"Jesus!--I'm a patient," David laughed, cutting the air in half, "I don't know. I'm just anyone. Somebody. I don't know what I am."
The doctor let out a breath. David made a motion for a cigarette, but stopped his hand at the pocket. For a moment he thought to himself in silence, perhaps about the habit to smoke at a time like this.
"It was last year," David said, nodding slowly to himself, staring at the light cut across the desk behind Dr. Barnett's armchair, "There was this guy--a job. They dropped his name on a Tuesday and it was done the next weekend. Less than two weeks," David sniffed, pausing, "But I watched him. Every day. Every day I watched him and his wife--his kids. It sounds like too little time, maybe, but you get to know them."
Dr. Barnett rolled his pen between his fingers, watching. David snapped his gaze into the doctor's. The doctor quickly looked at his pen, then back at David.
"He was--" David sighed, "He was suffocated in his sleep--stricture in the night--undiagnosed asthma--"
Dr. Barnett moved in his chair and David stopped for a moment, as if to let the doctor finish a thought he was expressing by moving.
"He loved his family," he started again, "you could tell. Men who love their families keep their secrets at home. Men who don't: they keep their secrets inside," David pointed to his chest, "or at work. Wherever. Just not at home."
"Mmm," the doctor said, nodding.
"Men who love their families keep their secrets with them," he said, "they keep all the things they love in the same place."
David looked Dr. Barnett in the eyes, his face expressionless to where the lack of emotion could be misinterpreted as anger.
"You want to know what his secret was?" he asked.
The doctor didn't reply. He only smiled, his lips slightly apart, looking at David, but through him. There was a silence like that, putting pressure into the room for too long until the windows felt like cracking.
"He had this big fucking box of porn," he laughed, "filthy--lube and shit."
The pressure lifted. Dr. Barnett laughed, smiling with his teeth. He closed his eyes slowly with a breath and opened them again, laughing by moving his shoulders.
"Jesus!--The smell coming off this thing--like you wouldn't believe," David kept laughing, "There was this crusty bottle--the whole thing was disgusting. He kept it behind a wall in the basement--next to the water heater. Jesus Christ--"
He stopped talking to rub his eyes, laughing quietly into his hands.
"Ripped out of magazines and covered in filth--It's normal, I think," he said, "But you could just imagine him looking at this box in the middle of the night, thinking to himself, 'If I went tonight, they would find this thing. Eventually, my wife or--God forbid--my kids will find this thing and that'll be the last memory they have of me. Their father and his fucking box.'"
David shook his head, still smiling to himself, watching dust settle into the carpet. When he looked up, Dr. Barnett wasn't looking back at him, but watching his pen as he rolled it between his thumb and forefinger, his shoulders dropped forward, watching his hands not just with his eyes, but with his whole neck bent. When the doctor looked up, he did it slowly--calmly.
"Is it always in the night?" Dr. Barnett asked.
David stopped, his eyes slightly wide and staring at the doctor.
"I'm sorry--" he said.
"It's okay," David smiled thinly.
David's eyes went bright and then dark again, staring at Dr. Barnett.
"It's okay," he said again, "Just ask me."
The doctor looked away and back at David, first nervous and then calm again.
"Ask you what, David?" he spoke in a monotone, too quiet.
The whole room broke in half, slowly, and David's face dragged down to where the doctor would think he was crying if it weren't for the drive in his eyes--a hint of madness.
"Ask me about Michael Curtis," he said softly.
Dr. Barnett's mouth opened as if he was already speaking, but the words rose up slowly and more slowly past the tongue and then more until they slipped out, finally, damp and unnatural.
"I don't know," he almost whispered, "who you mean."
"Ask me," he said, louder this time.
The doctor's hands tensed and he dropped his pen into his lap, his neck bent to the side as he closed his eyes and opened his mouth again.
"What about Michael Curtis, David?" he spoke.
David took a deep breath, staring at the doctor.
"What about Michael Curtis and what?" he asked, too loudly, "And what?"
Dr. Barnett shifted first, then grabbed the arms of his chair to raise himself, but David lifted a hand so fast it should have made a sound in the air and the doctor froze. He looked at David, the doctor's face barren except for a tear forming behind his glasses.
"What about Michael Curtis, David--" he started, unsteady, "What about Michael Curtis and his secret?"
The water from David's dream stood still and the two men's bodies seemed to move instead. Their bodies would have drifted from their chairs and into the walls and then through them, but David slammed his fist into the table beside the couch like a gunshot and everything froze at once. As the sound hit the doctor, his body recoiled and tears started streaming down the sides of his cheeks. He tried to speak, but couldn't, and shook his head until the words would come out.
"I have to tell the authorities," the doctor whispered, "If someone is being hurt or a crime is being committed, I have to tell the authorities. I--Please--"
David stood up. The doctor tensed and almost curled his whole body, looking away from David, who took a step toward the doctor's chair.
"Please. I could've lost my practice," he said, "I didn't have a choice."
David bent down to look closely at Dr. Barnett, who looked back in glances from the corners of his eyes and flinched before his whole body shuddered when David put his hand on the doctor's shoulder.
"They aren't the police, David. I don't know who they are. They aren't FBI or whatever else--I don't know. They told me you killed him--you killed Michael Curtis and they told me to keep doing my job," Dr. Barnett was crying, looking at David now, "and to listen and find out what you found and where you found it. I don't know anything. I don't know, David. Please."
David moved his hand to the back of the doctor's neck as pity crawled into his eyes and across his face. Again, the doctor would think he was crying if he couldn't see the drive in David's eyes.
"We aren't soldiers," David said, softly, "I'm not a soldier--I'm not a bullet."
David looked to where his hand touched the doctor's neck.
"I'm sleep," he said, "I'm your heart--your lungs--I'm the death of everyday men. Don't be scared."
David moved two of his fingers into the back of the doctor's hair.
"I come as death comes, John."
John Barnett took sharp breaths, looking in each of David's eyes at a time, back and forth. He wasn't crying anymore. His whole body shook up to his neck as he took breaths at the pace of a dying heart.
"Death doesn't have feelings," he said, breathless, "Nothing feels compassion for prey. You aren't human without compassion--without emotions."
The doctor realized he was begging again, no longer his doctor, and leaned his head into David's hand.
"You'll never be happy like this, David."
David let out a breath he'd never get back.
"They dropped your name."
The doctor closed his eyes, and like lightning David moved his hand to the doctor's mouth, leaning his body over him so that his chest pressed against the doctor's brow and bent his neck backward, as David reached his other arm to the letter opener on the desk.
John Barnett felt last the cold touch of metal against the base of his neck, a rush of pain and a moment of breathlessness and warmth as the blood filled his throat.