Teasers & Deleted Scenes10:00 AM, October 31, 2008, Washington, D.C.
Kay Baylor is fiftyish, frowning, brown-haired, rosy-cheeked, blue-eyed. She wears a retro micro-houndstooth-check pantsuit in chocolate and white and meticulous, slightly smoky eyeliner. On her desk rests a pad of paper with fourteen sheets remaining, a single yellow Ticonderoga pencil, a digital recorder, a coffee cup, and a folded pair of square-framed reading glasses.
The frown is for Chaz.
"Agent Villette. If you can't speak freely to me, there's a limit to how much good I can do you."
Chaz shrugs, by way of hiding his disappointment; he did sort of hope she could help him, even though he's been "helped" by dozens of asshats he'd like to see drowned in buckets. The only thing he hates more than psychologists is psychiatrists: the M.D. seems to make them more convinced everyone they meet desperately needs their intervention to be well.
You do need her intervention to be well.
She straightens her pencil across her pad and continues, "Which is why I already know what the ACTF does. And Agent Gates's and your particular qualifications for being on your team. If you don't choose to tell me any more than I already know, I'll work within those limitations. And whatever you tell me--no matter what it touches on--I will not share with anyone else, for any reason." Baylor raises her eyebrows and smiles a teeny, tiny smile. "I hope you haven't been robbing convenience stores and running a meth lab in your off-work hours. But if you have, your secret's safe with me."
It's a counselor's job to break the ice, to put the patient at ease and build trust so she can then challenge him. Still, Chaz blinks, and can't hide a quick smile.
This time, as he didn't last time he saw her, he says, "...You should probably call me Chaz."
She nods. "Yes, I think I should."
"I haven't been running a meth lab."
"That's a relief. I notice you didn't say anything about convenience stores."
"No convenience stores," he says. He twists his hands in his lap. "Doctor Baylor--Kay--I..."
She waits, like you're supposed to. She frowns with amiable concern, body language open and attentive. Like you're supposed to.
Chaz wonders if it would be easier to trust her if he didn't know himself how she's been trained to do what she's doing.
He takes a breath and lays it on the table. Baldly, so there can be no mistake. "You also know what happened to me in Texas."
He's proud of himself for getting it all out in one sentence, Texas like it's just a place, with no stammering and no hesitation for emphasis, no dripping vitriol.
He reaches for the water glass and empties it, continues in the same tone. "I'm suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. Bad. It's affecting everything. Work, sleep, play, relationships. Leaving my apartment. Staying in it. Everything. I'll be honest with you. The way things are now, I'm headed for the-- for the scrap heap."
His smile grows a little broader, a little bitterer. "I am a psychologist."
Kay Baylor looks appraisingly across her desk at the skinny, huddled, miserable man in the exquisitely comfortable chair opposite, trying to keep her gaze and expression soft. Receptive. Open to whatever he might say.
She nods. Touché. It's not a run of the mill self-diagnosis. But-- "I hope you don't plan to self-treat."
He shrugs. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't need help."
"I can handle the cognitive and behavioral stuff on my own. But--" He makes a funny rolling gesture with his hands. "I'm depressed. Major depression. I'm catastrophizing. I don't want medication, not yet. But I need an outsider's perspective."
There's more. He's staring at the privacy panel on her desk, nerving himself. Whatever comes next is the thing he's here about, the thing that's got him wringing his stalky hands with hope and fear.
He says, "And I want EMDR."
Baylor folds her hands around the pencil to keep the right one from snaking out to her coffee cup. That was a major confidence; this is really not the time to look casual or dismissive, no matter how much she could use the propping up. "Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. I'm qualified."
His face twists into an unreadable expression. Maybe he thought she would have to give him a referral. Would that be worse for him, or better?
"That means you're going to have to provide me with specific and detailed information about what happened to you, and what your triggers are."
"I know," he says, lips thinning in a pained grimace. "I'm going to have to tell you about the... about getting freaked out by--mirrors."
