Friday, April 23, 2010

Heart of Darkness

I am on a true crime kick. Besides watching an obnoxious amount of shows like Law and Order and Criminal Minds, I have picked up not but a few books on serial killers. Many of them have striking similarities and one bears an uncanny resemblance to a young man I evaluated in the ER one night. I have talked to many patients who have a history of or a potential for violence, but this guy was different. I have never felt so unsettled except I couldn't pinpoint precisely why he caused me to feel this way. His macabre desires and compulsions were in their fledgling stages, preventing anyone in our profession from keeping him for more than a week or two at the most, however, I will not be surprised if I see his face one day on the news under whatever titillating moniker the press is calling him as they unearth another victim. I wonder in reading these books what the family and friends of those discovered to be serial or spree killers think. How must it be to raise a child or sleep every night in the same bed with a spouse only to one day face the heinous things they'd done. More often than not it seems the killer wants the spotlight, reveling in the glory of their own sociopathic joy, but the family is thrust into the limelight as well and in their darkest hour become social pariahs. How could you not have known? Wasn't there something which tipped you off? Why didn't you stop them? Let's face it...when it comes to our nearest and dearest, there is much we forgive or ignore for the sake of love or civility. Why should these families be any different than the rest of us? If everyone from cops to doctors to teachers interacts with these predators among us and they raise no red flags in even those trained to spot deviant behavior, what hope do their families have? I wonder sometimes if my mind wasn't playing tricks on me. Maybe that patient I saw was more benign than I remember and it is my overactive imagination filling in the gaps. Or maybe this is what should be seen at rare moments of vulnerability early in their criminal career. What few witness and even fewer appreciate. As with so much, only time will tell. I, for one, would lock my doors and don't trust anyone who comes knocking. Evil is insidious and most effective in a pretty, unassuming veneer. With that comforting thought, I wish you all pleasant dreams.

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