The office inside the wooden ‘bank vault’ style door was more plush than Tom Thorkelson’s office in the Massachusetts Mutual Fashion Island location. The baby blue rug under my feet made it feel like I was standing in a couple of inches of mud while four towering lamps with subdued yellow light bouncing off a dull metallic ceiling cast a strangely warming atmosphere to the room itself.

A woman stood directly in front of me, straight across the fifteen feet of rug that covered the entire floor. She was leaning her butt into a wooden desk that looked like a replica of the ‘Resolute’ presidential desk. The original had been crafted from the timbers of a ship of that name and was a gift from Queen Victoria. I’d read about it in high school but never considered the size or the impressiveness of it until standing before the woman.

She held out her right hand toward me and after gently pointing with it toward the only chair in front of but slightly off to the side of the Resolute copy. I walked toward her to shake hands, surprised by the gesture.

“My name is Marcy,” she said with a very welcoming smile. “Some people call me Doctor Marcy but you don’t have to.”

I shook her hand, which was cool with a grip that surprised and impressed me. I wasn’t used to women who shook hands but appreciated it.

I nodded dumbly and headed for the single chair, deliberately keeping my eyes off her. She was wearing a mini skirt that ended at least six inches above her knees, with a simple white blouse and a short but perky hairstyle. Not only was she attractive but she was stunning in that I could never have expected nor failed to be shocked by her attire, and demeanor. Everything in Paul’s Straight Ahead office would cost less than one of the special bulbs installed in one of the special lamps close to my chair.

Marcy matter-of-factly walked around the desk. There was no overt sexual message in either her smile, her words, or the way she moved. It was all in the costume but the fact that it was there at all I found to be discomforting. Marcy sat down and tapped a two-inch thick folder in front of her, the only thing on the desk. No reading lamp, no file bin, or any of that. Not even a pen. Just the file sitting atop a thick glass square which was laid down atop some sort of thick leather pad.

“This is a set of your records from the military and medical staff you’ve encountered since coming out of college,” Marcy said.

I stared into her deep brown eyes without saying anything or changing expression, although inside I was growing angry as hell. I was on a movie set. There was no real thing in the room except my file and possibly myself. The Chief had built the set, taking painstaking effort to gauge things just right so that the only action I might take in expressing the expected anger I would feel would be a terminal mistake. Brown had nothing to use against me in the way of evidence and worse, I had just been awarded the medal, a medal no San Clemente police officer had ever been awarded before. He wanted me to make a mistake. I looked down at the file, a file that could never have made its way from investigation, assembly, collation, and then transport to the top of the Resolute desk with the kind of speed it seemed like it had. That meant the file was being prepared almost from the moment the new Chief had taken over. Marcy was waiting for me to say something, so I decided to oblige her, but without giving her any evidence to indicate how I was feeling. There was no way, however, I could or would call her doctor.

“What is it that you want me to do?” I asked.

“I have to interview you and then write up a conclusion about your ability to be a police officer,” she replied, meeting my eyes with a stare nearly as still and bright as my own.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked again, with the same lack of inflection in my tone.

Marcy sighed, and looked away, moving her left hand to press a button I couldn’t see. One of the drapes began to move, exposing a long picture window on the right side of the office. She stared out through the exposed glass at the busy city below while I waited for whatever was coming next.

“You’ve got a wife who’s been through a lot, two kids, and you’re a real war hero in and out of combat and police hero on top of that, yet you’re not even thirty years old.” Marcy said the words as if she was talking to herself instead of to me. “Did I leave anything out?”

It was impossible for me to try to figure out where she was going with the conversation. Paul was my only connection to the world of psychologists and therapy, but he was as far from being like her as a church mouse was to Godzilla.

“Bozo,” I finally said, after she made no attempt to ask or say anything further.

“What’s a bozo?” Marcy replied, perfectly manicured eyebrows going up.

“My cat,” I said.

“And, you’re a cat person also, just like me,” she said, the words coming out close to having been spoken more as a whisper than anything else.

“Have you read the file in front of you?” I asked, feeling immediately strange, as the file was so obviously in front of her.

