Written and Read by M. Jones
Greg checked his watch for the hundredth time, and it was still a half hour too early. He thought about going into one of the nearby coffee shops, but since he got most of his java for free at The Bull’s Horn, it was a waste of money. Besides, he hated being forced to sit amongst the noise, hunkered down in a corner with all the other crazies, the only difference being he wasn’t muttering to himself.
He was certainly looking the part. He hadn’t had a proper haircut in weeks and his five o’clock shadow was scruffily working its way into a haphazard beard. A proper night’s sleep was out of the question, especially with the case weighing in on his every dream. He’d had a nightmare that morning, a subtle but effective homage to the death of Denise Mooreland. He’d opened his eyes into bright daylight, and when he’d tried to blink awake, there was a strange weight beneath his eyelid. He could feel the cold tip of metal scrape against the inside skin of his lid, and when he reached up to rub it away with his fingers, his thumb brushed against the iron nail embedded deep within his pupil.
He hadn’t managed to shake that feeling off, no matter how often he rubbed at his eye, surreptitiously checking it.
The weather was still rough. It wasn’t snowing this time, but the air was piercing, his exposed face smarting at every breeze. The old Victorian home that housed Dr. Herberte’s office wasn’t inviting, and he continued to hesitate at the curb for another five minutes before finally conceding it was stupid to stand around waiting when he could at least do the same thing in a warmer building. He rubbed his near frostbitten hands together and crossed the street, his steps careful on the ice as he made his way up the sidewalk and the large concrete stairs leading into the building.
Indoors was a direct contrast, far more modern than he was expecting, though it was clear the house had gone through several eras of renovations, all of them leaving behind telltale remnants of style. The floor in the main lobby was clearly an art deco relic, with carefully placed tiles arranged in squares of varying size and corresponding colours, the central motif made of circles linked tightly together. Large beetles crawled out of the small black tiles, and so far they were the only background hallucinatory noise he could see.
The ground level was taken up by a real estate company, one which seemed to specialize in high rises and commercial development. Their door was open, an oak and stained glass affair that held brilliantly coloured flowers elegantly drooping on its clear surface. Inside the office were clean lines and pale brown surfaces, the floor a heavy beige marble, a leftover reno from the late 1980’s.
The realtors were boldly out of place in the old building, which at one point in its history had been a stately mansion for a wealthy Torontonian family. Though the years had plastered and reshaped its innards, the house was primarily weighted with oppressive submission to the status quo of high society. A strange place for a psychiatrist to put his office, Greg thought. The house held an oak finger to its lips, bidding all who came in to watch what they say.
He ascended the surprisingly narrow oak stairs to the second floor, his thoughts uneasy with every step. While he understood why June found it necessary, it didn’t cure the bitterness over having to go through this again. He knew what he was in for, the whole ink blot and how’s your feelings routine, the questions about his family, the thinly veiled suggestions of how he should feel, the prescriptions he would be given and he would throw away, knowing they weren’t just useless but that they dulled his senses to the point of making him a walking coma.
The second floor held a long corridor and he was surprised to see that Dr. Herberte shared this level with several other unrelated professionals, four in all. The first door hid a web developer, a poster of a now out-of-date Dungeons & Dragons seminar taped beneath the company’s name. ‘Badass Bros, Web Development That Kicks It’ the advertisement on the poster said, and upon closer inspection Greg saw the simple plaque above it that displayed the company’s name in proud, brass letters: ‘Baddass Bros, Inc.’
The second door was significantly more conservative, a simple piece of delicate rice paper taped neatly onto the door stating ‘Transparency’ in carefully inked black and white Edwardian script. There was soft music emanating from behind this door and, curious, Greg pressed his ear against the wood. A scratchy record was being played at a fairly loud volume, something that sounded suspiciously like Tubular Bells. The door stank of low-grade weed. He wondered what Transparency was supposed to mean. He’d be sure to ask Dr. Herberte when he talked to him.
