Certifiably Insane: A Novel

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9780684802329: Certifiably Insane: A Novel

The police found Janice Jensen bathed in blood, sitting on the floor in the lotus position, calmly munching grapes. Her husband, a cop, lay dead on the couch with four bullet holes in his head. Her infant son lay dead in his crib. Janice seemed unaware of the carnage around her. There was no question she had killed them, but was she criminally responsible - or certifiably insane? That is question forensic psychologist Simon Rose must answer. He must determine whether the real Janice is a pitiful and psychotic aging cheerleader or a shrewd and conniving evil actress. But Simon's experience and considerable expertise haven't prepared him for the likes of Janice Jensen. She shuns analysis, confounds his clinical judgment - and provokes intense and conflicting emotions. Kate Newhouse, Janice's defense attorney and Simon's best friend, suspects the problem is that Simon is attracted to Janice. Kate pleads insanity on behalf of her client, but Simon remains unconvinced. Determined to uncover the truth, he finds that he must first revisit his past and come face to face with his own demons.

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About the Author:

Arthur W. Bahr, a former Forensic Psychologist for the state of Michigan, died of a heart attack at age forty-seven while finishing this book. Aniko Bahr completed her husband's work. She lives with their son and daughter in Quito, Ecuador.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Late March is nasty and incorrigible in New York. The weather sucks, hacking up its final gobs of winter phlegm. If you're not an obsessed hoops fan it's a good time to commit suicide.

I don't do suicide anymore. It got too heavy. I'm an expert in the psychological autopsy of the suicide victim. Nothing a good cop couldn't do if he had the time to investigate every suicide as if it were a murder, which of course it is.

My private practice had become a haze of self-destruction: slicing, starving, drugging, drowning, shooting, and immolation. I was so good at putting together the puzzle after the fact that people started thinking I could save their hellbent loved ones before they did themselves in.

They were wrong. I couldn't do that, so I quit.

I gave up suicide and turned to crime -- rape and incest sometimes, but mostly murder. People killing someone other than themselves was, for me, a breath of fresh air.

What I do in late March to ward off the gloom is watch endless contests among hormonally imbalanced young men trying to put a ball in a hole. The symbolism has never been lost on me. I just ignore it.

In the early morning while the dribbling giants sleep, I sit in the window seat, my bubble on the world. There I indulge my chocolate habit with Swiss bittersweet and pour my soul out to my best friend, Tupelo Honey.

She is, strictly speaking, a dog, but Tupelo is really a cultured pearl, my shrink and my companion, and the only known surviving heir of Sara Smile, the Mother of all golden retrievers. I was into golden retrievers before they signed on to endorse the American Dream, when they were just dogs.

Tupelo is medium height, has a distinguished gait, and wears a tight-fitting body stocking covered in amber fleece. She's easy to look at.

I'm a bit more of a challenge. Tall and gangly as a kid, I grew up the same. My hair has grown unhassled since the sixties and remains mostly brown. At my temples it's growing white, a curious blend of venerable and scuzzy. My beard, the same beard I've hidden behind for over twenty-five years, has gone for the most part to salt.

One morning after a particularly rigorous triple-header, I sat in my bubble and Tupelo sat on her ratty throw rug slightly behind me, just out of sight. I don't know where she picked that one up, because I never used a couch, not even in the days when I still acted like a real shrink.

"I don't know where to start," I said to Tupelo, but it didn't matter. She got up, shook herself from head to toe, and walked to the door. Either she was bored or someone was coming and Tupelo heard it before I did, as usual.

I watched from my bubble, hoping it wouldn't be work, hoping I wouldn't suddenly have to act like a forensic consultant, hoping I wouldn't have to get up at all. Tupelo's insistent pointing told me I was sunk.

I answered the door before it asked me anything. I stepped outside and the cold drizzle sprayed my face, pebbling my granny glasses, rendering me sightless. But by then the sound was unmistakable. It was the K-mobile. It wasn't work. It was Kate.

