"Mr. monroe, I appreciate you coming by to talk with me." Tess greeted Joey Higgins's stepfather at the door to her office. "My secretary's gone for the day, but I can fix us some coffee if you like."
"Not for me." He stood, uncomfortable as always in her presence, and waited for her to make the first move.
"I realize you've already put in a full day," she began, not adding she'd put in one of her own.
"I don't mind the extra time if it helps Joey."
"I know." She smiled, gesturing him to a chair. "I haven't had many opportunities to speak to you privately, Mr. Monroe, but I want to tell you that I can see how hard you're trying with Joey."
"It isn't easy." He folded his overcoat on his lap. He was a tidy man, organized by nature. His fingers were neatly manicured, his hair combed into place, his suit dark and conservative. Tess thought she understood how inscrutable he would find a boy like Joey.
"It's harder on Lois, of course."
"Is it?" Tess sat behind her desk, knowing the distance and the impersonal position would make it easier for him. "Mr. Monroe, coming into a family after a divorce and trying to be a father figure to a teenage boy is difficult under any circumstances. When the boy is as troubled as Joey, the difficulties are vastly multiplied."
"I'd hoped by now, well…" He lifted his hands, then laid them flat again. "I'd hoped we could do things together, ball games. I even bought a tent, though I have to admit I don't know the first thing about camping. But he's not interested."
"Doesn't feel he can allow himself to be interested," Tess corrected. "Mr. Monroe, Joey has linked himself with his father to a very unhealthy degree. His father's failures are his failures, his father's problems his problems."
"The bastard doesn't even-" He cut himself off. "I'm sorry."
"No, don't apologize. I know it appears that Joey's rather doesn't care, or can't be bothered. It stems from his illness, but that isn't what I wanted to speak with you about. Mr. Monroe, you know I've tried to discuss intensifying Joey's treatment. The clinic I mentioned in Alexandria specializes in emotional illness in adolescents."
"Lois won't hear of it." As far as Monroe was concerned, it ended there. "She feels, and I have to agree, that Joey would think we'd abandoned him."
"The transition would be difficult, there's no denying that. It would have to be handled by all of us in such a way that Joey understands he isn't being punished or sent away, but offered another chance. Mr. Monroe, I have to be candid with you. Joey is not responding to treatment."
"He's not drinking?"
"No, he's not drinking." How could she convince him that the alleviation of one symptom was far from a cure? She'd already seen in their family therapy sessions that Monroe was a man who saw results much more clearly than he saw causes. "Mr. Monroe, Joey is an alcoholic, will always be an alcoholic whether he drinks or not. He's one of twenty-eight million children of alcoholics in this country. One third of them become alcoholics themselves, as Joey has."
"But he's not drinking," Monroe persisted.
"No, he's not." She linked her fingers, laid them on the blotter, and tried again. "He is not consuming alcohol, he's not altering his reality with alcohol, but he has yet to deal with his dependency, and more importantly, the reasons for it. He is not getting drunk, Mr. Monroe, but the alcohol was a cover-up and an offshoot of other problems. He can't control or blanket those problems with liquor anymore, and now they're overwhelming him. He shows no anger, Mr. Monroe, no rage, and very little grief, though it's all bottled inside of him. Children of alcoholics often take on the responsibility for their parent's illness."
Uncomfortable and impatient, Monroe shifted in his chair. "You've explained that before."
"Yes, I have. Joey resents his father, and to a great extent he resents his mother because both of them let him down. His father with his drinking, his mother with her preoccupation with his father's drinking. Because he loves them, he's turned this resentment onto himself."
"Lois did her best."
"Yes, I'm sure she did. She's a remarkably strong woman. Unfortunately, Joey doesn't have her strength. Joey's depression has reached a dangerous stage, a critical stage. I can't tell even you what was discussed or what was said in our recent sessions, but I can tell you I'm more concerned than ever over his emotional state. He's in such pain. At this point I'm doing little more than soothing the pain so that he can get through the week until I can soothe it again. Joey feels his life is worthless, that he's failed as a son, as a friend, as a person."
"Divorce batters the children involved. The extent of which depends on the state of mind the children are in at the time, the way the divorce is handled, the emotional strength of the individual child. For some it can be as devastating as a death. There's usually a period of grief, of bitterness, even of denial. Self-blame is common. Mr. Monroe, it's been nearly three years since your wife separated from Joey's father. His obsession with the divorce and his part in it isn't normal. It's become a springboard for all of his problems."
