The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 3, Dr. Alexander

He stood alone in the room, silent but for the steady hum of electricity which powered the various devices accompanying him. Cameras, computers, recording-equipment – multiples of everything with redundancies and backup’s to each – all trained through the one-way mirror at the empty room in front of him, to make sure nothing could ever be missed or forgotten. It was a room of chance. A one shot winner takes all room, the stakes often lethal.

He thought it ironic she chose this place to meet. Always the practical one, he smirked. He’d arrived early of course, hoping to give himself time to adjust, get his emotions under control. He checked his cell for messages. There were a dozen, all from her. Texts too but he’d already known that and though they pulled at him, screamed to be read, listened to, he hadn’t the fortitude to face rejection again. He hadn’t seen or talked to her since telling her he was moving to Baltimore. Other than yesterday at Lt. Whitford’s, but that didn’t count as he’d no idea she was going to be there. And yet, why wouldn’t she? She had just as much reason to be there as he.

“Walt, hold on. We need to talk.” The second the meeting finished he’d bolted for the door. He did not want to face her, not there, wouldn’t look at her, not directly anyway, although she was too beautiful not to steal a glance when he thought she wasn’t looking. The meeting, with its wealth of new information to assess, the others involved, gave him all the excuse he needed to avoid direct interaction with her, all the justification necessary.

“Sure, of course, we do,” he’d answered, “but I can’t right now. I have to go downtown to process some of these new facts while they’re still fresh in my—”

She cut him off, put her hand on his arm, her eyes pleading, searching his face. “Please Walt? It will only take a minute. I have chan—”

His emotions got the better of him, right there, in front of everyone. He wasn’t ready to deal with his first broken heart, not here, not now. He talked over her, his voice raised, animated. He could feel the tears coming. “I can’t… not now.” He knew she could feel the shaking, the jerking motions of hurt that rippled through him.

She let it go, but not entirely. “Tomorrow then? Let’s meet tomorrow in the observation room, before the interrogation. Is that okay? Will you meet me there?”

He’d nodded agreement then left the apartment without a single goodbye.

He heard the buzzer as the door opened within the other room and Dr. Reichmann was led in. They’d be meeting with him today to fill in some more holes with any luck, at least that was the plan, if he managed to remain focused. The attendants left after seating the Doctor as instructed. Walter was happy to have something else to occupy his meandering thoughts – keep it away from the deep holes of self-pity he managed to continually fall in. In spite of all his schooling, all his training, he was having a bugger of a time getting out. I even know they’re there, yet I still fall in. This reflection made him smile. He remembered a blurb his beloved professor had once read in class. It was Portia Nelson’s “Autobiography in five short chapters.” It had never left his mind. Unconsciously, he started to recite it from memory.

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.

A buzzer sounds again, much closer. It startles him. This time it’s to his door, the door to the observation room. His heart jumps in his chest. All moisture from his mouth disappears.

“Have you been waiting long?” Chloe asks. She looks nervous, uncertain. She joins him at the glass, looks forward, through it at the Doctor, their only eye contact the reflection off the glass before them.

“Not too long.” It’s funny, he thinks, we both stand here, staring at the Doctor and yet at the same time we do our damnedest to forget he’s here. The smile reaches his face.

“Is something funny?” She turns towards him, he reluctantly to her.

Her eyes appear glassy as if from crying, though he cannot imagine why. “Not funny, not that way. More ironic…”

She pulls a tissue from her purse and dabs at her eyes careful not to smudge her make-up. “How so?” she asks.

“It’s just that… Well – this,” he waves his arm to indicate the tiny room, “was the first place we met.”

She smiles. He reciprocated, couldn’t help himself then added, “I’m sorry Chloe…. I didn’t—”

She was crying now. Black streaks dribbling down her beautiful face. “Shush – you!” she said, placing a finger to his lips. “I’m the one who needs to apologize.” He must have been a sight because she laughed.

“Oh, you were an ass all right. Springing the news on me that way without talking to me first – and don’t you ever do anything like that again, mister! You had me thinking about running away myself.”

He lowered his head overwhelmed, his tears running freely, his chest constricted with sadness.

“Walt? Walter, what is it? Why are you so upset?” He felt her tiny hand upon his face, the concern in her voice.

