The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 9, Dr. Alexander

“You did what?” Chloe sat glaring, disbelief written in her eyes, anger threatening just behind. “Where on earth did you come up with that hairbrained idea? What were you thinking?”

He, in turn, also stared, not in incredulity but in shock as this was clearly not the reaction he was expecting or hoping for. In fact, it could not be further from it. He hadn’t expected her to swoon into his arms and cover his face in kisses, possibly dragging him to the bedroom for naked celebration – though that would have been nice. But he certainly hadn’t expected this.

She was still burning holes through his head with laser-beam eyes of – Just how friggin stupid are you? As he sat with his eyes glued to the table-top searching for responses to the unexpected questions being hurled. They were in a public place, thank God, the cafeteria at police headquarters. Everything had been going so well between the two of them at least – as the interrogation that morning had been nothing short of a complete disaster.

“There must be more books – journals, day-planners, notes? We are going to need them all before we can consider any kind of deal, Marcus. Don’t get me wrong – we’re extremely appreciative of the notes you’ve given us, but there’s nothing but first names. How on earth are we going to find these people if we don’t have any other information to corroborate with? You must know something more? Where did you find this information to begin with?” He knew he’d asked this question, these questions before, and over and over again, as it was standard practice.

“I told you already Dr. Alexander, I stole it from his office. I don’t know if there are any others or where he keeps them if they exist. Hell, I don’t even know what is in the one I gave you as I didn’t read all that much of it, only enough to know you would be interested. You’re the cops for Christ’s sakes – don’t tell me you can’t find anything. There must be something to go on. What does Dr. Reichmann have to say about it?”

Walter looked over to Chloe before answering the question. She nodded her agreement that he should spill the beans. “That, Marcus, is our problem. You see, we can’t tell him we have it and don’t dare ask any questions that would give that fact away or we may just find any information revealed inadmissible in court.”

He looked at them in confusion. It was clear he didn’t understand what he’d just been told. “What are you saying – that it’s no good?”

“No, we are not saying that. We’re saying that we must be particularly careful or any information, any leads it might give us, could end up not permissible… unusable in court.” He waited a moment, searching for signs of understanding before continuing. “So you see, anything else, a hint of any kind could, in the long run, make this information far more valuable and therefore work more in your favor.” Marcus just stared at him, blank. He continued. “I’m certain the Assistant District Attorney would agree with my assessment of the situation. Wouldn’t you Miss Blantyre?” he said, turning towards her, hope radiating from his eyes in search of a lifeline.

She shot him a thanks for throwing me under the bus, pal glance, then spoke. “Dr. Alexander is correct. Additional information could go a long way with the D.A.s office in lightening your sentence. Are you sure there’s nothing more you can remember? Even a guess might be helpful – a point in the right direction maybe?”

Still nothing.

They’d danced the same tune for hours but in the end left with no more than they’d walked in with. That was when he proposed lunch.

“Well? You must have been thinking something? What was it, I’m curious. I mean, we’ve known each other less than a week and you tell me you’ve quit your job and have decided to move to Baltimore. I mean seriously, Walter – who the hell moves to Baltimore!”

“I’m sorry,” he said, his head still tilted towards the table, memories of his father punching their way to the surface. “I was just thinking—”

“That’s just it,” she cut him off, “you were not thinking at all. Not about me, not about Kayleigh – not our feelings anyway. That is if this decision has something to do with me? With us? Well does it?”

He couldn’t bring himself to answer her, merely nodding his head in agreement, keeping his eyes focused down at the plate of unfinished food before him. The tuna sandwich started out much like this conversation – full of hope, the appearance of abundance and gratification to come – only to find out a few bites in that it was nothing more than a mirage. That all the tuna had been piled in the front to be seen through the cellophane packaging and that once you bit in there was hardly any substance at all, just dried-out bread and wilted lettuce.

“I figured it might. Jesus Walter – who does that?”

His gaze remained locked on the unfinished sandwich. The suffocating time crawled on, unbroken, uncomfortable, unbearable…

“Look at me,” she said, after what seemed like forever.

He lifted his head, slowly, though kept his eyes averted, unwilling to look into her eyes.

Another eternity dragged by.

“Are you crying, Walter?” He heard her surprise, the shock in her voice. He said nothing.

She sat in silence for some time, possibly searching for the right words, struggling with her emotions. Finally, she broke it. “I’m sorry too.”

