on this. More updates and chapters forthcoming. Warning: extensive edits to follow.


18 April 2010

Site Directory.

To navigate to a chapter, click the top-most links to the right of the page (under "2009") to fully expand the drop-down menu. Full text posts appear by default in most recent to least recent order until I complete the story and repost the chapters in reverse order.

Recent Updates

4/28 I. ASYLUM revised, expanded.

07 April 2010


Recently I discovered that the current Batman story arc holds some parallels to my novel.

For clarification, I intend to finish The Face We Call Our Own regardless of its similarities to established or evolving DC characters and continuity. This story is very personal to me; it will unfold--and end--the way I have envisioned. Arkham Asylum is more than a place, it is a state of mind.

Thank you to all of my readers. I hope I can continue to provide quality work for you in the coming chapters.

-Mark Turnage

27 June 2009


He leads me towards an open parking lot, the wisps of snow drifting past our feet like wandering spirits. The daylight is pale, colorless, and yet I feel no coldness here. I pull my black coat tighter against my chest regardless. The others follow behind me, no shivers beneath their army fatigues. The conversation is casual, muted, undirected at me. My silence is safer here. I don’t want to embarrass him. He turns to acknowledge a friend’s talk, his compact yet proportioned head in profile. His full lips break into a grin, mystic blue eyes hidden beneath the rising cheeks of his smile.


And suddenly I am content to be here.

Wisps of snow become wisps of steam. The conversation becomes louder, more bawdy. Running water. The light is a weird haze of sepia.

He stands naked before the showerhead, running his hands through the beads of water collecting on his buzzed rust-colored hair, past the smooth lines of his rounded jaw. Rivulets of warm water stream down his sturdy, sloping dark-freckled shoulders, past the divine curvatures of his hips, and around and between his thick thighs. Everything about him is smooth. Touchable. He breathes out deeply and the muscles of his wide chest and abdomen relax and tighten, a fine mist of hot water rushing from his thicker lips. Despite his build, he remains a few inches beneath my standing height. His smaller feet, the one delicate part of him besides his lightly tanned skin, shift to a narrower stance, and I chuckle. He looks up, past me. Those clear blue eyes, like the deep end of a swimming pool, don't care if I'm watching.

He smiles. It was a joke, and he laughs. Funny.

I feel a tightness in my chest. I shouldn’t be here. Yet no one sees me. I can't tell if he can. He cracks another joke and my distracted mind cannot tell me what it is. But his hearty laugh alone says it was good. He turns away from the shower and picks up a long metal tube in faded army green to prove his point. A rocket launcher. I am nervous, despite his smile. Then he aims it at the open window above his head and pulls the trigger.

The live rocket screams out the window and into the rainy night. I am laughing hysterically. As are the others.

I follow him again past the parsonage of my hometown. It is summer, and he is welcome here. We face each other in daylight and I feel his affectionate embrace.

Our field trip is boring, he says. The forests around us are thick with evergreens. The pinkish hues of sunset, or sunrise, light the sky. We are children, yet look our present ages. And I follow him, into the green.

The cave we find is sandstone, hollow, empty. Unbelonging amidst the trees. Crude, spotted drawings mark the walls. He tells me secrets, yet I am unafraid. I feel safe.

A flash of white, artificial. The photo shoot is all a buzz of activity, and here I am observing. Austin lies on the floor with several other men from his army unit, lying naked in a row. The newspapers and cardboard that cover them are grimy and used. A mockery. The camera flashes.

I hate this picture. I hate this place.

Austin stares at me blankly.

My eyes open to darkness. I turn on the light, read my notes until dawn.

The sheets lie in a crumpled ball on the bed, the blankets a lumpy mess atop the scattered embroidered pillows of multicolored sizes. The desk is cleared and haphazardly angled away from the wall, revealing nothing more than a bright tawny square of the room’s original tone of paint. Its dozen drawers are open and gaping in their emptiness. The nightstand is the same way. The room I once had reverence for has become an elaborate obstacle, a black hole dressed up in colored lace, marble tile and smooth cherrywood furniture.

The phone is the only fixture that has not been moved. It sits on the nightstand, an elegant fixture of pearl and onyx befitting of the temptation it poses. I resist the urge to call him again. I can’t look clingy. Not to him.

My arms continue pulling feebly at an oversized Oriental rug when my shoes lose their grip on the marble tiling with a shrill squeak. My fingers slip from the itchy carpet and I feel my skull slam against the smooth, cold floor. The pain is instantaneous and I cry out as it fires through the back of my neck and arcs from my elbow. A second later the stinging numbness of falling on my funnybone shakes through my fingertips. My blood starts to boil as I clutch my limp arm to my chest.

I cannot find the card. The Hanged Man.

I yell a curse in rage and frustration, throwing a punch with my good arm at the rug hard enough to feel the pain race through my knuckles despite its cushioning.

It’s not in this room. It was moved… or taken.

Her office is easier to find when I’m angry.

“Where is it.” It’s not a question; it’s a demand.
Crowley looks up from the paperwork on her desk, adjusts her glasses. “What?”
“The card, The Hanged Man!” I shout, my aggravation taking control. “Why did you take it back?”
“I wasn’t aware I had a return policy. I don’t take back my gifts, Harland. And I’m not the one trying to ship you out of here.” Her demeanor is professional enough to make me feel like a child having a temper tantrum. Suddenly I feel mortified.
“I… I’m sorry,” I mutter. “I need to go.”
“Not with a temper like that, you don’t. Take a seat, let’s talk.”
I stand at the door and consider walking out. No. It would look weird. Too late now.
“What’s going on, Harland?”
Sitting down doesn’t make me feel better like I thought it would.
“I want another Tarot reading,” I explain hastily. “But I need it to be accurate. And it can’t be, if your deck is missing a card.”
"…you'd rather consult the opinions of three cards than those of a person," she says flatly.
"I think they’d be less judgmental than people.”
"Quinzel will eat you alive if she sees you like this."
"I'm sure she's dealt with worse.”

“You understand how this looks, right? Storming into my office because you need a card? You’re acting like Dent.”
“This is not a dependency, goddammit!” I growl before I realize the folly of my outburst.
“And now you’re in denial. What, did you flip your room upside down looking for it?”
I shake my head, look out the window.
“My God, Harland. If I had known these pieces of laminated paper would have such an effect on you I’d never have shown you them in the first place.”
She sits back in her chair, incredulous. I need to explain myself. Rationally. My emotions are getting the best of me. She thinks I’m a lunatic.

“I couldn't get to sleep last night,” I say abruptly before I convince myself to say what I was going to tell her anyway. “What Isley said… what Dent accused me of… they’re right.”

My shoulders feel heavy. The pain in my head is a dull throb. Outside, above the mansion's spires, the sun is hidden by thick covers of clouds; the room varies between light and shadow as the wind pulls them across the horizon. It looks peaceful.

“They’re both right. I am a coward. I am a ‘fucking librarian,’” I spit out the phrase with loathing. “I am so many things I can’t stand… and if it’s in plain sight like this… where complete strangers can take that, use that against me… what good am I?”
She is silent. I don’t look up.
“There was this dream… someone I really care about was in it. They, um…” I trail off, my voice cracks. “They mean a lot to me. I don’t want to lose that person because of these things I don’t want to be.”

She studies me thoughtfully, knuckles to her lips. I am unpleasantly reminded of Jeremiah and instantly regret having confided in her.
“It takes strength to come here, to this place. Especially when you're alone. I don't know why you believe these things about yourself," she says, "but whoever this person is, you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to,” she says earnestly.
I nod and exhale quickly. At least she sounds sincere.
“When you gave me that reading, it described me," I tell her as I slowly regain my self-control. "I just want something that could help this dream make sense."
Crowley leans back in her chair.
“I don’t believe in these cards,” I go on. “I believe that whatever force is at work that speaks to my life and my own understanding needs to be considered--and listened to.”
I lick my lips and think over my words.
"I need to know if it’s possible to perform a reading for someone else. Someone not drawing the cards.”
She is still concerned.
"Having a representative object specific to the person can give the reading a focal point for someone separate from the Querent," she offers reluctantly.
“The person who draws the cards.”
“Right,” she clarifies.
"Will this do?" I ask her.

I absently dig in my pocket for my wallet, my fingers thumbing through the credit cards and past the picture until they reach a thin pocket within the billfold. The two flat pieces of steel are warm and familiar from being dragged out so many times. They clink together on their chain when I set them on Crowley's desk, engravings face-up.


She snatches the dogtags from the table as if they were illegal drugs.
"How did you get these in here?!”
"I'm not going to turn them in," I warn her.
"I don't care if you brought in a machine gun with sentimental value, Harland, I could lose my job over this! You brought in contraband to a facility that houses the most dangerous inmates in this city, and for all I know you’re trying to break them out!"
"You're overreacting," I sigh.
"Harland," she says firmly, "the last person who brought them in worked the A wing. Solitary confinement. The tags were his brother's, a Vietnam vet. One day he doesn't report in. Fifteen minute window between check-ins. They found his body outside one of the cells. "
"... it's two pieces of dull scrap metal on a chain," I shake my head in disbelief.
"It was enough for the inmate who escaped to carve a smile into his cheeks and hang him from a steam pipe with the chain and some loose wiring. Even had time to write a note in blood on the wall that said 'CHIN UP. CHEER UP.'"
I try to swallow the acrid taste in my throat but it won't go away.

"I wouldn't have shown you this if it wasn't important," I insist.
"Your trust in me is inspiring, considering I signed all your clearance documents!" She clenches her fists, exhaling sharply. "OK, let’s say that you’re not dependent, that this reading you want so badly is a one-shot deal. Making this deck of cards the determinant of your own well-being, of your actions--"
"I'm not," I say too curtly. "And I resent your insinuations about my mental health."
"Quinzel is not going to care about insinuations, she is going to make accusations! She will do everything she can to make you look unstable. If you can't handle my own judgments, how do you expect to handle hers?"
She doesn’t understand.
“Give them back,” I murmur.
“Answer my question.”
“Give them back,” I say quietly to her. “Or I will take them back.”

She tosses the dogtags across her desk at me, fuming.
I absently run my thumb and index finger across the grooves and indentations on the tags. Thinking of him is a salve to my mind.
"I will handle her judgments because I will finish my thesis."
“Stop feeding me that line of bullshit and tell me why you’re here!” she demands. “You say you’re trying to dissociate yourself from this asylum and yet you call yourself an Arkham instead of just changing your name. You hate this place, and yet you’re here because you choose to be. This project will define your academic career… and I think you’ve always allowed it to define you. How do you hope to escape that by being here?”

I look up, meeting her eyes squarely.
“Because when I leave here, this place will be nothing more than words in a book. And there will be no question that I am stronger than this place. That I am not a coward or a pushover. That I am something more than weakness.”

Crowley nods. “I think that the only person who believes you’re a weakness is you. The rest just try to convince you that you’re right.”

