From: Mallory Muffet, MFT


To: Mary Kontrerie, MFT

Re: Case 3256 (confidential)

Hi Mary, I’d like your advice on what to do on this case. Some info came to light but I may be jumping to conclusions. I’d like to close it out. Here is the transcript, my notes and audio. Can you take a quick look and tell me what you think?



Notes plus transcript (from audio):

Case 3256 (Builder)

Date: 3.24.20,

Time: 3:50 pm

Note: This is my last session of the day. The door opens and the three brothers scurry in. After shouts and squeals over who gets the best chair, all three opt for the couch. After “who sits where” is done, I introduce myself. “Hi, I’m Mallory Muffet. Since this is our first meeting, would you tell me why you’re all here today?”

“This is a group rate?” The pig scans his phone impatiently, as if he had a more important place to be.

“I’m a Family Therapist; I don’t usually charge by the individual.” I raise my eyebrows, assuming a listening look.

 The little one titters. “She’s funny.”

The middle brother, an over-muscled porker whose body language screams “waste of time,” shrugs.

I notice the identical loose weave cotton short sleeved shirts, all three paired with dark blue pantalets. No shoes of course but the hooves are neatly filed. “You three are brothers?”  They nod in unison. “How can I help?” I ask.

“We’re all from the same litter,” the first one says as he extends a hoof. “Phil Builder here, nice to meet you. This is my brother Steve and this here is Ray. He points to the smallest pig.  The three pigs won’t look at each other. “Recently, both Steve and Ray have suffered some bad breaks. Last month, Ray’s beach house…” There is a volley of squeals as Ray jumps off the couch to face Phil.

“It wasn’t a “beach house,” Phil,” Ray snorts, his snout red and trembly, “it was cutting edge coastal living! Architectural Digest was in touch! You never give me any credit! I have dreams, Phil. I don’t want to go to the market, Phil, I want to own it!” Ray begins to sob and Steve guides him back to the couch. Phil reaches over and pats Ray’s hoof. “I know you loved it bro, and it was a beautiful house. But Ray, let’s be honest. It was straw, nice high-end straw. One good gust of wind and bye bye Architectural Digest.

Ray looks away. (Bipolar maybe?)

“Why are you here” How can I help? I ask again. Ray breaks into wheezing tears while Steve’s bulky arms embrace him.

 “Our sister was murdered a year ago.” Phil clears his throat with a loud snort. I offer him a box of tissues. He gives several to Steve who helps Ray pull himself together.

“I’m very sorry,” I say. “What have the police told you?”

“Oh, we know who did it,” Steve says. “It was her boss, Gus Lobos. The cops can’t touch him.  He has influence, you know. Old money with loose morals. The Lobos family all have silver fur of some shade or another which supposedly supports their ties to exiled Russian Royalty, some Siberian Husky branch. That’s their story anyhow. The dad, Randall Lobos was a notorious hound. The old dog’s fur was a white silver, a real attention getter. The better to chase tail, pardon my French. One of the ex-wives called him the biggest bag of wind she ever met.

Gus was the oldest of the first litter. Talk about a great start—a lot of money there. Like his dad, Gus’s fur is silver white, but with a thin black stripe that runs from his snout, all the way to his bushy tail. He used to torment our poor sister by waiving his tail right in front of her face, saying he wanted to hypnotize her.”

Why would he want to hypnotize her? I ask

Phil ‘s head drops down to his chest. He glares at me. “He said he wanted to help her to relax.”

Except for Ray’s wheezing, there’s an uncomfortable silence. I repeat the question, “How can I help?”

“Look, Doc,” Phil says.

“I’m not a doctor,” I say again.

He sighs. “We’ve all accepted that justice will never be done for our Penny.”

“What happened” I ask.

“It started as harassment.” Phil growls, “Gus Lobos, her boss was the perp. On top of the “hypnotherapy,” Penny complained that Gus was constantly sniffing her neck, murmuring ‘delicious.’ HR couldn’t help. The company name is Gus Lobos Vacation Rentals for chrise sake! Gus manages high-end cabins in Big Bear, luxury Tahoe condos, you get the idea. He’s known in the community for his big smile, a real “hale fellow, well et” look. He’s on the front page of the brochure. I personally believe his canines were touched up to look whiter. Penny confided that Lobos has a short temper. If something pisses him off, say a customer cancels or there’s some maintenance issue, he hyperventilates. Penny dreaded those episodes, not only because of Gus’s epic halitosis but because of the mess. Gus starts huffing and puffing and before long, brochures are flying everywhere and the plants overturned. One day, Penny left work early to get her chin hair waxed and never came home. They never found her.”

“The sty wasn’t the same without Penny,” Ray wails. Steve shakes his snout sadly.

