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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Death · #2035649
A psychiatrist has a shocking encounter with one of his patients.

By: Derek Berry Thorpe

The patient stepped inside the psychiatrist's office. Apprehension and anxiety braided like plaits across her forehead.

There was no one at the reception desk, although she heard movement coming from the office down the hallway.

She rapped four times on the glass partition and a male responded to her call.

"Give me a second." The voice reassured. "I'll be right out."

The woman, in her mid-forties, stood next to the magazine rack. She hugged her own shoulders, trying to dampen the shivering. Although the weather bore some responsibility, most of her tremor was due to her fear of the unknown. She wore a timid smile and a beige, mid-calf, trenchcoat buttoned all the way up and belted at the waist in a loose knot.

Her anxiety increased as a man emerged from a door halfway down the hall. He approached, putting his arms through the sleeves of his white coat and adjusting his tie. As he neared where she stood, he extended his hand. The metal buckles on her coat collided when she moved forward to greet the doctor. His hands were large and warm to touch and it seemed as if it ushered a thaw within her.

"Welcome. I hope you weren't waiting too long."

"Nice to meet you... Dr. Broussard." She adjusted the glasses on her nose and bent to read the name on his pocket.

"I'm sorry Janice isn't here at the desk to greet you. There seems to be some sort of accident outside the courthouse. She's just popped down to see what all the commotion is about. She won't be long." He stepped behind the secretary's desk and looked at the pile of charts next to the telephone. "Well It's nine-oh-five and I'm guessing that you might be this top chart here... new patient, Ms. Maggie Arnold?"

"Yes, that's me, Doctor."

"Great, why don't you follow me back to my office."

He led the way down the carpeted hallway. The woman admired the length of his stride and the way the doctor's broad shoulders moved under his starched coat. Somehow, this reassured her that he would be a patient listener, and that was all she really needed, she told herself.

When he reached his office door he paused and turned to allow her to enter first. She stole a glance at him as she passed by and his square jaw parted to reveal a perfect set of white teeth.

He directed her to the plush leather couch underneath the window on the far side. She sat and crossed her legs. Guiding strands of her chestnut hair behind her ears, she looked around at his wall-mounted degrees and citations. Dr. Broussard's polished leather shoes thwacked on the hardwood floor of his office and he took a seat behind his heavy oak desk.

"Aah, winter is knocking, Ms. Arnold, it's chilly today, eh?" he said, opening her chart.

"Yes it is, Doctor... hope you don't mind if I keep my coat on for a while, I'm still shivering from being outside."

"Oh no, not at all. In fact let me fully shut the window behind you, so there's no draft coming in." He got up and approached the couch. He stretched over behind her, parted the light curtains and slid the window shut. He paused to look down from the sixth floor at the unusual activity across the park, two streets away. A bus from the department of corrections was on its side in front of the law courts, and there were police and ambulance vehicles attending the emergency. A few orange-suited inmates were already on gurneys being readied for transport.

"Oh, my goodness, what a mess. You didn't get caught up in all that, I hope."

"No, I came in from the Janay Bridge side, Doctor."

"Good," he said, stepping back from the window. She noticed him pause and stare into a far corner of the office where a closet door took its time to swing open. He crossed the room with haste to push the panel shut with some measure of force. He turned and smiled at her. "Is this your first time seeing a psychiatrist, Ms. Arnold?"

"No, Doctor. I saw maybe two before you, but that was a while back in the nineties."

He strode back to her seated position and sat adjacent in a soft armchair. He reached for a notepad and pen from the side table where a family photo of his wife and children stood.

"So... tell me, Ms. Arnold, what shall we talk about today?"

She clasped her hands and sat erect. "I don't know, Doctor," she began. " I feel so lost sometimes. So distant from my friends and family. Sometimes even distant from myself. It's like, I'm disgusted with who I am a lot, but I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong." She shifted with discomfort on the couch. Her stubby fingers tried to find new growth of nail to rip away. "I have these theoretical arguments with myself about what's right or wrong or what's real or not, and I never know which side wins."

"Uh huh. This is the perfect starting point. I like how you crystallize your issue."

Ms. Arnold continued to talk while watching her doctor listen and take notes. She glanced at his family photo on the table next to him and wondered why his wife would let him come to work without any socks. His bare ankles were clearly visible above his shoes. She'd probably do a better job at taking care of Dr. Broussard's needs than his wife was, she thought.

"Your history is intriguing, Ms. Arnold," he interrupted after a few minutes. "Tell me, did any of your previous doctor's give you the Rorschach test?"

"Sorry, the what?"

"The Rorschach test. I'm sorry, most people know it as the ink blot test. You know those symmetric blotches on whiteboard? We ask you to say what you think about the images. You might see a moth, or face, or some other design."

