Obsessive Compulsive Amateur Sleuth, Scene 4

Written by Mark Wm Smith

An overeducated, blue-collar cowboy, Mark Wm Smith grew up on along the banks of the Yellowstone River in Eastern Montana. Raised by a long haul trucker and a bartending waitress, Mark learned the hard ways of the modern frontier, scraping life from the unforgiving high chaparral.

February 2, 2020

“Obsessive Compulsion” Scene 4

Bennington spent the next two days wallowing in disappointment. A wet fog accompanied his morning runs, undesirable empathy hijacked every clinical session and the clock hands paused at visual inquiries. Nighttime sleep broke into forty-minute intervals, forecasting the results of his blood test.

In the first hour of the following day, thirty-five-year-old Raul told him, “I see myself as puny, a trivial Mexican kid the other children use for shaming practice.” Bennington teared up at the list of epithets Raul summoned from trauma memory. 

Near the conclusion of day one, Mary Beth, white hair sprawled over the arm of his office couch, said, “You’re the only affair I’ll ever have again. When I turned sixty last week, I decided talking was the only naked I could risk.” The affirmation Mary Beth needed became lodged beneath Bennington’s recollection of Erin’s lush vocal tones. 

When puckish Brute Morrell slumped into a club chair the next morning, he grinned and slapped his narrow palm against the electronic monitoring device that clamped the left crinkled sock higher on his calf. “Get this restrictive bitch off in a couple days.” Bennington rubbed his own ankle. 

In the afternoon of day two, Bennington escaped professional confinement in pursuit of passion’s liberation. His footfalls reverberated off the sterile walls of the local hospital. The stink of disinfectant offended him. Its presumption of filth tickled a moral nerve at the top of his spine. Anticipation mingled with dread. 

He wouldn’t see her. This would be her day off. 

The investigation of her world had uncovered her address, and no more.

Antiseptic odors corroded his gut, chewing up healthy microorganisms. The ironic threat to health kicked free a chuckle.

“An entertaining tumble, this?”

The out of place voice startled him. He turned to witness Reginald Compton coming alongside on the left. Bennington knew his standard therapeutic smile could never disguise annoyance from a master therapist.

“Awe. You’ve caught me,” Bennington said. “I’ve escaped the store for a tryst.” Nothing strengthened a lie better than veracity.

“Quite?” The ancient Brit’s eyebrows betrayed an amused suspicion. “Met a bonny nurse, have we? I wholly approve.” He gave Bennington a jovial slap on the shoulder. “Safety first, sir.” Gazelle legs rushed him to the conclusion of the hall where he disappeared into a passageway.

A wash of disinfected air prickled Bennington’s arm hairs. 

“Disturbing,” he muttered as his pulse slowed.

“Monsieur Bennington,” she announced from behind in a luxuriant voice that betrayed the ruse.

His heart flipped and he wobbled on loose knees. The hallway grew brighter with the dilation of his pupils. 

“Well, bonjour, Young Lady,” he replied, realizing too late the perverse implications of this moniker, now hanging between them for her to snatch.

Her emerald eyes sparkled with mischief. “Wandering the halls searching for emotions to play with?” 

“Ha ha. A nefarious accusation. I’ll not verify the implication.” Bennington settled into the banter. “Were someone lacking understanding, compassion, a listening ear, however, I might oblige that deficiency.”

“Cute,” she acknowledged in a tone that expressed appreciation of a different sort. The sort that raises sexual tension.

“Cute is a quality I admit aspiring to.”  

She fluttered her eyelashes.

“What brings your sparkling personality into this disinfected concourse?”

“I came for my mother,” she said.

“And a heart of gold festoons her pulchritude.”

“She maintains a good man is hard to find.”

“Let me reconsider the assumption.”

“Just hook a respectable doctor, was her advice.”

Bennington burst into a belly laugh. Tears flowed. His step faltered, causing a list into the voluptuous warmth of her. They walked the corridor together, touching bodies, until the Lab appeared on their left.

“Ah, my dear lady. Laughter is a fine medicinal treatment.” Bennington dabbed the wet from his face with his shirtsleeve. 

“Easier than I suspected.” Her expression conveyed satisfaction, but her curiosity searched him. 

“I’m a man of varying shades.” Bennington kept her gaze until she glanced away. “Our door?”

She turned back, cocking her head before her smile resurfaced. “Ah yes, your blood analysis.”

“You wound me so invasively and then forget?” He pretended to pout.

She shook her hair. “It’s fine. I peeked. Sorry. Traveling overseas?”

“Apparently.” He searched beyond the reinforced glass for a less than matrimonial excuse. “Marital rekindling I believe.” Reason whipped around his brain-can with the reckless energy of a roller derby diva. It found nothing to justify this sabotage.

“Noble,” she said.

He perked. “Out of necessity, isn’t it?”

Her green eyes kept him hostage.

“We grow into different people. Relationships demand correction, once a season. Shoring…”

The chemical cleansing had dissipated. Therapeutic words held no vitality in this space. 

Erin touched his forearm, clutched it. “Your blood flow. It’s still strong.” 

Bennington swelled. A visceral truth filled his chest, distinct from that shared with couples in the office.

“I may be wrong,” she broke in. “The test, I mean. There might be something that prevents you leaving country.”

His head flinched. “What say you?”

She grinned. “You better check for yourself. I didn’t want you to forget why you came.”

The edges of his eyes softened. “You, the comic.” Every word she spoke stimulated his lower torso. 

She released her grasp. “It was nice seeing you, Bennington. Serendipitous?”

“It must be,” he agreed. Time to part. Virility fought the separation. Magnets in a high school science lab. He drew away from the craving, choosing decorum over puerile libido. 

As they faced the laboratory entrance, Erin stopped him.

“Listen,” she said. “I have this piano in my apartment.”

Bennington squinted and fingered the back of his neck.

“It’s difficult to move.” She winked. “Alone.” Her tongue smoothed the word over a perfect lower lip.

A hundred bingo balls rattled his cognitive cage with moral questions. The mental gate opened, casting a pick into his mouth. “I can help,” his voice declared.

“I’ll be at the north entrance in twenty minutes,” she said, before drifting through the lab’s doorway.

 Bennington’s stomach muscles rippled. He tested the floor with his toes again. When he gripped the handle to enter behind her, the door floated open. A membrane of warmth shielded his transport across the bacteria resistant Berber to the administration window where a brief rush of chill, sterile air intruded with the package. 

He rolled to a bench near the north entrance and found a seat that could accommodate both his resonating physique and the protective bubble. His mind absorbed the data inside the envelope and he experienced Gloria’s coming satisfaction from an intellectual distance that reassured him, while anticipation pumped gallons of exuberance into the approaching adventure.

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