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Authors: Kem Nunn

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Literary, #Thrillers

Chance (10 page)

BOOK: Chance
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The school was located near the Marina with a view of the bay. He found the wind coming up hard and crisp beneath the span of the Golden Gate Bridge as he pulled in before the coral-colored buildings, the bay littered with whitecaps, Alcatraz in the distance. The sight of the old prison conjured images of law enforcement gone awry, the steely gray eyes of Detective Blackstone.

His daughter, Nicole, was waiting alone beneath a tree. When she saw his car she marched toward him in the manner of the condemned,
a notebook held to her chest with folded arms. He was given to understand that his wife had broken the news about the schools. He could only imagine the delivery. Nicole opened the car’s door and got in. He could see that she had been crying. They sat for a moment in the street, cars passing, wind off the bay casting a fine mist across the windshield. Clearly she was determined upon stoicism. “I’m sorry, Nicky,” Chance said finally. “If there had been any other way . . .”

“How about you just stay with Mom.”

Chance sighed. He considered it bad form to say it was Mom’s idea and thereby assign blame, though in point of fact it had been Carla’s idea. He wondered if it was possible that Nicole still did not know about the dyslexic personal trainer. Anything, he supposed, was possible. “It’s complicated, Nicole. You may not know all the details, but you do know that it’s complicated.”

His daughter bit at her lip and stared out the window.

“I know how much you liked Havenwood. But there
are
other good schools . . .”

“Marina South blows.”

Marina South was the name of the public school in whose district their old house had been. “Yes,” Chance said. “Marina South does blow. I’ve done my homework and I know that. What I was about to say was that there are good schools across the bay, in Berkeley.”

“Berkeley’s not where we live.”

“It’s not where we live now. But I’ve been looking into it. If I were to get an apartment over there . . .”

“You just got an apartment over here.”

She appeared intent upon making each of these pronouncements to the trees beyond her window, having been very careful not to look at Chance directly since seating herself in his car. Chance covered her hand with his. “Nicole,” he said, then waited until she looked at him. “This is difficult. It’s difficult for all of us. But that’s what life is sometimes. What I want you to know is that I’m doing the best I can for you and I always will. I love you very much.”

Her eyes got watery once more and she looked away. “I know,” she said, her voice faint. Theatrically so, one might have said but he knew her to be sincere, in both her pain and her stoicism.

“We’ll get through this,” he told her. “It will all work out. You will see.”

She nodded. Chance gave her hand a little squeeze. She squeezed back. “I know,” she said once more, even fainter than before. Chance let go her hand and put his car into gear. His heart went out to her. The world she’d known was being broken apart. He’d read somewhere that the family is an instrument of grief and there were times when it seemed to be so and he looked once more to the old prison, ghostlike upon its windswept rock.

 

He dropped his daughter off at his former house before which a realtor’s placard flapped forlornly in the afternoon wind from a corner of the property, and watched her inside. From there he drove directly back to his office. The building was closed for the day. He went along its familiar steps and corridors, letting himself into his own suite then rummaging in his files till he’d found Jaclyn Blackstone’s. Some of what it contained were the questionnaires she had filled out at the time of her initial visit that would be certain to contain both her current address and phone number. He left in possession of the document, exchanging pleasantries with the night watchman in the lobby and feeling for all the world as if he were getting away with something.

 

He sat that night alone in his apartment. It was becoming routine. He’d thought to finish with his evaluation of Doc Billy, as the relative in Oregon was pressing for action and the case was expected to go to trial by summer’s end, but he could not quite summon the required resources. He sat instead with his by now customary bottle of wine, watching as the fog rolled up the sidewalks outside his window, and considered instead the problem of Jaclyn Blackstone.

If, in the fullness of her paranoia, she was to be believed, the thing
was a conundrum in which one felt blocked at every turn. He could not help noting in his initial report her use of a neuroleptic medication—somehow she had been started on Trilafon, and had remarked at the time,
“She may be experiencing akathisia as a side effect of her dopamine-blocking medication, perphenazine.”
He considered this anew. It had been his concern that a worsening akathisia be misperceived as a worsening anxiety, to be treated with still higher doses of dopamine blockers and so further aggravating the situation, at least with regard to her anxiety and paranoia, exacerbating the very fears she would have to overcome if she were to free herself from her predator. But then he had visited her in the hospital. The concussion was no fantasy. Nor were the broken bones or the entrapped muscle. She might well have sustained permanent damage. He saw such people every day of his life, broken creatures aboard a carousel of cognitive and pharmacology therapies, beset by memory loss and hallucination. They were, after all, his stock-in-trade. He looked once more over the file from his office, rereading yet again what he had written at their initial meeting.
“I believe,”
he had said,
“it is important for this warded-off aspect of her personality to be addressed and, ideally, integrated into her basic persona.”
And so she had tried to do, following his advice, and gotten for her troubles a berth in the trauma center at Mercy General, medical bills that would stalk her for years to come.

