Eliot sat at his desk in his quiet, empty office and clenched his fists. Suddenly he didn’t like being there. Suddenly the isolation seemed ominous rather than comforting.
He wasn’t sure if anybody else had come in today. Probably not. If they did, they’d leave early. Only he made it a habit to be there every Saturday, all day. Only he resisted forming relationships that would keep him occupied on week-ends.
He’d never thought about it before. He’d always assumed that once he was secure financially, he’d want the normal things...to have a home and family. He’d told himself he was doing the right thing, dedicating himself to the task at hand.
But maybe deep down he’d known all along that he had problems. Maybe that was why he’d deliberately isolated himself from everybody.
For the first time, he admitted to himself that he was frightened. He’d thought he had everything under control. Obviously he didn’t. Somewhere along the way, he’d lost control of his life...even of his own body. A monster of his own creation had risen up to lead him to his doom.
Again he wondered if he should turn himself over to the police...if Edward had killed Kay.
The evidence was pretty damning, but Edward hadn’t actually admitted he’d done it. He’d said he wanted Eliot to take the blame. As long as there was the slightest chance someone else had committed the murder, Eliot had to believe in his own innocence. He couldn’t accept that he had in him—even hidden deep inside him—the ability to kill someone.
So far Edward had only fantasized about killing Leanne. Maybe that’s all he’d done with Kay. Maybe Wayne had killed her after all. Eliot grabbed onto that hope as to a lifeline. No part of him could murder someone. Not even Kay. Not at the time when he’d been so angry with her in high school and certainly not now. He’d gotten over that anger years ago.
But Edward was still angry.
Did that explain Edward’s beginnings? If Kay Palmer and Kay Becker were the same person, had he never gotten over that childhood anger but simply moved it to another part of his brain and allowed it to fester? Was that why he’d never become emotionally involved with any of the women he’d dated, because he’d sensed that anger and feared what might happen? What he might do?
But now he trusted Leanne. He’d told her about Edward, just as he’d told Kay about his imaginary friend all those years ago.
It wasn’t the same, though. Leanne hadn’t betrayed him.
But she had told his secret. She’d told Thurman.
He slammed a fist onto his desk. Damn it! He had to do something. He had to take action. It was all well and good for Leanne to urge him to trust Thurman to help, but there was no point in his sitting around waiting and hoping for that to happen. He needed to do something to help himself.
He could not comprehend that a part of him was starting its own life, but he had to accept that it was possible. If Leanne was right about Edward buying clothes or other things, he wasn’t keeping them at home. He had no idea of the location of the private phone number Edward had given Kay.
Kay had called him once at the office. Had he received other calls from her but gone into his Edward persona to answer them?
The idea brought goose bumps to his skin.
He yanked open a desk drawer and pulled out the local telephone directory.
There was no listing for Edward Dalman. He closed the book and returned it to the drawer with a sigh. What would he have done if there had been, if he’d been confronted with physical evidence of his alter ego’s existence?
In the interest of thoroughness, he called Information, expecting to hear the same thing. Instead a computerized voice told him the number he’d asked for was unpublished at the customer’s request.
Beads of perspiration broke out on his forehead and upper lip.
Someone named Edward Dalman lived in this town and had a telephone with an unlisted number. A private number.
Which didn’t mean it was his Edward. The name was uncommon, but not unique.
His heart pounded hard against his ribs as he set his jaw and forced himself to face the possibility that the listing might be Edward’s, that Edward had his own phone, his own home.
He rubbed his forehead, dragging his hand over his eyes. He couldn’t panic. He had to face this rationally, be logical. If Edward had leased an apartment, it would likely be in the vicinity of his condo since he would have to go back and forth from there.
He could check all the apartment buildings in that area, give the managers some story about getting a message to Edward concerning a death in the family. Even with the emphasis on privacy and not telling where someone lived, if a manager agreed to deliver a message, that would tell him Edward had possibly taken an apartment there.
Grimly determined, he took out the Yellow Pages. He would beat this thing. He’d find Edward then get rid of him and return to a normal life.
For a moment his optimism wavered. Wasn’t that exactly what Edward was trying to do to him? This whole thing was insane. How could he possibly be fighting with himself for possession of his body...of his mind?
But he was. And somehow he had to win.
He opened the book to Apartments.
A couple of hours later he gave up in defeat. Saturday was a busy day for apartments; managers were out of the office showing units, or they’d closed already.
He returned the phone book to his desk drawer and slammed it...hard. What he really wanted to do was slam his head against the solid wood until part of his brain was demolished...until Edward was destroyed.
He stood and prepared to leave. As he locked the office door behind him, the thought flashed across his mind that he ought to lock himself in his own home, make certain he couldn’t leave and go to Leanne’s house.
But that was stupid. If he locked the door, put up barricades, Edward could just undo whatever he did. He couldn’t even hide the key from Edward.
Short of committing himself to an institution, he couldn’t think of any way to restrain his evil side.
