Home > The Good Lie(5)

The Good Lie(5)
Author: A. R. Torre

I shrugged. “I don’t like pie.”

“Well, a pie is a pie. I told him that, and he got offended. Let me tell you, I’ve made a hundred pies for that man, and he’s never raved about any of them. I should be the one who’s offended. Honestly, Gwen—I don’t think I can sit at her table and watch her waltz in with that dessert and not turn violent. Do you realize how many knives are going to be at that table?” Her cheeks sucked in with worry, an act that further ballooned her injected lips. Her forehead, defying all natural odds, remained perfectly smooth.

“You’re not going to pick up a knife and stab her,” I said patiently.

“I think I am. You don’t know how often I’ve seen it in my head.” An almost dreamy calm came over Lela’s face as she worked through the bloodshed in her mind. Her lids snapped open. “Can’t you give me a doctor’s note? Something to get me out of this?”

“We have two months until Christmas,” I pointed out. “Let’s take things one at a time.” I moved the conversation in a better direction. “I’d like you to tell me something nice about Sarah.”

“What do you mean?”

“Share something that you like about her. A redeeming quality.”

She looked at me as if I were insane. I waited patiently, my hands folded over each other on the pad. Lela wasn’t a killer, though she certainly wanted to be. She was bored, had watched too many female-murderer documentaries on TV, and hated her sister-in-law. Who didn’t hate someone? I had a list of at least three people I’d rather do without. Would I grab a turkey knife and go for their jugular? No. But neither would Lela. She just liked the idea of being interesting, and the thought that she had a secret and underlying homicidal inclination was a rainy-day fantasy she had embraced with maniacal vigor.

“I’m going to give you some homework.” I picked up my pen. “Before next week’s appointment, come up with three things that you like or admire about Sarah.” I held up my hand to stop her objection. “Don’t tell me you can’t come up with three things. Figure it out, or postpone our next appointment until you do.”

She twisted her watermelon-colored lips into a grimace.

I gave her a reassuring smile and stood. “I think we made good progress today.”

She reached down and gripped the handles of her purse. “I hate this homework.”

I stifled a laugh, then threw her an emotional crutch. “If we’re going to keep your impulses in check, we have to retrain the way your brain looks at Sarah. Trust me, this is important to your treatment.” And your marriage, I added silently.

“Fine.” She huffed to her feet. “Thanks, Doc.”

“Of course.” I rose and swallowed the new and foreign swell of insecurity that was rising in my chest. I’d been wrong to believe that Brooke Abbott was safe from her husband.

Was I missing the mark on Lela Grant, too?




I stood in a sea of black-suited strangers and listened to everyone talk about John as if he were a saint.

“It was Christmas Eve and he came into the pharmacy, just for me. Someone had stolen my bag at the gym, and I needed more heart medication . . .” The older woman put her hand over her large bosom, right next to a gold butterfly broach.

Oh, bless John and his heart medicine to the rescue. Honestly, it’s the nicest people you have to worry the most about. Ed Gein, the killer who famously created suits of women’s skin, was described as the nicest man in town. Dr. Harold Shipman, who murdered over two hundred patients, would make home visits and had a soothing and polite bedside manner. Part of the game, for many killers, is the con of the innocent, the hiding of the monster, the successful deception that proves to them that they are smarter and therefore superior.

“On the rainy days, John brought in my newspaper. Said he worried about me making it down my drive with my cane . . .” A younger man with braces on his legs spoke in a hushed tone, and I maneuvered around the group, beelining for the coffee station.

“You could just see the love they had. You know, it would have been their fifteen-year anniversary this year . . .” Another tight cluster of mourners, this discussion led by a woman with short-cropped hair that was a bright shade of magenta.

Sure, fifteen years of him hovering over her with a critical eye. Picking her apart for harmless conversations and friendships. In a year, I had barely scratched the surface of where John’s insecurities and control issues came from, but they seemed to swell and ebb around Brooke’s behavior.

They had been married fifteen years, but John’s complicated mix of emotions for his wife had only ramped into violent inclinations in the last year. He had first sought my help when an argument between them had led him to wrap his hands around her neck and squeeze until she fainted. The act had given him a rush of sexual endorphins and caused her to emotionally withdraw . . . which was akin to a child running from a large dog. Ears went up, tail twitched, chase time on.

John may have brought newspapers in for neighbors with disabilities and opened the pharmacy on the weekend for heart-medicine distribution, but he had also calculated medicine combinations that would kill his wife and mused about locking her in his car trunk on a hot summer day to “teach her a lesson” about loyalty and trust.

With the exception of his first choking incident, the rest of his fantasies we had controlled through regular sessions and prescribed medications, the latter of which he often skipped or ignored altogether.

I stopped at the end of a long receiving line. Ahead of us was a trio of family members. I watched their faces as the line shuffled forward, curious if any of them had seen the monster behind the man.

“Strangling her would be best. For my enjoyment, I mean. I like the idea of looking in her eyes. Of her understanding what is happening. Otherwise, I’m worried she’ll get distracted by the pain.”

I’d spent the last four days thinking over our sessions. Each night, I’d listened to the recordings of our appointments, focusing on the excited lilt of his voice as he had described the different ways he would hurt her. In hindsight, there were far too many signs, a gradual ramp-up of intensity between his first visit and last. I’d heard it and made notes, yet I’d been foolish enough to believe that the power of my counsel was enough to keep him in line. My ego, that was what had killed Brooke.

I paused in front of John’s sister, her mascara streaked down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” I told her. I stepped to the side and repeated the routine with his brother. They were both thin and bookish—a marked contrast to John’s large frame.

“Mrs. Caldwell.” I nodded to Brooke’s mother, who was sagging in place, her face etched in deep lines of sorrow, all color faded from her skin.

I did this. I’m the reason she no longer has a daughter.

I could have broken my physician’s code of silence if I believed my patient was an imminent and violent threat to others.

I could have gone to the police. Shared everything John told me.

But then what? They would have questioned him. Questioned her. And then released him. You can’t arrest someone for thinking about killing someone. They would have let him go, she might have left him over the event, and he might have killed her then.

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