Leanne jerked back as though he’d punched her. They’d found it! The moment the personalities split.
She looked at Thurman. Even as the consummate professional that she knew him to be, his expression was sad, hurting for the small child and the grown man who’d been unable to endure the pain of seeing his parents die.
“What is Edward doing?”
“Sleeping. He hurts. Oh, Edward hurts so much.” He writhed in the oversized chair as if the pain were his own. And, of course, it was.
“If Edward’s sleeping, how do you know he hurts?”
“I feel it when Edward hurts.”
“And he feels it when you hurt.” She made the distressing assessment, waited for an answer, then, when none came, realized she hadn’t asked a question. “Does Edward feel it when you hurt?” She knew the answer before it came.
“Can I talk to Edward?”
“He’s sleeping.” He squirmed in the chair, pushing at imaginary restraints, becoming more and more agitated. This, she thought, was doubtless the source of his claustrophobia. Trapped in an infant seat inside a wrecked car while his parents died before his eyes.
He’d had enough for one session. “Okay, Eliot, we’re going forward in time. You’re four years old now. Five. Ten. Twenty. Thirty. All the way back to the present.”
He seemed to age before her eyes, his jaw becoming set and square again, lines of tension appearing around his eyes. She knew it was an optical illusion...the dim light, the change of body posture and facial expression, her own suggestion...but it was disconcerting. The entire situation was disconcerting.
“How old are you now, Eliot?”
“Thirty-four.” His voice, too, had returned to normal.
“Where are you?”
“Can I speak to Edward?”
His forehead wrinkled as though in concentration or confusion. “Edward isn’t here.”
She looked at Thurman and shrugged.
“Let me try,” he whispered.
“Eliot, Thurman Powers would like to talk to you now. Will you speak to Thurman?”
She sat back and watched while Thurman covered the same ground she’d covered in their previous session...and with the same lack of results. He had no more success in contacting Edward than she did.
Finally he gave up. “Bring him out,” he said.
“All right, Eliot, you’re going to wake up now. You’ll feel wide awake and rested, and you’ll remember everything that was said. On the count of three. One...waking up. Two...almost there. Three. Open your eyes.”
Eliot sat erect, his expression strained. “Does that mean what I think it means?” he asked bluntly. “Am I a multiple personality? Did I murder Kay Palmer?”
“It doesn’t prove anything,” Leanne denied, reassuring herself as much as him. “It gives us a starting point to work from.” She strove hard to keep her voice impersonal, to hide the desperation and sadness.
She rose and turned up the lights, using the action to give herself a moment to compose her thoughts.
Eliot was Edward. If she’d harbored any doubts...hopes...she had to give them up now. Eliot was mentally ill. Eliot was Edward, and that meant part of Eliot hated her. Which was a clinical reality and shouldn’t bother her, shouldn’t leave a knot of anguish in her stomach, but it did.
“Can you tell us anything more about the automobile accident?” Thurman asked.
Leanne moved her chair back behind her desk and sat down, watching Eliot who was once again a man in control.
He shook his head. “No, I’m afraid I don’t recall anything else. I remember what I saw under hypnosis, but it’s not really connected to me. Leanne said it would be like watching a movie, and it was. It is. I remember watching it but not actually being involved.”
“And you remember nothing more about Edward in the accident?” Thurman pursued. “You said he was sleeping.”
“Yes. I seemed to see him sitting next to me, strapped into a car seat just like me, separate but somehow a part of me. He was sleeping, unconscious maybe. You think that’s where my personality fragmented, don’t you?”
“It’s a possibility, but at this point we can’t be certain. We still haven’t been able to contact Edward. He’s appeared twice of his own volition, but we can’t bring him forth from your mind. Until we see you switch from Eliot to Edward, we can’t make a firm diagnosis.”
“But the odds are against me, aren’t they?”
“I don’t think we can put it in those terms. Let’s just say the signs point to the possibility that you have Multiple Personality Disorder. Even so, dreaming about killing a woman doesn’t make you a murderer. You dreamed about killing Leanne, and she’s very much alive.”
Eliot’s gaze lifted to hers, and she could see the agony there. “Thurman...Dr. Powers...would you consider taking over my case? I don’t think it’s a good idea for Leanne to be involved. I’m afraid Edward will...do something.”
“You think Edward will want to harm Leanne because she’s treating you?” Thurman asked. “Do you think he’ll try to harm me if I’m treating you?”
Eliot smiled. “With Dixie around, I don’t think he can. Anyway, Edward’s anger seems to be directed toward women.”
“Because you broke contact with him when you began seeing Kay in high school?” Leanne asked.
“I was attracted to her,” he said. “I let her come between Edward and me. And now she’s dead.”
She looked away from him, down at her desk. The implication was crystal clear. He was attracted to her and couldn’t risk inciting Edward further by continuing his association with her.
“By acting as your therapist, you think I’m coming between Edward and you,” she said, ignoring the first part of his statement.
“I’ll be happy to take you on as a patient,” Thurman said. He wouldn’t have missed the implications, either. “Tell me what Edward was like when you were young.”
