A Banshee Wailed

banshee n. a spirit whose wail is said to foretell a death.



        The day after Dr. Krouse suffered a staggering loss in the battle of wits and will to Arnold 'Hard Rock' Fetz, he was in his office holding a handwritten envelope that was sent to him at work.  Dubiously, it lacked a return address.  For a full four minutes, he'd been sitting at his desk, just looking down, staring at it, wondering and worrying about what was in it.  Twice, he'd picked it up, about to find out, and put it down again, changing his mind each time.  He was afraid to open the thing, suspecting that The Caller had extended his foray to mail harassment in addition to telephone, text, and E-mail onslaughts.  After closing his eyes for three seconds and inhaling deeply, he finally tore open the envelope, and pulled out three folded papers from within.

        Upon taking a preliminary look at the signature on the lower right area of the middle sheet, he felt a rush of relief.  'Paulina Price.'  Now his fear was transformed into curiosity.  Why in the hell is she writing me, he said to himself.  Then, with a furrowed brow and intense eyes, he began reading.

Dear Dr. Krouse,

        I am currently in Mainville Hospital.  As I suppose you already know from the news accounts, I was involved in a major automobile accident.  It was totally my fault, and tragically resulted in the loss of a man's life.  Therefore, I have been charged with vehicular manslaughter, which I accept.  I'm culpable and remorseful.  As a side note, I sit here in a wheelchair -- paralyzed from the waist down.  I feel I deserve paralysis for killing a man.

        My physical condition pales in comparison to my mental state!  I'll never be able to get our last counseling session out of my mind!  I was shocked to learn what had previously been revealed when Dr. Thorne put me under hypnosis.  I never would have imagined that I committed all those horrible atrocities!  I would love to somehow partition my past-life/past-self from the "Present Me", but I would be deceiving myself.  A tiger can't change its stripes.  I know that deep down inside, I'm still sinful, wicked, and totally depraved.  That's my innate nature.  I'm a bad seed, like Cain.

        The hypnosis session shed light on a lot of things.  It explained the trouble and misery I have experienced in recent years.  I have no doubt that everything that has happened to me, from my bouts with severe depression, to my failed first marriage, to my car crash, are God's punishment for my unforgivable sins.  I have reaped what I've sown in my life, just like the Bible says.  Not only that, but my husband has also had to pay the price for my despicable sins.  Now I know that I transmitted herpes to him, and not vice versa, as I previously assumed and accused.



        My children will be better off without me (a whore, witch, baby killer) in their lives, as well.  I'm not worthy or qualified to rear them.  My past transgressions are insurmountable and unredeemable.  I'm a contagion!  I impurified my husband's body, and, somehow, I will sully and stain my kids' souls -- by my mere presence, if nothing else.  I feel so terrible about myself!

        I've reached a crucial decision, which I know in my heart is for everyone's best interest, as well as my own.  Please understand that there is nothing more you could have done for me, Dr. Krouse.  You have done your best.  It is me, and only me, who is responsible, and I bear the brunt of my burdens!  I don't want you blaming yourself or feeling guilty.  I repeat, THERE IS NOTHING MORE YOU COULD HAVE DONE FOR ME!!!

        The purpose of this letter is to inform you that I'm going to exit this world very soon by my own hand.  There is absolutely no turning back now!  It is the only way!  For I feel as if I am already dead.  The holy Bible says that 'the wages of sin is death.'  When I say I feel as if I'm already dead, I mean emotionally and spiritually dead.  On top of that, I am permanently paralyzed.  I could live with that sad fact and eventually adjust to it and cope with it.  However, I cannot cope with issues such as: my evil nature and wicked works, all the people I've harmed and filled with sorrow, and, primarily, offending God so greatly by all the things I've just described and letting Him down.

        Thank you once again for caring about me so much and trying your best to help/heal me.  You're a great psychiatrist, as well as a great man.  I was lucky to be your client.  Please contact my husband and refer to this letter.  Specifically, emphasize that it was my dying wish for you to counsel my children when you deem they're ready!