Lifting his head, he looked at her, looked in her eyes.

She continued, “I should not have reacted that way. You put your heart out and I stomped on it, unthinking, not thinking of you. I was afraid – am afraid. This is all moving so fast. I’m not sure what to think – how I feel…”

Walter spoke for the first time in more than a half-hour. “I merely told you I was moving here – at least for a while. And though I was hoping for a better response— No, that’s a lie. I was hoping for an entirely different response – one where you were happy. But no matter, I’m moving either way. It’s about time I stopped hiding and started living. Thank you for teaching me that Chloe, I will never forget you. I hope you won’t forget me.” He knew it was wrong but he could no longer sit there in front of her with the complete breakdown he knew was about to overwhelm him. He rose and quickly made his way from the room.

He had no idea where he was going, couldn’t see through the tears. He wandered the halls of the police station half blind with emotion, took random corners relying on a sense of direction not fully developed to help him escape the building. To where? He’d no idea. Just as long as it was somewhere out of the station. Away from all the free-flowing testosterone forever present in the halls, wafting from every office he passed, the pungent odor impeding his senses further, creating confusion among his already tangled, ragged and worn emotions.

The blur ahead of him appeared so abruptly he had no time to swerve and collided full-on with the immovable mass dropping the notes and briefcase he hadn’t even realized he was carrying.

“Oh—I’m sorry Dr. Alexander. I didn’t even see you. Here, let me help you with that stuff.”

He waved him off indicating no help was needed, too afraid to speak, to reveal his worn and frayed emotions to another man.

“Walter, what’s the matter man? Are you crying?”

Great, he thought, of all the people I could chance bumping into, I bump into the damn lieutenant.

Still not trusting his voice, holding tight to his emotions, he kept his communication to a minimum. “Yes it’s me Sam. It’s nothing, really. I’ll be fine.” he said, bent over, gathering up his scattered notes.

The big man stared at him, weighing his words. He could feel it, like heat on the back of his neck. Sam was most likely assessing the situation, possibly mulling over in his mind what he might say and just how involved he cared to get.

Lieutenant King spoke. “Since you’re not a cop, I know your partner didn’t get shot, so we can rule that one out. Which, in my experience, only leaves us with one thing – women problems? Am I right?”

He didn’t know why he answered, had no intention of answering, yet he answered anyway. “Yes,” he said, then slumped to the floor.

“Chloe?” Sam asked.

Walter nodded. “Right, again.”

He knew Sam was only being polite and didn’t actually want to hear about his problems. He probably had plenty enough problems of his own and was only asking out of some form of male camaraderie, some macho-code to help a fallen comrade, even if the only thing in common was the original x-y chromosome code you needed to begin life as a male, the two of you taking the opposite fork in the road even at the minor intersections.

“You want to talk about it?” he asked.

That was why he couldn’t believe it when he heard himself answer, “Yes. If you have a minute and you don’t mind.”

The human mind is a curious animal. It often finds ways to survive, ways to find the answers it needs in order for things to make sense – even if it had to make those things up. In this case, finding an outlet of expression – though this outlet clearly wished it wasn’t so – to work through its issues within the process of expressing them to another.
Talk therapy, in other words, one of Freud’s favorites.

The Lieutenant sat reluctantly listening, holding his black coffee. His hands alternately fidgeting between it and the absentminded search for a cigar. The set of his mouth and fire in his eyes glaring at him, searing holes wherever they landed. If only he noticed or cared.

He didn’t. He was simply happy to talk and talk and talk and talk. “And that’s when I told her.” Walter took a life-size breath. The Lieutenant remained silent for a moment as if he weren’t listening, which as far as Walter knew, he hadn’t been, not for the last half hour anyway. He was about to continue or apologies for his excessive ramblings, when the Lieutenant finally spoke.

“I don’t usually give advice in areas like this, Walt. You know, of the heart, love and all that emotional pansy-crap, as I don’t find I’m qualified to make those kinds of calls having had my own troubles in that area. And well, frankly, I just don’t give a shit. But in your case, I’m going to make an exception…” Sam left the words dangling just out of reach and Walt didn’t know whether he was supposed to go after them or wait. The time stretched between them, became more and more obscure, an enigma, his anticipation increasing with every second. Finally, when he couldn’t bear it another second and was about to break the silence, the Lieutenant beat him to it. “What are you, Walt – a fucking girl?”