The final two doors faced each other, with Dr. Herberte’s simple plaque reading ‘Dr. Leon Herberte, Psychiatrist, M.D., Ph.D.’ Directly across from him was a door that had several splintered dents in its centre as though someone had tried to drive their fist through the wood. ‘Dana Countreau. Attorney At Law.’
Greg checked his watch. It was 7:20, a perfectly reasonable time to be early. Might as well just open the door and get this torture over with.
He didn’t bother to knock, and seeing as how there were no other patients present it was clear he didn’t need to. The office was painfully small, and Greg nearly tripped over the large leather chair facing an equally ridiculously huge, richly carved baroque styled desk that dwarfed most of the room. The walls were high and decorated with highly ornate, white panels that gave him the impression of being in an historic Parisienne slum.
He was about to introduce himself but the incredibly well-put-together man behind the desk said, quite curtly, his voice thick with French annoyance, “You are too early, Mr. Wells. Our appointment is at 7:36.”
“Well, I’m here now.” Greg gave the place another questioning once over as he sat down in the fat leather chair, which was unsurprisingly comfortable. The very tall window behind the chair was drafty, and it gave a fantastic view of the crumbling brick wall of the high rise pressed tight against the back of the old house. “June said I had to make sure I was on time. I got here a half hour early, so you’re lucky I waited this long.” He frowned over the sounds of Michael Oldfield’s piano solo seeping into the overly quiet space that had opened like a chasm between the leather chair and the out of place, large desk. “What’s with the ‘Transparency’ guy?”
Dr. Herberte was more concerned about the objects on his desk than the fact that he had a patient sitting in front of him waiting to start their session. Greg watched in growing impatience as the man turned what looked to be a fairly expensive calligraphy pen over and over, inspecting it with all the careful precision of an art historian going over a possible forgery.
“I am very strict about my patient schedules. If I allow someone in earlier or, conversely, later, it will interfere with the time I need between sessions to go over my notes and ensure all of my work with that patient is complete. As you can understand, my days are very busy and my time must be managed very carefully.”
Greg chewed his bottom lip, time ticking in miniscule droplets to the tune of some obscure 1970’s electronica that had now replaced Tubular Bells II.
“You aren’t busy.” Greg slumped in the leather chair, his arms crossed. “You’re staring at a pen.”
Infuriating man. Greg gave him the same objective study, a professional who wallowed in his eccentricities as much as he treated them. The contradiction was evident in his crisp, cleanly pressed and tailored to perfection suit, the sleek cut of his brown hair, peppered lightly with a distinguished grey that was styled close to his skull without a hair out of place. He had impossible cheekbones and a sultry mouth, and the combination would be considered handsome if he didn’t give off such a vibe of being a pompous ass. When it came to that last bit, the French accent didn’t help.
“That desk is awfully big for this office, don’t you think?”
The corner of Dr. Herberte’s mouth twitched slightly and he shrugged, his attention now riveted on a tiny well of ink that was no doubt of the same royal quality as the damned pen. “It came with the office. I don’t think it will fit through the door. I have to wonder how it was even brought in here.”
Greg tapped his fingers on the heavily cushioned leather armrests, giving the tiny space a renewed once over. “I don’t imagine you get many claustrophobes in here.”
Dr. Herberte paused, a gentle frown furrowing his otherwise flawless brow. He looked up at Greg with eyes that were suddenly wide and expressive, a gesture that completely melted the ice he originally projected.
“Come to think of, no, I do not. Tres ètrange—I had never thought of this before.” Pensive, Dr. Herberte put down the well of ink and stood up from his desk, walking around it with difficulty to hold his hand out in greeting.
He was tall, and his movements within the confined space were otherwise graceful. When Greg took his hand and shook it, the skin of Dr. Herberte’s palm was soft and smooth.
“Je m’appelle Dr. Leon Herberte, I am very happy to meet you, Mr. Wells.”
“It’s very nice of you to introduce yourself,” Greg said, and he checked his watch. He pointed at the time. “But it isn’t 7:36, it’s 7:30.”
“Yours is a very unique case and I admit I am perhaps overly eager to talk to you about your condition.”
“I must be special if I’m making you break your rules.”
© 2016 Copyright M. Jones
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