Working Title: Ostanes – Session Six & Seven

I decided I really didn’t like the old working title, so we’re back to basics. I realized I forgot to update Wednesday, so you get two chapters. The first one is short and will get expanded on rewrite. The second one is nice and long and I’m pretty happy with it, although I need to add descriptions and more of Neill’s thoughts. (I also still need to decide what to do about Ostanes’ accent, which shows up a lot more in these chapters)

I’ve been reading through The Other Side of the Story, which seems to be a pretty good writing blog. I’m bookmarking posts on things I need to work on. Mostly I need to stop thinking about this story right now and work on other things…

ETA June 2013: Trigger warnings for discussions of violence/death, corrupt doctors.

Anyway, to the story:

Session Six – Ostanes

The doctor’s board decision came back in record time, a few days later. The answer was ‘yes.’ Neill was somewhat surprised by the quickness of the decision, but decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. He began working with the security head for the new measures for his sessions with Ostanes with his make-up. And he spoke with the admittance to get those particular personal effects out of storage. The new schedule was to speak Ostanes without his make-up on Monday mornings and with on Wednesday afternoons. The sessions, like always, would be for half an hour.

Ostanes was brought in for his first session at the new time. All of the other times, while the guards were there he’d been completely expressionless. This time, he watched Neill as he was secured with a hint of curiosity, although he didn’t speak. As soon as the guards left he spoke before Neill could.

“A change of schedule, doc?” he said in his monotone.

“That’s right. We’re going to have two sessions a week now.”

“Oh?”

“Our other session will be Wednesday afternoons. I’ve arranged for you to wear your face.”

“Oh!” That was greatest amount of emotion that he had ever heard in Ostanes’ voice and he was frankly surprised by it. He didn’t let it show.

“They won’t be here,” he said carefully. “You’ll be in your cell and I’ll by watching by camera.”

“That’s alright, doc.”

“You won’t have to be restrained in your cell.”

“I don’t mind the restraints. Will there be a television screen, or something?”

“No. It’ll be conducted through the speakers.”

“I see.” He shifted. “And I suppose there will be an audience then.”

“No, there shouldn’t be!” Neill said. “That wouldn’t be conducive to therapy.”

There was a flicker of a smile. “No, of course not.” There was some hint of humor in his voice that Neill couldn’t trace.

“Why would you think there would be an audience?”

“This would be the first time he would be out in two years. And he did all sorts of interesting things, didn’t he?”

“I wouldn’t call them interesting,” Neill said disapprovingly.

“Others here might disagree with you, doc.”

“Maybe,” Neill admitted. “But I’m interested in helping you, remember?”

“I know. That’s why I talk to you.”

The rest of the session was spent discussing Ostanes’ life in the institution. Neill learned what foods Ostanes disliked, something he mostly knew already from his previous investigations. He learned that Ostanes liked to spend some of his spare time in the gym, not to get buff, but just to stay in shape. He learned that Ostanes would have liked more time outside, a common complaint with inmates. He learned that he did in fact appreciate greatly that Neill had gotten him off most of the drugs, but insisted that he didn’t need even the last anti-psychotic. Neill wasn’t quite ready to take that chance yet. In the end they were trivialities, but they made Ostanes seem like a rounded person rather than the robot-like automaton that he had seemed to be when Neill first started to work with him.

Before the guards came, Neill outlined how Wednesday’s session would go. Ostanes was to sit on his cot. His make-up – and Ostanes flinched at the word, as he always did – would be given to him through the food pass. He would then indicate when he was ready to speak to Neill. At the end of the session, he was to remove his make-up and pass it back to the guards. If he did not, it would treated as contraband. Ostanes indicated he understood and there would be no problems.

Session Seven – Not Ostanes

Neill was somewhat nervous as he sat down in the private control room. The security chief had shown him how to work the camera in Ostanes’ cell and reassured him that it would be a private connection.

