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Obsessive Compulsion

Murder by Desire
Short Crime Fiction


When the fire dies at home, a consuming flame lights up the shadow self.


When a clinical psychologist with a broken heart seeks an opportunity for renewed passion, his desire leads to a murder investigation... where HE is the prime suspect.  


How did his desire for passion get him so far off track?

Bennington is smitten when his forearm is bitten by a phlebotomy needle.


Bennington Tanskanen fidgeted in the regal phlebotomy chair, ruminating on an article about polyamory he’d discovered in Men’s Health Magazine while waiting to be stabbed and bled. 


An over active imagination bounced thoughts of unrestricted love—the kind fringed with oodles of sexual expression—up against the foundational wall of marital frustration. His passionate union with Gloria Mason-Tanskanen had surrendered to a timetable. The mental calculation arrived uninvited—two weeks since their last intimate moment. Scheduling complications. 


Bennington stopped the thought train. He’d schooled countless obsessives in the tactic over fifteen years. Avoidance always failed. It was foolish and threatening to the intrusive work of the phlebotomist.

Active cognitive aversion only increased muscle tension.


Eyes closed, he breathed deeply into his diaphragm, counting, two, three, four. Hold it, two, three, four. Exhale, be-bop-a-lula she's my baby and we’re out.   

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The mindfulness exercise was interrupted by a blood-sucking fairy constructing wind chimes out of those fat stainless steel needles Bennington had tried so hard to obfuscate. 


His second exhale burst into a pyrotechnic peony before the optimum eight count. Hypodermic jet fighters aligned in battle formation, taunting his imagination. His eyelids squeezed tighter.


The softest, warmest hand in the universe touched his forearm.


He snapped into the here and now. 


A red-headed angel peered into his face with compassion. 


“Hi. I’m Erin,” she said. 


The emerald color of her eyes tugged him free from panic. 


“Left or right?” she asked.




“Which arm do you prefer?”


“Oh. Right.” The word sounded wrong. “I mean, my right arm.”


Erin offered a coy twinkle. “Roll up your sleeve, sir.” 


Her musky floral scent peaked his arousal. He turned the cuff over twice before shoving the remaining material past his elbow. 


“Nice shirt,” she said, wrapping a lifeless beige tube around his bicep. “Are you British or just royally handsome?” she added with a wink.


An unexpected brashness charged forward from his thumping chest. “Both. What’s your excuse?” 


She stepped to a nearby counter.


His eyes followed the movement of her hips beneath a moderately cut pant suit. 


“Thomas Pink, isn’t it?” she asked, turning briskly enough to catch his lustful survey.


“I’m Bennington.”


Her soft chuckle tempered the faux pas. “Is that your final answer?”


“Pale blue?” he tried. Banter came easy. She knew the perfect next word.


“Powder sounds more prestigious.”


“Yes, then. Powder blue with a hint of class.”


She traced his vein with a finger. “Are you ready for this?” 


“Some part of me has apparently been preparing for this moment.” Warm embarrassment coated his neck. 

Her charitable palm smoothed the tenseness out of his exposed forearm. “You sound like a man of adventure.” 


“The adventurous man would simply leap into a thing unawares.” 


She tightened the tourniquet. Electric green eyes jolted his libido. The scent of her electrified his skin.


“Squeeze this,” she said, placing a rubber ball in his fist. “Tightly.” 


He held her gaze for the time it took his heart to accelerate by fifteen beats per minute. 


Erin glided to the counter once more. 


Bennington zeroed in on the hypnotic movement with uninhibited compulsion. Desire swelled in his forehead.  


She returned with the needle and tapped the vein in his arm.


He felt it in every organ of his body. 

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