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Authors: William Deverell

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Mind Games (15 page)

BOOK: Mind Games
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“I have to go now. Celestine said she’d wait up for me.”

She was kind to let me down even with such a paltry excuse. I suggested another date, on the weekend, and she seemed to contemplate saying yes but remembered an “engagement.” With whom? My anxiety was assuaged by her apparent lack of enthusiasm over it.

“The weekend after,” she said. “We’ll do something fun.”

When next I talk to her, I’ll tell her we have an invitation to dinner on the patio of Richard Spencer and Allis Epstein. You will like her, Allis. I will like Richard.

I walked Sally to her Saab, some distance away because cars aren’t allowed thereabout, and after she kissed me once more lightly upon the lips, she said, “You know what, I think I’m doing this for you – you’re too dependent on me – and you’re too damned smart for me, and maybe you don’t find me challenging enough. Hang out, make some friends. Open up your world a bit. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Abruptly she pulled away from me, and I couldn’t divine the source of the sadness in her eyes.

1
This event is to be run concurrently with the convention of the B.C. Medical Association in Kelowna.

C
HAPTER
S
EVEN

Date of Interview: Friday, August 29, 2003
.

Timothy presented today as unusually restrained, yet this has been another unsettling week, much complicated by the added stressor of Vivian Lalonde’s complaint to the College. Also weighing on him is a recent senseless murder. He has had a role in its aftermath.

Tim took to the couch right away, but from the beginning of the session I had the sense he was holding himself in. Indeed, his body was clenched, and his affability seemed forced.

Ultimately, I had to challenge him to free himself, to let his anger loose. The result was more than I anticipated.

Excerpt One:

I suspect you’re not thrilled at having to deal with my depressive personality – you’d rather be home preparing for your party tomorrow.

Sally’s coming?

Yes, she’s curious to meet you. She’s good at parties. I either mope – I can’t handle the banalities of cocktail conversations – or I trap some victim into listening to a long-winded
soliloquy. I hope I haven’t met your other guests. If so, they’ll be the ones avoiding me.

Do you think you’re boring?

Only to myself. I make people nervous.

Why do you suggest that?

Doesn’t that happen with you? People think we’re always dissecting them, seeking out repressed fantasies.

I don’t think anyone in this crowd will harbour any fantasies worth repressing. I’m sure you know Evelyn Mendel from the
UBC
psychiatry department.

You and I would never have met without her.

Oh, of course, she sent you to me. And Werner Mundt.

Mundt?

You obviously know him too. The sexologist.

And lackey to the drug industry. Hell, he’s on my discipline committee, Schulter’s henchman. He’s … well, I won’t say.

Oh, yes, you will.

A pill-pushing arrogant womanizing prick with an agenda against me.

Yet another fan of
Shrinking Expectations?

Don’t worry, I’ll steer clear of him.

I’m not keen on him, either, Tim, but he’s acting head of psychiatry at
UBC
. I should have mentioned – I’ll be teaching a course there this semester.

Good, maybe you can present me as a case study.

Otherwise, they’re Richard’s friends, two from the office, one of his partners, Patricia Lang, plus a few clients. Not all will have spouses, but I’m afraid the group has expanded to fifteen.

I promise not to freak out.

So how are you doing?

Okay.

He was supine, clenching his bicycle helmet over his stomach
.

How are you
really
feeling?

Been worse. Looking forward to the party.

You seem a little tense, Tim.

Do I?

Excerpt two – about thirty minutes on:

I think you’re having trouble letting go.

I guess I don’t want to let go.

Are you afraid you’re going to spoil my party? If you maintain this mask of composure, you’ll only further unsettle yourself.

What would you have me do?

Get it out! Rant!

But he went silent, looking around, at the ceiling, then the prints on the walls
.

Those are Batemans, aren’t they? I like that one – the osprey taking flight. Soon to sink its talons in a fish …

His face began to work
.

That mendacious
bitch!

He hurled the helmet, which struck my dieffenbachia and broke it
.

I’ll sue that lying harridan! That … that fucking … The C-word, I’m going to say it.

Let it all go, Tim.

You had me dead to rights – I
was
suppressing anger, striving to maintain high spirits. But it is better that I exploded in your office than on your patio tomorrow evening.

So I’m sorry about the plant. And the rant. Maybe you were unaware of the breadth of my street vocabulary. Is this better? – narcissistic obsessive hyperactive sexual disorder. I suppose Vivian told this fairy tale to her father, in an effort to reach him, jab him, draw attention to her needy self. Dr. Lalonde,
in turn, would have engineered the complaint to the College. He found an eager ear in Herman Schulter.

Yes, the author of this week’s letter puts all other threateners to shame. Dr. Schulter has added professional misconduct to my list of sins. I’m accused of having sexual relations (Vivian was thoughtful enough to describe them as consensual) with a patient suffering from a recent marriage breakdown.

The hearing is set for next week, and Irwin Connelly is urging me to hire a lawyer. But no, I won’t legitimize such a burlesque by treating it so seriously. Vivian will have no choice but shamefacedly to withdraw the complaint. Though the hearing is to be in camera, the profession will be deluged with rumour. The damage to my reputation may be such that I’ll have to sue her, even at the risk of putting the matter in the public domain.

I am trying self-hypnosis. I won’t let thoughts of Vivian bother me. I won’t bring the matter up tomorrow as a subject of dinner conversation. I’m freed of it. Free. (I must stop denying like this. I’ll end up taking out my ire at some innocent guest at your party.)

I picked up the slightest note of doubt in Sally’s voice when I railed on to her about this counterfeit allegation. (One merely has to whisper scandal and one’s closest ally begins to speculate. In my growing condition of emotional zombie-ism, I may soon be questioning myself.) “Of course I believe you,” she said with what seemed forced enthusiasm.

