Devil's den

Chapter 7

"I'm glad you came to see me, Chase. As I've told you many times, my own door is always open to you."

Chase took a seat and stared at the bald man with glasses across from her. She remembered how much disdain she’d held for him the first time they’d met; how difficult it had been to come in here and speak about anything that was even partly true.

How things had changed.

"I was just assigned this new case… it involves missing, and likely murdered, women."

Chase stared closely at Dr. Matteo as she spoke, trying to get a hint of a wince, a cringe, anything that might indicate that the man was nervous about her accepting such a case.

But Dr. Matteo had a poker face that rivaled hers; if he was anxious or concerned, he wasn’t showing it.

"They’re older, mid-twenties, but still…" Chase said, letting her sentence trail off. It occurred to her that she was doing this a lot lately and didn’t care for it. When she would lie, Chase tended to be curt, to the point.

"You're searching, Chase. You're searching for an excuse not to take this case. And I understand that. But if there's anything I taught you, it is to live—"

"In the present," Chase finished for him. It was the man's common refrain, and it had helped her get through a lot.

"Yeah, I know, I’m like a broken record. Just remember that none of these girls are you, as much as you might want them to be. You need to avoid projecting, avoid the notion that if you save these women, then you’ve saved yourself. I don't want to sound condescending, but you know this. You know this because criminals do it all the time, and you have more experience with them than most anybody else. And your job, in case you forgot, is not to save people. It is to try to save people. You are not the perpetrator of the crimes, Chase."

Chase took this in and found herself nodding.

"Yeah, it's just…"

You're doing it again, Chase. Just say it. Just say what you want to say.

Dr. Matteo gave her an opportunity to do just that.

She exhaled loudly.

"I'm afraid that I'm going to see my sister in these victims. And then I’m going to feel guilty about leaving her again, which will lead me onto a path of self-destruction."

Her candidness surprised even her, but Chase went with it.

"And I don't think I can survive that, not again."

Dr. Matteo nodded.

"I don't think you can, either. How long have you been coming to see me, Chase? How long has it been since we first met?”

Chase shrugged.

"Two years, give or take?"

"Eighteen months," Dr. Matteo corrected. "And during this time, how many meetings have we had? And I'm not talking about the group sessions, just the one on one's."

Chase racked her brain but could only guess.

"I dunno. Thirty?"

Dr. Matteo shook his head.

"Ninety-seven; you and I have met in private ninety-seven times over these eighteen months."

This surprised Chase. Ironically, she had started to come more regularly since things had gotten better, but ninety-seven? That seemed absurd.

"Really? That many?"

He nodded.

"And how many times do you think that we’ve spoken about your sister during these talks?"

This, Chase knew the answer to.