“We decided to move on,” Steve tells me. “We put the sty up for sale and we each built our own house.” Ray sobs and snorts.

“Ray,” I ask, “where did you go after your beach (Ray suppresses an angry squeal) house collapsed?”

“I moved in with Steve,” Ray answers and snorts, “It’s nice to know someone cares!”

Phil snorts back, “Grow up, Ray! Be the hog mom wanted you to be!”

“I’m a proud pig and you’re a boar,” Ray squeals.

“I can’t take this constant bitching!” Steve grunts.

“Okay,” I tell them. “Let’s all calm down.”

“Sorry Steve,” Ray whimpers and sighs, “We need to come together. You’re right Doctor.” I decide to let the title thing pass. “Steve and I were working it out before it all fell apart.

“Fell apart?” I ask.

“Down to the last splinter,” Steve moans. “My house was a beautiful Craftsman. Irreplaceable. I found it online. So what if it was in Glendale, it was vintage! Ray was beginning to feel more at home. Granted, much of the downstairs was devoted to my workout, with mats and various machines, but he was remaking the attic into the” he turns to Ray “What you call it?”

“Nouveau resort” Ray answers, clearly wrapped up in Steve’s account.

“Yeah, what he said.” Steve clears his throat with a loud snort. “So, we go to buy some straw mats—Ray interrupts, “Not just straw, they were design— “Phil explodes. “Get to the point; the doc doesn’t have all day!”

I couldn’t have said it better. Phil may have narcissistic tendencies.

“I’ll save us a lot of time and finish,” Phil announces. They say it was a freak Santa Ana wind, but I don’t buy that. Even a hurricane would have a hard time leveling a Craftsman. Something did but nobody can explain it. “After Steve’s house blew down,” Phil says, “both of them move in with me. We’re all adjusting, Ray has a room for maat—designer stuff and Steve has a room for what he does, his weights anyway. We are trying to get along. However, now it seems, we have a stalker.”

“Stalker?” I ask, “That sounds alarming. What makes you think you have a stalker?”

“Ray has an exceptional snout, award winning,” Phil explains. I see Ray sit up straighter. “Five years ago, he made it to the semi-finals of the French Truffle Open. Won a year’s worth of primo truffles.”

“They were gone in three months,” Steve adds. Ray blushes.

“The new house, it’s brick by the way, huge, with a great fireplace, which we need because Fresno gets cold at certain times of the year. Anyway, three streets over, Ray comes weeing all the way home. Dripping down a red fire hydrant was the overpowering smell of wolf piss. The next day, right next to a Pier 1 is a huge sign: Coming soon! Gus Lobos Vacation Rentals!” Phil throws his hooves up in the air. “Why is he doing this? Now, the stress is making us fight again and we’re all under the same shale roof!” He shakes his head.

“Okay,” I say, “let’s work on one thing at a time. I’m referring you all to anger management classes and grief counseling. Then we’ll decide how to deal with Mr. Lobos.”

They all slide off the couch and grab their sailors’ hats. “Thanks, doc,” Phil says, “we’ll keep you posted.”

Ray tugs on Phil’s sleeve. “You told me to remind you. We’re stopping by Home Depot on the way home. Remember, we’re looking for a big stewpot?’

“Yeah, okay,” Phil answers. “See ya doc.”

“Great!” I say.

End record

Mary, this was the first and only time I saw the Builder brothers. I’m not sure why, but Phil sent me a weather report about a freak tornado that touched down in his neighborhood. He said that everyone is doing fine and the grief counseling was a help, especially for Ray.  I want to close the case. However, there are two recent incidents that have given me pause:

A week after the session, I saw an online article titled, “Gus Lobos, owner of Gus Lobos Vacation Rentals is missing.” It asks anyone with any information to please contact the Fresno Police hotline.

It’s the second incident that bothers me. Yesterday, I received an email from Phil Builder. He thanked me for my help and invited me to their open house, celebrating their newly finished mudroom. And photos were attached. The house is very beautiful and I enjoyed looking at the pictures. I can see Ray’s designer touch, especially in the wall hangings. Several included one or more of the Builder brothers. Lots of smiles and smiley faces. It seems they have settled their differences and I am truly happy for them. There’s just one thing, one photo of one thing that I found most disturbing. On the floor of the family room, in front of the brick fireplace, there’s a fur rug. It’s silver and it has a noticeable black stripe.

What should I do? Let it go or call the Fresno hotline?

Thanks, Mary



From: Mary Kontrerie, MFT

To: Mallory Muffet, MFT

Dear Mallory—

Close the case and cancel the mud bath.


The Why of Denise


My short story, “The Why of Denise,” has been published.

It’s a story taken from my second book, Tales from Babylon Dreams, a novel about the pros and cons of living after death in virtual reality, and how a man’s custom paradise becomes his living hell.