Authors: Alex Crimson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Psychological Thrillers, #Teen & Young Adult, #Crime Fiction, #Noir, #Thrillers, #Psychological
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, incidents and medical conditions are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
1: Robert’s Journal – Of Today
I can’t recall how long it has been since I wrote anything into my journal. I have tried…many times…sitting opposite my computer…staring at the blinking cursor…as nights have slipped away unnoticed.
Days, weeks and months have passed without accounting for much. I wake up in the morning consumed by guilt and that feeling remains till I go back to sleep…if I ever sleep. I don’t even know if it is the guilt of failing my family or of taking a life.
My therapist tells me that I need to let go…that I need to move on. Perhaps, this is my way of moving on…writing one last entry for my journal…finishing Jack’s story. I hope I can deliver peace to his soul and mine with these words. I hope to find my release when I send this journal entry to Jack’s mail ID–the same one that he had forced me to use before.
I vaguely remember the last few moments of my confrontation with him in that mirrored room. I am only left with a dimming image of his body shivering ever so slightly as one bullet after another had passed through him.
I remember walking out of that room into the alleyway where I was found by a group of policemen and Paul, who had just arrived there looking for me. The moment they saw me and the blood smeared on my hands and my clothes they knew that there was nothing they could do to save me.
In the months that followed, I was tried for the murder of Jack Bryant. And I was acquitted of all charges by the jury. They called it a compassionate decision heavily influenced by what I had lost…by what Jack had taken from me. They did not brand me a killer and yet I strangely feel like one.
Jack was right. Obsessions don’t subside. They evolve…
2: Robert’s Recollection – Of Day 1
I watched him closely as he scanned the room in a slow sweep of his eyes from left to right. It was as if he was memorizing every little detail swallowing it all in one single go and constructing a map of it inside his head. Maybe he was looking for clues that would tell him something about me. A few minutes passed in silence and both of us seemed oddly comfortable with it.
“I like the way your room is organized, doctor,” he said in a low voice, offering his approval. We were sitting in my clinic in downtown Los Angeles. It was where I ran my private practice from.
I smiled. “Thank you. Do you like it when things are organized?” I asked.
“Yes” he said, “Who doesn’t?”
I shrugged. “It depends.” I said, “There are enough people in the world who thrive in chaos. Others…I guess people like us…seek asylum in order.”
He nodded considering my words, peeling its layers and looking for a deeper meaning. There was none to be found. A few moments had passed before I squirmed in my chair.
He was sitting right opposite me in an identical chair. There was no table or desk between us. I preferred to interact with my patients that way. It was my way of saying–
You see me and I see you. I am not hiding from you and you don’t have to hide from me. So…give me the truth.
The room was about fifteen feet in width and thirty feet in length. We were sitting in one-half of the room closer to the door. In the other half of the room, a few feet behind me was my desk, neatly laden with a collection of files and personal artefacts. On the wall behind the desk was a glass bookshelf, catalogued like a library. To a side of the room, somewhere along the middle-length, stood a fish aquarium. The wall opposite the door faced outside into the street and was divided into two parts. One-half of it was made of concrete and the other part, which lay in the half that we were sitting in, was made of glass.
Jack turned right to look out through the glass wall. He seemed lost in thought. I let him be a few moments longer. He had shown enough comfort in leading the conversation till that point. If that hadn’t been the case, I would have taken the initiative to move the conversation forward. But I wanted to let him progress at his own pace. I wanted to build the relationship organically.
He was bent forward in his chair supporting his hands on his knees. In a quiet movement, I assumed the same posture. It’s called mirroring–replicating the posture of the person you are speaking to. It’s a psychological cue that expresses empathy. A cue that silently screams–
I get you
. Some of us just do it unconsciously to express understanding. Others choose to use it to manipulate people.
“Do you mind if I take some notes, Jack?” I asked, re-directing his attention towards me.
He smiled and nodded faintly. I walked up to my desk and returned with a notebook and a pen. I sat back in my chair placing the notebook on my lap. I wrote down a few basic details about Jack on an empty yellow colored page.
I looked up at him and caught a weird look on his face. I would have described it as disgust if I hadn’t known better.
“That’s not how you hold a pen, doctor” he said, staring at my right hand as I wrote something into my notebook. I stopped mid-sentence and lifted the pen off the page.
We looked at each other in what felt like a momentary impasse. I recovered quickly.
“Umm, can you help me do it the right way?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. He stood up and walked up to me. He demonstrated what he thought was the right way to hold a pen.
“You press the pen with your index finger and your thumb,” he said, “You should literally be able to hold it without your middle finger coming into play.”
“But that would make it difficult to write. So you place your middle finger on the lower side,” he curved his middle finger such that he literally seemed to be holding the pen with the three fingers. “The middle finger also serves as a pivot for forward and backward movements of the tip” he explained patiently. “You can even take support of the bridge of your index finger if you need it.”
The instructions he gave sounded familiar. Early in my childhood, my teachers had tried to correct me in a similar fashion. I do not know why but I had always been naturally comfortable with using a pen differently…something I continue to do till date. I hold the pen using my thumb, my middle and ring fingers, hardly ever bringing my index finger into play. It is a habit which I have internalized through years of self-programming.
I smiled, looking up at him. “Thanks for that, Jack. That’s very kind of you.”
