The storyteller of pain, p.5
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       The Storyteller of Pain, p.5

           Loren Molloy
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  Lily looked down dejected and sadly shook her head.

  “Lily, I’m not trying to stop you. I just want you fully aware of what you’re talking about taking on. I completely believe you and agree that Mrs. DelaCour must be evil. To make me think of that story only confirms it to me. I haven’t thought about that evil bastard in a long time and nothing other than another evil presence could make me connect the two.

  So why continue to dig? It’s not your area of expertise. How can you hope to help her without getting yourself hurt? I’m worried for you, Sugarplum and that’s the truth! That woman has been here for four days now-”

  “Five.” Lilian interrupted wearily.

  “Ok, five days now and you already aren’t doing so hot. That’s not meant as disrespect but a neutral observation from this volunteer shrink.”

  John winked at her while smiling that oh so adorable, crooked smile that showed his deliciously sweet dimple. It caused a strong tug on her heartstrings and somewhere lower at the same time. She couldn’t help but smile at him. That’s a face you just can’t stay mad at. Lilian sighed and looked up at him.

  “You’re right John. I have no idea how to stop something evil nor am I some kind of exorcist. She has affected me since the first encounter I had with her, and I do feel myself falling apart at the seams already.”

  John looked at her skeptically. “But?”

  Lily glanced up to meet his eyes and couldn’t hold them. She just sighed and held her head in her hands and mumbled into her mahogany desk.

  “How about you say that, one more time, but this time could you try it in English?” John said half-jokingly.

  After a few moments of her frozen stare at the desk beneath her face, she let out a huge, loud sigh of defeat and said, “But I have too many unanswered questions gnawing at me that I just need answers to.”

  “Such as?” John prompted patiently.

  He’d seen many an officer in his day get that same kind of look in their eyes. Every single detective and officer has that one cold case that still drives them mad if they thought about it. Some are able to say I’ll never get answers and I just have to move on. Others can’t let it go. They work on it in their free time, trying to get answers. They take the files out from under their bed or from a closet. Often spending all-nighters looking for that one detail, that one clue they missed before. That elusive clue that, if found, will solve the whole case. That one magical clue that sometimes just doesn’t exist. It was too late for Lilian. She was already in this category. That hold was already controlling her. She had to know. He could see it in her eyes.

  “Such as...such as...How did she become possessed? Where was she when it happened? How did it happen? Why did it choose her? What does it want? Why is it still inside her? Can it leave whenever it wants? She’s trapped within a massive lunatic asylum! What does it gain from this? The story just doesn’t make sense. Her family said she was fine one day, crazy the next. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t go to bed sane and wake up the next day crazy. Otherwise everyone in the world should be terrified to go to sleep in fear of awaking mad.”

  Lily ticked off each question on each of her tiny, porcelain fingers. The excitement, frustration, and enthusiasm lit up her eyes.

  “You forgot one very important question Sugarplum... What will it do once it gets what it wants?”

  “Wh...what is that supposed to mean, John?”

  “If all it wanted was to cause that poor woman to be put in the nut house then why does it still possess her? All your questions are good ones Sugarplum, but even if she became sane in this moment, do you think the board would ever free her? They are getting too much money for her to stay, and no powerful family wants a member of their family coming back from the nut house... Do they? It would be too much of an embarrassment for the family! We both know how those families work. If a member of the family gets in the way, they can either send them to boarding school knowing they will come back or throw them in a lunatic asylum so no one has to ever hear from that person again.

  Those people don’t get to go home. They certainly wouldn’t be accepted back nor would they be welcomed. So says your boss, right?! So why would it bother to continue to stick around unless it either can’t leave on its own or its mission isn’t complete. Either way Lily, asking questions and poking at Mrs. DelaCour would only anger the badger if you pardon the expression...”

  The huge grandfather clock in the hall outside Lily’s office started chiming the hour, cutting John’s speech short. After the eleventh chime sounded from the massive clock, it went silent.

  “Is it really 11pm already? Damn! I must go before I never leave at all!” Lilian said completely flustered at the amount of time that disappeared without her realizing it.

  Lilian began gathering her stuff and stuffing it into her bag. She couldn’t handle everything he had said. She knew he had made some very good points but she couldn’t let this go. She didn’t need his help with this. She would figure this mystery out and John Barkley could go back to his official job as a night guard.

  John saw the whole thing flash across her face. She would figure this out no matter what. She probably will get herself killed, or worse go insane herself, if he doesn’t somehow keep an eye on her. There was only one solution. John would help her even if it was a suicide mission. He couldn’t really explain it but he needed to protect her. She just seemed too young, too fragile, too vulnerable to let her go this alone. John then realized she wasn’t making eye contact with him at all and was about to try and bolt away from him and their conversation. ‘Oh no missy,’ he thought, ‘that is so not happening’!

  “Well, you gather everything you need and then I’m walking you to your car.”

  “Oh that’s not necessary...” Lilian began to say when John interrupted her and said,

  “I insist!”