“Yes,” she replied, bringing her hands together and placing them on the thick pile of copied documents. She said nothing further, although I waited for quite a few seconds.

“You’re not going to give me a passing report, are you?” I finally asked, beginning to be able to read her facial expressions better and paying close attention to where the conversation had to be headed.

“No, I can’t do that,” Marcy replied, verifying my opinion that I was inside a movie set and the script had already been written for our one-act play.

“What’s the reason for my failure,” I asked, not expecting her to answer, but she did immediately, surprising me by doing so and then by what she said.

“You have been through so much trauma that’s had such an impact upon your very existence that you will be a danger to any fellow officer you serve with because it’s unlikely, given the direst circumstance in the field that you’ll discharge your service weapon when called upon.”

When she was done, she stopped talking and waited expectantly, a very mild assortment of lines appeared up between her eyes. I guessed the lines to ones of concern and not worry.

“Do you believe that?” I asked, truly curious.

The professional conclusion she’d delivered was brilliant but made based on only the most analytical of circumstantial evidence.

“I don’t know,” she confessed. “I truly don’t know. I’ve never treated or interviewed anyone with your history. You are an oddity that any professional in my area of expertise would love to probe much deeper into, not that, given the completely controlled assembly of what you are makes it all likely you’d be forthcoming about your inner reality.”

I knew then that she wasn’t a phony. She was an educated and experienced pro, no matter her age, looks, or the trappings around her.

“What do you want me to do?” I asked again.

“There you go again, confirming my suspicions,” she said, shaking her head. “You’ve said less than a hundred words since walking in here and that’s the third time you’ve asked the only question that makes any sense in all of this. ‘What do you want to do?’”

“I feel I’m done with that line of work,” I answered.

“At least we’re on the same page,” she replied, the lines between her eyes smoothing out and her tone expressing relief. “Don’t ask me what I want you to do, again,” she said with a laugh, her first of our encounter.”

“Okay,” I said, laughing with her. “How do we do this?”

Marcy sat back in her chair for the first time, her hands pulling themselves from atop my thick file.

“You take the next thirty days and then resign sometime during those days,” Marcy said, making a Paul steeple with her fingers, almost identical to Paul’s reaction sometimes when he was in deep thought.

I wondered if it was common to all members of the psychiatric profession but didn’t interrupt her. “I’ll then submit my report that clears you for duty with no negative indications or recommendations so that no record will follow you once you leave. You must, however, promise me that you will not take back your resignation, go to work for another police agency, or seek out work that has violence as a part of it.”

I knew immediately that she was unaware of my entry into the CIA, and I was relieved. I looked out the window, just as she had moments earlier and I thought about what was going on. I wanted to ask her why she had to fail me if I wanted to stay, but what was the point, even if she answered truthfully, which didn’t appear likely? I wanted to ask her how she, or anyone else, had gotten hold of my medical and service records in such short order but what answer would satisfy me…if I got one.

I looked back into her eyes, reading only seemingly genuine concern for my welfare inside them. Instinctively, I knew that if I stayed much longer that she would very likely give me the same information Paul had about my heading right back into the valley I’d been so happy and relieved to get out of alive, no matter how grievously I was hurt. Paul hadn’t advised me against such a move, but she might. It was time to go. I wanted to spend no more time with a ‘plant,’ a professional who was willing to sell herself out for God knew what reward.

“Thank you,” I said as sincerely as I could, as I stood up from my chair to leave.

Marcy stood up too, then walked around the desk and stood close to me. She stuck out her hand again.

“It’s been my pleasure and I wish you well in whatever you choose to do from here.”

Tom Thorkelson and Chuck Bartok taught me about the ‘assumed close’ that the woman was using. If I agree with her verbally then a contract was made from her standpoint. If I declined then her threat to file the report about my ‘inability to commit violence on another officer’s behalf’ would be actualized, probably immediately.