        Yours Truly,                                                                                                                                          Signature                                                                                                                                       Paulina Price

        Forty eight hours previously, while a banshee wailed, Mrs. Price stuffed, sealed and stamped the envelope.  Then she handed it to the attending nurse and asked her to mail it.  Twelve hours later, when the time was right, all alone in her hospital room, she slightly uplifted the mattress and withdrew a butcher knife she'd concealed under it.  (It was obtained when she wheeled herself into the kitchen and swiped it out of the drawer when the black cook was busy cooking and not looking.  Then, she quickly hid the knife inside her pillow case, which was utilized as a makeshift sheath for her first, and last, theft.  She laid it on her lap and hurriedly slipped out of the kitchen, the cook being none the wiser.)  Tightly gripping the handle, she slowly brought the long, sharp blade down to her wrist.  Just holding it there.  It was barely touching the skin.  She closed her eyes and prayed God's forgiveness for her final act.  Her sorrowful eyes opened for a second, then re-shut.  With one swift motion, she slashed deeply.  They never opened again.

* banshee n. a spirit whose wail is said to foretell a death.



        A neatly written poem on a separate sheet was included with the letter.  It was aptly titled, Caught in the Spider's Web.

Caught in the Spider's Web  by Paulina Price

Living in this treacherous world

Amongst upright insects

So sinister and ruthless and cunning

I feel inexorably entraapped

Caught in a diabolically-woven cobweb

Like a hapless, pitiful fly

Struggling always to break free

From the sticky confines of the spider's masterful handiwork

But I can't move

I can't move

I can't move

I can't move

Spiderman's complex web of emotional entanglement

Hinders my expression well

And impinges bleakly upon my inborn autonomy and equanimity

My spirit is nearly drained of its life force

I'm caught

I'm caught

I'm caught

Caught in the spider's web

My premature demise is imminent

And utter despair grips my soul

No escape

No escape

No escape

Caught in the spider's web

Oh my God

The dreaded black widow is drawing near me

It's about to devour me

        After Walter read the grim poem, he chuckled in recognition of the irony; the whole time she thought he was trying to free her from the metaphoric web!  Ha!  On the contrary!  He was, in fact, the symbolic Spiderman that weaved it!

        The sadistic doctor was gleeful.  He had to share it with someone!  And that "someone" would definitely be his fiendish crony, Allen Thorne.  So he gave him a ring.

        "Hello," answered Allen.

        "Hey, Allen, whatcha up to?  This is Walter," he pronounced cheerfully.

        "You sound pretty upbeat, Walter.  Considering all the troubles we have, I find that hard to fathom!"

        "You busy, Allen?" he inquired, seeking authorization for prolonged dialogue.

        "Not really.  Right now I'm at the asylum sitting in front of this fucking teenage zombie.  I've got him on so many Level 6 drugs that I'm surprised he even remembers how to breathe.  Maybe I ought to hold a mirror right up to his ugly face to see if it fogs up.  Does that sound like a good idea, Brandon??"

        Brandon Moore's glazed-over saucer eyes just stared blankly into a sea of empty space.  Furthermore, his unmoving head, agape mouth, hanging tongue, and the dribble dripping down his chin validated his doctor's "zombie" comparison.  That's exactly what he looked like -- a zombie!  Brandon's victimizer laughed at him as if he was nothing more than a joke.



        "Guess who died," said Walter.

        "I'd love to say 'The Caller' but I know that would be too good to be true."

        "No.  Unfortunately, it's not The Caller."

        "Then my next guess is your bitch mother-in-law."

        "No, not her either."

        "Umm, let's see... I'll go with that old man in your neighborhood whom you don't like -- Mr. Jorgenson."


        "I give up then.  Who died??"

        "Paulina Price."

        "Oh, I should have guessed!  She got smashed in that car crash.  I read about it in the newspaper, and saw it on the news, and we talked about it some in the office.  I didn't think she was injured that badly, though."

        "She wasn't.  I mean, she was... but not bad enough to die from her wounds.  She was just paralyzed from the waist down.  She committed suicide."

        "Wow!  Cool!  How'd she do it, man?"

        "She slashed her fucking wrist.  I just called the hospital and they verified that she killed herself."

        "Wait a minute, Walter.  You said you sought verification that she killed herself.  So, how did you have prior knowledge that she might do it?"

        "By reading this stupid, crazy letter she sent me 'from the grave,' so to speak, or just about as close to it as possible.  She probably wrote it only a few hours before she killed herself.  I was not only surprised that she had the nerve to try it, but also that she actually pulled it off; it's like the first thing she had ever done (right) in her entire life.  I've got to give the loser credit on that one.  Her last act was a success."

