You're just settling in for the morning, getting your cup of coffee and wolfing down the croissant you bought on the corner bakery, when the buzzer rings. First client of the day is here.
John Smith, mid-thirties, didn't disclose much over the phone but seems to want advice on some fairly specific problems. Short-term work sounds good to you too.
He looks slick, upper-middle class, you'd guess. But you've learned that everyone's got their problems in this job.
"Hi John, sit down. I've explained my fees and process over the phone, do you have any questions?"
He shakes his head.
"So, why don't you go into more detail about why you're here?"
He hems and haws a bit and looks slightly awkward. You'd guess that he hasn't seen a therapist before.
"Say, could I walk around while we do this?" he asks.
"Sure," you say, "Whatever feels most comfortable." You've gotten stranger requests.
The next thing you know, the back of your head is throbbing, your hands are tied, and you're blindfolded. You hear shoes clicking on tile, and you don't think you're in your shag-carpeted office anymore.
"Hey, man, I'm sorry about this," says a voice behind your head. It's John Smith.
"What the hell is going on?" you ask.
"Ok, let me explain things to you. Either you tell me everything you know about Malone right now, or I cut off your fingers, and then you tell me everything you know about Malone."
"I swear, I don't know anything about Malone!"
"Why can't they ever make this easy on me?"
You're pretty sure that's not something he wants an answer to, so you keep your mouth shut.
"Look, we know all about you. We've seen Malone enter your office. We know your brother works for him. Now why don't you help yourself out and just let me know, and I'll let you go unharmed. Well, mostly."
He sounds pretty insouciant about the whole thing, but you're terrified.
"Wait, my brother...?!"
Snick. Suddenly, there's a thin, cold bit of metal against your throat, and you're pretty sure you don't want to move.
"Jane, what are you doing? You told me I could get this one!"
There's a drawn-out sigh coming from right in front of you.
"You always take too long." It's a new voice, female and sultry.
"Look, I'm sorry. My wife is sort of impatient, and she's not really the kind of person you want to piss off, if you know what I mean," John says to you.
You're not quite sure if you do, but you don't really want to find out either.
You start babbling about Malone and your brother and being fired by Malone and the other guy in your office and hope to God that it's enough to get you out of this. You also curse your stupid brother under your breath.
"This is useless," says the woman. "He obviously hasn't been in contact with Malone for months. Why did you take him down here?"
"Hey, hey! He was Malone's therapist! He's got to know something!"
"I can't believe you didn't find all this out before we had some guy tied up in our kitchen! And the Johnsons are coming over for dinner in half an hour, and I'm not even dressed!"
What the fuck? you think. This has got to be some sort of hell that only exists in suburbia.
"Christ, you're right! I completely forgot!"
There's no retort from the woman, just a slamming noise and a brief "oof." Instead of the yelp or fully fledged fight you expect, you hear a low "mmmm" and quicker breathing.
You so didn't want to know that. You clear your throat. The noises—you're really hoping that clothes are only getting rumpled, not taken off—continue. You clear your throat again.
There's a flurry of whispers now, and it sounds like the two are arguing (again?).
Suddenly, the blindfold's off, and the afternoon sun is right in your eyes. Two faces descend and block out the sun. One's John Smith's; he looks mostly like he did in your office, albeit with a few extra scrapes around his mouth. The other is a gorgeous, gorgeous brunette with bedroom eyes and pouty lips, but given the situation you're in, you decide that John really doesn't need to know what you think about his—lover? partner?
The two speak in unison; it's a little eerie: "How'd you like to join us for dinner?"
Dinner is the most awkward thing you've ever done in your life. The house is impeccably decorated; it screams money and tasteful addiction to HGTV. The food... you've had better.
Again, silence seems the best recourse.
The Johnsons are normal (you think), and the conversation mostly centers around the flooring (it's new) and the tool shed (John's renovating). But the woman—she introduced herself as Jane Smith, so the two are pretending to be married, at least—keeps shooting him looks. And every so often, when the Johnsons ask the Smiths about their jobs or babies or other things, the Smiths will smile and give an answer that sounds perfectly normal. That is, unless you were the one just tied up and blindfolded in the stainless steel, all-European kitchen.
You offer to help Jane out by bringing plates back to the kitchen, and to your surprise, she accepts. While you're trying to dispose of the remains of a chicken thigh, she leans over, her lips uncomfortably close to your ear. You're desperately hoping that John doesn't see this; the Smiths don't seem like people you want to annoy.
"Do anything out of the ordinary around the Johnsons, and I'll gut you like a fish," she says, so quietly and sweetly that you're not sure if you heard right.
Then she uses the sponge to wipe down the carving knife, a gleam in her eyes, and oh, you believe her.
"You see," she continues,"John's the nice one."
Oh, you believe her.
John walks in with the rest of the plates.
"Honey, why don't you show him around the house while I entertain the Johnsons," she states. "I'm sure he'd love to see your den."
"Oh, no, really, I could just get going, it seems like too much trouble," you stammer.
"No trouble at all," John says, gripping you by the elbow and forcibly steering you out.
You find yourself in a toolshed (still undergoing renovation) instead of the wood-paneled room that you were thinking of. John flips a switch. Fluorescent light flickers on and reflects off of the polished surfaces of what must be every firearm known to man.
"Soooo... you do marriage counseling, right?"
You don't really want to answer the question, but you nod weakly.
"Me and Jane, we did that before. Yeah, I know, hard to believe."
Actually, it isn't.
"But I think things are going a lot better now. Well, sometimes I still want to—"
John makes a growling noise and flexes his fingers. You step back a little.
"And so it was hard getting used to the fact that she's killed five times as many people as me. I've got this friend who keeps complaining that I'm whipped. But I figure it takes a real man to live with Jane."
He's checking out the guns now.
"She takes some getting used to," he confides. "I used to get annoyed because she's a little—particular. Ok, I still get annoyed. But damn, I love a woman who shoots to kill."
You're just nodding now.
"Oh, by the way. You know if you tell anyone about this, I'll come after you."
You nod more, trying to convey extreme earnestness. You never want to see the Smiths again.
"Great!" John says, slapping you on the back.
You finally get to convey your regards to Jane and thank the Smiths for dinner. After that, the world goes black once more.
You're not that surprised when you wake up in your office with a killer headache. There's a thank you note on your desk. The beautiful calligraphy on the creamy paper reads, "Thanks for the files. Regards, John and Jane Smith."
You seriously doubt that those are their real names—who names their kid "John Smith"?—but they were definitely married.