“He was no murderer. He was my friend, my playmate. We always had a good time. He wanted to do all the same things I did. He was happy and loving, grateful when I took him to school.”
“Grateful? That’s an odd term to apply to an imaginary friend. Why do you think he felt grateful?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I needed him to feel grateful that I was his friend and I kept playing with him in spite of Mom and Dad getting so upset about it.”
“You said it made him sad that your mom and dad didn’t approve,” Thurman said. “Tell me more about that feeling.”
Eliot shook his head. “Do you have any idea how crazy this is, discussing the feelings of somebody who doesn’t exist?”
“Eliot, it’s not crazy,” Leanne assured him. “I know this is hard for you. This isn’t something that makes sense in the context of your everyday life. But it’s not crazy. You invented Edward when you were very young. He filled a need then, and the more we know about him as a child, the more we’ll know about his adult manifestation.”
He studied her silently, dubiously, for a moment. “Very well,” he said, accepting her assessment. “So we have to analyze Edward. He was sad at first. He wanted Mom and Dad to accept him the way they accepted me. Then he got angry. Every time they said something about him, he’d remind me that they weren’t my real parents.”
“Did you resent your foster parents because they’d taken the place of your real parents?” Thurman asked.
“No,” Eliot said slowly, as if considering the idea. “I didn’t resent them. I loved them. It did upset me because they didn’t understand about Edward. They wanted me to play with real kids who were never as interesting or fun as Edward was. But I knew they just wanted the best for me. I made an effort to please them. I stopped talking about Edward even though I always took him along wherever I went. For a while the other kids kind of accepted him, like we were all playing a game that was a secret from the adults. However, it was only a year or two before I realized I had to keep him a secret from the other kids, too.”
“But you maintained contact with him until the episode with Kay.”
“I see.” Thurman stroked his mustache, a familiar gesture indicating he was mulling things over.
“So do I.” Eliot’s words snapped electrically through the air. “I deserted Edward for Kay so he killed her. When I started coming to Leanne to get rid of him again, he decided to kill her.”
“You’re jumping to unsupported conclusions,” Thurman said. “You broke contact with a part of yourself to please a girl in school. You don’t even know for sure that Kay Palmer and Kay Becker are the same person. You certainly don’t know that Edward killed her.”
Eliot leaned forward, his expression intense. “I went to see Kay’s husband today. He was going to give her a divorce. She had a reason to call Edward and ask him over to celebrate.”
“If he’s telling the truth.”
Eliot nodded. “If he’s telling the truth. And I think he…could be.”
Leanne sensed he’d been about to say I think he is telling the truth, but he’d changed it. If he accepted that, the odds went up that he had murdered that poor woman. She was glad he hadn’t said it, that she didn’t have to accept it, either.
“You said she could call Edward to celebrate, but I understand from Leanne that the police told you she had your card, that her friend in the shop recognized you as Eliot, not Edward.”
“So Edward is using your name.”
“Then how do you know it was Edward?”
Eliot’s eyes widened as if he’d been physically struck. “That’s the second time you’ve insinuated there may be another one of those monsters in my head.”
For a long heartbeat, Thurman didn’t reply. Leanne had to fight the urge to jump in and reassure Eliot. This was Thurman’s case now. Any reaction from her would be personal and inappropriate, possibly detrimental.
“Alternate personalities are not monsters. They’re simply different aspects of one personality, hidden in different compartments. Our goal is to break down the walls to those compartments and integrate all the personalities into one. The first step, if we determine that you do have MPD, is for you to accept the other personalities.”
The muscles in Eliot’s jaw tightened in stubborn refusal.
“What do you say we call it quits for tonight?” Thurman asked, making no attempt to persuade Eliot. He’d planted the seed. He obviously realized that was all he could hope to accomplish at the moment. “Do you want to come by my house on Monday evening, about seven?”
“I’ll be there,” Eliot agreed. He understood what Thurman was telling him, but he had no intention of accepting as a part of himself someone who had so much anger and hatred as Edward. He’d brought up and confronted his long-ago problem with Kay Becker as well as the traumatic accident that had killed his parents. Maybe that would suffice. Maybe now he wouldn’t be troubled with Edward’s thoughts and dreams.
He held that determination as the three of them rode down in the elevator and walked outside together into the dusk.
“Call me when you get home,” Leanne requested of Thurman.
He nodded, hesitated a moment, looking from Eliot to Leanne. Eliot’s gut clenched in anger and self-hatred. Was Thurman going to insist on protecting Leanne, on staying with them until Eliot left? What kind of monster had he become that women needed to be protected from him?
“I’ll call you,” Thurman promised, casting a look back at the office building where the security guard watched them from inside the glass doors, then getting into his station wagon.
Leanne looked up at him. “I guess I won’t see you tomorrow.”
“No. I guess not.”
“Thurman’s good. He’ll help you.”
“I know. What both of you said about integrating Edward’s personality into mine...I don’t want that. I want to get rid of him.” How could he accept into his being someone with so much anger...someone who hated Leanne, who fantasized about hurting her?
