This is a blog freebie novel by the lovely Olga, the prequel to Escaping Psychiatry, her psychological thriller book, that collects three stories. Mary Miller, the psychiatrist and writer protagonist of the stories gets in all kinds of adventures in the book.
Here, we see how and when she became involved for the first time in a case. Ah, and the case is about a writer who is being stalked and harassed by a fan/madman, or is it?
Ah, I have a cover now! So consider this a cover reveal too!
And here it is:
“It was terrible! I’m telling you, Phil. Disgraceful! The guy was pouring out his heart and soul and I wasn’t even listening to him! What kind of a psychiatrist am I? Where is my empathy? Caring profession! Ha! Couldn’t care less profession, maybe!”
“Come on, Mary. Don’t beat yourself up. It was the early hours of the morning and you had been working all day.” Phil seized the opportunity when Mary had to stop to breathe, to try and get his point across. He wasn’t a lawyer and the voice of reason for nothing. His friend Mary, usually level-headed and calm, was in a bit of a state. Yes, she had a pretty stressful job, working as a trainee psychiatrist in a busy hospital. But she was quite senior now and not usually given to catastrophizing.
“That wasn’t his fault. Damn, the guy was talking about his life, his girlfriend had left him and he was contemplating suicide and I was… away with the fairies. I haven’t the slightest idea of what he told me.”
“Nothing happened. You gave him good advice and evidently must have heard enough. You probably only switched off for a few seconds. And you gave him what he needed.”
“How so? He wanted somebody to listen. And I wasn’t listening!”
Phil realised that he was likely to inflame the situation, no matter what he said, and decided to allow Mary to vent. She’d run out of steam at some point. Hopefully.
She stopped talking after a few more minutes of lamenting her lack of empathy. Phil decided it might be safe to intervene.
“Why don’t you—”
“It’s a con game,” she interrupted him. “Do you remember that movie, House of Games?”
“The one about the female psychiatrist and the con men? David Mamet’s, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, precisely that one. I’m coming to the conclusion that they had a point. We just put on a performance and as long as we are credible, good actors, and have the appropriate props and jargon, we get away with it.”
“From that point of view, I guess all professions are a con game,” Phil said.
“Perhaps. But most of them don’t take the moral high ground or go around telling people what to do.”
Phil was about to contradict Mary, but realised that she seemed to be calming down and it would be better to try a different tack.
“You must be due a vacation, Mary. Why don’t you come and spend some time with me? You could always accompany me to work. Get a bit of distance and see how it feels to be an insider somewhere else.”
“Won’t your law firm have something to say about that? Client privilege and all that?”
“I’ll vouch for you. And I’m sure I could convince them that having you ‘consulting’ with us could be useful. To give us a different perspective. Especially if you aren’t going to charge them for the service.”
“I’m starting to wonder if you have a case you wanted my opinion on, and my call has just been the perfect excuse,” Mary said, in a more upbeat tone.
“You have a very suspicious mind, dear Mary.”
“When a lawyer says that, it’s time to worry.”
Phil was used to people making jokes and saying not very complimentary things about lawyers. He did some pro-bono work, but had no illusions that he would change society with his profession. But it was interesting nonetheless.
“So, what do you say? Are you coming to spend some time with me?”
Mary was quiet for a few seconds. She finally said:
“Won’t I be in the way?”
“In the way of what?”
“You’re single, well, divorced, and a bloke. Don’t you have a woman in your life at the moment?”
“You know I’m still recovering from my divorce.” Phil made an effort to sound as sincere as possible. Mary had a very finely tuned bullshit detector.
“Ha! That’s funny! I haven’t seen you cry or be sad at all about your failed marriage. I’ve never truly understood why you married Iris.”
“Well… She was hot.”
“Sure, but otherwise… Not up to your intellectual standards, Phil. And you sent her to your mother’s as soon as you went back to Law School, and I’d say you might have seen her a handful of times in the three months your marriage lasted, at a push. I’m sure you saw me more often than your saw her.”
“Well, if you had played your cards right, perhaps you could have become my wife instead.” Phil didn’t know where that had come from. He hoped Mary would take it as a joke. Because that was what it was, right?
“You would run a mile if you thought I had any design on you.”
Phil burst out laughing. “Probably much farther than a mile. Don’t get me wrong. I do love you, but I think we’d probably drive each other insane if we were a couple. We know each other far too well.”
Phil realised he wholeheartedly believed what he’d just said, although he’d never formulated the thought before. Could he be truly open and honest in a relationship? Perhaps that had been the problem all along. He didn’t let anybody get close enough, at least not the people he ended up in a relationship with.
“So you think having secrets from each other is the recipe to a successful relationship. Based on that premise, I’m not surprised you’re still on your own. And yes, no need to remind me I’m also on my own. Relationships are not my priority at the moment. Trying to decide what I want to do with my life is. I don’t need added complications. And of course, I suspect lots of men would think that I’m not hot enough to make good partner material.”
“You talk yourself out of it before you even try, dear Mary. But I’m sure we can chat about that in more detail when you’re here. When will that be?”
“I’ll have to check with my bosses, HR and the other doctors, but there aren’t school holidays coming up or any such things, so we might be lucky. I’ll speak to everybody tomorrow, if I can, and I’ll let you know.”
“Good. I hope it’s soon.”
“Why?” She sounded suspicious.
“Because the firm has just taken up the defence of a writer, and I know you love reading and writing.”
“Oh, I see. Yes, you’re right. And perhaps taking up writing again would be helpful. What’s the case about?”
“You’ll probably hear about it soon enough, but I can’t give you any inside information until I know the firm is OK about your involvement, and you’re actually coming. That would be careless, not to say unethical, on my behalf.”
“Of course. Let’s talk tomorrow, then.”
“Speak to you tomorrow.”
“You’ve done a good job.”
“What are you talking about?”
“First of putting up with the moaning, but more than that, of setting up the hook. I’m intrigued about the case, now.”
He punched the air in silent celebration. ‘Yes!’ he thought. “Just something that suddenly came to mind while we talked.”
“Yes, sure… Night.”
Mary phoned Phil back the next day and confirmed she would be going to spend a couple of weeks with him. “I’ll arrive on Saturday morning, if that’s OK. But, honestly, let me know if I’m going to be in the way. I can always book myself in somewhere. At a hotel or something.”
“No, no, that will be unnecessary. You can stay here. Ah, and by the way, I did have an informal chat with my boss, and he was interested in your perspective and opinion on the case, both from the psychiatric point of view and from an insider’s.”
“I told Mr Wright that you also write. He was so interested that he even offered to let you stay in one of the firm’s apartments. They have several for clients from out of the city and for newly arrived lawyers. I told him we’d made other arrangements but he was serious.”
“And why is he interested in my psychiatric opinion?”
“We’ll talk about that when you’re here. I’ll be eagerly waiting for you on Saturday morning.”
Thanks so much to all for reading, thanks to Ernesto for the great cover, and well, like, share, comment… and if you want to click… I’ll leave you a link to Escaping Psychiatry, that by the way, it’s only $0.99 at the moment!