  He then grabbed her briefcase which she had just finished cramming all her case files into, turned, and began to walk towards the door. Lilian just froze for a moment. He had her briefcase. She could be very rude and say, ‘No, give me that back, now.’ or follow him out to her car. She chose to do the latter. John smiled. He was very glad it had worked. He wanted to talk with her more and there was no way she was going to run away from him after the conversation they just had together.

  Lilian got many comments of,

  “Wow you’re still here Doc?”

  Which John always answered with,

  “Yep! Caught her trying to burn the midnight oil. Thought I’d make sure she gets safely to her car considering the late hour.”

  Each person would respond with various versions of ‘Good idea’ and ‘You’re in good hands with John here, Doc!’

  When they finally got into the parking lot, John said, “Before you drive off into the night with the wrong impression, I want you to understand I wasn’t saying I won’t be your volunteer shrink anymore. I want you to know, if you’re dead set on figuring this out... I’m in! I mean that! I will help you figure this out any way I can. I still possess a lot of skills from when I was a cop. Don’t shut me out because I voiced my concern for you and your safety. Maybe you don’t know this but that’s what friends do. They voice their concerns but they still help anyway. That’s what I want to do, help you figure this mystery out and keep you safe at the same time.”

  Lilian just looked completely bewildered and said, “Why?”

  “Because I’d like to think we’re friends.”

  “Friends?” she said incredulously.

  “Yeah, you know that thing between two people who talk to each other, help each other with their problems, and support each other through the stupid shit they want to do. You know Kitten, friends...You must have had at least a few of those throughout your life.”

  John giggled and winked at her. Proud of his smartass remark until he saw her face fall hard. She just turned and began walking to her car instead of daring to respond. That left John stuck in place out of pure shock.

  The embarrassment and tears were choking her. She had to keep walking. It gave her time to try to get her emotions under control. When she got to her car she opened the door and flung her pocketbook into the car. It was a first for her; she wished she had parked farther away. She was forced to just stand there, staring off into the distance, while she waited for the tears to stop choking her and for John to bring her briefcase over to her.

  He walked over thinking, ‘How is it possible? She is a beautiful young lady with no one to talk to at all.’ He stood there staring at the back of her head, speechless, until she turned around, grabbed the briefcase from him, and flung it into her backseat without care. Lilian still couldn’t make eye contact with him. Her eyes had filled up with tears.

  “I’m sorry Kitten. I wasn’t trying to be mean or cruel. It never occurred to me, a beautiful woman such as yourself wouldn’t have friends.”

  He didn’t know what else to say so he just stood there staring at her as she tried to control her face. After a few moments she swallowed hard and said, “I graduated from high school when I was 15. I was the youngest in the whole state of South Dakota to do that. My GPA was a perfect 4.0. I was 15 and valedictorian of Turon High School. It was a proud day for the school, for my parents, for the state even. I made a few local papers.

  I went to Harvard Medical School. So I was 15 and living in a dorm in Boston. I also was the only woman in the program; one of the first. All this made my parents very proud but it doesn’t make for a happy social life. I was always the youngest in every high school class I took. I was definitely the youngest in every single college class I took. I ruined the Bell curve for every class and none of that makes for popularity.

  In college, I couldn’t socialize with the other college students at the local bar. I was too young. No one wanted to be friends with someone so young. All I was ever considered was ‘Jailbait’. It also upset the men in the program that a woman so young was doing so much better than them.

  I actually graduated with my doctorate the day after my 21st birthday. I was immediately hired here. I haven’t had the time for friends nor did anyone show any interest in wanting to be a friend. So now I don’t really know how to interact with sane people very well.”

  Lilian couldn’t speak any further. The tears and embarrassment at having to explain that began choking her again.

  It never occurred to John that brilliant people could have problems like that. “How old are you now, Kitten?


  ‘Jesus’, John thought, ‘What a lonely, miserable, and sheltered life she’s had! No friends in all this time. Too smart! There’s one he never thought of! Wow, just doesn’t seem possible’.

  He just had to ask, “So I’m guessing, no boyfriends in that time also?”

  Lilian just stared at the ground and shook her head. He just stared at her for several moments. Well, that explains the deer in the headlights look he got from her at any hint of sexuality coming from him.

  “ you get to say you have one good friend, me, volunteer shrink and willing to help a friend in need. Good ol’ John Barkley at your service, pretty lady. And oh boy, Sugarplum, are you in need of my help.”

  The last line came out much more seductive than he meant. It just hung heavily in the air. The lust and the intensity of it startled both of them.

  John blushed and said, “Sorry, it’s getting late and I know you want to get home. I meant it ...tha... thaat I want to help... with this mysterious case, that is. Please don’t shut me out. Don’t try to handle and deal with this all on your own Kitten, I beg you!

  I know I’m the first person offering you friendship and you’re new to it and all, but I meant what I said. Don’t try to do this on your own. Even if you just use me. I mean brainstorm occasionally or often. Whatever you want. I don’t mind.

