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Monday, August 16, 2010

Story (4)

"Where are we going?" I calmed down after a little while and asked. "I haven't told you how to get to Robbie's apartment, and this is not the right way."

"Change of plans. We're going to his office instead," Barney replied. "The crime scene must be crawling with police, and they won't let us go near anything. However," he turned and winked. "They probably haven't had time to go to his office."

"But, but, how do you know how to get to his office?" I asked.

"You said last time it was downtown in an office building," he said. After a pause, he added, "Besides, I looked him up."

"You what?"

"I was intrigued."

"Barney, you're so nosy," I said disapprovingly.

"What you said was very strange. I was going to check him out," he said.

Silence fell in the car. He had obviously committed the address and map to his brain --- with a photographic memory, who needs any electronic navigation system? He drove straight into the parking garage under the high-rise building next to the low-rise that housed Robbie's office, and we walked over.

The outer door was open, but the inner door to the office was closed. I remembered that Robbie shared his office with another psychiatrist and stopped, but Barney ignored my hesitation and knocked on the door. Loudly.

A tall man in his 30s with a chiseled face and gold-rimmed glasses opened a crack and poked his head out. "Do you have an appointment? Please take a seat," he said tersely. "I'm with a patient. I'll be with you in 15 minutes."

I blushed for Barney's rudeness and pulled his T-shirt from behind, but Barney did not back down. "I'm sorry to interrupt you, Dr. ... uh ...?"

"Richardson," he said impatiently. "Look, I really can't ..."

"Your partner's dead," Barney said directly. I cringed behind him. This was part of Barney's natural talent: Utterly unflappable bluntness.

Color was drained from Dr. Richardson's face. "Who?" He asked.

"Dr. Wood," I said quietly from behind Barney.

He stared us for a long moment, then nodded and said, "Give me a minute," and closed the door lightly. We heard muffled voices, after which a small, middle-aged woman scurried out of the office and the front door without looking at either of us. Richardson opened the office door, "Come on in."

I quickly explained to him Robbie's suicide. Richardson said that he had not heard from the police or anyone else, but that he had been seeing patients for three straight hours and had turned his telephone off. He looked stricken.

"I would never have guessed..." He shook his head. "No, it's impossible. I should know, shouldn't I, being a psychiatrist myself? I suspected nothing."

"How often do you see him?" Barney asked. Unlike me, who was sitting politely on the big sofa, he was pacing around the office and sniffing and touching everything: the bookshelf, the desk, the trash can, and even the waxy potted plant. Richardson sat in his psychiatrist's chair, his eyes followed him with a trace of annoyance, but Barney just ignored him.

"Well, not that much, because, you see, we come in on different days," he admitted. "Actually the last time I saw him was ... oh, must be about a month ago. Robbie came in on my office day because he had forgotten to take some files home to work on."

Richardson stood up and walked to the window. The light outside framed his lanky figure against the darkness of the room. He wiped his face with a hand, then turned around and eyed me up and down.

"Wait, who are you again? And why are you here?"

"She is Dr. Wood's girlfriend," Barney injected before I had a chance to open my mouth. "She could not believe that Dr. Wood killed himself. It was love at first sight." He gave me a look to block my protestation against such outlandish characterization. "She is extremely crushed and baffled by Dr. Wood's suicide. So she has asked me to look into this case."

"Case?" Richardson looked at Barney with growing suspicion. "Are you a detective or something?"

Barney made a noncomittal shrug and picked up a notebook on the desk and flipped through the pages, "This is Dr. Wood's notebook?"

Richardson walked over and took the notebook from him, "Please don't touch it. It may contain confidential information about his patients."

"But you will read it ..." Barney mumbled to himself while lightly kicking the trash can.

"No, I won't," said Richardson firmly. "No one can see any notes about these patients, not even the police, except their physician ... their next physician."

"So, are you going to take over his patients?" Barney continued, oblivious to Richardson's deepening suspicion.

But I was not nearly as oblivious. "Shut up, Barney," I gave him a severe look. I turned to Richardson and said softly, "Robbie ..." I felt my eyes tear up again. "Why do you think he ... did this? I saw him three, four days ago and he didn't seem depressed to me." I wiped away a tear.

Richardson sat down across from me and gazed into my face. I realized that he saw my swollen red eyelid from the weeping in the car. He seemed a little assured by my veracity.

"I have no idea, either. He seemed fine ..." A shadow flitted across his face and caught my attention. I leaned in closer inquiringly. "Except, uh, I don't know. He seemed to be more absent minded lately," he shook his head. "He's been leaving stuff all over the place. I've had to clean up after him when I come in. Robbie didn't use to be like this. He was immaculately neat and organized. A few days ago he even left his laptop in the office. It had never happened before. This morning," he waved a hand across the room, "I came in and saw a mess, books and papers open and strewn all over the place."

"Where is the paper?" Barney asked, pointing to the trash can. "It's not here."

Richardson opened a drawer and took out a pile of paper. "You can look at it. There is no patient information here. All of our patient records are completely electronic."

On the papers were big block letters written in thick black marker: "Infection", "Schizophrenia", "Blindness", "Psychosis", "Contagious", "Paranoid delusions".

We all stared at these scribbles silently. "Do you think I should show all this to the police?" Richardson asked.

I looked at Barney. He shrugged. Yeah, what did he know about police? Unlike me, he didn't even read detective novels.

"Probably," I said. I thanked him and we shook hands. I dragged Barney out of the office.

"Ah, too bad," he said as we walked out of the building. "If he had not been there, I could have searched the office thoroughly."

I rolled my eyes. "You were doing quite enough already. I'm surprised he didn't call the police on us."

As we returned to my car and Barney went into the driver's seat, I remembered something: "Say, are delusions infectious?"

"No," Barney replied.


Tingting said...



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