The Psychopath Across the Street, Second Installment

Yesterday I posted the forward to the novel I’m writing under the working title The Psychopath Across the Street. Judging from the number of people who read it, the post is quite popular. Therefore, for the next week, until I leave for Paris on Sunday May 7, I’m planning to post daily excerpts from the rough draft of the book. What follows is the first few pages of the rough draft of Chapter 1. It is longer than my typical posts. I’m anxious to learn if people have the patience to read it.

By the way, while I am in France and Spain until June 1, I will post a daily summary of my trip including photos. Once I’ve accumulated enough material from my travels, my hope is to use them as the basis for another book.

Chapter 1 — Brigitte Doesn’t Fit In

Brigitte Catherine O’Hara, as I have chosen to call her, was born in Miami, Florida on February 9, 1956, the youngest of three girls and the daughter of John O’Hara, an immigrant from Limerick, Ireland, and Katrina O’Hara née Higgins, who despite her Irish-sounding maiden name had moved to Miami from San Juan, Puerto Rico when she was 21 years old.

Brigitte is an Irish name that means strong-willed, a moniker that fit our protagonist perfectly. She proved to be a handful for her parents and older sisters. Even before she learned to walk, she was always in trouble and had a defiant personality. When she couldn’t get her way, she would pound her fists on the floor, stamp her feet, and scream. When those tactics didn’t work, she would hold her breath and turn red in the face. She quickly learned that this was an almost infallible way to get her parents to back off and allow her do whatever she wanted.

Katrina was a stay-at-home mom, as was common in those days, especially among women of Puerto Rican heritage. Katrina tried to keep a close eye on Brigitte, but sometimes she got busy and forgot her. Once when Brigitte was four years old and her elder sisters Catherine and Rosaline were at school, Brigitte found a pair of scissors in Katrina’s sewing basket. Katrina was busy in the kitchen and so engrossed in her own thoughts as she prepared the evening meal that she forgot about Brigitte until it occurred to her that her daughter had been quiet for far too long.

When she found Brigitte, she discovered that the child had used the scissors to cut the curtains in her parents’ room as high as she could reach before she became bored and searched for something else to cut. She found just what she was looking for in Catherine’s room, the clothes hanging in her closet. Katrina found Brigitte in the closet sitting on the floor surrounded by pieces of fabric. Brigitte had pulled all of Catherine’s clothes off their hangers and had cut large pieces of cloth out of them.

On another occasion, Brigitte slipped out of the house while Katrina’s back was turned and climbed over the fence into a neighbor’s yard. Katrina was alerted when she heard the loud yelping of a puppy in pain. She looked around and saw the kitchen door standing open. She rushed outside and peered over the fence to see Brigitte kicking the neighbor’s puppy, which had been left alone in the backyard while its neighbors were at work. Luckily, the puppy survived, but it walked with a limp ever after and was mistrustful of strangers until its dying day.

Katrina tried to make amends with the neighbors, offering to pay for the puppy’s veterinarian care, but it was no use. They wanted nothing to do with her. “Just keep that brat of a kid away from us!” the wife yelled at her. “It would be better for all of us if you moved to another neighborhood.”

When Brigitte was five, it was time to start half-day kindergarten. She didn’t do well. She was obviously very bright and creative, but the only interaction she had with the other children was to take advantage of them. The children brought their own lunches to kindergarten, and when it was time to eat, Brigitte was often able to wheedle the choice deserts from the other kids. If a child refused to give Brigitte what she wanted, she took it by force. She was usually nice to the teachers, or at least she did her best to please them as long as she could get something in return. However, the slightest criticism from a teacher could send Brigitte into a screaming tantrum.