  I truly believe if you don’t and you try to go back to a solo mission, this case will swallow you whole. It looked like that was almost about to happen to you tonight. If we didn’t talk, I don’t know how your mind would be tomorrow. I don’t mean that cruelly at all, Sugarplum! I just lost several friends on the force over the years because a case swallowed them whole.”

  “You mean they killed themselves.” Lilian’s voice held the shock from what he was implying.

  “Yes, that’s what I mean. Yes, if we’re going to be blunt about this then, yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Maybe not tomorrow, or the next day, but soon. It would have swallowed you up. There would be no hope of getting you back. You looked like you were at your wits end earlier tonight. You look much better now that you’ve talked about it and vented to me. That’s why it’s so important to have a friend in this kind of profession.

  I don’t want you to lose the reality of who you are. When you lose who you are and what you believe in, there’s little strength left. It seems to continue to hold onto your life. I was close to that after the ‘Lone Ranger’ ordeal in New Orleans. I couldn’t be a cop anymore. I lost my identity in that moment and I spiraled downwards fast. I lucked out! My shrink caught me quickly enough to save my ass and I’m grateful for it every day.

  I always say, ’The devil almost won that day but I was stronger and thank God for that!’ Many aren’t that lucky or that strong. I believe you are that strong, Kitten. You’ve made it this far with so much isolation and yet here you are still strong and sane. I just don’t want you to have to prove that strength to another soul ever. I’d rather you know you have someone on your side, no matter what happens with this case. Someone who believes that woman has evil within her. I have faith in you that you will figure out what you need to do. Just let me help you, please, Lilian.”

  Lilian stared at him, open mouthed in disbelief. A delicious hunk of a man admittedly wants to be friends with her, called her beautiful, has faith in her, and wants to help her. What could she possibly say to that but... “OK.”

  She abruptly turned, climbed into her car, and put her seatbelt on while trying to process the events that had just transpired. She turned to close her door and looked up to see John leaning into her car. He kissed her cheek gently.

  “Thank you,” he whispered into her ear. Before closing her door for her John said, “You get home safe now you hear, Kitten!” and closed her door without waiting for a response.

  He walked back towards the asylum leaving Lilian in complete shock. As she drove away she noticed John standing, outside, by the front door. She knew he was watching to make sure she left the property safely. A protector and friend in one hunk. She could get used to that. She drove the rest of the way home stunned into silence by all the conversations between them.

  The way he said, “And oh boy, Sugarplum, are you in need of my help.”

  Just the thought of him saying that caused a shiver of lust to race through her whole body.

  Lying in her bed, Lilian continued to review the day’s events over and over again in her mind. John’s kiss played on ‘repeat’ as she drifted off into sweet slumber. A smile remained on her face as she slept and thought of his kiss. That night her dreams were pure fantasy, no nightmares. Full of lust not fear this time.

  When Lilian awoke the next morning, she felt better than she had in years. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and she had awoken an hour before her alarm was even due to ring. Today will be a wonderful day she thought.

  When she got into work, people took notice of her brightened demeanor and sudden new bounce in her step.

  “You’re in a great mood today Doc!” said Nurse Doris.

  Lilian walked up to the main desk smiling. Nurse Doris had to be close to Lilian’s age give or take a year or two. Fragile looking thing too. Lilian always thought Nurse Doris looked like a fragile butterfly who doesn’t realize the danger it’s in, in such a harsh and cruel environment. She must be the thinnest, shortest woman working there including Lilian herself. So in Lilian’s mind the best and safest place for this sweet fragile thing is behind the front desk taking messages.
  Nurse Doris was always so cheerful and kind. Today Lilian appreciated it and gladly talked with her for several minutes. Lilian started with apologizing that they never had a chance to get to know each other before this and that admittedly she knew nothing about her.

  Nurse Doris laughed with surprised and then preceded with telling her that she served in the Great War as a frontline medic nurse. She was only ten miles behind the front line and had to try and patch up our soldiers while German bombs went off all around her. Turned out Doris chose the position purposely to relax and still be of use to the hospital. It made her and her husband feel more at ease for her to be at a front desk instead one-on-one with patients, especially since they had three kids. They met during the war, got married overseas, and came back to his home city to work. Now they had two boys and a little princess named Rose.

  ‘What a fascinating woman,’ Lilian thought. She totally missed the mark with that woman in all categories. Looks really do deceive. Lilian then got her messages from her and made her way to her office. What a wonderful morning it had already been. ’Maybe John’s kiss broke the spell or curse she’s been under,’ she thought. I never had the nerve to ask Nurse Doris about herself before. I always wondered what her story was but to have her talk to me so easily was a miracle. Lilian laughed to herself. I’m a shrink. I’m supposed to be easy to talk to yet that seldom was the case with the average person before today. Maybe my curse is broken, Lilian thought as she unlocked her office door and walked in.

  On her desk was a letter. “ Lily ”, in big print, was written on the front. Only one person would do such a thing. John Barkley. She smiled and thought back to the kiss, to him whispering ’thank you’ and that oh so lusty ‘Oh boy Sugarplum, are you in need of my help.’

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