Spooks

by Jennifer Cannon

Prologue:

Friday, October 20, 1989

Mont Claire Sanitarium

11:00 AM

No change.

That was the phrase Dr. Bill Walker heard every time he visited his stepfather. The people who said this to him always had an expression of pity on their faces, probably wondering why he would take the time to visit a man that psychiatric medicine had termed a lost cause. They wouldn’t understand, Bill thought. No one could possibly understand what was driving him.

No change.

Looking through the metal grille that covered the door, Bill could see him, His stepfather was wrapped in a straitjacket and rocking back and forth, talking, always rambling and ranting at people that only he could see. The doctors at the Sanitarium called it a Dissociative Mental Break—another term for a nervous breakdown—and they said the outlook was bleak.

No change.

Soon things would change. Dr. Bill Walker would make sure of it. Taking a deep breath, he pushed open the door.

“Good morning,” he said, forcing a cheerful smile. The eyes of his stepfather, the former Dr. Ted Glaser, looked up at him and for a split second Bill was sure that there was some recognition there. It vanished as quickly as it came, however.

“Ogden, haven’t I told you not to bother me while I’m working?” Ted snapped.

“Sorry, dad—Dr. Glaser,” Bill said, assuming the role of his father’s old colleague who’d died of a heart attack in prison over two years before.

“It doesn’t matter,” Ted said. “We’re close to a breakthrough on Stetson—the one that we failed to make with Kimball. I think this time we might succeed.”

“I know,” Bill said. At this point he didn’t care whether his stepfather understood him or not-he had to tell somebody. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I spoke to mother today, and she gave me all of your case files—the ones you kept copies of in case the originals were ever destroyed, remember?”

“Remember?” Ted’s eyes flashed. “That’s a dangerous word, Ogden. I remember the day that—it was that Mrs. King wasn’t it? She ruined my plans—Stetson and Melrose—took apart my lab, destroyed all my work. My work. They even took Lester away.” Dr. Glaser started rocking again, tears streaming down his face and a keening sound coming from his open mouth.

“They didn’t take Lester away,” Bill said, grabbing the stuffed duck from the nearby bed and placing it into his stepfather’s straitjacketed arms. “He’s right here.” This simple act seemed to calm the older man, who placed his cheek on top of the duck’s head.

“Lester Duck is my friend,” Ted said. “Lester wants me to destroy—destroy them all.”

“We will dad,” Bill said. “I’ll make sure they all pay for what they did to you.”

“Lester is my friend. He’s my friend. Lester Duck is my friend.” Ted chanted the phrase over and over as though it was his personal mantra. Bill couldn’t take any more. He walked out of the room, nearly bumping into Dr. Graham.

“How is your stepfather today?” Dr. Graham asked.

“No change,” Bill said shortly, brushing past the man.

But there would be, he thought to himself. Very soon.

Act One

Q Bureau

Monday, October 23, 1989

12:30 PM

“I’m not going to do it,” Lee said. He strode into the office, with Billy following close behind. “I don’t care what Dr. Smyth suggested, Billy—there’s just no way.”

“I think you’ve misunderstood me, Scarecrow,” Billy said. “Dr. Smyth didn’t suggest anything—this is an order.” He handed Lee a business card. “You’re to make an appointment to see this man immediately.”

“And if I don’t?” Lee said, trying to ignore the smell of the chicken and egg salad sandwich that Amanda had just unwrapped at her desk.

“If you don’t, it’s automatic suspension,” Billy said. “Dr. Smyth told me that he’s not having a repeat of what happened at last week’s meeting where you had to run to the restroom four times.”

“Three times,” Lee said defensively. “And it wasn’t as though we were talking about anything really important anyway.” The smells of the sandwich combined with the sounds of Amanda eating were beginning to make him feel sick, but he did his best to ignore it.

“I doubt that the CIA director would agree with you,” Billy said. “Look, Scarecrow, what’s the problem? If this helps, it can only be a plus, and if it doesn’t help you’re no worse off than you were before.”

With a sigh, Lee looked down at the card he held in his hands. “Dr. Bill Walker, Ph.D.—licensed hypnotherapist-a hypnotherapist, Billy? You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“It’s becoming a very respected field,” Billy said. “Dr. Smyth told me that he’s been seeing Dr. Walker for some time now and thought he would be ideal for solving a problem like yours.”