She stands up from her desk to select a narrow book from her shelf, on the bottom row towards the back. “You’re being honest with me, though. I guess that’s a start.”

The cover of the book she places in my hands is in good shape but dusty, hardbound, and utilitarian, a volume kept but rarely used. The plain print on the front and spine is subtle, academic and unpresumptuous. "Tarot as Psychology: Divination, Symbology, and Readings as Mental Constructs." Her name is on the cover, above 'Property of Gotham University.'

"It's all here. I devoted a chapter to each card."
“Wait... you authored this?"
"My master's thesis.”
I stifle a chuckle. "You said you didn't care much for the Tarot."
"Funny what years of study can do to a subject," she mutters. "You know what? If you're so convinced that these cards have some spiritual value and this isn't a fixation, then you don't need The Hanged Man for an accurate reading. It's not here. So it's not supposed to be here."

Her point is surprisingly valid. The dream is still suspended in my mind, as vivid as it was when I woke up.
"What do you expect to get from this, anyway?" Crowley asks me.
I stare at the leg of her chair, my chin resting on my wrist, head down.
"I don't want to be afraid anymore," I concede.
"I can't guarantee a positive reading," she cautions. "A negative one won't grant you peace of mind."
"It's the best step towards acceptance I can get," I tell her.
"The best step towards acceptance you can get is self-acceptance, Harland."
"Then respect the ways I choose to find it."

Crowley removes the deck from her desk drawer and separates a thin stack of cards--the Major Arcana--from the remainder of the deck. "Jeremiah does have one thing right about you," she says, holding the unshuffled cards in her hand. "Stubborn as hell."
I smile with a smirk. "I prefer the word 'tenacious.'"
"You say 'tomato'..."

Two quick knocks at her office door interrupt her quip. The dogtags are barely in my pocket before a head of platinum blonde hair and a Queens accent are through the open door and make my stomach plummet.
"Thought I'd find ya here," Dr. Quinzel says shortly. The sight of someone like her in a lab coat is still bizarre to me. "Pep talk's over, kid. Let's go."
She pauses when her aquamarine eyes settle on the Tarot deck in Crowley's hands and she scoffs. "Or am I interruptin' somethin'?"
"I was explaining to Harland--"
"Explain all ya want, but unless you're handin' him 'Get Outta Jail Free' cards, he's the one who's got some explainin' ta do. Ya know what the charge is for vandalizin' a historic landmark?"
The room. Shit.
"I'll clean it up," I offer. "I misplaced my notes."
"Ya mean the ones in plain sight by the desk in there?" she challenges. "Or were you lookin' for this?"
She holds a familiar card between her thumb and forefinger.

The Hanged Man. Only she's holding it upside-down. The figure in the picture is right-side up, suspended midair in a pose that would look like dancing were it not for the rope tied to his foot.

"You broke into my room!!" I rage, standing up from my chair.
"Your room?" Quinzel mocks. "The room ya trashed is the property of Arkham Asylum. Since your little incidents with Dent and Isley, I figured a search of your room was in orda. Your privacy comes second ta this asylum's security. And when I'm done with evaluatin' ya, ya'd better hope your room isn't here."
I struggle to control the seething anger burning in my temples. She's trying to push me. Get an excuse to send me packing.
"But if ya need ta rely on fortune tellin' and gypsy magic ta calm down, by all means, go right ahead. I'll take notes, since my knowledge on the subject is so... limited." Quinzel eyes Crowley, expecting some kind of validation.
She got silence.

I glower at her smug sneer and shove the rising lump in my throat down to my stomach. When I speak, I try not to grit my teeth.
"I don't need a reading," I growl.
She'll pay for this.
Quinzel smiles sweetly and flicks the card in my direction. My fingertips fumble to catch the card before my reflexes clutch it against my chest, a gesture Quinzel finds amusing.

"Did Crowley get around to tellin' ya how much Dent loved those cards?" she said as an aside, turning to leave. "He built houses out of 'em. Since she was better at rec room parties than psychotherapy, your pop made her PR rep and hired me on as Chief Psychiatrist. Shows how far a doctorate can get ya."
She half-turned to Crowley, who gave her a withering stare. "Grab the deck," Quinzel nods to me. "Bring it with ya."
She wants the cards for ammunition.
"Justine, I'll take a cigarette if you have one," I ask Crowley. She seems surprised at first, but obliges and rummages in her blazer for her pack.
"Hey. This mansion's a no-smokin' zone and if he--" Quinzel warns.
"Relax," Crowley says, "He'll smoke it outside like I do." She hands me the pack and a lighter with a supportive nod. "You need them more than me. But don't think I left that many for you."
Crowley casually slides her thesis from the table so it's by her side. "I'll hang onto this," she tells me. Quinzel doesn't seem to notice the book's subject.

"After you, Harry." Quinzel butts in and gestures to the door.
"Have a nice day, Harleen," said Crowley, in a tone that was a very fine line between professional and perturbed. She sits in her chair and gets back to work before she stops typing and simply stares at the words on her computer screen with a frown, holding a hand to her head.

"This way," Quinzel orders. "And try ta keep up." Her brisk walk takes us along the wide hall and down two flights of carved lacquer-laden staircases until we round the corner back to the main foyer and its intricately styled frescos. Angels make a marked presence in the structures of this place. They watch me with hooded faces and vacant eyes as I pass, omnipresent in the columns that support the curved ceilings, the hidden plasters within small alcoves, and in their hands and wings that rise up to meet each heavy banister. Each time I walk through these halls I notice something new about its architecture. I try to focus on the abstract paintings of stern prophets that adorn the walls, mere glimpses to take my mind away from the nervous tremors that rattle through my hands and forearms. I dig my fingernails into my palms, trying to get the pain to distract me before I open my balled fists when I think the gesture looks too obvious.

"You're pretty quiet, kid," Quinzel says without looking behind her, her voice echoing throughout the foyer. "Too many peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches gotcha mouth stuck?"
"Asylum takeout, actually. Mom forgot to pack me a week-long sack lunch."
She laughs with a guffaw, turns around. Her eyes drift to my shaking arms and I stop abruptly in the middle of the hallway.
"Look at ya. Might as well putta bag over ya head. I left the axe at home, kid, so stop treatin' everythin' like the end of tha world and it might do ya some good."
"You go home?" I quip. "I figured you live here."
The comment gives her pause before a slow smile crosses her face.
"Pretty bold talk, there. Let's take ya on the tour. We'll work out rent details and bathroom insurance on tha way."

She's bubblier than normal. I keep up with the wisecracks.
"It's a good place to play house and garden," I joke, stepping out of the way of a crew of burly orderlies hustling past us. "The neighbors make you feel so at home." I walk beside her now.
"Your pops thinks so. He's the one who doesn't go home. The rest of us, well, we have these things called lives."
"His work is his life."
"Not my life," Quinzel retorts. "I've got other things ta do. People ta see. Don't you?"
"Yeah," I tell her. "Some more important than others."
"Something like that."

She doesn't bother to pursue my comment. We find ourselves at a set of heavy oak double-doors carved with ancient Greco-Roman Olympians: discus, spear-throwers and wrestlers cover the polished surface, the details present right down to the concentrated, driven expressions on their faces. Quinzel doesn't bother to let me gawk before she pushes the doors open to another world.

We are at the corner of a maroon running track that overlooks a basketball court on the bottom floor. The walls still retain the textured off-white complexity of their art-deco carvings but it is the only footing the classical mansion holds in this space. Beneath us, a staff game of three-on-three is winding down, a few older men and a couple middle-aged women in gym shorts and sweatbands tossing potshots at the hoop. Doctors, perhaps. One of the men groans when a woman sinks a freethrow from half-court, causing half the group to celebrate until a soft alarm begins to sound on their floor and they start to leave. As the woman grabs the ball and they exit the court, I watch in awe as the floor begins to retract behind them, revealing waves of aquamarine and drawing out small clumps of swimmers in colored spandex from the room's wings, who wait patiently at the pool's edge for the hardwood floor to clear. Across the track is a sleek hybrid of flat-panel glass and steel: a fully-equipped exercise room filled with occupied elliptical machines, treadmills, weight training devices, barbells, dumbells, and rowing machines.

Of everyone in the room, I am the only one surprised by what I see.

"Put in a gym, a few squash courts, some tennis on the side and a cushy wellness program and ya forget you're doin' yoga class in a glorified loony bin," Quinzel comments as we continue down the track against the direction of the occasional runner who darts past us. I notice a couple of the male runners look back to ogle Quinzel's figure.
"Keep starin', sugar, and I'll make this track a high-dive for ya!" she shouts over her shoulder. The runner, embarrassed, doesn't look back. It's like she has eyes in the back of her head.

"Everythin' is smiles and sunshine," she goes on, "At least that's what the state board thinks."
"This place has all that stuff?"
"Kid, there are a hundred and sixty-three rooms bein' used here, and those are the ones that aren't walled off."
"Wouldn't it be more efficient to use a more modern facility? Like the rest of the asylum?"
"Oh yeah, it'd just be more expensive. The board thinks tha mansion here makes expansion easia," she affirms. "I say they just had rooms they couldn't make people work in if they paid 'em to. This place gives me the creeps."
"So why work here?"
"Paycheck, what else?" she scoffs. "You should see the bank I make from this."

I snort at the slang. I can't tell if she's using it in jest. We exit through a plain door on the southwest side of the track and wind our way down an antiquated wrought-iron spiral staircase to the pool level.

"Sounds like you love your job," I say sardonically.
"Better than lettin' amateurs pretend they can do my job," she fires back. "All ya got is them ta yell atcha. If I want that kinda psychotherapy, I'll watcha talk show."
"I'm not pretending anything. My thesis--"
"Your thesis, huh? What is it, 'I Piss People Off'? 'Nobody Likes Me'? Yeah, ya'd make a great docta. Bedside manna and all."
I fall silent.
"Is it even real?" she asks.
I stop walking. "What?"
"What you're workin' on. Or are ya just here to play mind games?"
"I don't have to prove myself to you, Doctor."
"Egotism has a place here, kid. It's either in a padded cell or at the end of a shank."
"Or at a desk job making serious bank," I retort.
Quinzel whips around so fast she nearly bumps into me. Her low voice is loud enough that I can hear her above the distorted echoes of the pool crowd.
"See those guys playin' water polo?" she nods towards a cluster of four well-built men near the deep end where we're standing. "Feel like gettin' cavity-searched in front of an audience? Bet you'd like that, wouldn't ya? Prison'd be a perfect fit for ya. Might finda nice boyfriend there."
My fingernails hurt this time when they dig into my palms.
"Doesn't feel so good at the other end of tha knife, does it?" she taunts.

She strides past me through another set of swinging doors and the rich architecture of the mansion returns within the hallway beyond. I follow only because I have to.
"Dent. Isley," she said the names like a command. "I wanna know what you're using on 'em for this mystery meat paper of yours."
We leave the hallway and step into a empty kitchen, a large and dimly lit area of long, flat tables, linoleum and polished stainless steel. Across the room between two refrigerators are the only utensils visible: a rack of gleaming carving knives.
"Why isn't this place busy? Isn't it almost lunch hour?" I ask, checking my watch.
"There was a gas leak a couple days before ya got here. And if your paper's on kitchens, ya came to the wrong place. So quit tryin' to change the subject."

