Authors: William Deverell
Tags: #General Fiction
James urged caution. “May I suggest that you not see this femme fatale again in the absence of witnesses.” He was right: this is a dangerous age. Guardians of correctness prowl the land, and I am at risk if I continue to treat this histrionic woman, with her shallow emotions, her constant demands for approval, praise, her need for excitement. I resolved to ask her permission to explain the matter to her father, advise him that I am bowing out.
I managed to survive two more patients that day before wobbling home astride Vesuvio to spend the evening pacing on board the
and playing Cole Porter tunes on my clarinet before a night of sleepless tossing in my bunk.
The next morning James handed me a computer printout – the card from Sally – and you know how unsettling I found it.
By mid-week I’d started to flail, and was poorly armed, therapeutically speaking, for Grundy Grundison’s first appointment with me, on Thursday.
Despite the repulsion I felt at his savage execution of Barbara Wiseman, I’d made up my mind to do justice to my task as watchdog. I can’t deny being lured by the handsome fees, but a more compelling inducement is my interest in the criminal mind. This is yet another aspect of your patient that bears examining – his fascination with evildoers. Bring them all to me, your mass murderers and serial killers, send me all you’ve got.
Why am I so gripped by the act of murder? I suppose we are all curious about the unpredictable, about whether we are capable of such a deed. It also struck me that an equally powerful explanation is at play: I’ve been seeking a reason to send
Grundy back to Riverview. A minor slip – drinking, breaking curfew – might not banish him there, but any violence would. Even a mailed threat.
Dotty Chung was with me at the front window overlooking Fourth Avenue, aiming a camera, as Lyall DeWitt parked the black minivan and he and Grundy stepped out. While making their way to the building, Bob nudged Lyall, directing his attention to an attractive woman waiting for a bus. I couldn’t hear Grundy’s remark to her, but she ignored him.
“Couple of pigs,” said Dotty. She is an unapologetic feminist, once divorced, and holds most men in little favour. “I’m taking cover.” She retreated behind the back staircase door, which I usually keep slightly open for ventilation.
When James came in to announce that they had arrived, I observed them in the doorway behind him, whispering. I read Grundy’s lips: a decorative phrase, then a syllable that begins as the upper teeth stroke the lower lip. Possibly V, more likely F. As in fag.
I invited them to sit. Lyall took a chair against the library wall and Grundy stretched out in the armchair. I asked a few neutral questions: summer school (“Haven’t missed a day”), his daily regimen (“Classes, library, maybe a game of touch football or baseball, then I usually head off to bed”), relations with mother (“Fine, just great”), father (“All those business trips, I think he’s too wrapped up in money”).
I asked him to expand and was rewarded with sanctimony: we are put on earth to help others and not just ourselves, it’s the Christian way, do unto others. Clearly, behind Grundy’s outward show, lay enmity for the distant, uncaring father.
“Do you go out at all?”
A pause. “We went to a bar once.”
“I don’t know. Out in Whalley. Hector’s or something. They had a great country band.”
“He didn’t have a drink.” This from Lyall, who was looking about the room with a bored expression, scrutinizing the book spines, the degrees on the wall, Sally’s canvas.
“Dr. Dare knows that,” Grundy said. “It’s a given.”
“Then why did you to go to a bar?”
“Good music. Thought we’d do some talent-spotting, look over the girls.”
“Did you meet any?”
“Exchanged a couple of phone numbers. Is that sort of thing off limits – making new friends?” A grin to disguise the slightly acerbic tone.
“And are you making any?”
“Not really. No enemies, either, thank the good Lord.”
He smiled boyishly, patted down a tuft of hair. The charm he occasionally practises is typical of the sociopathic personality: the lips smile, but the eyes lie.
“How about old friends. Still see any of them?”
“No, I’m pretty well out of touch with them.”
“Old college buddies?”
“Well, there’s Lyall here, of course.”
I let a few moments pass, locked onto Grundy, waiting.
“I don’t think you could call me unpopular. I had lots of friends until this … until my difficulty”
“Tell me about some of these friends.”