“Billy, my problem is not that bad,” Lee said. “It’s not a big deal.” Amanda made a sound that sounded like a cross between a laugh and a snort. Lee shot his wife a look.

“Not a big deal?” Billy smiled as he reached out and patted Lee’s growing midsection. “You’re showing more than Amanda is and she’s the one who’s actually pregnant.”

“Stop that!” Lee snapped, swatting his boss’ hand away. His nausea was growing, and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to hide it much longer. “Hypnosis won’t work on me anyway—you know that.”

“Lee, if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work,” Billy said. “All we ask is that you give it a try.”

“That sounds fair,” Amanda chimed in.

“A-man-da!” Lee said.

“Lee, you were telling me only this morning that you hated feeling this way,” Amanda said. “What could it hurt to go to at least one session?”

“Make an appointment for tomorrow morning, Lee,” Billy said, his grin widening. “That way it won’t interfere with the rest of your day.”

SMK SMK SMK SMK

Tuesday, October 24, 1989

8:30 AM

“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Stetson,” Dr. Walker said as Lee entered the office. He was a small, fair-haired man with gold-rimmed spectacles and a pale beige suit. “Do you have any questions before we begin?”

“Not particularly,” Lee said, looking around the small room. Oddly enough the walls and the carpet were the same pale beige as Walker’s suit. Sunlight shone through the large picture window behind him, making delicate golden shapes on the carpet. A soothing tinkling sound came from a small fountain on a nearby table, right next to the-you guessed it-a large couch with pillow on one end. At the moment, however, Lee felt anything but soothed.

“Mr. Stetson,” Dr. Walker touched his shoulder, snapping Lee out of his thoughts. “You seem nervous—sorry—may I call you Lee?” Lee nodded. “I’m guessing you’ve never tried hypnotherapy before. Is that correct?”

“That’s correct,” Lee said. “And to be honest I really don’t see how it’s going to help.”

Dr. Walker smiled. “Lee, I completely understand,” he said. “Hypnotherapy is new, and many people are very nervous about it—maybe even a little scared. It’s normal.”

“I’m not scared,” Lee said. “I just don’t think it’ll do any good.”

“Well since hypnotherapy has been used for everything from losing weight to managing chronic pain, perhaps we should let me be the judge of that,” Dr. Walker said. He was speaking to Lee like a teacher speaking to a particularly stupid pupil. For a moment Lee was tempted to right walk out of here and tell Dr. Smyth to just suspend him and forget the whole thing.

“So, Lee, what seems to be the problem?” Dr. Walker said.

Just then the office door opened and a young girl entered, carrying a tray with two cups of coffee and a small stack of muffins.

“Here you are, Dr. Walker,” she said.

“Ah, Janet,” Dr. Walker said. “Perfect timing as usual.” With a small smile, Janet put the tray on the desk and left.

“Would you like some?” Dr. Walker asked Lee. “The blueberry muffins are homemade.”

“Just some coffee, thanks,” Lee said, picking up a cup. The smell of the buns was beginning to make his stomach churn again. Lee swallowed hard, fighting to keep the nausea at bay. A few sips of the coffee seemed to help a little.

“It’s a shame you won’t have any,” Dr. Walker said. “I guess that means there are more for me.”

“Guess so,” Lee said faintly. Bile rose up in his throat and he pushed it down—there was no way he was going to throw up in front of this jerk.

“You still haven’t told me why you’re here, Lee,” Dr. Walker said. “Does it have something to do with the fact that you’re so pale?”

“Look, I have a little bit of a stomach problem,” Lee said. “It’s no big deal—I can handle it.”

“Handle it?” Dr. Walker’s gaze fell to Lee’s stomach. The Doctor’s grin widened as Lee placed his hands over his belly. “It sure looks like you’re handling something. Am I right in assuming that Mrs. Stetson is pregnant?”

“Yeah,” Lee said. “But—” Dr. Walker held up his hand.

“There’s no need to explain,” Dr. Walker said. “I’ve dealt with cases like yours before.”

“I’m not a case,” Lee snapped. “In fact I’m—I’m leaving.”

“Really?” Dr. Walker raised an eyebrow. “And where will you go?”

Maybe it was Lee’s imagination, but the man’s voice was beginning to sound hollow, like it was coming from a long way away. Lee took yet another sip and the room began to slowly spin, almost like a merry-go-round. He stumbled suddenly, fighting to keep his balance.