Talking about my work is a welcome distraction.
"My focus is on the social catalyst that made these inmates adopt a criminal persona. Dent displays multiple personality disorder--"
"Dissociative identity disorda," she corrects. "Not MPD. It's a latent condition; it coulda been sitting there in his head all his life."
"--but the trigger was a name. 'Rachel Dawes.'"
"Psychological trauma triggered the split. He loses the girl; he goes crazy. It's a sad story. Too bad I've heard it all before."
She chuckles to herself.
"It's a shame. Not too many guys like that anymore that go crazy if the girl up and dies on 'em."

"I suppose not," I say skeptically. "But there weren't too many guys like Harvey Dent. All his life he stood head and shoulders above the crowd, and he wanted to keep it that way--not out of arrogance, but out of duty."
"His need ta project himself as Captain-goddamn-America was his obsession," Quinzel mocks. "People didn't expect too much out of him; he bit off more than he could chew, he choked, and Two-Face started breathin'. It's all in his head. And ya make it sound like a choice."

We pass the refrigerators. She exits the kitchen and with a rush of wind, we find ourselves outside in a small square courtyard. I hastily pick a cigarette from Crowley's pack, flick the wheel of the lighter a few times, and take a deep drag. The clouds have taken over the sky, turning it a pallid shade of gray. A monolithic statue of an archangel, wings spread wide and hand extended, towers above us. I can't tell if the expression on its face is serenity or pity.

"Two-Face was the choice he felt was necessary," I go on, my thoughts interrupted by the sudden change in surroundings. "Disfigurement did not create Two-Face. Had he escaped unscarred, he would have taken the exact same actions. He'd still go to jail, but as a hero--because he would have had the same face society had learned to trust."
"What are you sayin', that he'd get away with it because he was pretty?"
"You're not even half right with that guesswork. Isley's a looker and look where she is."
"Let me explain. You agreed Isley is attractive. So was Harvey Dent. People find it easier to trust good-looking people because of their attractiveness. Likewise, it makes sense society would want to rationalize their actions in a sympathetic light. For a while, Isley and Dent had one thing in common as deviants: they went after negatively-percieved people. Isley, abusers; Dent, the mob. Both were idolized in the media, despite their crimes. And I'd bet if you checked the newspapers, you'd find there's a picture of them with every article to reinforce their image."
"Definitely an Arkham paper. Sounds crazy ta me. Why commit the crimes, then?"

"Harvey Dent had a highly focused, well-hidden dependency to exceed society's standards on his own, as a singularity," I elaborate. "His love for Rachel Dawes complicated that dependency into a duality. And when both sides of this duality were compromised, he took both failures personally and subconsciously developed an internal duality to compensate. Now, he sees himself as working outside of society to protect it from the same chaos that plagues him. He hurts to heal. Now, Two-Face exists to punish anyone--and Harvey Dent is no exception. His psychological condition was influenced by his social condition, pre-existing or not. Dent loses his greatest source of stability and becomes unstable. Isley gets mistreated all her life by men, so she sets out to kill them using the one thing that's never betrayed her: botany."
I take another drag of my cigarette.
"Her files say her dad was physically abusive to both her and her mother. Generalized retaliation is one of the most common reactions to abuse of any kind. But she turned her sexuality into a weapon so she could hurt men like her father hurt her. To Isley, it's taking control; it prevents the abuse from ever happening again. Yet she denies whatever chance she has to have what she wants most: a good and faithful husband who respects her. She believes this person does not exist."

"You're complicatin' things. Dent had obsessive perfectionism and Isley had pathological misandry," Quinzel simplifies. "A permanent hatred of men and anythin' connected to 'em."
I eye her curiously as I take another drag.
"What, ya surprised I know a couple ten-dolla words?" Quinzel looks offended, for once. "Pfft. I get the 'dumb blonde' thing all the time. Some desk jobs have perks, kid, maybe when ya get one you'll understand."
I ignore her jab in an exhale of minty smoke.

"Isley gets her heart stomped on and Dent gets burned, what of it? You're treatin' these things like they have a rational basis."
"My theory is that they were made that way by the way they experienced love," I insist.
Quinzel laughs, like what I said is funny. She removes her elliptical glasses and polishes the lenses, stifling giggles all the while.
"Kid, love should make ya crazy," she shakes her head. "Especially when ya don't get loved back."
I scoff, look away, smoke some more. "You're speaking from experience?"
Her smile fades from her eyes but not her lips when she puts on her glasses.
"My office is this way."

My cigarette is less than halfway ashed. I take a couple quick puffs then stomp out the butt, letting the buzz of the nicotine weigh down my legs and feet while the light-headedness touches my brain. The rest of the walk is an awkward silence that lasts from the courtyard, through a curved hallway and to a door inlaid with pearl and golden-stained glass, giving it the appearance of a gilded gate. Beside it is a polished brass plaque that reads "DR. HARLEEN QUINZEL, Ph.D., CHIEF PSYCHIATRIST." When she removes her keys from her pocket to unlock the door, I notice a gaudy keychain in the shape of a motorcycle next to her ID card with some engraving on the side.


"Nice bike." I don't care if she hears my derisive sigh.
Quinzel raises her eyebrows, looks down at the keychain, and her lips form a wry half-grin. I can't tell if she's proud of it.
"A gift from the boys at work," she says dryly. "I'm sure they'd love ta see me in leather."

We step inside to a room that could have been the mansion's former dining hall, its tall vaulted ceiling continuing the artistic theme of the statue in the courtyard. Celestial forms from Judeo-Christian literature mingled across the baby-blue heavens, the off-white clouds and the angels' many wings creating the same mesmerizing but chaotic effect as the Bosch frescos in the foyer.

The room's vibrant velour carpet, an elegant shade of crimson that compliments the pinkish-hued marble walls supporting the ceiling, is divided by frosted glass partitions that designate the psychiatric team's individual offices, with Quinzel's spacious mahogany desk in the center. Everything within the room is organized immaculately, right down to the pencils being differentiated from the pens in Quinzel's decorative utensil-carrier, next to her dust-free flatscreen computer. Like Crowley's much smaller workspace, there are many bookshelves that line the walls, only the books they contain have loftier titles and are fewer in number. I spot a multi-volume collection between two stern-looking gargoyle bookends whose author stands out in bold lettering: "CRANE: On Fears and Fearing."

Quinzel selects the lone file folder from her desk and directs me to a chair, not the cushioned ones with ottomans by her desk, but a tall wooden one missing its right armrest. It stands next to what looks like a computer printer on a heavy-looking ivory sidetable.

"Where's the rest of your staff?" I ask her warily, the muted echo of my voice reverberating to the ceiling.
She ignores my question and starts to fasten a velcro strap to my upper arm. Startled, I jerk back. She glares at me coldly.
"Standard proceedya," she explains; I wince as she cuffs it to my bicep and tightens it sharply, similar to a blood pressure monitor. "I record the evaluation, and if you're lyin' ta me, well," she smirks. "Ya'd better hope home is where you're goin'. Now put ya fingas in the hand monita or I'll have security mess up your manicure."

I notice the two nodes connected by wires to the printer loaded with graph paper, and my unease comes back in droves.
A polygraph. The one used for my preliminary interviews at the GCPD was far more antiquated than this machine.

I feel sick. Helpless as she sticks the rubber suction cups to my temples. No excuse I can give her can get me out of this. I shakily slide my middle and index fingers of my left hand into the sensor and she casually flicks on the machine. The needle springs to life, trailing a warbled but steady line of wet black ink. She removes a handheld tape recorder from her lab coat and clicks it on.

"Evaluation for Arkham, Hieronymus, conducted by Dr. Harleen Quinzel, Chief Psychiatrist, Arkham Asylum. We'll start witha test question," she says, easing into a nearby plush chair and sliding her glasses up to the bridge of her nose. She opens the file folder.

"Are you a coward?"

The needle of the polygraph starts to tremble violently.
"You're being subjective," I accuse her.
"Subject is uncooperative," she says bluntly into the microphone. "Last time I'm askin' this. Answer the question."
I take a deep breath, try to look her in the eyes, but can't.

"Yes," I say quietly.

"I'm sorry, what was that?" she asks. "I didn't hear ya."
"I said 'YES'!" I shout, the harsh cry rumbling throughout the tall ceiling. One quick spike mars the graph paper. "I said 'yes,'" I repeat carefully. I clutch my thigh with my free right hand, take another deep breath. The needle slows to a sluggish crawl, like the movements of a snake.

"Ok, then. With that out of the way, is your name Hieronymus Percival Arkham?"
"'Yes' or 'No,' not 'yeah,' will designate an affirmative answer, Mr. Arkham. Same question."
"You are twenty-two years old, son of Jeremiah Arkham and adopted by Arthur and Janette Ellis?"
"Please state the occupation of your adoptive parents for the record."
"Teachers. Dad's in art, Mom's in literature."
"Names, please. Save the family titles for home, junior. Professors?"

I am seething. This travesty has gone on far enough.
She looks up from her file folder. "If ya think the silent treatment's gonna work, I've got all day. I deal with kooks for a livin', kid, I've got the patience of a glacier."
I thump my head against the back of the uncomfortable chair. "Janette is an adjunct professor of English at Metropolis University and a specialist in Victorian Literature. Arthur is an art instructor at East Metropolis High."
"But you live in Gotham, at the University. No doctorates... yet you're chasin' one?"
"Yes. In sociology."

"Ya talk to your parents much?"
"About what?"
"Whaddya think, kid. About bein' a nancy."
"Don't call me that."
"What, ya'd rather I use the technical term?" She raises her eyebrows. "Don't think you're in a position ta argue."
"They don't know."
"Know what? Be specific."
"They don't know that I like guys," I spit out.
"Ya never told 'em?"
"They're involved people, they have a lot going on."
"So ya just drop it?"
"The timing's never right... I can't just sit down and talk about it."
"Because they won't listen."
"Because they're busy. Besides, I don't want to burden them with my problems."

The needle scribbles a burst of black waves.

"Careful, kid," she warns. "Save the lies for mommy and daddy."
I scowl at her with loathing. "I think they don't care about my problems."
"Because they never ask? Or because you don't?"
"Because they wouldn't be able to help," I assert. "They don't understand what it's like to be this way. Everything 'normal' is thrown out the window when I try to meet someone worthwhile. There are expectations to be met and I don't meet them. I can't get what I want most and I think--"

I catch myself.
"You think what?" she presses.

