They told me I was in real big trouble this time, but they were wrong. I should have seen it coming, after all, this city is a mess. They don't have the time or the money to spend disciplining a seventeen year old girl with a less than spotless criminal record. The sentence was a joke; six weeks of court ordered therapy from a criminal psychiatrist. I've been to therapy before, but they're all making a big fucking deal about this time, because, "He wrote a book, Jessica, isn't that wonderful? He's a real doctor, not a med school washout with a Psychology degree and elbow patches." I know he also practices at Arkham, where all the big time crazies go, a distinction my parents are not eager to mention. And why should they want to remind themselves? After all, if this guy is The Real Deal, as they're making him out to be, then it must have taken a nice chunk of my college fund to get me in to see him.
Not that I'm ever going to need that money for such a purpose, because the road I've taken doesn't have an escape clause. I'm sure he and I will have a few nice chats about my repressed feelings for my father or some other Freudian babble for six weeks, and then I'll be eighteen with a clean slate and no one to answer to but myself.
All that stands between me and my freedom is six weeks with Dr. Crane.
I think I can manage that.
It's a rather typical office, bland, but not bare. The desk is a solid metal material, not some pretentious mahogany relic with a thousand drawers. The walls are a sterile white, and the lights seem too bright for their own good. I imagine my entire face is lit up like a Halloween pumpkin. There's the obligatory six or seven bookshelves, covered in hefty diagnostic manuals, pharmacy guides, and the lighter reading up top: journals and paperbacks with ominous titles such as, "Guide to the Homicidal Mindset." No thank you.
Dr. Crane himself is sitting down at his desk, shuffling through papers in what I can only assume is an attempt to make himself look Busy and Important. He's a lot younger than I expected, and I'm not entirely sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Young professionals tend to be more tenacious, more convinced they can root into my subconscious mind or whatever. But, at the same time, they're easy to throw off. If I can feed him a red herring about some traumatic childhood experience and milk it out for the next six weeks, I'm in the clear.
I don't think red herrings are intended for literal consumption, but I'll have all the time in the world to think about that once I'm done here.
"Please, have a seat, Miss Walker."
"Just 'Jessica' is fine."
"Well then, Jessica, please have a seat."
I oblige, not wanting to set myself into the defiant archetype just yet. Trying to screw with them too early in the game is a mistake.
"It's a pleasure to meet you. I hope that our time together will be beneficial for both of us." He extends his hand across his desk to shake mine. This is the part where he attempts to establish himself as the good guy, someone who cares about me as a person and not a paycheck.
"I've heard a lot about you, Dr. Crane. Especially about your book."
He smiles at me, and it's almost shy, the way he looks down at his desk when I mention it.
"Being published certainly has it's perks."
"So, what's it called? No one ever actually mentioned that part."
His expression changes rather quickly, from shy to spurned, and he seems to be holding in a sigh.
"It's called The Psychology of Fear. The title was more popular than the contents, to be truthful, a good number of humanists and the like disagreed rather vehemently with some of my stances... enough about that though. As you seem to know a good deal about me, I'd like you to tell me about yourself, Jessica."
He takes his glasses off when he says the last part, and gives me a good look straight in the eyes. It's a technique he must have practiced, because his eyes are a bewildering glass blue that sets me temporarily off guard.
"Uh, I'm Jessica Walker, like you said... I'm seventeen, I go to Saint Mary's in Gotham... what else do you want to know?"
"Anything you think is important for me to know about you. Do you have any hobbies or interests?"
"Who the fuck doesn't" is what first comes to mind, now that I'm recovered from the disarming stare, but I'm reeling in the snark for the time being.
"Oh, normal girl stuff, you know? Shopping, listening to music, hanging out with friends..."
"Shoplifting, selling pirated CD's, casual drug use?"
He throws me for a loop again—he seems to have a talent for that.
"Well, if you already knew, what was the point in asking?" I punctuate the remark with a beaming smile.
"I like getting a feel for the patient's self concept. You see yourself as a typical teenage girl?"
"Yeah, I do. The charges were all blown way out of proportion. Just a little youthful experimentation, no one was hurt, the trial was really just intended as a 'lesson,' something to scare me straight."
"Mhm. I believe something was brought up in the transcript about your potential connections with mob dealings? That sounds a bit more serious than youthful experimentation."
Shit, this one did his homework.
"I made a purchase directly from the supplier once; I think this was mentioned during the proceedings? I wouldn't ever do it again, and the experience made me choose to stop using."
"Is that so? Your last urine sample tested positive for narcotics."
I make an involuntary wince. I expected this guy to be clueless, but he's got my medical charts and the court transcript, and God only knows what else. It's time for a change in strategy.
"Maybe I'm a pathological liar?"
"No, Jessica, I don't think you're a pathological liar. Your last psychologist had you pegged as a histrionic, which is a generalized, and actually rather sexist, diagnosis."
"So, what's wrong with me? Did my parents potty train me too soon?"
He fiddles with his glasses again. I look down at the desk; I don't want to get all flustered this time.
"If I'm going to be honest with you, Freudians are full of shit—pardon the pun. What your problem is... I think you're afraid."
I'm surprised to the point that I look up straight at him and resist the urge to flinch.
"Afraid of what?"
"We have plenty of time to figure that out." He cracks his knuckles, like he's going to pull a hardhat out of his desk and go to work on my psyche.
"How wonderful," I whisper to myself.
"I'm sorry, what was that?" He looks up at me.
"I said, 'That sounds wonderful."
"And did you mean it?"
"I really can't outsmart you, can I?"