“Are you all right?” Dr. Walker was asking him.

“Just—little dizzy,” Lee said, his words slurring a little. Suddenly Dr. Walker was at Lee’s side, a hand on his elbow.

“Oh dear, I guess I’ll be taking the rest of this, Lee,” he said. “Wouldn’t want you to spill it, now would we?”

“No—” Lee said, but he didn’t seem to be able to finish his sentence. He felt the cup being removed from his hands—he didn’t have the strength to resist it.

“That’s very good,” Dr. Walker said, his arm around Lee as he led him into another room. “Let’s just step right this way and the real fun can begin.”

Lee was vaguely aware that he was being strapped into a chair; his wrists and ankles restrained by thick leather straps. He tried to fight, to protest, but just like his voice, his body didn’t seem to want to obey him either. Dr. Walker’s face swam in front of him.

“Concentrate on me, Mr. Stetson,” Dr. Walker said, pulling out a large gold pocket-watch. “And tomorrow all of this will seem like a bad dream.”

11:30 AM

Amanda was so immersed in completing her report that when a hand touched the nape of her neck she yelped, nearly knocking over the milk she’d been drinking earlier. Amanda looked up into her husband’s smiling face.

“I know, you don’t like it when I do that,” Lee said. “How’s it going?”

“Better, now that you’re here,” Amanda said as she saved and closed the file on her computer. She stood, wrapping her arms around him. “How did it go with the hypnotherapist? Was it as bad as you thought it would be?”

“Actually, I think it went very well,”

“You do?” Amanda said, her eyes widening as she spoke.

“I do,” Lee said. “I’ve even made an appointment to see him tomorrow—same time.” Amanda fell silent for a moment. “Something wrong?” Lee said.

“No, nothing’s wrong,” Amanda said quickly. “It’s just a little surprising, that’s all. I know how you feel about doctors, Lee.”

“Well maybe you’re rubbing off on me,” Lee said as he bent down to give Amanda a gentle kiss. “What do you say we go out to lunch, Mrs. Stetson? Your call, my treat.”

“What about your morning sickness?” Amanda asked.

“Not a problem anymore,” Lee said. “I promise. Come on, Amanda. You don’t want to spend all day cooped up in this office, do you?”

Amanda was silent for a moment. Something about the way Lee seemed to suddenly feel better was setting off alarm bells—but why? The fact that her husband was feeling better should make her feel happy, not apprehensive. Shoving her worries to the back of her mind, Amanda smiled at Lee.

“Let’s go,” she said.

Wednesday, October 25, 1989

12:30 AM

“No!”

Lee sat up in bed, breathing hard. In the darkness he could make out the familiar shapes that told him he was in his own bed at home.

Just a bad dream, Lee thought as he rubbed his hand across his sweat-covered brow. But it had seemed so real—he could still feel the restraints on his limbs and hear the man’s voice talking to him. What had the man been saying? Lee felt like he should know, but when he tried to think back it eluded him completely. He let out his breath in a hiss of frustration.

Beside him the familiar shape of his wife stirred. “Lee?” Amanda murmured sleepily. “Is everything okay?”

Lee almost told her about his dream but decided against it. It would just add to her anxiety—something that he thought a pregnant woman should probably avoid. He felt guilty enough about waking her in the middle of the night. “I’m fine,” he said.

“I thought I heard you shouting,” Amanda said. Pulling herself to a sitting position, she reached over and turned on the bedside lamp.

“It was nothing, really,” Lee said. “I’m sorry I woke you.”

“Lee I’m just fine,” Amanda said, taking Lee’s hand. “And you know if there’s anything you need to talk about I’m right here—oh my gosh!” With a surprised laugh Amanda’s other hand flew to her belly.

“What is it?” Lee asked. Amanda said nothing for a moment as she lightly pressed her hand on her lower abdomen. “Amanda—is something wrong?”

Amanda shook her head. “Not exactly.” Lee could see that she was smiling, but her dark eyes were brimming with tears. “I just—I didn’t expect it so soon. I mean, with Philip it seemed to take a while and Jamie was pretty much the same way—they said sometimes it happens this early but I didn’t really ever think it would-”

“Amanda,” Lee said, breaking into his wife’s ramble. “Just please—tell me what’s going on.”