        "You're right, Walter!  She DID have guts!  I wouldn't ever be able to do that, man!  Put a gun to my head and pull the trigger, maybe.  But slashing my wrist and seeing all that blood gushing out of my veins... YUCK!!!  No way!!"

        "I know what you mean.  In some ways, women are braver than men," Walter postulated.  That had long been one of his theories.

        "Why did she kill herself?  Because she was bummed-out about being paralyzed for the rest of her pathetic life," Allen hastily conjectured immediately after inquiring.

        "Actually, no!  In the letter she indicated that she could've lived with that.  See, I had fun with her head -- like you had a good time with her body."

        "How so," asked Allen, curiously.

        Walter proudly confessed, "While she was hypnotized, I led her into believing that she said used to sell her ass back in the day.  Turns out, she couldn't live with the guilt -- looking into the mirror and seeing a whore's reflection staring back at her."

        "You sly devil," complimented Allen in jest.

        "Hee Hee Hee," laughed Walter.

        "I bet you're pissed cause you won't be sapping any money out of her anymore," Allen presumed.

        "Hell yeah," Walter emphatically confirmed.  "Money is the name of the game, man.  I guess I went too far.  But I really enjoyed fucking with her head.  I probably got more satisfaction out of that than you attained by screwing her body.  It was a great emotional release!  This stressful period in my life called for something cathartic like that.  In fact, I'd say that the monetary loss was worth the short term entertainment.  AND I'LL TELL YOU SOMETHING ELSE TOO... (Walter Krouse paused for five seconds before boasting of his dark secret.  He was mentally reveling in the OTHER wicked trick he'd played on poor Paulina.)  "I set up the car crash," he bragged, with a lowered voice, as if fearing someone else could hear.  He felt like he was being magnanimous to let his partner in the know; for it was a brilliantly covert, and unsolvable, crime.  In his warped mind, it was a sacred deed.  Everthing unholy is holy, according to his philosophical worldview.

        "What do you mean?  You trying to say you tampered with her breaks," Allen surmised.

        "No.  What I did is I made damn sure that she was behind the wheel right when she was experiencing the peak of her emotional crisis.  I literally yanked her off the couch and ordered her to drive home.  Now, is that foresight, or what?!"

        "Damn, you're good," Allen complimented in awe and admiration.

        "I am, aren't I," Walter smugly agreed.  Due to a severely twisted sense of laurels, he completely lacked the slightest sense of shame that "normal sociopaths" would feel toward their evildoings.  And as for modesty, he was completely devoid of it!



        "Walter, you're my hero!  I hope one day to be as wicked as you," joked Dr. Thorne.  The quip was halfway sincere, however.  For he, too, loved evil, and looked up to anyone who was full of it.

        Walter joked back, "You have a long way to go, grasshopper.  But the good news is that you're learning from the Master of Misery!"

        Allen giggled.  Then, he submitted a directive: "Keep that suicide letter in your office desk; I'd like to read it tomorrow if you're not in when I get to work."

        "Alright, but I won't keep it in my desk beyond tomorrow.  It's like a diploma to me; I feel like putting it in a plaque and hanging it on my wall over my bed.  Gosh, I feel so destructively powerful!  It's like I'm a God with the power to kill at will."

        "I bet that's a wonderful buzz!"

        "Yeah, it is, Allen.  Totally exhilarating!  Well, I'll let you finish your 'zombie counseling session,' if you can call it that.  But from what I gathered, he's not in too much of a talkative mood, so I guess there's not a whole lot of counseling going on."

        "Yeah, that's the case, alright.  I wish all of my clients were this silent and dumb!  The drugs really do a good job of keeping him subdued.  It's certainly a much less annoying experience, but the visual gets to me somewhat.  I mean, the dude looks disgusting."

        Immediately after insulting him in front of his face, he barked out an order in the phone's mouthpiece for Walter to hear, just for fun: "Close your mouth and wipe off all that spit, you bum!  He doesn't understand a damn thing I'm saying."

        "Ha! Ha! Ha!" laughed Krouse, while imagining the pictorial of the zombie-like patient sitting in front of his irritated colleague.  It reminded him of some of his own experiences with Ralph Oxner.  "Well, I'll let you go so you can do whatever want with that fucked up patient of yours.  I'll see you at the office tomorrow morning, Allen."

"Okay, see you tomorrow, Walter."


