“Why can’t I satisfy a man?”
“Why do you say that you can’t satisfy a man?”
“That’s what Frank always said. I was too scrawny.
lover. I couldn’t satisfy him. He called me a sexual freak. That's why I lost
“We’re not here to talk about Frank, though, are we?”
She hesitated. “No.”
“We’re here to talk about you.”
“So, what do you think?”
“Do you feel that you’re sexually inadequate?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you enjoy sex?”
“Yes. I guess so.”
“You guess? Do you or don’t you?”
She said nothing.
He placed his notepad on the small table beside the upholstered
Victorian chair. Heavy drapes were closed against the late afternoon sun that
bombarded his tenth-floor office, so the room was a muted dusky color, dim and
soothing. The furniture sank into thick maroon carpeting that softened all
Cabot had designed the layout of the room himself. It made his
patient seem isolated from the world and its problems. Here, in this quiet
place, they could speak freely. Cabot found it very effective.
“You were twenty when you got married, correct?”
“Did you have sex before you got married?”
“No. I mean yes. With Frank. Nobody else. Just Frank. I didn’t
sleep around. I wasn’t per-per-permiscus.”
He smiled but did not chuckle. In many ways she was naïve, too
trusting, but he knew he could help her. She sat on the far edge of the small
sofa that was angled away from him so she could not see his face.
An added precaution, though Cabot never let his emotions show.
was good at his job.
“How about since Frank left?”
“What do you mean?” She rubbed her knuckles across
the bangs on
“Have you had any sexual partners since Frank left?”
She didn’t answer.
“It has been five years,” he said.
“You haven’t had sex in five years?”
She bowed her head.
How sad, he thought. He knew he could help her, but why had she
waited so long before coming to him for help? She had only been seeing him for
“You’re a young attractive woman,” he said. “Enjoy
time passes by.”
“I— I can’t find— I don’t…”
She leaned forward
clasped her hands between her knees. She was wearing loose beige slacks that
rippled in the back as she leaned forward.
“Are you afraid that you’re frigid? Is that why you’re
She stared at the floor. “I’m not ready for a serious
“Five years is a long time.”
“I’m not ready.”
“Grab your youth while you can.”
“Not yet. I keep thinking of Frank.”
“Frank’s not coming back.”
“I know. But I also know that I can’t—“
“I know that I can’t find anyone like him.”
What a poor girl, he thought. Obsessed with a brutal man who
abandoned her. So obsessed that her sex life had dried up. “Is that what you’re
looking for? Someone like Frank?”
“I loved him. I would do anything for him.”
“Why?” Silently he slipped from his chair and she didn’t
“Why would you do anything for Frank?”
“Because I loved him.”
“But why? What is it about Frank that you loved?”
“I— The way—“ She hunched her shoulders
to start curling into
“Was he handsome?”
“A lot of men are handsome.” He slid onto the sofa
She was still turned away from him and didn’t seem to notice. “Is that the only
reason you loved him? Because he was handsome?”
“No.” Her head jerked up as she realized from his vice
was beside her. “Not just that.”
“Then what else?”
“I—“ She shivered, though the room was warm.
overused the air conditioning.
“Was he kind to you? Was he intelligent? Was he thoughtful?”
waited a full minute, turning to see the pale red numbers of the digital clock
across the room. He gently rested his palm on her back at the nape of her neck,
his fingertips barely rustling her black hair. “Frank, was not a kind man, was
She shook her head.
“He was crude, wasn’t he?” No response. “Cruel.
He was brutal.
He abused you. He took you from your family. He criticized you constantly.
Badgered you. Belittled you. Beat you. There was no reason in the world for you
to love him, was there?”
“But you did.”
“I don’t know.”
He knew. In her twisted mind she liked being Frank’s plaything
because it gave her security. He saw it often in the women he was able to help.
They remained trapped in abusive relationships because of the security. Or so
they thought. They feared what was out in the real world, because they never
got a chance to be out in the real world.
Cabot knew this, but she had to be the one to say it. She had to
realize that she had tolerated Frank’s abuse, even relished it, because it made
her feel important and wanted. Now that Frank was gone, she was unable to enter
into another relationship because she couldn’t find what she had with Frank.
And she feared anything else.
With his fingertips he began massaging her neck. Her muscles
were tight like steel bands. Tense. “Until you find out why you were in love
with this brutal man, until you realize that, whatever your reasons, they were
the wrong ones, you won’t be able to move on. You won’t be able to see other
She sucked in a noisy breath, and her clasped hands inched off
her lap. “Help me,” she said.
He moved his hands to her shoulders and turned her toward him.
“Did you believe everything Frank told you?”
“Everything? Absolutely everything?”
“No.” She looked down. “Not everything.”
“He said you were a lousy lover.”
“A freak. He called me a freak.”