“See for yourself.” Still holding Lee’s hand, Amanda placed it against her belly. “It should happen again in a moment.”

Lee was approaching the end of his patience. “What should—” he started to say when he felt it. Very faint, but unmistakable—like the fluttering of tiny wings. “Is that what I think it is?” Lee said.

Amanda nodded. “Our baby’s kicking.”

For a moment Lee was too overwhelmed to speak. “Amanda—I—it’s amazing,” he finally managed to say. He gently pulled Amanda back against him as he leaned back onto his pillow, her head resting against his chest. “You’re amazing,” he said, softly kissing her. “And our baby, he’ll be amazing too.”

“He?” Amanda said as she curled onto her side and snuggled against Lee. “What makes you so sure it’s a he?”

“Well it could be a he,” Lee said. “I mean come on—that was a pretty strong kick.”

“They get stronger than that,” Amanda said. “And anyway that doesn’t mean anything. Mother said that when she was pregnant with me I kicked so hard that I once knocked a music box off her stomach.”

Lee laughed. “That does sound a lot like you,” he said. “Well I know one thing—if it is a girl she’ll be as beautiful as her mother.”

“Flattery will get you anything you want, Stetson.” Amanda said, her sentence punctuated by a yawn. “You know I think I might go back to sleep now—could you get the lamp?”

Reaching over, Lee pressed the switch and the room became dark again. He lay in the darkness, feeling Amanda’s weight against him and listening to the sound of her gentle breathing. Slowly Lee felt his own eyes begin to close.

“You never did tell me what woke you up,” Amanda’s voice startled him.

“I—” Lee decided to tell her at least part of the truth. “It was just a little dream,” he said. “Nothing too bad, it just woke me up.”

“Oh,” Amanda said. “Okay. Well good night Lee—I love you.”

“I love you too Amanda.”

And as he drifted off to sleep with Amanda still in his arms, Lee had a feeling that he wouldn’t be bothered by any more nightmares tonight.

Act Two

Wednesday, October 25, 1989

Dr. Walker’s Office

11:00 AM

“So you’ll be making another appointment for tomorrow, won’t you Lee?” Dr. Walker said, switching off the film projector and carefully removing the electrodes from Lee’s forehead. “Same time, same place.”

Lee’s blank eyes turned towards the sound of Walker’s voice—he couldn’t really turn his head because of the device holding his neck in place.

“Another appointment,” Lee repeated. “Yeah, definitely.”

“These sessions are really going to help you,” Dr. Walker continued. “We’re helping you to focus on the details in your life.”

“Details are important,” Lee said.

“That’s right, Lee,” Dr. Walker said. “And when you see the details you’ll be able to see your enemies more clearly-the ones who’ve been holding you back in life.”

“Enemies?” Lee said, and Dr. Walker could sense a hint of uneasiness in his subject’s voice.

“Yes, Lee.” Dr. Walker began to unfasten the straps and the neck device. He helped Lee to stand, leading him out of the laboratory and back into the office. “You are surrounded by enemies who are trying to undermine you. We’ll talk about those later, won’t we?” Walker guided Lee over to the sofa, placing him in a reclining position.

“You will wake up on the count of three,” Dr. Walker said. “You will have no morning sickness, and you will remember nothing of what we talked about. All that you will know is that you need to see me again.”

“I need to see you again,” Lee said.

“That’s right,” Dr. Walker said with a smile. “Precisely at 8:30 AM. Remember that I’m the only one who can help you now. On the count of three, Mr. Stetson. One, Two…”

4247 Maplewood Dr.

7:30 PM

“Mom,” Philip said, “There was something that Jamie and I wanted to ask you.”

“Hmm?” Amanda said absently. She was watching as Lee bustled around the kitchen, clearing away the dinner dishes, rinsing them and stacking them neatly in the dishwasher. Not just neatly-but even organized by color and size.

This is not normal, Amanda thought to herself. Not for the Lee I know.

Ever since he’d returned from Dr. Walker’s office early this afternoon Lee had been on some sort of organizing frenzy. He’d cleaned out his desk at the Q Bureau and then as if that weren’t enough he’d cleaned out Amanda’s as well. Lee had even managed to catch up on his paperwork backlog—his inbox tray was now empty.

