Read The Secrets You Hide: A Mind-Blowing Thriller (The Psychosis Series) Online

Authors: Alex Crimson

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Psychological Thrillers, #Teen & Young Adult, #Crime Fiction, #Noir, #Thrillers, #Psychological

The Secrets You Hide: A Mind-Blowing Thriller (The Psychosis Series) (4 page)

BOOK: The Secrets You Hide: A Mind-Blowing Thriller (The Psychosis Series)
2.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

I was shaking with fear and the feeling of extreme isolation. I was losing control. I heard the ticking of the wall clock in the bedroom. I felt the pounding of my heart in my chest. I stared at the screen of my laptop looking at the cursor still blinking on the screen. And the combined effect of it all pulled control away from me…not all in one go…but one beat at a time, one blink at a time…It all seemed to be happening slowly in a way that could not be reversed.

Almost unconsciously, I looked down at the pages once again. I had reached the last one. My phone buzzed, extracting me out of the grave of mental and physical paralysis. It was Annie’s number again.

“Tell me what happened.” the caller said.

I did not bother to think before responding. Co-operation was the only visible way out of the situation.

“I…I called Annie’s father just like you mentioned in the script. His responses were slightly different from what is written here. So, I was not able to follow it word for word…but I stuck to it to the maximum extent possible.”

“That’s okay doctor” he replied immediately. “I understand. It’s okay to improvise sometimes. Improvisation is like…it’s like your contribution to the story. But don’t get too used to it, doctor. I will find it very difficult to appreciate too many deviations from the script. There is a reason why we have it in the first place. In fact, I strongly suggest that you don’t deviate from it unless it becomes absolutely necessary.”

From the way he was talking about the pages…the script, I could tell that there was much more of it to come. And that meant that what I had with me was just a small part of it–a beginning. But more importantly, it all felt like he was laying out the rules of the game for me. I waited, wondering what more he had to add.

“Do you understand what I am trying to do here, doctor?”

I blinked. “I am not sure.”

There was a short pause before he explained. “I am trying to establish a working relationship with you. I am trying to calibrate your responses. I am trying to judge the extent of your cooperation so I know what I can expect. Because this…this is going to be the foundation of our story. It is going to decide how this story concludes, doctor. This relationship…the relationship between us is going to decide the fates of not just you and I…but also some other people.

“Right now, my guess is that you are probably wondering if I am someone you know…maybe, maybe not.

“But let me assure you, doctor, I am someone who knows you very well…better than you think anybody can.”

I just shook my head in confusion and denial.

“So, doctor” he continued, “It’s time for your next task. Aren’t you curious what it is?”

I gulped air down my throat. “What is it?” I asked bluntly, offering my unconditional cooperation. I could tell what he wanted. He wanted me to cooperate without asking questions. He wanted me to react to the cues that he was laying out for me. I had to say what he wanted me to say. I had to do what he wanted me to do. He had a script in mind and he wanted me to stick to it.

The caller laughed as if the question pleased him somehow. “I want you to write about the conversations that we have had in the past hour, doctor. I want you to write about every feeling…every thought that has crossed your mind in the last one hour since we started creating this story together. I want you to write about what you are feeling in the moment as the reality of your current situation creeps its way into your heart, mind and soul and makes you see what really is at stake here…the reality that Annie and Sarah are in grave danger and the only thing that can save them is your cooperation.”

“I am not sure I understand.”

“Don’t you? I want you to write this down in your journal…the journal that you write every day. I want all this to be a part of your journal today. You reserve the journal for the most important moments of the day, don’t you? Wouldn’t you agree that the last one hour has packed the most defining events of your day today? Events that will remain on the top of your mind for a long time to come?

“Go on, doctor. Write. Isn’t that what you were about to do when I interrupted you with my first call?”

His words hovered in the still and silent air. He had asked me a simple question but that wasn’t all he was trying to do. He was hinting at something more. He was telling me that he was watching me. The pages in the script…they implied that he had been watching me for days before this. But his question and the perfect timing of his call…it all pointed towards something else which was equally overwhelming–he was watching me right then as I stood there holding the phone against my ear talking to him. That is the only way he could have known what I was doing just before his first call. That is the only way he had managed to call me almost immediately after I had disconnected the call with Frank.