Quinzel leans forward in her chair, throwing a quick glance at the polygraph before locking eyes with me.
"You think, what."
The needle twitches.
"I think it's because I don't look a certain way."
She erupts into a twittering laugh, her hand lightly touching her sternum.
"Is that pride I hear?" she mocks. "Or is it egotism? I can't tell."
Her summer's-day eyes glimmer with a click of her tongue. "You're lookin' down too often for anyone to notice your looks, nancy-boy. Haven't seen ya that much, either, but it's always easy ta pick out someone who doesn't smile."
Her focus returns to her notepad.

"So how do you solve your problems, Mr. Arkham?"
"By myself."
A neat black line on the graph paper runs its course.
"No friends?"
No point in lying.
"None that would listen. My name makes friends a..." I search for the right word. "Luxury." Not the right word.
"Mr. Arkham, this is a psychological evaluation, notta pity-party. Save the sob stories for Crowley or have the stones ta deal with your insecurities on your own. I'm not your shrink."

I'm gripping the armrest of my chair so hard I can feel the wood crack as its edges bury themselves into my palm.
"What the fuck is your problem?" I mutter.
Quinzel tilts her head curiously and holds the tape recorder closer to me. 'Say it louder,' she mouths.

I release my withheld breath in a vicious rush.
"Perhaps those feelings of inferiority are due to your sexual tendencies?" she continues seamlessly.
Now it's my turn to chuckle.
"Somethin' funny?" she says sharply. "I wasn't tellin' a joke."
"Tendencies. Right."
"Since when did you begin to see 'em as more than that?"
"Twelve. Maybe thirteen."
"You implied during Isley's interview your sexual experiences were minimal."
"They are."
"Because you want 'em ta be?"
"Because I want them to be with one person. The right person. I don't need more than one... I don't work that way."

"How are you certain that person is a man?"
"My sexual identity doesn't need to be discussed with you."
"It will be, if you don't want your pet project ta start from scratch. Forgot ta mention the Asylum can confiscate whatever you've written here, pendin' criminal investigation on any charges we choose ta file."

Strangely, her words are edifying. A few personal boundaries can be sacrificed if it helps me escape this. I tell myself that once I leave here, I won't have to see her again, anyway.

"Describe the moment you knew."
Ten years have not aged this memory. It returns like an old dream, hazy in spots yet exacting in others.
"I was on a field trip with my sixth grade talented and gifted class," I begin. The dull bus ride flashes through my head. A forest passes quickly by the windows. I sit in front, by the driver. "We stayed in a motel room, me and four other boys. One of them got in the shower and the others decided it would be funny to embarass him by forcing down the door. I go along with the group more out of acceptance than curiosity."
I can see the white door in a haze of flourescent light.
"But when the door opens, he's left the shower and he's standing there, wet and naked, and I look at him and he's beautiful in every detail. Every curve of his muscles, the soft lines of his face. And his eyes. Those brown eyes with speckled green. There's no embarassment in his eyes." I pause, realizing I'm going into too much detail. "I look at him and I want his body for my own."

"Your own... to envy? Or to love?"
"I don't know," I answer.

The polygraph's needle has been still for some time now. I wonder if she's turned it off until the needle fidgets fitfully.

"Is that the only reason you prefer men?" she inquires. "To adore what you can't have?"
"There are personality traits, too--"
"Such as?"
"Strong. Confident. Driven. Assertive. Fun. Sly. Light-hearted--"
"All traits you lack."

I stop.
"A woman could easily have all of those qualities," she goes on. "Your attraction to men is entirely superficial. You're drawn to men you want to be."
Take a deep breath.
"Not when I have someone who loves me as I am."
"Your boyfriend?" Quinzel raises an eyebrow. "Well, the needle's not movin'. Let's hope you're not delusional."

I remind myself she wants me out of here. Push away the desire to crush her throat.

"Describe your first sexual experience."
"No," I say emphatically. "That's too far."
She gives me a sideways smile. "I'm the one who decides what's too far, Mr. Arkham."
"You're no better than Isley."
"She did it for kicks. I'm doing it ta figure you out. Now talk."
"You're getting ahead of yourself. You need to know what led up to it. How we met."
"Nice try there, kid. If you're going to be tricky, at least be more direct."
She clicks her pen. "Now tell me what he's like."

I smirk.
"A bit on the short side. Reddish-brown hair. Built, with deep blue eyes. Smooth features--"
"I asked what he's like, not what he looks like," she says without a glance up from her notepad. "For being all about how fake good looks are, you seem mighty partial to 'em. Ever think he judges you by the same standards?"
I nod slowly. "Every day."
"Whaddya do about it? Brush your teeth? Lift things? Get your nails painted?"
"It's not that simple. There's a personality that goes along with being naturally attractive."
"Like him?"
"He faces the biggest challenges like they're everyday tasks. No one intimidates him. He's not afraid... he's the one who smiles and everyone smiles with him. He knows himself."
"Ever think about pursuing someone more your type? A librarian, maybe?"

I stop, look her dead in the eyes. She wants anger. I'll give her anger.
"I'm sure lack of beauty has always been a problem for you, Harley. You must get tired beating down the stampede of horny men that are after you. But you're professional about it, from what I've seen."
"In twenty years, kid, I'll still have those guys afta me. I don't want 'em. But it sounds like you do. And when you're old and they're old you'll see how ugly they really are. Funny, I thought you were a one-man-show."
"Looks command respect."
"Looks command an army of guys who just want in your pants. All I've gotten are creeps."
"You never have to sacrifice what you find attractive. You never have to settle."
She removes her glasses, sets them on the side table. "Yes, I do," she says forcefully. "I wanna guy who makes me feel alive," she continues. "Every day. No matter what. And I'm gonna do whatever it takes ta get that. Anything less is cheating myself."
She utters a chirping laugh. "And ta think, I almost fell for your monogamy bullshit."
"You should check the lie detector, then," I tell her.
She does so, and her bitter smile fades as she scans the lines.
"I have never had a man like Austin. And I never will again. I'm certain of it. And the thought that I would give him up for anything else in the world is the day I don't want to live life anymore."

Quinzel studies me intently for a moment, then sets down the graph paper and returns to her notepad.
"How did you two meet, a dating website?"
"Yes, actually."
She snorts. "Usually those kinda people have something wrong with them, ya know?"
"Whatever was wrong with us, we didn't seem to mind. We talked a few times, exchanged phone numbers, and agreed to meet in the campus greenhouse over lunch a few weeks later," I tell her, smiling at the memory. "By the time we met, we were talking over the phone six hours a day and discussing living together. We felt like we were right for each other. I saved his messages to me that told me how he felt, and re-read them every day. At the greenhouse, he was the one who noticed me first... I was so nervous I could barely hold onto my schoolbag. Then he walks out of there with the biggest smile, immaculately dressed, and gives me a giant hug I never want to end. He fit so well in my arms. We had told so much about ourselves by then it was as if we had known each other for years. I had tried so hard to look my best, and there he was, so perfect, I didn't know what to do or say. We get in his car and drive around for a bit, and when he tries to hold my hand I shake it instead."

I get a stifled chuckle from Quinzel, and I allow myself to relax in my chair for the first time since the interview started.

"We go to my dorm room at his insistence and he notices a painting I had been working on, a sailboat crossing a stormy sea. I tell him about my artwork and he says the painting reminds him of his family; they hadn't been so great to him but he didn't want to say any more about it. Said he had entered the military to avoid them. I had left the paints out in my haste to meet him, and he picks up a brush and begins adding something to the painting. I am apprehensive at first until he puts down the brush and shows me what he's added. A second sailboat. 'Now neither of us will have to be alone,' he tells me. I start crying, I'm so happy... and at first he isn't sure what to do, but he reaches out and holds me close, tilts my head down to his and kisses me."

"My first time with him was three nights later. He said no one had ever made him feel this way before. That he could forget his family and his problems whenever he was with me, because I listened to him. He felt real, instead of angry at the world. He felt like I saw him for who he is. We made love, and he brings a camera into bed and snaps a picture. Says it will be just the two of us, on vacation for life. He asks me where I want to go. I tell him, 'someplace where we can dream.'"

I pause, my joy ebbing as the memory continues.

"I viewed him as a walking fantasy after that. He was everything I ever wanted. Maybe I became too dependent upon him. He did say I was too quiet. I don't know. A week later we were playing poker and I cleared him out quickly. He didn't take the loss too well and he started listing all of my faults. He was angry and called me a coward, for letting my name control how I behaved. We talked it over, I asked if this affected us, as a couple. He said no, stayed the night. In the morning, I tried to hold his hand. He shrugged it off. I told him I loved him. He said, 'I only say those words when I mean them.' Then he left without saying goodbye."

"You only knew him for a week?"
"We talked online for three months before that--"
"You knew him a week. And ya think he's the one for you?"
"I know how I feel."
"You're infatuated."
"You don't know the whole story."
"Then finish it."

I lick my lips and continue.
"For months, I tried to get ahold of him, find out what I did wrong, and all I got was an answering machine. I didn't hear from him until six months later. He said he was sorry. He told me he loved me, and wanted me as his boyfriend. He was going through some rough business with his family--"
"You don't know his family, either. Ya know what he does for a living?"
"Army. He's a sniper, that's all he could say."
"Outside the army."
"He was going to med school. Plastic surgery. He said he always wanted to be a doctor."
"What about his friends?"
"I never met his friends, he was a transfer student going for his doctorate."
"We went for walks mostly, driving around Metropolis--"
"Kid, for all ya know, he doesn't love ya at all!"

I feel like I've been punched.
"No. No, it's not like that. We were together before--"
"If he walked in here right now, would he even say he knows ya?"
"He wants me back, why wouldn't he?"
"And you're expectin' everythin' to be hunky-dory once ya leave here! Kid, who told ya life gets better? 'Cause they're a terrible liar!"
"He makes my life better!"
"I'm sure you're his world."

Quinzel eyes me for a moment before holding the tape recorder closer to her lips.

"Subject displays acute social anxiety and episodic outbursts of emotional instability, varyin' between depressive and aggressive behavia. His insecurities are fueled by sexual repression, frustration, and a negative body image."
She clicks off the tape recorder. "Your pops, Jeremiah. He likes me because I can make snap judgments on people and act accordin'ly. Somethin' he's not so good at, and I can see why. Runs in the family. Ya don't belong here, kid, ya belong in therapy."
Another click of the tape recorder and the recording resumes.

"Test question," she says. "Do ya hate me?"
"Good. Now we're gettin' somewhere."

All the rage, all the humiliation and doubt and uncertainty comes back to me in a rush, and I must leave this chair. This room.

"All your life you've been adored!" I accuse her. "I'm guessing you won the most beautiful baby contest hands down. Got your way growing up because you were too cute to say 'no' to. When you started to see the way guys looked at you and how girls wanted to be you, you rode that admiration all the way to the top. Like Isley, with more restraint. Look but don't touch. The perfect tease. The world is an open blouse to you. Maybe that's how you got that doctorate you're so proud of. Or this job. You don't know how to work for anything because it was all handed to you. And people never appreciate things they don't work hard to get. You have everyone in your back pocket, everything you need to play the field, but you don't. Which tells me that you're looking for something you've never found. And if my instincts are right, we're trying to get the same thing."

