The Sebastian Files Ch. 05

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“‘Dr. Albert Wilson, Family Therapist.’ That seems a bit cheeky.”

Laura had met Karl at the subway station near the East Village. It was a breezy and chilly late morning but they both felt like walking after the previous days of driving. Laura had called Dr. Wilson earlier to set up an interview—he seemed eager and friendly on the phone, mentioning Sebastian several times in an admiring tone. They found the sign to his office by the doorway of a shabby building next to a shoe shop.

“Maybe that’s what he is,” Laura said after hitting the buzzer.

“Families need therapy for a lot of reasons, but I’m thinking he’s concentrating on only one.”

Wilson met them in the hallway on the second floor. He was younger than she expected, mid-thirties maybe, with a rumpled suit and untamed hair. He led them through a doorway and a tiny reception area, then into a surprisingly large and seriously messy office.

“I’m so glad you came,” Wilson said. “I’ve been thinking about Dr. Sebastian a great deal lately, and then he called me the other day, and we had a nice long talk. Maybe things are turning around for him. You haven’t met him, have you?”

“No, I only spoke to him on the phone,” Laura said.

“How did he sound? Did he seem stressed? He seemed a little stressed to me.”

“Possibly,” she said. “I hardly know him, but I think he’s been having a tough time.”

“He has, he has,” Wilson said. “It’s not what he deserves. Dr. Miller, thank you for coming too. Are you familiar with Dr. Sebastian’s work?”

“I’ve read his book,” Karl said. “And I’m learning even more about him as we talk to people.”

Laura said. “How long have you known Dr. Sebastian?”

“We met four years ago,” Wilson said. “We worked together for almost a year.”

“So you helped with his research?”

“We helped each other. Didn’t Dr. Sebastian go over this with you?”

“No, he told me nothing.”

“Interesting. Well, this was during his time at the Incest Institute. He…”

“The Incest Institute?” Laura said, interrupting him.

“Yes,” Wilson said.

“The Incest Institute,” she said again. She turned to Karl. “Have you heard of this before?”

Karl put his hands up. “This is the first I’ve heard of it.”

“It’s a privately funded research group,” Wilson said. “Because of the nature of our research we have to maintain a low profile, so we’re not very well known, but…”

“And you call yourselves the Incest Institute?” Laura said.

“Yes. Why?”

Because it’s a terrible name, she almost said. “Sorry,” she said instead, “I’m just surprised that this hasn’t been mentioned before, with all the controversy surrounding Dr. Sebastian’s book.”

“We’ve been very careful to keep out of the public eye. Under normal circumstances, something like this, an interview with a reporter, would be out of the question, but Dr. Sebastian seems to trust you a great deal, and after conferring with my colleagues we’ve decided to open our doors slightly. To be honest, we have a book nearly ready to be published, so we thought some advanced publicity might be a good thing.”

“You’re publishing a book so soon after Dr. Sebastian’s book?” Laura said.

“It’s pure coincidence, we’ve been working on the book for some time. No doubt there will be even more books published after ours. Once again Dr. Sebastian is leading the way in our field, no surprise there.”

“What can you tell us about the Incest Institute?” she said.

“Our goal is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of adult consensual incest. We are focusing on four grades of incest: successful incestuous relationships; partially successful relationships, in which the act is consummated but the relationship becomes unstable or damaged; unsuccessful attempts at incest; and pre-incestuous family relationships, which is my field of study within the Institute.”

Laura was silent ataşehir escort bayan for some moments as she wrote in her notebook—it was a bit much to take in all at once, and she was hoping that Karl would chime in with some questions. She didn’t have to wait long.

Karl said, “Who runs this Institute?”

“I’m afraid I can’t reveal that at this time,” Wilson said.

“How long has it existed?”

“I believe it officially formed in 1973 as a rather small organization, but its origins date back even further, as an informal community of like-minded psychologists. And then about twenty years ago it expanded and modernized, and it grew into what it is today, the headquarters for the research and analysis of consensual incest.”

“The secret headquarters,” Karl said.

“Well, yes,” Wilson said. “There is a need for discretion, of course.”

“How do you find cases for your research?”

“We have connections with various therapists. They send us patients if their experiences falls within our fields of study. And only if they agree to be interviewed, of course—it’s strictly voluntary, and completely confidential.”

“Do you have trouble finding people to interview?” Karl said.

“Not at all. I think you’d be surprised at how many are willing to describe their experiences. Actually, since we’re on the subject, I wanted to ask—could I possibly interview you two?”

