Chapter Thirty

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Since no one had threatened me either by voice or windshield for a full 24 hours, I slept fairly well and awoke almost cheerful.

I'd been in therapy long enough to know that an hour with Liz would bring my life back into perspective. I still might not like it, but I would at least know what to do.

Putting Jimmy on hold wasn't going to work anymore, and I needed to stop fighting with him every other minute. How could I love him one minute but in the next feel the impulse to throttle him until he lost consciousness?

As it transpired, Mr. Dolan was out of the office all morning. Becky told me first thing. She wanted to know where he was, I think, but I honestly didn't know.

For all he told me, he could have been home playing kissy-face with the little woman. Thoughts that cheerful accompanied me all the way to the Liz-meister's office on East State Street.

She was right on time. I snuggled down into my favorite green padded chair when she whisked into the room with her pad.

Compared with my apartment, completely rehabbed to be all white walls with square corners, I much preferred the old house where Liz had her practice.

It was full of rounded edges, warm wood, and padded chairs. If I had the slightest idea how to remake my apartment, I might have tried. As it was, I enjoyed Liz's physical environment almost as much as the safe emotional climate.

I asked Liz about her vacation. She'd gone out West somewhere to visit some relative, but she was close-mouthed about herself. I had tried to get her to talk about herself, the weather, current events—anything but my unhappy psyche—but she didn't fall for it.

Maybe that was a rule among therapists. They knew everything about your emotional landscape, but you weren't supposed to know anything about theirs. The main idea, I gathered, was that we weren't supposed to be friends. Liz didn't say that exactly, but I got the idea. Perhaps not until I was out of therapy at some far distant future.

Liz said her vacation had been fine but didn't elaborate. Our time was on my dime.

"So what's going on?" she said.

As usual, the Queen of Understatement delivered her question in a nice even monotone. What was going on? What wasn't going on? She'd been gone two weeks, and my whole life had turned upside down.

So I told her. Everything. All at once. In a burst. The information was clearly giving her overload because she scribbled away on her pad long after I'd finished talking.

And I didn't hold back on the threatening note, either. Experience taught me that Liz's advice was useless unless she knew even the ugly bits.

"Well," she said at last. "How do you feel?" She leaned a little forward in her dark wood straight-backed chair.

That was always the question I dreaded. Most of the time I didn't know how I felt. I could tell you in an instant what I thought. Feelings were harder.

"Confused," I said. "I think that I love Jimmy, but how do I love somebody who's already married?"

"What about his wife?"

"Claudie said that I should talk to her."

"What do you think?"

When I said that Liz gives me advice, I might have overstated the matter. Liz gives me clarity, and she does it by holding up a mirror. For a long time, the reflection was nothing I wanted to see.

"I don't really want to talk to Kate," I said, "but it's probably a good idea to check out Jimmy's story."

"Does any of this remind you of your own marriage?"

I leaned back into my comfy green chair and grimaced. I hate it when she catches me off-guard like that. The problem with therapy is that when the therapist knows your emotional landscape, she also knows where the pitfalls are. Such was my misguided attempt at matrimony.

When I'd been about to graduate from college, I gave into fear. What would I do now? Where was I going to go? College was everything that I knew and loved. I thought about graduate school but opted instead to take up another kind of offer.

That one ill-chosen event set off a chain reaction that culminated in a bungled suicide attempt—mine—and an entrée into the world of therapy. Despite all the drama involved in getting there, I was happy to have landed where I did when I did. There were far more painful endings than Liz's office, and I knew that from experience.

But Liz waited for an answer.

"Actually," I said, "the only parallel with my own marriage is the complete irony of it. I marry a guy who says he loves me but is annoyed to have me hanging around all the time. Now, I fall for a guy who loves me only he's already married—sort of. So we've got all the intense emotions with none of the commitment."

Liz smiled at that. She really never laughed no matter what I said. It wasn't that she was solemn—just serious.

One of my secret dreams was to crack her up. Another was to meet the Scottish actor Peter Capaldi.

"What about the investigation and the threats on your life?" she said. She leaned forward again and jotted something down on her pad.

I gulped. I hadn't actually thought of either one as a threat on my life. Harriet's threat had been just this side of a joke. The other wasn't so easy to explain away.

"Maybe it's time to level with Odin," I said. "He is, after all, the wop cop in question."

"And how do you feel about him these days?" Liz looked at me. She already knew every nuance of the Paulette/Odin sparring.

"We're strictly business now," I said, "but he still gets to me sometimes. I told you about the wine, right?"

Liz looked blank, so I gave her my snappiest patter in the matter of the Trail of the Red Spots. She smiled immediately but soon stifled a chuckle or two as I described my conversation with Lieutenant Greenberg and the uneasy meeting between Odin and Mickey.

That's when she started to laugh outright. She covered her face with her pad of paper, but she kept wiping her eyes so I knew she was laughing.

I was dumbfounded. I realized my secret dream much sooner than expected. I figured it would take another couple of years. But I always enjoyed an easy audience, so I added a couple more comments about how Mickey had taken to Karlson at last and was trying his best to fix us up. Talk about irony.

All of a sudden, Liz quit laughing. "Do you really have to do this again, Paulette?"

No need to elaborate on "this." She wanted to know how come I felt compelled to put my life on the line yet again for a murder investigation best left to the professionals. And I couldn't find any better answer this time than I had the last.

"I don't know, Liz. I feel deep down in my gut that it's the right thing to do."

"Be careful," she said. Then she glanced at her watch. "We've got time to talk about Jimmy," she said. "Why is it that he keeps changing the subject?"

"What?" I said.

Thirty minutes later, I understood what she meant. I began to see a pattern that disturbed me after I described each incident to her in detail.

Jimmy had done it to me once again!

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