When Brigitte was eight years old, her parents had a new picture window installed in the living room of their house. When the installation was finished and the installers had left, her parents stood by the window admiring their new purchase. The cost of the window with installation had been $680, but given the wonderful view, it was well worth the price. John and Katrina were standing at the window admiring their new acquisition when behind them Brigitte picked up a hammer that one of the work crew had carelessly left behind, pushed her way between her parents, and swung the hammer at the window with all of her strength, smashing it. A piece of falling glass seriously cut Brigitte’s right arm. Brigitte looked at the blood flowing out of the cut dispassionately as if she were looking at something that had happened to someone else and had nothing to do with her. “I didn’t think I would hurt myself,” was her only remark.

In the emergency room at the hospital, things got worse. The emergency room doctor was easily able to stitch up the wound, which was not very deep. However, the doctor had doubts about how the wound had occurred. The story that Katrina and John told them about Brigitte’s having smashed a picture window didn’t sound believable. He suspected child abuse and suggested to the hospital staff that Brigitte talk to a counselor without her parents’ being present.

“How did you hurt your arm?” the counselor asked Brigitte.

“My daddy did it to me,” Brigitte responded. “He cut me with a knife.”

“Why did he cut you?”

“Because I didn’t clean up my room.”

The counselor was astonished. “He cut you with a knife just because you didn’t clean up your room?”

“He’s very mean to me, and he’s always hurting me. I think he should be in jail. He beats my mommy, too.”

“Why don’t you go into the playroom and play while I talk to your mommy and daddy?” the counselor asked.

However, the counselor didn’t talk to Brigitte’s mom and dad. She called the Florida Department of Children and Families and reported that she suspected that she had a case of child abuse so severe on her hands that she feared for the child’s life.

Katrina and John, sitting in the emergency room waiting room with their daughter Cathy, as Catherine was commonly called, couldn’t understand what was keeping Brigitte so long.

“Maybe she’s hurt worse than we thought,” Katrina worried.

“Naw, I don’t think so,” John replied. “Her cut wasn’t much more than a flesh wound. I really think we could have bandaged it ourselves if you hadn’t insisted on bringing her to the hospital.”

“I’m bored,” Cathy piped in. “When are we going to go home? There’s nothing to do here.”

“You should have brought one of your books,” her father replied.

“I wish I’d a stayed home with Rosy,” Cathy said.

Rosy, or Rosaline, was now 17 years old and had not accompanied the rest of the family to the hospital. She didn’t like Brigitte and was glad to have some time away from her. No one liked Brigitte.

“I don’t see why we’re worried about my dumb little sister,” Cathy continued. “She doesn’t care about us, so I don’t see why we should care about her. Let’s just go home and leave her here.”

Just then, the door to the emergency room opened, and two police officers and a heavyset, middle-aged woman walked in. “John and Katrina O’Hara?” one of the officers asked.

“Yes,” John replied.

“You need to come with us down to the station. We have some questions to ask you about your daughter.”

“But, we can’t just leave Brigitte here,” Katrina interjected.

“She will be well looked after,” the officer said. “And is this young lady one of your children, too?”

“Yes,” Katrina answered, “this is Brigitte’s sister Cathy.”

“Cathy will have to go with Ms. Gabar from Children and Families. Brigitte will go with her, too.”

“I don’t understand,” John protested. “You can’t just come in here and take us away from our kids as if we were criminals. All we did was bring our daughter here for treatment after she hurt herself.”

The taller of the two officers, on whose badge John managed to read the name Sergeant Jorge Gómez, spoke, “Let’s not make this any more difficult than we need to. Come along quietly, and we’ll do this as gently as possible. If we need to put handcuffs on you both, we’ll do that. By the way, don’t you have a third daughter?”

“Yes, Rosy, she’s at home,” Katrina responded.

“You left a child alone by herself?” the Sergeant asked with astonishment in his voice.

“Rosy is hardly a child,” John answered. “She’s 17, almost 18. She’s a young woman and very responsible.

At the police station, Katrina and John were taken to separate rooms. Katrina was left to sit alone in a room with no windows for almost half an hour. Then a young woman entered. “I’m Detective Magdalena Osorio. You can just call me Magda. Take a seat at the table. Can I get you something to drink? Tea? Coffee? Water?”