"With all due respect, Jessica, if a teenager was able to outsmart me in my own profession, I would ask for a refund on my university tuition."
I can't tell if it's meant to be funny, because he says it with such a lifeless inflection that it seems serious. I laugh anyway.
"Let's take a step back. My job is to uncover what could possibly make a perfectly ordinary girl from an affluent background turn seemingly overnight into a petty criminal."
I don't say anything, but I can tell he wants a response from me.
"And your job is," he goes on.
"I'm not sure."
"Your job is to be honest with me."
It's the way he looks into me that makes me think if I'm dishonest, he'll be able to tell right away.
"Tell me about the first time you ever committed a crime."
He pulls out an actual fucking clipboard from his desk and scribbles down a few words unseen to me.
"The incident at JC Penny?" I got caught skipping out the door with a three hundred dollar gold necklace stuffed in my bra. Not my fault that no one was watching the jewelry counter.
"Your first crime, not the first time you got caught. The average shoplifter is caught about once every fifty incidents."
"Well, if you want to know the first time I grabbed a Pepsi and walked out with it, we'll be here all day, because I was thirteen."
"And was that incident premeditated?"
I hate the way he says incident. Don't get me wrong, he has a nice voice, it might be soothing in other circumstances, but it just seems violating right now, the way all his words seem to be probing at me. Incident.
"No. I was thirsty and didn't have any money, so I took it. Survival, right? By an evolutionary standpoint, that makes me more developed, right?"
He's not amused. I take it he's not a fan of self-diagnosis, because he treats me to the same expression I got when I told him I thought I was a pathological liar.
"When was the first time you made the conscious decision to steal something before entering the store?"
"You mean, like, I didn't just take whatever? I had an idea of what I wanted?"
He nods for me to continue.
"A week or two after my birthday. I got myself a present."
I wave my right hand in front of his face so he can see the ring. It's cute, a nicely set ruby paired with two tiny diamonds set in a gold band. No one ever seemed to notice that it suddenly appeared.
"And you stole this directly after you turned seventeen?"
"Yeah, like I said, birthday present."
"Were you unsatisfied with your other gifts?"
"No, I'm not that petty. I just liked it, and you know, thought maybe I deserved it? Something nice for getting a year older?"
"And the rest of these thefts, did those have a clear motivation?"
I shrug. It seems obvious to me.
"For..." he urges me to continue, as if money isn't enough of an answer in it's self.
He writes more on that clichéd fucking clipboard, like he's some big shot movie psychiatrist. I don't like him, I decide, and the revelation helps me relax. I went into this hating him, and my resolve was lost somewhere over the past few minutes. Just because he's not like any others doesn't make him better, in fact, it makes him a nuisance.
"Tell me about your social life, Jessica. Friends... boyfriend... girlfriend?"
"Some friends, yeah. No one too close. And they would be a boyfriend if I had one."
"You're a pretty girl. Any particular reason you're not in a relationship?"
I feel my face go flush with the dreaded awkwardness of the situation. I wouldn't characterize myself as particularly pretty—I'm fairly average in all accounts: five foot four inches, dirty blonde hair in an ever present braid, glasses swapped out for contacts, dressed in a navy button down shirt and khaki's. I thought it made me look professional this morning, in retrospect, I look like a retail employee.
The blush from the compliment lasts for all of two seconds before it occurs to me that he must be trying to get a rise out of me and gauge my reaction. I reel it in.
"Well, you're a pretty guy. Any reason you're not in a relationship? Girlfriend...boyfriend?"
I don't see anything objectionable about the last scenario, but the implication bothers some men to such a degree, I couldn't resist. It's only fair. He is pretty too. Kind of femme, high cheekbones and wispy hair and what have you. It's an easy shot, and I doubt it's going to provoke him, but I can at least close the subject.
"Back to you, did you have any close friends at one time?"
I smirk at him, satisfied with the change in topic.
"Yeah, before I got into all these... incidents. They said they wanted to help me and all that, but I didn't want them too. We all still talk, just from more of a distance now."
"And does this bother you?"
"We went our separate ways. It happens, right?"
He scribbles more. I bet he's not actually taking notes at all, just doodling or getting ready for a big, serious case. I probably mean absolutely nothing to him; just a patient who's not trying to bite his face off or something.
"When did you start using narcotics?"
"Um... probably around when I turned seventeen. There was blow, you know, at some party, and I tried it, and I liked it."
"What's your typical usage pattern?"
I get a bit red in the face, maybe the nose too.
"Whenever I have it."
He looks up from his clipboard.
"There's an experimental treatment my colleagues are looking into for narcotics addiction; it's an herbal supplement that helps regulate dopamine levels. You fit the profile for a potential subject very well. If you agree, then I would ask you to take a 100 mg dose half an hour before our appointment next week,; so I can supervise."
"Supervise?" I ask.
"You might have an allergic reaction."
"And there's no prescription or anything for this shit—stuff?"
"It's a dietary supplement, not a drug."
I'm kind of wary, but he is a doctor, and whatever it is can't be worse than what some of the stuff I've snorted is cut with.
"I'll try it."
He nods, and writes on the infernal clipboard.
"I think this will be very beneficial for you, Miss Walker." He opens a drawer in his desk and hands me a blister packet with two blue pills. "Remember, take them half an hour before our next session. I look forward to seeing how you respond."
"So, is this it until next week?"
He nods in the affirmative.
I lean over the desk to shake his hand, ever the professional. It all seems rather simple, other than the pills, and hell, if they work, I'll sure save some money.
I can certainly handle five more weeks of this, no problem.