        The following morning at five minutes till eight, Dr. Thorne hopped out of his Porsche and treaded the walkway with his trusty 357 Magnum in its holster as always, although his mental guard was down a bit.  He was less than fully heedful of the possibility of a crazed stalker lying in wait with a butcher knife because the letter so thoroughly occupied his mind.  It was analogous to an alluring woman diverting the attention and rationale of an infatuated man.  Pain and death were his life's passions.  Personal delight, as well as professional interest, motivated his desire to read the despair drenched thoughts and emotions piercing through the fragile psyche of a woman on the brink of self demise.  Even as a young child, he harbored a fevered passion about pain and death.  While studying psychiatry in college, he satiated that overriding passion by reading thousands of documented suicide letters.  They utterly intrigued him!  He savored them thoroughly, relishing each and every one with an overwhelming amount of sadistic, vicarious joy.  "The literary experience," he wrote in his journal, "is, to me, like inhaling the sweet scent of death itself, if one could smell death beyond its physical manifestations of rot and decay."  This suicide letter, however, would indubitably prove to be particularly pleasing to his metaphoric nostrils because he knew he shared a hand in the writer's death.  He had started the ball rolling.  Although undeniably vicious, Krouse and Thorne were poets, not butchers; their dastardly deeds, including murders, were of an artistic, instead of a savage, nature.  Once inside the office, Allen slid open Walter's desk drawer -- where Walter said he'd leave Paulina's letter for him to read.

        At 10:04 am Walter walked in after applying a fairly complicated series of raps on the door, which was code to say, "I'm not The Caller."  He saw Allen sitting on the couch with his head hanging down and the sheet on his lap.

        "Whatcha doin, Allen," he said, after he closed and relocked the door.  Allen didn't reply, nor did he raise his bowed head to establish eye contact with his belated colleague.

        "Is everything okay," he asked, with a streak of concern in his voice.  Allen merely responded by lifting the paper up, and holding it with an outstretched arm for Walter to take.  His lips stayed sealed and his head remained dropped.  Walter hoped that he was simply in a state of deep thought and that his non-responsiveness wasn't a bad sign.

        "Oh, I see you read the letter," said Walter.  "What did you think of it, he cheerfully, yet nervously, inquired, sensing that something wasn't quite right with Allen.



        "You need to read it," Allen flatly suggested, before finally lifting his head and looking up at Walter with uneasy eyes.

        "I've already read it," Walter demurred.

        "Read it," repeated Allen in a sterner tone.

        Walter speculated that something was imbedded in the content of the letter which he'd overlooked.  Why else would Allen insist he reread the thing??  His speed reading skills must have caused him to miss a detail or two, he reasoned.  He walked up to the couch sitter and took the sheet of paper from his hand.  He lifted it up to his face.  Then, a gasp came out of his mouth.  Then, "Oh, my God!" came out of it.  What he'd just read was, "I TOOK PAULINA'S LETTER WITH ME!  HOPE YA DON'T MIND, KROUSEY-BOY!"  The letters were all in caps, block style, huge, and written in red magic marker ink.

        "It was in your drawer," informed Allen, with a tone of deep severity seeped in his voice. 

        Walter was still looking at the paper.  Lower down was a drawing of an eye inside a triangle.  He took it to mean that The Caller was "watching his every move" -- like he said on the phone.  Beneath the sketch, a big rectangle was formed, and in the center of it was written, Walter Krousey-Boy.  The upper left corner of the rectangle reserved the mocking identification of "Paul Rice," and a small sqare was drawn in the upper right section of the rectangle.  Walter was trying to figure that out, as well; what that particular coded message was.  Maybe, he postulated, the rectangle represented an envelope, equipped with a stamp (the little square), as if the note was sent to him in it via the mail, like Paulina sent her letter and poem in an envelope to him.  But there was apparently more in the code; Walter quickly connected "Paul Rice" with the name "Paulina Price."  Indeed, "Paulina Price" would transform into "Paul Rice" if the letters I, N, A and P were ommitted from it.  Was there even more involved in the coding?!?  "There must be more to it than just a play on words," he reasonably assumed, comprehending The Caller's intellectual complexity.  "What's the message," he pondered in fright.  Little did he know that it was basically just designed to puzzle and confuse the heck out of him. 