As he drove home through the neighborhood of fifty-year-old trees and big, older homes, a neighborhood that had always reassured him with its sense of history and permanence, a discouraging thought hit him. The area held an abundance of fourplexes, duplexes, carriage houses, garage apartments and other properties not tidily listed in the Yellow Pages. If Edward had set up separate residence around there, the chances of finding such a rental place were virtually infinitesimal.
In despair, he drove for a while in circles, up and down side streets, staring intently at every dwelling as if he could somehow identify Edward’s residence. His actions were pointless, but he couldn’t stop himself from trying to see through brick walls, to determine if Edward had been inside, if Edward Dalman planned to live there after getting rid of Eliot Kane.
At noon on Monday Leanne walked to the side door of her office with her eleven o’clock appointment. “I’ll see you next week, Helen. Call me if you need anything.”
“Thanks, Leanne. I will, but I’m doing much better.”
“I know. Just in case, I’m here.”
She closed the private door then crossed her office and went out the other door into the reception area. “Ready for lunch, Becky?”
“Dr. Warner, Mr. Kane is here to see you.”
“Eliot?” She looked around to see him sitting in a chair on the far side of the reception area.
Eliot or Edward?
He’d come to a public place in the middle of the day. Surely Edward wouldn’t do that.
He closed the magazine in his lap and laid it back on the lamp table, then stood and faced her. “I thought we might have lunch,” he said, his voice low and tantalizing.
He shouldn’t be there. He shouldn’t be talking to her in those tones. She shouldn’t be glad to see him.
“I’m going to lunch now,” Becky said.
She wanted to stop Becky, ask her to stay. But she couldn’t. “That’s fine.”
“It’s me,” Eliot said softly, as if reading her mind.
She stood aside and Eliot moved past her into her office.
From the corner of her eye, Leanne watched Becky disappear through the outer door. She and Eliot were alone.
Involuntarily the thought flickered across her mind that no one would know if she sat beside him, if she took his hand or touched his face.
No one would know if Edward appeared, placed his hands around her throat and fulfilled his dreams.
This man was Eliot, Leanne assured herself, trying to quiet the niggling voice inside her head. Edward had never come to her office.
Eliot sat on the sofa, not in the recliner. She interpreted the action as indicative that he was here in a social capacity, not as her patient.
She moved to the window and opened the curtains so he wouldn’t feel claustrophobic then went around her desk and sat in her chair. “It’s really nice to see you, Eliot, but do you think it’s a good idea for us to go to lunch?”
“I think it’s an excellent idea. I’m not your patient anymore. Why shouldn’t we?”
She picked up a pencil from her desk, holding one end in the fingers of each hand, twisting it back and forth, studying the man in front of her, wanting to trust him, wanting to go to lunch with him. “Why?” she repeated. She could think of a dozen reasons they shouldn’t go to lunch, shouldn’t ever see each other again. Usually it was Eliot who voiced those reasons. Something wasn’t right.
He stretched his arm along the back of the sofa and smiled. “Why not?” he drawled.
She looked at him, at his smile, at his eyes that glowed in the sunlight streaming in the windows. Those eyes seemed more golden than brown and reminded her of the lion in the zoo as he contemplated the people gawking at him, thinking of what he’d do if the bars of his cage weren’t there.
The hair on the nape of her neck stood on end, and she knew with a dead certainty that she was alone in her office with Edward.
“We shouldn’t go to lunch because we agreed not to socialize,” she said warily. Perhaps she should agree to go to lunch with him and get him into a public place...for her own safety.
But she didn’t want to go anywhere with him, wasn’t sure she could maintain the fiction that she believed him. The attraction, the desire, which drew her to Eliot had been replaced with feelings of fear and loathing.
At the same time, she reminded herself, as a professional, she couldn’t pass up this opportunity to talk to Edward, to try to solve some of the mysteries of this case.
“Then we can change our minds and agree to go,” he suggested suavely, still smiling in a way that sent chills down her spine.
“As long as you’re here, let’s don’t waste time. Why don’t we do some therapy, some more hypnosis?” She tried to keep her voice level, not give him any hint that she was aware of his attempted deception...or that she was terrified of him.
He stood, strode across the room and leaned over her desk toward her. He might have meant the position to be intimate, but she found it threatening. She flinched involuntarily, and his eerie smile changed to a scowl.
“We can’t do any therapy,” he said. “You’re not my shrink anymore. Thurman Powers is. So there’s no reason we can’t go to lunch.”
She swallowed hard, trying to repress her fear and behave in a calm, rational manner. But it was no use. This man wasn’t Bruce Hedlund or any of the other disturbed people she took pride in being able to handle. This was a dangerous man. He might look like the man who was concerned about her welfare, the man she’d kissed so willingly in the park, but this was a man who fantasized about killing her.
“No,” she said breathlessly, “I guess there’s no reason at all. I’ll just...uh...finish my notes on my last patient and meet you downstairs.”
His scowl deepened. “Did you like your flowers?” he asked abruptly.
The question was simple and straightforward, but somehow Edward made it sound ominous. “They were lovely,” she replied.
“Then why did you throw them in the trash?”
“You went through my trash?” She had a sudden image of him standing in the alley only a few feet from her house, sorting through her garbage, reading messages she might have thrown away, picking through her old magazines, stealing little bits and pieces of her in the most sordid manner possible.