"I will do whatever it takes to get him back!!" I shout, sharp sobs punctuating the words I try to speak. My chest shudders as I try to beat back the stinging warmth that engulfs my eyes and nose. "Please. Let me stay. All I want is to get him back. I can do that if I can show him that I'm stronger than all this. He was the best thing that ever happened to me. I had nothing... and he gave me everything. I can't lose the one person that thought I was worth something."
I slump my shoulders, utterly ashamed by my loss of composure. "I'm sorry," I say uselessly. "I hope you meet the one person who makes you feel giddy in everything you do. Then you'll know what this is like."

I look up at Quinzel, who has her head in her hands. She quickly bats her eyelashes and reassumes her rigid formality. "Maybe I already have," she says softly.

"I found him in a place I never expected," she adds. "I had ta wait so long for our first date... our first real date. I had already waited all my life, so what was anotha few months or so?" she sniffs quietly. "I was willin' to wait as long as I had to. We met at the Dysinger Arms, this little dive hotel. I'm waiting there, thinkin' he won't show, when someone comes up behind me and pushes something sharp against my throat. I can't move, I think it's a knife, and the guy asks me if I'm scared. And I tell him, 'I'm here for somebody special, and if you think you can stop me, you're in for a world of pain like ya won't believe.' And then he lets go of me and I see it's him, my man, and it's a rose he had against my throat. Just a rose. And he caresses it against my face and says, 'Show me.'"

"I'm still a little scared but he gets me a drink and tells me he basically owns the place. And--" she giggles. "He says it's funny how 'The Dysinger Arms' sounds a lot like 'He Dies In Her Arms.' And I laugh. He's so good at makin' me laugh. That's how I know he's right for me. Not one word about my rack or my ass. He just wanted to make me laugh. And that was everythin' I needed."

"What if you're wrong and he's not right for you? What then?" I ask.
"I'm not wrong," she says firmly.
"Neither am I."

"I don't think he understands how hard I fight for him," I concede.
"Perhaps he doesn't want to. Let me tell you something, kid." She puts her glasses back on. "Looks determine how many are after you. Charm determines how badly they want you. Cleverness determines what lengths they will go to have you. And mystery is what makes them stay. Ya may not have a full house, but ya might have a straight somewhere in there. On second thought, maybe not, in your case."
I laugh, genuinely. She smiles. "A sense of humor trumps all of 'em," she says.

"Maybe that's what love is. Ignoring the faults. Seeing the fun in things," I offer.
"I know my man must see somethin' wrong in me. Sometimes he does things... things that scare me. Things I don't know if I can do. I just don't think it bothers him."

Quinzel looks away for a moment, then picks up the Tarot deck on the floor by her chair.
"Crowley says you know your way around these. Give me a reading," she demands, slapping the deck in my hands.
I'm caught off-guard. "What?"
"OK, fine. What do I do, just draw a card?" she slides a card from the top of the deck. When she sees the card, her face pales before she blushes.
"Well? What is it?" I ask her. She flips the card around to face me.


"What do I do?" She looks up at me with doubt. "I.. I don't know what to do."

“Go for it," I tell her. "You never know where love might take you.”

12 June 2009


The night is passing slowly. There are no shadows here. Only darkness. The beauty of the guest bedroom and the bed in which I lie is lost within its folds.

I cannot sleep. My thoughts are a constant buzz. I am here, and only now, as I try to sleep, am I aware of how far I have come.

I have been through much to get here.

And I am scared. Terrified that somehow I will lose all that I’ve worked for, despite all my research on physiognomy, my studies into personality disorders, my evaluations of Western attitudes towards beauty and acceptance, and my critique of social dominance theory that I believe will change my academic field. It could all be easily dismissed as irrelevant. Because there could be something I’ve overlooked, something I’m not seeing. I think of when I hesitated, those times upon arriving here when my feet refused to move. These lines of thought disturb me. I turn to other things before my mind inevitably returns to my thesis, this embodiment not only of my academic career, but of everything that I have learned. The beauty of knowledge is that it can be passed on, as a guide, as an epiphany. As a warning. So others may learn.

Social Dominance Theory. The framework of my thesis. An existing idea of sociology which entails a hierarchical order to society. There are levels: Age, sex, economic status, and groups such as ethnicity, religion, and sexuality. All are types of hierarchies, according to this theory. But there is one group, one factor that remains unconsidered: Physiognomy. The study of personality as it relates to a person’s physical appearance, specifically, the face. A long-dead science, to some.

But reinterpreted as “the degree to which one conforms to the standards of what a society sees as beautiful,” its relevance is inescapable. It was once thought that criminals shared deviant physiognomies: in short, if you were ugly, you did ugly things. Obviously a flawed assumption. What’s truly deviant-—where “deformity” arises—-is not necessarily a physical attribute, but an anomaly in one's personality which sets them apart from the mainstream. Their appearance masks the true nature of their character. But society conditions itself to trust that which is beautiful. In magazines. Pictures. Movies. Every media imaginable. To the point where we meet someone beautiful and trust them implicitly, or meet someone ugly and are repulsed by them instantly. It becomes an unconscious behavior. A learned habit. Conditioned… Inescapable…

I jolt awake to a loud knocking. Daylight. Morning. The door. I swipe my glasses from the table and throw on my crumpled pants and shirt, a quick zip and a clumsy trip before I reach the door fully, if sloppily, clothed.

“Sorry I woke you,” Crowley says unapologetically. Her tidy black blazer and white blouse is a marked contrast to my wrinkled attire, as are her alert eyes to my bleary ones. Her shoulders look too sharp. I adjust my glasses. “The inmate’s being moved to the observation room; everything’s ready.”
“Ten minutes,” I tell her.
“We don’t have ten minutes.”
“Three, then.”

I’m outside in two, checking my pockets for everything I need. Tape recorder. Notepad. Lucky pencil. Loose change for the cafeteria. Day pass—
“My pass—-"
Crowley wordlessly flicks me a shiny clip-on tag with “CLEARANCE D” in bold letters across its top, the same horrible picture of me gracing its front. I wince involuntarily before fastening it to my shirt pocket. We walk in silence for some time.

“You’re awfully quiet,” I tell Crowley.
“Funny, I was going to say the same to you," she says curtly.
“Is something wrong?”
She opens her mouth to say something before she reconsiders.
“You’ll understand when you meet her.”
“‘Her’?” I ask perplexedly. No response.

We wind down two staircases and begin navigating through a tangled maze of hallways. The walls are lined with as many art pieces as there are doors. Using the works I'm familiar with and others that catch my eye, I try to memorize the way back to my room. Left at Dali's "The Temptation of St. Anthony," its stick-legged elephants and horses rearing back in repulsion from a emaciated Christ. Right at a black obelisk covered in hieroglyphs, a gold-winged scarab beetle at its base. Another right at a watercolor of four figures: in the center, an angel looking up at a god-figure; to the left, an angel with a serpent wrapped around his body, gazing enviously at the right side of the portrait, where a nude couple gazing lovingly at one another walk hand in hand towards a fertile forest. The title is "Satan Spying On Adam and Eve's Descent Into Paradise," by William Blake. The last left is at an interpretation of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," Gawain recoiling in horror at his beheaded challenger, who stands with his own head cradled in his hands. His longsword gleams brightly in its sharpness.

We arrive at a wide hall with a thick steel door, ancient suits of medieval armor standing watch on either side. Black and yellow caution chevrons are painted around and across its frame, the words “TO CELL BLOCKS D-F” giving a vague indication of where we are going.

Pausing before the door, I uncertainly wait with Crowley, unsure of what to expect until I see the security camera above us. With a hydraulic hiss and a loud, continuous buzz, the door slides up and open, revealing a go-between room that acted as a security checkpoint separating the administrative and prison sections of the asylum. After Crowley punches in a lengthy code and slides her keycard, the first door slides closed and locks before the second door in front of us opens, revealing the T-intersection of a blank gray hall, all concrete and recessed lighting. The plainness of the cellblock compared with the austere mansion is almost a shock to my system. No doors seem to exist here. Nothing seems to exist here. Silence envelops us like a shroud, the ambient noise from the mansion gone. The suddenness of the quiet is uncanny. I feel trapped.

“Miss Crowley,” a woman’s voice whips through the air like a ruler against a chalkboard, the clicking of her heels against the floor filling the hall with their echoes. Startled, I turn to my left to see a tall, buxom woman in a prim white labcoat walking down the hall briskly, her steps measured and shrewd. She holds a clipboard, her full lips pursed sternly, thin eyebrows narrowed in an unsympathetic glower beneath glasses that make her seem older than she looks. Her platinum blonde hair is tied back in a bun that mats her hair a hint too tightly against her skull. Despite her severe appearance, even without any makeup, she is stunning. Long legs, soft facial features, a natural tan--she could pass for a model. I wonder why someone like herself would work here until I meet her gaze. Her seafoam eyes are a frozen Arctic ocean.

“I thought we agreed he wouldn’t be meetin’ the inmates in person.” I pick up a trace of a Queens accent in her tone.
“That would defy the whole purpose of the interview process, Doctor,” Crowley retorts.
I eye the two women, caught between their steely glares. An uncomfortable position, to say the least.
“Hieronymus Arkham, our chief psychiatrist, Dr. Harleen Quinzel.”

“A pleasure, Ronnie.” Quinzel says dismissively.
“It’s Harland,” I correct her.
“Director Arkham approved of this? I thought he was above nepotism,” she continues as if I'm not walking beside her.
“Why Director Arkham approves of it is none of our business. He has the last word. Always. And I trust his judgment,” says Crowley definitively.
“His judgment resulted in the hiring of my predecessor, who I may add is now an inmate of this asylum.”
“Crane fooled everyone. And I’m sure he would have fooled you.”
“Crane? As in Dr. Johnathan Crane?” I interrupt.
Crowley shakes her head. “That name means nothing to him. He’s ‘The Scarecrow’ now.”
"His involvement in the attacks on the Narrows—“
“I would appreciate it if you refer to the inmates by their birth names,” Quinzel cut in, “excluding any discussion of past or speculated crimes. That was my agreement with the DA’s office, and that goes for everyone you interview, Mr. Arkham. I’m here to make sure you don’t break that agreement, let alone jeopardize my work."

We had arrived at the observation room, a nondescript door like all the others. Quinzel opens it with a keycard and a code. “After you, Ms. Crowley.”
Crowley looks uncertainly at Quinzel before entering the darkened room. I start to follow her before I feel Quinzel’s hand on my shoulder.
“Mr. Arkham.”
The door shuts in front of me. Through the window, I can see Crowley turn at the noise, but she elects not to return outside.

Quinzel hesitates, licks her lips.
“These people… they can affect you,” she says quietly, firmly. “You start readin' into things that aren’t there, finding meanings that don’t exist. You trade in the world around you for a copy, one that conforms to everything you hate about humanity. I’ve seen it happen.”
I am caught off-guard by her sudden candor. Is she being condescending? I can’t tell.
“I won’t let it happen again.” She says the words like a vow.
“You mean that you’ll do everything in your power to try and stop it from happening again,” I offer. “Some things are beyond our control. Some things are meant to happen.”