"Oh, that. I've seen it on TV before, but no, I've never been formally tested that way."

"I'm very interested in that test. I think it can be a very valuable tool in forming a diagnosis, especially if there is a suspicion of personality identity disorder. I have the set-up here in the office and..."

He paused mid-sentence and swallowed hard. He realized as he looked under the couch, that the pool of blood was seeping progressively towards her feet. At the rate it was moving the leading edge would reach her sneakers in less than a minute. When he closed the window behind her, he had been sure that the blood coming from the body of Janice Meechum, wedged on the floor behind the couch, had stopped.

The secretary ought not be bleeding still, but yet, she was. Murder was so deliciously unpredictable. He was convinced, however, that at any second, Ms. Arnold would become aware of the blood. He looked up to see the patient eyeing him over the brim of her glasses .

"Doctor... are you okay?"

"Oh, yes, I'm fine."

She smoothed her chestnut hair. "You kind of stopped talking for a second."

"Sorry, I was just figuring in my mind, how we were going to do this test."

He put the notepad down and rose to fetch an easel in the corner of the room. The easel had multiple white placards with large ink splotches, and he positioned the tripod across from her.

"I learned this trick from a psychiatrist friend of mine who told me that the best way to view these ink blot placards was from a low angle. Why don't you sit on this cushion on the floor here," he said, picking up a red decorative cushion and placing it on the floor by her feet.

Ms. Arnold complied, and gladly sat on the cushion and faced the easel. She relaxed a little and allowed her back to rest against the leather couch. She was oblivious to the sanguine fluid that seeped into the spongy pillow as she looked at her first placard.

Dr. Broussard's smile returned as he began with the first of the Rorschach impressions. He started to enjoy himself again, waiting for her thoughts on the moth-like blotch on the display board. He often fantasized about creating his own updated version of this seasoned tool.

What is taking her so damn long to decide? he thought to himself.

The door to the wooden closet began to swing open again. His smile disappeared, and a scowl distorted his handsome features.

He lurched towards the closet, his white coat billowing behind him as he moved to stop it from fully opening. He held the door panel firmly and looked inside the space to see what might be preventing it from staying shut.

There was a narrow shelf on the inside of the door and he checked the position of the nearly naked, lifeless body of the real Dr. Jamie Broussard, he had hidden inside there. His face was not more than three inches from the dead man's open mouth.

He checked the tightness of the necktie he used to strangle the doctor. The ribbon of fabric twisted from his neck, past his purple lips, to a coat hook, which held his torso erect inside the closet.

Like another discarded victim, an orange prison jumpsuit, also laid lifeless and crumpled on the closet floor.

He closed the door with a firm slam this time. He smoothed his sandy blond hair and returned to Ms. Arnold sitting on the floor.

The noise of the slam startled the woman. She'd become distracted from studying the inkblot image. Her eyes had drifted to the beautiful family photo on the small table. She wondered why Dr. Broussard appeared so much shorter in the picture, then, once again, he stood before her. Caught somewhat by surprise, she gathered herself.

"I, I think it looks like a clown," she said of the symmetric blotch on the white board.

A clown? Sum bitch ain't got no schoolin'. It looks just like a crawdaddy to me, he shouted in his head.

"A clown huh... good, and how about this one?" He flipped to another chart.

Dagnabit...why is she taking so long? He fought to maintain his charade.

Just when Ms. Arnold was about to give her answer to who she thought was Dr. Broussard, she heard a creak and a rumble from the closet in the corner. Without further warning, the door completely fell off its hinges. It crashed to the ground, spilling the strangled body of a man onto the floor. Maggie Arnold muffled a scream as she rose to her feet. Both hands flipped to her mouth, and she seemed to expose the entire globes of her eyes.

The convict did not even turn his back to look at his handiwork. He leaned over the easel, face down and grimaced above his tapping leather shoe.

"You're not, you're not Doctor Brou..." she mumbled. She made a dash for the door, with her coat buckles clanging in her haste, but he cut her off with ease and encased her within his muscular grip from behind. He spoke calmly into her ear. "I'm charging by the hour, Missy. No need to rush off early on account of a little office mishap, right?"

She must have watched some outdated self-defense video from the eighties, he thought to himself, when she stomped on his foot with her soft sneakers and attempted a back heel kick aimed at his testicles. He smiled, loosened his grip and gave a fake grunt of pain.

"This 'ol heifer ain't goin' nowhere today. Could as well have me some fun."

She escaped his grasp, scrambled forward, knees first, onto the black leather couch and began banging on the window, shouting for help. Perhaps she could unlatch it and signal to one of the police officers below that she was in trouble, she thought. Her screams for help abruptly changed to screams of horror, when she looked down and saw, between the wall and couch space, the ghoulish, open-eyed stare of a dead female. She gagged viscerally and vomited over the dead woman's face.

