“It’s too dangerous,” the doctor said, shaking his head. “He’s had a psychotic break. Admittedly it was a minor one, but I can’t in good conscience let you put him under any more stress.”

“How bad was it?” Detective Massey kept his voice low, though the man in the recliner didn’t seem to be able to hear him. “Is he okay?”

“Martin is convinced his wife has been replaced by a doppelganger. When the paramedics got here he had a knife in his hand and was screaming that he wouldn’t let her hurt his children.” The doctor glanced over at his patient. “It took a few minutes for them to calm him down and determine that the red mess splashed all over the floor was spaghetti sauce.”

“Huh.” Detective Massey looked at the last great hope of their case and saw the conviction spiraling down the drain with every jerk of Martin’s head as he checked the corners of the room, looking less like a man and more like a chicken.

“Pardon me,” Martin’s wife said as she walked toward the doctor and the detective with two steaming mugs. “I’m going to see if he wants some tea. He actually considered taking some from me after you started him on the new medication.” The doctor nodded and Detective Massey watched the slim blonde woman approach Martin with well-deserved caution. He couldn’t hear what they were saying but he could see her smiling at her husband, trying to coax him into taking the mug from her.

To the detective’s surprise and relief, Martin took the mug and looked into it. The doctor exhaled slowly and Detective Massey realized he had been holding his breath as well. His wife smiled and took a sip of her tea, as if she was trying to convince him it was safe to do the same. It reminded Detective Massey of how his own wife would act with the children when they didn’t want to try some new food.

Martin stared into the mug while she sipped her tea, still bathed in silence. The smile never left his wife’s face, even as she drank. She looked up at him and said something, just a couple of words made of a collection of syllables, and Martin recoiled. His wife looked confused and Detective Massey heard her ask him if he was all right just before he threw the tea, mug and all, at his wife’s head.

She dodged the majority of it, getting only a few spots of tea on her sweater, and the plastic mug bounced off the floor as the rest of the tea spilled out in a fan. It hadn’t even come to a complete halt before two large men in scrubs pushed past Detective Massey and moved forward to restrain Martin.

“Who are you?” He was screaming at the top of his lungs as he fought the orderlies, his eyes locked on his now-sobbing wife. “Who are you? What did you do with my wife? Where did you take her?” A nurse came running in with a syringe in her hand, uncapped it, and stabbed it into Martin’s arm, depressing the plunger with a speed that made Detective Massey’s upper arm twinge in sympathy.

“You see what I mean?” The doctor led him out of the room while Martin continued to fight. “I’m beginning to think we should keep his wife from coming at all. In any case, we won’t be letting him out for at least a month. Even then, the pressures of a trial…” His words trailed away as Martin’s struggles became weaker and Detective Massey focused on the syringe cap that the nurse had dropped in her haste to get to Martin. It was right beside the chair. If one of the orderlies stepped the wrong way, he could slip on it. Detective Massey wondered if they had the equipment there to deal with a broken leg or if they’d have to send him to the hospital.

Without another word to the doctor, the detective turned and walked out. He couldn’t stand to see Martin, his near-hysterical wife, or the ruin of his case for even one second more. It was over, that much was true. They might still have the trial, but without a witness it would be nearly impossible to convict.

Dammit, Detective Massey thought. I need a cigarette.


7 thoughts on “Committed”

  1. Last time I wondered about whether we were dealing with an unreliable narrator. I was feeling a little more confident that he’s just had a breakdown, but then the wife spoke to him over the tea. What did she say? Is it a case of her taunting him, or is she genuinely confused by his reaction? So many questions.


  2. You write with wonderful visual details. I can see the scene and all the characters’ actions so well. I really enjoyed the tension of wondering who was trustworthy.


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