She nods her head in the direction of the observation room. “You sound like him.”
I do? I look away. I try to enter the room again, but she interrupts. “Aren’t you afraid?”

I stop, my hand on the doorhandle. My silence is no heroism. I debate whether to answer.
“Yes,” I tell her. “But I’m doing this either way.”
Her blue eyes study me inquiringly.
“I have to. For my own sake.”
I open the door and we step inside. The room is dark, just three gray-green walls with only four steel chairs to fill its empty space. The north wall is glass--a two-way mirror, but the cell it views is empty. A single chair is bolted to the floor, illuminated from above with what appears to be natural light. Two guards stand solidly in the room myself, Crowley and Quinzel occupy.

“You’re familiar with Dent’s profile?” Quinzel asks, all business.
“As much as the next person.” Her comfort ebbs in her silence. “With a fair amount of research,” I finish.

What I know about Dent is based primarily on media headlines, perhaps the most accurate reflection of how society reacts and interprets deviance. There is no such thing as objectivity.

Harvey Dent, formerly Assistant District Attorney before his successful bid to the post of Gotham DA, was a rising star with nowhere to go but up. His selfless and precise intervention in a well-publicized hostage situation won him the election for District Attorney, while his crusade against the Gotham underworld sealed his place as Gotham City's "White Knight." Personable, noble, and attractive, he was the epitome of everything good in Gotham City. He was a hero.


At the time, a new criminal had arrived in town, one more dangerous and unpredictable than anyone Dent had ever put away. The papers theorized that this criminal’s alliance with the Maroni crime family explained an elaborate trap that resulted in the death of Dent's girlfriend, Assistant District Attorney Rachel Dawes, and Dent himself being burned alive. Thanks to the Batman, a vigilante who was rumored to be working with Dent and certain elements of the GPD, Dent survived. Records salvaged from a subsequent attack on Gotham General Hospital revealed that the trap’s explosion burned away the entire left side of Dent's face. But Dent himself went missing.

Then people started dying. Five bodies, all with ties to organized crime, found with two shots to the head, point-blank range. Cops, ex-cops, and even Maroni himself in a seemingly related car accident. But it was the survivors who told a more chilling story: a man with half a face confronting them at gunpoint, deciding their fate with a coin toss. By chance, a few had lived, and Harvey Dent went from "White Knight" to "most wanted" overnight. Despite a hasty "missing person" search by the GPD, perhaps facilitated by the Batman given its scope, Dent's clandestine imprisonment in the Asylum did not stay secret for long.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder" was the official explanation. Neither the police nor the newspapers were proof positive if Dent or the Batman had committed the murders. The trace evidence left at the crime scenes was inconclusive--the murder weapon, a .45 caliber revolver from eyewitness statements, was never found. But that didn't stop them from going to press. The media ate it all up, feeding into the city’s disillusionment by detailing the downfall of its would-be saviors. Despite Dent's incarceration, the Batman remains at large. The only time society is more enthralled with a hero who rises to prominence is when that hero falls from grace. A lurid fascination.

The opening door to the observation room closes my thoughts.
"Dr. Quinzel," Jeremiah Arkham nods before handing her a small stack of folders. "These are the files he needs. I've desensitized the documents and ran them through the DA's office."
Quinzel's face dropped. "Director Arkham, you can't be serious."
Jeremiah barely turned his head, his face stone. "If your interests are in line with this asylum's, you'll comply with what Hieronymus asks," he paused, his eagle eyes settling on me. "Which won't be much."

“Is there anything else you need, Harland?” Crowley asks me.
“I want to record my own observations independent of the Arkham psychiatric team," I tell the others with some vacillation. I am still intimidated by their credentials. “I need to form a personal analysis of each inmate’s psychology.”

Quinzel scoffs. “You’re placin' your own guesswork above the conclusions of professional psychopathology?”
“Your opinions will be included in my thesis. Allow me to reach my own. If I interfere with your work or his therapy—then by all means, stop me."
“I can’t risk that. Director Arkham, if you allow an outsider to corrupt everything I’ve been workin' for—everything I’ve done here—then consider today to be my two-weeks notice.”

Jeremiah is quiet for a moment, arms folded. It is not a pleasant tone, this man’s stillness.

“I was the first to turn down Hieronymus’ request to study the patients here,” he finally says. “When the peer review from the Sociology Department and the University Academic Board came back as a recommendation, I wrote a rejection letter. When I received a letter of consent from the Gotham University Honors Director, I denied his application. When he cleared background checks and an interview from the GCPD, I informed them that a student was not welcome in my asylum. When I started getting calls from the Mayor and the District Attorney’s office protesting his involvement in this project, I briefly reconsidered my earlier denials before I turned him down again and informed him my decision was final. Then Miss Crowley was inundated with phone calls and letters. Do you know how many letters she received, Dr. Quinzel?”

Quinzel was only slightly unfazed. “How many?”


I try hard to suppress a smile. All the writer’s cramp was worth it to hear this.
Quinzel doesn’t look at me.

“And while I find Hieronymus’ tenacity impetuous, ultimately, it was that relentlessness that persuaded me to allow him here. Let Hieronymus work on his own. He will learn as we have learned.”
His words seem kind… but that thin-lipped smile. He’s sure of himself. I can see it.

He thinks I’m in over my head.

I notice that smile vanish suddenly, his eyes directed elsewhere, behind me. I turn to notice the door to the opposite cell is open, and a man in an orange jumpsuit is being seated in its lone chair.

His head and neck are wrapped in bandages, his eyes mere shadows beneath his brow. The dressing is snug enough to highlight his left cheek, sunken into his firm jaw, and his missing left ear. A narrow slit under his nose is the only thing that designates his mouth. The two guards with him are vague ghosts who ensure his bonds are secure before leaving the observation cell. His back is pressed against the chair, head down, yet in a solid posture, as if reading case notes before a trial.

“Take a seat, Hieronymus,” Jeremiah says to me. There is no change in his formality, but his voice takes on a more distinct air of dispassion. This is his job, a part of his work. I hesitate to choose the seat directly in front of the window, the only one not taken, forgetting for a moment that the inmate, Dent, cannot see me. As I flip open my notebook to my list of questions, I notice my hands are shaking.

Jeremiah walks up to a small box near the mirror.
“As part of our agreement with the District Attorney’s office, I am going to record these sessions for therapeutic and security purposes,” he informs me. “Are you ready, Hieronymus? Beyond this, there is no turning back.”

I nod, swallowing uncomfortably. “I know. I’m ready.”
“So be it,” Jeremiah says, pressing an olive green button near a speaker. A small red light on the console begins to blink steadily. I activate my tape recorder.

“Interview with inmate Harvey Dent,” I begin. “Present are asylum director Jeremiah Arkham, chief psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel, and public relations director Justine Crowley to supervise this session conducted on behalf of myself, Hieronymus Arkham, honors student of Gotham University, for my master’s thesis project ‘Deformity and Deviance.’”

I clear my throat. Question one.
“Mr. Dent,” I start abruptly. The words tumble out of my mouth. “Have you ever felt… different from other people?”

He is quiet. After a moment, I think my question is too vague. “Before your imprisonment, I mean.”

Silence. Dent doesn’t acknowledge the question, as if he didn’t hear anything.
“Is the speaker on?” I ask.
Jeremiah presses the olive button again.
“Harvey?” he asks. “Harvey, can you hear me?”
Dent sits like a statue, unresponsive. His dark blue eyes stare straight ahead in a fixed glare.

“Maybe if he could see us, he’d be more willing to talk,” Crowley suggests.
“It’s a security risk,” Quinzel counters.
“It’s one I’m willing to take,” I insist. “With your permission, Jeremiah.”

Wordlessly, Jeremiah flips a lever next to the intercom box. The window’s tint becomes noticeably brighter within seconds. “He can see you now."

I rethink my first question. Perhaps something more provocative.

“Mr. Dent, do you consider yourself an outcast?”
Again Dent is silent.
“This isn’t workin',” Quinzel sighs.

I drop my pencil. It clatters noisily on the floor. Skip to question two.
“What do you believe in, then?”
I notice a crease in his bandages. Muscle tension, in the upper jaw.

He is grinning.

“Mr. Dent, what do you believe in?” I ask again.

“He’s not gonna talk to you,” Quinzel mutters.
“He can and he will,” I growl. “What do you believe in, Mr. Dent?” my voice starts to break. I’m failing.


“This interview is over,” Jeremiah cuts in, moving to the intercom box.
“No,” I spit out. “I’ve come too far to be shut out now.”
“Jeremiah—" Crowley interrupts.
“Perhaps you’d be more apt to get Mr. Dent to talk, Miss Crowley?” Jeremiah says wryly.
This isn’t happening.
“Answer my question!” I shout at Dent, imitating Jeremiah’s resolute tone. It hits the air as a pathetic sound.
“We’re leaving,” Jeremiah says with finality. “Now.”
Crashing. Burning.
“No!” I yell, standing up and knocking over my chair.
“Restrain him,” Quinzel says to the guards.
The guards remove their batons.
“Put those away!” Jeremiah demands. “This is my asylum!”
The guards wither back to the walls. I feel an iron hand grip my arm.
“Leave now or I will make you leave,” Jeremiah says icily in my ear.
I shove him aside.

“Talk to me!!” I scream. My voice snaps. “Talk to me!!” I am powerless.

The bandages on Dent’s face grow tighter. He’s enjoying this. This chaos he’s creating.
Jeremiah snatches my arm so hard a shock of pain rips up to my left shoulder. I catch a glimpse of Crowley’s face; her wrinkled brow and pitying frown say all they need to.
I am being dragged to the door. My notes slip from my fingers like falling feathers. I am losing.

I need this interview. I cannot allow Dent to stop me. I need to think like he does. I need—

One chance.

Moving quickly, I rip free of Jeremiah’s grasp, a harsh tingle arcing up my arm when he lets go. My hand moves to Quinzel’s lapel, snatching a felt-tip marker from her labcoat. I tear the cap from the marker, take the object I’ve removed from my pocket and press it against my hand, hastily marking a jagged ‘X' on one side.
I slam the marked quarter hard against the glass, the surface trembling beneath my palm. Dent looks up, his first sign of acknowledgment. His eyes are on the coin in my hand.

“Heads, you talk.” I snarl, flipping the coin around to the side I have marked. “Tails, I walk.”

Quinzel realizes what I’m doing first. She moves to stop me.

I flip the coin before she can bat it out of my hand. It hits my palm with a soft smack before she knocks me to the ground, my fist clenched around the coin. I worm my way out of her grasp and slam the glass with the flat of my hand.


The guards react without any prompting from Jeremiah. I jam the quarter on the side it has landed in the narrow crack between the mirror and the wall so Dent can see the result of the toss. I am snatched by arms that will break my own like twigs. My feet slide against the floor.