I looked up through the window before me at the street outside. I turned left to look out the other window which faced a perpendicular street. I could see nothing out there in the darkness. But he was there, somewhere, keeping watch. And he saw me…he saw me looking for him.

“Yes, doctor,” he said, “You got me. I am watching you…just like I have been watching you for many days before this.”

I felt gripped by a strange tension.

“Once you are done writing your journal for the day, I want you to send it to me. Turn over to the last page of the script that I left for you. You will find an email address there. I want you to send your journal from today to that mail address.

“Also, doctor, I want you to be truthful. If you lie…I will know. In writing, we humans reveal what’s on our minds. You’ve peeked into my mind through the script that you hold. Now, I want a peek into yours. But you are on the clock, doctor. The day is coming to an end. You have about forty minutes.

“And, doctor, don’t do anything rash. Do not infuriate me. I am watching you and you know that I am not a very forgiving person.”

He put the phone down as I still processed everything that he had said. There was something about his last words.

you know that I am not a very forgiving person–
was he implying that he is someone I know? That he is someone I have met before? How else am I supposed to know anything about him?

I have spent over half an hour trying to answer that question, even while writing this journal entry. But I do not have the answer yet. I do not recognize his voice. I believe that he knows it. I believe that if he really wants me to recognize him, it is only a matter of time till he reveals himself. I just have to follow his lead, his script. That’s the only choice I have–to cooperate.



6: Robert’s Recollection – Of Day 9


“And, doctor, don’t do anything rash. Do not infuriate me. I am watching you and you know that I am not a very forgiving person” he said. Then the call disconnected. There were forty minutes left for the day to end.

I sat at the desk for a few seconds trying to handle the realization that I was being watched at that very moment. I felt like a rat in a lab…subjected to a series of impulses to see how I responded. He could see everything I was doing…and that constrained me from taking any action against him. Any attempt would be futile.

The only thing I could do secretly was think and plan. But my mind was handicapped by a concoction of fear and panic, refusing to think ahead. I pulled the laptop closer to me and waited for a few minutes till my head cleared. He wanted me to write about everything that had happened since the moment I had heard the ring of the phone in the living room. And I had very little time to do that.

In a sudden moment of clarity, I realized that it was the only action possible in the short timeframe that was available to me before the day ended. I started to type rapidly, putting everything I remembered of the conversations with him into my journal.

With five minutes left for the day to end, I picked up the script that I had extracted from the light blue envelope and found the mail ID that he had referred to. Three minutes after, at 11:58 pm, I clicked the send button on my mailbox sending my journal to him and hoping that it would stop him from escalating the situation further. I sat there blankly looking at the clock on the bottom right of the screen of my laptop waiting for it to indicate the beginning of a new day.

I closed my eyes. My hands were placed on the keyboard of the laptop feeling the warmth of its surface and the mild vibrations resulting from the whirring of the exhaust fan inside it. I tried to focus, to stop my body’s physical response systems from going into overdrive. I took a few deep breaths.

When I opened my eyes, my attention fell upon the reflection of the bookshelf in the glass windowpane opposite me. The bookshelf consisted of three levels all packed with a variety of books. On the top-most level, I had placed one copy each of the four books that I had authored over the years. The books captured the various experiences I had had as a psychiatrist–both at my private clinic and at the correctional institution.

For no reason, I found myself staring at the reflection of the book which I had written last. I had dedicated it to my mentor who had passed away recently in New York earlier that year. As a tribute to him, I had written an entire chapter capturing the many things that I had learnt from him. Some of those things were trivial and yet they had had a huge impact in shaping my outlook as a psychiatrist. For a second, I felt guilty for allowing myself to think about something so random instead of focusing on saving my wife and daughter. And that is when clarity hit all my senses at once. I realized why I was staring at that book and remembering my mentor. Even from the other side of the grave, he was coming to my rescue.
Focus on empathy, not sympathy. Focus on perspective, not emotion.

I remembered quoting those words from him on the first page of that book. And as I remembered that, I imagined myself, for a fleeting moment, sitting in his cabin in college listening to him speak.

