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Alienation of Affection

About the 1st Novel

PenSet in 2005 in North Carolina, in the historical city of New Bern, the island of Ocracoke, and the college town of Chapel Hill, Dr. Calder Miro uses all his clinical and forensic skills, along with the aid of his shadowy cyber guru, Tekatak, to assist Detective Kenilworth Brown, or Worth as he is called, in probing the psychological motives of a highly disturbed, but clever murderer. This novel—the first in a series of contemporary murder mysteries—takes the reader through a chilling account of Calder's and Worth’s journey into the heart of a high conflict custody case of alienation and insanity.

These fictional stories draw from Dr. Kirkpatrick's knowledge and experience as a board certified forensic psychologist who has evaluated hundreds of cases in both the civil and criminal areas of law. He often testifies as an expert witness. He is a native North Carolinian and was educated at Harvard College, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Saybrook University in San Francisco, and the California School of Professional Psychology at Berkeley. He has been practicing forensic psychology since 1983.


Chapter 1
Tell Me about Your Daddy

September 2005

Just need a little brain salad surgery.
Got to cure my insecurity.
Dr. John & the Nighttrippers
—“Right Place, Wrong Time”

Emma fluffed her hair and checked her look in the mirror one more time. Her friend Bill always told her she had more dangerous curves than a James Bond car chase. She adjusted her Versace sunglasses and stepped out of her room into the motel breezeway, hauling her small cooler and beach bag to her favorite chair by the pool. The strap of the beach bag was pulling her bikini top down on that side, exposing more skin than she generally showed. Emma smiled. She was aware of the problem and the attention she was getting from the young men around the pool. Until she reached her recliner, she made no effort to modify her breast’s exposure. Let them look. Emma covered the chair with her beach towel and adjusted the back rest. She slipped off her sandals and lay back. Comfy. She was deliberate in how she applied the oil to her tanned body and could feel the eyes of several men run up and down her torso. Oh, how they’d like to touch her. Emma wiped the oil off her hands and pulled her pen, journal, lighter, and cigs from her bag. She lit a Camel and popped a Coors.

Emma’s new therapist insisted they approach her mental condition with an open mind. Emma liked Dr. Cooper’s metaphor of being on an archeological dig into the realms of her soul. As she dug around in her childhood, Emma kept a detailed journal of what she could recall. Much of it had to do with her sexual victimization and her so-called repressed memories. The journaling she was doing as part of her new therapy with Dr. Cooper was useful and excruciating, to say the least. The analytical psychotherapy was bringing a painful clarity to the family table.

After a few moments, she opened her journal to her recent excavations and drummed the top of her pen on the page as she focused her mind. She had written these notes a few days before, recalling her first round of therapy with her former therapist that began when she was five years old. There was nothing repressed about these memories. She remembered that first appointment very well.

Dr. Hughes had taken Emma back to the therapy room. It was filled with lots of stimulating and exciting objects. A dollhouse, crayons, muppets, dolls, paper, scissors, markers, cars and trucks. Too bad she’s got boy stuff, Emma thought to herself. Who’d want to play with a stupid tank!

Dr. Hughes had sat on the floor with Emma. She had sat with her back to the door. She didn’t tell Emma there was a video camera above the door, in the corner. One of those cheap kinds, like they have in convenience stores. Black and white. Dr. Hughes had given Emma some paper and a box of crayons. Emma had wondered what she was supposed to do with them. Dr. Hughes had begun by asking about her momma and daddy. Did Emma know what divorced meant? Emma remembered thinking about this a minute. She’d been watching and listening to her parents. She’d heard that word. Divorce meant her parents were mad at each other and that she and her sister had two houses. She didn’t like having two houses. She remembered how much she had hated how angry her momma and daddy got.

Dr. Hughes had asked Emma to draw a picture of her house. She recalled thinking she wasn’t sure if she liked this lady because she should know she had two houses. So, Emma had drawn a house that she’d like to live in, one she’d seen on television. It had a pool and a tree house. Emma had drawn this house in great detail. She hadn’t talked, but had been very active in her drawing. Emma recalled Dr. Hughes making lots of notes on a pad. As Emma had drawn, Dr. Hughes had asked her whose house that was. Emma couldn’t remember the name of the family that owned the house. Dr. Hughes had then asked her, “Who lives there?” Emma remembered thinking, and then had said, “All of us.” This had seemed like a very satisfactory answer. That was what she had wished for. She had wanted her, her momma and daddy and her sister to live there. It was a nice house and the family could have been happy there. Probably less angry. Dr. Hughes had then asked, “Who’s all of us?” Emma had thought she ought to know. Emma had said, “Me, Momma, Daddy, and my sister.” Dr. Hughes had looked at the drawing. She apparently had noticed that Emma drew her daddy last. She also had noticed that Emma had drawn her daddy with black legs.

Emma looked up from her reverie and surveyed the pool. One of her not-so-subtle admirers was attempting attention-grabbing flips from the diving board. She took a couple of swigs from her beer and went back to her journal. She made a note in the margin about her daddy’s black legs. She closed her eyes and recalled Dr. Hughes’ voice.

“Tell me about your daddy, Emma. Has he ever done something to you that you didn’t like?” Emma had thought about this. She had nodded her head. She didn’t like it when her daddy made her brush her teeth. She especially didn’t like it when her daddy made her sit in the child seat, because that was for kids. These were the things Emma was thinking about that she didn’t like. Then Dr. Hughes had asked, “Tell me what your daddy did that you didn’t like, Emma. Did he ever touch you in a way that you didn’t like?” Emma recalled that she had thought about the time her daddy popped her on the bottom for darting across the parking lot at the mall. He had been really mad. She had nodded. “Tell me what he did, Emma.”