That conversation was by phone. Sally has returned to the house on Creelman, but I haven’t seen her this week – I’d only depress her in my beleaguered state; I’m determined to show her only a happy face. I’m following your advice to give her space, the sense of independence she’s striving for. I’ve reduced my number of phone calls to only a couple a day. We have a date on your patio tomorrow, that is enough for now.

Creelman Street is, however, on my training route, and I continue to take pleasure in seeing her daubing away behind
the wide windows of her studio. (On Saturday night she went to a gallery opening, driven there by Celestine Post in her beat-up campervan. I did suffer a twinge – Wednesday night, I believe it was – when I saw Ellery Cousineau’s car parked behind her Saab in her driveway, but as her editor he must regularly collaborate. His car was gone when I next wheeled by, well before eleven.)

I was on my bicycle most of the weekend, out of touch, and only became aware Monday morning that a murder had occurred Friday night in Stanley Park. The newscast reported that the police couldn’t explain the motive for the attack on a popular character actor. Chauncey Wilmott was strangled by an unknown assailant during his nightly stroll in Stanley Park.

I remembered Wilmott from the local stage: he had a sharp comedic sense, played butlers and foppish uncles with panache. He taught theatre arts at Douglas College until retiring a few years ago, at seventy, but continued to perform bit parts on stage until slowed by a stroke last year.

Vancouver, like all metropolises, sees its share of murders, but this one was particularly contemptible. Wilmott was a frail man who walked with a cane. Police have released few details other than that he was “asphyxiated” – media have speculated about the use of a rope or a cord. His body wasn’t found until the early Saturday joggers were out.

In the office, I found James in high tension. I feared he’d forgotten his medication, but he explained he was in a “horrible state” because of the murder. Chauncey Wilmott was prominent in the gay community, and James had been proud to know him socially. Indeed, he’d been with him and other friends earlier on Friday night, in a wine bistro, and they’d even walked with him to the park entrance at English Bay.

James spent some time with the police on the weekend but hadn’t called me, hadn’t wanted to disturb me. I stopped myself from reproaching him for that.

Whenever I hear about a murder, it never takes much
prodding for me to flash on Bob Grundison, and it didn’t take a leap of imagination to picture him as the killer of Chauncey Wilmott. I remembered Grundy nudging DeWitt, whispering “fag.” The more unsettling thought was that James himself could have been the original target: a message more bloodily graphic than a threatening note.

I wasn’t due in court for two hours, so I suggested he sit down, relax, and get his feelings out. He remonstrated, apologized, he didn’t want to burden me. James is a shy, decorous man (however reserved, he’s forever attending upon me, brushing lint from my shirt or straightening my tie), and it was only after continued prodding that he allowed himself to grieve.

He spoke of his admiration for Wilmott: “Such an open person, never afraid of strangers, always engaging them. To a fault. A deadly fault, I’m afraid.” He related a few of their “delightful” conversations, remembered him as effusive, with an
“esprit sel,”
a salty wit. Finally he attempted a smile. “I assume flamingly gay is the concept that would come to the mind of some.”

“I have the picture.”

“Certain aspects of the case are disturbing. There has been a great deal of talk about it in the West End. We’re concerned that the police don’t share our views.”

The West End and its forest of highrises has a substantial gay population, elects only politicians who are out of the closet. I could see the point James was making: Stanley Park adjoins the West End, many would be afraid to take their regular nighttime strolls.

“He had no enemies?”

“Goodness, no.”

I didn’t mention Grundy, didn’t want to frighten him by suggesting that he himself might have been the intended quarry. “You believe it’s a hate killing. That’s the view the police don’t share.”

“Exactement
, sir.”

“James, would you mind not calling me sir? It makes me feel awkward. Tim. Timothy if you like. Dr. Dare.”

I told James I was not without influence in the homicide detachment. I phoned their office, arranged to see the case officer the following morning

I had to run off to court but counselled James to take a day or two from work.
“C’est impossible,”
he said. There was much to do setting up the new office. He insisted to be allowed to work, and I gave him his way – then called Dotty Chung, upstairs, to ask her to keep an eye on him.

I spent the day in the witness box in fractious argument with a lawyer defending an alcohol-addled arsonist – whom I deigned to be sane, despite some delusional, persecutory thinking, not uncommon in cases of chronic alcoholism. The jury took forty minutes to agree with me, and by the end of the afternoon I was back at Pier 32, exhausted from combat.

I went up to Dotty’s office, met her at the door as she was seeing out a distressed client, who strode by muttering, “That fucking creep.” (It had just been revealed to her that her husband maintained a mistress in Seattle.) We chatted about the Wilmott murder, about my meeting tomorrow with the inspector running the case: Jack Churko, a veteran plodder. He isn’t the brightest light on the Vancouver force, but regards me highly.

Dotty groaned. She and Churko are professional foes from the days when the air in the department was thick with gender bias. “Wrong guy for this case,” she said.

Thoughts of Grundison and DeWitt were working through my mind. Grundy couldn’t have done such a deed alone; he’s never alone.
Me and my shadow
.

Dotty reminded me that at the time they would have been on a rafting expedition on the Skeena River, seven hundred kilometres north. I’d forgotten that Grundison cancelled his Thursday appointment to drive up there. Of course his expedition could have been a lie, an excuse to hang about, celebrate the end of summer school with a homophobic assault.

But this did not seem the case; Dotty said they were not only on the Skeena but in the news. She showed me a printout from the
Vancouver Sun
on-line. The headline: “
WOMAN TRAPPED IN FRIGID RAPIDS, PLUCKED TO SAFETY.

BOOK: Mind Games
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