“Say what?” Laura said.

“Just a few questions,” Wilson said. “You don’t have to, but I would appreciate it so much.”

She said, “But we’re not…”

“No, of course not. But I was thinking, you’ve been heavily exposed to the subject of incest recently and I wonder what effect it has had. You can see how unusual this is, it’s hard for me to resist.”

Laura had deep misgivings about answering any of his questions, but she also had the feeling that it would grease the wheels and get him to open up about Sebastian. She was still debating with herself when Karl said, “I’ll do it.”

“Really?” she said.

He shrugged. “Yeah, why not. I’m curious about his questions. I assume we will be interviewed separately?”

“Absolutely,” Wilson said. “It would be unproductive otherwise, not to mention unbearably awkward. Ms. Miller, if you could wait in the reception area—I’m afraid neither of the two chairs are very comfortable but you shouldn’t have to wait long. And this will give you some time to decide if I can ask you some questions too. No pressure, of course.”

Laura looked at Karl, who gave her a confident nod, as if it was no big deal. “All right,” she said, standing up. “I’ll be right outside.” She walked to the door. “So you can talk about… whatever.”

She shut the door behind her and slumped into a chair. She was going to have to be interviewed, wasn’t she? She didn’t see a way around it—answering his questions would establish her willingness to cooperate and get her closer to Sebastian. One more gate to pass. One more strange interview for this strange story.

But then, what was she worried about? She didn’t have anything to hide. What kind of questions would Wilson ask anyway—like, has she developed any feelings for her brother? Was she curious what about could happen? No, and no. Easy. Ridiculously easy.

So what was Karl saying in there? Knowing him, he was probably cracking jokes. Did she hear laughing in there? Maybe not. But still, they were probably having a grand old time, talking about whatever it is that psychologists talk about when they get together.

Or maybe… what if the topic of discussion of the past few days had seeped into his brain? What was going on in his head? What kind of ideas was he entertaining? And did he want to talk about it with someone familiar with the subject? What if he was confessing something to Wilson? What if he had started fantasizing about…

No. No way. He may be a goof, he might have escort kadıöy a head full of psychological gibberish, but he was still her brother. She knew him. They were a normal brother and sister from a normal family. No real problems, no crazy secrets, no big surprises.

After about fifteen minutes he door opened and Karl walked out. He sat down next to her and gestured towards Wilson’s office. “Go ahead,” he said. “It’s not as bad as you think. He’s very circumspect. A very light touch with his questions.”

“Are you lying?” Laura said.

“No. He knows what he’s doing. Keeps the awkwardness to a minimum.”

Laura lowered her voice and said, “So what is up with this guy?”

“I think he’s just intensely curious. We’ll talk about it later. Don’t keep him waiting too long.”

She got up, gave Karl one last suspicious glance, and went into Wilson’s office.

“Laura, thank you, please come in,” Wilson said. “Can I call you Laura?”

Laura nodded and sat down.

“I’d understand if this uncomfortable for you,” Wilson said. “Not only because of the subject, but also because you’re usually the one asking questions, right? But this is an opportunity I can’t let slip by. I have just a few questions, and they’re probably not the kind of questions you think they are.”

“Well, having a psychologist brother, I’m pretty familiar with these kinds of mindgames.”

“Oh, all right. You’re certainly under no obligation to answer my questions.”

“But I will,” she said, knowing that she had to play ball. “How about this—we trade questions. You ask one, then I ask one.”

“Great! That would be great. I’ll let you go first.”

“Great,” Laura said. “What kind of research was Dr. Sebastian doing for the Institute?”

“He covered successful relationships. After he left the Institute he expanded his research to all aspects of incest, but while he was with us he concentrated on long-term committed relationships. It fascinated him. As it does all of us at the Institute. He was looking for common elements and circumstances—culture, class, family dynamics, personality types, and so on. You can see from his book how much he has come to understand these relationships, and yet so much remains a mystery. Which is why we at the Institute approach the subjects from several angles. And yet I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Sebastian, as he continues his research, were to make a major breakthrough in the field.”

As Laura jotted down her notes, Wilson flipped a page on a legal pad. “I guess it’s my turn,” he said. “How would you describe your brother?”