She paused a moment, and linked her hands together again. "His alcoholism is painful. Joey feels he deserves the pain. In fact, he appreciates it in the way a small child appreciates being disci-plined for breaking the rules. The discipline, the pain, makes him feel a part of society, while at the same time, the alcoholism itself makes Joey feel isolated from society. He's learned to depend on this isolation, on seeing himself as different, not quite as good as everyone else. Particularly you."
"Me? I don't understand."
"Joey identifies with his father, a drunk, a failure both in business and in family life. You are everything his father, and therefore Joey, is not. Part of him wants to cut himself off from his father and model himself on you. The rest of him simply doesn't feel worthy, and he's afraid to risk another failure. It's gone beyond that even, Mr. Monroe. Joey is fast reaching a point where he's too tired to bother at all with life."
His fingers were clenching and unclenching. When he spoke, it was his calm, board of director's voice. "I don't follow you."
"Suicide is the third highest cause of death among teenagers, Mr. Monroe. Joey has definite suicidal tendencies. He's already playing with the idea, circling around it with his fascination with the occult. It would take very little at this point in his life to push him over the line-an argument that leaves him feeling rebellious, a test in school that makes him feel inadequate. His fathers ambivalent behavior."
Though her voice was calm, the underlying urgency was communicating to him. Tess leaned forward, hoping to take it to the next step. "Mr. Monroe, I can't stress how vital it is that Joey begin structured, intensified treatment. You trusted me enough to bring him here, to allow me to treat him. You have to trust me enough to believe me when I say I'm not enough for him. I have information here on the clinic." She pushed a folder across the desk. "Please discuss this with your wife, ask her to come in and talk it over with me. I'll rearrange my schedule so that we can meet any time it's convenient. But, please, make it soon. Joey needs this, and he needs it now, before something pushes him over."
He took the folder, but didn't open it. "You want us to. send Joey to a place like this, but you didn't want us to have him change schools."
"No, I didn't." She wanted to pull the pins out of her hair, run her hands through it until the pressure at her temples was gone. "At that time I felt, I hoped, I could still reach him. Since September Joey's been pulling away more and more."
"He saw the change in schools as another failure, didn't he?"
"Yes. I'm sorry."
"I knew it was a mistake." He let out a long breath. "When Lois was making the arrangements to transfer him, he looked at me. It was as if he was saying, please, give me a chance. I could almost hear him. But I backed her up."
"There's no blame here, Mr. Monroe. You and your wife are dealing with a situation where there are no easy answers. There is no absolute right or wrong."
"I'll take the papers home." He rose then, slowly, as though the folder in his hand were weighty and leaden. "Dr. Court, Lois is pregnant. We haven't told Joey."
"Congratulations." She offered her hand while her mind weighed how this news might affect her patient. "I think it would be nice if you told him together, making it a family affair. The three of you are expecting a baby. It would be very important to Joey to be made to feel included rather than replaced. A baby, the anticipation of a baby, can bring a great deal of love into a family."
"We've been afraid he might resent it-us."
"He might." Timing, she thought-emotional survival could so often depend on timing. "The more he's brought into the process, into the planning, the more he'll feel a part of it. Do you have a nursery?"
"We have a spare bedroom we thought we might redecorate."
"I imagine Joey would be pretty good with a paintbrush, given the chance. Please call me after you've discussed the clinic. I'd like to go over it with Joey myself, perhaps take him there so that he can see it."
"All right. Thank you, Doctor."
Tess closed the door behind him, then pulled out the pins in her hair. The band of tension eased, leaving only a dull ache. She wasn't sure she could rest easy until Joey was being treated in the clinic. At least they were turning in the right direction, she told her-self. Monroe hadn't been enthusiastic about her suggestion, but she believed he would push for it.
Tess locked away Joey's file and his tapes, holding on to the cassette from their last session a moment longer. He'd spoken of death twice during the session, both times in a matter-of-fact way. He hadn't termed it as dying but as opting out. Death as a choice. She kept the last tape out, and decided to phone the director of the clinic in the morning.
