Molly had loved her life. Money almost seemed to seek out and find them. Friends envied their high-rise apartment. The future looked as bright as the sun on a clear day. Then Mark had become paranoid and abusive. It was only a matter of time before he killed her. She pulled the trigger.

The man on the bed barely moved. He just went from sleeping to dead.

Molly needed a few seconds to gather herself. After all, it wasn’t every day that she murdered her husband. Once the nerves settled to a manageable level, she would place the gun next to him and scream. Then she would run out of the apartment crying that her husband had shot himself.

A second before she was going to place the gun, she heard someone clear their throat and turned to see a man in the open doorway. Doctor Phillips, a balding shrink who lived down the hall, looked at her dead husband and grinned. How could he make such an expression right now? Why had she had not heard him come in? Had the ringing in her ears from the gun blast been that loud?

Doctor Phillips surprised her further. "I’m going to help you, Molly."


"Just stand there, and I’ll take care of everything."

Footsteps clambered from the hall, bringing panic that nearly paralyzed her mind. Helplessness ruled her while someone ran through her apartment into her room.

Joe Ramsey, a tax lawyer, who also lived on their floor, looked at Doctor Phillips. "I heard a gunshot." He looked at the corpse, looked at Molly, and said, "Oh."

Joe, a strong-spirited man, would no doubt take action. Doctor Phillips spoke before he could.

"Not to worry, number seven. You remember seeing that masked man run down the hall, holding the very gun Molly is holding right now? He was of average height, but burly."

Joe stared at the doctor and kind of winced, like he thought a mad man stood before him. Then his countenance changed, as if he had just figured something out.

"Yeah," Joe said. "I remember that."

"Well," said the doctor. "He’s long gone now. Why don’t you go back to your apartment and wait for the police to arrive."

Joe hesitated, then said, "Yeah, that’s a good idea." He walked out, shaking his head.

The doctor’s smile gave Molly a sense of relief mixed with apprehensive confusion. "He’ll come around even more once the suggestions have had time to set in."

Seconds later, a woman came into the room. Felicity Bower, a surgeon who lived two doors down, gasped at the sight of Mark.

"Yes, number five," said Doctor Phillips. "You remember when you were walking through the parking garage last week and witnessed Mark being accosted by a man who threatened to kill him? You didn’t get a good look at the man’s face, but you noted that he was of average height and burly."

Felicity reacted in about the same way as Joe, except she took a little longer to come around to the realization. "Yes, I remember. That must be who shot Mark."

The doctor looked as if in thought. "It seems likely."

Other people came in and talked with Doctor Phillips. It was the same every time. The doctor would call them a number and then mention a memory kind of like it was a question. The person would always come around.

Doctor Phillips and Molly finally went to his apartment and waited.

"The police will be here soon," Doctor Phillips said. "I trust you’ve got the story down by now."

She nodded. The fearful parts of her mind couldn’t compete with a sense of relief. The abuse was finished, and it looked as if she would be consequence free.

"Thank you," she said.

Doctor Phillips smirked. "No. Thank you, my dear."

His words caught her off guard. Why he would thank her? She waited for elaboration that didn’t come. The doctor just went to a liquor cabinet and poured himself a drink.

"What do you mean?" she finally asked.

He stirred the beverage in his hand. "Your husband was a peaceful man. Never once hurt a soul, but he did make the mistake of confiding too much in the friendly shrink down the hall."

Doctor Phillips had called Mark a peaceful man, but Molly remembered otherwise. She whispered, "He hurt me."

Doctor Phillips chuckled. "No, he loved you very much. He told me about six months ago that he had taken out a huge life insurance policy, for which you are the sole benefactor. Of course, that would have been negated in the event of you being convicted of murder, or in the case of you successfully making it look like a suicide."

Thoughts seemed to move too fast. Tears formed and fell down her face. He was lying. He had to be. Mark hadn’t taken out life insurance. "No. He’d gone mad. He’d hit me. I killed him to protect myself."

The doctor laughed. "Did he hit you, or is that just what you remember?"

Molly tried to stop her spinning thoughts to focus. Had she missed something? She’d witnessed what Doctor Phillips could do, but at the same time, her memories were vivid and clear.

The doctor looked hard at her. "He told you about the policy, you know. It’s just that I helped you forget." He grinned. "Now you’ll receive that money and all else Mark has earned. You’ll fall in love with me, and we’ll get married. Then you’ll become depressed and commit suicide in a very public manner, but not before leaving all you have to me."

The memory of dropping the gun to the floor entered her mind. Could she get to it now? The doctor spoke before she could make her move.

"Enough of this sadistic baiting. You should be ready when the police get here. Isn’t that right, hypnosis subject number one. You remember . . ."

Copyright: © 2010 Joshua Scribner


Joshua Scribner is the author of the novels Mantis Nights, The Coma Lights and Nescata. His fiction won both second and fifth place in the 2008 Whispering Spirits Flash Fiction contest. Up to date information on his work can be found at Joshua currently lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.


  1. And there's an argument for not talking to your neighbours. Nicely executed story.

  2. Very cool. That guy certainly has some power...