        Still standing there, holding the paper up in front of his face, he thought and thought and thought.  For some odd reason, "All Rise" popped into his head.  Why, he did not know.  Then, it hit him!  Just as "Paul Rice" connected up with "Paulina Price," "All Rise" related to "Paul Rice," sounding like it.  Then, in horror, he recognized the ultimate link; it occurred to him that "Paul Rice" spoken quickly sounds sounds akin to "All Rise," and, furthermore, that "All Rise" is the preliminary order issued by judges at the proceeding of every court case.  Why did I make that association, he wondered, feeling almost as if "All Rise" was telepathically communicated to him.  Did 'The Caller' transmit that thought to me??? he speculated.  For the first time in the psychiatrist's life, he felt like he might be on the verge of losing his mind.

        At the same time that Walter Krouse was in his office freaking out, Arnold Fetz was his office studying the psychiatrist's records which he'd just obtained.  As he poured over the voluminous National Archived of Medical Information pages, some things caught his eye and caused a raise eyebrow.  There were discrepancies, many discrepancies!  For example, the doctor had apparently listed a good number of medications which didn't match the particular patient's diagnosis.  On top of that, he found some of the abbreviations Krouse had employed quite dubious.  There were many other things that just didn't add up, as well.

        Eventually, Arnold Fetz came upon a patient named Paulina Remington Price.  He saw that she had been receiving "therapy" for a long time.  Krouse had labeled her: "Bipolar / Religious Compulsive Disorder."  And, as was the case with each one of his patients, her medical history was detailed in full, along with her past experiences and inner thoughts.  After carefully and thoroughly reading her entire file, Mr. Fetz racked his brain.  He knew the name sounded familiar, but he couldn't quite make the connection.  Then it came to him: Paulina Price was one of the people injured in the major car crash that was reported on the nightly news, and written about in the newspapers.  "Hmm, Paulina Price," he said to himself.

        The wise, old P.I. had a strong sense that something just wasn't right regarding his client's involvement with Mrs. Price.  So he decided to conduct some independent research on the young lady.



At the time, he was unaware that she had committed suicide.  When a computer search revealed that sad fact to him, he was all the more suspicious!  The next thing he did was to pull up her husband's name and phone number so he could contact him and ask some questions.  Although he knew it wasn't in accordance with decorum to disturb someone so soon following a spouse's passing, Mr. Fetz assertively decided to go ahead and call the late lady's husband while memories of what she'd relayed to him about her counseling sessions, and overall dealings with her psychiatrist, were still fresh in his mind.

        "... ... ... Well, thank you, sir, for your assistance.  I hate to have bothered you during your time of grief, but I felt it was necessary for me to do so.  Once again, I'd like to offer my condolences on the loss of your wife."

        "I appreciate your call, Mr. Fetz.  Don't worry, you didn't bother me.  I'm glad to be of help with your investigation."

        "Goodbye, and good luck with the healing process, Mr. Price."

        "Thanks.  Bye."

        Mutual hang up.

        Mr. Price provided him with a lot of information pertaining to Paulina!  After making the call, he reviewed her file again.  There was no mention in it of anything related to prostitution, abortion, witchcraft, or herpes.  From where did those ideas emanate??  And why did those thoughts arrive in her head, and the virus in her body, just prior to her death, he wondered.  And could it possibly be that there was a connection between the two?  Something was definitely not right!!  And Mr. Fetz was intent on getting to the bottom of it!  This had turned into an unofficial investigation within an investigation.


        Walter Krouse returned to Arnold Fetz's office for a follow-up meeting.  The workaholic P.I. welcomed in his beleagured client.  Needing extra space for the N.A.M.I. (National Archives of Medical Information) binders, plus other documents and assorted reading material, he chose not to sit at his cluttered, main desk.  This time, the two very different men sat across from each other at a small, fold-out desk in the back corner of the room.  But, as before, wimpy Walter felt starkly intimidated by the face-to-face encounter.  Trying to avoid eye contact, he shifted his beady eyes downward as he began.

        "Well, Mr. Fetz, something else happened."

        "Oh, no!  What was it?!?"

        "Well, first off, a very disturbed patient of mine committed suicide last week.  I've been mourning her death.  She was like a daughter to me.  See, I can't help getting emotionally attached to my patients.  I know it's unprofessional, but..."

        "Let me stop you for a second.  Did you attend her funeral?"