“No,” Katrina replied as she took her seat across the table from Detective Osorio, “I just want to know what’s going on. Why have you arrested us?”

“You’re not under arrest. There are a few things we’d like to clear up. Tell me about your husband. How do you get along with him?”

“We get along well. I would say that John is the ideal husband.”

“Don’t you two ever have fights? Does he get angry at you?”

“We have disagreements just as any couple does. I wouldn’t call them fights. Just normal family quarrels.”

“What about when he loses his temper?” Detective Osorio asked.

“He doesn’t lose his temper. He has as sanguine a personality as a woman could wish for in a husband.”

“But, isn’t your husband from Ireland? He has an Irish accent.”

“Yes, he was born in Limerick, but he’s an American citizen now.”

“The Irish have a reputation for losing their tempers.”

Katrina was beginning to get irritated at this line of questioning. “As a fellow Latina, I’m surprised that you would stereotype my husband that way just for being an immigrant. I don’t know about other Irish people, but my husband almost never loses his temper. Do you ask the same racist questions about Latinos?”

Detective Osorio was not going to allow herself to be drawn away from his line of questioning. “Doesn’t your husband John hit you sometimes?”

“No! Absolutely not! Detective Osario—“

“Call me Magda.”

“Magda, if you insist, I have no idea what’s putting these strange ideas into your head, but John is very even tempered. He would never hit anyone let alone a woman. He’s as sweet and as gentle a man as a woman could want.”

“How did your daughter get hurt? Who cut her?”

“She cut herself. That is, she smashed a window with a hammer, a brand new window that we had just had installed, and a piece of glass from the broken window cut her arm.”

“You have to admit that story doesn’t sound very believable. Would you believe that story if our roles were reversed and you were questioning me? Would you like to think it over and see if you can’t come up with a better explanation about how Brigitte’s arm got cut?”

“I tell you she did it to herself in a fit of anger. You don’t know our daughter. She’s not a normal child. She picked up a hammer and without warning smashed an expensive picture window. Brigitte has a terrible temper, and I don’t know where she gets it. As I said, her father is a gentle man, and even though I’m Puerto Rican, I don’t have a stereotypical puertorriqueña’s hot temper. Her two sisters threw the occasional temper tantrum when they were very small, but they outgrew them before they reached Brigitte’s age. No one else in our family is like Brigitte. I keep hoping she will calm down as she gets older, but she is getting worse. I know that it sounds unbelievable that a child so young could be so bad, but she is. Sometimes I think she’s possessed by the devil or an evil spirit. I’m not religious, but I wish I were. I would hire a priest or a brujo to perform an exorcism.”

“That’s all for now Ms O’Hara. I’m afraid I’m going to ask you to wait here for a short while yet. Can I get you anything to drink before I leave? Do you need to use the restroom?”

“No, nothing. Just leave me alone, and then get us out of this place. And, if you don’t believe what I’m saying, you can go to our house and see the smashed window for yourself.”

Katrina wasn’t completely alone in the room. There was a closed-circuit TV camera concealed in one of the vents. Lieutenant Alfredo Prado was watching her on a monitor, but there wasn’t much to see. Katrina put her arms on the table, dropped her head onto them, and began to sob.

“I saw your interview,” the lieutenant said to Detective Osorio when she came into his office. “How did she strike you? Is she believable? Do you think she’s being abused?”

“She comes across as very distressed, almost a nut job, but given the pressure she’s under, that’s probably understandable. In any case, I don’t think she hurt her daughter, and I don’t think her husband has been abusing her as Brigitte said. Her husband told the same story about the broken window. They would hardly have had time to concoct a story like that together. No, I think both parents are telling the truth. I could see no marks on the mother. We could ask her to undergo a physical examination, but I think would be a waste of time. I believe Brigitte is lying to us.”