“Ben Thomas, my neighbour for years …” I could sense his brain whirring, trying to grapple with the concept of friendship. “A couple of guys in minor hockey. Will Stasnik, he’s had a few stints with the Sharks.”
“As a child, who was your best friend?”
“Karl, from grade nine, Karl … I can’t come up with his last name.”
No mention of girls, and I expected none. “But now, as you say, there’s Lyall.”
“He’s stuck with me through thick and thin. He’s the only one who visited me in Riverview.”
“What do you and he share?”
“In what sense?”
“I’m interested in what makes your friendship tick.” Lyall was beamed on me now, frowning.
“Same interests in sports, movies, that sort of thing. Similar outlooks.”
“A belief you can improve yourself, get ahead, return some good to the world.”
“What do you say to that, Lyall?”
“I’m easy.” When asked to amplify, he said, “I go along with whatever’s going on, Doctor.”
A hazy response, but maybe he didn’t want to commit himself while Grundy was here. Lyall bothered me, his relaxed, confident posture, a manner of dress that seemed fascistic: pressed brown shirt and pants, hair recently shorn – the fastidious sort who tend to be structured, inflexible, and narcissistic. It wasn’t much of a reach to discern an authoritarian family background but also, in counterpoint, an inner rebelliousness. Behind the rigid adult who takes pains to preserve cleanliness, one often discerns the defiant child who flings soiled toilet paper.
“And you’re with Bob pretty well most of the time.”
“Me and my shadow.”
“Do you ever see him writing notes, mailing them?”
A pause. “I’m not with you.”
“It’s a simple question, Lyall.”
“I simply have no idea what you’re going on about.” I found the mocking lilt to his voice irritatingly flip.
“What’s all this about, Dr. Dare?” said Grundy.
“I have a question for you, Bob.”
“Do you know where I live?”
I watched for the first unstudied reaction but saw only confusion – perhaps affected, for Grundy is a capable performer.
Lyall, however, looked away, settling his eyes on the self-portrait by Sally: her mischievous smile, her wide startled eyes – the artist as seen in a mirror, dappled smock, paint brush in hand.
“I have no idea where you live,” Grundy said. “Why would I?”
I passed him a photocopy of the second hand-printed note.
After reading it, he said, “No way, that would be a crazy thing for me to do.” He dropped it, as if hot to the touch.
“Let me put this as gently as I can. It wouldn’t be the first time you did a crazy thing.”
“Dr. Dare, I wouldn’t dream of threatening you. You’d look for any excuse to … I don’t mean it that way.” He set course upon a sea of bathos: “Whatever feelings you hold about me, I don’t return them. I’ve the greatest respect for you, and if anything, my history, the terrible thing I did, has made me aware of my need for the kind of help you can give me. I’m trying to understand myself, that’s why I want to be a psychologist – I want to know how a person’s sanity snaps.”
Although this glib outpouring only reinforced my mistrust, I knew, as a behavioural scientist, that I must acknowledge my bias and struggle to retain an open mind. After all, why would Grundy risk sending such a note, threatening the man who could return him to Riverview?
I looked at Lyall, who was now examining his manicured fingernails. It occurred to me that Lyall, possibly the owner of a warped sense of humour, might have written the notes, but it seemed unlikely that he’d want his ward to be shipped back to the keep. That would jeopardize his career with the Grundison empire.
I decided not to mention the earlier note,
You are next
, or my still-niggling notion that Grundy had been following me, and instead told him I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. I asked how he was getting on with his in-house anger therapy with Dr. Martha Wade. Grundy said he was learning to pause before reacting, to give his brain a moment to catch up and his
body to cool down. He was learning new cognitive skills, self-control methods. What he was reciting was a memorized list.
Had there been any recent episodes of anger? Absolutely not, sir. Even minor? That’s pretty well under control, Doctor. Irritation? Ill feelings? He admitted to having shouted at the gardener for running a weed trimmer outside his window while he was studying.
I looked at Lyall. “He’s been a pet bunny,” he said.
“You’re taking your medication, Bob?”
Buspirone, when he feels one of his “tensions” coming on. That’s what he calls them: his tensions. They occur two or three times a week. I reminded myself to call Dr. Wade, to cross-reference our observations. What were her impressions of Grundy’s smart-aleck buddy?
