Unbearable, page 1
The Case Files of Dr. Matilda Schmidt, Paranormal Psychologist
Cynthia St. Aubin
Copyright © 2014 Cynthia St. Aubin
All Rights Reserved
The book contained herein constitutes a copyrighted work and may not be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, or stored in or introduced into an information storage and retrieval system in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the copyright owner, except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Cover design by Scarlett Rugers Design
Illustration by Stephen Richards
Formatting by Bob Houston eBook Formatting
Other Matilda Schmidt, Paranormal Psychologist novellas
by Cynthia St. Aubin:
For my grandmother, Marion. I could live a thousand years and never see anything as lovely as the sun making a lantern of your smile. Of course, you hanging out the passenger’s side window of the car to give someone a double-barrel two-finger salute is a close second.
Special thanks to my husband, brave soul and plot whisperer, for putting up with my incessant talk of unicorns, cheese, and most recently, manbears.
To my friends and fellow authors: Kerrigan Byrne, Tiffinie Helmer, and Cindy Stark for showing me what was possible, then booting my ass in the general direction.
Finally, thanks to Ryan Pace, graphic artist, friend, and often, magician.
A dead woman’s words whispered into my ear.
“Matilda, is that you?”
The cell phone connection crackled and spit, as haunted as I felt by that soft, uncertain utterance.
“Mom?” I tugged threads of memory, the world around me unraveling like tapestry as I fell backward against the brick wall, spinning toward the last time I had heard that voice.
Ten years ago.
Days before she disappeared from the institution in upstate New York, driven to some unknown end by the relentless invectives in her schizophrenic mind, I had called to tell her I had been accepted into NYU Steinhardt’s Counseling and Mental Health graduate program.
She hadn’t sounded so lucid then.
The numbers had been following her again, she had mumbled over the line. Seven, creeping up behind her in the polished aluminum sheet that served as her mirror the psych ward. Fourteen, hiding under her covers when they did hourly bed checks. Was I coming to see her, she asked.
I couldn’t, I told her.
It was okay, she said. I shouldn’t worry. The numbers didn’t know. They couldn’t find me.
Nor had they been able to since I was taken from her custody at the age of twelve—a number that hung in the swarming dark some nights.
“So, Dr. Schmidt, can I trust you appreciate the sense of urgency in acquiring those keys?” The taunting male voice jarred me out of the memory, bringing me back to the phone pressed against my sweaty ear.
The blackmailer. The man who had my mother.
The thought of her in his company threatened to squeeze my stomach up through my throat. He was there with her right now. Looking at her. Casting up threats to motivate me to do his bidding.
“Listen to me,” I had pleaded. “She’s schizophrenic and needs to be under a doctor’s supervision. She could hurt herself or—”
“All the more reason for you to get me what I want. The sooner I have it, the sooner you have her.”
“Put her back on the line.” If I could steal even a minute more, I might be able to discern her mental state, evaluate her distance from the ragged edge.
“Tick tock, Dr. Schmidt.”
The line went dead, leaving the dial tone to buzz my brain like a dentist’s drill.
I would get the keys. The man on the other end of that line knew it as well as I did.
It was no longer a question of if.
Only a question of cost.
“Liam Eugene Whatshisface, are we married?”
I sat in the perfect silence of my polished wood sanctuary, the only other sound in the room the bubbling of my goldfish, Sigmund Freud’s, luxury tank. I had just finished a session with an obsessive-compulsive lawyer and had ten minutes before a leprechaun with dissociative identity disorder would be arriving with his mental posse.
The question burning through my brain.
“First, I don’t have a middle name. Second, what the fuck are you talking about?” Liam’s voice was a lot like Liam himself—dark, dangerous, and promising threats his muscled six-foot-and-then-some frame was perfectly capable of carrying out. What he lacked in brute strength could be supplemented by the Smith and Wesson 1911 he kept tucked in a holster tight to his ribs.
Standard issue equipment for a mob hit man from Las Vegas.
It had been the better part of the week since I had seen him, duty calling him back to the corpulent side of Stefano the Fathead, casino mogul and emotional overeater.
“Well, you do now. Because apparently I’m your wife and domestic disputes often begin with three-name appellations.” I tore off the pages of notes I had scribbled describing the lawyer’s pre-trial rituals and stuck them into the file my assistant, Julie, had left on my desk.
“Wives don’t get to assign middle names to their husbands for the sake of an argument.”
“So we are married?”
During the kidnapping that had served as our first meeting, I had become well acquainted with Liam’s ability to pack more words into a silence than Tolstoy packed into a novel. Then, I had been handcuffed in the front seat of his ’69 Camaro and loaded full of animal tranquilizers. In the days since, he had taken on the role of unofficial protector, and had pulled me out life-threatening and career-ending scrapes twice.
