The Puppeteer

What happens when your psychiatrist goes crazy?
Doctor Thomas Avenue has always been lucky in life. He has a beautiful wife and daughter and a flash sports car. But then, one morning, he finds his wife sprawled across the bathroom with empty packets of pills beside her. Desperate to keep himself busy, he returns to work - totally unaware that his new patient, a seventeen year old girl who murdered her twin, will bring back his haunting memories. The ones he tried so hard to forget.


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2. Chapter One

This was going to be a lot harder than he had thought.

            The door was shut and the new packet of pop tarts was still in the cupboard. Unopened. It was half nine on a Sunday morning and some documentary on the Arctic was not blaring away on the living room TV. Something was wrong. Deadly wrong.

            Thom had been standing outside of Erin's door for the better part of ten minutes and he was still none the wiser of what to say as he was ten minutes ago. He almost laughed at how ironic this was: he had been a psychiatrist for the past eight years, he was paid to talk to people and help them to sort out their problems yet when it came to his own nine year old daughter, he had absolutely no idea how to approach the situation.

            “It's either now or never,” Thom murmured, shaking off the temptation of picking the easier option. He could go out and buy her a McDonald's breakfast, maybe a McFlurry too. He could give in and buy her a mobile phone, that pink one with flowers along the edge. Then he would speak to her. But he couldn't. Eight years of studying the human mind had taught him this.

            Before he could talk himself out of it, he rapped on the door three times. No answer. He leaned his head against the door.

            “Erin? Can I come in, Sweetheart?”

             No answer.

            He sighed in exasperation, “Erin, will you let me in?”

            Still no answer.

            “Katherine Avenue, if you don't let me in then I'm just going to have to barge in!”

            From the other side of the door, Thom could hear a huffing sound and then something being dragged along the carpet. Then the door swung open and Thom was greeted by a very furious looking nine year old girl. Erin wore a pink nightdress with 'Little Princess' printed onto it.

            Thom's mood softened and he had to bite the inside of his lip to stop the smile from spilling across his face.

            “Can I come in?” He asked and despite his efforts, the smile he had tried to conceal, revealed itself.

            Erin sighed, rolled her brown eyes and shook her head, causing the blonde curls to bounce. “I don't think that I've got much choice. So, whatever.”

            Thom stood dumbfounded for a moment, thinking: where in the hell had she learned this?

 before Erin moved away from the door and, without verbally doing so, let him in.

            Erin's bedroom didn't follow the regulations on how to decorate a typical nine year old girl's bedroom but it suited Erin just fine. Although the walls were painted candy pink, they were plastered with sheet music and enlarged prints of her favourite artwork rather than posters of squeaky clean Disney actors showing off their pearlies.

            Erin stomped over to her white desk and pulled out a book from underneath the sea of sketchbooks and assorted colourful pens and pencils. She then fell into a bean bag and opened Jane Eyre.  She'd never read it, she was far too young to understand it, but she carried it around with her at school to make her appear more intelligent than George Bell, the teacher's pet. Thom watched his daughter bury her head in the book, flicking the pages way too fast for her reading experience to be genuine. He cautiously walked across the carpet, as if it were a lake of ice, cracking with every step he took. When he was a couple of feet away from her, he took a deep breath. He was about to step into dangerous territory.

            “Erin?”

            His reply was the sound of a page turning.

            “Erin.”

            Another page turning.

            Before he could register what he was about to do, Thom snatched the book from his daughter's hands. “Erin Katherine Avenue, you will look at me when I am speaking to you, you selfish, ungrateful brat!”

            Erin got to her feet and her face twisted. Her eyes turned to slits. “Go on,” she said, prodding at her cheek. “I'll let you slap it this time.”

            Thom felt his temper crumble.

            “Erin... I -”

            “Don't bother with the apologies, Dad,” Thom felt as if he had been punched in the stomach as his daughter turned away from him. She took a deep breath and lowered her voice, “I know that drinking poison can turn you into a hateful person; turns you into someone who isn't you.”

            “Erin, I didn't mean -”

            Erin turned around and forced a very small smile. “It's okay, Dad. I know that wasn't you. You wouldn't hurt me.”

            Thom felt sick. He wanted a glass of the finest scotch, he wanted to be sent delirious as its amber contents soothed his throat, he... No. He couldn't.

            “I had no right, Erin. I was stupid. I had given it all up months ago but I surrendered last night because it would have been your -” But he couldn't bring himself to say it: your mother's birthday. It was as if he was chewing on tar. He shook his head. “Anyway, that's not even an excuse. 'Sorry' doesn't come close. But here it is anyway: I'm sorry for being a -”

            “Jerk?” Erin intercepted.

            “That wasn't my exact choice of word but, hey, it still works,” Thom took another deep breath and shook his head, slowly breathing out. “I know that I couldn't possibly make it up to you but -”

            That caught Erin's attention. “You could.”

            “What?”

            “You could make it up to me.”

            Thom smiled, sadness in his eyes. “How?”

             Erin blinked her eyes quickly. “A mobile phone? The pink one that slides up and has flowers around the edge?”

            “No, not that.”

            Erin pouted slightly. “Okay, how about one that doesn't slide up and has a crappy camera?”

            Thom raised an eyebrow and his voice remained firm. “You're not having a mobile, and that is that. Oh and don't say 'crappy'?”

            Erin pouted and crossed her arms across her chest. “Why?”

            “You're too young.”

            “What? To have a mobile or to say 'crappy'?”

            “Both,” Thom said firmly, but then he smiled. “Now get dressed: we're going into town because I need a new laptop. Maybe I'll treat you to a McDonald's breakfast - if you're good.”

            Erin was still frowning and had to try hard to stop herself from smiling. “I don't want to go shopping and you're just trying to bribe me.”

            Thom's smile deepened. “Well, it works.”

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