“I talked to Elisa Gabar from the Florida Department of Children and Families. All three of the O’Hara girls are under their care at the moment. Elisa says that not one of the girls has a mark on her except for Brigitte’s cut arm. The two older girls back up their mother’s statement. They say that Brigitte cut herself while smashing a window on purpose. They also say that their little sister is always causing trouble. As to Brigitte O’Hara herself, Elisa says that Brigitte seems happy to know that her parents are in trouble and wants them both locked up in jail along with her sisters. Oh, and I almost forgot—Brigitte is now accusing her two older sisters of sexual abuse.”

“Hmm…,” Detective Osorio said. Maybe this O’Hara woman isn’t such a nut job after all.”

“Just then Sergeant Gómez raised his head from behind a desk on the other side of the room as he was hanging up a telephone. “I just got off the phone with the principal at Brigitte’s school. I reached her at home. She says that the O’Hara girl is a real terror and is always getting into trouble and putting the blame on other kids. She said not to believe a thing that bastard kid says. Pardon the bad language, but that’s a quote.”

“Well,” the lieutenant said, “the decision as to what to do with the kids is up to the social workers. I see no reason to continue holding the parents, and I’m going to recommend that the children be returned to them. But, I hope that the people over there at Children and Families keep an eye on this situation. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this family.”

The Psychopath Across the Street

The following is the first draft of a book I am working on about a Phoenix neighborhood’s experience with a psychopath with lived among them for about two years. I’d welcome any feedback by way of comments.

__________

This is a work of fiction, but it is based on real events that took place in a Phoenix neighborhood. Several years ago, a psychopathic woman moved the neighborhood and soon started doing all in her power to make the lives of her new neighbors difficult. We will call this woman Brigitte O’Hara. Her name as well as the street names and names of the neighbors, judges, police officers, and others who dealt with Ms O’Hara have been changed to protect their identities.

Brigitte was very friendly with most of her neighbors at first, and in return, most neighbors warmed up to her and did what they could to make her feel welcome. However, one by one, she began picking fights with her neighbors for trivial reasons. Each time she had a falling out with someone, she called the old man across the street, James Horowitz, to ask for sympathy, and each time, James listened without comment. In every incident she described, it seemed to him that Brigitte was at fault. However, she saw herself as a victim. Then she stopped calling James. That was when he learned that it was his turn to be added to her enemies’ list. Most of this story is told from James’ point of view.

James did not know how to cope with her. He had never dealt with a person before who delighted in making other people’s lives miserable. Then, another neighbor told him that Brigitte had all of the symptoms of a psychopath. James had very little idea of what that meant. He had heard the term psychopath applied to serial killers, so he assumed that a psychopath was some sort of vicious person like Jack the Ripper.

The neighbor who was a retired social worker explained to him that psychopaths do not feel normal human emotions except for anger. Due to a brain defect that is not well understood, they cannot feel positive emotions such as love, empathy, remorse, and guilt, or if they feel these emotions at all, they feel them at a very shallow level. They are driven to go to great lengths to make the lives of other people difficult. They tend to be risk takers and are therefore often successful in business. They are seldom hardened killers, but they restrain themselves from killing for practical reasons, not out of a sense that to kill a person might be wrong.

Sometimes people who exhibit milder forms of psychopathology are called sociopaths. The two terms are layman’s terms, and there is no sharp division between them. Mental health professionals often prefer the term antisocial personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder. Psychopaths may have frequent scrapes with the law, but their offenses are generally minor. They are usually unable to fulfill responsibilities to friends, neighbors, or persons with whom they do business. They also feel they are victims and use this feeling to justify their persecution of others. Do not expect a psychopath to take pity on you if you feel victimized.

Although this is a work of fiction, I have based it on events in the East Phoenix neighborhood where James Horowitz lives. All names of all of the people in this book including Brigitte O’Hara and James Horowitz are invented to protect the privacy of the psychopath’s victims. I have invented a fictional street name to replace the name of the street where the person I call James Horowitz continues to live. I have also take the liberty of inventing dialog and incidents to protect the privacy of the victims of the real-life psychopath.

