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Salter, Anna C

BOOK: Salter, Anna C
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For my father,

Theodore Salter, M. D.

1917-1993

He had the gift of healing.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would first of all like to thank Sandi Gelles-Cole, who edits all my books privately, and who makes an enormous difference in their quality. Sandi has a lot of Michael Stone in her.

I would also like to thank Helen Rees, my wonderful agent, who is warm, humane, and exceedingly competent— a rare combination.

Likewise, I would like to thank Linda Marrow, my editor at Pocket Books, for her vision and her support.

I would like to thank Lt. H. John Wojnaroski III of the Michigan State Police, Polygraph Section, for the use of one of his many superb interrogation techniques.

My appreciation too goes to my colleagues at the Midwest Center for Psychotherapy and Sex Therapy: Dan Brakarsh, Kristi Baker, Harvey Dym, Carol Endicott, Jane James, Pat Patterson, and Lloyd Sinclair. These folks are my professional family.

I would like to thank my long-term mentor and friend, Regina Yando, Ph.D., for her suggestions, her support, and her love.

I would like to thank Minna Alanko for her superb care of my children and for her friendship. Knowing my children are well looked after gives me the ease of mind I need to write.

How can I teach her some way of being human that won't destroy her?

I would like to tell her, Love is enough, I would like to say, Find shelter in another skin.

I would like to say, Dance and be happy. Instead I will say in my crone's voice, Be ruthless when you have to, tell the truth when you can, . . .

— Margaret Atwood

1

"He's dead. He's dead." The woman on the other end of the phone was sobbing. I tried to shake the sleep off. I looked at the number the emergency service had given me —Clarrington. If the call came from Clarrington, chances were she was standing over him with a gun. Clarrington was a small, industrial town twenty miles from the thriving university community where I worked. Mills were closing in Clarrington; people were more or less constantly being put out of work, and maybe because of that—or maybe because of some esoteric reason I knew nothing about —Clarrington was, I thought, the center of violence in the known universe. Clarrington was like that square mile in Mexico where all the monarch butterflies go, only every antisocial, drug-or alcohol-addicted, violent person in the world seemed to pass through Clarrington. "Where is he? Is he there?" I wasn't sure what to say. Nothing in my training as a forensic psychologist specializing in child abuse and domestic violence cases covered some of the things I ran into in the real world when I worked emergency for the Department of Psychiatry at Jefferson University Hospital. I was pretty sure ''How do you feel about that?" wouldn't cover it, at least not until I figured out if she needed an ambulance.

The sobbing woman ignored me. "He's dead," she repeated. She was crying so hard I could hardly hear her. "I read about it in the paper." I slumped down in the bed. This was another ball game, entirely. I glanced at the clock. Three a.m. Grief time, maybe, for my unknown caller. Still, if she cared that much, odd she had to read about it in the paper.

"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. I wasn't sure what she wanted me to say.

"I didn't know," she said, "I didn't know he was alive."

Wait a minute. Someone she didn't know was alive is dead, and she read about it in the paper. Why is she upset if she already thought he was dead? I sat up straight again and rubbed my eyes. Was I dealing with someone who wasn't playing with a full deck?

"If I'd only known he was alive . . . if I'd only known. ..." I waited for the list of regrets: the call never made, the apology never delivered, the amends only planned. "If I'd only known," she wailed, "I'd have killed him myself."

I was stumped. Ah, Clarrington. We all have regrets when someone dies, but being deprived of the chance to murder him? I opened my mouth to say something, I'm not sure what, but my unknown caller hung up. It's just as well. I'm sure there was nothing in my training to cover this.

I glanced at the black emergency book on the table beside me. It was passed back and forth from emergency worker to emergency worker. It included all of the chronic callers —the dependent and the hysterical and the entitled folk, not to mention the truly crazy —that made up the vast bulk of calls on emergency. Without a name I couldn't check to see if my unknown caller made a habit of scaring emergency workers. Certainly, her call didn't fit the pattern of any active emergency caller I had been briefed on. It was a strange fact that almost none of the calls that came in on emergency were true emergencies; mostly they were chronic callers who somehow figured out that a voice on the end of the phone pushed back the night.

I had too much adrenaline from the call to go back to sleep. I got up and walked downstairs and crossed the living room of the tiny A-frame and walked out onto the deck. There was just enough moon to see the small stream glistening below. I glanced at the darkness where I knew the trees began, beyond the stream.

I had retreated to the country a few years ago, to a tiny A-frame with no room for guests. The small deck, the stream below, the hot tub tucked around the bend of the L-shaped deck had all brought something I was looking for. But in my line of work I meet violent folk from time to time, and after I had moved, one had stalked me, gotten into my remote cabin, and eventually tried to kill me. Now there were times when I wouldn't go onto the deck at night without my .38 revolver tucked in my pocket.