“Diseases,” he had said, looking up at me, “can be contagious.” He was sitting in a chair on the other side of the table facing me.

“Obviously,” he continued, “that’s the reason we doctors take precautions to prevent catching a disease ourselves or to prevent passing it from one patient to another. We wash our hands every time we touch something. We use a sanitizer every time we go to the operation theatre. We use a fresh pair of gloves…all the time. We take precautions. And these precautions work.

“These precautions work against obstacles which are physical in nature. Yes, you cannot see bacteria and germs and viruses with your eyes, but you know that if you obstruct them physically, they will not spread. But what do you do, if the disease has nothing to do with anything physical and is still contagious. What do you do against psychologically contagious conditions and illnesses?”

I looked away from him and down at the table before me. I did not have an answer.

“Not all psychological conditions are contagious, mind you.” he clarified. “But can you tell me what makes some of them contagious? What is it that’s like a virus for doctors of the mind like you and I? What is it that’s the agent of contagion for diseases of the psyche?”

I thought hard for a second and I believed I had the answer. But I wasn’t sure. So, I shrugged.

“Emotions, Robert,” he said promptly, “Emotions are the virus. Emotions are the agents of contagion for diseases which are psychological in nature.

“Sit beside a person who is mourning the loss of a loved one, talk to someone who is laughing like crazy because she just got married to the love of her life, get into a conversation with someone who is so angry he is shouting his lungs out at you…and more often than not you will find yourself mirroring the very emotions that you see the people around you expressing.

“Emotions spread…from one person to another. And the emotions that stick…the emotions that stick are usually the ones that make you feel bad, destructive. Agreed, it is probably evolution at work. After all, it is the destructive emotions…fear, greed, loneliness… that help you build up your defenses as a human being. But what happens when those very emotions start to destroy you and eat away at you?”

I just nodded to signal that I was absorbing his words like a sponge and internalizing everything that he was telling me.

“You will deal with hundreds, thousands of patients in your career, Robert. You will not remember them all. But some of them, some of them will have a way of seeing the world just like you do. Talking to them will feel like talking to yourself…like experiencing a psychological resonance that echoes inside your head and theirs. Sometimes you will be caught off-guard when they force you to find corners of your mind that you did not know exist. And that is where the challenge lies. Those patients that you resonate with…they might be on the path to self-destruction, pushed into it by the emotions that they’ve locked up inside them, unable and refusing to deal with the weight of it all. What happens when they seed those emotions in you which can then grow and multiply inside your mind? Will you be able to help them walk away from it all? Or will you end up following them to the brink of destruction?”

He paused for a few moments, letting the thought seep in.

“Sometimes medicines work. Sometimes they don’t. But you need to remember that emotions never solve problems. As a psychiatrist, you want to help your patients detach from those emotions and see the problem coldly…logically. And to be able to do that, you have to first learn to defend yourself. You have to learn to subtract the emotions from any situation.

“Remember, Robert. Focus on empathy, not sympathy. Focus on perspective, not emotion.

“Understand the patient’s situation, his perspective, his point of view. But do not absorb his emotions. Do not sympathize. Solve the problem coldly.”

Snapping out of the memory, I blinked, feeling a deep calm as if I had suddenly found an ally in my mentor. Through the glass opposite me, I saw a couple cars pass by on the street. I noticed the house that stood on the other side of the road. The light inside was switched on and I could see two boys struggling in a physical fight. I saw their mother break the fight and I heard her faint voice in the distance as she screamed at them, asking them to go to their rooms and fall asleep. I watched her closely, wondering if she could help me spot the caller who was watching me from somewhere outside. But I wasn’t sure if he was physically present in the vicinity of my house or if he was keeping a watch on me through a camera that he had secretly set-up somewhere.

In my search for help, I tried to list everybody who I thought could come to my rescue. I wasn’t sure how, if at all, I could involve any one of them while I was being watched. But that was the next step. I would have to figure that out on the fly. Before that, however, I needed to know and decide who I had to reach out to.