He watched as Ostanes was passed the make-up. He turned as the guard closed the food pass, his face blank. Neill had somewhat expected him to be smiling even the small amount he sometimes did. He sat down on his cot and opened up the kit, inspecting it carefully. Neill had looked at it earlier. It was a small wooden box, lacquered black, with a hinged lid. Inside were a number of small glass jars with different colors of paint, and a small mirror. He’d looked at one jar; the paint appeared to be homemade, and had a pleasant botanical smell.

If he knew that Neill was already watching, he gave no indication. Neill hadn’t turned on the microphone, but the speaker and the microphone in Ostanes’ cell came on when the camera did. The patient applied a base layer of white over his dark skin, then red over that, resulting in a very bright crimson shade. He added a dot of white below each eye with his thumb, then rose and washed his hands. He packed up the kit again. It was not the same pattern that he had worn when he was admitted. He sat down and looked toward the camera.

“You therre, doc?” There was significantly more intonation in his voice than there had been at the other sessions. It could have been a completely different person.

Neill switched on the speaker. “Yes, I am. Are you ready, then?”

“Oh yess, doc.” His voice was rich, almost sultry, and his personal accent stronger.

“That’s not the pattern you were wearing when you were admitted,” Neill said.

“No, of courrse not. This is for a different purpose.” He spoke slowly, like he was rolling each word in his mouth like candy.

“What purpose is that?”

“Well… We’re just going to talk, arren’t we?”

“Yes,” Neill said. “Then what purpose was the other pattern?”

The patient laughed, deep in his throat. “I don’t think you’re quite ready to hearr about that, doc. After all, you’ve only just met me.”

“We’ve been talking for a month.”

The patient chuckled again. “No, that was Ostaness.”

“Then who are you?”

“Sorry, doc, you haven’t earned that yet.”

“Ostanes said that the name press gave you was ridiculous.”

The patient laughed loudly. “Wasn’t it?”

“You’re not an Alchemist?”

“Oh, I certainly am! But that’d be like calling you The Psychiatrist. Ridiculouss.”

There was a pause as the patient stood. He walked from one side of the cell to the other, and back, watching the camera.

“Why did you kill those people?” Neill said.

“Which one, specifically?” he said, continuing to stride across the cell, “There were many, you know.”

“Ten, wasn’t it?”

“Ten that the police found, anyway.”

“More than that, then?”

“A few more.”

“How many?” Neill said abruptly.

The patient sat back on his cot, leaning against the wall with his hands behind his head. “Well, do you mean just the ones here, or all of them?”

“All of them.”

“Ahhh… let’s ssee. Twenty-three, so far.”

“Twenty-three?!”

“That’s right. That’s what I said.”

“And you’re planning on killing more?”

“I’m sure it will come up.”

“Why?”

“Well, some people need killing.”

“How do you figure that?”

“Well, doc, you don’t think the world would be better without some people?”

“I don’t think it’s right to kill.”

“I guess, that’s one of the places we differ, then.”

“Ostanes talked about your mother.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Have you talked to her?”

“Not in two years, at least.” That was an answer like Ostanes would give – completely unhelpful.

“Have you talked to her more recently than Ostanes has?”

The patient rubbed his nose. Neill thought the make-up would rub off, but it didn’t. “Ahhh… no. Actually, I’m usually the one that talks to her. She doesn’t like boring people, like Ostanes.”

“Why do you think he’s boring?”

“Well, that’s his job.”

“What do you mean by that?”

The patient chuckled again. “That’s his job, doc. He takes care of the boring things.”

“And you do the interesting things.”

“Well, sure. If you could set it up that way, wouldn’t you?”

“And how did you set that up?”

“Hmm… I’m not sure I can explain, actually. It’s… al-che-my.”

“Something to do with the make-up.”

“It’s not make-up, doc,” the patient said disapprovingly.

“Then what do you call it?”

“I don’t usually have to call it anything, but it’s primarily baphé alektruoneios.”

“And your parents taught you that?”

“What? Greek?”

“No. How to split yourself.”

“I’m not split, doc. I know what Ostanes does, he knows what I do, more or less.”

“But you refer to yourself with two names.”

