“Come Here, Go Away”
By Robert Haydon Jones
Staying awake isn’t easy. You can do your life awake or asleep – the number of days you have here will be exactly the same – but your takeaway will definitely be different. So, how are you going to do the days of your life—awake or asleep?
Victor Pafko says this a lot. He says it to his desperate, broken, PTSD clients; he says it to the Sixth Graders he mentors for an hour on Mondays at a school in a slum 10 miles up I-95; he says it to his grown children. And he means it – he really does.
But all too often, he suddenly wakes up and realizes he’s been sleeping.
Penny Driscoll walked up to Victor at the coffee hour after the 11am service at the Unitarian Church. She told him that she was in a world of trouble and that Elliot, the Senior Minister, had suggested Victor might be able to help her.
Victor had known Penny from a distance as a fellow congregant ever since he started going to the Unitarian twelve years back. Victor hadn’t paid much attention to Penny. She is a sort of beige woman in her early 40’s. In fact, she usually wears beige clothing.
Penny’s face is square, even-featured, thin-lipped. She wears her drab brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. She is medium height and build. She’s definitely a standard issue lady. Her only irregularities are a shrill voice that grates on Victor and a proclivity for high-heel shoes for her very big, very wide, feet. Not stilettos, but big pumps. She’s in them always – even at the church picnic – and she seems a tad odd wobbling around in her big, pastel, gunboats like a girl in grandma’s shoes in the attic.
“Oh, Victor,” Penny is saying in her shrill, nasal voice, “You’re my last hope. Elliot says that if there’s anyone in this world who can help me it’s you. He says you’re famous for helping vets with PTSD when no one else can. He says the State Police call you in to counsel victims of horrible crimes – and that you really help them.
I’m seeing a Psychiatrist, Dr. Regen, in Stamford. He says I have PTSD big time. He’s giving me meds and I’m seeing him three times a week – but it isn’t helping – I’m getting worse and worse. I’m the victim of a horrible criminal and I can’t get over it.”
Penny is a Plastic Surgeon. Ten years back, she had married the CEO of the largest HMO in the nation. They are childless – both absorbed with their careers. Penny is in charge of the money. Her problem, she tells Victor, started seven years ago, when pretty much on the spur of the moment, she decided to use a Financial Planner and CPA, name of Larry Sterling, to handle all their finances.
She had met Larry at a convention in Chicago. She liked him a lot right away. Someone told her that Larry Sterling, a big rambling dark-haired man, who looks like Johnny Cash, had been a CPA for the Ford Foundation and that was good enough for her.
She turned over all the books to him and straight away, the results were there. Larry was good. They saved big money on their taxes. What’s more, their investment accounts prospered even through the downturns that chewed everyone else up.
She and Larry never met face to face again. They did everything via, phone, fax, the Internet and FedEx.
Then suddenly she got a notice from the IRS that her returns were being audited. The notice said she hadn’t paid taxes for seven years. She tried to contact Larry but he never responded. Finally, she got through to the IRS. She faxed them her copies of the seven years of returns Larry had filed. They had no record of them.
It turns out that Larry Sterling is a scam artist who has been arrested numerous times and has done a 3-year stretch in Federal Prison. Larry had scammed her from the start. Their investment accounts were all bogus. She and her husband owed nearly two million in back taxes. The IRS had seized their vacation house and had liens on their home and all of their bank accounts.
“I know I’ll be all right in time,” Penny was saying. “My husband is very upset. But he tells me he wants to forgive me. People have been marvelous. Even the IRS collection people say they are willing to work with me.
But I’m still hurting. I can’t sleep much. I’ve been drinking way too much wine and mixing in Halcyon – and I still can’t sleep. I just get woozy.”
Suddenly, something deeply lodged in Victor stirred and then in milliseconds leaped up in him and he woke up — startled awake and surprised and rueful as always that he had been asleep.
This beige lady was displaying in full color. Green eyes flashing and glinting; cheeks mottled with bright red spots, a blush coursing up her neck to her hairline; thin lips slightly parted; teeth set in a snarl.
My God, thought Victor. She’s never been touched before. She’s been an ice-cold surgeon; a married virgin; a dry-eyed orphan. Now the scam artist has popped her wide open and she’s busting out all over.
Victor told Penny he could well understand her torment. And when he said the word, “Torment” Penny knew that Victor did understand. No one else had used that word – and that is exactly what she was going through. Relentless anguish. Torment!
Victor said that under the circumstances it was best he see her ASAP. He suggested they meet in an hour at the little cottage right on the river in back of his house that he used to see clients.
Penny came straight over in her church clothes. Victor had changed into a black under-armor T-shirt, red shorts, stamped, “USMC RECON”, and flip-flops. He looked a lot smaller than he did in his coat and tie.
The minister had told Penny that when Victor had been discharged from the Marines after a long hospitalization for his wounds, he had gone on to fight as a mercenary in Africa and Central America. The rumor was that in El Salvador he had fought first for the government and then for the rebels. Both sides had a price on his head.
The Marines had awarded him medals for valor — but twice, the Judge Advocate attempted to court-martial him for atrocities committed by the recon team he led. The charges had been dismissed. There had been a lot of killing but evidently it was justified. In any case, it is hard to connect this diminutive, blonde man to slaughter.
After the CIA rescued him from a literal torture chamber in the jungle, Victor had lived in a VA psychiatric halfway house for years. Over time he became a famed, Blue Coat, PTSD therapist. Patients trusted him.