His hands flex harder. His adam's apple bobs like the word physically hurt him.
He shakes his head, allowing the hair that falls free to hide his eyes.
She makes a note. They'll come back to this later. "And it's not going to happen overnight. We'd need to get you to a more stable place, first, and then start working through the trauma."
"I need more cope," he agrees. "But I want to fix this." He takes a deep breath. "I don't need it anymore. I'm ready to put it away."
"Are you sure you don't need it?"
The look he gives her suggests the sentence wasn't in English.
"Stress disorder behaviors are adaptive and survival-oriented. Your job involves long periods of intense mental activity with high stakes, punctuated by moments of extreme physical danger." By the closed expression on his face, he already knows what's coming, but she says it anyway. "Are you sure this isn't your brain and body telling you they've had enough?"
He's quiet for a long time, long enough to let her know he's thinking about it. Really thinking. Looking at his hands, absently rubbing his left thumb across the bone of his right wrist in a self-comforting gesture.
"This is what I've got," he says, finally. "This is my life. It's what I am good for."
"Do you think that's a balanced existence?"
"No," he says. "But it's what I have. This is my, my family." He looks up, finally, thin and drawn under light sienna skin, and takes a breath to nerve himself before he meets her eyes. "And if I can't have it any more, I think I'd rather make that decision from a position of strength. As a whole person."
"You don't feel like a whole person now?"
He shakes his head.
She makes a note for the transcript. "I cleared you to return to duty, Chaz."
"You did." He gives her a brief, dazzling smile. "You probably saved my life."
She nods. "I know." She doesn't see any need to remind him that she took a risk in doing so. "I'm honored that you felt safe in coming back to me now. I have some idea how hard that level of trust must be for you."
He reaches for the chunky Anchor Hocking water glass again, but it's empty. He holds it in both hands, knuckles whitening as the skin over them pulls taut. He opens his mouth, can't quite speak, and tries again. "But you think I can't be an asset to the Bureau anymore. You think I can't be an asset to-- to the team."
"I think," she says quietly, "that you would be an asset to any group you chose to associate yourself with. I was reminding you that your mind and body have their own wisdom, and asking you to consider what was best for you, not for the Eff Bee Aye." She lets herself smile, conspiratorial. The mockery is easier to get to than maybe it should be. "Or Stephen Reyes."
He sits back hard in the exquisitely comfortable chair, recoiling. "You have a problem with Reyes?"
"I have opinions," she says.
A calculated risk, but he laughs, sharp and startled, and then winces and stretches against the back of the chair as if laughing made his shoulders hurt. Withdrawing again.
They're way off-script here. She made a mistake, bringing up Stephen, but she can correct that. "That's not the same thing as a problem. But this isn't about me, Chaz. It's about doing what's best for you, not about living up to anyone else's expectations."
"You're telling me not to stand on my pride."
"Do you feel like that's what you've been doing?"
His smile is tight over a face without much flesh to spare for tightening. It makes him look cadaverous, frightening. "It's the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. Doctor Baylor--Kay--please. I can't live like this. If you think I'm not fit for duty, that's... that's your prerogative. I knew coming in to talk to you that I was taking that risk.
"My friends--" He lets his head fall forward, hair breaking in locks around his neck. He laughs at his knees. "My co-workers. Same thing. We have a thing we say. We say it a lot, given the job. 'ECR.'"
"It's a TLA. Three letter acronym."
He nods, chin to chest. "It means emotionally complex response. I'm having one now."
While he's not looking, Baylor bites her lip, hoping she's not making a decision that will cost this young man--brilliant, crippled, half her age, and how the hell did she ever get so old?--his life, or even more of his soul.
Ridiculously, she realizes, she wants to protect him. And the best way to protect him is to get him out of the field.
But that's not her job. Her job is to give him the tools he needs to navigate the battlefield of the world, and the strength to make good choices.