“It’s just easier that way, doc. I’m sure you use different names in different situations, don’t you? Or are you ‘Dr. Neill’ to your mother?”

“No.”

“Well then,” he said like that settled it.

“And how does your mother feel about your face?”

“Like I said, it’s different for different situations. So… she doesn’t notice.”

“So you can wear a face that no one sees?”

“They’d see if they looked close enough, but in general, I suppose that would be accurate.”

“Why don’t you wear it all the time?”

“I don’t like doing boring things. And I hate wasting time with sleeping and eating, when I have imporrtant things to do. But it’s not healthy to work all the time, either. So Ostaness is good about taking care of himself.”

“I see. Thus the schedule.”

“That’s rright.”

“Ostanes said you don’t sleep much. How much is ‘not much’?”

“You have a very good memory,” the patient said. “Or do you have a whole sheaf of notes in there? I don’t think you do – I’d hear them.”

“How much is ‘not much’?” Neill repeated.

“Heh. Oh… an hour or two.”

“A night?”

“No, no, a week.”

“An hour or two a week?” Neill said incredulously.

“That’s right.”

“I can see why Ostanes would need a schedule, then,” Neill said drily.

The patient laughed. “Oohhh, I’m glad to see you aren’t all business, doc.”

“Your other crimes, besides the murders, did they have a purpose as well?”

“Of course! Everything I do has a purpose.”

“Really.”

“Sure, doc.”

“So why do you do things, in general?” Neill said.

“I’m trying to make the world better,” the patient said proudly.

“Really?”

“Oh, yes. Aren’t you?”

“I hadn’t looked at it that way, but I suppose.”

“You suppose, doc? You only suppose?”

“I hadn’t focused on the world. I just want to help people.”

“Ooohhh. I see. I guess I just set my goals a little higher.”

Talking to the patient like this, Neill was glad he hadn’t taken him off the last anti-psychotic and he was starting to suspect, that aside from this strange split, he wasn’t terribly different from other sociopaths Neill had encountered. He had the same high opinion of himself that one expected from that sort.

“I supposse you think I’m a bad person, doc,” the patient said, “just because I’m in here.”

“Not just because you’re in here,” Neill said.

The patient chuckled. “I thought psychiatrists were supposed to be objective.”

Neill’s hands tightened. “Your actions are what make me think you’re a bad person.”

“Really doc? If a soldier kills someone, is he a bad person?”

“You’re not a soldier.”

“It’s a depends on your point of view.”

“Really? What army are you in?”

The patient laughed again. “Maybe we should talk about my work another time. After all, I’d like you not to have such a poor opinion of me, at least not right away.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Why, I like you, doc! After all, you’ve been nothing but kind to me.

“And the other doctors were unkind?”

“The other doctorss wanted to use me.”

“Use you how?”

“Oh, Tross wanted to write a book, and use my reputation.” Vain again. “Although he used others, didn’t he?”

“What do you mean?” Neill said quickly.

“He wrote other books, didn’t he? About his patients?”

“And how did you learn that?” Neill asked, mildly alarmed.

“People talk. I listen. I’m very good at listening.”

“You? Or Ostanes?”

“We are the same person, doc.” A pause, before he continued “So Tross wanted my reputation.” He chuckled. “Ginson. Ginson wanted money.”

“He wanted money from you?”

“Oh yes. I’m surprised that an institution of this high renown would hire a scumball like Ginson.”

“Really?”

“Really, doc. He… Didn’t he get fired?”

“I’m… not sure what circumstances led to him leaving,” Neill said slowly. He didn’t expect to hear gossip from his patients.

“But he left?”

“Yes.” Neill wasn’t sure if he was making a mistake talking about the other doctors. The staff were not supposed to discuss their personal lives with the inmates. But it seemed, somehow, the patient knew all about it anyway.

“Ginson took bribes, you know.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Surrre. From all of his patients. Bribes for better treatment, bribes for better drugs…”

“And what did he take money from you for?”

I never gave him any,” the patient snapped.

“Really? There was nothing you wanted?”

“Not frrom him.”

“From what you’re saying, he could’ve gotten you anything.”