When her phone rang she nearly groaned. She could leave it. Her answering service would pick it up after the fourth ring and contact her if it was important. Then she changed her mind, holding Joey's tape in her hand as she crossed over and picked it up.
"Hello, Dr. Court."
In the silence that followed she heard labored breathing and the sounds of traffic. Automatically she pulled a pad over and picked up a pencil.
"This is Dr. Court. Can I help you?"
The voice was only a whisper. She heard not the panic she was half expecting, but despair. "I can try. Would you like me to?"
"You weren't there. If you'd been there, it might have been different."
"I'm here now. Would you like to see me?"
"Can't." She heard the deep, gulping sob. "You'd know."
"I can come to you. Why don't you tell me your name and where you are?" She heard the click.
Less than a block away, the man in the dark coat leaned against the pay phone and wept in pain and confusion.
"Damn." Tess glanced down at the notes she'd made of the conversation. If he'd been a patient, she hadn't recognized his voice. On the off chance that the phone would ring again, she stayed another fifteen minutes, then gathered up her work and left the office.
Frank Fuller was waiting in the hall. –
"Well, there she is." He slipped his breath spray back into his pocket. "I was beginning to think you'd moved out of the building."
Tess glanced back at her door. Her name and profession were neatly printed on it. "No, not yet. Working a bit late tonight, Frank?"
"Oh, you know how it goes." Actually, he'd spent the last hour trying to drum up a date. He hadn't been successful. "Apparently this police-consultant business has kept you pretty tied up."
"Apparently." Even for someone whose manners were as ingrained as Tess's, small talk after the day she'd put in was stretching things. Her thoughts drifted back to the phone call as she waited for the elevator.
"You know, Tess…" He used his old trick of resting his hand against the wall and surrounding her. "You might find it beneficial, professionally speaking, to consult with a colleague on this. I'd be glad to make some room on my calendar."
"I appreciate that, Frank, but I know how busy you are." When the elevator doors slid open, she stepped inside. She pressed the button for the ground floor and shifted her briefcase as he stepped in beside her.
"Never too busy for you, Tess, professionally or otherwise. Why don't we discuss it over drinks?"
"I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to discuss it at all."
"We can find something else to discuss then. I have this bottle of wine, a cocky little Zinfandel I've been saving for the right occasion. Why don't we go back to my place, pop the cork, and put up our feet?"
So he could start nibbling her toes, Tess thought, and sent up a quiet prayer of thanksgiving when the doors opened again. "No thanks, Frank."
She made tracks across the lobby, but didn't shake him.
"Why don't we stop in at the Mayflower, then, a quiet drink, a little music, and no shop talk?"
Champagne cocktails at the Mayflower. Ben had told her that was her style. Perhaps it was time to prove to him, and Frank Fuller, that it wasn't. "The Mayflowers a bit staid for my taste, Frank." She flipped up her collar as they stepped into the chilly darkness of the parking lot. "But in any case, I haven't the time for socializing. You should try that new club around the corner, Zeedo's. From what I hear, it's almost impossible not to score if you dig in for the evening." She pulled out her keys and slipped one into the lock of her car door.
"How do you know about-"
"Frank." She clucked her tongue then patted his cheek. "Grow up." Delighted with herself and his astounded expression, she slid into the car. She glanced over her shoulder as she reversed, but barely spared a glance at the man standing in the shadows at the edge of the lot.
She'd hardly gotten through the door and shed her coat and shoes, when someone knocked. If it was Frank, she'd stop being polite, Tess promised herself, and give it to him right between the eyes.
Senator Jonathan Writemore stood in his Saville Row overcoat, holding a red cardboard box of chicken and a slim paper bag.
"Grandpa." Most of the tension Tess hadn't been aware of having slipped away. She drew a deep breath and all but tasted the spices. "I hope you're not on your way to a hot date."
"I'm on my way right here." He dropped the box of chicken into her hands. "It's still hot, little girl. I got extra spicy."
"My hero. I was about to fix myself a cheese sandwich."
"Figures. Get the plates, and plenty of napkins."
She slipped into the kitchen, setting the chicken on the table as she went by. "Does this mean I'm not invited to dinner tomorrow?"
"This means you eat two decent meals this week. Don't forget the corkscrew. I have a bottle of wine here."
"As long as its not Zinfandel."
