Dry Ice

Free Dry Ice by Stephen White

Book: Dry Ice by Stephen White Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephen White
approves their release. Those deemed incompetent to proceed are housed, and treated, in Pueblo until a judge determines they have become sufficiently mentally competent to confront the criminal justice system.
        "If McClelland had been sentenced to Cañon City—as he should have been and would have been—he wouldn't have been part of some study outside the walls. He wouldn't have had a chance to walk away down some street."
        "Yup," Sam said. He hadn't had to think about it at all.
        I stated the obvious: "There are hundreds of people in maximum security who are crazier than Michael McClelland."
        "Thousands," Sam offered.
        "Well, that could be hyperbole."
        Sam shifted his weight and scratched at the whiskers on his neck below his chin. I could tell the next words he spoke would be carefully measured. "I always thought you wanted to believe . . . he was crazy."
         Was that a question? I wasn't sure. At some level, I recognized that his words were considerate, almost kind. He was offering me some room to maneuver, a chance to rationalize what I'd done a decade before when I'd declined to offer a statement to the court about my patient, Michael McClelland. I could have launched into a self-serving, defensive lecture to Sam about ego-dystonia, character disorder, and psychotic transference, but Sam wasn't really interested. I also recognized the underlying critique inherent in his comment. I asked him, "You can say that now even though you thought what those shrinks testified was pure bullshit?"
        "Don't kid yourself. I still do. We looked at the world differently back then. The defense experts overwhelmed that idiot the prosecutors found. She was the one who sealed the deal—the prosecution shrink. Not those defense experts. Remember her? That hair?" Sam shook his head at his memory of the prosecu tion psychiatrist's unfortunate perm. "She was something else, I swear. She—that frigging psychiatrist—was even wackier than the defense experts were saying McClelland was. The state lost that one. The defense didn't win it. Me? I don't win them all. I move on. It's easier on my heart."
        "That works?"
        "I've learned a lot from you over the years, Alan, but your need to rationalize away stuff like what McClelland did? I don't get it. Not then, not now. You seemed intent on finding an explanation for him. Not only for what he did to his poor sister and those other women, but also for what he put Lauren through and what he did to that poor cop in Aspen. I'm not even talking about what he eventually tried to do to you and me that last night up there. That was combat. Just a cornered rat trying to survive.
        "But you needed to believe everything he did was really out of his control, maybe to find something you thought could be fixed with some of your smart talk. As though if that turned out to be true that it would excuse what he did. I admit how you handled him and how you chose not to even make a victim statement didn't make any sense to me then—and it doesn't make any sense to me now.
        "Even if you were right about him and you had some special insight into the guy, I never understood why it should make any frigging difference what happened in his past. But I believed you believed it. At least back then, that's what I believed."
        I waited a moment to be certain he was done.
        "What I thought was wrong. I should have found a way to make a statement. Staying silent was wrong. I was wrong."
        He raised his eyebrows. "Yeah, you were. But don't beat yourself up about it. That judge wasn't about to let you give a clinical opinion on the guy."
        "McClelland's evil, Sam. What I was thinking about him back then went way beyond the bounds of what I know about psychopathology. I'm not the same psychologist I was then. He should have been sent to the penitentiary, not the state hospital. I screwed up. I'm embarrassed by

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