Meet Miri Shtern, MD : Psychiatrist to a Killer
Miri Shtern’s eyes were wide open, staring straight ahead. Her hands firmly gripped the handle of the Smith and Wesson revolver. Her feet spread apart to stabilize her slight frame, she took aim at the target and squeezed the trigger in rapid succession until she’d discharged the six chambers. Spent shell casings pinged as they bounced upon ground around her boots.
Twenty-five yards away, the bullets pierced the heart of her target, a paper silhouette of a life-size human being. She could’ve situated the target closer, but that would have felt like cheating for someone with her elite skills.
Coolly, calmly she reloaded the cylinder and discharged another round. Then, another. When she’d finished, she depressed a button on the wall and the overhead trolley system carried the shredded paper enemy toward her. Miri examined her handiwork. With the precision of a surgeon, she’d dissected the head and chest zones, leaving gaping holes in the thick paper stock.
Yishar Koach. Way to go.
“Nice shooting, Doc,” said the police officer in the adjacent gallery berth. She shrugged, pointing toward the red soundproof earmuffs protecting her ears. He signaled the “ok” symbol with his index fingers and thumb, smiled and returned to his gunfire. Officer Michaels. She knew him well, having counseled him during an attack of PTSD last year, but the slight tremble of his forearms was a dead giveaway. She made a mental note to review his chart and call him into the office for a chat.
In her psychiatric practice, she’d treated scores of men and women of the City of Poughkeepsie Police Force damaged in the line of duty. She was especially fortunate that one of her patients managed the pistol range so he permitted her access 24/7, which came in handy on a night like tonight when sleep evaded her and memories of Israel invaded her and her thoughts.
Through her goggles, Miri read the time on her watch, 2 a.m., and calculated the hour in Tel Aviv. It would be 9 a.m. Her stomach growled. Breakfast time. After a month away, she’d returned home only three days ago, and her body stubbornly refused to adjust to the Eastern Time zone. Jet Lag. No wonder she couldn’t sleep.
She inserted a new target into the trolley clips and sent it back to the far wall of the range. While refilling the cylinders, the window overlooking the hallway of the police station drew her attention. Four uniformed officers half-dragged, half-carried a lanky man, who seemed unable to keep up the pace. Dark red blood caked the man’s clothing, face and hair. His chin bobbed with an unfocused attention as his eyes flitted around aimlessly, blinking at the bright florescent lights. He staggered along, shielding his eyes with the crimson hands manacled to his waist.
Ma Zeh? What is this?
The scene shouldn’t have alarmed considering she was in the police shooting range, but the prisoner’s complete docility and acceptance of the situation seized her. A sense of aloneness and a feeling of abandonment permeated through her body as he trudged by on the opposite side of the glass. She shivered as though he was a dead man walking along the stark corridor.
Miri watched them drag him through a large grey door on the opposite side of the cinderblock hallway. Craning her neck to catch a glimpse, her eyes registered a row of lockers before the door slammed shut behind them.
Something about the scene troubled her, but it had happened so quickly. Perhaps the seventy-two hours of sleep deprivation was catching up with her, causing her mind and senses to play tricks. Suddenly, Miri’s limbs grew weak and the idea of shooting became unfathomable. She struggled to empty the bullets from her gun, zip the firearm inside its padded protective shell, remove her goggles and earmuffs, and toss them into her canvas duffle bag. Her shoulder sagged under the weight of the satchel as she left the range.
Ani Ayefa. Just a minute.
Her unsteady legs barely carried her to the pearl gray Audi illegally parked in the spot designated for the Police Chief. The guys on the night shift must have recognized her vehicle since the windshield was clear of any notes or citations. Flinging the duffle on the passenger’s front seat, she resolved to down an Ambien when she got home, and to crawl into bed to sleep. Thankfully, she had the weekend to catch up since Monday would be her first day back in the clinic, with patients scheduled first thing in the morning.
Eggs. Milk. Challah. Lox. Yogurt. Organic Chicken. Broccoli. Granola. Hummus. Bananas. Miri had unpacked the groceries onto the granite kitchen counter, and she’d double-checked them against the grocery receipt. This was her routine. More than once, she’d unknowingly left behind a carton of eggs or a plastic bag full of bread at the grocery checkout, especially when she was distracted by work or exhausted from travel, like today. So, she checked her list again and discovered that a twelve-pack of paper towels was missing. It was probably still sitting on the bottom grate of the shopping cart.
Oy gevalt. Oh, my goodness.
Her husband, Dr. Amram Barash, reclined on the sofa watching the flat screen in the family room next to the kitchen. He tucked his enormous hands behind the head of curly silver hair and wiggled his cal...