Funny how years later she could still recall the panic that had set in when Dr. Hughes had asked her that question. She took another sip of her beer.

She remembered thinking that she didn’t want to get her daddy in trouble and she didn’t want him to be mad at her. He’ll be mad if I say, she had told Dr. Hughes. Emma remembered very clearly her doctor’s response. “Don’t worry, Emma,” Dr. Hughes had said. “I can protect you. I am very good at protecting children. That’s what I do.” Dr. Hughes had then asked, “Is what happened supposed to be a secret?” Emma remembered Dr. Hughes staring at her, watching her.

Emma recalled that she had gotten fidgety. She had decided she’d clam up. That’s what she’d heard somebody say when you want to be quiet. Clam up. She knew then how hard it was to open a clam. She’d seen her cousin try once at the beach. Emma remembered her decision back then. It had been time to clam up. Emma remembered she’d begun scribbling on the paper. Dr. Hughes had then asked, “Is it hard to talk about this?” Emma had become a clam. Nobody can open me. Emma recalled her defiance. Dr. Hughes had then said, “You can tell me your secret. It’ll be safe. I’ll protect you.” Be quiet, Emma had said to herself. She had had a bad feeling about all this.

Emma looked up and watched the guy on the diving board through the darkness of her sunglasses. Surfer jams. Kinda cute, she thought. She snickered to herself and wrote “half-baked” in the margin next to the clam memory. She adjusted the towel in her lounge chair and envisioned Dr. Hughes making her own notes. Emma’s imagination defined what they were. Her recent research and her new therapy with Dr. Cooper were giving her a good idea of what Dr. Hughes had been thinking.

Dr. Hughes probably wrote some more things down. “Sexual secret? Dissociative process? Trauma symptoms? Need more history.”

Emma remembered that Dr. Hughes had said, “That’s probably enough for today, Emma. You’ve been terrific. You’re very brave. It takes a lot of courage to do what you’re doing. Here’s a lollypop for being such a brave girl. Now, I’m gonna spend a few minutes with your mother, will that be all right?” Emma the Clam hadn’t said anything. Dr. Hughes had interpreted her silence as consent. “OK, then,” Dr. Hughes had said. “Let’s go to the waiting room and find your momma. I’ll see you next week. Thanks for sharing.” Emma imagined that Dr. Hughes had discreetly pushed the remote control button and paused the camera she had been using. She remembered Dr. Hughes had said how proud she was of Emma. Emma opened a second beer.

She recalled that Dr. Hughes had led her into the waiting room where her momma, Ruth McPherson, sat with Emma’s sister, Starr, on her lap. Dr. Hughes had said to her momma she had an inclination to see Starr next, but she wanted to speak briefly with their mother, whom Dr. Hughes knew was quite anxious. Emma recalled that the waiting room, too, had been kid-friendly, so Starr and she had played over in the corner quietly while the two adults had stepped into the hallway and talked. Even though they had been in the hallway, they had left the door open, and Emma had overheard every word.

“So, did she say anything?” her momma had wanted to know. Dr. Hughes then recounted what Emma had said, and what she had observed--what had later come to be known as her disclosure. “It was subtle, and contained more in what she didn’t say than what she said,” Dr. Hughes had stated. “She wasn’t very verbal, which probably means she’s scared and feeling conflicted. There’s something there, though. A secret I think.”

“Do you have to report it?” her momma had asked excitedly.

“No, not at this point,” Dr. Hughes had said.

Emma recalled that Dr. Hughes then had said something about North Carolina law, but Emma wasn’t sure if she had heard that back then or had this memory because she now knew the child abuse reporting law. It didn’t matter, Emma thought.

She remembered Dr Hughes had said to her momma, the law says I have to if I suspect abuse has occurred, I have to report it. At this point, I have an impression, more of an intuitive hunch, well, more of a clinical hunch. Emma’s drawings are interesting. Let me show you. See how her daddy’s legs are black? This is possibly significant. She drew him last, I think, because of his lack of importance. It was clear when I began some questions about touching, she became very withdrawn, as if she couldn’t bear to process the emotions. I’ll need to see her again—and soon I should think. This session was hard for her. She’s a brave little girl, your daughter, and you were right to bring her in. There’s something there. I can feel it.”

“Did you get it on tape?” Momma had asked. What tape? Emma recalled wondering. Emma had known about tape, especially the kind for wrapping presents. She hadn’t seen any tape. “Oh yes,” Dr. Hughes had said. “I haven’t looked at it yet, but I think I got a good forensic record. If he’s done something, we’ll get to it. It just takes a little careful probing, but she’s begun the disclosure. The secret’s just below the surface. It’ll come.”

“Thank you so much,” Momma had said.

Emma remembered the lilt in her momma’s voice.

She remembered Dr. Hughes had then said, “You are very welcome. You can schedule a time for Starr and another appointment for Emma with my secretary. She’ll take your check, too. It was a pleasure meeting you. I appreciate your confidence in me.”

Emma could imagine the two women shaking hands. They had bonded. It was going to be a good team. Emma had a clear image of her momma and her momma’s thoughts. Ms. McPherson had smiled. “Yes,” Momma had probably thought to herself! “I needed a trump card. I knew he was perverted. Well, let’s see his fancy lawyer deal with this. My poor babies.”

Emma recalled not understanding why her momma sounded so happy. Her momma had been unhappy and crying for weeks. She remembered her momma had said, “Have a nice day, Dr. Hughes.” “You, too, Ms. McPherson,” the doctor had said. “My secretary’s name is Sally.” Dr. Hughes had smiled too.

Emma made some more notes, clicked her pen, closed her journal, and pulled on the beer. It was time, she thought. Time to get busy.

bass guitar