The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 16, Dr. Alexander

Not a muscle in his body moved as Dr. Walter Alexander stood watching the accused run through whatever motions the world in his head told him were real. No matter how long he would do this research, this line of work and study, it never ceased to amaze him how the mind of man could take control, incinerate what was right in front of its senses, altering it unreservedly to the reality it elects to see.

Of course, there were many technical terms and clinical words he used in his reports, or when witnessing as an expert or supplying his diagnosis and recommendations, but in the end it boiled down to this – the mind overriding the senses to create the reality it wanted. It was mind-blowing.

That is how she’d found him when she entered the small observation room. He froze, like a complete idiot, pretending to be looking at the patient through the observation window – two-way mirror he believed they called it – with a look he hoped passed for concentration in the dimly lit room, instead of the fear and terror it clearly was.

It seemed silly when he thought about it later. Indeed, he knew it was, and so he should being an expert in the human psyche. But no matter how much self-talk, books, or other doctors he visited and talked to, the truth of the matter was, he was still afraid of girls, had never gotten comfortable. It sounded silly when he said it like that. Just as he needed it to sound – as ridiculous, infantile and imbecilic as possible – to push himself through this demoralizing fear and onto dealing with them, the fairer sex. He’d been doing remarkably well too, until now. Seeing this vision in front of him seemed to have set him back three to four years. Back to that goofy nerd still locked in his study-room pretending to be immersed within the elusive world of theory – when the truth was, he was just afraid.

That was where they’d found him. The government, the police, whoever it was that wanted him, as apparently he’d managed to become some guru of a psychological profiler. Who knew? As far as he was concerned, his studies were simply a world to escape to having been awkward and teased throughout every level of school, his life. Buck teeth and braces, big ears, glasses, smart, nonathletic, interested in bugs and such – the girls had never given him a second glance. And the boys, well, the boys simply made life a living nightmare. Even so, it was the girls he was petrified of.

With his father being rich and utterly overbearing, it was all but effortless to become invisible. With money aplenty to go to private schools, then on to the Universities of choice, Walter put his head down and lived within the totally encompassing world of his studies.

His overprotective mother kept his overbearing father off his back whenever possible, which allowed him to slip further into his self-imposed world of solitude, his only companions being books, computers, and his imagination. Wasn’t’ he surprised, (actually, his father may have been more surprised) when some suit-wearing government officials had come knocking on his lab door. Evidently, they’d run some kind of computer search looking for the nation’s top psychological profilers and his name appeared at the top of the list. Who would have figured? He hadn’t even been looking, content to spend a life in research with his comforting and undemanding books.

Thinking back, he could only imagine what the two agents thought as they caught first sight of him. The black nerd-glasses – he’d still been wearing braces back then – his acne-riddled face with the joke of a mustache he’d been attempting to grow for who knew how many years. The pocket-protector, where he kept no less than five mechanical pencil’s at all times. His favorite green running shoes which he liked so much he’d bought a dozen pair, never once realizing that everyone would assume they were the same pair. He’d worn his hair longish and usually greasy as he often would forgo a shower or even going home, opting to stay at the lab and study.

His obsession was not only the most fascinating thing in the world to him, it was all consuming. His alter identity of sorts, where no one bothered him and called him names as there was no one around to interfere. Interaction with others had been simple, there wasn’t any, and Walter convinced himself he liked it that way.

When the men came, it meant an end to the hiding. Sure, he could have said no, stayed deep in the vaults of Stanford like some mad-scientist from the movies, toiling away at his obsession. But the reality of it was – he’d always know that somewhere, someone thought he had a gift and wanted him to use it for the betterment of society. So, if he said no – remained hidden in his world – he would forever have to admit to himself that his father had been right all along. That he was hiding from the world, a coward.