“Sure, anything. But he had no convictions, no integrity. I don’t trust people like that.”

“Really?”

“Really, doc.” He shifted, leaning forward. “And Callis, she wanted sex.”

“I’m sorry?” That couldn’t be right.

“She thought I was attractive, doc, not that I blame her. And she wanted to sleep with me.”

“Really? She asked you that?”

“Not with words, but then, she didn’t need to use words.”

“Then how did you know?”

The patient chuckled. “How does any man know, from across the rroom that someone is interested in him. There’s a look in the eye, doc. There’s the way they hold themselves as they look at you. You’ve never seen it?” He paused. “No, maybe you haven’t.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, we’ve established, you’re not married, you don’t have children.”

“We haven’t established that,” Neill said flatly.

The patient chuckled. “Are you married, doc? Do you have children? You’re young, you got through college and medical school quite quickly, didn’t you?”

“I don’t discuss my personal life with inmates.”

“Inmates, doc? I’m not a patient to you?”

“A slip of the tongue,” Neill said quickly, cheeks burning. He didn’t know why this patient was so interested in his personal life. There had been others that had been, but they didn’t make him so upset.

“I don’t think it was, doc,” the patient said quietly. “But I apologize. I’m making you uncomfortable.”

“My job is often uncomfortable.”

“I’m sure it is. It can’t be easy. There are all sorts of bad people in here.”

“Don’t you kill bad people?”

“Sometimes. Not all of them. I would never get to stop,” the patient said with a laugh in his voice. “But we were discussing the doctors, weren’t we? Shall we finish that up, or do you want to move on to something else?”

“No. Continue.”

“Callis. Yess, she wanted me. I had no interest in her.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not a hussy, doc. I don’t use people like that. And I certainly don’t find someone who would use their position to take advantage of someone else, attractive.”

“What do you find attractive?”

“Intelligence. Conviction.”

“And were you married?”

“No.”

“And do you have children?”

“No, doc, I don’t. And, no, Ostanes doesn’t either.”

“Do you want to?”

“I hadn’t considered it, actually. I find my work very consuming.”

“Would you make Ostanes do that?”

“Heh. That certainly shouldn’t be boring,” the patient said. “So no, I wouldn’t make him do that. Besides, he gets uncomfortable around exciting things. That’s my job after all.”

“I see,” Neill said. “So you would take over?”

“It’s not usually quite easy, doc. I would try, at least.”

“You would try? Because you need the baphe alek- alektro-

Baphé alektruoneios,” the patient corrected. “That’s right.”

“Isn’t that inconvenient?”

“Sometimes. Inconvenience is sometimes a price you have to pay, isn’t it, doc?”

“I suppose,” Neill said. “But it seems a strange sort of set-up, doesn’t it?”

“It is,” the patient admitted. “But it works for me. I just… have to be careful. And I wasn’t careful enough apparently.”

“You expected to do all those things, and not get caught?”

“It’s happened before, doc.”

“To you?”

“No, not to me. Not to the degree of last time. But there’s been other serial killers who were never caught.”

“You admit you’re a serial killer?”

“I killed a number of people in a series, which would be the definition, wouldn’t it?  So, that would make me a serial killer. I know what I am, doc.”

“And what are you?”

“Well, you think I’m crazy.”

“I never said that.”

“You didn’t need to, doc,” he said calmly. “Just like you didn’t need to say you think I’m a bad person.”

“Are you a bad person?”

“That depends on your point of view, good and bad.”

“Do you think you’re a bad person?”

“No, doc, I don’t, but I doubt anyone thinks that they’re a bad person.”

“I’ve met some that did,” Neill said.

“Well, I’m not always right, doc.”

“Do you think you right about killing all those people?”

“Oh yes, I was very careful.”

“And what gives you the right to decide that someone should die?”

“I can read people, doc, and I do my research very carefully. More carefully apparently than the justice ssystem does.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Well, it missed the people I killed.”

“And what made them bad people?”