I knew better than to argue with him. It was the first sign he had shown of a psychological illness but I wasn’t sure of it yet. I did not want to fight him on it. I did not want him to shut down.
His preference for order suddenly seemed like it had been placed into a much deeper context. He walked back to his chair and took his seat. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to use the pen the way he wanted me to. It just wasn’t how I had learnt to use it.
“I think I will need more practice with that, Jack. Guess I will skip the note-taking this time.”
I put the pen and notebook aside on a small table which stood next to my chair.
“I am surprised that for somebody as educated as you, you still have a rather basic flaw in how you use a pen.”
I smiled. I wasn’t surprised by his demeaning tone. If my hunch was right, everything he was doing probably felt absolutely normal to him. Maybe in his view, it was perfectly rational behavior to be obsessed by how others around him used a pen.
“I usually type on my computer so I don’t really get much practice in using a writing instrument…like a pen or a pencil” I defended.
He nodded as if he was doing me a favor. I could see that he wasn’t willing to forgive me for not doing things his way.
“Is that how you write the manuscripts for your books?” he asked.
“I am impressed!” I said trying to change the topic, “You seem to have done your research. You are aware that I write? Have you ever read any of my books?” I asked.
“Yes.” His expression almost turned respectful. “Yes”, he said again, “I find your work very intriguing, doctor. Especially how you describe case histories from the perspective of your patients. It’s like you are in their heads…seeing the world from their eyes.”
He paused as if he was trying to form the next perfect sentence. “Your words are very…” he paused, simultaneously turning to look out through the glass wall at the shops and the street outside. I could see that he was scrambling inside his head to search for the perfect adjective to articulate his opinion. He turned to me when he had found it. “Your words are very…alive” he said.
I did not know what the right way was to respond to that. So I acknowledged his strange compliment with a smile.
“Do you like to write, doctor?”
“Yes. Very much.”
“Do you write anything besides the books?”
Jack sat back in his chair and I saw him slipping slowly into comfort. The trick of letting him control the conversation was working.
“I try to maintain a personal journal…a diary.”
“What do you write about?”
I sat back in my chair acquiring his posture, following him every step of the way, like I was a puppet and he the puppeteer. It was all just a game after all. A game designed to make him feel in control. And just when he got comfortable enough, I would seize the control from him and take the conversation to a place where I could access a more unbridled picture of his mind unaffected by any conscious aberrations created by him.
I was just setting the ground for a role reversal…a role reversal executed perfectly.
“My experiences,” I said, “What I see every day. Little things. Sometimes I write about my family. Sometimes…about my patients and the impact they have on me. The questions they make me ask. The thoughts they inspire me with.”
Jack nodded. “Who is family, doctor?”
“My wife and daughter mostly.”
“And what about your parents? Are you close to them?”
I broke eye contact for a second. I did not like to talk about my parents. “My parents are no more, Jack. They died when I was very young.”
“I am sorry to hear that. But may I ask how?”
I took a few seconds before answering. “They were in an accident, Jack. I was not with them. But nevertheless, I do not like to recall the details of it. If that’s okay…”
“That’s okay,” he said. “I can’t imagine the kind of vacuum that losing both parents in your childhood can leave you with. I hope the wounds have healed, doctor. I hope you don’t notice the scars anymore.”
I nodded blankly.
“You were talking about your journal, doctor. I am just curious. Will you write about me today? In your journal?”
I smiled. “I don’t know, Jack. I might. I will tell you next time if I do.”
“What do you enjoy the most about writing, doctor?”
“I find it to be…umm…therapeutic. Medicinal. It helps bring out the most important experiences of the day…something to remember life by. It’s like converting memory into something tangible… permanent.”
“What about you, Jack? Do you write?”
He smirked. “Yes. I write for a living actually. For the movies.”
“Anything that I might have seen at the cinemas recently?”
He shook his head. “No. Not yet. Not yet.”
I wondered if one of the many underlying psychological issues he had included having to deal with a failing career that had never come close to taking off. I had seen that very often amongst the people I had treated. People often came to the city attracted by the glitter and glamour of Hollywood. Many of them eventually had to confront the grim reality of failure and what it could do to their confidence and psyche.
“What kind of stories do you like to write?” I asked.
He seemed lost for a second before returning back into the moment. “About reality,” he said. “I like to write about reality and how deformed it is. How frightening it can be.”
I was unclear what that meant but before I could explore further, the alarm clock next to me started buzzing. It was 4 pm–the end of my appointment with him.
He stood up immediately like he had been waiting for it. I turned to him, still sitting in my chair, not wanting to rush him.
“We can continue for a few more minutes if you want.” I said.
He shook his head. “Punctuality is important, doctor. It’s one of the most important aspects of being organized. I wouldn’t want to throw your life out of control now, would I?” he smiled.
“Alright, Jack.” I stood up to shake his hand. “Hope I will see you again soon.”
“You will, doctor. You will.”
I escorted him out the door and gestured to my assistant asking her to give me a few minutes before letting the next patient in. I needed to make a quick note of my interaction with Jack.
My initial diagnosis was that he suffered from some form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I had seen a glimpse of his obsessions. The next time I met him, I needed to evaluate how deep his issues went. Little did I know that my ability to influence and treat him was going to determine the course of my life in the days that followed.