Eliot stared down at the stack of papers on his desk. He’d always enjoyed a total absorption in his work, but this morning he couldn’t seem to concentrate. Images of the pictures he’d found in Edward’s bedroom, the files on the computer, the papers in the desk, all darted through his head in an unending procession of horror.
It was impossible that another person lived in his mind. He didn’t believe it. Yet he knew it had to be true.
Suddenly Edward had become devastatingly real, more than a small voice in his head. Edward had a home and in that home was furniture, an unmade bed, a brimming ashtray, evidence that somebody lived there. It was all real, solid, a life he was living that he knew nothing about and refused to accept, a life that might include murder.
The phone on his desk shrieked along his already-frayed nerves. He snatched up the receiver. “Yes?”
The voice was vaguely familiar, but he talked to a lot of people every day. “Yes, this is Eliot Kane.”
“Detective Stockton. Like to talk to you if you’ve got a minute.”
“Of course. What can I do for you, Detective?” A year ago he’d have been mildly annoyed at the interruption, assuming the man was going to hit him up for a donation to the policeman’s fund. Today his gut clenched in anxiety. Was the man going to arrest him for murder?
“Need to discuss your phone call with Officer Carter this morning.”
“My phone call with Officer Carter? What phone call?” The anxiety moved into high gear, running up his spine, tensing his neck muscles.
There was a long silence before Stockton spoke again. “You didn’t call Officer Carter?”
“No, I didn’t.” But he had no idea if Edward had.
“You didn’t call and confess to the murder of Kay Palmer?”
It was Eliot’s turn to be silent while he tried to collect his thoughts, to decide how on earth he should handle this latest development.
“No,” he finally said. “I didn’t call. I’ve never spoken with Officer Carter. Should I...” He cleared his throat and tried to sound as if his world wasn’t closing in around him, to hide the panic he felt. “Do I need to contact my lawyer?”
“That’s up to you, Mr. Kane. We’re not charging you with anything right now, but we would like to ask you a few questions. You—the caller this morning knew quite a few details.”
“But I wasn’t that caller.” At least not in his present conscious state.
“Think you could make it down to the station or do you want us to come to your office?”
The request was couched very politely, but Eliot suspected if he refused, Detective Stockton might take a more insistent stance. Eliot had no doubt the policeman would be at his office in a matter of minutes.
“When would you like me to come down?”
“How about right after lunch? One, one-thirty?”
“I’ll be there at one-thirty.”
He hung up and dialed Roger Fogel’s number.
“Murder?” the lawyer exclaimed after Eliot explained the situation. “You’re kidding, right?”
Eliot hesitated, unsure how much he should tell the man who’d handled his legal affairs for years, affairs that consisted primarily of filing boring documents with an occasional traffic ticket thrown in for excitement.
“Someone claiming to be me called the station and confessed.”
“Eliot, this sounds serious. I’m not a criminal lawyer. Let me find you someone who knows about these things.”
Roger was probably right. Before this was over, he might very well need expert legal representation. Either he really had killed the woman, or Edward was trying to make it appear that way in the mistaken delusion that Eliot would go to prison and Edward would be in charge. In either event, it didn’t look good.
“We’ll talk about that later. Today I need somebody on short notice. They want to see me at one-thirty. Will you go with me not just as a lawyer but as my friend?” As somebody who wouldn’t demand Eliot divulge all the insane details before offering his help.
“Okay, but about all I’ll be able to do for you is advise you not to say anything incriminating.”
“That’s fine because I don’t have anything to say.”
“Eliot, were you mixed up with this woman? Anything you tell me is privileged information.”
“I think I went to school with her. I’m not positive. Anyway, I haven’t seen her in years. She was apparently having an affair with someone who...someone who was impersonating me.” That was all Roger needed to know. And it was all Eliot could deal with. He couldn’t admit out loud that his mind might be harboring a murderer.
Roger whistled. “It does sound like you’re going to need a good criminal lawyer.”
Eliot shivered, finding it hard to breathe at the thought of being in prison. The bittersweet side of that thought was that if Edward managed to get him sent to prison, Edward would be there, too. How would Edward feel when he took possession of their mutual body and found himself in a small, confining cell?
At least Leanne would be safe. Completely out of his life forever, but safe.
The room where Detectives Stockton and Easton led Eliot and Roger was small and windowless. As Eliot sat in one of the wooden chairs at the scarred wooden table, he could already feel the sweat beading on his forehead. He ordered himself to relax, to take deep breaths, to trace the brown carpet from the wall to his chair and back again and realize that the room was not growing smaller.
