But Dr William Knox MRCPsych wasn’t a woman; nor did he look like a doctor. More like a favourite uncle with his twinkling brown eyes behind horn-rimmed specs, and floppy ears – the uncle who would read a bedtime story and scare off monsters and goblins, the uncle who would wipe away tears and patch up an injured knee, the uncle who would chortle and share secrets - and he wasn’t wearing a white coat. That day, a Shetland wool jumper with leather patches at the elbows and brown cords that had seen better days. Even his slippers were in synch with his image. He wasn’t all that old either...
He shook her hand, confirmed her name, and introduced himself. He had a lilt to his voice. ‘Call me Bill ... or whoever takes your fancy. Jackie ... you ever watched the Thunderbirds TV films? “Brains” ... he’s an eccentric scientist ... is my alter ego.’ He chortled; motioned her to sit down. ‘Tea?’
She was bemused; all that was missing was a pipe and a book. His office wasn’t an office; it was a windowless snug with enough space for two worn armchairs and, refreshingly, an absence of any discernible paperwork on show, only a wonky-looking, three drawer metal cabinet with a kettle and mugs on top.
She slumped into the nearest armchair. It felt warm, probably from a multitude of raving nutters seeking support. ‘Milk, no sugar.’
While he was fishing out tea bags and a carton of UHT milk from the top drawer of the cabinet he explained his role. ‘I am a Forensic Psychiatrist ... you should know, the Dumbo that stands up in a court room and certifies that the defendant is a lunatic ... not fit for trial, your honour ... when clearly we’re all in cahoots with the scumbag who’s trying it on.’
Jackie tried not to laugh. This guy was good – but she was puzzled. ‘How come I’ve not come across you, before?
Steam arose from the kettle. He unplugged it and started to pour. ‘Long story, Jackie. It seems like my talents were wasted in Tower Hamlets.’
He didn’t elaborate; maybe he had already given her a clue; sidelined because he was honest; wouldn’t take a bung from London’s East End villains. She could relate to that; and sometimes the police were just as crooked. ‘So we’re both here under sufferance, then?’
He smiled, passed over a mug with a teddy picture on it. ‘Is that how you feel?’
The tea was scalding. She put the mug between her feet. ‘Have we started the interrogation?’
He grinned. ‘Let me put your mind at rest. What we say here stays here.’
‘She wasn’t convinced. ‘But you still need to report back?’
He nodded. ‘You’re quite correct. Convince me that you’re as sane as Margaret Thatcher and I’ll get your bosses off your back; certify you’re fit for duty.’
His laugh was infectious, Jackie joined in, her sides ached; it was like a dam being released. Between giggles, she spluttered out. ‘Maybe I was wrong about being here under sufferance.’
He held up a hand. ‘There is a serious side. I’m not a psychologist ... I don’t do psycho-babble or play with your mind. But I am concerned with your mental health ... your well-being.’
So am I.
Jackie sobered up, she could see his point. ‘Just so you understand, I’m doing this because I have to ... I want ... need my career back.’
He nodded. ‘Just so you understand ... if you’re suffering from a medical condition, I can treat it.’
She flashed her eyes. ‘I’m not a screwball ... I was set-up.’
He chuckled. ‘I can relate to that ... okay, I’m listening ... how did you get yourself into this mess?’
She calmed down, could see the funny side: “Paranoia-R’-Us”. ‘Okay, Brains. Here goes ... warts and all.’
In for a penny...
He nodded, took a sip of tea, and sat back to listen...
The initial session lasted through a couple of comfort breaks, several cups of tea and a packet of chocolate digestives, mainly eaten by her - a great stress buster. Jackie felt like a huge burden had been lifted; if this was therapy she wanted more. And Brains was onside. He explained that shit happened everywhere; Hillock was no different to dozens like him. Call it what you will, Brains said; instant like or dislike was all down to human chemistry.
He was expansive. ‘Look at this as an opportunity. Take a holiday, it’s Christmas time; let your batteries recharge. Come back and see me in the New Year ... say in three weeks time.’
He rubbed his nose. ‘Jackie, we’ve got to play the game ...’
Sod that. But he’s a bit of all-right...