“Thirty days,” I said, making sure my two words were not taken as a question. I was still smiling while shaking her hand until finally releasing it and stepping back. I’d been in Vietnam for 30 days, so the number felt appropriate to the circumstances. I was being fired upon again but not by bullets, artillery, or booby traps. My enemy was a little guy with a giant cowboy hat and as mean-spirited as they came, not to mention as smart as I was or smarter. If I was staying, instead of moving away into a new career that Marcy wouldn’t approve of, and indeed resigning under my own power, Chief Brown would have deserved a much deeper look into, and possible action following that examination. There was no point discussing anything further with the woman, although the shocking way things had been handled to get me out of the department and then her amazing revelation and deal drove me right back toward Paul.

Marcy said nothing further, so I turned, walked to the walnut vault door, and stepped through. I loved the feel and look of the door, just as I had the look of the woman and the feel of her firm dry hand, but I was relieved to be leaving her office, stage set, or whatever the place really might be. I waited at the elevator, wondering where all the money came from to create such an opulent office setting.

I drove straight back to Dana Point.

When I got there I knew that Paul was probably at the facility, given that his car was parked where it usually was. I pulled into the lot, once again placing the Volks right out front, as there was no need to attempt to cover my being there. The social disgrace of being treated for drug addiction was still possible, but it didn’t much matter as we were leaving the area.

I went inside, after peering into his window and noting that he was in his usual place behind his desk. There was nobody with him, so I walked in and said hello, leaning forward to pull a new Olympus micro recorder from my front pocket. Before coming in I’d rewound the one-hour capacity micro cassette it carried. The meeting with Marcy had taken twenty-two of those minutes.

The interview with Marcy began to play as I took my place in one of the chairs. Paul stared across the desk at me, his expression one of surprise more than anything else. He, no doubt, hadn’t expected to see me again just as I hadn’t expected to be sitting in his office again either.

I waited for the entire tape to play until the machine began making a nearly silent hiss. I moved forward, grabbed the impossibly small instrument, and hit the off button. Paul turned his chair back from staring at his window.

“Your thoughts?” I asked when he didn’t say anything.

“You taped this without her permission or knowledge, I presume,” he said, not phrasing the sentence as a question.

“California,” I replied. “You only need one party’s permission and that would be me.”

“Doctor Marcy,” he whispered to himself. “Professionals in psychology usually don’t use such an address when describing themselves.”

I waited, not caring about that issue.

“The whole thing’s amazing,” Paul concluded. The fact that she somehow has a big file from your past experiences, as I don’t see how I’d ever get that if I found where to request such records, her admission that you’re basically being fired, and then there’s the deal she offered you, not to mention her being quite impressed with everything you’ve so far done in life.”

“Why would she act the way she did?” I asked.

“Money, for one thing,” Paul said, laughing. “This profession doesn’t really pay that much per hour if you haven’t noticed. Her firm, and it has to be a firm, is probably billing thousands for each officer it makes decisions about, and whole departments have a lot of officers.”

“How should I react?”

“You’re already reacting. You brought the tape to me and you’d made the decision to resign before you went to see her. Do what you want for twenty-nine days and then resign, or earlier if you feel like it.”

“What kind of display of professional conduct was that?” I asked, still in wonder about the oddness of the whole interview.

“I work in a field where the word ‘professional’ deals mostly with trying to do the right thing for patients while making sure we get paid,” he replied, “it’s kind of a shifting ‘call it as you see it thing’. You got more truth, probably, than you were ready for and neither of you had to go through hours of testing to come to the same result. She took a risk in doing it that way.”

“What risk?” I asked, surprised.

Paul pointed at the Olympus. “She’d be fired and might ever lose her license were the material on that tape sent to almost any professional society or police board.”

“What should I do with it?”

Paul pulled a wastebasket from under his desk and pushed it over toward me.

I pulled the cassette out and plopped it into the empty basket, put the machine back in my pocket and stood up. I held out my right hand.

“You’ve been great to and for me and I can’t but wish you well in your new environment.”

He stood and took my hand with a smile on his face. “Despite everything,” he said.

I drove home and got dressed to work a beach patrol shift, Mary, Jules, and baby Michael were probably at the beach since her car was there and they weren’t. I was relieved to know I had a month to work through my leaving the department, as well as the police fraternity in general. The medal made it easier but still, I knew, like the aftermath of leaving the Corps (if I was truly out of the Corps) had been more difficult emotionally than I would have believed. There was something about the protection a uniform brought with it that was hard to describe but was certainly there.

