I’d finished with my regular patients before I sat down with Tom. I wanted to make sure I had all the time I needed with him, he was a special case.
I stared for a while, waiting for Tom to say the first words. It was a trick of mine, never initiate conversation. Like a staring contest, first to break is the first to spill the beans.
“So, I suppose you want to know when it all started?” Tom suggested.
“Please,” I responded, pressing the record button on my dictaphone and picking up my notepad.
I crossed my legs and waited.
“He was twelve.”
“Who was?” I interjected.
When he said the name he grinned.
“David was twelve when I met him,” he sighed as if recalling a fond memory. I stifled a grimace.
“Where did you meet him?”
“In a forest, he was crying. When I asked him what was wrong he didn’t respond. That’s when two taller boys approached. He bawled his eyes out when he saw them. He knew why they were there and so did I.”
Tom looked up, clearly happy at the feelings the memory invoked.
“Did you walk to David?”
“Yes, I did. I told him I could help, if he let me. I told him it was okay to cry. I told him to close his eyes and then I whispered to him.”
“What did you say?”
“I knew he was being bullied. I said if you let me deal with them, they would go away and he wouldn’t have to put up with them ever again.”
I shivered. I knew what was coming next.
“I said, no matter what you hear, keep your eyes shut. When he heard the screams, he yelled out, pleading for me to stop, but I didn’t, I was helping him.”
Tom shifted in his seat, before letting out a small laugh.
“By the time he opened his eyes, the boys were nowhere to be seen. David was happy, even if he couldn’t tell me. He stood there shivering. Then, I told him we would be best friends forever. He nodded and let me hold his hand.
“I walked him back to his house. His mother was so upset when she saw the bruises on his hands and the cuts on his face. He told her that he was beaten up by kids from school. She hugged him.”
Tom closed his eyes in contentment.
“Her embrace was so warm. I hadn’t felt something like that in a very long time indeed. I was glad David let me be his friend.”
“What happened to the other boys?”
“Jesus, you know what happened. We wouldn’t be here if you didn’t.”
“All the same, I want to hear you say it.”
Tom sighed again, though I could tell he was enjoying himself.
“I buried them, in the forest. They still haven’t been found, have they.”
I glared at Tom and wished they had been. Though I couldn’t tell him that.
“When was the next time you helped David?”
He shook his head, clearly annoyed by the question.
“His dad was an asshole. He hit him all the time. I wanted to help, I really did. Though David always said no. I lost count the number of times David would go to bed bruised and battered. He told his teachers he fell. I knew they didn’t believe him, but what could they do? What could I do?”
“When was it?” I said, getting straight to the point.
“I don’t know the date, you know that. I have no idea what time of year it is, never mind the date. Pfft. David had come home from school and his dad was drunk. He had been fired earlier in the day, he was going to take it on David. I was in his room with him when I told him. He pleaded with me to leave his dad alone. I tried.”
“What happened to David?”
“He was hit, over the head, with a God damn golf club. I expected him to be knocked out, though he wasn’t. He lay there on the floor, blood trickled from his head. That’s when he asked me. I wished he’d asked sooner. David shut his eyes and I took care of his problem.”
“What did you do?”
“I pushed his father down the stairs. I was sure that wasn’t going to be enough, but it was. His lifeless eyes glared up at me as his head hit the bottom stair.”
Tom shook his head, smiling.
“I didn’t enjoy that enough, didn’t satisfy me, if you know what I mean?”
I totally understood what he meant.
“Was David happy?”
“He never told me that,” he said eyeballing me, “he never liked his father. Hated him in fact. His grades improved though, for the first time in his life he became a straight A student. So to answer your question. I am certain he was happy.”
“Were there any other incidents?”
He shook his head, “no.”
“And why do you think that is?”
He smirked again.
“I think he felt like he didn’t need me anymore. Maybe he was scared of me. Only one person can tell me that, right?”
“Do you still want to help him?”
“Depends what you mean by help. Do I want him to ask me to hurt more people? Yes, of course I do. It’s who I am. It’s my purpose.”
“Why don’t you just leave him alone?”
“And why would I do that?”
“Because he doesn’t want you here anymore,” I told Tom.
“You know as well as I do, that isn’t the case.”
“I don’t, I really don’t.”
“Tom, please leave me alone,” I demanded.
He didn’t say anything.
My shoulders hung. I felt I was so close this time.
I’ve been a psychiatrist for thirty years now. I’ve helped God knows how many people. No matter how many times I try, I cannot help myself.
I’ve stared in the mirror for forty-five minutes now, Tom hasn’t said a word, I’m not even sure he’s still there. I wished I never asked him for help.
I completed my notes and looked back up, he was gone. Only my tired and somber face gazed back at me. Fuck. I’d try again tomorrow, like I did yesterday and the day before that. I needed him gone.
Annoyed I got up from my chair, pissed at myself I’d failed again. I blew out the candles and kicked the salt circle, banishing the incantation.
I glared into the mirror one last time.
“FUCK OFF TOM!” I shouted, all my pent up rage exploding at once.
The door to my office opened.
“Is everything okay?” my secretary asked.
“I’m fine,” I replied, adjusting my tie.
Her eyes darted around the room, seeing the candles that now smoked, filling the air with that familiar sooty smell.
She managed a forced smile, leaving the room.
The mirror caught my attention.
Tom smirked back at me.
“I’m not leaving you, David.”