Catch the previous parts here.
Detective Derek Shabannah was having a bad day. He was late for his ten o clock appointment with his therapist. Dr. Obermeyer was strict about his time; he knew his session today would be cut short.
He walked into the lobby and checked in with the receptionist. She pressed a button on the intercom and announced that Shabannah was here. A green light flashed on the wooden office door, signaling that he could enter. Shabannah hesitated for a while, and then walked towards the now unlocked door.
He could see a quiet man sitting on the couch in the corner, looking nervously at a plastic fern that adorned the vacant space in the lobby. Shabannah was good at reading people; he could sense that something was wrong with this guy. Then again, maybe that’s why he was sitting at the lobby in the therapist’s office.
Joe moved his gaze from the fern over to the man now walking towards the doctor’s office. The man looked ragged; probably hadn’t had too much sleep during the night and seemed to not have woken up completely in the morning. Joe had an eleven o clock with the doctor; another forty minutes to go. He watched as the man opened the wooden door and walked through it, and then continued to stare at the fern. He’d expected the doctor’s office to have some interesting stuff to read; maybe a magazine or comic book or even the Times. But the lobby table was littered with pamphlets on mental health that he’d memorized by now. Someone needs to fill in a feedback form.
Joe looked around the lobby. The doctor’s office was located on the eighteenth floor of a plush commercial building, right in the heart of the city. The room was well illuminated; the office had multiple windows that overlooked the city skyline. The interiors were pretty simple; just a few sofa sets and matching tables to accompany them. The receptionist was a striking middle-aged woman who had a professional air to her. Someone who knew what she was doing; someone who’d been doing this for a long time. The online profile he’d found of the doctor was pretty descriptive. It was written by a patient who described the doctor as a “brilliant man with an impeccable diagnostic ability”. The doctor had won accolades from all around the world, and was known to have a lot of famous clients. The profile further described him as “extremely approachable and warm-hearted” but also had the words “strict” and “punctual” littered around the page.
Joe didn’t know what to expect from the therapist; he only knew that he had to start here. He carried with him the sketches he’d made of the faces from his dream; they were tucked away in a yellow plastic folder placed by his side. He hadn’t thought this meeting through; he’d cross the bridge when he got there.
He realized that he still had some time; he got up and walked towards the rest room area. There was a water cooler located just outside the area; he decided he needed to get some water. He needed to calm down. Breathe. Maybe the water would help. He filled a plastic cup with the cool water and drank it in a single gulp. He felt satisfied, composed, relaxed. He crushed the glass, tossed it into the waste bin and walked back to his seat. Another ten minutes to go.
He continued to stare at the receptionist, awaiting his turn. She was deeply involved in some paperwork, not bothering to look in his direction. He began counting the lines on the ornate desk where the receptionist sat. Joe had counted close to fifty when the light on the wooden office door flashed green again and the man he saw earlier walked out. The man seemed to study his face for a moment, and then turned to the receptionist to exchange some brief words. He then turned quietly and walked away towards the elevator.
“Mr. Russo, Dr. Obermeyer is expecting you. Please proceed this way”, the receptionist gestured at the door.
This was it. He felt butterflies in his stomach; he’d felt like this before many years ago in high school when he was sent to the principal’s office. He didn’t like the feeling one bit.
Joe opened the wooden doors and walked right in. He’d seen this place before in his dream last night, perfect to the minutest detail. Joe walked up to the doctor, who shook his hand and directed him to sit on the leather sofa. The doctor took his own seat on the couch, directly in front of the sofa.
“What brings you here, son”, Dr. Obermeyer asked.
“It’s complicated”, Joe replied.
“I’m sure it is. If it was simple I’m sure you could figure it out yourself. Tell me a bit about yourself first”, the doctor responded.
“I’m Joe Russo, twenty-seven years old, self-employed. I live alone, down in the suburbs. I have family but they live all the way up north”, Joe summed up what he thought was relevant information.
“Good. I gather this is your first time to a therapist’s office?” Dr. Obermeyer asked, tilting his spectacles to give him a serious look.
“Yes it is. Let me come straight to the point. Would you say that we’ve met for the first time today?” Joe asked, betraying a puzzled look.
“Yes. Go on”, replied the doctor.
Joe took out the first sketch from his folder. He handed it to the doctor and said, “This is a sketch of you I did from memory. I saw this very office in a dream last week, you at the center of it. I have no explanation why; I’m hoping you can help me figure this out”.
The doctor looked at the sketch closely, and was surprised at the level of detail in the sketch and the likeness to his own self. The man on the sofa had his full attention now.
“Are you sure this is from a dream and not based on a previous recollection? You may have seen my picture in the newspaper or magazine somewhere and held on to the image at a subconscious level”, the doctor suggested.
“No. I’m pretty sure this was from a dream. And it gets better. Where I’m sitting now I saw a woman, this woman”, Joe said, handing over the second sketch to the doctor and continuing, “maybe a patient of yours?”
“Never seen her before. Not to my knowledge, but I’ll have my staff check the records”, the doctor answered.
“I’ve seen this woman before. In dreams all through last week. And here’s the clincher. Whatever happens in my dream after I see this woman seems to happen in real life”, Joe spoke softly; half thinking the doctor would pronounce him mad any moment.
“Good things?” The doctor asked.
“The worst. People die”, Joe remarked.
Joe’s last words rendered the doctor speechless. He made notes in his writing pad, the noise of the scribbling audible across the room to where Joe was sitting. After what seemed to be two minutes of silence, the doctor spoke, “You remind me of another case I handled about twenty years ago. A young man, probably your age who claimed he had dreams where people died. It didn’t end well for him though, died in a freak car crash under mysterious circumstances. He came in for a few sittings, but then decided to take matters into his own hands and paid the price. I want to help you, but you will need to help me. I’d like to see you again next week, but not here. I’ll have my receptionist give you a call tomorrow in advance telling you where”.
“I may not be able to afford your time, doctor. I’m going to be blowing away a month’s pay for today’s sitting, but I didn’t have a choice. Someone wanted me to meet you. I can’t explain who, and I won’t blame you if you think I’m going crazy”, Joe stated plainly, almost out of breath.
“I’ll make an exception for you. I’ll waive your fees if you promise to keep your appointments. I’ll let my receptionist know, and she’ll need some of your details documented. Routine paperwork”, the doctor assured him. Joe felt at ease.
“And I want to keep these sketches. I’ll need to get some study done before we meet again. I’ll let you go now, we’ll meet again soon”, the doctor wrapped up.
Joe shook the doctor’s hand, and noticed his expression change. The doctor had realized something, but seemed to be holding it back. Joe decided to ignore it; he would bring this up later. The doctor pressed a button on a panel near the couch; the door seemed to click open. Joe thanked the doctor for his time and walked out of the office.
Dr. Obermeyer sat down, lost in thought. The worst case of his medical career seemed to have been reopened.
To be continued…