        Walter Krouse was, once again, feeling the stressful effects of sitting in the "hot seat."

        "Umm... Well... No.  I desperately wanted to go, but I had a client scheduled during that time.  He needed my help really bad and I didn't want to cancel our appointment and let him down." [Later on, following the meeting, Mr. Fetz checked the day the funeral was held on and found out it was a Sunday, when Krouse wouldn't be seeing a client.]

        "Okay, Dr. Krouse, I can understand that.  By the way, what was the deceased name," he inquired -- pretending not to know.

        "Paulina Price," answered Walter.

        "Alright, please continue."

        "Okay.  Like I was saying, the poor young lady killed herself.  But right before she did that, she mailed me a letter stating how much I'd helped her during our therapy sessions.  At the same time, she indicated that her decadent past had caught up with her and she had nothing to live for, basically.  It was a very sad and private letter.  I'm sure that if you read it, you'd be heartbroken like me.  GET THIS: The Caller actually broke into my office and stole that letter from inside my desk drawer.  He did it only one day after she committed suicide.  I guess he broke in sometime during the night.  My sorrow immediately switched to rage.  How can someone be so sick?!  He knew I was grief stricken, and he just wanted to hurt me even deeper!"

        Walter reached into his suit's vest pocket, pulled out a folded sheet of paper, and handed it to the attentive listener.  Then he said, "This is the crazy note he left in my desk drawer."

        Taking his piercing blue eyes off Krouse for a few seconds, he looked down and silently read the message, along with the additional strange sketches below it.

        "Hmm.  And I assume that, once again, you didn't alert the police, despite the fact that he broke into your office and taunted you concerning the death of your patient."



        "Well, Mr. Fetz, I had an incredible urge to report this latest incident.  I really did!  But I resisted the temptation.  Like I told you before, I'm adamant about keeping the police out of this matter.  I still perceive these 'pranks' -- I know that word is too mild -- as the workings of a very deranged individual.  My objective remains to seek help for him, not punishment.  What good would being behind bars do him?!  He couldn't get adequate mental health treatment in prison, and that's all I want for him!"

        "Well, you certainly do sound like a very tolerant, compassionate man, Dr. Krouse," the skeptical P.I. said with an air of sarcasm.  Failing to pick up on it, Walter misconstrued the statement as a sincere compliment, thinking his lines were believable.  But there was no fooling savvy ole' Arnie!

        "I'll store this in my filing cabinet and if I come up with a promising lead along with another article of writing to compare it to, I'll try to match the handwritting in order to positively identify the culprit," he said.

        "Okay!  That sounds good," Krouse concurred.

        After putting the sheet aside, he said, "So, Dr. Krouse, did that security alarm I installed go off when he broke in?"

        "No, sir.  It sure didn't.  The red light wasn't blinking when I walked in the office.  I guess he managed to offset it, somehow."

        "Yeah, I doubt it was malfunctioning.  But I'll check it just to make sure.  This could be a sign that The Caller has some electrical background.  I don't think a novice could have done such a thing because that's one of the finest high-tech, state-of-the-art security monitoring systems on the market.  There's hardly any way it could've failed to detect unauthorized entry!  He would have had to circumvent the alarm code, bypass the radar beam, and elude the motion sensors.  The Caller is probably an electronics expert.  That's another clue."  Mr. Fetz picked up his pen and jotted down the note that The Caller may have some expertise in the field of electronics.  Then he lifted up his head and said, "What about the surveillance cameras I set up in your office?"

        "The cameras were intact, but the tape was gone.  I guess the The Caller found the VCR and took the tape out it," Walter said flatly.

        "Sheesh!  I had those mounts pretty well concealed, and the VCR was hidden even better; there's no way he could have just stumbled upon it.  I doubt one of the cameras just 'caught his eye.'  He must have suspected that there were hidden cameras in your office before he went in, and tried to locate the recording device that they were wired up to.  This guy is pretty smart!"

        "Yeah, I already knew THAT!  It's getting scarier and scarier when I keep seeing HOW smart," commented Krouse.

        "Okay, Dr. Krouse, moving on to another subject.  Remember when you allowed me to acquire copies of your patients' medical records from the National Archives building?"

        "UhHuh," Krouse murmered bitterly.  He still detested the fact that he'd been manipulated and intimidated into submitting his authorized consent for the forms to be relased to the astute P.I.  Now it seemed as if he was rubbing it in his face.

