In this electrifying debut, Stephen Spignesi reinvents the psychological thriller with a chilling tale of mounting intensity. Ingeniously crafted and crackling with suspense, here is a puzzle within a puzzle, at the center of which stands a hauntingly enigmatic young woman whose story will challenge everything you think you know....
Six people have been murdered in the animal shelter in which they worked. One unlikely woman stands accused of the crimes. Her name is Victoria Troy, and she is the most improbable of cold-blooded killers. A lover of animals, petite, brainy, and gifted with a sharp sense of humor, she too worked in the shelter, in an anguishingly difficult job. What could possibly have provoked her to murder six of her own coworkers–some of whom were her friends.
Who is Tory Troy? It is up to Dr. Baraku Bexley to find out. An astute psychiatrist hired by the court to determine whether Tory is mentally competent to stand trial, Bexley must explore her complicated background and her unusual convictions as he interviews her in the Connecticut psychiatric hospital in which she is confined–and also talks to others who have known her.
What Bexley learns about this gifted young woman comes almost solely from these interviews…but is that enough to explain the divide between the person Tory seems to be and the terrible crimes she’s accused of committing? Others find her difficult to fathom too: her lawyer, her nurse at the hospital, her mother, one of her former teachers; but all seek the same objective, to learn the truth no matter where it leads–or what secrets it may reveal about Tory, about the nature of evil, about us all.
Fiercely engaging and morally provocative, Dialogues is a rush of adrenaline that will keep you riveted from the first page to the last, a novel that will leave readers deeply shaken–and deeply moved.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Stephen Spignesi has written widely on history and popular culture; this is his first novel. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Dr. Baraku Bexley
"I've been thinking about suicide lately. A lot."
"How often is 'a lot'?"
"At least once a day, although sometimes I may go a couple of days without thinking about it."
"When you say you've been thinking about it, what does that mean? Are you imagining ways of doing it? Are you thinking about where you would do it?"
"No, I know how I'll do it."
"What kind of pills?"
"Painkillers. I've got hidden away on the outside eighty-seven hydrocodone tablets. You know: the generic of Vicodin. I got them from a friend who had a prescription for a hundred and only used thirteen. She had some kind of really bad disk problem in her back, but they fixed it and she didn't need the pills anymore. So she gave them to me. I figure I could take the whole batch in three or four swallows and within a few hours I'd be dead."
"What if you don't die?"
"Oh, I'll die."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I did my homework."
"What does that mean?"
"I looked up hydrocodone on the Internet. The lethal dose, depending on tolerance, could be anywhere from around fifty or sixty milligrams up. If I take all eighty-seven, I'll be getting over six hundred fifty milligrams, which should be plenty for someone my size. I'm only a hundred nine pounds. Some kid who weighed eighty-nine pounds died from taking only ten pills. I'd say eighty-seven ought to do the trick."
"Yes, I suppose it would."
"Plus I forgot to tell you-I'm going to down them with tequila."
"You're talking like this is a done deal."
"No, of course not. I'd have to get out of here first, right? And in all probability, that's somewhat unlikely. It's just that you asked how I would do it, so I told you."
"Could you tell me why you think about killing yourself so much?"
"Are you depressed?"
"What does that mean?"
"Are you filled with a sense of the utter meaninglessness of life? Do the routine activities of life like eating, working, reading, watching movies, having sex, and other normal events hold no interest for you? Do you spend a lot of time sleeping?"
"No to all of the above. I don't think life is meaningless. I love to eat, I don't normally mind going to work, I read constantly, I'm at Blockbuster at least twice a week, and if I'm not in a relationship in which I'm having regular sex, I masturbate a lot. As for sleeping all the time, I wish. My life is-was-so busy I can barely squeeze in six hours a night."
"Suicide is usually looked to as a last resort solution-what someone will consider when their life becomes unbearable, unlivable. You sound like you're engaged with your own life and relatively content."
"I am. At least I was . . . until I got locked up, that is."
"So I'll ask again. Why have you been thinking about taking your own life?"
"Don't you want to know where I would do it?"
"You asked me if I've been thinking about where I would do it."
"Yes, you're right. I did. So, have you?"
"And where would that be?"
"I don't know."
"Are you toying with me?"
"No, not at all. I'm telling you the truth when I say that I have been thinking about where to do it. I just haven't decided yet."
"What's holding up your decision?"
