Secrets Among the Shadows

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Chapter 15

Leanne hesitated, torn between going after Edward and trying to reason with him or locking her office door behind him and drawing in a deep, thankful breath that he was gone.

With that hesitation, the moment was gone. Indecision became decision.

She went to the window and watched the parking lot for his appearance, half afraid he wouldn’t leave the building, that he’d come back to her instead.

He strode out, then turned to look up at her and gave her that smile that was and wasn’t Eliot’s. A chill shot through her, and she took an involuntary step backward even though she knew on a rational level that, through the tinted glass of the window, he could only see an outline of her at best.

He lifted a hand in a mock salute then continued on toward the dark blue Lexus.

She watched with hypnotic fascination, wanting to turn away, to ignore this abhorrent side of Eliot. Instead, she forced herself to watch, to acknowledge and accept that this was Eliot, the man who’d kissed her, the man she’d wanted to kiss her. With the pleasure he brought her came this other creature, this other part of him, who would bring her nothing but pain.

He climbed into his car and backed from the space, heading out of the lot. Was it the same car, she wondered, or had he, in his certainty of being separate from Eliot, bought a car identical to Eliot’s?

But the license plate wouldn’t be the same. If this license was different from Eliot’s, they could contact the Department of Motor Vehicles and perhaps obtain some more information, find out if Edward had set up a separate residence.

Regaining some of her composure in the process of taking action, she made a mental note of the letters and numbers before he disappeared from view, then went to her desk and wrote them down.

For a long moment she stared at the digits, trying to analyze her own feelings. The journey—from being thrilled to see him then desperately wishing him away—had been an illuminating trip.

Eliot was a very sick man. He needed extensive therapy before he could be cured, assuming he could ever be completely cured. There was only so much she could do to help him. She’d brought him into contact with Thurman. That was his best chance of getting well. Now she needed to back off and protect herself.

At best, assuming Eliot didn’t go any further down the road of madness, assuming everything went well and Edward was integrated into his personality, would he be the same person? Would she still be attracted to him when that happened?

And that was assuming the best case scenario. As for the worst—

She folded the paper with his license number and put it into her purse. She couldn’t deal with the worst. She couldn’t deal with a continuing relationship of any sort with Eliot Kane.

***

Edward drove away from her office feeling pleased with himself. He’d frightened her. He’d failed to convince her he was Eliot for longer than a few minutes, but the visit hadn’t been a total waste. He’d frightened her badly...so badly she’d allowed him to smoke in the purified air of her office. Her fright added to his power.

When they were young, Eliot had a cat, a sop from the people he called his parents to keep Eliot from talking to him. Once the two of them had caught the cat playing with a mouse, and they’d both been disgusted. But now Edward knew how that cat had felt...the thrill of toying with someone while knowing the game would end with the other person’s death.

He’d used Leanne. Given her information he wanted passed on to Eliot. Kay’s murder had put Eliot’s guard up. Edward knew he was getting stronger, but so was Eliot. Sometimes it was difficult to get through to him.

But it didn’t matter. The game was almost over. And there would be only one winner.

***

Leanne had just finished feeding Greta when she heard a car stop in the street—Eliot’s car or Edward’s. Going to the window, she looked out and saw his tall, sturdy frame as he strode boldly up to Thurman’s house. His steps were unhurried, firm and sure as though he’d come for a visit, as though nothing was amiss in his life. Only a certain stiffness to his broad shoulders told of the inner turmoil she knew he was feeling. Someone who knew him less well than she would never have noticed it.

This was Eliot. She was certain.

Just before he stepped onto the porch, he turned as if sensing her gaze on him, and she realized she’d been staring, just as she’d stared at Edward earlier...though Edward’s fascination was that of a snake over its intended victim, while Eliot’s was more elemental, simply that of a man and a woman.

Embarrassed by both her actions and her thoughts, she lifted a hand in greeting. His eyes scanned her house, then he turned back and continued onto Thurman’s porch. He hadn’t seen her. In the early evening twilight without her lights on, she’d been invisible.

Which raised the question of why he’d been looking in her direction. Had he sensed her watching him or had he been searching for her, as hungry for a glimpse of her as she was for him?