I returned to my perch and cleared away the colorful squares of silver foil that still carried a faint aroma of chocolate. It would take some time for Kate to make it to the door, but I had learned early on that offering help was an insult to her integrity.

Kate had designed her K-mobile and supervised every facet of its production like her life depended on it, which, in part, it did. It had once been a Nissan Pathfinder, but was now much more. The driver's seat swiveled one hundred eighty degrees, coming to rest facing a platform that supported her wheelchair. She deftly swung herself into the chair and activated a remote control similar to the super model used by the average couch potato. Only Kate's didn't turn on her VCR. It opened the rear doors, turned her chair around to face the street, and gently lowered the platform. Once outside, with the same remote, she then raised the platform and locked the doors.

The chair was no ordinary model, either. She could handle it manually if she chose, or kick in her motor, borrowed, I think, from a Harley 950. If she popped it just right, she could do a wheelie.

Kate preferred to propel herself without mechanical help. She had been an accomplished wheelchair marathoner for many years and although she no longer raced, she worked out regularly and stayed in shape. It was important to her to be physically powerful.

She waved to me in the window seat and I could hear her whir up the ramp, in low, to my door. Low was best for rain.

"Are you sufficiently fed up with March yet?" she asked as she rolled in to love up Tupelo and accept a gentle lick on her cheek. She was wrapped in an elegant crimson cape with a hood that she wore against the rain.

"No," I said, "but I've missed you." I bent down and laid a bear hug on her and was squeezing the last bit of air out of her lungs when she groaned. I released her. I'm not violent, just demonstrative.

I stood looking down at her as she struggled to release herself from her cape. "Do you have time for some tea?" she asked in her small voice, the one reserved for intimates. The public only heard the big voice. Everything in its place. Kate was grounded better than anyone I knew.

"Sure, make yourself comfortable. I'll put the kettle on." Kate had given me the kettle.

She moved into the "head shop," my pet name for the consulting room, smiling at the lettering on the door as always. It stated that Simon Rose, M.D., Ph.D., Forensic Consultant, could be consulted therein. It said so on glass intentionally pebbled, a page stolen from Raymond Chandler, the most obvious manifestation of my professional ambivalence. Kate thought it was a roar.

"You still can't decide what you want to be when you grow up!" she yelled down the hall to the kitchen.

"No, but I feel I'm on the verge of a breakthrough!" I yelled back. I heard her laughing.

I served the tea on a Japanese lacquered tray that had also been a gift from Kate. One of the ways she ensured her comfort in my home was to give me everything she liked and to trust that I would have the good sense to use it. Kate was a master manipulator, essential for her profession, and I was clay in her hands. I had known her for fifteen years and had loved her for the better part of that time.

As always, Kate preferred to sit by the fire. She squared herself in front of the antique Morris chair, flipped into it, folded the wheelchair and stowed it on the floor beside her. She was a transfer expert. She could flip in and out of the chair effortlessly. She passed me her cape with a one-handed dismissal that said "Get it out of my face." I draped it over the bentwood coat rack and sat in a leather sling chair, right next to her, one of my favorite spots on the planet.

"Thanks, Simon," she said as she wrapped her chilled fingers around a cup of fresh chamomile.

In general, Kate's clothes wore her and she wore all of her forty-eight years on her face. She had on funky old wool slacks and a bulky cableknit sweater that she probably made herself.

I countered with a vintage Lovin' Spoonful T-shirt, rough-hewn cotton drawstring pants big enough for friends, and Birkenstocks. We sat in front of the fire, two relics of another time, basking in the glow.

She was lovely as always, fine features, thin angular face, and ivory skin. Her straight brown hair was cut short and simple, no nonsense. It lived behind her ears. She was vain, but not about her surface. She couldn't care less about fashion, and even in court, her playground, no one ever commented on her gray-on-gray ensembles. She even made them forget the chair.

The name Katherine Newhouse shone with the best and the brightest in a profession overpopulated by mediocrity. She was a criminal lawyer and her sp

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