"Lots of things. Like who will find me. What kind of mess I'll make. I know I'll . . . make a mess when I die, and I don't want whoever finds me to have to clean it up. For a while, I was thinking about walking into the ocean. Maybe down at Fort Hale Park. But then I risk the chance of no one finding my body. And I want to be cremated, so they'll need that."
"This conversation is leading me to a conclusion I do not want to make."
"Oh? And what's that?"
"I think you have already decided to kill yourself and that all these assurances to me that you're not going to do it are your way of deflecting me from further inquiry or action. I think you know that I am obligated to act if I feel that you are a serious danger to yourself, and you are thus trying to convince me that this is all just an intellectual exercise rather than your true plan."
"I'm not going to kill myself. But I do think about it. What are you going to do? Ha-ha, have me committed? Last time I looked this was still America and I was free to say and think anything I fucking want to."
"That may be true in most situations. But this is not a typical situation. If it was, you would not be sitting there, would you? I would not have voluntarily come to you to discuss these things, right? So the normal rules do not apply, and if I think you're on the verge of suicide, I have to put it in my report and act."
"Court-ordered bullshit. I'm already on a suicide watch, for Christ's sake."
"Perhaps. Shall we move on?"
"Okay with me."
"Tell me why you're here."
"You know why I'm here. I'm incarcerated . . . is institutionalized a better word? . . . and the court is making me talk to you."
"I want you to tell me what you did and why you did it."
"You know what I did. As for why I did it, you'll have to figure that out yourself. Isn't that what they're paying you for?"
"In a sense."
"Well, then . . ."
"Let's put aside the reason you are here and talk about some other things that are-were-going on in your life."
"Fine with me."
"Can you tell me about your job?"
"Sure. But isn't all that in my records?"
"Yes, but I'd like to hear it from you. What is it you do?"
"I'm a certified animal euthanasia technician. I make $451.92 a week. That's a whopping twenty-three five a year."
"And what is a certified animal euthanasia technician?"
"Every Friday afternoon, I euthanize all the cats and dogs in the animal shelter that have not been adopted by then."
"How do you euthanize these animals?"
"We use a gas chamber."
"What is your role in this process?"
"Process. You guys are funny. Only shrinks would describe mass execution as a process. Did you all get that from Auschwitz? I understand the Nazis were big fans of euphemisms."
"Please do not trivialize or make fun of the Holocaust. I lost my grandfather at Auschwitz."
"So, what is your role in this process, please?"
"I take the animals from their cages and place them in the gas chamber."
"Don't they try and run away?"
"They all have choke chains around their necks, even the cats, and the room has steel rings embedded in the floor every three feet in a grid. We start in the far left corner and hook one animal to each ring. We can do around a dozen animals at a time, although usually it's only five or six."
"What happens after they're all hooked to the floor?"
"I close the door and bolt it with a sliding bar. The room is airtight once the door is closed. Ironically, the animals would probably all suffocate to death if we just left them in there. The air would run out after a while. But that would be traumatic and painful. And take a long time. So we try to get it over with as quickly as possible."
"What happens after you bolt the door?"
"I sign a form."
"What kind of form?"
"It's a form that lists the animals I put inside the gas chamber-you know, one brown terrier, one black-and-white cat . . ."
"And then what happens?"
"I hand the clipboard to my supervisor, Jake. He double-checks everything and then he signs it. A copy of this form has to go to the state every week."
"What does Jake do after he signs the form?"
"Well, usually, he goes back to his office and finishes eating his lunch. He likes a late lunch."
"You know what I'm asking."
"We both walk over to a computer panel on the wall outside the gas chamber. We then go through a specific procedure that I had to learn cold before I could get my certification."
"Jake does all the talking. 'Nine animals confirmed for euthanasia. Door seal confirmed. Quantity of lethal agent confirmed for nine animals. Initiating.' Then I push a button. But I forgot something."
"And what is that?"
"Before we start the procedure, he puts on a CD."
"He plays music? For the animals?"
"No, they can't hear it. He plays it for us, although he really plays it for himself."
"What does he play?"
"The White Album."
"I see. What happens after you push the button?"
"A thermometer lights up."
"A gauge that looks like a thermometer lights up on the main panel and a red light starts to rise to the top of the tube."
"On the side of this tube are numbers from one to ten. Supposedly, once the red hits the two, all the animals are asleep. I've never looked to see if that was true, though. There's no window in the door. Once it hits five, they're not supposed to be breathing anymore, and when it gets to ten, their hearts have stopped. ...
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