A government agent interviews a strange suspect; WhataCharacter 12/2018 entry (redemption)
There was a loud clang as I pushed my way through the glass door of the office, and it hit the wall behind. I looked down behind me to make sure that the little hand that I could barely feel in mine was still attached to my daughter Lizzie as we strode up the hall. She was gazing around in confusion at the world passing by her. Maybe it was our sudden departure from the water park after Mommy got a phone call from work that had thrown her for a loop. Maybe it was our brisk pace that wouldn't allow for her to stop and look at the pictures on the walls or the colors in the tiles on the floor. Most likely it was the autism she had been diagnosed with at the ripe old age of eighteen months. I knew she could understand more about the world than she could communicate to me, but sometimes the autism left her a little more confused about the world than she should have been. I was sure this was one of those times. My partner Mark met me outside the interrogation room and greeted me with a very stiff "Hi." He knelt down and greeted Lizzie too but was met with a shrill shriek as she buried her face in my hip.
"I'm sorry," I said, still catching my breath. "Steve is out of town, and I couldn't get a sitter on such short notice. Could you--"
"Yeah, get in there," Mark said, getting back to his feet and taking my coat. "I'll just put her in the box with me. I'm sure she won't be any trouble. She won't know what's going on anyway."
I turned to chide him for thinking so little of my daughter because of her illness but stopped myself from unleashing hell upon him. He was right that she wouldn't be any trouble for him, and she truly wouldn't understand. After all, most adults couldn't understand what I was about to face in that little room. I watched them disappear into the observation room and smoothed my hair. Then I opened the door.
There she was, handcuffed to the steel table in the middle of the room. Her hair was a curly mess of dirty-blonde locks dangling down over her pale skin and hazel eyes. She was smiling. I sat down at the table and opened the file that had been left there for me and smiled back at her. "So, here we are." She said nothing. I flipped a page in the file and glanced over the same pages I had been staring at for months, if only to take a moment to compose myself. I looked her in the eye and allowed my smile to fade. "Why do you think you're here?"
She blinked at me and then down at the table. "I think I was at the wrong place at the wrong time."
I feigned surprise. "Really? What else?"
"I think that someone with power wants to blame me for something and that that person reads too many articles on the internet about conspiracies and supernatural stuff."
"Hmm." I flipped through the file again to a stack of blown-up images taken from a security camera and held them up for her to see. "What is this?"
She sighed. "That is a police officer interrogating me about the potential mistreatment of my clients."
"And can you talk more about that?"
She sighed again. "Fine. I'll play. I know you already have this in your file there, but I'll indulge you. He was interrogating me because I work with clients who have varying degrees of clinical depression, anxiety, PTSD, you name it--and over the course of a year, four of them committed suicide."
"And what did you have to say about that?"
She shrugged. "You can't help someone who doesn't want help. I have a phone that is on ring 24/7, even on holidays, that my clients all have the number to if they need to get a hold of me, any time, any day. Two of those clients had gone off their meds because they made them feel sick or foggy. One of them stopped seeing me after I recommended some things they could do to help relieve their social anxiety without pills, which they were firmly against. The last one hadn't seen me because his insurance kept jerking him around about whether I was in his network and how much they were willing to pay. He couldn't afford the visits out of pocket. I just assumed he had found someone who really was in his network or a not-for-profit place where someone could take him on a sliding scale."
"And you don't think it's strange that these four of your clients all committed suicide in the span of a year?"
"What can you tell me about your clients that supports your claims?"
She shrugged again. "Nothing. There's a confidentiality agreement. I can't tell you anything about any of my clients, living or dead, without a court order. That being said, they were all...troubled souls."
"We already know," I said. "Sexual assault? Pedophilia? Domestic abuse?"
She said nothing and started boring holes through the table again with her intense stare. After a long pause, she muttered, "You don't know them like I did."
I left a long pause of my own, unsure of how to proceed with that. She was their shrink, of course she knew them better than most, and she still couldn't talk about it. So, I moved on. "How long have you been practicing as a clinical psychologist?"
"How many had you lost to suicide up until then?"