"Never mind." Tess returned carrying plates, linen napkins, two of her best wineglasses, and a corkscrew. She set the table, lit the candles, then turned to give her grandfather a bear hug. "I'm so glad to see you. How did you know I needed a boost tonight?"
"Grandfathers are born knowing." He kissed both her cheeks, then scowled at her. "You're not getting enough rest."
"I'm the doctor."
He gave her a swat on the rear. "Just sit down, little girl." He turned his attention to the wine bottle when she obeyed. Tess lifted the lid while he dealt with the cork. "Give me one of those chicken tits."
She giggled like a girl, and placed the fast food on her mother's best English bone china. "Think how shocked your constituents would be if they heard you talking about chicken tits." She chose a drumstick and was delighted to discover a box of fries. "How's the Senate business?"
"It takes a lot of shit to grow flowers, Tess." He drew the cork. "I'm still lobbying to get the Medicaid Reform bill passed. I don't know if I can pull off enough support before we adjourn for the holidays."
"It's a good bill. It makes me proud of you."
"Flatterer." He poured her wine, then his own. "Where's the ketchup? Can't eat fries without ketchup. No, don't get up, I'll get it. When's the last time you've been to the store?" he asked the minute he opened the refrigerator.
"Don't start," she said, and took a bite of chicken. "Besides, you know I'm the expert on takeout and eat-ins."
"I don't like to think of my only granddaughter forever eating out of a carton." He came back in with a bottle of ketchup, easily ignoring the fact that they were both eating out of a carton. "If I wasn't here, you'd be over at that desk with a cheese sandwich and a stack of files."
"Did I say I was glad to see you?" Tess lifted her wineglass and smiled at him.
"How about I buy two tickets for Saint Croix and we take off the day after Christmas? Have ourselves a week of fun in the sun."
"You know I'd love to, but the holidays are the roughest on some of my patients. I have to be here for them."
"I've been having second thoughts."
"You?" Bypassing the ketchup, she began to nibble on fries and wondered if she had room for a second piece of chicken. "About what?"
"Getting you involved with these homicides. You're looking worn out."
"It's only partly that."
"Having a problem with your sex life?"
"Seriously, Tess, I've spoken with the mayor. He's told me how involved you are with the police investigation. All I had in mind was the profile, maybe showing off my smart granddaughter a bit."
"Vicarious thrills, huh?"
"The thrill takes on a different complexion after the fourth murder. Only two blocks from here."
"Grandpa, that would have happened whether I was involved with the investigation or not. The point now is, I want to be involved." She thought of Ben, his accusations, his resentment. She thought of her own well-ordered life and the sudden small twinges of dissatisfaction. "Maybe I need to be involved. Things have been pretty cut and dried for me up to now in my life, and my career. My part in this has shown me a different aspect of myself, and of the system."
She took up her napkin, but only kneaded it in her hands. "The police aren't interested in the workings of his mind, in his emotional motivation, yet they'll use the knowledge to try to catch him, and to punish him. I'm not interested in seeing him punished, yet I'll use what I can learn of his mind, his motivation, to try to have him stopped and helped. Which of us is right, Grandpa? Is justice punishment or is it treatment?"
"You're talking to a lawyer of the old school, Tess. Every man, woman, and child in this country is entitled to representation and a fair trial. The lawyer might not believe in the client, but he has to believe in the law. The law says that this man has the right to be judged by the system. And usually the system works."
"But does the system, the law, understand the diseased mind?" Shaking her head, she set the napkin down again, recognizing her kneading as nerves. "Not guilty by reason of insanity. Shouldn't it be not responsible? Grandpa, he is guilty of murdering those women. But responsible, no."
"He's not one of your patients, Tess."
"Yes, he is. He has been all along, but I didn't understand that until last week-the last murder. He hasn't asked me for help yet, but he will be asking for it. Grandpa, do you remember what you said to me the day I opened my office?"
He studied her, seeing that even with her intense and troubled eyes, the candlelight made her beautiful. She was his little girl. "Probably said too many things. I've been alive a long time."
"You said that I'd chosen a profession that would allow me into people's minds, and that I could never forget their hearts. I haven't forgotten."
"I was proud of you that day. I still am."
She smiled and picked up her napkin. "You've got ketchup on your chin, Senator," she murmured, and wiped it off.