On impulse I walked back into the house and picked up the phone to call my office answering machine. At least I think that was the impulse. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to get off the deck, where I felt exposed. I was like a drug addict these days, always thinking up excuses when I didn't want to face the real reason I was doing things. It was more than a little silly to be calling my machine. I checked it before I went to bed, and all my clients had the emergency number for anything urgent enough to be calling at night—but to my surprise there was a message that had come in at two a.m.

"Dr. Stone, this is Camille." Camille was a new client coming in today for the first time. 'T wondered if it would be okay if I brought my seizure dog to the session today. She's licensed so she's supposed to be able to go anywhere, grocery stores and things like that. Please let me know because I don't think I can come without her." The voice was tiny and had something in it I couldn't identify: not anxiety, not depression, something odd.

A seizure dog. What the heck is a seizure dog? If people can't do anything about someone having a seizure, what's a dog supposed to do? And why is Camille up at two a.m. worrying about this? She was upset enough to be up and calling me, but too polite to call the emergency number I had given her when she made the appointment. That meant the question was important to her and not just an excuse to make contact.

Was she depressed? People who couldn't sleep in the middle of the night were almost always depressed. But maybe I'd be depressed too if I had seizures so often I couldn't go for a fifty-minute therapy session without my seizure dog.

I was still thinking about it on the way into my office the next morning. The drive was fifteen minutes of green, leafy, postcard New England stuff—three quarters of the year. Whoever put together New England decided that it was only fair—given that New England has green, rolling hills dotted with old farmhouses, given that New England has small, winding back roads that meander next to small, curious streams, given that New England has possibly the fewest McDonald's of any place in the nation and, Vermont at least, has people with enough sense to ban highway billboards — given all those gifts, it seemed only fair that New England miss out on something. New England has no spring.

I am a Southerner, born and bred. And while the South has many things that keep me out of it—Mama for one —you have to take your hat off to the South when it comes to spring. Spring starts in February in the South, and the whole world explodes. There is more color in Chapel Hill in February than there is in the entire state of Vermont in May. And the light. In a North Carolina spring there is light —glorious, endless light —light when you wake up and light when you go to bed. But who could go to bed? I remember sitting on my grandmother's porch on the swing in the evening —everybody sat on their porch in the evening —watching the azaleas sway in the breeze off the water.

I glanced at the brown landscape. It was May and the leaves were clearly waiting for mud season to end before they made an appearance. Mud season is the time when the snow melts leaving enough mud that casual visitors assume some sort of flood has gone through. It is also New England's substitute for spring. It looked less like spring and more like a setting for a horror flick.

By 9 A.M. I was sitting in my private practice office waiting for Camille. I had called at eight to let her know I had no problem with her dog. I heard the door to the small waiting room in the old Victorian house open and walked out to meet Camille. A Rottweiler roughly the size of my couch walked in, sat down calmly, and looked at me in a decidedly unfriendly way. She had that I've-got-the-distance-to-your-throat-measured look that attack dogs have. She was definitely a working dog. This is a seizure dog? This dog could cause seizures.

I moved forward to shake hands with the woman on the other end of the leash and saw the dog's muscles bunch. Camille was my height but much rounder. She was pale and looked out-of-shape. Her coloring was all wrong, but I was so focused on the dog it took me a moment to realize why. It was the mismatch. Her skin was fair and her eyebrows were blond, but her hair was dark brown, almost black. Very few natural blondes dye their hair an unflattering shade of dark brown, but she had. She had bright eyes, and somehow the body she was living in, her whole appearance, didn't seem to go with those eyes. She was also shaking noticeably, but if she had seizures, maybe she had cerebral palsy too. The shaking didn't explain the dog. You don't need an attack Rottweiler just to help with seizures. I know you're supposed to call them protection dogs these days, but somehow when I looked at this one, the term "attack dog" just kept coming to mind.

Camille shook hands with me limply. "I don't know if I can stay," she said as soon as we were seated. "I'm not feeling very well." She was sitting across from me, but she kept glancing at the windows over her shoulder.

"Is there anything that would make you more comfortable?" I asked. She looked extremely uncomfortable.

"Not really," she said, and silence filled the room.

I waited a few moments and then asked, "Where would you like to start?" This was clearly not someone I could just fire questions at. Probably the dog was trained to bite anyone who fired questions at her.

"I ..." Her voice trailed off, and she looked down. She seemed to be fighting back tears and trying to steady herself

"Take your time. Say what you can." I considered the options while I waited. Paranoid? No, paranoids are more concerned with what was in the room than what is outside. Paranoids scan the room and inevitably fasten on the couple of videotapes on my bookshelves. Then they look around for a camera. Paranoids keep glancing at the notes I'm writing until I hand them over for inspection.

BOOK: Salter, Anna C
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