I nodded. "That's fair. You can't save them all. Tell me. What is this?" I slid the top image behind the others, revealing the conclusion of her first interrogation, the officer on the floor in a pool of his own blood. "What happened here?"
She smiled again and looked me dead in the eye. "He grappled the gun away from the guard by the door and shot himself."
"And what do you think would make him do that?"
Her eyes narrowed. "I think he was suffering from some sort of mental illness and chose to see himself out instead of getting help. After all, most precincts only require a mental health assessment when an officer is hired and if they become injured in the line of duty."
I couldn't help but let out a wry chuckle. "So you think that a man who has never reported having any mental issues just up and shot himself in the middle of interviewing you because...?"
"Because it was time. When and where someone wants to die is their own business, and frankly, most of them prefer to have an audience. There's a reason why people blow up public buildings or start shooting up places and rush the cops until they have no choice but to shoot them. Maybe that is how he wanted to go. He wasn't my patient, so I really can't say for certain. And, even then, I couldn't"
I nodded along, knowing that she made some good points, but I also knew that she was wrong. "In this report," I said, holding up a stapled packet, "I have the transcribed audio from the tape these images were pulled from. It would seem that he was in the middle of grilling you over the services you offer and how you work with a psychiatrist, who prescribes medicine based on your diagnoses. Does that sound familiar?"
"Then, according to the record, he stopped mid-sentence, stared into your eyes, and after a 'long pause,' he assaulted the guard in the room, took his gun, and shot himself without another word."
There was a pause before she replied, "That is accurate."
"Are you trying to tell me that an officer killed himself out of nowhere while stuck in a room with a shrink whose clients were killing themselves and that those two things have nothing to do with one another?"
She leaned in with wide eyes and grinned. "Are you trying to tell me that you think I have the ability to control peoples' minds and make them kill themselves, despite the fact it doesn't benefit me to kill my clients? Or that I don't know it looks bad to kill the man interrogating me about killing other people? How would I do that? Why would I do that?"
She had me. Her argument made me feel small, like my case had just shattered into a million tiny pieces right before my eyes. If she had said that in front of a judge, I would be laughed out of the courtroom. I had nothing. I closed the file and sighed. "We may not have much to go on right now, but we know you're involved and we will get you."
She leaned back in her chair. "I'm sure you'll get it all figured out, and if you don't, you will all find a way to cover it all up in a way that doesn't make you look bad. That's what the police do, isn't it? Figure it out or cover it up?"
That pissed me off, but the last thing I needed was to get myself in trouble for hauling off and hitting her. Or, on the off-chance that she really could do what heavily-redacted documents from the feds said she could do, I didn't want her to make me do anything that I wouldn't live to regret. I straightened the file and stood up to leave, expecting her gaze to follow me. It didn't. Instead, she was staring right into the two-way mirror, where Mark was watching and Lizzie was probably coloring or something.
There's no way she can see through that, I thought. She's probably just avoiding me.
I said nothing to her as I left and went to the observation room. Normally Mark would meet me in the hall to discuss what had happened, but this time was different. He opened the door and motioned me in without a word. I walked in, a little confused by his lack of conversation and followed his eye-line to Lizzie sitting at the desk. She wasn't coloring. She was writing. The page she was writing on was almost full of words. Without so much as a wavering glance, she smiled right at me and held up the paper. Then she did something she had never done before.
"Look, Mommy! I write for you!"
Mark and I looked at one another and then back at her in shock. She looked at her paper and looked at us again.
"See? It says, 'I love you, Mommy' all over!"
Tears welled up in my eyes. I picked her up and held her, kissed her all over her beautiful face, and told her I loved her. It was a magical minute, if it was even that long. Then she started having trouble focusing again, started returning to her autistic tendencies and noises instead of words. As quickly as those tears of happiness had formed, new tears of sadness and confusion streamed down.
"What's going on?" I moaned. "What just happened?"
Mark stared at me wide-eyed and then looked into the interrogation room. I looked into the room just in time to see two policemen walking that woman to the door. She was looking over her shoulder directly at me, though not with malice. She seemed serene. In that moment, I knew what she was and what she had done for me.