Three and a half miles away Ben and Ed had had more than one drink. The club was decorated with wine bottles, had its fair share of regulars and a blind piano player who sang low-key rock. His tip jar was only half full, but the evening was young. Their table was roughly the size of a place mat squeezed in among a line of others. Ed worked his way through a pasta salad. Ben settled on the beer nuts.
"You eat enough of those," Ben commented with a nod at Ed's plate. "You turn into a yuppie."
"Can't be a yuppie if you don't drink white wine." Sure?
Taking him at his word, Ben plucked up a rotini noodle.
"What was the word when you called in?"
Ben picked up his glass and watched a woman in a short leather skirt slide past their table. "Bigsby went by the drugstore where he bought the money order. Nothing. Who's going to remember a guy buying a money order three months ago? Aren't you going to put any salt on that?"
"Are you kidding?" Ed signaled for another round. Neither of them were drunk yet, but not for lack of trying.
"You going over to Kinikee's Saturday to watch the game?"
"I've got to look at apartments. I've got to be out by the first of December."
"You should forget an apartment," Ben said as he switched to his fresh drink. "Rent money's money down the tube. You ought to be thinking about buying your own place, investing your money."
"Buying?" Ed picked up a spoon and stirred his drink. "You mean a house?"
"Sure. You've got to be crazy to toss money out the window every month on rent."
"Buy? You thinking of buying a house?"
"On my salary?" Ben laughed and tipped the chair back the full inch he had.
"Last I looked, I was bringing home the same as you."
"I tell you what you need to do, partner. You need to get married." Ed said nothing, but drained half his drink. "I'm serious. You find a woman, make sure she has a good job-I mean, like a career, so she won't be thinking about dumping it after. It would help if you found one you didn't mind looking at for long periods of time. Then you combine your salaries, you buy a house, and you stop throwing away rent money."
"They're turning my apartment building into condos, so I have to get married?"
"That's the system. Let's ask an unbiased party." Ben leaned over to the woman beside him. "Excuse me, but do you believe with today's social and economic climate that two can live as cheaply as one? In fact, considering the buying power of a two-income family, that two can almost always live more cheaply than one?"
The woman set down her spritzer and gave Ben a considering look. "Is this a pickup?"
"No, this is a random poll. They're turning my partners apartment into a condo."
"The dirty bastards did the same thing to me. Now it takes me twenty minutes on the Metro to get to work."
"You have a job?"
"Sure. I manage Women's Better Dresses at Woodies."
"Here you go, Ed." Ben leaned toward him. "Your future bride."
"Have another drink, Ben."
"You're blowing a perfect opportunity. Why don't we switch places so you can…" He trailed off as he spotted the man approaching their table. Instinctively he straightened in his chair. "Evening, Monsignor."
Ed turned and saw Logan just behind him, wearing a gray sweater and slacks. "Nice to see you again, Monsignor. Want to squeeze in?"
"Yes, if I'm not interrupting." Logan managed to draw a chair up to the corner of the table. "I called the station and they told me you'd be here. I hope you don't mind."
Ben ran a finger up and down the side of his glass. "What can we do for you, Monsignor?"
"You can call me Tim." Logan signaled to the waitress. "I think that would make us all more comfortable. Bring me a St. Pauli Girl, and bring another round for my associates." Logan glanced over as the piano player went into one of Billy Joel's ballads. "I don't have to ask if you two have had a hard day. I've been in contact with Dr. Court, and I had a brief discussion with your captain a couple of hours ago. You're trying to pin down a Francis Moore."
"Trying's the word." Ed pushed aside his empty plate so the waitress would clear it when she served the drinks.
"I knew a Frank Moore. Used to teach in seminary down here. Old school. Unshakable faith. The kind of priest I imagine you're more accustomed to, Ben."
"Where is he?"
"Oh, in God's light, I'm sure." He picked up a handful of nuts. "He died a couple of years ago. Bless you, child," Logan said when his beer was in front of him. "Now old Frank wasn't a raving fanatic, he simply wasn't flexible. Today we have a lot of young priests who question and search, who debate such horny-you should forgive the pun-issues as celibacy and a woman's right to give the sacraments. It was easier for Frank Moore, who saw things in black and white. A man of the cloth doesn't lust for wine, women, or silk underwear. Cheers." He lifted his glass and drained what was left of the beer. "I'm telling you this because I thought I might tug on a few connections, talk to some people who would remember Frank and some of the students under him. I did some counseling at the seminary myself, but that was nearly ten years ago."