She bit her lip and moved away from the window. She couldn’t allow herself to think things like that...feel things like that. If seeing him across the street set her heart racing and all rational thought skittering, how would she react when he and Thurman came over after their session to discuss Edward’s latest visit with her?

The thought of Edward recalled the slip of paper where she’d written his license number. Fumbling in her purse, she withdrew the paper and looked at it, then at Eliot’s car. The automobile sat in the street, sideways to her line of vision so she couldn’t see the plates. She could go outside and check, or she could restrain her inappropriate curiosity, wait and ask Eliot when he came over.

Inappropriate or not, with Eliot’s car sitting so close, with Eliot’s arrival at her house imminent, she had to know. She took the paper and went outside, crossed the street and walked behind Eliot’s car.

The plate was different.

Her stomach clenched into a hard, painful knot. Two license numbers. Two identical cars. Further evidence of the intensity of Eliot’s disorder. Edward was so strong, he owned his own car.

Edward. The name sent anger flashing through her. Even though she understood the reality of the situation, on an emotional level she blamed him for Eliot’s problems, for her problems, for the wall that must always exist between Eliot and her.

Edward is Eliot, she reminded herself. And Eliot is Edward.

How easy it would be to view the two as separate.

How easy and how fatal.

***

Leanne sat in an overstuffed arm chair with Greta curled in her lap. She stroked the dog’s sleek little head and tried to concentrate on reading a book. All her attention centered across the street as she waited anxiously for the arrival of Thurman and Eliot. He’d been over there almost two hours. What was going on?

Suddenly Greta became alert, her floppy ear perking up to match the erect one, and she leapt onto the floor, tail wagging erratically as she scampered to the door.

Leanne dropped her book and hurried to the window. Eliot and Thurman were coming up her walk into the glare of the porch light.

As though he could feel her gaze on him, Eliot looked up, directly at her this time, and he came into ultra-sharp focus in her field of vision while everything around him blurred into the surrounding darkness. Only the man coming toward her was substantial and real. Only her need for him mattered. Reasons and rationale—whatever they were, and she couldn’t seem to remember any of that at the moment—couldn’t possibly be as important as this overpowering need.

Greta’s excited bark broke the trance. Leanne drew in a shaky breath and went to open the door for the two men. From the look of frustration on Thurman’s face and the stoic implacability on Eliot’s, she didn’t have to wonder how the session had gone.

Eliot came inside, brushing so close to her she could smell faint, late-day remnants of his cologne, could feel waves of heat through the fabric of his suit. His eyes met hers, and for a fleeting instant, she was excited and flustered, full of anticipation...like a woman meeting her lover.

Eliot looked away, breaking eye contact and the illusion, giving her a chance to catch her breath. “I understand you had a lunch time visitor,” he said, bringing her crashing back to reality.

“I’m afraid so. Do you remember what you did for lunch?”

He compressed his lips and shook his head. “I ordered in a sandwich and worked. Everyone else went out, of course, so there’s no one to tell me when I might have left or returned. I only remember working. To tell you the truth, I don’t even recall eating that sandwich.”

Leanne couldn’t repress a soft sigh. “Well, have a seat while I get some iced tea.”

As she took down three glasses from the kitchen cupboard, she reprimanded herself for her inability to stop this absurd, dangerous allure that Eliot held for her. The situation was impossible. She knew that, and she wasn’t the type person to let her emotions...or her hormones...rule her life.

She realized she was angrily chunking the ice cubes into the glasses. Irritated with her behavior, she ordered herself to calm down.

Determined to keep a realistic view of Eliot in the forefront of her mind, Leanne took the drinks out to the two men. Greta had made herself comfortable between them. Thurman had left Dixie at home, so he evidently thought she was safe with Eliot for the moment.

Though not safe enough that he’d let Eliot come over alone.

Resisting a strong, irrational desire to sit on the sofa next to Eliot, she crossed the room and took a seat in an armchair.

“Did Thurman tell you that Edward admitted you didn’t kill Kay Palmer, that he was only setting you up to take the blame?” she asked, diverting her thoughts to the situation rather than the person.

Eliot’s face relaxed momentarily, then tautened and darkened. “Did he say he didn’t kill her?”