        "Well," Mr. Fetz. continued, "I've been mulling over a ton of documents.  There's no need for me to give you details, and, of course, legally I can't throw out any names, but I CAN tell you that I have some leads!  There was a total of 747 suspects at the outset, and by now I've narrowed it down to 713."

        "Seven hundred and thirteen??!!" repeated Krouse, with a burst of hostility and a loudness and tone nearing screaming rage.  "You call (that) headway?!" he shouted.

        "I know that sounds like a lot, but I'm continuously chipping away and eliminating suspects." [What Walter didn't know, which would have caused him to be even MORE disgruntled, is that most of Fetz's time on the case was actually being spent on the investigation within the investigation (i.e., investigating his own client).  That's why he hadn't made more progress with the (other) goal of catching The Caller.]  "I'm confident that I'll eventually discover The Caller's identity," he pledged.

        "I certainly hope so," Krouse said, while simultaneously fearing that his own demonic deeds would be discovered, as well.

        Arnold Fetz got up to get Krouse's latest N.A.M.I. (National Archives of Medical Information) records off the shelf.  He sat back down and started flipping through the pages of the bulky binder for about fifteen seconds, Krouse being forced to endure the probing and the silence that accompanied it.  He had absolutely no idea what he might find in those records.  It appeared as if Fetz was about to say something, but he kept on reading.  Nine seconds later, upon finding what he was looking for, he said, "While I was studying the case histories, I noticed that you used a lot of abbreviated letters.  For example, 'H.E.R.' -- What would that happen to stand for, sir?"

        Walter was prepared for this one!  "Oh, 'H.E.R.' means 'HEREDITARY;' such as hereditary illness."  He knew, in reality, that it actually signified 'HEROIN.'  He'd administered the drug to selections of patients for experimental purposes throughout the course of his career.  Ralph Oxner was one of them.  At least he thought he was prepared for the inquiry!



        "Oh, it stands for 'HEREDITARY,' does it?!" said Mr. Fetz in a raised, "I have just caught you in a lie," tone.

        "Yes, sir, it sure does," the lying weasel reaffirmed nervously.  He could tell, by what Fetz said and how he said it, that he didn't believe it for one second!

        "It says here that you injected two grams of H.E.R.  How in the hell does someone inject two grams of hereditary?!?"  Fetz's voice was resonate and stern and his eyes were even more intense as they starred directly at Walter who was, again, looking down, trying his best to avoid eye contact.

        Eight seconds of stunned silence saturated the room.  A bead of sweat trickled down the out-smarted psychiatrist's forehead.  He squirmed in his chair, now suddenly on the defensive, feeling like a cornered animal.  The mentally superior P.I.'s follow-up question had caught him completely off guard!

        Breaking the silence, Krouse shot back, "Mr. Fetz, what does this have to do with The Caller, as he looked at him square in the eyes for once.  A surge of strenth, a fighting spirit had zapped into the cornered animal.

        "Absolutely nothing!  But, nevertheless, I would appreciate an explanation," he exclaimed harshly, eyes flaring.

        Highly steamed, Krouse vehemently declared, "Your job is to investigate The Caller, not ME!!  That's what I'm paying you for!  And I'm very insulted that you would imply that I'm not on the up-and-up.  I think you're overstepping your bounds and I'm very offended that you would question my professionalism and integrity.  I'm a well respected doctor with an impeccable record and you have no right to..."

        "Hold on, Dr. Krouse," interrupted Fetz.  "I AM investigating The Caller!  And I'm not accusing you of being less than honest; it's just that I want to make sense of everything.  Let's calm down.  There's no need for us to raise our voices and argue.  Dr. Krouse, it comes down to this.  If you're on the level, you have nothing to fear.  But if you're hiding something from me, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll dig it up.  Do you understand??"

        "I understand."

        "Good!  I think that'll be all for this meeting.  If something else happens with The Caller, give me a call immediately."

        "I'll be sure to do that," Krouse halfheartedly agreed.

        After the second meeting had come to a close, the two highly successful, yet very different, men stood up and shook hands.  Walter Elmore Krouse now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Arnold 'Hard Rock' Fetz was 'on to him.'  The only question, now, in his mind was whether or not enough substantial evidence could be garnered to warrant the filing of criminal charges.  He wholeheartedly regretted hiring the "damn P.I."