“You don’t think I’m Eliot, do you?” he demanded.
It was a measure of the crushing fear she had of him that Leanne found her hand reaching for the drawer that contained the gun Eliot had given her.
She clenched her hand into a fist and forced herself to return it to her desktop
Somewhere inside this man is Eliot! she reminded herself. You don’t dare hurt Edward because you’ll hurt Eliot.
But her warnings to herself were only words. It was hard to believe this was the man who’d kissed her so tenderly at the lake. This man was evil.
Her heart thudded wildly, painfully, as she remembered Eliot’s dream...Edward’s fantasy. Her breathing became difficult, restrained, as if he’d actually put his hands around her throat.
“Why do you say that?” she asked, hating the breathless, frightened sound of her words.
He leaned even closer, supporting himself with his hands on her desk, and she had to brace herself not to back away. “Because I’m just as observant as you are,” he said softly.
Leanne drew in a deep, shaky breath. She was trapped, alone with a madman. Becky wouldn’t be back for an hour. She could only try to make the best of things, try to regain control of the situation, bluff her way through.
“Edward, why do you hate Eliot? Is it because he deserted you for Kay, because you think he betrayed you?”
His jungle-bright eyes narrowed. “You think Eliot’s so perfect. Well, you don’t know him very well. You’d be surprised how cruel he can be.”
At least she’d managed to take his attention off her. “You’re right. I don’t know. So why don’t you tell me?” Her hand reached automatically for her recorder, but she drew back. This wasn’t an ordinary session. She’d just have to depend on her memory. If she was to keep Edward talking, she’d do best not to call his attention to her professional capacity. “What cruel things has Eliot done to you?”
He grinned knowingly. “Trying to psychoanalyze me? Forget it.” He straightened and walked to the window, then stood looking out, his back to her.
She tried to calculate her chances of making it to the door.
But then he began to talk again, and she sat transfixed, fascinated, almost forgetting her fear of him.
“Just so you’ll know that he’s not as perfect as you seem to think, I’ll tell you. For years he left me alone, in prison, while he went his way and had a good time. We were friends at one time, you know. But then Kay came along. And after her, there were others, and all I could do was watch. Eliot had women, he went to school, he had a good job. He had a life. I didn’t. It was always Eliot, only Eliot. That’s the only person he cared about, himself.”
He turned around and faced her, and she drew back at the anger on his features. He reached into his jacket pocket, and she shot to her feet, ready to run for her life. He smiled tauntingly, obviously delighting in her fear, then slowly withdrew...not a gun or a knife but only a pack of cigarettes. “Do you mind if I smoke?” he asked.
She shook her head jerkily and sank back down into her chair. “Not at all.” Normally she refused to let patients smoke in her office, but common sense told her this was no time to stick to her rules.
“Do you have an ash tray?”
She didn’t. Her gaze darted around the room, settling on the decorative crystal bowl on her bookshelf. “You can use that.” She pointed, and noticed that her hand trembled.
She could tell by the expression on his face that Edward noticed, too. His eyes never left hers as he lit his cigarette with a gold lighter and inhaled deeply. “Ah‑h‑h,” he said, exhaling. “Eliot doesn’t know what he’s missing.” He studied the glowing end. “I only took up smoking because Eliot did it, and then he quit.” His voice was unexpectedly gentle, reminding Leanne that the two personalities had once been friends.
“But I’m not going to quit.” His voice had a bitter tone. “I’ve got my own life now. I’m not dependent on him to take me along. Soon he’ll be out of the way, and I can lead my own life. You’d be smart to throw in with me, not him. Go with the winner, not the loser.”
Deliberately, watching her the entire time, he tossed his cigarette to the floor and ground it into the carpet. She leapt from her chair and started to protest then closed her mouth judiciously.
His sneer told her she’d reacted as he’d expected. She’d shown her fear of him. She couldn’t have that, couldn’t let him know he was in control.
“That was extremely rude,” she said quietly, and was surprised and pleased that her voice didn’t quaver. “I’ll expect you to pay for having that carpet repaired.”
“No problem. Eliot’s got plenty of money. He’ll be happy to pay.”
“Did you take the thirty-five thousand dollars from his accounts?”
“Tell Eliot he can consider that partial payment for what I went through all those years he left me behind.”
He strode across the room to the door and stood with one hand on the knob. “Partial. When he’s in prison for killing you and Kay, I’ll have everything.”
A cold hand clenched her heart. “Edward, did you kill Kay Palmer?” For the first time, she completely believed this side of Eliot could be guilty of murder.
“What would you do if I said yes? Would you turn Eliot in?” He shook his head. “Not yet. You can rest easy. Eliot didn’t kill her. But Eliot’s going to take the blame. He’s going to prison. Maybe even get the death sentence.”
He smiled his macabre smile again, opened the door and slid through, leaving her office.
Her first reaction was relief, but that was followed by an even greater fear than she’d yet experienced.
“Edward!” she called after him, running into the reception area. He was already halfway through the outer door. “Edward, you and Eliot share the same body! You’ll go to prison, too!”
He didn’t turn back.