Rick Steed was my partner, another reserve about to leave the beach patrol reserves to work full time on the street. He’d been a Marine NCO, like Gularte, and we had a good time beating up and down the beach. Mary, Jules, and Michael were on the beach below the cliff our house perched on. We stopped at their banket for quite a while as Mary wanted to know all about his life, wife, and his own experience in Vietnam.

When I got home from beach patrol there should have been only darkness lit by the small hooded lamp mounted high up between the garage doors, instead of the running lights of a big truck. It was the six-by, painted Army green but with no lettering that I could see in the dim light provided by the garage fixture and my headlights. I pulled in next to the rig. It was backed in toward the larger RV door which I hadn’t much used because we lived in Southern California where the days and nights were almost always ambient and the mild weather caused little damage or wear and tear on vehicles left outside.

I went inside and immediately called Matt. He answered on the first ring.

“There’s a truck in my driveway,” I said.

“Yes, for the transport to the train,” Matt replied.

“We’re not even close to leaving here,” I said, my tone one of exasperation.

“Take your time. Whatever you have is probably better off in the back of that thing, all tied up and down, than wherever it is now. Once you get ready to go, we take the truck to the train, load the package into a special container, and then ship both of them to New Mexico.”

“Okay, but the truck won’t fit in the driveway of the house we’re going to there,” I said, looking out the window to where the giant thing sat, like a strange beacon of strangeness as everyone in the neighborhood or even driving by would note.

“No, it won’t fit to store it there, that’s true,” Matt replied, “but it’ll fit in the lot next to your new office.”
I breathed in and out deeply, before saying anything further.

“You give the appearance of knowing very little, Matt, but you do know too much. Are you one of us?”

I waited for him to reply, which took several seconds.

“Yes,” he said but didn’t follow up with anything further.

There was a silence. I should have known that his eager and totally strange request at the aircraft, to be a part of whatever it was that I was doing, should have been a blinking red light of indication and connection, but I hadn’t caught it.

“I presume the six-by is ours for the duration,” I said, with a sigh. “Are the keys in it?”

“There are no keys, just a rubber button on the dash. You may want to drive it just for fun. Don’t. It’s bigger and more difficult to handle than you think. It’s insured by the military, so you don’t want to get involved in the nightmare of having an accident with it. The blackout lights were left on so you’d see it at night. There’s another switch on the dash for those.”

I hung up the phone. I knew Matt would be in touch, as he was with the agency and now a part of the mission to get us settled in New Mexico. I wouldn’t need Gularte, other than he and some of the burly lifeguards to help with the furniture and other stuff.

The phone rang just as I hung it up. It was Lieutenant Gates. The Chief wanted to see me right away up at the station, which I’d just left after the patrol.
I’d wanted to work for almost the whole thirty days before turning in my resignation but, after hanging up the phone again, I had the distinct feeling that I wasn’t going to make it that far. I had no idea about his contact with Doctor Marcy, or what paperwork might have been generated between them, but I felt that my time was probably very close to up, agreement or not. Staying on the force was important to me, as I also wanted to raise as much capital by selling a few life insurance policies as I could to get off the ground successfully in Albuquerque. I had no idea what the costs of starting an insurance agency, or even taking an already started one over might be. New Mexico was probably a bit cheaper than California, but I wasn’t sure about that either.
Since being awarded the medal I hadn’t been as popular as I’d been before but then I stayed away from most of the other officers because I wasn’t working the street anymore. I wasn’t ever scheduled for street work, nor did I make any complaint or attempt to get on that schedule. The beach patrol, where I was popular and enjoyed was fine with me, as well as my association with the guards who didn’t know about my medal nor would probably have cared if they did know.

I was in full uniform, and I wasn’t going to bother to change. Removing my Sam Brown belt, however, I changed out the clamshell holster for a conventional one so I could carry my Colt .45. I did not expect to draw or use it but it made me feel more secure to have it on my hip as I was about to step back into the lion’s den.