The convict in the white coat was livid. He paced before her. "Shut yer yellin'! Sit down and relax, or you gonna end up just like her. Just play nice and everything will be alright!"

"Who are you, what did you do to these poor people?" she heaved.

"Oh, I apologize, Ma'am. Name's Clint Kinney. Born and raised in Jackson county in the great state of Kentucky. I really didn't mean these people no harm, but they kinda got in the way of what I wanted."

"What, what did you want?"

"All this, of course... this is all I ever wanted. To be a shrink with my own digs, helpin' folks deal with shit in their lives. I bet I knew more about Rorschach and Freud than this yokel ever did. I just wanted to show him I was smart and could do the job."

"But you can't just put on a white coat and expect to become a doctor. You're crazy, it doesn't work like that."

He undid the yellow striped tie around his neck. "That's my point, Missy. I did go to college, I did apply, I even got two interviews don't ya know. But the second they heard my redneck accent and seen my southern roots shine, they just tossed my dreams in the shitter. Never heard back from them, never answered my calls. It seems if you can't talk like a highfalutin' Yank, you ain't worth piss," he paused and paced the room a bit more with a watchful eye on his captive. "Never mind, though, I got them Yank-lovin' colleges back good... Went back up there and burnt the President's house down, and shot at the family as they ran out."

"Jesus, that son of a bitch was you?" she gasped, "I covered that story for my newspaper fifteen years ago. You sick son of a bitch!"

"Well well... lookie here now, a media type person right up close. You are part of the problem I have. You and advertising companies, and the Hollywood big wigs. Selling that garbage that we Southerners are stupid. That our accent is as shameful as pig swill. You are the reason I never got accepted to be a shrink!"

"You're crazy! That's what they saw in you, pure mental illness... I have nothing to do with your life failures. Let me go."

"Oh no, Missy. I'm gonna have to make an example out of you... now that I know you're the enemy." He reached for her and snatched her by the collar of her long fall coat. His strength was superior to hers and he twisted her around in his grasp so he could choke her from behind with the necktie.

They struggled in a reluctant dance. Their fight was filled with basal grunts and macabre whines for survival.

They brushed against the tripod easel and all but one of the ink blot placards fell to the ground, leaving a single all-white poster in place. He managed to hook one arm under her neck and hold her body with the other arm. He noosed her neck with the tie and began to choke her. Maggie Arnold could feel herself weakening, but she was able to back him up slowly to the big heavy desk.

The passage of oxygen to her brain slowed to a crawl and she went limp in his arms. Her glasses fell from her face and her eyes rolled back into their sockets fully, so that only the whites were visible. Her world faded fast as the darkness rushed in from the edges.

Then, inexplicably, they popped forward like the reptile eyes in a slot machine. The grin on her lips was not born in mirth, rather, more hatched in Hades.

With her free hand, she felt along the edge of the big desk and grasped what seemed to be a letter opener. She sank that gold plated metal spike thoroughly into the flesh of his thigh and he sang with pain.

With uncommon strength, she flipped him over her shoulder so that he landed on his backside in front of the easel. The maneuver completely broke his grip on her throat. Then, with the speed of a seasoned assassin, she ripped the letter opener from his thigh, punched Clint Kinney hard in his temple region, twirled the dagger gracefully in her palm and skewered the man at her feet deep into his neck.

Warm blood squirted and pulsed from his neck- his red neck, she thought in mild amusement.

Reaching down, she cocked his chin away from his shoulders and aimed the bloody stream at the white placard still on the tripod. Blood spattered onto the surface in the arc of her artistic vengeance, until his heart had no more to offer. She stepped back and let his head hit the floor with a thud. She stood astride him, admiring her Rorsch-art and removed the long autumn coat she had stolen.

The hem of her bright orange prison dress ended just above her knees.

"You weren't the only schizophrenic, personality identity disorder, convict that escaped from that prison bus this morning, you piece of shit," she swore with contempt.

Someone rapped four times on the reception area partition glass and a voice called out.

"Hello...is everything alright back there?"

The woman in the orange dress remained calm. "Yes, Ma'am, how can I help you?"

"I'm Maggie Arnold, your nine a.m. patient. I'm sorry I'm late, but there was this big accident in front of the courthouse."

The woman smiled and answered pleasantly. "Oh, that's okay, glad you could make it, dear. I'm Dr. Jamie Broussard. Give me a second, I'll be right out." I have an interesting placard to share with you.

The woman in the orange dress stepped over the two bodies, went to the sink and washed her hands. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and blew a puff of air from the corner of her mouth to shift a lock of her hair away. Then, reaching into the doorless closet, she put on a fresh white coat belonging to the goodly, but late, Dr. Jamie Broussard.

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