“Do you mind if we record this?” Stockton asked, taking a seat across from him and setting a recorder on the table between them. Easton remained standing though a fourth chair was available.
“Would it matter if I did mind?”
Stockton smiled then began dictating the date, time, circumstances and everyone’s names into the machine.
The first few questions were innocuous, going over the same ground they’d already covered, then the serious questions began.
“Did you call the station this morning and talk to Officer Jim Carter?” Stockton’s tone changed from relaxed and friendly to tough and determined.
“No, I did not.”
“Do you know anyone who might have done that?”
How should he answer that? If he admitted that he suspected Edward, everything would come out. Whether or not he’d murdered Kay, he’d be on his way to prison or a mental institution.
“You don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to,” Roger reminded him when he hesitated.
But a refusal to answer would be the same as an admission.
“No,” he said. He wasn’t, after all, positive Edward had made the call.
“Did you attend school with the deceased, Kay Palmer?”
“Maybe. I’m not sure. I went to school with a woman named Kay Becker, but I haven’t seen her in almost twenty years.”
“We checked. Kay Palmer’s maiden name, two marriages ago, was Becker. She went to the same school as you through the ninth grade. Anything you want to tell us now?”
“No.” Were they kidding? What could he possibly want to tell them?
Easton came to stand behind Eliot and lean over him. He exuded the odor of stale cigarette smoke. The smell expanded in the small, airless room. “She caused you some grief, didn’t she?” he said in a hoarse whisper. “She dumped you and told the other kids you were crazy, that you still had some kind of an imaginary playmate.”
“I advise you not to answer that,” Roger said.
They already knew. Refusing could only make him sound guilty. “I don’t mind answering the question. We were both children at the time, and children can be cruel.”
“Is that a yes?”
“Yes.” His voice was firm, irritation at the attitude of the detectives replacing some of his fear. “Kay broke my teenage heart and humiliated me. Then she moved away and I never saw her again. I’m sure that happens to a lot of teenagers, but I don’t think it constitutes a motive for murder.”
“You never saw her again?”
Stockton leaned back in his chair, folding his arms across his stomach. “Kane, we know you’re lying about that. How do you expect us to believe anything you tell us if we know you’re lying about any part of this deal?”
Eliot clenched his hands in his lap. He wanted to pound them on the table and shout in this man’s complacent face.
Maybe he should admit that he’d been seeing Kay. Maybe then they’d believe him when he said he hadn’t killed her. Or maybe they’d then trap him into admitting something else.
“On the advice of my attorney, I refuse to answer that question,” he said.
Stockton nodded. “I see.” He leaned forward, shuffled some papers on the table and ran a stubby finger over the buttons on the recorder.
Maybe this was over. Maybe they’d let him go now.
“Tell us about Kay’s fingernails.”
Eliot’s breath caught in his lungs. For a moment he couldn’t breathe. He swallowed, hoping his voice wouldn’t quiver when he spoke. “What about her fingernails?”
“The caller this morning gave us some details about the crime that haven’t been released to the public. I’d just like to find out if you’re familiar with those details.”
Details like two bright red tips snapping off to lie beside the body? Eliot licked his suddenly dry lips. “I don’t know anything about Kay’s fingernails. I haven’t seen her in twenty years.”
Easton clutched Eliot’s shoulders from behind, and it took all Eliot’s control not to flinch. “You dated her, Eliot. Her co-workers told us. Her neighbors told us. Your card was in her apartment.” He leaned closer to Eliot’s ear, so close Eliot thought he might gag from the smell of the stale cigarette smoke. “We’re coming after you, Kane. We know you did it, and we’re gonna get you.”
“You’re harassing my client,” Roger said, then stood. “If you’re not going to charge him with anything, we’re leaving.”
Eliot shook off Easton’s hands and rose, turning to face the man. He wanted to tell him to back off, to leave him alone. He wanted to threaten to punch him, to slap him with a lawsuit.
But he couldn’t do any of those things. The detective might be right. A stone of guilt lodged in his stomach.
He reached the door and grabbed the knob, grateful to feel it turn in his fingers.
“You still got that imaginary playmate, Kane?” Easton asked.
Eliot pushed through the door, left the small, confining room and strode down the hallway and out the front door. Only then was he able to breathe.
“Whew!” Roger sighed, and Eliot realized he had momentarily forgotten his attorney’s presence. What had the man thought of his guilt or innocence when Eliot ran from the police station as if pursued by the devil himself?
“I think my deodorant has failed me,” Roger said. “I sure made the right choice, going into civil law instead of criminal. Good buddy, I’m in way over my head here. We need to find you a criminal lawyer.”