Which was the same number of times he had introduced me to the weapon he kept in his pants rather than his coat, coincidentally.
“This would be a great time for you to say something like ‘this is all a terrible mistake, Matilda.”
“So I get to call you Matilda now? What happened to Dr. Schmidt?” The amusement in his voice brought to mind visions of his disarming full-lipped grin, anchored in its usual blanket of stubble.
“You never called me Dr. Schmidt anyway. Answer the question.”
“According to the records of Clark County, Las Vegas, yes.”
If I hadn’t already been seated in the leather chair behind my desk, my knees might have given out entirely. Little dots pelted the edges of my vision. “So it’s true? What Investigator Wilson said.”
“Who the fuck is Investigator Wilson?”
“Only the man who called me earlier today and informed me that as Mrs. Whatshisface, I am jointly liable for the thirty-thousand dollar debt acquired in your name.”
A name that, admittedly, sounded about as real as our marriage. The sad remnant of Liam’s mother’s inability to track the men in her life any better than she tracked the dealers to whom she owed money.
“Investigator Wilson?” Liam’s laugh was rare and brief. “Tell me you asked for the guy’s credentials.”
“Oddly, he was far more interested in
“You seem to like it that way.” His words were as cold as the metal barrel he had pressed to my spine at our first meeting—a sure sign they held more than just an empty insult.
The skin of my cheeks prickled as blood rushed to them. “And what exactly is that supposed to mean?”
“It means you spend more time with your head buried in the sand than an ostrich with an anxiety disorder.”
“Spare me the amateur diagnoses. Anyway, how has this become a discussion about my alleged shortcomings? I want to know how the hell this happened, and I want to know now.”
Another beat of silence. “You really don’t.”
I waited through a pause the approximate length of an operatic overture.
“It was before we met.”
My mind reeled with the revelation of this new information. “Married before we had even met? How is that possible?”
“Las Vegas is a pretty marriage-friendly town. You file a few papers, mail in some copies. Bingo. Hitched.”
I scraped for what little I knew about a legal process I’d had no cause to become acquainted with during my thirty years on the planet. “What about the marriage license? I would have had to sign that.”
“You did.” He cleared his throat. “At least, the signature would hold up to the scrutiny of most court-appointed handwriting experts.”
“You forged my signature on a legally-binding document? Do you have any idea how illegal that is?” My voice was pitchy with the edge of hysteria.
“Forgery isn’t my specialty.” The statement served as a subtle reminder that his specialty required disposing of bodies on a regular basis, making my question about the illegality of forging my signature not only moot, but also ridiculous.
Of all the questions drowning my mind, only one word kicked its way to the surface. “Why?”
“Why the hell would you file the paperwork to be married to me?”
“I would prefer not to have this conversation via phone.”
“And I would prefer not to be married without my knowledge. So much for what we prefer.”
His sigh was the surrender I had both been hoping for and dreading. “There’s some information that’s easier to come by if you happen to be someone’s spouse.”
“The kind of information that’s useful when you’re trying to locate someone.”
I was pacing now, but couldn’t remember when I had risen. My stiletto heels sank into the carpet separating “The Chair” from the couch where my clients came for absolution and acceptance in equal measure. “So let me get this straight. You married me to make it easier for you to access private information about my life and thereby kidnap me?”
“That’s the basic idea, yes.”
Anger boiled up from the pit of my belly. My pencil skirt tightened around my knees as I paced faster. “And when were you planning on telling me about this?”
“I wasn’t. Usually the marriage would be annulled by now.”
“What do you mean usually? You’re saying you’ve done this before?”
“When the occasion called for it.” The juxtaposition of formality in his tone with the severity of the subject matter struck me as ironic.
I tucked a few stray chestnut hairs back into the chignon at the base of my neck and pushed the black frames of my cat-eye glasses back up my nose. The fine film of sweat spreading across my face had caused them to slip with the force of my agitated stomping. “What happened when the women found out?”
“How can you be so sure?”
“They didn’t have the chance.”
The full meaning of this statement fell onto my shoulders, crushing my body, forcing the air out of my lungs. “Oh my God. It would have been annulled by now because I was supposed to be dead.”
“But you’re not,” he insisted. “Remember how I busted into Stefano the Fathead’s office to convince him that he had the wrong woman?”
“Remember how you dragged me across country at gunpoint and injected me full of animal tranquilizers before that? Also, you had help with the busting in part, as I recall.” A petty move on my part, perhaps, bringing up the demigod who often fought Liam for my attentions.