He might as well have slapped him. What am I thinking? This man’s never – slapped – anyone in his life. This man’s a puncher. He’d destroy me without effort. Yet still he asked, “I beg your pardon?”

“What are ya, deaf? Or maybe you couldn’t hear me through all that sniveling and whining, the nauseating self-pity.” The Lieutenant glared at him, disgust radiating from him. He paused, stared, thought, measured, decided. He spoke, “I’m only going to repeat this ’cause I like you Doc. If you were one of the guys – my guys – I’d sooner give you a shot in the head, knock some fucking sense into you.” Again, he paused, looked him up and down as if measuring, then continued. “But you’re not, not.… You’re…” He spoke the words like they were shit in his mouth. He spat. “Besides, I’d probably kill you if I did.” It was not a threat, more of a feint-hearted joke between new friends.

“So is that why you called me a girl? Because I’m sensitive and can’t stand up to you in a fight?”

“No Doc, that’s not it. The reason I called you a fucking girl is because you’re acting like one.” He grinned.

“Now you’ve got me curious. Okay, I’ll bite. How is it I’m behaving like a girl?”

The Lieutenants grin split his face. “Simple. Women have this infuriating thing they do – at least every single one of them I’ve ever met.”

“And what’s that?”

“Instead of just telling us, they make us guess what their thinking, bloody-well feeling – like I’m fucking Kreskin or something. I can’t tell you why they do it, but they all do, and apparently so do you,” he said, leaning back in his hard chair, quite pleased with himself. It reminded him of Yoda or maybe the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

He didn’t know why the scene played through his head just then. It simply did. It lifted his mood all the same.

The lieutenant’s words broke through his reverie. “Just tell her man! Tell her how you feel. What you were thinking when you pulled that bone-head move of quitting your job. Why, exactly, you are moving here. I mean anyone would think you’re nuts, Doc. Baltimore! Really?” He gave his head a shake, continued. “Just be open and honest with your agenda. And don’t make her guess! It’ll only hurt you in the end because, whatever her mind dreams up will be far worse than what you intended. Be straightforward man. Don’t be a fucking girl.”

The words hung in the air like residue from a once potent flame. The rough words, though brutally conveyed, were true, delivered straight – no bullshit. He found himself grinning at the big man. Who, once again, looked downright uncomfortable discussing any topic that contained even a trace of emotion, with anyone who had an ounce of sensitivity and couldn’t kill a man with their bare hands. Basically, this conversation and himself, Walter.

“Thank you for taking the—”

His words were cut short. “Never mind all that bullshit Doc. I didn’t do it for any reason other than to help screw your head on straight. I need this case done yesterday and we’re all waiting on your diagnosis. I can tell that, even with the new look,” he took another moment to look him up and down, mostly with amusement, raised brows. “The new hair, new teeth, contacts, new suit, that deep-down – below the surface where most people don’t see, don’t want to look – you’re just the same as the rest of us. Scared shitless and clueless. You’re simply trying to fool everyone around you, or maybe yourself? That this,” he waved his arm about him in somewhat of a circle, “is not the actual truth – never was. It’s just a newer version to an age-old question.” He winked.

Walter stared blankly, astonished, trying to close his gaping mouth.

“What? You thought I was stupid, Doc? I may not have all the book smarts you do, but when it comes to people, I know-em. Like a sixth sense, I just feel em.”

“That so? What do you make of our perpetrator then? Is he insane? Or simply playing us?”

Lieutenant Sam King peered at him over steepled fingers as he tapped his two baby fingers together in a slow, rhythmic motion while deep in thought or at least appearing so. His large, powerful frame reclined comfortably in the chair, although he looked as if he might collapse it at any moment with the slightest movement or mere thought.

At last, he spoke, “I don’t have that answer Doc. Not being schooled like you, I don’t know the proper definitions to assign to people and the horrible ways they treat and deal with one another…”

Walter sat silent, still, somewhat held his breath and waited for the wizened cop to continue.

“But I do know this. That man needs to be locked up for a very, very long time. Forever might not be long enough because if we ever let him out again, it’s going to be one supersized colossal shit-sandwich and innocent people will be paying for our mistakes. You mark my words, Doc. You can’t treat or rehabilitate this animal – not in this lifetime at least.” With that, Lieutenant Sam King rose from his grateful chair and left him sitting alone with his many thoughts.

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