Initially Amanda had been grateful—it was obvious that Lee was feeling better and maybe he was just trying to help. But now she wasn’t so sure. Billy had told her to relax, that maybe Lee was ‘just making up for lost time’, but Amanda couldn’t shake her anxiety. She’d felt the same thing when Lee had returned from Dr. Walker’s office yesterday; but now it was even worse.

“Earth to Mom,” Jamie said. “Come in, please.” Amanda realized that both of her sons were looking at her.

“I’m sorry fellas,” she said. “Was there something you wanted?”

Philip sighed loudly. “We wanted to ask you something. We were wondering if we could have a few of our friends over for a Halloween party.”

“We know that Halloween is on a school night, Mom,” Jamie said. “We wanted to have it this Saturday. It wouldn’t be anything big, we promise.”

“Just costumes, food, soda and a little music,” Philip said.

“Not to mention Linda Montez,” Jamie said.

“Why don’t you shut up, wormbrain?” Philip said.

“Philip, don’t call your brother that,” Amanda said. “I have no problem with a party as long as you keep it small and quiet. I don’t want the neighbors complaining.”

“Awesome,” Philip said.

“Lee, what do you think?” Amanda said.

Lee paused, looking over at her. “You’re actually asking me?”

“Of course I’m asking you,” Amanda said.

“Really?” Lee said, his voice rising slightly as he spoke. “Because from what I could see it looked like you were making decisions without even consulting me.”

“I would never—” Amanda started to say but Lee didn’t let her finish.

“In case you haven’t noticed, Amanda, I live in this house too,” Lee said. “I’m going to be a father and I’m also trying to be a good stepfather, but it’s awfully hard when you continually undermine me.”

The words stung, and for a moment Amanda found herself speechless, staring at her husband.

“Fellas, Lee and I need to have a little talk,” she finally said.

“No problem, Mom, we understand.” Philip said. “I have some homework to finish anyway—come on Jamie.” Amanda waited until she heard them go upstairs before she spoke again.

“Lee, just what was all that about?” Amanda said. “You know I would never undermine you. I was going to consult you, but honestly I didn’t think you’d have a problem with it.”

Lee sighed. “It’s just that you and the boys were already a family before I came into the picture,” he said. “And sometimes I feel like an outsider—like you’re all against me.”

“No one here is against you Lee,” Amanda said. Stepping closer, she put her hands on his shoulder. “You know that.”

“I do not know that!” Lee snapped. The vehemence of his words caused Amanda to take an involuntary step back. Lee sank down into a chair, running his hand across his face and back through his hair.

“Oh I’m sorry Amanda,” he said. “I don’t know why I said those things. I know you’re not trying to undermine me—I just—” His eyes looked up into hers. “Forgive me?”

Amanda knelt beside her husband, taking one of his hands in her own. “Lee of course I forgive you,” she said. “It’s just a stressful time right now and you’ve been trying to do so much.”

“I guess that’s it,” Lee said.

Amanda’s other hand reached up, caressing the side of Lee’s face. “What do you say we go to bed early and then go out for breakfast before we go to work?”

Lee shook his head. “Can’t,” he said. “I have an appointment with Dr. Walker.”

“Another appointment?” Amanda said. “But you’re better, Lee. There’s no good reason to see him every day.”

“Of course there is,” Lee said. “Dr. Walker is helping me to focus. I don’t want to backslide.”

“Well can’t you be a little late?” Amanda said. “I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”

Lee removed his hand from hers and stood. “Amanda my appointment is marked down in my notebook as 8:30 AM and that’s precisely when I’m going be there. All right?” Amanda started to say something else and he held up his hand, silencing her. “I don’t think I want to discuss this any more. Good night.”

Stunned, Amanda stood and watched as her husband walked upstairs.

Thursday, October 26, 1989

4247 Maplewood Dr.

1:30 AM

“Amanda?” Someone was shaking her, a man’s voice calling her name. A familiar voice. “Please open your eyes, please be all right—Amanda!”

The urgency of his voice finally got through to her. “Lee?” Amanda said. She opened her eyes to see him bending over her, his face reflecting a mixture of concern and fear. Before she could say anything else Lee pulled her up into a hug, kissing her hair while his shaking hands stroked her back.

“Thank God,” Lee said. “When I saw you laying there I thought—” his arms tightened around her. “Just thank God you’re all right.”