The fact that our psychopath was born in Miami, lived in California and Las Vegas, and married a much older Irishman, who conveniently died and left her his estate are taken from real life, although many of the details of her life in these places are the product of my imagination. For example, in the book I have the protagonist Brigitte O’Hara poison her Irish husband. I made that up. I have no grounds for believing that the real-life psychopath who served as a model for this book caused the convenient death of her older Irish husband.

During the several years that the man I have chosen to call James Horowitz and his neighbors had to deal with their neighborhood psychopath, they began to learn about her past. Almost every time she changed residence, she also went to court to have her name legally changed in an attempt to make it more difficult for law enforcement to keep track of her. By examining multiple police reports and court documents, I was able to piece together part of her history and the many scrapes with the law that she had had in several cities under various names and many aliases. She had been arrested several times, and the list of civil suits in which she had been involved as a plaintiff and as a defendant took several sheets of paper to print.

After about two years of living across the street from James Horowitz, the psychopath put her house up for sale and moved to another neighborhood a few miles away, where she repeated the process with her new neighbors. She was nice to all of them at first, but one at a time, she turned on them and did everything in her power to make their lives difficult, just as she had done in every neighborhood where she had lived throughout her life. James and his neighbors and I breathed a sigh of relief. She was now someone else’s problem. They began to forget her and get on with our lives, but she hadn’t forgotten them. She hired a private investigator to access their motor vehicle records, a criminal act under both federal and Arizona law. She compounded the crime by printing the pictures from the driver’s licenses in a leaflet that she circulated among her new neighbors.

The six people whose driver’s records our psychopath had stolen and published elected to press charges. It took quite some time for the motor vehicle detective to finish his investigation, and by the time charges were filed against her in both Phoenix and Scottsdale, she had disappeared. Legal documents that she subsequently signed and filed with the Maricopa County (Arizona) Registrar’s Office were notarized at the United States Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua. She had placed herself out of reach of American justice by moving to a country that has no extradition agreement with the United States.

I suspect that she is back in the United States now with yet another new identity, creating problems in a new neighborhood in a new city and using a new name. She favors calling herself by Irish names. She has a predilection for the names Mary and Catherine. Bridgette Catherine O’Hara is a name that I invented. It is not the name she used when she lived across the street from James Horowitz. However, to the best of my knowledge she was born in or near Miami, Florida on February 9. 1956, just as was the protagonist of this book, which would make her 61 years old in 2017. If a woman of about that age moves into your neighborhood, is nice to everyone at first, but then turns on all of the neighbors one at a time, she may be the woman who inspired this book.

Trump’s 100-Day Tweets, a Tale Told by an Idiot

On April 21, President Trump tweeted:

“No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!”

In case anyone has forgotten, it was President Trump himself and not the media that promised the American people that he would accomplish a long list of promises during his first 100 days. The first 100 days are almost up, and not one of his major promises has been fulfilled, although some of the easy ones have been. He has named a Supreme Court justice and managed to get him on the bench. He signed an order allowing the Keystone Pipeline to move forward.

He has not repealed and replaced Obamacare due to a poorly though out bill that even many Republicans refused to support.  In other words, he has accomplished a few tasks that required no more than the stroke of a pen, but when it comes to tasks that require thought, planning, and hard work, President Trump has fallen flat on his face. Dealing with complex matters is not his forte.

As to the “S.C.” in his tweet, I at first thought that he was referring to his speech in South Carolina, but a friend of mine guessed that he meant the Supreme Court. Yes, Mitch McConnell did manage to get Donald Trump’s candidate to the Supreme Court approved after changing the Senate rules on such nominations and after refusing to allow President Obama’s nominee to even have a hearing, much less a vote.

Let’s looks at some of the easy and hard promises that he made and see which of them he has kept.

