When I had a website up for investigation work, I got calls I did not expect–people with affective mental health disorders who wanted help “proving” people were out to get them. Some of these people had absolute textbook paranoia; “they” were out to get the person, usually “they” were the government but sometimes not even that specific, the proof was odd random incidents such as a car parked up the street with the giveaway plate “Watching”, the persecution was often related to sex or sexuality, and had no specified purpose.
I had been offered quite a lot of money on occasions by paranoid people and I could have easily financially exploit their illness, but of course I always turned down these requests. I’m pretty sure that these desperate people did find someone in the investigative community willing to take their money to tell them they were crazy paranoid.
This proved to be very awkward when one such request came from a woman I knew from my social activities. We’d seen each other regularly at meetings, but then she’d drifted off as rumor has it that she was becoming less and less reliable. In her defense, I will say that I have met her husband and that man was enough to drive anyone nuts in five minutes, and she’d managed several decades of mostly sober sanity married to him.
She called me up after I hadn’t seen her in years and said she was going through a divorce and needed my help. I explained to her that I was no longer practicing law and could not help her. She didn’t need a lawyer, she explained. She had one of those. In fact, she had several. But, she said, she needed help because, “I’m being followed. I’m sure “HE’s” behind it, and its been going on for days now.” She wanted me to spend several days following the follower. Since I was sure no such person existed, I told her that I currently had other obligations and would not be able to take her money.
Months later, she did get a divorce with the worst instances of arithmetic I’ve ever seen. The judge decided, correctly, that since this was a long term marriage, she should get half, so he divided six hundred thousand dollars for her share and came up with two hundred thousands. And they say women are bad at math. But what really struck me when I was reading the transcripts of her appeal was the testimony of her husband which was:
“Your honor, my wife was trying to ruin our business. She was going around to all of my customers.”
“And how do you know that, Mr. Brown.”
“Because I followed her. For days.”
Which just goes to prove that just because you are paranoid does NOT mean they aren’t out to get you. In law school, incidentally, I was taught that paranoia is just a higher form of awareness. I was taught this in my legal ethics class, an edict I mention in “The Evil that Men Do.” That was a true story. I don’t make this shit up.
Here’s an experiment that you can try at home. Find a corpse. Put it in your basement. Leave it there for two weeks. Observe the results. Spoiler alert, this tends to produce a lot of flies. (I discovered this once when a rat died in my basement and I didn’t notice it for a while. This served as the basis for my short story, “The Rat” (rats are also featured in “The Evil That Men Do”) and gave me some very bad dreams after a peculiar adventure I had serving papers.
I was serving the usual small claims summons and complaint on someone in an old apartment complex and as I passed the first apartment in the complex, I noticed an unusually large number of flies in the window, whose curtain was drawn. There were many dead flies on the window sill, and even more buzzing against the glass. Hmmm. Weird. The person I was attempting to serve was not there, so about a week later, I returned. I noted that there were still a lot of flies in the window of the first apartment whose curtains were still drawn, many more dead ones, but still dozens of live ones. Hmmm. Weird.
After a month of serve attempts, this person never was home and I returned the papers for re-billing, I got very curious about the flies. What would explain that many flies in the window? I assumed the apartment must be empty. I can’t see living with that many flies and never cleaning off the sill of the dead ones. Perhaps when someone had moved out, they had left a large amount of food garbage behind. That would explain a lot of flies the first time I went by, but I would think the landlord would hardly leave the place unattended for a month after someone had moved out. I also didn’t think it likely that food garbage would sustain a colony of flies that large for a month.
What else could explain the presence of a large number of flies over such a long period of time in a presumably empty apartment? That’s when I remembered the rat. What would allow large numbers of flies to hatch over a significant period of time? A dead body. That would do it. There must be a dead body rotting in the apartment. That would explain the peculiar smell. Someone had possibly paid their rent for the month, and then died–that’s why the landlord hadn’t been by to check on the place. Or someone had left the corpse of someone they had killed. Having reached that conclusion, I did what every normal responsible citizen would do; I freaked out and had bad dreams about it. Then, very shortly after my last visit there, I coincidentally ran into a police officer in a hardware store where she was oddly not buying any hardware and asked her about the situation. She told me to report it on the non-emergency line, which I did. Good citizen that I am. The police kindly called me back and told me what they had found a crazy cat lady with a totally inadequate supply of kitty litter. They called human services and she and the cats are now much better off. It is good to be a responsible citizen.