Obsessive Compulsive Amateur Sleuth, Scene 5

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 16, 2020

“Obsessive Compulsion” Scene 5

A thunderhead built its impending delivery outside of Bennington’s large office window. The rising collection of moisture and pressure mirrored the feeling in his head. The cloud took shape as a man with a whip wrapped around his collar.

“Doctor Tanskanen?” 

 The question snapped his attention from reminiscing on the hot, buttery touch of Erin’s hand. 

“Are you okay, sir?” The baritone voice mixed with the rumbling thundercloud outside.

“Fine, fine,” Bennington said, forcing his eyes to take in the kind face of Bronson Hanibal, Homicide Detective. He molded a smile into the numb surface of his skin. “I’m the one interrogating at this hour of my day.”

“Sorry about that. Wanted to get on top of this. You read?” The policeman’s tone held a soothing quality Bennington longed to emulate. It compelled a person toward the truth.

“You understand I have limits. HIPAA. Confidentiality.” Words that meant little to a dead man.

“No worries, Doctor. Not here to roust you. Got the judge working on that paperwork so you can maintain your professional integrity. Please don’t answer questions that make you uncomfortable.”

Perspiration tickled Bennington’s spine. “Murder, you said? That’s almost as disturbing as suicide.” A weak laugh slipped past the implication.

I hope it wasn’t strangulation. Did you say they strangled him? I don’t think I could strangle a client. I couldn’t even bear the weight of a leather whip wrapped around my throat by a beautiful and naked younger woman.

“We found clear evidence that Josiah Madison was under your care. Brought me to your office, Doctor.” Again with the smooth rolling vocals inviting honesty. “I follow a trail. Maybe I find a pleasing view.”

Bennington surveyed the round face, framed in a brusque haircut. Patches of gray dusted the dark brown Ivy league, suggesting age not otherwise evident. A strong desire to ask how this childlike appearance might have hindered psychological development during those first years on the beat tempted his therapeutic curiosity. Did criminals take you seriously? Did it make your job harder? Did laughter chase after your command, “Stop, or I’ll shoot.” He dropped the psych-assessment. As a detective in this room, the youthful innocence carried great advantage. Combined with that comforting voice, Bennington’s practiced demeanor could easily collapse at the properly timed query.

“I imagine your work offers vantage points not that different from my own,” Bennington said. “Troubled people making poor choices.”

“Was Josiah Madison one of those people, Doctor Tanskanen?”

A baby cried in the lobby. Karin Jorgens. His nine o’clock waiting for the police to let him get back to work. He never liked it when she brought the baby. The baby made him uncomfortable. Created an atmosphere of loss which interfered with his concentration.

“I know it’s a predicament,” the detective added. “Don’t want this to be too hard for you.”

“No, no, Officer Hanibal. I realize you’re just doing your job.” He searched his memory for a way to describe Josiah without violating ethical boundaries. “Josiah, like most individuals, suffered from anxieties that challenged his relationships.”

Bennington felt a pinch of shame. His relationship with Gloria challenged by his sexual frustration. His heart rate increased, recalling the moments of erotic tension as Erin Rehnquist traced her wicked fingers over his bare chest, his shoulders, his back, at intervals between shedding articles of her own clothing. The fire in his belly blazing higher until she draped that bullwhip around him.

“I’m considering a certain type of anxiety, Doctor.” 

His interruption startled Bennington out of the reverie. Resonance in the detective’s voice took on a new energy. Like a rumble just after lighting struck.

“It’s that perverted kind that might end with a thick cord around his neck.”

That bead of sweat no longer trickled. It rolled. Bennington squeezed his eyebrows downward from shocked to questioning. “He was hung?”

Detective Hanibal smirked. “Can’t say about that, Doc. It brings things to a point, though. Seems he may have had difficulty with a woman, a phlebotomist name of Erin Rehnquist. Works over at the hospital. Know her?”

Bennington heard his heartbeat hammer out a drum roll. His nostrils flared with the intake of electrified air. “I just saw—” his amygdalae clamped down on her name.

Detective Hanibal leaned forward. “Doctor? Wasn’t meaning to startle you.”

Bennington inhaled through his nose. “A bit of a shock is all,” he managed in a level tone. “I recently gave blood. I mean I had my blood tested.”

“So you met this woman? At the blood lab?”

“I guess. Maybe?” Bennington tried to recall what he had said so far that revealed knowledge of Erin. “Can’t be sure.”

“Not to worry, Doctor Tanskanen. I’ll get it worked out. Always do.” The baby-faced detective stood.

Bennington followed suit. Their matching height surprised him. “I’m sorry I didn’t provide more help, Detective.”

Hanibal tossed a wave as he strode to the exit. “Figured you’d remember her, Doc.” He pulled to door open. “She is quite the looker. And she did stab you with a needle.” His chuckle rumbled over the room.

Mrs. Jorgen’s baby chirped approval. 

Her giggly response to the detective’s greeting raised goose bumps on Bennington’s forearms. He stared as the door swung closed. Whirls of thought paralleled the growling storm beyond his window glass. Erin touching him, arousing him, tickling his testicles before wrapping a rope around him. His fingerprints and DNA scattered around her apartment. Her ex-boyfriend strangled to death. What to do?

The baby howled her impatience.

Bennington wept.

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