“No,” she admitted, amazed that she had missed that point. Probably because she wanted so badly to believe, against all evidence, in Eliot’s innocence.

“So we’re right back to square one. Nowhere.” He lifted his glass to his mouth and slugged down half his tea.

“You’re right,” she agreed. “He didn’t deny doing it, but he denied you did it. Right now we have to hang onto that.”

Eliot arched a disbelieving eyebrow. He was, she knew, too smart to fall for such rhetoric, but right now it was all she had to offer.

“Edward doesn’t seem to understand that he and I are the same person. Just because he thinks I had nothing to do with the crime doesn’t mean he’s right.”

Leanne dropped her eyes to her lap. There was no point in trying to deny Eliot’s assertion. In fact, she might as well tell him the latest information she’d uncovered.

“There’s a possibility that Edward bought a car just like yours,” she said, and heard two gasps from across the room. She looked up to find both men watching her intently. Even Greta had raised her head alertly, apparently reacting to the sudden increase in tension.

“How do you know that?” Eliot demanded.

She picked up the scrap of paper she’d laid on the lamp table beside her chair and took it to Eliot. His fingers as they briefly touched hers were icy...the way her heart felt right now.

“I copied that from the plates on the car he drove to my office,” she said.

Eliot’s eyes were dark, bottomless pits as he looked from the paper to her. “This isn’t my license plate number.”

“I know. I checked your car tonight.”

“Leanne,” Thurman said, “can I see you in the kitchen for a minute?”

She could tell from his tone that he was irritated. As soon as the door closed, he turned to her, arms folded, his expression tight.

“Why didn’t you give me that information first?” he demanded. “It seems to me you haven’t quite relinquished control of this case.”

She lifted a hand to rub her forehead. “Thurman, I’m sorry. It’s hard to see where the line’s drawn between personal and professional. I’m the one Edward came to see. I’m the one Eliot kissed in the park. I was only passing on information to...to someone whose fate I care about. If I trespassed into your territory, I apologize.”

Thurman leaned against the counter and let out a long breath. “You’re right. The boundaries are very poorly defined. Sorry I jumped you. I must admit, this case has me completely confounded, and I guess I’m a little tense. I’d just like for you to be able to maintain some distance, for your own sake.”

“I’m afraid it may be too late for that.”

His eyes narrowed as he studied her. “What do you mean by that?”

Leanne picked up a potholder from the counter and twisted it, avoiding Thurman’s gaze. “I don’t know. I have no idea why I said it.”

Thurman took the potholder from her and laid it back on the counter then tilted her chin up, forcing her to look at him. “Yes, you do,” he said quietly.

“What happens to Eliot matters to me,” she admitted. ”He matters to me.” She lifted a hand as if to restrain his response. “I know that’s wrong. I know better. What I don’t know is how it happened or what to do about it.”

Thurman stared at her for a long moment then shook his head. “I’m here any time you want to talk.”

She smiled. “I know that. Thank you.”

***

While Leanne and Thurman talked in the kitchen...probably about him...Eliot studied the writing on the crumpled piece of paper Leanne had handed him. He had a lawyer friend who could get information from the records at the state capital in Austin using the license number. It might tell him nothing. The car might be registered in his name. Or it might be in Edward’s, and the address might or might not be his.

He crushed the paper, the way he’d like to crush Edward. If he could only find the bastard, he’d—

That thought brought a wry smile to his lips. He was thinking like Edward now, wanting to physically rid himself of the undesirable personality. According to Leanne and Thurman, he would eventually have to accept Edward, integrate him into his own personality.

No wonder his therapy was going so slowly. He couldn’t imagine ever doing that. How could he accept into his soul someone so foreign, someone evil, someone who hated the woman he desired?

Leanne and Thurman emerged from the kitchen, their expressions pleasant yet veiled, their problem evidently resolved.

“Professional consultation,” Leanne said, resuming her seat while avoiding his eyes.

It made him distinctly uncomfortable, being discussed by the two of them. This whole business of therapy, of telling his innermost secrets, made him uncomfortable, but when the people he confessed to talked to each other about him, he got really uneasy.