He doesn’t speak.

I lost.

“I believed in myself.”

The voice is only mildly distorted by the intercom. A strong, steady voice with the ruggedness of a man who has experienced more than most could ever imagine. “I believed in Gotham City.”

It is the voice of a man defeated.

The room is still, the guards halted in their tracks. A rush fills me. Hope.

“But… it was easy, when I had someone who truly believed in me.”

Jeremiah motions for the guards to release me. I shake off the pain of their loosened grasp, the blood flow slowly returning to my arms.

“You were a hero, Harvey,” I tell him, uneasily taking a seat in my chair and unbuttoning my shirt collar. “Not just to one, but to many.”
“What makes a hero?” he asks.
“I’m sorry?”
“Is it something you do? A way you behave?”
I hesitate to answer, for fear of losing the interview again. It seems like a trick question, one I could incriminate myself by answering.
“Or is it a choice to leave behind everything you want so that someone else can be happy? Safe. Protected,” he goes on. “Enough so that it doesn’t matter how you look in the process.”
I am surprised that his selflessness remains intact. Even here.
“I'd like to believe a hero understands the value of giving up their own wants, to a degree. But more so, I believe that a person can be so invested in their work that it becomes something more than what they are. Especially when that work is for someone else's betterment, protection and happiness."

His eyes don't flinch from mine. He's listening. I continue with less trepidation.

"Gotham City had something brighter to look forward to when you were DA. The city needed someone real to believe in. But even heroes have needs.”
“Needs come second to duty.”
“Wasn’t there anything you wanted? Acceptance, maybe?”
“I wanted liberty and justice for all.” Dent’s confident, sturdy gaze bores into mine beneath the bandages and I can’t help but look down at my questions.
“The Pledge of Allegiance?” I murmur skeptically.
“Don’t patronize me," he snaps sharply. "I was a lawyer, not a lobbyist.” My scribbled writing is interrupted by Dent’s reprimand. “You know why it’s not in schools anymore? Not because of ‘under God’. No. It disappeared because they became words to be said, not an oath to be kept. We weren’t indivisible anymore. How many people see those ideas as more than just some words in a recitation?”

“Liberty and justice are sound bites that work great on paper and in speeches. They relate to any audience,” I counter, “But it's unrealistic to think one person’s liberty and one person’s justice won't inevitably tread upon another’s.”
“They are ‘sound bites’ because self-interest and greed always make fools of liberty and justice. Because no one wants to sacrifice. It's why a greater authority is needed. So laws are made; compromises are reached grudgingly, if at all. Egos refuse to back down, and it’s the peacemaker, not the warmonger, who gets the most bloodied. It always has to be someone else. ‘What will you do for me,’ as my constituents used to say. As hard as I tried to set that aside, all I did was never enough. Nothing was ever enough.”
"Sometimes heroism requires sacrifice."
"Heroism is sacrifice. But if you do it for so long, it becomes expected. Necessary. And when you decide to stop sacrificing… suddenly you aren’t a hero anymore."
"Where do you draw the line, Mr. Dent?"
He is silent as his eyes narrow beneath the bandages. A brief wave of panic flutters up to my throat.
I flip through Dent’s file and scan the papers inside, miraculously finding the page I need quickly.

“...but there are such things as unreasonable requests," I stumble over my words. "You seem more than capable of handling them. In your career as District Attorney, you successfully prosecuted over five hundred accused criminals with a ninety-four percent conviction rate. Before that, in Internal Affairs, you were responsible for three of the biggest sting operations in Gotham City’s history, including a civilian tip line, which acted as an informant network to bring down the GCPD’s most corrupt police officers. There are lawyers and lawmen who would kill to have those statistics attached to their name.”

“I did what was needed. You’re only seeing half of it.”
“Could you elaborate?”
“They got out. The mob gets brought to court, their boss springs bail for the big fish and leaves the less important ones to rot, folks that take the fall every time for fear of something worse happening to them. They get more thugs, and the whole thing starts over. The judiciary is bogged down by politics, fame, and futility.”
“Bureaucracy plagues every institution. Wouldn't you agree that more can be learned by overcoming a broken system? You worked around judicial flaws and sometimes even used them to your advantage as DA. You must have succeeded in some way.”
Dent shakes his head. “It isn't 'success' if progress is undone. People are too quick to claim false victories. They end up idolizing anyone who walks a different path."
He allows himself a modest half-smile. "I don't care if it's a different way; I care about results. You know that feeling you get when you do something right? I live for that feeling. Knowing that I make this world better."

He talks like he's a defendant. Not an inmate. Curious.

"I'd call that 'selflessness.'"
"Call it whatever you want, but you say that yourself and it's not selfless anymore, is it?" he says amicably. He tries to allow himself a grin but discards it as if it were undeserved.
"True," I nod. "But whatever you believe it is, is it responsible for where you are now?"
Dent looks as if I had brought up unpleasant family history. He looks down for the first time, and moves his hands from the chair's armrests to his knees.

"I'm here... because I must have broken the law,” he says hesitantly, like he's trying to make sense of it. "The doctors say there's something wrong with me. They showed me everything. The evidence, the crime scenes. I just don't remember any of it. I'm not... I can't be capable of some of those things they say I did. And if I did kill all those people, like they say..." His jaw tightens. "Then they must have deserved it."
I notice my hands are shaking. I grip my pencil and notepad more tightly and continue.
"But didn't you say that's why a greater authority is needed? To prevent actions like those?"
“I did," Dent says bluntly. "But there will be always be people who refuse that authority. Who refuse to change, or commit crimes too awful to go unpunished. And there's an answer for that, too."
"The death penalty?" I offer.
"Without consequences, there can be no obedience to the law," Dent affirms.
"Shouldn't society determine those consequences, not the individual?"
"What happens when society fails to enforce them? When they fail to live up to their responsibility?"
I try to think of an answer, but Dent seizes the opportunity.
"Then you have chaos and corruption. A system that works for the few instead of the many. And it becomes the responsibility of the individual to take action."
"You mean, for you to take action?"
"Whoever is capable of doing what's right."
"Through murder?"
"Through doing what's right," Dent says emphatically. "I know what you're getting at, Arkham. Don't try to out-argue a professional."
His tone goes from indignation to menace. I tell myself he's in chains, in a cell, behind a glass.

"You, um, were twenty-four when you started in Internal Affairs. Twenty-six when you ran for ADA. Twenty-eight when you were elected. And thirty when you won the post for District Attorney. You think you had enough experience?"
Dent's frown shifts to a bemused smile. He chuckles, shakes his head. "You really don't know me very well, do you?"
"You just seem young for all that, that's all."
"I wasn't," Dent says, matter-of-fact. "You can look at everything I've done and let yourself think that it was the people I knew, how hard I had worked, or where I got hired. I was just lucky. That's all."
"Forgive me, Mr. Dent, but that sounds more like a campaign promise than the truth to me."
He sits up in his chair. "Well, since you don't know me very well, Mr. Arkham, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. My word is my word. And Gotham is my home," Dent says curtly. "People have the right to live where they want without the fear of getting mugged, killed, or intimidated. I could have made Crime Alley just an alley. This city would have belonged to the people again."
"There's always going to be people who slip through the cracks, Harvey."
"I took the job for those people. It doesn't have to be that way."

"I'm sure you're aware that Gotham City is statistically the most violent place in the United States? How could you work in a city that wears crime like a policeman wears a badge?"
Dent smirks. "I like a challenge."

Quinzel leans over to my left ear. "Stop pandering to him," she whispers.
She's the Chief Psychiatrist, I reason. I suppose that grants her the right to suggestion.

"...but that challenge is no longer your responsibility. You tried, and you failed, Harvey."
"It's more of a challenge when everyone expects you to fail."
"You're talking like you haven't."
He leans forward in his chair, the chains of his handcuffs rattling over the intercom.
"Mr. Arkham. Everyone fails. The important thing to know is this: when you fall, who is there to catch you? Maybe they can't always be there. They might walk away or get taken away. But the ones who matter are still there, for you. Regardless of how hard you fall.”

“Human beings are social creatures. They require others to necessitate their own well-being. I can see that you take that to heart considering all you’ve done, with and without support. I remember there was a time when people thought you were the vigilante known as the Batman.”

Dent’s face twitches beneath the gauze. Quinzel stiffens.

“Why am I the first on your interview list, anyway?”
The question interrupts my focus.
“You weren’t,” I realize. I scan my notes. “… a Roman Sionis was first. You were actually second to be interviewed until I learned he was deceased.”
Dent laughs once, a short, harsh sound.
“Funny how fate works.”

“You believe in fate, then? That people are predestined to become who they are?”
"I didn’t choose to be here.”
“Being here is a consequence of your actions. Everything happens for a reason.”
“I can't even remember my actions!" Dent shouts. "What about undeserved consequences? Does justice not apply to the unreasonable? For some things, there is no reason. No justice. Nothing anyone would choose. Two people get on a bus. It crashes. One dies, one lives. What for? A drunk driver walks free on a plea bargain while the victim's family goes penniless. Wars are waged on religious bias and people who want no part of it get slaughtered in the streets. A husband goes home and kisses his wife, who has no idea of his infidelity two hours before. A woman gets mugged and raped in an alley--seventeen witnesses, and nobody calls the cops. A kid gets beaten at the schoolyard and no one stands up for him..." he trails off. "Two people are caught in a trap. One dies, one lives. But the other.... the other should have lived... and the one who lived should have died... would have died, gladly, for the other whose life was taken..."
Dent's voice shakes.
"He would have gone to hell and back for the one who died."

I straighten my notes, eyes down.

"I can't imagine losing someone the way you did--"
"Stop. Just stop," Dent dismisses me with a wave of his hands and the clinking of his hand cuffs. "I don't need your sympathy. You couldn't possibly understand."
"More than you think," I cut in indignantly. "You had love. You had respect. You had a life to be envied. What more did you want?"
"Justice. I wanted a life for me."
“You had that once. It's never too late to start again.”
Dent laughs bitterly.
“It's too late for me."

“People get disfigured worse than you every day, yet some manage to get back not only their lives but their emotional stability. What makes you any different?”
"That life left me. There is no substitute that you, or me, or anyone else can give to take its place. You think I'm here--that you're here--because of an ordered chain of events? Where was my liberty? Where was my justice when I needed it most? I’ll tell you. It failed me.”

“Your job involved considerable risk to yourself and those around you. Did you not think there would be repercussions for your actions against the mob?”
“I believed in the system!" Dent yells. "I believed I was making a difference with what I did! I did what everyone else was too afraid to do. Most people take a chance only when they have something to lose, not something to gain. Are you that kind of person, Mr. Arkham?"
“That's beside the point, Mr. Dent. Did you expect that your career would be easy? Or consider that a 'normal life' and your job as DA were irreconcilable? One piece of your life disappeared and it all fell apart because you made that one piece the foundation of everything you believed in."
"I earned a better life. And if you understood at all what I lost, you would have done the same thing I did under the circumstances."
"I didn't murder those people!" Dent pulls against his chains.
"I'm not arguing that. But as far as I can tell, you’re pinning your losses all on one person.”
”No. Two.

