Stephen Cannell

Three shirt deal

Chapter 1

'How do you feel about that?' Dr. Lusk asked.

'I don't feel much of anything about it,' I answered, dodging the question.

'Detective Scully, I won't be able to help you if you keep putting up barriers, shielding me from your feelings and emotions.'

'It's her car, okay? What happens to it is kinda her business, not mine. I was just saying it seemed odd.'

'So you booked an appointment through the psychiatric support group and drove all the way over here from Parker Center on your lunch hour, but you don't have any feelings about the accident? It just seems odd to you and that's it?'

'I'm concerned, okay?'

'Concern is an intellectual response. Your wife crashes her car, doesn't tell you about it, drains your bank account to get it fixed on the sly instead of putting it through the insurance, then rents a duplicate car to hide it from you. But despite all this, you have no anger, no sense of frustration or betrayal. You have concern.'


I was thirty minutes into the forty-minute 'hour.' Dr. Eric

Lusk leaned back in a beige, leather wing chair, peering over tiny half-glasses, his huge Buddha belly, and ten feet of tan Berber. I was in a matching chair opposite him, trapped in a colorless cocoon, trying to affect nonchalance. My body wouldn't cooperate. Angst smoldered. Telltale emotional exhaust leaked out of me. I crossed my legs, and then uncrossed them while nondescript music oozed from ceiling speakers at subhuman volume.

'Let's talk about the meds you found yesterday.'

'I found them in her purse. She'd peeled the label off the bottle so I wouldn't know the doctor or what they were for. I had the police lab identify them. The results came back this morning. Carbamazepine and Sodium valproate.'

'Do you know what those are commonly prescribed for?'

'According to the lab, they're for seizures.'

He nodded. 'Has your wife been having seizures?'

'I don't know. I haven't seen one, but if Alexa was taking this stuff, maybe. She stopped driving her car last week. She gets picked up and brought home by a department driver now. I was hoping she'd tell me on her own what's going on. So far she hasn't.'

'Your wife was abducted last July and suffered a gunshot wound to the head resulting in a severe traumatic brain injury. That was less than eleven months ago. TBI seizures often crop up months afterward and can continue for years. And you say she's already back at work?'

'She had a lot of stuff pending. It's a big job. She supervises two hundred people.'

'Chief of the Detective's Bureau at the LAPD.'


'Pretty high stress.'


'Who, if I might ask, approved her to return to duty?'

'Alexa went through a battery of physical and psychiatric tests at the Police Academy a month ago. She went to the union.

They took up her case and she requalified and was marked fit for duty.'

'But you don't think she is.'

I wasn't about to answer that one.

We sat back and looked at each other. Dr. Lusk slouched in the heavy chair, his huge gut pushing up on his diaphragm, causing him difficulty breathing. His slick complexion shone white as a fish belly. I wondered why I booked this damn appointment and drove all the way over here.

'I'm not a neurologist, Detective Scully, I'm a psychologist. But I have studied the brain. According to what you told me, your wife Alexa's TBI affected the frontal and temporal lobes. We generally associate behavioral disorders with injuries to the frontal lobe. That's the emotional and personality control center. Damage in that area can diminish judgment. It can also cause trouble with concentration and thought organization. Sometimes it leads to an array of more serious behavioral problems such as inappropriate statements, or impulsive or inappropriate actions: social as well as sexual.'

'I see.'

'Do you?'

'I'm living with her. Kinda hard to miss stuff like that.' Now he was pissing me off.

'So what specific kinds of changes have you witnessed?'

'She used to be organized. Careful and specific. Now she's all over the place. It's causing her problems at the department. She's never been wild or unpredictable before. She knows the ropes and plays by the rules. Alexa is brave and has risked her life in the field many times, but as far as department politics, she's always been a team player. Now she doesn't seem to have any early alert warning system. She just does stuff on impulse without regard to consequence. It's getting her into a pile of trouble with Chief Filosiani.'

He nodded and then, without warning, asked, 'Has your sex life been affected in any way?'

That was a big one. We'd only made love two or three times since she came home from the hospital six months ago. At first I'd thought it was just her headaches and the after-effects of her injury. But now it had become a pattern. We used to make love regularly, but now almost never. I didn't say any of this, afraid to answer. Afraid of what he might tell me. Awkward silence filled the space between us.

'Why did you make this appointment if you won't discuss any of this with me?' he said.

'I think this was a mistake.' I looked at my watch and saw him smile slightly, as if my little peek down at the dial was a confirmation of some secret diagnosis he'd already put on me.

'From the little you've said I can't help you much. Maybe your wife shouldn't have gone back on the job so soon. If you could get her to stay home, it might lower her stress level and her symptoms might subside. People with brain injuries are often in a race to get back to normality. They want their old life back. They want it to be the way it was before the injury. By putting everything back the way it was, they think they can accomplish this. They can't.'

'I see.'

'No, you don't. But that's okay.'

'Whatta you mean I don't? Where do you get off saying that?'

'Detective Scully, you don't want to be here. I've seen guys in the electric chair look more relaxed. The very thought that your wife is having seizures, crashing the car, and whatever else, is abhorrent to you. It threatens your existence. You don't want to focus on it.'

'Then why am I here?'

'Because it's become unbearable. Your wife has changed. She's become reckless and unpredictable. That behavior was previously reserved for you. Now you're experiencing a major role-reversal in your marriage. It's suddenly become your job to contain her mistakes instead of vice versa. You don't like it. It's limiting the way you behave, impinging on your own sense of self.'

'You got all that in just thirty-five minutes? Not bad.' Trying to back him off, because he'd pretty much just nailed it.

'You know that you both need help. She won't come in and talk to me, so you did. You're looking for a quick fix, but I can't possibly treat your wife through you.'

'I see.'

'You keep saying that. Pardon my bluntness, but you don't see. You don't want to. At least not yet. You're in

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