“I got here as fast as lawful adherence to traffic regulations would allow!” the detective announced, barging into the dingy apartment and scattering evidence in swirls of litter and flies.
An old beat cop—the type who was doomed to be killed merely two days from his next day off and thirty minutes from a coffee break—sidled up and reported, “You’re too late. The paramedics already took the overdose to the hospital.”
Taking in the disheveled crime scene as if examining his archnemesis’s calling card, the detective muttered, “Let me tell you something about ‘the overdose’—her name is Jessica. Now you tell me something about the overdose—what caused it?”
After a long sip of coffee that raised both the suspense and his blood pressure, the beat cop replied, “A complex, multifaceted array of socioeconomic, biological, and psychological factors.”
“Damn!” the detective hissed. Massaging his scruffy chin and grinding his teeth, his thought process thereby making the sound of two librarians in a shushing match, he continued, “Any leads on identifying the culprit?”
“It was her family,” Jessica’s probation officer grunted, muscling his way out of the kitchen. “She was doing well in the rehab we had ordered her into. But, after completing the program, she returned to a home environment full of alcohol and prescription drug abuse, and that triggered a relapse.”
“Of course, family members are suspects in many investigations,” the detective noted.
“But perhaps not in the way you’re thinking,” Jessica’s psychiatrist said, coming in behind the P.O., her smile as big as a weekly pill-dispenser and her voice soothing the mood like a shot of antidepressants. “Her family might only be responsible for giving her the genetic predisposition toward addiction. Addiction is a mental disorder characterized by a malfunction in the brain’s reward system. People like Jessica may just be biologically predisposed to this behavior.”
“I forgot that criminal justice now comes in pill form,” the P.O. sneered. “Thanks, Debbie Downer.”
Waving away this disagreement and more flies, the detective pressed on. “What does Jessica’s therapist have to say about this?”
“She isn’t taking it very well,” the probation officer said. “During Jessica’s recent treatment, her therapist became emotionally involved and, when she heard about the relapse, began crying and binge-eating. We were trying to confiscate her bucket of fast-food-flavored ice cream, but threatening to throw her in jail wasn’t working.”
“Nothing that can’t be fixed by some prescription medications,” the psychiatrist added.
Not allowing the grindings of the system’s gears to distract his focus, the detective pressed on, “Were there any witnesses to the overdose?”
“Her three children were the ones who found her passed out on the bathroom floor,” the Children Services caseworker dictated into a smartphone, tap dancing her thumbs on the screen and strolling in from the family room.
“Well, what do the children believe the problem is?” the detective asked.
With a reply that seemed to be buffering, the caseworker faded in and out, “Well, according to the children’s social media posts, the problem is that ‘When we make Mommy cry, she puts needles in her arms and we have to go back to the Fosters.'”
The detective furrowed his brow. “The children refer to their foster placement as ‘the Fosters’?”
“Well, that is their name—Sandra and Richard Foster,” the caseworker droned, punctuating the statement with a rolling eye emoticon.
The therapist shouted from the kitchen, “Will all of you stop being so callous?” through sobs and mouthfuls of food.
In a sudden explosion, the P.O. shouted back, “Hey, can it!” in both the literal and figurative sense of the phrase, while the psychiatrist began writing him a prescription for mood stablizers and the caseworker broadcast the play-by-play to her online followers.
With his eyes narrowing to knife-like slits and his investigation broadening to global conspiracy, the detective considered that the first step in addressing these kinds of situations was admitting that you had a problem. His problem was that he was surrounded by neurotics who would have benefited more from four weeks of individual counseling than four years of community college training in how to dish it out.
“Alright everyone, listen up,” the detective announced, “I’m calling an intervention. Let’s all go around the room and describe how our co-workers’ personality issues have impeded our respective roles.”
Arching his crossed forearm muscles along with his eyebrows, the P.O. replied, “You mean like how you arrested twelve of my probationers last week while working two doubles and a triple?”
“Triples can’t even be ordered at Headquarters,” the jittery officer said. “Unless they’re in the cafeteria and involve espresso.”
“Wait a moment…” the detective attempted to cut in.
Chiming in like a notification on a news feed, the Children Services caseworker added, “Let’s not forget those probationers’ children I had to drag out of their lice-ridden homes.”
“…And all of the overworked law enforcement officers who needed medication for stress, anxiety, and high blood pressure,” the psychiatrist said sweetly, as if offering a spoonful of sugar.
“Wait, what’s going on here?” the detective demanded, his instincts now pointing strongly to conspiracy.
And, at that moment, Jessica walked into the room. “You were right, Detective—this is an intervention—but only for you,” she said with a sad and understanding smile. “We think you’re a workaholic.”
“You have a long road of inpatient treatment ahead of you,” the therapist came into the room, holding a box from the local bakery. “We got you a cake to show our support and wish you luck,” and then added, “I only ate a bit of it.”
“But I can’t go to some workaholic anti-work camp,” the detective stammered, “I have too much work to do!”
“Nonsense,” the Chief of Police declared, striding into the room. “You have built up plenty of something called ‘vacation time’ that will give you ample opportunity to learn just what exactly that is.” With one arm around the detective’s shoulders and the other indicating the smiling crowd around him, the Chief concluded, “Don’t let these people down. They are the closest thing to family that you have. Or rather, with the inordinate hours you spend away from home, I hope that’s the case.”
After hugs and cake all around, the detective approached Jessica. “It doesn’t take a nose that’s addicted to sniffing out the truth to figure out that you put this together.”
She smiled awkwardly. “I guess I learned a few things about positive social support while in rehab.”
“Is this revenge for my putting you there?” he asked with slit eyes that matched his grin.
“More repayment than payback,” she replied. “All of you work so hard to help me—it’s like your jobs come with a duty toward people like me. So, I think it’s my job, and the duty of people like me, to help you not work so hard.”
“Staying off drugs would’ve been help enough,” the detective deduced, “But, as a workaholic in recovery, I can appreciate going a bit overboard with your job.”
Nathan Witkin is a small-town criminal defense attorney, a notable innovator in the field of conflict resolution, and an MMA cage fighter. He lives in Marion, Ohio, where he cannot get a date to save his life.