That was the sole imputes giving Walter the courage to accept. Sure Stanford was the place he called home as the University garnered considerable acclaim having one of, if not the most sought after psychological profilers as one of its researchers. Nevertheless, Walter could be called at any given moment to make ready, jump into a helicopter and flown who knows where to give his expert opinion on a multiple of different subjects. More often than not, the case would be much like this one. Deciding if an accused, like the one in the room in front of him, was truly insane or just pretending in hopes of a lighter sentence.

He knew who she was as he’d been expecting her. He just had not expected the her that had walked through the door. Had he not pretended to be in deep concentration it would have made little difference as he would have froze stiff all the same, too frightened to speak.

She was a goddess! Her grey business suit consisting of a skirt and jacket, showing she was comfortable in her femininity. Neither using it to position herself nor playing it down to fit into the man’s-world thinking so prevalent in the legal circuit. It accentuated her tiny body to perfection. The black hose she wore below the snug mid-thigh skirt ended in spectacular three-inch pumps. Walter laughed, Two years ago, the only pumps I’d known would have filled my car. Her jacket covered a white blouse and was garlanded by a black ribbon bow-tie, neither concealed the perky breasts that filled them out, but little of that mattered really. It was her eyes, green, and hair, red, that started his heart thumping.

He realized then, as she looked him over making him feel as if he were naked to her chauvinistic gaze, that he was no longer that geeky kid afraid of his own shadow, being teased on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, he no longer resembled that guy at all. The braces had been removed a few years ago and his teeth were not only straight, they now sparkled like miniature Christmas lights. With the help of modern science (Proactive), his acne had finally cleared and he’d given up on the stupid mustache choosing a daily shave whenever possible down at the local barber in its place. A little treat to himself as a reminder of where he’d once been and how far he’d come. His hair was clean-cut and stylin’, with highlights and a side-part. Kind of a Robert Downy Jr. sort of thing, right down to the glasses, designer clothes, but without the tacky logos on the side showing everyone how insecure you were on the inside that you needed everyone to notice what you were wearing on the outside. Even his suits were custom made now. Hell, his family was wealthy and he had a sizable income, why not enjoy it a little? Realizing this or at least reminding himself of this, he then did something he’d never have thought possible, not in his lifetime. He turned the table, giving her the same, stripping her clothes off and eating her up once over as she’d given him. He left the pumps on of course, as heels irrefutably accentuated the female body, not that hers needed any.

Everything looked to be going well, at least in his mind, anyway. He appeared witty, confident (good thing the room was dim or she’d have noticed his knees knocking), some might even have said suave or debonair. But then it happened. He’d become a total nerd-idiot spewing inane information at her that no one other than an obsessed dork would find fascinating, and everything had gone to pot from there. He thought the beginning of the end might have been when he’d called her Tinker-Bell. That sure lit a fire in her and try as he might he couldn’t seem to put it out. The more anxious he’d become the stupider his conversation, until at one point he’d told her most of, if not the entire history of red hair. What a moron!

She’d made good her escape when the Lieutenant walked into the room. It was all he could do not to go after her. Thank god he hadn’t. For once in his life, his deer in a headlight reaction had worked to his advantage.

“I said, are you all right Doc?”

“Huh? I’m sorry. I must have been daydreaming. What were you saying, Lieutenant King, isn’t it?” He had no idea how long he’d stood there in his stupor or how long the oversized cop had been talking to him. At five eight, one forty-five himself, the guy looked as if he could crush him with one hand.

“I was asking if you were all right. Chloe looks to have paralyzed you or something.” The grin on the enormous cop looked more sympathetic than malicious. “Stunning isn’t she, Doc? The girls got a set of balls on her too. You’ll know soon enough where you stand, she doesn’t take shit from anybody, period. We’re damn lucky to have her on this case, so don’t go chasing her away – you hear me.” He pulled a cigar out of his jacket pocket then realizing where he was, that he wasn’t allowed to light it there, put it away with a shake of his head.

“No fear of that Lieutenant—”

“Please Doctor, its Sam. You can leave the rank to the rank and file.”