It confused him. He couldn’t think straight. “I’ll leave if you want me too.” His words came in sobs.

“Leave? Walt, that’s why I’ve been calling you, trying to reach you.” Chloe stepped forward and took him in her arms, looked up into his face. “I love you Dr. Alexander and want to be with you. Will you have me? Us?”

“What about rushing you? And Kayleigh, what about her? How does she feel?”

She grinned and laughed and cried at him. “Kayleigh isn’t the one marrying you. I am.”

“Marrying?” It was as if she’d slapped him. “I didn’t ask you yet—”

“I’m asking you. After all Doctor, how else do I move you in? It’s not perfect of course – my Catholic father, not to mention my older brothers are going to have a fit – but it will have to do.” She grabbed his shoulders, pushing him to arm’s length, looking him over as if assessing his size and abilities. “Let’s just hope they don’t see you as too much of a threat.” Then, with a wink, “I’d hate to see you get hurt and have to stick up for you.”

He couldn’t read how serious she was. He didn’t care. He grabbed her, pulling her into him, whispering over and over, “I do…”

“So you see – we were hoping you might be able to help us out?” She left the question dangling, hoping the Doctor might pick it up.

“Yes of course. Anything I can do to help.” Dr. Fredrick Reichmann smiled at them, the picture of congeniality.

Walter looked to Chloe. It was her idea to take the lead, at least on the sensitive parts as Reichmann appeared to respond to her best, with the least amount of friction.

She continued, her voice soft, soothing. “It’s of a particularly delicate nature, Dr. Reichmann – Fred – as you’ll soon notice. We’d hate to have a killer walk free, to use it to negotiate a lesser sentence if you will, so your co-operation in this matter is vital. We cannot use this information without your consent.”

Fredrick Reichmann looked carefully at each of them, made eye contact, searching their faces for intent. “You’re behavior is grave indeed Miss Tattershall—”

“Chloe – please Doctor.”

He nodded. “What information could I possibly possess that would cause the two of you to behave in such a manner?”

Now this is the tricky part, Walter thought, glad it was Chloe handling the investigation.

“The killer. Marcus. Your patient.” She paused a moment, looked at the Doctor intently, with compassion you could believe. “He had in his possession at the time of his arrest a certain page from a notebook… your notebook Dr. Reichmann—”

“How on earth would he get such a thing? My personal belongings? My property? Why, my notes are kept—”

“We don’t know. He says he stole it, but we cannot be sure if he’s telling the truth. As you already know, and better than anyone, he has issues…”

Dr. Reichmann stared, looking contemplative. Her tiny hand rest upon his forearm. She was doing a marvelous job, as always. He was impressed, proud.

“Be that as it may, Miss Tat— Chloe. I do not understand how it is you believe I can help you. Surely a page from my notes cannot be so valuable an item to be bargained for, well – anything, I would think.” Reichmann shook his head, gathering his composure, a blanket of rectitude, a look of incredulity stirring upon his face.

She could be losing him.

“You’d be surprised, Fred. Nowadays just about anything can be used against us to get criminals and murderers off the hook and back out on the streets. They seem to have more rights than you and I.” She scrunched her eyebrows in disgust, shook her head in disbelief. “The right side of the law finds its hands cuffed at every turn. It’s a battle to get even the most flagrant evidence into court, let alone something as delicate as this.”

She had him back. It was all he could do to keep his face straight, stop it from splitting.

Dr. Reichmann’s visage was the picture of concern and co-operation. “I see what you mean. But surely—”

“Dr. Reichmann, let me be perfectly frank with you.”

“Of course. Go on.” She had his full attention.

“We need you to tell us about the people on that list, what you know of them—”

“I could never!” He spluttered.” That is confidential information.”

Chloe stood, shook her head. “Not if they’re suspected murderers, it isn’t.”

The Doctor stopped his antics and animations, his head stilling, staring at her. “Really? It is okay to speak – I would not get in trouble?” Walter held his breath.

She looked Reichmann directly in the eyes. “Not unless it was you who killed them?” The pause went on forever.

Dr. Fredrick Reichmann broke the silence at long last, slapping the table with a laugh. “Of course not!” He leaned back deep into his chair, markedly more relaxed. “I will tell you all I know.”

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