“That’s not true. You are a very beautiful woman, Theresa.”
Her head angled even farther downward so that her eyebrows
formed a shadowed ridge over her thin nose.
“Many men would find you attractive.” He took one of
“I find you attractive.”
She looked up.
He opened her palm and pressed it to his chest.
She tensed, almost yanking her hand away, but she gazed at him,
her pupils quivering.
“I think you would make a wonderful lover.”
Her breath grew noisy.
He kissed her, slowly and with little pressure, waiting for her
to respond. Her lips quivered against his as he brought his hands up to her
face, sliding them across her cheeks. She pressed closer to him. He shifted on
the sofa, sliding down and to the side, pulling her on top of him. One hand
pressed against her blouse.
She grabbed it.
He slapped her with his other hand, a thundercrack that brought
a flare to her cheek. She froze.
“This is what you want,” he growled.
“To be controlled. To be told what to do.”
“It was what Frank did. And you stayed with him.”
“No. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
He leaned up and kissed her, harder this time. He backed away
and started ripping open her blouse. “You don’t need Frank.”
He sat in his chair and watched her get dressed. “Don’t
think that you’re inadequate, Theresa.”
She did not look at him as she put on her blouse. The top two
buttons had been ripped off. She studied the sofa for a few seconds before
shrugging and continuing to button the ones she still had.
“You are more than adequate. You are a beautiful, sensual
Look at me.”
Reluctantly she turned.
She turned slightly away and tucked her blouse into her pants.
“You don’t ever have to let a man dominate you. Ever.”
gestured toward a side door. “Check yourself in the mirror before you leave.”
She shuffled into his private bathroom.
He checked his watch. There was one more appointment for this
afternoon, but he hoped Mr. Delderfield wouldn’t show up as often happened.
Cabot was filled with a heady pride and wanted to strut and celebrate, perhaps
an expensive dinner with lots of blood-red wine. Theresa was well on her way to
recovery. There would be a few more sessions, during which he would enjoy her
body a few more times— a fitting payment, he thought— before he could declare
her ready for the world. She was on her way, conquering her sexual
frustrations, shaking the abusive obsession, and becoming a vibrant woman
And he was the one who did it for her.
It was times like these that made Cabot feel like one of the
most important people in the world. He had helped many. And he would help many
Smiling, he let out a long, contented gasp, not unlike the
shudder of sexual release that had snagged him moments ago.
The bathroom door clattered open. “Thank you, Doctor.”
He waved the back of his hand like royalty accepting plaudits.
“I see it all now,” she said. “Frank used me,
but I was afraid
to be alone, so I let him control me.”
“Very good.” He sagged back in the chair and looked
her, studying the last specks of sunlight that fought against the drapes.
“But I shouldn’t let any man use me.”
“Now you understand.” Suddenly he was tired. His hard
not come without effort. “Don’t keep searching for another Frank. Free yourself
“I’m not afraid of him any more. I’m not afraid
of any man. Or
He smiled and tilted his head back on the chair. There should be
Nobel prizes for therapists.
Colin Delderfield passed her in the doorway so Cabot had little
time to frolic in the thrill of victory. He labored through his sessions with
Delderfield, a boorish man who was convinced the entire world was against him.
When the hour was up, he ushered him out and locked up. He took a walk and
stopped at Carlotta’s on Second Street. He passed the outer bar where a flat
screen TV entertained two disinterested patrons who sipped from tall glasses.
The back room was dimmer and busier. Cabot was shown to his regular table where
he ordered a bottle of Lambrusco, a garden salad, and an entrée of filet mignon
topped with mushroom sauce. He ate slowly, savoring every morsel. After
ordering dessert, he went to the rest room in the outer bar.
Something on the television caught his attention as he was
returning. A flash of a familiar face. He stopped and moved closer to the
screen. A newswoman was saying something about a murder on Sullivan Street.
“The body,” she said, “has been identified as that of Frank Hughes of the
Ringtown section. The woman taken into custody was identified as one of his
Though Cabot didn’t move, his head seemed to stretch toward
screen, seeking more information. But the woman said no more. They moved to a
male anchor and another story. In a city of this size, a domestic squabble
ending in murder merited little more than a mention.
He took several deep breaths and trudged back to his table where
he stared at his cheesecake.
She was in custody, so he
was safe. But that poor woman. If only
she had come to him sooner, he might have been able to save her.
Robert Petyo's crime stories have
appeared in small press magazines and on the web, most recently at Mystery
Weekly, Spinetingler, Flash Bang Mysteries, and in the
anthology, A Bit of a Twist. His most recent crime novel, The Poe
Manuscript, is available as an ebook from Amazon. In the deep dark past, he
wrote three science fiction novels under three different names.
In his other life, he is recently retired from the
U.S. Postal Service and enjoys playing with his adorable grandson. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.