The causeways were bustling. There were far more people than was usual for the time of day. Matt departed the station for the office of his psychiatrist. All the excitement had left him overtired. All he wanted to do was to head to his apartment and lock himself in for the night. Attending his sessions was, however, part of the conditions of his employment. He dared not miss it. After running across the third security patrol in quick succession, he remembered another blackout was imminent. What did they tell the officers he wondered? They had to tell them something or tongues would soon start to wag, that was something the chief said they wanted to avoid at all cost.
The nearest officer was dealing with a woman with short curly hair and dressed in an expensive suit. From several yards away, he could hear her complaining about the disruption to her schedule. In a show of solidarity, Matt walked up and presented his chip hand for scanning. His uniform and manner quieted the woman. Executives fussed continuously when forced to endure for a moment what the lower ratings deal with daily.
The growling in his stomach prompted him to stop at ‘Say Soy’ for a quick bite. It would be better not to go into a session hungry. They seemed to last forever as it was. His chronometer told him he still had twenty minutes, and he was in visual distance to the office, so he went to eat on to the patio. He quickly located an empty table where he could sit with his back to the building.
The soy burger was particularly tasteless as his mind flew around all the facts of the case, so he turned his attention to his french fries with only slightly better results.
He watched the colonists walk by and wondered if any of them were the killer. What kind of person could this killer be? No, he berated himself, he was getting tunnel vision. There was no indication that these acts were a single killer, except of course for the apology. I am sorry, singular. Itargued against Rishards psychotic burnout theory. What else then? The Trust, an underground organization who kidnapped latent psychics? It would explain the killings during the blackouts, and even the apologies could be a ruse to keep the police from looking in the right places.
The Trust, he reminded himself, was a fairy tale, fodder for conspiracy theorists and people who wore tin foil hats to prevent from having their minds read. The public nature and display of the killing could have been a warning, as the gangs did on earth when someone violated their codes. His head went fuzzy. It was all guesswork; he needed more info. He didn’t even have a good hunch to go on.
A shrill familiar voice drew his attention to a shop next to the restaurant. The woman with the short blond hair was arguing with a shop owner over the price of a hat. A hat for Christ’s sake, in a domed city. The light for the entire city was carefully controlled. If there were a trust, it would be run by people like her, people who’d have a hat shipped eight light years to make a fashion statement.
The remainder of his meal went into the bin to process into fertilizer for the farm while he went to his appointment.
Matt lounged in the marginally reclined chair; he supposed it was a holdout from the days of the large padded couch. Whatever its origin, he was uncomfortable with the inferior station that it implied. Perhaps that was the point. In any case, as ordered, he obediently showed up at the meeting, reclined in the chair, and listened to inquiries from his therapist.
“How are you feeling today? Is the new program helping?” Doctor Garcia asked.
“I’ve been a bit too busy with my new duties to do more than peruse it,” Matt replied.
“You need to make the time, these programs are more than just games, and they are designed to help you work through your issues. They are as vital to your treatment as these sessions are.” The doctor shifted in his chair. “How is your new position? Are the additional demands causing you any additional stress?”
“I’m not sure about the new meds. They seem to wear off quickly.”
“Just give it a chance; it has to build up in your system. Otherwise, how do you feel about your new duties?”
Matt knew better than answer that question honestly. His superiors would get reports of his progress, and the last thing he wanted was to be sent back to patrol. Still, some additional stress would be expected, and an absolute denial would seem to be what it was a blatant lie. “It’s a lot of work, but I’m handling it. It feels great, empowering to be back doing what I love.”
“Good to hear it,” the doctor said. “You will let me know if you experience any increases in anxiety so that we can modify your treatment.”
“Will do,” Matt lied.
“Well then, how are things in your social life?” The doctor asked.
Matt couldn’t find a reason not to answer that question, as it seemed to have no bearing on his job. “The woman I was seeing dumped me a few days ago.”
“I’m sorry to hear it. Do you know why?”
“I missed her birthday,” Matt confessed.
“It is hard to keep relationships when one works in law enforcement.”
“Well, they say there’s someone for everyone. I’ll find mine someday?” As the words left Matt’s lips, he had a strong feeling that he would indeed find his soul mate, soon.
“What then for the detective, a wife and family?” the doctor probed.
“You and I both know I’m too screwed up to be a father.”
“Don’t you like children?”
“No, I like children. They haven’t had a chance to get themselves damaged yet.” Matt didn’t feel comfortable with the new direction of the conversation, but that was perhaps the point. The doctor was probing him, feeling for his limits.
“Can you elaborate?”
“Perhaps I don’t want children because I do like them. I like them well enough to understand that some people just shouldn’t have the responsibility of raising them. Parents make bad decisions, and children get…” He thought of the Kossman girl. Her father’s choice to move them to Sirius cost the girl her life. Then the fleeting image of the girl running into the street during the Dallas riot entered his mind, followed by the sound of a weapon discharge and the image of a child’s head exploding before his eyes. “…disobedient and unruly.”