“I’m just fine, apart from not being able to breathe,” Amanda managed to say. Lee’s grip loosened and he pulled away from her. They were in the bedroom, Amanda realized—which is exactly where they should be this time of—her eyes fell on the bedside clock, the glowing red letters telling her that it was half-past-one in the morning. Half past one, with the lights on and Lee was—Amanda looked at her husband’s face, still seeing the fear in his eyes and the rapid breathing he was clearly trying to bring under control.

“Lee?” Amanda said. “What’s going on? What’s wrong? It’s not—” a horrible thought struck her. “Mother or the boys—Lee they’re not—”

“Amanda relax, I’m sure they’re fine,” Lee said. “I heard your mother come in from her date around ten.”

“Then I don’t understand,” Amanda said. “What’s wrong?”

Lee fell silent for a moment. He took Amanda’s hands in his, running his thumbs lightly over the back of her hands as he spoke. “I had a nightmare,” he said. “It seemed so real that when I woke up, well, I guess you could say I overreacted and woke you up. I’m sorry, Amanda—you really need your sleep.”

“And I thought I could ramble,” Amanda said. “Lee remember when I said that you could lean on me? I meant it—I’m a lot stronger than I look.”

“Believe me, I know that,” Lee said with a faint smile.

“Want to talk about your dream?” Amanda asked.

“I can’t really remember any details,” Lee said. “All I know is that I was terrified for you—that something would happen. Amanda if anything ever happened to you I’d—”

“Lee, don’t think that way,” Amanda said firmly. “I’m fine—the baby’s fine too.” As if in confirmation Amanda felt the tiny life moving inside her. “It really was only a dream.”

“Amanda, about what I said in the kitchen earlier about my appointment—” Lee said. “I didn’t mean to be abrupt with you. It’s just that Dr. Walker is really helping me right now. I need to see him.”

“I understand,” Amanda said, squeezing his hands. “Really I do, and I’ll support you in this.”

Lee took a deep breath and then smiled as he pulled her close. “Thanks,” he said, “Guess we should try and get a little more sleep, huh?”

“Sounds like a plan to me, Mr. Stetson,” Amanda said.

5:30 PM

Slam!

Slam!

Amanda could hear the sounds as she made her way downstairs. They were faint at first, but growing steadily louder. The source of the sound was her mother, who was standing in the kitchen. .

“I cannot find one blessed thing in here,” Dotty said.

“Well just tell me what you’re looking for,” Amanda said. “I’m sure it hasn’t gone that far, Mother.”

“What I am looking for are the bay leaves so I can make this sauce,” Dotty said. “I usually keep my spices in the cabinet next to the dishwasher, but that husband of yours seems to have moved them.”

“Mother,” Amanda said, as she opened the cabinets. “I’m sure Lee didn’t do anything—see look, they’re right here.” She handed her mother the small jar. “He’s even put them in alphabetical order, isn’t that nice?”

“Amanda, I’m not a complainer by nature,” Dotty said. “I didn’t mind when Lee came home early today and organized the bookcases in the family room or wrote out a birth plan for you five months in advance. I didn’t even mind when he straightened the boys’ sock drawer, and if he wants to scribble everything in that notebook of his, that’s his business. But this is my kitchen, and if I want to put my spices in alphabetical order I’ll do it myself.”

“I understand,” Amanda said.

“Just what is the matter with him these days?” Dotty said. “This isn’t like Lee at all.”

“No it isn’t,” Amanda said, her mind racing as she spoke, thinking back to the unpredictable mood swings, the fanatical neatness, the nightmares—all the strange behavior of the last few days. There was something she was missing, Amanda thought. Something just out of reach.

“I think I know someone who might be able to help,” Amanda said.

“Mom!” Jamie’s voice floated down the stairs. “I can’t figure out where Lee put my undershirts.”

“Amanda, whoever you plan on talking to, you need to do it soon,” Dotty said. “I’m not sure how much more we can take.”

Friday, October 27, 1989

Q Bureau

10:33 AM

“You can understand why I’m worried,” Amanda said.

Dr. Pfaff nodded. “Of course I can,” he said. “But I don’t want you to make it any more than it is, Amanda. The sympathetic pregnancy and the morning sickness were probably stress and anxiety-based. Chances are that these new behaviors are as well.”