"I have an opening this afternoon at three," she says. "Or if you'd rather sleep on it before you make your decision, tomorrow first thing?"
He lifts his chin, lips thin, and shakes his head. "I wouldn't be doing any sleeping."
"Wabbit? Can I come in?"
"Platypatootie, have I ever said no?"
Narrow as a shadow, he slips into her office and quietly, decisively, shuts the door. Leans against it, all bent and wicked angles.
"We've got a psychiatrist on staff here. Kay Baylor. She did my return to duty eval."
Hafidha nods. She's talked to Doctor Baylor once or twice her own self. Likes her, in an all-the-buttons-buttoned sort of way.
Chaz takes a deep, nerving breath, and asks, "Would you do me a tiny little favor and run her--"
"No need. Remember the second wife? The one Duke said he was a little envious of? I got curious and looked up the marriage licenses, too."
"Oh, God," Chaz says. "Another one! Fuck's sake, did Dad assemble my entire care team by sleeping with them?"
Hafidha grins at her monitors. Totally worth the wait. "Well, sugar cookie, it just means they have a broader area of competence than you expected."
Chaz's head thumps lightly against the panel. "Agggggh. Brain bleach..."
Without looking away from her monitors, Hafidha answers, "Applicants for this position must hold Ph.D. or equivalent clinical experience...."
There, that did it. Chaz snorts and straightens, back sliding up the door as long legs lever him vertical. "It's good to be the King."
Hafs spins in her chair. "You know, I know somebody else with a tendency to trip into bed with any hot, competent, available woman who crosses his path--"
"Leaving!" Chaz says, stepping away from the door so he can jerk it open with sufficient force. "Leaving! See me leave?"
He steps through, arm snaking behind him boneless as a boa constrictor to pull the door shut. "That'll learn you to take off without telling me where you're going," Hafidha says, softly, but not so softly he won't hear.
He stops like she's zapped him with a freeze ray. Slowly, he leans back through the gapping door, and gives her puppy dog eyebrows. "How long will the punishment continue?"
"Until I'm not mad anymore," she says, smiling to soften it. "I still love you."
He nods. "Okay. Fair." And then, in the midst of vanishing like a Cheshire Cat again, he pauses. "Besides. Neither one of us has ever fallen into bed with you, and you're hotter and more competent than three Kay Baylors. So there."
The door clicks shut behind him while she's still working on her retort. Which is just as well, because she isn't sure she's up to spurious claims of romantic interest in Stephen Reyes, even for so noble a purpose as yanking her little brother's chain.
Hafidha smiles. She's sure now. They're going to be okay.
In two weeks on Shadow Unit...
As Caroline walked forward to cast down the first fistful of dirt, Hafidha's phone buzzed against her thigh. She jumped, not sure if she were furious or relieved for the distraction. She knew already who was calling and what the text message would be before she slid her hand into her pocket and pulled out the device.
The LCD screen said, Wtf. Sorry. It cant wait.
Hafidha closed her eyes, just for a second. A distraction. Somebody is having a worse day than me. Thank God.
A typical Missouri roadside, the black interstate sizzling along between fields broken up by narrow lines of cottonwood trees. A couple of heavy-duty orange waste bags dotted the sunburned grass.
"This is likely not the dump site," Falkner said.
"Likely?" That got Brady's attention. "Why the slide, then?"
Pauley leaned forward, paper crinkling under his elbows. "Because the dump sites have not been precisely identified."
Worth swiveled in her chair and gave him a skeptical look. "How can you not know where the bodies were dumped?"
"Nine one one. What is the nature of your emergency?"
Out of the noise, a male voice, smug and comfortable through the distortion of some sort of electronic device. Hafidha hated him from the word go.
He said, "I'm calling about Roze Cutler."
"I have information on her whereabouts. But I'm afraid you were too slow. You'll find her in several places."-- from "Wind-Up Boogeyman" by Elizabeth Bear