But this wasn’t like his teenage confession to Kay, he reminded himself. He had no choice but to trust Leanne and Thurman. Edward’s actions had taken that choice away from him. He’d lost control of his life, but he would get it back. Tracing this license number could give him a start in that direction.

Across the room, a thousand miles away, Leanne watched him with a sad expression. That was the last thing he wanted to see on her face. He didn’t want her to feel sorry for him. He wanted her to desire him, he wanted to see the same look on her face as when he’d kissed her at the lake.

He realized he was crushing the already wrinkled paper in his fist. If only he could do the same thing to Edward, reach inside his own brain and crush the part where Edward lived.

***

Every time Eliot’s office phone rang the next day he snatched it up, expecting to hear the voice of Roger Fogel, his attorney, giving him the information about the registration of Edward’s car. He wasn’t sure how he’d explain his query if the car was registered in his own name, but Roger was discreet. He wouldn’t ask questions.

When the phone rang again shortly after noon, he picked up the receiver and heard Leanne’s voice. Immediately his mind began backtracking to what he had done recently. An unopened bag containing a sandwich and fries sat on his desk, and with a sinking feeling he realized that lunch time had once again slipped by unnoticed.

“What’s happened?” he barked. “Did he...did I come back?”

“No. Nothing like that.”

At her reassuring words, the tension began to dissipate, and he leaned back in his chair.

“I have some information for you,” she continued, and he thought her voice sounded tight. Or maybe the tightness was in him.

He laughed dryly. “Well, as long as Edward hasn’t been terrorizing you, I guess I can handle it.”

“You can handle it.” That was the psychiatrist, not the woman, talking. He could tell the difference. “I have a friend at the police department, and he ran that license number for me. We have a name and address.”

He gripped the arm of his chair as if it were a lightning rod. “Go on,” he prompted.

“The car was purchased a couple of weeks ago by Edward Dalman.”

He should have been prepared, but somehow he wasn’t. The shock jolted through him.

“Eliot?”

“Yes. I’m here.”

“He paid cash. There’s no lien holder. It’s an older model than yours, though that car hasn’t changed much over the last few years, so it’s pretty close to identical.”

“Well,” he said, his mouth dry, “an older model. At least I’m thrifty in my insanity.”

“Eliot, don’t talk like that. You’re not insane. You have a mental disorder. You were just too sensitive to handle the pain of seeing your parents die. It could happen to anyone.”

She was using her woman’s voice now...her caring tone, not her doctor’s voice, so he didn’t bother to point out to her that her glib reassurance didn’t account for his alter ego’s desire to destroy him...and her.

“So,” he said, “does this personality share my address or just my body?”

She hesitated for a moment. “I’ll tell you the address, but you have to promise not to go there. At least not alone. Let Thurman go with you.”

He considered her words. Soon he’d have the same information without making any promises, and he could do whatever he wanted with that information. And what he wanted was to find that apartment or that house and burn it to the ground.

That kind of thinking was bad enough, he reprimanded himself, but what if seeing Edward’s home changed him to Edward?

“I’ll take Thurman with me,” he agreed.

She read off an address only a few blocks from his condo.

Only a few blocks from Leanne’s house.

He’d thought he was ready for the news, but he wasn’t. Shards of ice prickled in his veins and down his spine.

Unknown to himself, he had another car and another home. Another life. For the first time, this craziness of a split personality sank in and became real.

“I’ve got to go over there,” he said. “As soon as I can get away from work.”

“I haven’t discussed this with Thurman yet. Let me call him.”

Eliot drummed his fingers on his desk. It galled him to be dependent on someone else, to be unable to schedule his own life. Damn Edward for taking that away from him!

“Call me back,” he said.

***

Leanne hung up the phone and stared at it for a few seconds. She should have talked to Thurman before she called Eliot. Thurman was going to be angry with her again...and justifiably so. She had acted impulsively, grabbing the phone and reaching out for Eliot as soon as she got the information about Edward.

And a side of her resisted calling Thurman even now. She knew that finding this second residence could very well lead to a breakthrough for Eliot, and he needed his therapist there when it happened. She’d officially given up that role, but emotionally she hadn’t. On a totally irrational level, she wanted to be the one with him at this important moment. She wanted to be the only one with him, as though this was a private thing between Eliot and her.