Victor is about three or four inches smaller than Penny. He is in his mid- fifties but still fully blonde. He is sinewy; his arms rippled by muscles. There are big, ugly, puckered scars on each of his biceps. He has a pug nose and dark blue eyes with very long, silky, lashes. A jagged, ¼- inch-wide, scar meanders down his left cheek from under his ear lobe to the corner of his eye to just under his lower lip.
Victor’s cottage is set right on the riverbank. It is spacious and sun-splashed, with a curtained bathroom alcove and an ultra-modern, kitchen. The river side is almost all glass so that the rushing river permeates the room. Victor led Penny in and motioned for her to sit at an antique partner desk facing the river. He sat down opposite her.
“Oh, Victor,” Penny said, “Thank you for seeing me on such short notice on a Sunday. I’m in such distress. I want to pay you double your usual fee.”
“I don’t charge for my sessions Dr. Driscoll,” Victor replied. “I thought you knew. I’m a volunteer. I don’t need the money. Two years ago I was approved for full disability retroactive all the way back to my discharge from the Marines. I was given a huge sum tax-free.
“I work with trauma survivors and children at risk because I know I am one of only a very few that have the real world experience of both the trauma and the recovery process required to do this guidance.
“In any event you are not like most of my clients; you are a special case. You require special treatment. I think you probably already know that. So, before we proceed, we should agree on some important treatment guidelines. I want you to have full control of this treatment at all times.
The approach is simple and effective. We will use two cue words. Say the word, ‘Stop’ and treatment will immediately cease and I will never meet with you again. Say the word, ‘Freaka’ and treatment will continue and we will meet again.
“Do you understand?”
Penny Driscoll said she understood.
“Good,” Victor replied. “Let’s try it out now. Cue word?”
Penny hesitated for a beat and then said, “Freaka” and smiled.
“Perfect,” said Victor.
“Tell me, when you young were you were you attracted to Johnny Cash? Did you ever dream about being with him?”
Penny shook her head.
“No way. Johnny Cash is way too rough around the edges for me. That was true way back when and it’s true now.”
“Okay, Victor said, “I hear you loud and clear. Let’s talk about Larry Sterling and what he did to you and why you can’t sleep. What did Larry Sterling do to you?”
“Well, he’s ruined me – and my husband. I’ve told you what he’s done.”
Victor smiled amiably. “Well you have and you haven’t.” He looked at his watch. “Nearly 2:30. I am going to have to limit this treatment to one hour – the Giants game starts at 4. Do you have an hour? Shall we proceed? Cue word, please.”
“What? I have an hour. Cue word?”
“Yes, cue word. Your choice, remember?”
“So what did Larry Sterling do to you?”
“Like I said, he ruined us. He stole our money.”
“What’s another way to sum that up?”
“He scammed me?”
“What’s a more earthy way of saying that?”
“He screwed me?”
“That’s it. Larry Sterling screwed you. He screwed you on a regular basis for seven years. He screwed you six ways to Sunday. Now that he’s stopped screwing you – you can’t sleep.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yes, you do. You are very foolish to lie to me. Tell me, did you ever check Larry Sterling out? Did you call the Ford Foundation? Did you get any references?”
“No – everything was going so well — I mean everything seemed to be going really well. We were making more from our investments and paying less tax. I had the impression Larry had worked for the Ford Foundation. He was very personable.”
“Do you like getting screwed? Do you have an exciting sex life with your husband?”
“We have a normal sex life, I guess. Frankly, we aren’t together that often…my husband travels a lot – and my surgeries start at the crack of dawn. I don’t think sex has anything to do with this.”
“Oh, sex has everything to do with it. That’s the reason I’ve selected the treatment I’m about to give you.”
Victor stood up and walked over to a large mahogany seaman’s chest. He opened the lid and beckoned Penny to join him.
The chest was crammed with scores of vibrators, dildos and sex toys. Another chest stood alongside. Victor raised the lid. It was stuffed with masks, whips, handcuffs, leg irons, straight jackets and other restraints.
Victor slid open the door of a recessed closet revealing fully outfitted mannequins. On the base of each mannequin was an engraved nameplate: Nurse. Nun. French Maid. Dominatrix. Whore. Amazon.
“My God,” Penny said. “This is crazy. Victor, if this is a joke, it’s a sick one. What are you doing with all this stuff?”
Victor laughed heartily. “What I am going to be doing with all this stuff is conducting your treatment Dr. Driscoll. By the time your treatment has been completed you will have used every one of these items and worn all of these outfits.”
Penny shrank back from him. “Victor, you’re insane. I think you should be reported to the state.”
Victor reached into a chest and pulled out a purple, two-stage, dildo. He pushed on it and it began to pulse and the tip began to spin with a high-pitched hum.
In one quick motion, he whipped off his t-shirt and stepped out of his shorts. He had an enormous phallus that jutted out from between his legs. It was truly astonishing to see on such a small man.
“Stay away from me,” Penny screamed. She couldn’t believe this was happening.
Victor kept coming – holding the whirring vibrator in front of him aiming it between her legs.
“Cue word,” Victor said hoarsely.
Penny felt a surge of relief. “Stop,” she yelled. “Stop! Stop! STOP!”
Victor smiled. He lowered the vibrator to his side then suddenly reached up and grabbed Penny on the back of her neck. His fingers dug into her neck and everything turned into jelly for her. She went down backwards on a couch.
It was like she was on Versed. She was aware of everything but she was all jelly. Victor was stripping her clothes off. He was doing things to her with the vibrator.
Victor raised himself up and looked down at her. He smiled. He had a sweet smile. “Cue word,” he said, softly.
Penny knew what she wanted to say. She knew for sure. She tried to answer but
she couldn’t — she just couldn’t.
Victor smiled again. “Freaka,” he whispered.
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