“I guess so,” Amanda said

“Fatherhood is a very stressful time for most men,” Dr. Pfaff said. “And for someone like Lee it’s probably even more so.”

“I see what you’re saying, sir,” Amanda said. “But these behaviors just started a few days ago. And the nightmares are horrible—they come every night and they seem to get worse and worse.”

“Does he tell you what they’re about?” Dr. Pfaff asked.

Amanda shook her head. “He says he can’t remember the details, just a horrible feeling. I know it sounds crazy, but could it have something to do with the hypnotherapist he’s been seeing?”

“It might,” Dr. Pfaff said. “But not in the way you’re thinking. The hypnotherapy is helping him with the sympathetic pregnancy, Amanda. Maybe he’s taking that same anxiety and transferring it to other parts of his life instead.”

“Well if that’s true,” Amanda said. “What can I do about it?”

The sound of the Q Bureau door being slammed shut caused her to look up in surprise.

10:35 AM

They’re all against me.

That was the thought that kept repeating itself in Lee’s head—over and over like a mantra and he didn’t know why he had missed what was so obvious before. From Mrs. Marston’s sly smile as she greeted him in the entryway to Francine and Billy’s furtive glances as he handed in his reports, Lee could tell they were all part of the plot against him.

They were all his enemies, Lee thought. All of them, trying to hold him back. Well he just wasn’t going to take that lying down. If any of them thought they were going to fool him, Lee Stetson, they had another think coming.

“Success comes a step at a time,” he muttered under his breath.

“Good morning, Lee,” Efraim Beaman’s voice jerked Lee out of his reverie.

“What makes you say that?” Lee said.

“Uh, maybe because it is?” Beaman said.

Lee snorted. “Morning,” he said.

“So, how’s Amanda doing these days?” Beaman said.

“Why do you ask?” Lee said.

“Why do you answer every question with a question?” Beaman asked.

“Maybe because I’m on to your tricks?” Lee said. “I’m not going to be interrogated by you, Beaman. So why don’t you beat it, huh?”

“Why don’t you get an attitude adjustment, Scarecrow?” Beaman muttered under his breath as he walked away. Knowing that he’d foiled Beaman’s plans put Lee in a slightly better mood. He walked towards the doors of the Q Bureau, humming tunelessly under his breath.

The door was slightly open—Lee could hear voices—one of them belonged to Amanda. He paused just outside the doorway, listening:

“Anything you can do to lessen Lee’s anxiety would be beneficial, Amanda,” a man’s voice was saying. “We don’t want him to become a burnout.” It was Dr. Pfaff, Lee realized, though he couldn’t quite believe that Amanda, his Amanda, would ever do this to him.

“I don’t see how I can lessen his anxiety if he won’t talk to me about it,” Amanda was saying.

Lee decided that enough was enough. He walked through the door, slamming it as he pushed it all the way open.

10:37 AM

“Lee,” Amanda said, startled as she looked up at her husband. “I’m sorry, I didn’t expect you back from your appointment so early.”

“Yeah, I bet you didn’t,” Lee said. “Is that why you were talking to Dr. Pfaff behind my back?”

“I should go,” Dr. Pfaff said, lightly touching Amanda’s shoulder as he stood. “If you need to talk to me, again, Amanda—just let me know.”

“I will, thank you sir,” Amanda said. Lee was silent, glaring as Dr. Pfaff walked out and shut the door behind them. Then he turned on Amanda.

“Just what the hell was that about?” He said. “You wait until my back is turned and then you go running to Pfaff?”

“Lee it’s not what you think,” Amanda said.

“Well, what I think,” Lee said, “Is that you’ve been telling Pfaff about our personal problems. Are you going to tell me I’m wrong?”

Amanda took a deep breath. “No,” she said quietly. “That is what I was doing.”

“So you were betraying me then,” Lee said. Amanda could hear the pain in his voice as he spoke. “I know everyone else is against me, but you were the one person I thought would be on my side. How could you do this?”

“Listen to me,” Amanda said. She had to find a way to get through to him. “You haven’t been yourself lately. I just thought that maybe Dr. Pfaff would be able to help. I’m always on your side Lee,” Amanda took his hand. “Always. Won’t you let me help you?”

“Amanda I—” Lee stared at her and Amanda could see a pleading look on his face that took her back to that day at the train station over 6 years ago. Then just as quickly the look was gone and it was as though a curtain had dropped down over his eyes.