“Once we get in touch with Edward and discover why he’s so angry, we can work to heal that anger.” It was her professional look, her professional tone. It was what he needed from her...but not what he wanted.
“I shouldn’t be asking you business questions since you’re not my official doctor any more, should I?” I shouldn’t be talking to you at all, should I?
“It’s okay.” In the dusk he couldn’t be sure, but he was fairly certain she blushed. Had the same thought crossed her mind that crossed his? If he wasn’t her patient, the ban on a personal relationship would be lifted. If he shouldn’t ask her business questions, what sort of questions could he ask her?
None, he reminded himself grimly. His interest in her had already incited Edward to stalk her and have gruesome fantasies about her.
He took a step backward, away from her. “Good night,” he said, aware the words came out sharp, angry.
As she looked up at him, the twilight caressed her skin, darkened her shiny hair, colored her eyes a muted blue-gray and cast shadows about her lips that made them look half-parted and swollen, ready to be kissed.
“Good night,” she said, but she made no move toward her car.
Except for the two of them, the parking lot was deserted. The glaring overhead lights hadn’t come on yet. The security guard was probably back to reading his book by now. All Eliot had to do was lean over and touch her lips with his. Somehow he didn’t think she’d stop him. Cover her lips with his, pull her slim body against his...sign her death warrant?
“Good night,” he said again, and turned and strode away, cursing under his breath, swearing not at her or even at himself but at the circumstances that had brought them together and kept them apart.
Edward stood across the street, staring up at her house and hating her. She was just like the rest of them.
His eyes blazed as if a fire burned in his brain, and he suddenly shifted his attention to Eliot.
“You can hear me, can’t you, Eliot? You can’t keep me out when you’re asleep, and soon you won’t be able to when you’re awake.
“Your Leanne, she’s like your mother...foster mother, that is. Not our real mother. She’s like your first grade teacher and like Kay. Like all the girls after that...and now Leanne Warner. Every one of them played a part in keeping me in prison. They set out to separate you and me. And they succeeded, but only because you let them.
“You shoved me to the back of your mind. You took them to the movies and not me. You talked to them and shut me out. It’s your fault I couldn’t get out until now. I owe you, Eliot. Killing Leanne will get rid of her, and it’ll hurt you because you like her, don’t you? You’ll go to prison for killing her and for killing Kay. You’re right about her identity. Kay Palmer was Kay Becker all grown up. I punished her for what she did to us.
“Now I’m going to punish you. Soon you’ll be the one in prison, and I’ll be free to enjoy the things you’ve enjoyed all these years without me. It’s my turn.
“Watch me, Eliot. I’m getting stronger all the time. You can’t escape me now. When I want your attention, I have it. You can’t ignore me any longer, no matter how hard you try.”
He took a final pull from his cigarette, tossed it to the pavement and crushed it, then moved closer to the house, up the walk, around the sides, checking the windows as he went. How convenient of her to live in a house with so much foliage, so many places to hide, he thought.
The windows were locked. That was all right. He wasn’t ready yet. There were still some things to do.
He came back to the one he’d chosen before and leaned against it, eyes closed, focusing on what would be, on his plans for the future.
He pictured himself looking at the window again, pictured himself lifting it and climbing through it, into Leanne’s house.
The interior was silent and empty...cavernous with unclear outlines and no furniture, dream-like and surreal. He could see the front door and the entry hall where he’d stood, where she’d almost invited him in. He’d seen that part of her house. He could picture it accurately, but he hadn’t been able to get inside.
“Somehow she knew I wasn’t you. She called me Edward and slammed the door in my face. But it doesn’t matter. The next time will be different. She won’t get away from me. Haven’t I already proven how powerful and smart I am? More powerful than you, Eliot. Smarter than you.”
She wouldn’t be down on the first floor, of course. She’d be asleep on the second floor. That’s where he’d seen her at the window when he’d stood across the street.
In an instant, in his fantasy, he stood in her bedroom. She lay in the iron frame bed under the white comforter, head on a white pillow.
“Damn her, who does she think she is, having everything white? Who’s she trying to fool? Maybe you, but not me. I know she’s not pure and pristine. I know her for what she is...evil. Another woman trying to get rid of me.”
He watched her breathing, watched her breasts rise and fall.
“You think about those breasts, don’t you, Eliot? You fantasize about touching them, kissing them. Oh, yes. I know your thoughts just like you know mine.”
In his fantasy he walked over and placed his hands on her breasts, squeezing hard.
“Watch closely, Eliot. Don’t you wish you could do this?”
Leanne opened her eyes, and he saw pain in them, the dawning knowledge of what was going to happen to her. They looked like Kay Palmer’s eyes had when she’d known.
“You want to turn away, don’t you, Eliot? No, I want you to watch closely. Watch what’s going to happen to her.”
Slowly, deliberately, he shifted his hands to her throat and squeezed, feeling the small bones crack, watching her eyes bulge, her lips open, gasping for breath that wouldn’t come. Her dying washed over him, filling him with power and ecstasy.