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Fractured: Chapter 1

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Chapter One:

Skew – The degree to which a curve or distribution of scores has extreme scores atypical of the majority of scores.

 

Sergio sputtered the iron flavor from his mouth. The porcelain sink speckled with thick droplets of blood. Curse words flowed as he spat the grody fluid again. The disease was getting worse. He splashed water onto his face and sighed. Better to be angry and annoyed at the sickness than frightened. Slight, uncontrollable spasms shook his hands as he lifted them to his face for scrutiny.

He moved to his leather chair, and leaned back trying to soak in the ambiance of his office. Everything was set up to give his clients the best possible experience, and most of all feel completely relaxed. The walls were painted a mollifying blue, except one wall covered by a light cherry wood bookcase stacked with thick tomes of psychology texts. Across from the bookcase two giant widows looked out onto a city park. In one corner, near the sink, a fountain gurgled a sputtering of water. The top right drawer of the desk was closed, and his eyes again drifted to the golden knob that would open it.

“No. I won’t,” he muttered aloud and winced. Thoughts belonged locked in the mind when alone, not spoken aloud. Talking to oneself was a classic symptom of those in need of mental help, or at least that was what the public believed.

The office door pounded.

“Diana, not now. I’m off in a few minutes.”

“I’m Mr. Bolton,” said the masculine voice behind the door and the handle jiggled. Sergio groaned. The trick was to always lock the door. Who knew what kind of person would try to waltz into a psychiatrist clinic.

Sergio looked to the mahogany wall clock. The office should have closed thirty minutes previous. No matter how explicitly he informed his secretaries to allow no more clients in, they still managed to ignore him.

He opened the top drawer on the right and stared inside. A semitransparent pharmacy pill container was the only item. He shook the burgundy plastic and a single pill bounced inside. He opened the top drawer on the left to reveal a five-dollar bill, alone in the middle of the drawer.

Sergio eyes closed as he ran his fingers though the short strands of brown hair stuck against his forehead. A lock stuck to his fingers and he could see the flicks of red amid the brunette reflected in the light.

“I’m coming,” said Sergio.

The door burst open. The wood edge swung inches from Sergio’s nose. He was almost certain the handle had been locked. At least he always had secured it in the past when he was thinking about taking his pill.

Sergio stopped, freezing his face. He did not display any signs of shock at the tall man dressed completely in black. A thin cane that would snap with any weight drooped from the pudgy fingers. The man’s goatee came to a sharp point on the bottom of his square jaw.

“I am Mr. Bolton,” said the man thrusting his cane forward. “Is Mr. Enger in please?”

“I am he.” Sergio shifted to the side, avoiding the outstretched cane.

“You’re the psychologist?” asked Mr. Bolton.

“The office closed thirty minutes ago. Didn’t the receptionist tell you?” Sergio hated when people judged him by age. The plaque for his PhD had been mounted on the wall before the age of twenty. Was that a crime?

“I didn’t come through the front door,” said Mr. Bolton. He pushed the slender wire frame glasses back up his nose. “Wait, I did come through the front door; I just needed to pick the lock first,” he said, his face broke into a wide grin and mounds of upturned rolls.

Sergio glared at the man, unimpressed. He could feel the dark rings under his eyes deepen as he moved back to his desk. Mr. Bolton followed.

In the center of the room were two chairs. High oversized armrests and cushions caused those sitting in them to pass hours without noticing a single discomfort. Sergio pointed to one of the chairs and wished he had invested in a wood stool.

“Mr. Bolton—”

“Call me Blaze.”

“Blaze. What do you want?”

“I didn’t realize your age. Perhaps you’re not what I was looking for,” said Blaze.

“Read one of my books and decide.”

“Hmm, any experience in abnormal psychology?” asked Blaze.

“My textbook on the subject is used by more than twenty universities. They expect the number will triple next year. Usually they don’t go with textbooks from an author my age, but I did develop several top theories used in psychology during my PhD training.”

“You misunderstand, perhaps abnormal was the wrong word. How about Supernatural?”

Sergio opened the top right drawer and pulled out the translucent container. He catapulted the pill inside and leaned back in the chair. He tried not to flinch at the bitter aftertaste as the saliva pulled the pill down. The night was going to require it.

“I don’t do psychological evaluations at séances if that is what you’re asking, and besides it’s crummy timing on your part, today was long and the office is closed. Come back in the morning during normal hours and I’ll be much more amiable.”

“You’ve hit the point. We want to find a time outside normal visiting hours.”

“We? Who is we?”

“Many people, all interested in a psychologist with an unobstructed mind.”

“Approachable about supernatural things.”

“Yes.”

Sergio sighed. Cryptic people gave him a headache, instead of looking mysterious. His narrow lips tightened. “Come back in the morning and don’t sneak past the receptionist. Talk to her and she will set up the appointment with me.”

Sergio reached for the telephone on his desk. The receiver had no dial tone. He depressed the phone catch several times. He pushed several numbers.

“The phone is temporarily out of service, and you still haven’t heard me out. Please, a few minutes more and I’m gone.”

Sergio put the phone back down and removed his feet from the desk as he sat up straight.