He looked at the man in front of him – a little older, but unmistakably solid. He decided he liked him. “And I am Walter, although I hate the name,” he said, laughing. “I think it’s just one more lingering punishment set upon me by my overbearing father.”

“Isn’t it always the way Doc – I mean Walt?”

Walter thought of correcting him but instead, to his surprise, found he liked the new chopped version of his name.

“My dad was a whopping big, prick of a cop. Used to get pissed drunk and beat the shit out of me. When he wasn’t beating my Ma that is. Bastard went too far one night, now he doesn’t beat anyone, anymore.”

He waited for the big man to continue, although, after a few moments, he realized there would be no more elucidation. “I take it you’re in charge of the case Sam? That we’ll be working together on this one?”

The Lieutenant reached into his pocket and pulled out a toothpick, which he flipped magically into his mouth. It seemed the big cop liked to think things over before speaking, preferred to have a decoy to keep between him and others. It made Walt smile. “That depends somewhat on you, whether you find this guy nuts or not. I mean, we’ll still be involved either way, but not near as much if he really is. Nuts I mean.”

“Right, I see what you mean. And the District Attorney’s office – what about them?” he asked, looking down at his clasped hands.

“You mean Chloe?” Even with averted eyes he could sense the amused grin slashed upon the Lieutenant’s face. “Don’t you worry Walt – she’s the one running the show, so you’ll be seeing more than your fill of her. You’d best straighten out whatever you did to piss her off though. I would hate to have that fiery Irish temper gunning for me and she seemed to be leaving with a head of steam. What did you do anyway – call her Shorty or something?” His laugh filled the room, ricocheting off the close walls. Walter couldn’t believe the perpetrator hadn’t heard it in the other room.

“That and few other things.” He had to laugh, after witnessing the total transformation of the face in front of him. It was nothing if not comical, not believing what he’d just heard.

“You didn’t! Jesus Christ that takes some set of balls man. I’m surprised you still have a pair!”

“Oh, it wasn’t balls. Just stupidity, I can assure you. I was as nervous as a schoolboy. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more beautiful woman and well, my tongue got the best of me –and the worst of me, I’m afraid.” The smile left his face realizing just how badly he’d screwed things up. “There’s nothing to be done about it either way. I have made an ass of myself and she thinks I am an ignorant moron. So back to your original question, is he nuts? My best answer is – it’s too soon to tell. But if he’s not, he is doing one hell of a brilliant acting job.”

“Humph, I guess we will have to wait and see then, eh Walt.” The Lieutenant stared through the two-way a moment longer. “Has his lawyer come in yet?”

“It’s my understanding he’s refused representation, that he wishes to represent himself.”

The sturdy cop looked over at him, the confusion clear on his face, “So, he,” pointing, “is making the insanity plea – for himself?”

“What?” He was still thinking of his blunder with the gorgeous woman he’d pissed off, who was now, technically, his superior in some convoluted way. “Oh? No, he wants to represent himself. They, the legals, called me in to determine competency, whether or not he is capable of actually standing trial or whether he goes directly to an institution. As far as he’s concerned,” nodding towards the two-way with his chin, “he’s perfectly sane.”

He watched the confusion on the Lieutenant’s face increase. Though he was sure the man was capable, anything but stupid, he was confident that if he stood there long enough he would hear the clatter of gears clunking in the poor man’s head.

With a quick shake, as if to clean the cop-webs or get rid of the gobble-e-gook he’d just heard, Sam turned and reached for the door to the hall. “I’ll need to meet with the two of you once my Sergeant brings me up to speed on the crime-scene. Don’t make scarce, we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other for awhile regardless of your decision.”

Walter nodded agreement and handed him his card with his hotel and room number written on the back. “I’m at your disposal Lieutenant – I mean Sam – twenty-four-seven.”

“Careful Walt. Us cops never sleep, don’t ya-know.” His smile was contagious. “And Walt, don’t be too hard on yourself over Chloe. We all blow it our first try.” The door closed slowly after the big man exited the tiny room, his laughter receding with his footsteps as they trailed down the hall.

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