"We'll take what we can get."
"Good. Now that that's settled, I think I'll have another beer." He caught the waitress's eye, then turned back to smile at Ben. "How many years of Catholic school?"
Ben dug for his cigarettes. "Twelve."
"The whole route. I'm sure the good sisters gave you an admirable foundation."
"And a few good shots across the knuckles."
"Yes, bless them. They aren't all Ingrid Bergmans." No.
"I don't have much in common with Pat O'Brien myself." Logan hefted his fresh beer. "Of course, we're both Irish. Lecheim."
"Father Logan-Tim," Ed quickly corrected. "Can I ask you a religious question?"
"If you must.
"If this guy, any guy, came to you in the confessional and told you he'd done someone, murdered someone, would you turn him in?"
"That's a question I can answer equally as a psychiatrist and as a priest. They're aren't many." He studied his beer a moment. There were times when Logan's superiors considered him too flexible, but his faith in God and in his fellow man was unwavering. "If someone who had committed a crime came to me in the confessional, or sought my professional help, I would do my best to persuade him to turn himself in."
"But you wouldn't push the button?" Ben persisted.
"If someone came to me as a doctor, or seeking absolution, they'd be looking for help. I'd see that they got it. Psychiatry and religion don't always see eye to eye. In this case they do."
There was nothing Ed liked better than a problem with more than one solution. "If they don't see eye to eye, how can you do both?"
"By struggling to understand the soul and the mind-in many ways, seeing them as one in the same. You know, as a priest I could argue the subject of creation for hours, I could give you viable reasons why Genesis stands solid as a rock. As a scientist I could do precisely the same thing with evolution and explain why Genesis is a beautiful fairy tale. As a man I could sit here and say, what the hell difference does it make, we're here."
"Which do you believe?" Ben asked him. He preferred one solution, one answer. The right answer.
"That depends, in a matter of speaking, on what suit I'm wearing." He took a long drink and realized if he had a third beer, he'd be pleasantly buzzed. While enjoying the second, he began to look forward to the third. "Unlike what old Francis Moore used to teach, there are no blacks and whites, Ben, not in Catholicism, not in psychiatry, and certainly not in life. Did God create us out of his goodness and generosity, and perhaps a sense of the ridiculous? Or did we invent God because we have a desperate, innate need to believe in something larger, more powerful, than ourselves? I argue with myself often." He signaled for another round.
"None of the priests I knew ever questioned the order of things." Ben swallowed the rest of his vodka. "It was right or it was wrong. Usually it was wrong and you had to pay for it."
"Sin in its infinite variety. The Ten Commandments were very clear. Thou shalt not kill. Yet we've been warriors since before we could speak. The Church doesn't condemn the soldier who defends his country."
Ben thought of Josh. Josh had condemned himself. "To kill one-to-one is a sin. To drop a bomb, with an American flag on it, on a village, is patriotic."
"We are ridiculous creatures, aren't we?" Logan said comfortably. "Let me use a more simplistic example of interpretation. I had a young student a couple of years ago, a bright young woman who, I'm embarrassed to say, knew her bible better than I could ever hope to. She came to me one day on the question of masturbation." He turned a little in his chair and jogged the waitress's elbow. "Excuse me, dear." He turned back. "She had a quote, I'm sure I won't get it quite right, but it had to do with it being better that a man cast his seed into the belly of a whore than to spill it onto the ground. A pretty strong stand, one might say, against, ah, self-servicing."
"Mary Magdalene was a whore," Ed mumbled as the booze began to catch up with him.
"So she was." Logan beamed at him. "In any case, my student's point was that the female has no seed to cast anywhere or to spill on the ground. Therefore, it must only be a sin to masturbate if you're a male."
Ben remembered a couple of sweaty, terrifying sessions during puberty. "I had to say the whole damn rosary," he muttered.
"I had to say it twice," Logan put in, and for the first time saw Ben relax with a grin.
"What did you tell her?" Ed wanted to know.
"I told her the bible often speaks in generalities, that she should search her conscience. Then I looked up the quote myself." He took a comfortable drink. "Damned if I didn't think she had a point."