Chapter 7: The Joker

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I completely froze. This wasn't possible... It was like staring at a ghost. My husband sat across from me, his hands cuffed and chained to the floor. Five years had changed him, as his hair was a bright green and his skin was chalk white and cracking as if he had been burned. The chemicals must have made him this way, just as Jerome's insanity has had altered his appearance before. I felt my hands begin to tremble so I clenched my clipboard in effort to control my nerves. The man I once knew smirked at me and his lips seemed more exaggerated, the dark red color contrasting against his pale skin. His artificially green eyes were the only part of him that remained unchanged and I was a deer caught in the headlights of his gaze. He tilted his head curiously, taking in my anxious behavior. "Is something wrong Doctor Quinzel?" He faked sympathy, emphasizing my last name and I wondered if there was purpose in that. "Jeremiah?" I blurted out before I could stop myself, no longer caring that there were guards listening in on us. Something changed in his face, his eyes hardening and his smile disappearing as he drew his lips in tightly. "Who?" He asked me, his eyes narrowing. My mind went blank, confusion overtaking me. "Don't you know who I am? It's Lilly..." I whispered that last part, knowing that I had to be careful about outing my true identity. I prayed that the security around us thought this was all apart of my technique to get to patients. I was just so consumed with bewilderment that Jeremiah had survived, and I felt the desperate urge to reach out touch him to make sure he was real. "I don't know you." The Joker said simply, and my heart felt like it was being ripped from my chest. Please don't do this to me. "You.. Don't remember me?..." I repeated, unable to understand how my own spouse could forget who I was. He sighed, rolling his eyes before glaring at me. "Is this supposed to be some sort of exercise to win me over? They said you were the only one here who could treat me, but now I'm not so sure..." He jabbed at me and I was completely speechless. As a psychiatrist, it was my job to read emotions and yet when it came to him, I couldn't decipher anything. Perhaps I had finally lost it, and this was all some massive hallucination. I suppose I deserved it for all that I had done. But no matter how hard I pinched myself under the table, I still saw my husband's face staring back at me. I had so many questions. How had he survived the chemical bath? Where had he been this whole time? Why didn't he remember me? I was far too consumed with shock to act on these questions, so I just continued to gape at him. The room fell completely silent as the familiar face across from me surveyed me with his eyes before breaking out into laughter. He was laughing at me. I felt like a damn fool sitting there like an idiot when it was my job to deal with people like him. "Someone call another Doctor, I think I broke my psychiatrist!" He laughed, getting a kick out of my failure to treat him. His teasing snapped out of my trance and I slammed my clipboard on the table separating us, staring him down. "Okay listen up! This is how this is going to go down...You're going to cut the bullshit and tell me where the hell you've been for the past five years, Jeremiah!" I ordered, my patience for whatever game he was playing wearing thin. His demeanor completely changed. His jaw was set angrily, his hands in fists as he leaned in as much as his chains would allow. "I. Am. Not. Jeremiah." He hissed at me, making every syllable of each word completely clear so I wouldn't misunderstand him again. I was at a loss for words. I held my breath, staring in horror at a man who looked like my husband yet didn't claim his name. Frustration encompassed me, and I decided I no longer wanted to be in this situation. "We're done for today. Guards, take him." I ordered them and they were quick to unchain him from the ground and drag him away. As they passed me on their way out, my bruise ached from where one of my attackers from the night before had punched me and I touched my jaw gingerly. "You'll want to put some ice on that Doctor... That bastard had quite the left hook." He piped in, and I gasped. Of course he remembered last night. He gave me a wink before he was taken back to his cell, leaving me completely dumbfounded in my seat. This man who looked like my husband, claimed he had no recollection of me, and yet he had been following me and saved my life. None of it made any logical sense, so I decided to step back for a second and think about things from a Doctor's perspective. I searched my mind for everything I had ever learned in medical school, and I eventually settled on a conclusion. My new patient was a master of manipulation, and he knew more than he let on. I knew it from his subtle hints during our appointment, the change in his face at being called "Jeremiah", the deflection of my efforts to refresh his memory, and finally the undeniable fact that he knew who I was or else he wouldn't have supported me at my graduation. I wasn't crazy, I had spent the last five years grieving over someone who turned out to be very much alive. This man I once loved had continued his life without me, and I couldn't fathom why. I came to the realization that I was dealing with a very complex patient, and I knew that it would be my hardest case yet. After all, this was not Jeremiah... This was the Joker.

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