“I don’t need help from you,” Lee said, pulling his hand from hers. “Is this your new game, huh? To try and get me declared incompetent, a burnout, maybe make me lose my job?”

“What?” Amanda said. “I would never do that to you—you know that.”

“I never thought you’d be conspiring against me with Dr. Pfaff either,” Lee said. “Maybe I don’t know you as well as I thought I did.”

“Lee.” Amanda touched his arm and Lee shook it off.

“Save it Amanda,” he said, taking his notebook out of his pocket and flipping it open, running his finger down the page. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some errands to run-I’ll be back later.”

After Lee left, Amanda sat down at her desk, resting her forehead against her hands as Dr. Pfaff’s words echoed through her head. Stress—anxiety-burnout…maybe he was right, she thought. Maybe Lee really was having some sort of breakdown.

“No!” Amanda said out loud, her voice echoing in the empty room. She wouldn’t accept that. There was something else going on here—something, or was it was it someone? Amanda picked up her phone and dialed an extension.

“Francine?” she said. “It’s Amanda. Look, this might seem like a strange request but I really need a favor. Could you run a background check on a Dr. Bill Walker?”

12:30 PM

“I’m sorry to call you, Dr. Walker,” Lee said. “I don’t want to be a bother—I just need to talk to someone.”

“Lee, you don’t have to apologize,” Dr. Walker said. “I told you to call me anytime you felt like it and I meant it. Is everything going well? No more morning sickness, I hope.”

“No, there’s no more morning sickness,” Lee said. “It’s just—I’m beginning to feel like I’m losing control.”

“Losing control?” Dr. Walker kept his tone concerned, even though he was unable to hide the smile that had crept across his lips. “What do you mean?”

“I keep having these nightmares,” Lee said. “I try and keep everything organized, but everything seems to be slipping away. My family—my friends—I feel like they’re all against me and I don’t know what to do.”

“I see,” Dr. Walker said. “What makes you think they’re all against you?”

“That’s just it,” Lee said. “There really isn’t any good reason for feeling this way, but this voice in my head keeps telling me that everyone’s an enemy. Even—even Amanda. I snapped at her earlier—I didn’t mean too but I couldn’t stop myself.” Dr. Walker could hear Lee’s voice trembling slightly and his smile widened. This was working out even better than he’d thought it would.

“Lee,” Dr. Walker said. “Listen to me. This paranoia could be very serious if it gets out of control.”

“Out of control?” Lee said. “What do you mean?”

“Well what I mean is that if you think people are against you, there’s no telling what you might try to do to them.” Dr. Walker paused. “Even to your wife.”

“Amanda?” Lee said. “Doc, I wouldn’t—I mean I could never do anything like that. Ever.”

“That may be true for now, Lee.” Dr. Walker said. “But if this feeling, this paranoia of yours grows stronger, you might become a real danger to those you care about.”

“No,” Lee said, his voice rising. “I don’t—I won’t even consider that. No way.”

“Calm down, Lee,” Dr. Walker said. “I’m sure I can help you with this. Now I don’t usually schedule appointments for Saturday, but would you please come to my office tomorrow morning—say 8:30?”

“I don’t know,” Lee said. “We’re having a Halloween party tomorrow night and I promised Amanda that I’d help her with the preparations.”

“Are you sure?” Dr. Walker said. “Just remember, Lee—you’ve come so far—you don’t want to backslide, do you?”

There was a long pause. “No, of course not. I’ll be there tomorrow morning,” Lee said. “8:30—I’ve marked it down in my notebook.”

“That’s very good Lee.”

“Thanks,” Lee said. “Is there anything else?”

“Not right now,” Dr. Walker said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow,” Lee repeated.

“Goodbye Lee.” Dr. Walker hung up the phone and leaned back in his chair. Everything was going just as planned—it was perfect. His eyes fell on a black and white portrait on his desk which showed a little boy wearing a musketeer hat, perched on top of an older man’s shoulders. Dr. Walker’s eyes pricked with tears, remembering how happy he and his stepfather had been.

“I’ll make him pay, daddy,” Bill whispered, looking at his younger, happier self in the photograph. “And then we’ll be able to get our lives back.”

Continued

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Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and its characters belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Enterprises. No infringement is intended. This is written for entertainment purposes only.