“All sorts of things. The justice system imprisons people for silly things like… having drugs or not paying their bills, and then people wonder why it’s such a money sink. The justice system is all tied up in politics.”

“And politics are bad?” Neill said.

“Politics are politics. It’s got its place, I’m sure, but it’s not something I’m interested in.”

“You’re interested in making the world a better place.”

“That’s right, doc.”

“And that gives you a right to kill people.”

“I don’t think it’s a right, doc, but they were people that needed killing.”

“Why?”

The patient sighed. “Do you really want me to go through all twenty-three today? I’ve already made you uncomfortable, doc.”

“I’m used to being uncomfortable,” Neill said.

“Well, I don’t need to be one of the people that does it.”

“Because you like me.”

“That’s right.”

“We’re not friends,” Neill said.

“I know that, doc.  You’re my doctor, I’m your patient. You’ve been very kind to me, I suppose.”

“By letting you have your face back?”

“Not just that, doc. You’re interested in me. Professionally, I’m sure,” he said smiling, then sobered before Neill could comment. “No, no, I am sure, doc. But you have been professional. And so many of the others I’ve met weren’t.”

“You’ve only had three other doctors,” Neill pointed out.

“Don’t you think that’s three too many to find one that was actually interested in helping people?”

“Three’s not very many, that’s all.”

“I’ve spent time in other institutions,” the patient admitted. “Not much time, but time.”

“Which ones?”

“I was in Stomlin for a little bit. Verry little. Their security is not much to speak of.”

“Stomlin, really?” Stomlin was infamous, for its patients and history.

“Really. A while ago.”

“How long ago? Why did you get sent to Stomlin? I thought you were careful.”

“It was a misunderstanding. It’s not worth talking about today. You’ve discussed trivia with Ostanes, after all. Why should we jump straight into the serious subjects?”

“That’s my job,” Neill said.

“I know, doc. But… I’ve just been let out. Can’t I have a little fun?”

“What do you find fun?”

“Talking with people. Interesting people. Smart people, like you.”

“You think I’m smart?”

“Well, sure, doc. It’s hard for dumb people to become a successful psychiatrist.”

Neill snorted. “Some that would say that working in this sort of institution means you’re not very successful.”

“Do you enjoy it, doc?”

“Sometimes,” Neill admitted.

“Well, if you enjoy your work, that’s some sort of success, isn’t it?”

“I suppose.”

“And the pay is not bad either, isn’t it?”

“I can’t-” Neill said quickly.

“I know, I know, doc. I shouldn’t know about that, should I?”

“You shouldn’t. How do you?”

“Uhhh… I don’t remember exactly, actually. Picked it up somewhere. If you give me time to think about it, I might remember.”

Neill filed that away. “What else do you find interesting about people?”

“Well, unusual people, like you.”

“Unusual?” Neill said, surprised.

“There’s ssome-thing about you, doc,” the patient said slowly. “I haven’t quite figured what yet. Something.”

“Really? I don’t think I’m unusual.”

“It’s funny, doc. Most unusual people don’t. It’s one of the things that’s most interesting.”

“Do you think you’re unusual?”

The patient mouth twitched. “I try to be observant. I know- I know I’m not like most people. I don’t think I’m crazy, doc. But crazy people never know they are, do they?”

“Sometimes they know something’s wrong,” Neill said.

“Well, I don’t think anything’s wrong. But I could wrong, after all, I’m in here, aren’t I?”

“That’s right.”

“So, doc, if there is something wrong with me, are you going to fix it?”

“I’m going to try.”

“That’s right, isn’t it? Not everything can be fixed yet.”

“You think at some point there will be a cure for every mental illness?”

“I don’t know. Do you think so?”

“I’d like to think so,” Neill said.

“You’re quite a hopeful kind of person, aren’t you doc?”

“I try to be. Are you?”

“I’ve seen a lot of bad things. A lot of bad things. It’ss hard to hold on to hope sometimes.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

The patient smiled. “You know, doc, a lot of the staff here is very cynical. Dealing with criminals all the time.”

“I don’t think of my patients as criminals.”

“Really doc? You called me an inmate earlier.”