“I hope you will aid those dealing with… unique problems, types of problems not found in the normal textbook.”

“Such as?” asked Sergio.

“People who see living skeletons.”

A smooth shiver like the nervous twitch of an obsessive compulsive snaked down the neck of Sergio. This was not a normal customer. Apart from the lack of fashion sense, he had information, at least knowledge of a portion of his past. This, of course, could be a coincidence.

“They are having hallucinations?” asked Sergio.

“No, I mean that they are seeing living skeletons. This is the type of things we want to diagnose and cure, but only the tip of the things you will help with.”

“Sounds like schizophrenia to me,” said Sergio. He kept his hand under the desk; it was beginning to shake again.

“These people aren’t crazy. They are not hallucinations. They need a psychologist who can help them deal with their problems.”

“I don’t believe I can provide the required assistance. Sounds like a rather complicated problem.”

“The person who wrote the textbook can’t assist? Receiving a PhD two years ago, at twenty, and you can’t offer any support in these situations?”

“Nineteen and a half, and I still lack conviction I can solve the problem. My textbook was mostly a rewritten piece that relied heavily on my PhD work. The book just has a new way of looking at old theories. The best I can do is point them toward the right medications.”

“Trifluoperazine and other antipsychotics offer only temporary relief for assorted symptoms. I am asking you to help with the mental issues, while my company continues to find the cure for the actual illness.”

Sergio flinched at the word Trifluoperazine. The empty pill bottle inside the top right-hand drawer seemed to stare at him. Blaze was right, the pills did provide some relief, but other symptoms were beginning. Little time remained until phantasmagoria would overtake him. The word was as bad as it sounded.  His dreams, already dark, would be riddled with horrific images, the worst his mind could imagine.  He knew, soon after, that the images would not be confined to when he slept. The word alone kept him up at night.

“Are you blackmailing me?” asked Sergio.

“Blackmail? Why would you think that? A psychologist respected and with so much potential has little to be blackmailed with. I doubt there are any hidden skeletons in your family line.”

Sergio shifted in his chair. The first time his father had claimed to see a living skeleton Sergio had been fourteen. That was six months after his father had begun to cough up blood. The mental-health profession had diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic.

Psychology had become Sergio’s life during that time. He ate, drank, and slept psychology in any respect he could. Several years after his father’s death Sergio was one-hundred percent certain his father had been misdiagnosed. But he had to keep that part in the dark. He was sure the mental-health society would not use personal experience as a reliable source for diagnosis. Sergio was confident whatever his father suffered was the same phenomenon he was beginning to suffer, and he was absolute that paranoid schizophrenia was not what he had. Of course, if he told anyone he would just be called paranoid.

Blaze steepled his fingers in front of his sharp nose. “Blackmail is not how my organization operates. Any services provided will be paid for at current psychology rates. Times are hard; everyone is looking for a bit more business to make ends meet, and for other things.”

For a moment Sergio was certain Blaze looked toward the right-hand drawer. Sergio thought of the five-dollar bill, the last of his savings, alone on the bottom. Blaze was no doubt in need of mental balm, obvious from the way he acted. Still it was disturbing how much Blaze hinted at things Sergio had buried deep, which he was convinced no one knew.

“Times are hard, but I’m sure I can get by without meeting people at odd hours and in strange circumstances.”

“That is unquestionable, however, being in contact with the only company looking for the cure could be beneficial. We alone are looking for answers instead of diagnosing everyone with assorted symptoms as paranoid schizophrenics.”

What was left of Sergio’s stressed and tired mind sparked with the idea of someone, a whole company, looking for a cure to his problem instead of hurrying to diagnose him. Most people were too busy claiming that seeing a living skeleton would put a person’s mental health into question.

“A patient client relationship has limitations. I will report anything illegal, or containing a threat to others,” began Sergio.

Blaze held up his gloved hands. “Stop trying to find the worse case in everything. We want a psychologist, nothing else. I’m asking you to meet with others; there is nothing sinister in this.”

“If there was nothing wrong then you and your company would walk through the front door during normal hours instead of sulking in here after closing, and when they wanted to contact me for an appointment they would not break into the building.”

“They are fine people; they just aren’t what many consider normal. For a few, walking into the office and talking about their problems could be hard. It also goes without saying that the psychologist would misdiagnose them within a few moments of their arrival.”

Sergio tapped the top of his pen on the yellow legal pad. He was sure to regret this. There was, however, plenty of time to confirm the validity of Blaze’s claims. Beyond that, new clients would offer more money for his needs, and for research. The hope of a cure resided with his ability to search for the source. A broke man could not help people misdiagnosed.

“Perhaps we can try this on a trial basis,” said Sergio. “You, however, need to promise that there will be no more late-night break-ins.”

Blaze leaned back and smiled. “I can’t guarantee no break-ins, but I can assure that you will be informed beforehand. Don’t worry, no surprises.” Blaze reached into his pocket and produced a stack of bills. He tossed the money on top of the yellow legal pad in front of Sergio. “A down payment.”

Sergio picked up the stack and sighed. Knowing who was lying was part of professional pride. Blaze had lied when he said there would be no surprises. Sergio hated surprises.

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