  1. Easy: Propose a Constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress. Nope! He has proposed no such amendment, although that would have been very easy to do.
  2. Hard: Repeal and replace Obamacare. Nope! The plan that President Trump supported was so ill-conceived that even many Republicans refused to support it. This was far too difficult a task for someone who does not have the intellectual capability to understand complexities.
  3. Easy: Implement a hiring freeze on federal employees. Yes, he signed an executive order to that effect in his first week in the presidency.
  4. Easy: Require that two old regulations be eliminated for every new one put in place: He has signed an executive order that should do that.
  5. Easy: Impose a 5-year ban on White House and Congressional Officials becoming lobbyists. I’ll give him partial credit for that one. He signed an executive order to that effect. However, that did not close the door on large companies’ influencing government. President Trump has drawn his senior staff members from industries, especially from the financial firm Goldman Sachs.
  6. Hard: Begin renegotiating NAFTA. Nope! To the best of my knowledge, not a single negotiation session has been held with either Mexico or Canada.
  7. Easy: Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He did sign an executive order abandoning that trade deal, but the United States was never formally a party to the TPP. True, it had been signed by the Obama administration, but Congress had refused to ratify it.
  8. Easy: Order his Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator. Wasn’t it just this past week that Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that the Trump administration did NOT consider China to be a currency administrator.

The list of Trump promises to be fulfilled in the first 100 days is very long, but not one of the difficult ones has been fulfilled, and many of the ones that would require no more than a Trump signature have also been left undone. Contrary to what Donald Trump implied in his tweet, the media did not set these high expectations for the first 100 days; Donald J. Trump did, and he failed. Unlike the record of the presidents who preceded him, President Trump can point to a total of zero major legislative accomplishments as the end of his 100-day honeymoon with the office approaches. The few things he has accomplished he has been able to do by signing his name to short, one- or two-page executive documents. I am 74 years old, and never in my lifetime has there been a president who has accomplished so little at the beginning of his term in office until Donald J. Trump was elected with only 46.1 percent of the popular vote, more than two percent less than his opponent.

There is a famous quote from Shakespeare’s MacBeth that applies to Donald Trump’s empty promises and stupid tweets:

Life’s {Trump is] but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

By the way, before Trump was nominated, much less elected, I wrote a novel about a psychopath who was elected president of the United States. When I wrote the book, I never dreamed that such a person could really be elected to our nation’s highest office. You can read an excerpt from the book by clicking on the cover image in the left bar of this blog. Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the whole book for free.

Let’s Wall off California!

It is becoming increasingly apparent that President Trump’s wall on the Mexican border will never be built. There is too much sentiment in the country to spend the money on stupidities such as repairing our bridges before yet another one of them falls down and giving the money that could be used to build the wall to the very rich.

On this special day of the year, April 1, I have a better proposal. We should immediately start construction on a 50-foot-high wall on the California borders with Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. A California wall makes much more sense than a Mexican wall.

Why wall off California? Because California is full of intelligent, well-educated people who are opposed to Donald Trump’s sensible programs. Californians threaten to immigrate into neighboring states and pollute our unschooled culture. Arizona and Nevada are chock full of nescient and cognatively-impared retirees. We do not want people with brains and education moving into our communities and corrupting our way of thinking! They threaten our way of life. We demand the right to communicate and live with people who are as uncultured as we are!

Some may rebel at the cost of the wall, but we can make California pay for it. The manner of coercing them into doing so is simple, although I don’t want to reveal it here. If people demand that we make public our plan for making California to pay for the wall, the next thing you know they will be demanding that Donald Trump release his tax returns and reveal his ties to Vladamir Putin. We certainly do not want that! They might also demand that we actually teach kids in our public schools. That would be a disaster! We in Arizona are very proud of our position near the very bottom of educational attainment not only in the United States but in the entire industrialized world.

So, I propose a series of public demonstrations to get this wall built on the California border. I have even invented a beautiful chant to get the job done: “Whadda we want? A California wall! Whose gonna pay for it? California!”

If anyone is interested, I have a lot of other ideas that are equally well thought out. I have to admit that I plagiarized some of them from Donald Trump’s campaign, but in today’s political environment, a little bit of plagiarism and a lot of dishonesty is what is required to get ahead.