She picked up the phone and punched in Thurman’s number. What she was thinking wasn’t logical or fair...not to Eliot or to Thurman. Or to herself. Finding Edward’s home might well bring about a personality switch, and she could be left alone with a man who wanted to kill her.

“Thurman, I have some very interesting news.”

After she gave him the details and after he finished chastising her for talking to Eliot first and not him, he agreed to go with Eliot that afternoon to check out the address.

“I’m going, too,” she told him.

“Like hell you are.”

“He’ll need a friend as well as a therapist.” It was the closest she could come to explaining her need to be there.

“Leanne, you’ve got to let go. For your protection, Eliot asked me to take over, and you agreed. You admitted last night that you’re in over your head. He’s my patient now. I can handle it.”

Eliot might be Thurman’s patient but there was a part of him that, in some way she couldn’t explain, belonged to her. He needed her to be there...and she needed to be there. If nothing else, seeing the reality might jar her into accepting his illness.

“I’m going, too,” she repeated stubbornly.

He sighed. “I’ll bring Dixie. Just in case.”

His acquiescence elated and frightened her. Leanne hated to admit it, but she was glad she’d have the protection of the big dog.

***

That afternoon Leanne sat tensely beside Thurman in his minivan with Dixie behind them as they drove to the address given for Edward’s license tag. The drive took an uncomfortably short amount of time.

Eliot’s car—she checked the tag to be sure—was already parked in the street in front of the small, older stone house. As they pulled up behind the blue Lexus, the figure still seated behind the wheel turned to look at them, and Leanne’s heart clenched. Eliot or Edward?

“Ready?” Thurman asked, and she nodded, the movement a brazen lie. She wasn’t even close to ready for this.

Nevertheless, she opened the door and forced herself to climb out, to stand on stiff legs.

The door to the Lexus opened, and the man stepped out from behind the wheel.

“Eliot?” Thurman greeted, the word a question, an echo of her own doubts. “How do you feel? Are you ready for this?”

Eliot smiled grimly, and Leanne felt her tension go down a notch. Even though the expression more closely resembled a grimace than a real smile, she sensed that it belonged to Eliot, not Edward.

“How do I feel?” he asked. “I feel strange but oddly at home. This is an awful lot like the house I rented when I first got out of college. Yeah, I guess I’m as ready as it’s possible to be. Let’s get it over with. Let’s go in.”

He glanced at Leanne then scowled and shook his head, as if in confirmation that this action they were about to take added an extra layer to the wall between them.

Thurman let Dixie out of the car, and the four of them started up the walk. Eliot strode boldly ahead, leading the way, meeting his problem head-on. It would have been impossible not to admire his courage. But, she reminded herself, courage and determination were only starting points. They were, in no way, guarantees of the final outcome of mental illness. Her father had been a strong man before his illness destroyed him.

Eliot reached the small porch first and knocked loudly on the tall wooden door.

“Edward could have given a phony address,” he said. “Someone else may live here. Or he could have a roommate.”

Leanne stepped onto the porch and stood beside him, waiting for a stranger to open the door and question their right to be there, but not really expecting it to happen.

Dixie paced restlessly, though she showed no definite signs of sensing another presence.

“I think I hear something,” Leanne whispered.

“Are you sure?” Eliot knocked again.

“No,” she admitted when the door remained closed. Just her own blood racing past her ears. “I guess I’m a little nervous. Hearing things. Edward’s so distinct a personality, I halfway expected him to be inside the house.”

“As opposed to inside my head,” Eliot said grimly. “Okay, first I try all the keys on my key ring. None of them should work, but—well, we’ll see.”

The last key he tried turned the lock easily.

He didn’t look up, didn’t move. “It’s the key to my condo,” he said, his voice a monotone. Leanne could only imagine the distress his stoicism must be concealing.

Thurman stepped up between them, and Leanne jumped. She’d momentarily forgotten his presence. “The lock’s new,” he said, studying it. “He—you must have had a locksmith change it to the same as your condo key.”

“How convenient,” Eliot replied caustically, then, with a resolute movement, he pushed the door open.

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