“It was a slip of the tongue.”

“No, it wasn’t. You were upset.”

“A little,” Neill admitted.

“Well, that’s only natural, after all. We’re not all angels all the time, are we?”

“I’m not sure you’re an angel at all,” Neill said drily.

The patient laughed. “Even angels can fall, can’t they? And they have the furthest to go.”

“If that’s what you believe in,” Neill said.

“I don’t. I’m not a Christian. I don’t believe in angels.”

“What do you believe in?”

The patient considered and then said, with conviction, “Change. I believe in change.”

“Do you believe everyone can change?”

“If they really want to. But it’s often very, very, very difficult.”

“Do you believe you can change?”

A small smile crept onto his face. “Oh sure, doc. Every day. You’ve seen me do it, haven’t you?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know. I know it’s not, doc, but, well, you have to let me have my little jokes, don’t you?”

“Do you think you could change?” Neill said.

“If I wanted to.”

“Do you want to?”

“No, doc, I really don’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well, there’s nothing wrong with me, in my opinion anyway.”

“Society thinks there’s something wrong with you.”

“Society’s not always right. That’s quite obvious every day, isn’t it? And society thought slavery was a good idea, not that long ago.”

“You don’t think 300 years ago was that long ago?”

“Not in the grand scheme of things.”

“But then you study alchemy and that’s how old?”

The patient laughed. “But alchemy discovers new things all the time.”

“Alchemy has been discredited quite a long time.”

“Not by those who understand it.”

“And you understand it.”

“Not everything.” He paused. “No, not everything,” he repeated. “But a scientist has to study very very hard to understand everything in their field.”

“And you see yourself as a scientist.”

“It’s a strange sort of science.”

“That’s interesting,” Neill said.

“Isn’t it?”

“I suppose there are people who think astrology is a science,” Neill said.

“It’s not the same!” the patient snarled. “Astrology is bullshit.”

“Really?”

“What? Do you believe in it?”

“No.”

“Because you’re a scientist, aren’t you, doc?”

“That’s right.”

“Well. Really doc, in many ways alchemy and psychiatry aren’t entirely different.”

“Really?”

“Alchemy covers more, of course.”

“Of course,” Neill agreed, his lip twitching.

“Are you making fun, doc?” the patient said quietly.

“No. I’m trying to understand.”

“I’m not sure you are. I think perhaps you’re humoring me.”

“Really? Why would I do that?”

“Becausse I’m a dangerous persson.”

“You’re locked in a cell.”

“I won’t be forever.”

“You might be.”

“Not if I don’t want to be, right?”

“But then you won’t be a dangerous person.”

The patient licked his lips. “I could fool you, doc.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes. After all, I’m verry observant. It wouldn’t-” he chuckled. “It wouldn’t even be difficult.”

“Are you going to try?”

“I like you, doc. I don’t want to lie to you.”

“I appreciate that,” Neill said. “It’ll make my job a lot easier.”

The patient chuckled again. “Is that what you like, an easy job?”

“If I wanted an easy job, I wouldn’t work here, would I?”

“No, you wouldn’t. After all, you could open a private practice, couldn’t you? And offer blank platitudes to rich trophy wives, couldn’t you?”

“Is that what you think psychiatrist do?”

“The lazy ones. But you’re a good one, aren’t you, doc?”

“I try to be.”

“I think you are. I think you do more than try to be. I think you are.”

“Well, thank you.”

“I think we’re almost out of time, doc. Is there something else you want to ask me?”

“We have next week, and the week after,” Neill said.

“Well yes, but…”

“Or are you planning on something?”

“I’m not planning anything right now, doc. It’s just nicce to be out for a while. I wish I could get some fresh air, but that won’t be allowed, will it?”

“It’s not likely,” Neill said.

“Well, I can live with that. I won’t be in here forever.”

“You might be, if you don’t change.”

“Everyone changes, doc.”

“Is that the secret of alchemy?”

“Oh no. No, no. That’s a very basic learning. It’s hardly even alchemy.”

“What’s the secret?”