“Don’t talk to me about that womanizing cocksucker,” Liam growled.
“You mean Crixus, I think.” Speaking his name brought him into this space with us.
Equal to Liam’s height but gifted with the broad muscles of a body bred for battle, Crixus was every inch the demigod and Roman gladiator he had first introduced himself as the night he had called to enlist my help saving the world. Hair the color of sighing fields of summer wheat, eyes a blue found in oceanic depths beyond human ken, Crixus was as formidable as he was irresistible.
He had recently been responsible for rearranging all I thought to be true by dragging a string of supernatural clients through my office door for treatment. First Cupid, then a leprechaun, and finally Adonis—who had cost me my panties along with my inhibitions.
Always, the precarious balance between our worlds encountered some kind of threat. Always, I seemed to be the only answer.
I pushed away the heavy implications of this thought and returned my attention to the conversation at hand.
“Anyway, someone who files fallacious marriage licenses to gain information about women in order to make it easier to deliver them into the hands of hired thugs might not want to throw that word that around so freely.”
“You’re right. I should have used you to do my work for me while I screwed every female in a hundred mile radius. That would have been much more honorable.”
Liam’s well-aimed barb at Crixus’s legendary libido spoke to a better knowledge of me than I would have liked to admit. Already, I had caught the demigod in the closet with my golden-haired sprite of an assistant, Julie.
And this was to say nothing of the string of other women Crixus trailed in his wake. He had offered me a spot in his retinue countless times, and save for a few heated lip-locks, I had managed to refuse, his ability to grant spontaneous orgasms notwithstanding.
“I don’t think you’re in a position to make judgments about his character, Liam.”
“And you are? You’re telling me that you’ve managed to keep your relationship with him entirely professional?”
Flashes of a night in my recent past flickered across the screen of my mind. Crixus, leaning over my bed, come to collect on the night I had promised him in exchange for looking into gold I had supposedly stolen from an Irish street gang—one in a growing line of incidents implicating me in events I had no knowledge of.
His hands pinning my wrists to the headboard. His lips finding my nipple through silk he wet with his tongue. The only thing professional about the experience had been Crixus’s expert manipulation of my body’s thrumming desire.
“Is that an attempt to discern if Crixus might have manipulated his way into my bed like you did?”
“Matilda, I didn’t—”
Cutting him off came with a savage satisfaction. “It’s my fault, really. You’ve made your motives clear from the day we met. I shouldn’t have expected anything different.”
“My motives?” His voice had taken on that steely sharpness I knew often preceded weapons being drawn or apologies begged. “Explain what might motivate me to travel half way across the country to bring you information that saved your ass from the Westies. What was in it for me, Matilda?”
I ran my hand across the desk he had bent me over while we waited for a Westie assassin to show up and add a new hole to my head. “The same thing you took when you forced your way into the shower at that sleazy motel on our way to Vegas.”
“I live in the cheap sex capital of the world, lady. If it was a piece of ass I wanted, I could
Could he keep up with such a demanding schedule? Heat flowered in my middle considering the insinuations contained in that statement. Our joinings had been hurried, abbreviated by unpleasant realities and unavoidable circumstances. What could he do with the uninterrupted hours of a long night?
An interesting question, but an unhelpful one.
“Your time is your own, Liam. Who or what you do with it is no concern of mine.”
“And what about the blackmailer? Is he still a concern of yours? Or has Crixus the Wonderfuck figured out who has your mother and how to get her back?”
He had been there that day. Had hovered over me in the hallway like some dark angel, drying my tears with threats of the numerous tortures the blackmailer would endure when Liam laid hands on him.
Crixus had chased these with several of his own. Vowing vengeance, they pulled me from my shell-shocked heap and prodded me back into the disintegrating routine of my life: clients, solo dinners in front of the fridge, sleep.
I’d lived years in the last couple of days, waiting for Crixus or Liam to turn up even a single lead that could prevent me from bowing beneath a blackmailer’s demand.
But when the phone finally rang, it had been information of an entirely different kind that spilled through.
“What kind of asinine question is that?” I spat into the phone. “Of course I’m concerned about the blackmailer. It’s eaten up every minute of every day until someone called me this morning to inform me that I’m married.”
“Look,” Liam said, “I can catch the next flight from Vegas to New York and we can talk about this in person. I could be there by tonight.”
“Stay where you are and work your sources like you promised.” If having Liam around came at the expense of a clear moral code, it also paid dividends in skills and information inaccessible to those who lived by the letter of the law.
When navigating a pit of vipers, it didn’t hurt to have a king cobra by your side.
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