After a lot of thought, I arrived at the obvious choice. It was Paul. Paul was Annie’s brother who resided in the other side of the city. He was a policeman and also previously worked at the correctional facility. I had been friends with him for a long time before I had met Annie at a party thrown by a member of the Facility’s staff. I wondered if the caller knew about Paul’s relationship with Annie, and indirectly, me. In the pages of the script that I had, the writer had referred to Frank as ‘Annie’s Father’ and that made me wonder if he knew anything about Annie’s family at all.
, I guessed. If anything, the kidnapper had focused most of his effort on following me and the people who I came into contact with directly. And Paul was definitely not one of those people.

Even though Paul lived in the same city as us, he and I hardly saw each other except at family gatherings which usually took place once or twice in a year. He had a reputation for being very reserved and hardly visited us at our place though he and I shared a good rapport. Annie did visit him often but they usually met closer to her workplace or at Paul’s condo in the city. Unless the kidnapper had spent time following Annie as well, it was unlikely that he knew about Paul. And that meant that it was reasonably safe for me to take Paul’s help.

But how do I reach him?–
The question nagged me with no answer in sight.

Almost on cue, my cell phone rang once again. It was a call from Annie’s number. Looking at the screen felt like yet another reminder that the situation I was in was much more precarious than was obvious to me.

I picked up the call but said nothing.

“You’ve done a good job writing the journal, doctor” said the voice.

“I think this is the beginning of a good working relationship. Your cooperation makes me feel like I should return the favor somehow.

“Maybe…I should help you focus…Tell me, doctor, what are the questions floating in your mind right now?”

I maintained a stunned silence, surprised by what he was asking of me.
He wants to help me?
I asked myself.
What kind of trick is this?

“Come on, doctor. I know you have many questions. Don’t hesitate. You might not get another opportunity. Now is the only time. What questions do you have?”

“Why are you doing this?” I struggled.

There was a short, awkward pause. I was almost expecting an answer. But he wasn’t going to give me one.

“Go on, doctor. What else? I said I would help you focus…that does not necessarily mean I will answer your questions one at a time.”

I waited for a second. “What do you want?...How do you know so much about me?...How can I stop this?...How…”

“Doctor, those are all good questions”, he cut me mid-way. “But none of them is the right question. They are all superficial like the symptoms of a disease. You are a psychiatrist. You know that these questions just scrape the surface of a person’s mind. You need to ask the right question if you want to get the answer that matters. You already asked me the right question some time back…almost at the beginning of this all. You just need to remember it. You just need to understand the importance of this. Look at this differently…Tell me now, what is the only question that matters at this moment?”

I closed my eyes, rummaging through the dense cloud of my thoughts.
Perspective, not emotion.
I reminded myself again. And in that instant, I found the only question which mattered at that moment.
I exulted inside my head,
it is about understanding him. It is about understanding his perspective.

“Who are you?” I said.

The caller laughed, sounding pleased that I had asked him the exact question which he had in mind. “Yes,” he said, “Good job, doctor. Good job. Now we are talking. Who am I? Do you have any idea who I could be?”

I fell silent, breathing heavily into the phone, thinking hard, scanning through images of all adversaries I could think of, every person who might want to destroy me. Was it one of the prisoners from the facility? Someone I had accidentally offended? Was it one of my patients? Who could it be?

I thought of every single name, every single face I could recall but I could not identify anyone in specific who could be motivated enough to take the extreme step. I had never been the kind of person who liked to make enemies. I knew people who thrived in conflict, feeding on daily battles, but I was not one of them. I had always walked away from confrontations, preferring to diffuse the situation instead of engaging in any kind of conflict that could cause mutual harm.

In hindsight, any effort on my part to find the answer to that question was useless. I simply did not have enough information at that point of time to be able to tell who he was. It would all become obvious but not till later in the day, not before he had made me work for it.

“I would like to give you the answer to that question, doctor” he continued, “but not right now. I guess I am not feeling helpful enough.

“I feel bad leaving you hanging like that, doctor. I hope it won’t spoil our working relationship.

“I hope that’s alright though” he added. “You will know everything…in time. I will come to meet you later today once the sun is up…I will come to meet you in person. I want you to have a normal day, doctor. I want you to see patients at your clinic like you usually do. Who knows…you might even find Annie and Sarah at home when you return from work in the evening…

BOOK: The Secrets You Hide: A Mind-Blowing Thriller (The Psychosis Series)
2.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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