The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 16, Dr. Reichmann

He couldn’t shake it. Every time Bethany visited, called, even e-mailed or wrote him a letter it would trigger foul memories, visions, snippets of thought that would overwhelm him, break him down. He considered stopping her treatment some time back but decided against it. He was her doctor after all and she needed his help. Besides, what kind of doctor was he if he couldn’t endure a little discomfort on behalf of his patient? She needed him, that was apparent, and if he left her in the lurch who knew what would happen? And thank God he hadn’t cut her off! After today’s sessions and the events she’d told him about – the father in law? My God! He didn’t even know where to begin. She seemed visibly relieved just to get it off of her chest, to tell somebody, anybody. He was both delighted and disturbed it was him.

It had been especially uncomfortable sitting there listening to her tell of the events. The abuse she had been forced to endure with her husband standing there, watching, refusing to acknowledge that his father was doing anything wrong. Afraid that by doing so, he as in Fred, might lose his relationship with the offending party.

He shook his head. This was too close to home, even all these years later – too raw, too painful. Deep down, he knew he was a hypocrite. How do you treat people, council people, when you still have unresolved issues of your own? A question he’d asked himself time and time again over the years – the answer, elusive, internal, buried deeper with the passing of his mother many years before. He knew what to do, how to do it, yet for whatever reason the past still haunted him, refused to let him move on, be one with himself.

The vividness of the memories her story had conjured was as if some magician or sorcerer had cast a spell. He’d been caught up in her tale, reliving horrors of his own past, unable to win himself free of the visions, the emotions, the pain that they brought to the surface. It had been many years ago, a lifetime really. And in that lifetime he’d only spoken of it once, to his mother, and they’d never spoke of it, or “him,” again. Him had been his step-father, the love of his mother’s life. He knew, even back then as a child that it was this man whom his mother had loved, always, even when she had been married to his father.

His soon to be step had moved in with them only days after his father’s disappearance. Fred had never heard of, not even the slightest hint of the man again. His mother swore she hadn’t either. Gone without a trace, as they say, although young Fred heard about him every day. According to his mother and her lover (Fred was to refer to the abominable man as father,) the ever elusive sperm-donor was the reason Fred was so far from perfect, such a disappointing specimen of the human race. He could still hear the two of them echoing, ricocheting within his mind, even after all these years. “Your father this!” and, “Your father that!” Had he believed the half of it, his father made monsters like Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer and the late Osama bin Laden appear merely misunderstood, not actually evil at all. Had that been the whole of it, Fred was sure he would have been able to hold up, but it wasn’t, not by a long shot.

It started with the beatings. Each disguised as punishment for some obscure infraction that Fred had apparently done and most likely linked to how the disgusting man was made to appear to outside people and their opinions of him. There were smacks and punches, he was made to stand in the corner, sometimes until his little bladder failed and he pissed himself and then he’d be punished again for making a mess. There were missed dinners, soaped mouths, dark closets, and the straps across his bare ass and legs until he could hardly walk. Yet none of those admonishments had broken him, none had pushed him to the edge. It was the other things, the revolting things – that and his mother’s refusal to admit it.

Oh, she knew. He’d seen her walk in and more than once, only to turn around and leave him in the hands of her lover. The one time he dared bring it up, tears streaming down his face, she’d slapped him and told him never to mention it again, and that was that.

A few years later when Fred had grown bigger, perhaps less attractive to the abhorred beast, the man had left, never to return. So there they were once again, alone, together, only this time they would never speak of it. Act as if he’d never been part of their lives, never existed, although he listened to his mother cry herself to sleep almost every night.

He shook his head to rid himself of the horrible memories. That was the moment Grant chose to burst into his office for the third time that day. “There’s cop’s everywhere Doc!” The younger man ran to the window to look out. “At first I thought it might be a bomb scare. You know – like the Unabomber or one of those Muslim guys or something but then I heard someone say something about a murder.” He turned back, interest lost, and headed towards the chairs in front of the desk. “By the way, that Rachel chick is fucking hot. I think she wants to do me.” He stopped on the way to the empty seat to check his hair in the mirror then plunked himself down. “I’m hooking up with her later – maybe get a helmet-wash or something.”

“What the hell are talking about Grant? You mention bomber and murderer in one breath and then all you can think about is taking advantage of some poor mixed-up woman? What’s the matter with you for Christ’s sakes?” He rarely yelled but found himself doing a fine job of it just then. He lowered his head into his cupped hands, took a few moments to gather himself, retool his patience, then rose, slowly. “I’m going into the bathroom for a moment to collect myself. If you feel the urge and need to leave – do not think of me – please Grant, follow it. I believe I’ve had about enough excitement for one day and I’m expecting another patient any minute now. So if you’ll excuse me – thank you.” And he walked into the washroom to corral his frazzled wits.

“Doc – Doc, stay in the bathroom, they’re here! Stay in the bathroom!”

It was Grant’s voice alright, but what on earth was the idiot going on about? He had been about to leave the bathroom – it was his own, just off the hallway in his office – when he heard the crashes, the booms, the noise of what sounded to be a struggle.

“What the hell kind of trouble has the idiot gotten himself into now?” he said, grabbing the door knob to see if he could help the fool. The funny thing was, the door handle was locked or jammed or something, yet it only locked – as far as he knew, anyway – from the inside. By the time he’d forced the thing open, Grant was gone. Though he’d been replaced by a couple of strangers, three of them actually, and from the looks on their faces they had nothing but bad news.

“What? What’s happened? Where’s Grant? What was all that noise?” The strangers looked to each other in turn, raising eyebrows in hidden dialog before one of them, a smallish good-looking man with glasses and stylish hair and perfect teeth, addressed him.

“Dr. Fredrick Reichmann?”

“Yes? What’s this all about?”

The smallish man turned to the other two again, for reassurance Fred guessed, then seemed to come to a decision and pressed on. “I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. You might want to sit down.”

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