Here we go, she thought. “Annoying?” she said. “I want to say unreliable, but he actually is reliable, in his own way. He doesn’t inspire a lot of trust, maybe that’s what I want to say. Not that he’s untrustworthy, I mean he hasn’t let me down exactly, but he tends to not take things seriously, pass it all off as a joke. But he’s a good person. Smart, and friendly, and upbeat, I guess. Is that the sort of answer you wanted?”

“It is,” Wilson said as he wrote in his pad. “Definitely. Just the thoughts that pop into your head. I’m ready for your next question.”

“Okay. How did Dr. Sebastian become a part of the Institute?”

“Well, we’d have to go back to the beginning,” Wilson said, putting down his pen. “After he left Princeton, I know he thought about starting a private practice, but he also wanted to continue his research. I know this because I was in a similar situation after getting my PhD, having similar interests as his, making similar rounds with some of the same contacts here in the city, so I think it was inevitable that we would meet and end up working together. Those who run the Institute found us—actually they hired Sebastian first, then me shortly after. I suppose word got out about each of us—once you start talking to a few psychologists, pretty soon everybody knows about you.”

So maltepe escort should she be watching what she said? “All right, your turn,” she said.

“Here’s a good one,” he said. “What kind of girls does your brother usually date?”

What kind of questions were these? She didn’t know if he was trying to be subtle and failing, or if the questions had some sort of deeper significance. Still, it was easy enough to answer. “Pretty girls,” she said. “Very pretty girls. Dumb or smart, doesn’t matter. I’m not sure how he manages it, but he has no trouble picking them up.”

“Interesting,” Wilson said. “Very good. Next question?”

“Why did Dr. Sebastian leave the Institute?”

Wilson sighed. “That’s… that’s complicated. He’d be able to explain better than I could, but if you want my opinion…”

“I do.”

“I think part of it was that he wanted to be independent, to have the freedom to pursue different avenues. Not that we’re under strict supervision here, but we do have to answer to our backers. He also had a successful private practice, which reduced the time he could spend as an Institute researcher. It was an amicable parting, I should say, and all of us worked well together, but I think—and I feel this is the real reason he left—I think he was developing ideas that were diverging from the consensus the rest of us were forming.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ah, now we’re getting into a sensitive area. Once our book is out I would love to discuss it further. You would be able to see our differing philosophies clearly when the books are compared side by side. Unfortunately, until the book is released, I can’t give any details.”

“Fair enough,” Laura said. “You’ve given me plenty of information. It’s been an eye-opener. Thank you for speaking with me, Dr. Wilson.”

“Ah, but wait,” he said as she was putting away her notebook. “I have one more question for you.”

Damn. “Yes, you’re right, go ahead.”

“What kind of men do you usually date?”

Her mind started flipping through the lousy dates she’d had in the past year, then she stopped. “Are these really the kind of questions you ask people?”

“Generally, yes.”

“But what do you get out of the answers?”

Wilson chuckled. “I’ll tell you after you answer.”

“Well, if you really have to know, I seem to pick the wrong kind of guy. I seem to date guys who have no business dating, not until they get their priorities straight. And maybe I’m the same way, I tend to put my career in front of everything. So I don’t date that often, and I don’t have much fun when I do. Now tell me, Dr. Wilson, based on my answers, can you tell if I have any incestuous feelings for my brother?”

Wilson laughed. “As far as I can tell, no. Why, do you think you have incestuous feelings for your brother?”

“No. But what were you looking for in my answers?”

“Keywords. Phrasing. Tone. There are subtle flags that tell me something is there.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” she said, getting up. “Dr. Wilson, thank you again for talking to me. Can I talk to you again sometime, for a possible follow-up?”

“Yes, that would be no problem, that would be lovely.”

“Do you think I could talk to the other researchers too?”

“I’ll certainly ask them. I’ll put in a good word.”

“Thank you, Dr. Wilson.”

Laura walked out of his study, past her brother in the waiting room, and out into the hallway. Karl followed in her wake. When they reached the sidewalk she kept on walking. Karl kept pace with her and stayed silent.

“Maybe I’ve had enough,” she finally said. “It’s just so weird!”

“Did Wilson say something to piss you off?”

“No, he was fine. I’m just tired of this story. I don’t want to think about it anymore.”

“You don’t have to. Put it out of your mind.”

“Except Sebastian will probably call me tonight, and there will be more interviews, and I’ll have to piece all this together and write the stupid story…”

“So take the afternoon off. That can all wait. Come on, I’ll buy you lunch,” Karl said.

“As long as we talk about anything but—” She looked around at the busy sidewalk. “—family therapy.”

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