There was one other bit that caught his eye:
“One cannot rule out masochistic features in her ongoing relationship with her husband.”
That might have been true. But she had moved to end the relationship after only weeks of therapy. The husband was the sick one. Chance had confronted the monster himself and been found wanting. He thought once more of how she had appeared to him at the time of their first meeting, her somewhat affectless description of the split in her personality. Rarely, he concluded, had life pitched him such a curve. Suffice it to say that what most of the people he saw in the course of his practice had in common was that they had already reached a place of no return. What set Jaclyn apart, what she shared with Mariella Franko, as far as that went, and very few others, was her ability to provoke in him the belief that there was still time, that some form of intervention
was not yet beyond the pale. And while that was generally where such feelings ended, save but once, this Jaclyn Blackstone was carrying him into deeper waters. Perhaps it was no more than her coming to his office, her pulse on his palm, because the thing was . . . the usual reservations notwithstanding, an actual, even somewhat realistic, plan of action had begun to form. He considered sleeping on it just to be sure but then he was a little drunk and eager to share. He was also in possession of her number. She answered on the second ring. “Can you talk?” he asked.

The Jollys
 

Bernard Jolly is a nineteen-year-old right-handed white male who, until his recent arrest and incarceration, has lived in the home of his maternal aunt, Amanda Jolly of South San Francisco. His father and mother were never married and he claims never to have known his father. His mother deserted him when he was six years old, at which time he went to live with his mother’s sister, a woman he now describes as an obese crazy person. He was, at the time of my initial interview, three years into a postconcussive syndrome following basilar skull fracture and intracerebral hematoma following a bicycle-automobile accident in which he was riding the bicycle. He reports the accident as occurring at the corner of Judah and Sunset and relates that his last memory was seeing a red pickup truck he would eventually learn to have been driven by a Mexican gardener approach him on the left side. He was found unresponsive at the scene and transferred to UCSF Emergency Room, where on examination he was awake but confused.

During hospitalization his hematocrit fell from 45 to the low 20s and a retroperitoneal hematoma was detected. He was stabilized with two units of packed cells. Repeat CT scan revealed decreased brain edema, a left temporal intraparenchymal hemorrhage, and a small right hemisphere epidural hemorrhage.

 

Because he remained febrile, the patient was started on Vancomycin and Ceftizoxime for presumed bacterial meningitis. The temperature fell and by the 14th hospital day he was afebrile and able to cooperate with examinations. He was discharged two days later.

Since the time of his discharge, the patient admits to both visual and olfactory hallucinations. Visual hallucinations consist most often of seeing the Mexican gardener who struck him, even though he has been informed that this man has since left the country. He has on several occasions prior to his recent arrest chased and accosted strangers he believed to be the gardener. The most serious of these occurred when, at the wheel of his own car, he intentionally struck a pedestrian that he believed to be the Mexican gardener who had struck him. The pedestrian survived but not without serious injury. Mr. Jolly, arrested at the scene, spent a period of four months in a state mental hospital. Olfactory hallucinations include hay, incense, marijuana, and the “smell of different beings.”

 

The Jollys had not come to him by way of the usual channels. The fact was, he had gone to them. What was needed in the case of Jaclyn Blackstone, he had concluded, was at least one well-positioned friend. It was to this end that he had called the Oakland DA’s office and volunteered to do a psychiatric evaluation or two pro bono. It would be an effort to insinuate himself in the department. While not wholly convinced by Jaclyn of her husband’s near omniscience, the beating followed by his own encounter with the man were enough to warrant caution. One could not just wade in making charges. There was too much at stake. He’d spoken to an attorney he knew who handled cases involving threats and abuse. The story was always the same. One filed complaints. One got restraining orders. A determined or insane predator was apt to have his prey. The law would have him only after, when the deed was done. And then there was Jaclyn’s claim that Raymond was not the type to dirty his own hands . . . that he could
have
things done. “He’s corrupt then?” Chance had asked. To which she’d laughed softly as if to some private joke. “He’s everything,” she told him.

Well, maybe so, and maybe that was the key. If Chance could make
a friend in the department, maybe there would be a way of putting them onto the bad cop in their midst. Maybe that was how to get Raymond Blackstone, the best possible way really, for something else he had done, Jaclyn and her daughter not even in the picture because if he was bad on one count he would be bad on two. It was like getting Al Capone on tax evasion. Putting him away was the thing. It scarcely mattered how. What seemed equally important, as this was likely to be an ongoing project, was for Jaclyn to have some way of continuing with therapy. It was to this end that he had broken from his written report on Bernie Jolly, now a petty criminal on trial for the rape of a twelve-year-old girl, and set out on foot to meet Janice Silver for coffee at a café on Market Street, not far from Allan’s Antiques and Chance’s furniture.

BOOK: Chance
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