“I killed a man,” I say to the new therapist.
I’ve barely settled onto the couch … which isn’t a couch at all, but a chaise longue that looked inviting and proved horribly uncomfortable. Like therapy itself.
I’ve caught her off guard with that opening line, but I’ve been through this before with other therapists. Five, to be exact. Each time, the gap between “Hello” and “I’m a murderer” decreases. By this point, she should be glad I’m still bothering with a greeting. Therapists do charge by the hour.
“You …” she says, “killed a man?”
The apprehensive look. I know it well—that moment where they’re certain they’ve misheard. Or that I mean it in a metaphorical way. I broke a man’s heart. Which is technically true. A bullet does break a heart. Irrevocably, it seems.
When I only nod, she asks, “When did this happen?”
“Twelve years ago.”
Expression number two. Relief. At least I haven’t just killed a man. That would be so much more troublesome.
Then comes the third look, as she searches my face with dawning realization.
“You must have been young,” she says. “A teenager?”
“Ah.” She settles back in her chair, the relief stronger now, mingling with satisfaction that she’s solved the puzzle. “An accident of some kind?”
She’s blunt. Others have led me in circles around the conclusion they’ve drawn. You didn’t really murder a man. It was a car accident or other youthful mishap, and now you torture yourself with guilt.
“No, I did it on purpose. That is, pulling the trigger was intentional. I didn’t go there planning to kill him. Manslaughter, not homicide. A good lawyer could argue for imperfect self-defence and get the sentence down to about twelve years.”
She pulls back. “You’ve researched this,” she says. “The crime. The sentence.”
“It’s my job.”
“Because you feel guilty.”
“No, it’s my job. I’m a cop.”
Her mouth forms an O of surprise, and her fingernails tap my file folder as she makes mental excuses for not reading it more thoroughly. Then her mouth opens again. The barest flicker of a smile follows.
“You’re a police officer,” she says. “You shot someone in the line—No, you were too young. A cadet?”
“Yes, but it wasn’t a training accident.” I settle on the chaise. “How about I just tell you the story?”
An obvious solution, but they never suggest it. Some, like this one, actually hesitate when I offer. She doesn’t want to hear my tale. She fears I’m guilty and doesn’t want me to be. Give her a few more clues and she’ll find a way to absolve me.
Except I don’t want absolution. I just want to tell my story. Because this is what I do. I play Russian roulette with Fate, knowing someday a therapist will break confidentiality and turn me in. It’s like when I was a child, weighed down by guilt over some wrongdoing but fearing the punishment too much to confess outright. I’d drop clues, reasoning that if I was meant to be caught, those hints would chamber the round. Magical, childish thinking, but it’s what I do now. I tell my story and reason that if I’m truly meant to be punished, a therapist will turn me in.
“Can I begin?” I ask.
She nods with some reluctance and settles in.
“I’d gone to a bar that night with my boyfriend,” I say. “It was supposed to be a date, but he spent the evening doing business in the back corner. That’s what he called it. Doing business. Which sounds like he was dealing coke in some dive bar. We were actually in the university pub, him selling vitamin R and bennies to kids who wanted to make it through exam week …”
We sat at a back table, side by side, waiting for customers. Blaine’s fingers stroked the inside of my thigh. “Almost done. And then …” He grinned over at me. “Pizza? Your place?”
“Only if we get enough for Diana.”
He made a face. “It’s Friday night, Casey. Shouldn’t your roommate have a date or something?”
“Mmm, no. Sorry.”
Actually, she did. I just wasn’t telling Blaine that. We hadn’t had sex yet. I held him off by saying I was a virgin. That was a lie. I was just picky.
Blaine was my walk on the wild side. I was a police cadet playing bad girl. Which was as lame as his attempt to play drug lord. On a scale of bad boys, Blaine ranked about a two. Oh sure, he claimed he was connected—his grandfather being some Montreal mobster whose name I couldn’t even find with an Internet search. More likely the old guy played bookie at his seniors’ home. Blaine’s father certainly wasn’t mobbed-up—he was a pharmacist, which is how Blaine stole his stuff. Blaine himself was pre-med. He didn’t even sample his merchandise. That night, he nursed one beer for two hours. Me? I drank Coke. Diet Coke. Yep, we were hard-core.
A last customer sidled over, a kid barely old enough to be in university. Blaine sold him the last of his stash. Then he gulped his beer, put his arm around my shoulders, and led me from the pub. I could roll my eyes at his swagger, but I also found it oddly charming. While I might not have been ready to jump into bed with Blaine, I did like him. He was a messed-up rich kid and I could relate to that.
“Any chance of getting Diana out of your apartment?” he asked.