“I can’t tell you that, doc,” he said, smiling.

“Why not?”

“You’re not an alchemist. You wouldn’t even understand it.”

“Then what’s the harm in telling me?”

“Well doc, what’ss the harm in giving a child a lit match?”

“They could hurt themselves.”

“Exactly! Or otherss. Without even trying.”

“And alchemy is like a lit match?”

“Alchemy can be very powerful, doc.”

“If you know what you’re doing.”

“Ooh no… Not if you know what you’re doing. Alchemy can be very powerful, period, doc.”

“Only can be?”

“Well, like any science, you have to begin somewhere. And no good teacher would hand a child something dangerous, would they?”

“Your mother taught you?”

“And my father.”

“Before he died in the war.”

There was a moment’s pause. “That’s right.”

“Where did he fight?”

The patient hesitated. “I’m not ready to discuss my father with you, doc,” he said quietly.

“Why not?”

“Well… you don’t know anything about me, do you?”

“I know some.”

“Some, doc? You don’t even know my name.”

“You haven’t told me.”

“No, I haven’t. You don’t even know Ostanes’ last name, or where I was born, or where I went to school.”

“You haven’t told me,” Neill repeated.

“No, doc. I haven’t,” he said exasperated. “Do you know why?”

“You said I haven’t earned it.”

“That’s right. You haven’t.”

“What do I need to do to earn it?”

“I think we’re out of time, doc. Aren’t we? I don’t want to make you late for your next patient.”

“We can talk a little longer,” Neill said.

“Doc, we have plenty of time, don’t we? Isn’t that what you said?”

“And why are you avoiding the question?” Neill said. “You asked if I had any. Or is that another thing I’m not ready for?”

“You needn’t throw my words back at me. I know what I said. I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

“Why not?”

“Well… call me selfish, but if I get you in trouble, they won’t allow this to continue, will they?”

“That’s a possibility,” Neill said.

“Or they’ll assign me to someone else.”

“That’s also a possibility.”

“I don’t want either one of those. Is that selfish?”

“Somewhat. It’s not unnatural to be selfish,” Neill said.

“No, it’s not, but people like me are thought to be quite a bit more selfish than others, aren’t they?”

“What do you mean by people like you?”

“Well, sociopaths, isn’t that the word?”

“That’s not the preferred term anymore.”

“But people would think that I’m a sociopath.”

“Some might.”

“Do you?”

“I haven’t come up with a diagnosis yet.”

“Oh. A diagnosis. I see.” Something about that amused him.

Neill was running over time now.

“No, no, I apologize doc. I’m being rude again. After all, I owe you gratitude, don’t I? For setting this up. For trying to help me, even if I don’t think I need it. I’m not ungrateful, doc. So, thank you.  Thank you very much, Dr. Neill. I do appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome,” Neill said.

The guard was knocking on Ostanes’ door. The patient glanced over.

“I think that’s the end of our time, doc. So, next week?”

“That’s right.”

“Alright. I look forward to it.”

His hands shook slightly as he cleaned the make-up off, using cold cream from the kit, but stilled and his expression went blank as it came off. He rinsed his face with water, then passed the box through the door.

“You still there, doc?” he said in a monotone.

“I am.”

“Monday?”

“Yes, we’ll talk Monday.”

“Alright, doc. And Wednesday?”

“That’s right,” Neill reassured him.

“Alright, doc. You’d better go. You don’t want to be late, do you?”

“Don’t worry about me.”

“I’m not worried about you.”

“You’re worried about him?”

“Doc, you’re going to be late,” Ostanes chided him mildly. There was actually a touch of his other self’s amusement in there.

“I have time,” Neill said.

“We have time. Lots of time, don’t we, doc? So there’s no point in making yourself late, when we have lots of time. Isn’t that true?”

“I suppose.”

“So go on. I- I can wait. I’m very good at waiting.”

“Alright, Ostanes. Next week.”

He nodded and Neill shut off the microphone and the camera. The last image he saw was Ostanes laying down on the cot and closing his eyes.

 

Leave a Reply