Roger thought he was guilty. Or at the very least that he had a major problem.
“As long as you’ve got to drop me by my office anyway,” Roger said when they reached Eliot’s car, “do you want to come up and sign your new will and power of attorney? I know you aren’t scheduled to come in until next week, but when I told my secretary I was meeting you today, she promised to have them typed up by the time we got through here.”
Eliot froze in position as he leaned over the car, his key halfway in the lock. “My new will? What are you talking about?” But he had a sick feeling he knew what Roger was talking about. This could only be something else Edward had done.
Roger looked at him strangely. Eliot made an attempt to smile, to buy some time while he tried to figure out what to do next...something that wouldn’t necessitate telling the whole story. “I just didn’t realize you’d have everything finished so soon. Yes, I’d very much like to come up and see those documents.”
As they drove across town, Eliot tried to force his mind to release to him what Edward was up to now. If Edward and he shared the same brain, if Edward could reach his part of that brain, why couldn’t he reach the part Edward used?
He suspected the power of attorney would give Edward control in case of Eliot’s absence or imprisonment. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He was doing it again, thinking of Edward as a separate entity. The power of attorney wouldn’t do Edward any good if Eliot went to prison.
But the will was another story. Who could Edward be planning to inherit Eliot’s possessions? Himself? Was that why his house was leased and furnished so temporarily?
If Eliot didn’t go to prison for Kay Palmer’s murder, did Edward plan to kill him and inherit everything?
A cold chill zigzagged down Eliot’s spine though his face felt flushed.
What he was thinking about was totally insane! And that word was the clue. Was he so insane one part of him planned to kill himself in order to take over that part’s life? Was he so insane he needed to be in a mental hospital...or a prison?
Was his life over...all the things he’d worked so hard for including the woman he’d found so recently who touched a part of him he hadn’t known existed? Was all this being destroyed by a part of his own brain he couldn’t control?
He set his jaw determinedly, unable to accept that inevitability. There had to be some way to fight this, to regain possession of his own mind.
“Eliot—” He started at the voice beside him. He’d completely forgotten Roger’s presence. “You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to, but it seems to me there’s a lot more going on here than you’ve told me so far.”
Eliot sighed. The fewer people who knew about his problem, the better. Mental illness wasn’t something to brag about. But, as his lawyer, Roger needed to know something to allow him to handle Eliot’s affairs.
“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on,” Eliot said, feeling his way as he spoke. “Apparently someone who looks a lot like me is going around impersonating me, causing a lot of problems. He’s the one who had a relationship with Kay Palmer.”
“Is this somebody you know?”
“No. Definitely nobody I know. But he sometimes uses the name Edward Dalman. You might want to watch out for him.”
“Edward Dalman?” The shock in Roger’s voice told Eliot that his warning had come too late.
Eliot almost missed the turn into the parking garage of Roger’s office building. He swerved at the last minute, barely dodging the concrete pillar. “Have you met him?”
“Why, Eliot, that’s the beneficiary under your new will. You said he was your long lost brother.”
Eliot pulled into a parking space and shut off the engine.
Edward was clearly insane...clever but insane. Clever enough to realize that passing himself off as a relative would make it simpler to become the beneficiary of Eliot’s will. But so insane he didn’t realize if Eliot died, Edward would die, too. There would be no beneficiary.
“Roger, I don’t have a brother. You know that. How did he explain that we had different names?”
Roger’s eyes widened, and his placid face furrowed in concern. “’How did he explain?’” he repeated. “Are you saying the man who came to my office and asked me to draw up these document wasn’t you?”
“No, that was not me.”
Roger blew out a long breath. “My God. He looks just like you.”
“I know. That’s how he gets away with impersonating me.”
“You—he—said you’d been adopted by different families when you were babies and just now found each other. I knew you had been adopted, so the story sounded believable. How could he know so much about you?”
“I can’t explain it all right now, but, trust me, that man in your office was Edward Dalman. When did he come in and arrange all this?”
Roger blinked rapidly, apparently trying to take in the fact that he’d been deceived. “Last week. Thursday, I think. You—he—insisted on meeting at seven in the morning. That seemed a little odd, but I know what long hours you keep at the office.”
Seven o’clock on Thursday morning. Eliot made a frantic search of his memories. Where had he been at seven o’clock on Thursday morning? Getting dressed? Just leaving home? Driving to work? Threading his way through rush hour traffic? All automatic actions that he had no conscious memory of.
He had no idea where he’d been at seven o’clock on Thursday morning.
At least, he hadn’t had any idea until Roger told him.
Disposing of his estate. Planning his own imprisonment...or murder.