I can feel Quinzel’s glare upon me. I press on. I am familiar with Dent’s vendetta on not only the Batman but also the current Police Commissioner. Gordon, I think his name is.

“Two people who failed you become your objects of hatred. But this doesn’t satisfy you because removing them won’t restore what you once had. So you try, fail, and dissociate blame to something abstract. Like chance. Because chance can’t defend itself and can always be blamed or glorified when the situation suits you. The perfect defendant for the prosecutor.”
“No. You’re arrogant enough to think you can simplify what’s wrong with the world by pretending to understand what I believe.”
I hold up the marked quarter.
“Your coin, your crimes. The only person you can count on is yourself, right? What else should matter?”

“What matters,” he seethes, “is the knowledge that when you look back at your life and see the wreck it is now and the things you did to get here, to this point…. That you would have done nothing differently. Because if you believed in every choice, no matter if it was a mistake or not, and still wound up losing… what control is there? What's left to accomplish?”
"Finding the meaning behind those choices," I offer.
"Even if they lead to something unforgivable?" Dent questions. "In life, there are two people you never forget: the one that stays with you, and the one that got away. If you're really unlucky, you only meet one, and they're both."
His bandaged face scowls as he struggles to find the words.
“There was one person that changed that. Who gave me hope. It didn’t matter if I was a hero!” Dent bellows. “I didn’t know what I was missing until I found it! And when I did… I didn’t care if I won or lost. Because with her there, I could always start again.”
His words remind me of a time when I knew that feeling every day. The feeling where one person's well-being becomes inextricably tied to your own.
“I failed her,” he rages, his body trembling. “And I can never get her back. Nothing else matters now.”
"I know how it feels to lose someone like Rachel, Mr. Dent."

Dent suddenly twitches, almost a convulsion. His head slowly swivels to the right, his left side in full profile before he shakes in a second paroxysm. The intercom falls silent.

“Harvey?” I ask hesitantly.

His head slumps to his chest.

“Mr. Dent, are you all right?"

He is still.

"What would Rachel—"

”You talk to me like I'm Harvey Dent," The voice is low, deliberate and gravelly, the sound of a body being dragged on cement. I freeze involuntarily. The speaker crackles with distortion. Dent's face rises up from his chest, the bandages distorting his mouth into a leer. "I'm not Harvey Dent,” the voice admonishes.

“… who are you, then?” I ask carefully.

Dent suddenly raises his handcuffed arms to his face, his fingertips clawing off the bandages in quick handfuls. They fall to the ground in a cluttered mess, revealing exactly what they were meant to conceal.

The skin on the left half of Harvey Dent’s face had burned away long ago to a blackened-reddish pink, cracked and pockmarked with holes. The pupil of his bulging left eye was surrounded by a haze of red, the outline of his eye socket pronounced enough to somehow hold it in place. His cheek was gone, the teeth and gumline visible all the way to his molars, amidst stray, wet tendons that connected his mandible to his skull. His left ear was gone; in its place was a hole where the ear canal should have been. On his prominent chin, a patch of yellow-white bone stuck out. Nothing was left of that half’s lips and nostril, or even a hint of his thick sandy blonde hair on that side of his head. The juxtaposition of his undamaged right half was that much more shocking: the handsome Harvey Dent I knew from pictures and campaign ads.

“I am Harvey Two-Face.”

I had never seen pictures of Dent after his scarring. A thick chill ripples through me, my fingers gripping my notes so tightly they almost tear. My voice is trapped somewhere in my chest.

"Shit--" Quinzel grabs a walkie-talkie from a guard. "The alter's runnin' the show. Medical to Southwest D wing, move!!"
"What?! No! I'm not done here!" I manage to squeak out.
Quinzel stares me down. "You've got two minutes before they get 'em out of there."

"Mr. Den--I mean, Harvey--what do--"
"Dent was impressed, kid," he nods his head towards me, easing back in his chair like it was comfortable. "But I'm not. You’re afraid,” his guttural, unnatural voice tells me. “Too afraid.”
I can’t look at him.
Two minutes. I can’t lose.
I sum up the courage to look at his face. At his eyes.
“Afraid of what?!” I finally shout out. “All you do is kill people!”
“I do more than that. I do whatever Dent wants to do, but can't.”

"You think murder equates to justice?"
"Death is the ultimate justice. Regardless of when it meets you. This city is full of scum with blood on their hands. The difference between me and them is that the blood on mine isn't innocent."
"How is that fair?”
"Fair." Two-Face scoffs. "I had two of Maroni’s men play a game of Russian Roulette. When what was left of the first man’s skull hit the table, his friend thought he was safe. Until I took the gun from the table, aimed it at his mouth and pulled the trigger one more time. Fair is a game of Russian Roulette and a gun with two bullets. Only chance separated their lives from holes in their heads.”

“You gave them a loaded gun.”
“And I’d what? Get shot? Blown up? They had one chance to act first—to act differently--and they threw it away. They were afraid to take a risk.”
"Because you lied!” I shout. “They thought they could walk away based on a coin toss! Doesn't anyone deserve second chances?"
"You only get one chance at anything. One shot to make it right or wrong. Nothing can be taken back. Whether you're meant to win or lose, it's not how you play the game. It's how life plays you."
"You've lost more than most, but what gives you the right--"
“I LOST EVERYTHING!!!" Dent’s voice cuts in abruptly, an agonizing scream of unbridled rage so powerful he seems to deflate before his posture solidifies into an aggressive lean and his broken frown of grief becomes a derisive scowl. I tense, drops of sweat running down my sides. "Dent lost everything,” Two-Face’s voice rumbled. “Sometimes, you're meant to lose everything."
"...I believe that circumstances can change. People can change under those circumstances. Become different people."

Two-Face's voice is feral now. "People never change."
"You have."

"What have you lost?”

His words trigger a memory of a shop. Mystic stones and jewelry hang from the ceiling, a smell of scented candles and frankincense. A broken stone dragon lying on the floor, its head and tail split into two halves. The clerk's insistence that I had broken it. I paid for it; I needed to. It was something I had to keep. I felt like it belonged to me, regardless if it was broken. She said a broken dragon was bad luck...

My turn to be silent.
“I thought so. You haven’t seen what I have. You don’t know the worst the world has to offer.”
“We can still try to make things better.”
“There IS NO ‘better!’” Two-Face shouts, a mist of saliva flying from his open cheek. “There is only now or never. You think you can make a difference? Help people?” The loose tendons in his left jaw twitch in a twisted grimace.
"I do."
"What have you done about it? Gone to school? Ran home to daddy Arkham when things went bad? Or did you just hide in your room and read a book?”
The chains scrape loudly against the metal armrests of his seat when he jerks forward.
"You've never put a bullet into someone's skull. Hear their collarbone crack when it hits. Smell the cordite hanging in the air and see the last expression on their face as their piss and brain matter leaks all over themselves. You've never walked away from a corpse knowing that because of you, there's one less meatbag breaking the law."
I lean forward in my seat. “I haven’t had the experiences you’ve had. Nor do I want to.”
“Then you’ll never learn.”
“Learn what?”
“How you're lying to yourself. You say you want to help people when you’re too afraid to face the worst parts of them. And yourself. You talk, not act. The only person you’re trying to make a difference for is you.”
The unmarred half of his face curls into a sneer of contempt.
"I know the difference between the people who have seen hell and those who just pretend. I've met both. I've killed both. You're a coward."
My fists clench my notes. "I am not a coward."
"You are. And always will be.”

"You don't know me at all," I shook my head, a quick, mirthless laugh escaping my throat. "You assume too much."
"Do I? All the evidence is there,” he mocks. “The lack of structure to your questions. How you lost control of this interview. Your reaction to my silence. You can’t handle any change in your plans. You can't accept that there are things beyond your control. Things you can’t change. You could lose what’s most important to you in a heartbeat. And you'd be worse than powerless. You'd be a shell. Because you couldn't do anything about it."
"Like you?"
"Like DENT!" Two-Face yells. "He's weak. He's afraid to do whatever it takes. Like you. He needs me."
"This city needs Harvey Dent more than it'll ever need you."
"HA!" Two-Face scoffs. "You don't see the criminals I deal with in jail, you see them in the ground! I solve the problems Dent never could. I'm doing this city a service. And I will always be stronger than him."

"You talk about people changing under the circumstances. But you aren't strong enough to bring change to your circumstances. No one is. Except this."
His flicks his left wrist and something glimmers in his fingers.

His coin. He had it all along.

"You were lucky to get Dent the first time," he says, eyeing the unscarred half. "So it's only fair that you know about our bet."
"... what kind of bet?"
"That's the question, isn't it? Almost makes you want to laugh."

"The thing is, kid, when you fall..." he trails off, a bitter chuckle emanating from his throat. "...you just fall."

"For the next time we meet," Two-Face sneers. "Coward."

His thumb flips, his transfixed eyes watching the coin as it twirls in midair. It lands thickly in his palm, and he raises it to show me the result. On the black side, the scars only glimmer.

For the second time in this interview, I am shaking. Only now, it is with anger.
"We're done here," I murmur, clicking off the tape recorder. Quinzel, Crowley, and Jeremiah are silent, unmoving, all eyes on me. I stand from my chair to leave. When I reach the door, a sound, sharp and metallic, cuts into the hushed observation room. I turn to look at Two-Face, who is holding the coin in his right hand. The undamaged side faces me.

He had flipped it a second time.

"Who was that for?" I ask immediately.
Two-Face grins horridly, the rotten muscles moving in time with the perfect ones.
"WHO THE HELL WAS THAT TOSS FOR?!" I scream, storming back to the glass.
Two-Face looks up at me, his expression shifting to something I couldn't read.

"Your other half."

The guards enter his cell, seizing Two-Face by his arms. He doesn't struggle, the coin still in his hand. My fingers hold the bridge of my nose and I bow my head, leaving the room and the others behind.

I find my way back to the cell block door. From my back pocket I remove my wallet, my fingers moving past the plastic picture holders until I reach the last one.

We lay side by side, sly grins on our flushed faces as we look up from the pillows our messy-haired heads rest upon. My other half.

I pummel the urge to sob, furious at myself for allowing it to surface. There is someone beside me and within moments the wallet is closed and back in my pocket before they can see.

Crowley has followed. She puts a hand on my shoulder, and I, ashamed, cannot meet her gaze.
"Let's step outside."

Her knowledge of the mansion's layout means we are outdoors in far less time than it should have taken us. The day is cold and masked by clouds of misty gray. She unearths a pack of cigarettes from her jacket pocket and hands me one.

"You smoke?" she asks me, taking out a lighter.
"No." I tell her, lighting my cigarette from her flame and taking a deep drag. I don't cough.
"Niether do I," she says, lighting her own.