I saw them out, wished them well until the next visit. Dotty came back, grimacing. Grundy’s cloying manner had grated on her too, but we agreed he didn’t seem to represent an immediate danger. Neither of us could fathom why he’d send anonymous threats: his anger wasn’t the slow, calculating kind – it erupted. And, frankly, he wasn’t dense enough to compose such notes.
From the window we could see Grundy and Lyall at their vehicle. Grundy was plucking a parking ticket from the windshield, tearing it up. Lyall was laughing.
I recalled Barbara Wiseman’s reference to a seething, barely suppressed anger she could not break through.
I sense a terror lurking within him, but its source and character are not clear
. What critical information was in her missing notes of their last session?
Date of Interview: Friday, August 15, 2003
Tim Dare arrived – at the correct time, on the correct day – agitated and wet, having been caught in a heavy downpour while bicycling over Burrard Bridge. It had not been a week “to wish on anyone,” he said. I had to urge him to stop pacing, to lie down, to compose himself.
The significant events of his week – which he spoke of morosely but with interludes of rapid, animated speech – included a sudden move to a new office, Sally Pascoe’s return to Vancouver, and another, as he put it, “fun-filled” episode with Vivian Lalonde, who has temporarily replaced Bob Grundison as the person he most fears. As well, he was bothered by another bizarre dream.
Again, he spoke of conspiracies being directed at him. When I suggested he might be seeking a means to deny his own responsibility for reordering his life, he seemed resentful, saying, “I don’t buy it. Someone, somewhere, is trying to drive me insane. Let’s mail him an anonymous note, something that will fuck his head up.”
Dr. Dare is proving to be a most difficult patient. He is bull-headed; he competes with me in the interpretation of his dreams;
he closes off the early past; against my advice, he continues to resist using antidepressants. Despite all, he demonstrates qualities that many – particularly women – would be drawn to: he’s vulnerable, unthreatening, and-when he wants-engaging. He elicits a maternal instinct: one wants to straighten his tie or tell him that his shirt is improperly buttoned.
But I think we both realize that deeper problems are at the nexus of his various fears and phobias. His life has been much defined by a need to find closure regarding his father, but he continues to pull away from the subject. We spend too much time in the present, too little in the past where the roots of his discomfort lie, the forces that shaped him in childhood.
When I asked him about significant childhood memories, he pondered, then told me his most traumatic memory was being separated from his mother during Christmas rush at a department store.
How old were you?
Three. My ochlophobia got fixed into place that day, on the third floor of the Bay. I was afraid I was going to be crushed. As a child, I was very impressionable, bedevilled by fantastical worries – Victoria used to tell me terrifying ghost stories.
He refused to be diverted
But so what? I still panic in groups of more than a dozen. I can’t go to a crowded bar without breaking out in a sweat. I can’t look two storeys down without swooning. I can’t stand the sight of blood – I regularly fell sick during anatomy classes until I learned some coping skills.
Can we get back to your mother, Victoria?
Okay, she conceived me when she was seventeen, and somehow managed to nurture me while supporting herself
through college on student loans and odd jobs. She spent every spare dime she had on my education, until the scholarships finally began to flow. She’s superwoman.
How did she meet your father?
What’s there to say? My father, Peter, the medical student. He used Victoria for his practicum in female anatomy by the banks of Kootenay Lake on September 2, 1967. He blew her off in the morning. She never saw him again. I have no real image of him, just what may be a fantasized description – tall, dark, spare, and, to use Victoria’s embroidery, gorgeous. I’ve no idea who or what he’s become.
What do you feel when you think about him?
A pause here
I’m sorry, I can’t seem to focus on that right now. I want to talk about what’s driving me mad.
Note his tendency to control when he feels under pressure. Sally Pascoe must have felt it too
Do you want to hear about the nude photos? I had an imbroglio with my landlord. I lost my keys. I’ve had to move my office.
Childhood traumas must wait their turn. His avoidance tactics test one’s patience, but I have learned he needs to vent, to settle immediate concerns, before settling into a rapport with me
Yes, let’s hear about it, Tim.