“Why?” Eliot woke himself, screaming the single, agonized word in concert with the alarm as it shrieked again.
He slapped the clock, stopping the outside noise as a final thought from Edward floated into his mind: Because you love her.
He shot bolt upright in bed, his heart pounding, sweat popping out on his forehead. In his dream he had been carrying on a conversation with Edward, his dissociated personality. His illness must be getting worse.
He reached for the phone to call Leanne then changed his mind. She wasn’t his doctor any longer. His relationship with her was purely personal, and he had nothing to tell her that wouldn’t upset her.
Emotionally he needed to talk to her, yet the thought of confessing more of his aberration chilled him as much as the dream. Leanne mattered to him—a lot. The voice in his head was right. Under other circumstances, he’d have said he loved her. What she thought about him mattered.
So far she appeared to see him as separate from his problems. She kept a special caring for him in a compartment separate from her hatred for Edward. However, he didn’t know how much further he could go without evoking her disgust.
He should call Thurman and get a professional interpretation of this latest development. That was the logical thing to do.
He dialed Thurman’s number and told him briefly what had happened.
“Can you come by this morning?” Thurman asked immediately even though it was obvious Eliot’s call had awakened him. “I’d like to talk to you while this is still fresh.”
“I’ll be there in half an hour.”
Thirty minutes later he sat tensely in Thurman’s living room sipping coffee and describing his dreams as well as the events of the night before with Leanne, omitting, of course, their lovemaking. That was private and personal, between the two of them. It had nothing to do with Edward.
“Do you think this birthday party was an actual memory?” Thurman asked.
“Yes,” Eliot answered. “I do. Which means Edward’s been with me since before the accident that killed my parents.”
“But you felt only happy feelings in this dream.”
“Hmmm. Edward seemed a little jealous of your relationships with other people even then.”
“A little, but it didn’t seem to be a real problem. I preferred to be with him, too.” He grinned wryly. “With myself.”
“And your mother—your birth mother—didn’t have a problem with your having an imaginary friend?”
“I was so young, maybe she didn’t know. I didn’t talk much until I was older...probably because I communicated mostly with Edward, and that didn’t require speech. So maybe my birth parents never knew about Edward.”
Thurman nodded slowly. “That’s possible. You said Edward told you your adoptive parents weren’t your parents because they weren’t his, and he uses the name Dalman instead of Kane. Did he seem to accept your real parents as his own?”
Eliot focused, trying to pull more from the dream. “Yes, we both thought of them as Mommy and Daddy. He was as happy as me in the dream. Nothing seemed wrong with any aspect of our lives.” He laughed self-consciously. “Of my life, I mean.”
“The problems, Edward’s personality change, all occurred later, after you became involved in the real world and left your imaginary playmate behind?”
“After I became involved with Kay. Yes, I guess I left him behind then. I didn’t want to be humiliated again.”
Thurman sat quietly for a few minutes, apparently digesting the information. “For a while it would seem you successfully pushed him to the back of your mind. Then he returned. Why? What happened in your life that made you need him again?”
“Nothing. My life, my career, everything was progressing along right on schedule. Nothing happened, nothing changed before Edward’s appearance.” He grimaced. “Now a lot of things have changed.”
“Maybe you wanted things to change.”
Eliot shook his head firmly. “I see where you’re heading, but you’re wrong. If I’d wanted any changes in my life, I’d have made them. Things were going just the way I wanted.”
Thurman nodded slowly, and Eliot could tell the man was unconvinced. “So your first indications of Edward’s return were things being done by you that you didn’t remember. Those events were a complete blank. Then the dreams began, events in Edward’s life. But you only saw the things he wanted you to see. Next, he talked directly to you in the dreams. Last night you established a closer contact with him, tuning in to his actions when he was with Leanne, when he didn’t want you to. Now this morning you’re able to have a coherent conversation with him.” He stroked his mustache thoughtfully.
“So what does all that mean?”
“I’m not sure. Since you’ve gotten so much closer to Edward, I’d like to try another session of hypnosis with the idea of contacting him. If we can talk to him, we can try to solve his problems and work toward getting you back together as a complete whole.”
Eliot nodded reluctantly. He still felt an aversion to merging this psychotic personality with his own, even if the other personality were cured. For one thing, he was still uncertain if Edward had killed Kay Palmer. If he found that to be true, he would certainly end up in prison, just as Edward predicted.
On the other hand, if he didn’t do something, Edward might carry out his threat against Leanne.
“I need to get to work right now. How about this evening?”
Thurman nodded his agreement. “See you around seven?”
As he left Thurman’s house, he wasn’t surprised to see Leanne across the street, clad in a sedate cream colored suit and pale pink blouse, walking across her yard to her garage. Her dark hair and fair skin gleamed in the early morning sunlight. The sight brought an involuntary smile to his lips...and took it away just as fast. The sight of her drew him. He wanted to go to her, run his fingers through her hair, hold her against him, and he didn’t dare do that, especially after Edward’s last threat.
“Good morning,” she called, lifting an arm to wave.
“Good morning,” he answered, and somehow he found himself moving toward her. He hadn’t noticed before the brightness of the morning sunshine or the cool, clean smell of autumn in the air, but now he was acutely aware of his surroundings, of every red leaf on the maple tree in her yard, of the dull gray concrete of the street he was crossing, of Leanne waiting for him.
“You’re here awfully early,” she said as he approached. “Has something happened?”
A gray pall settled over everything as though a cloud had just passed in front of the sun. He frowned. He didn’t want to tell her. He didn’t want her to know that his problems were getting deeper, more complicated.
Edward had accused him of loving her. Whatever he felt, he wanted her to return the feeling. Even if nothing could ever come of their relationship, he didn’t want her to find him disgusting—or, worse yet, pitiful. He didn’t want her to know the extent of this damned sickness.
“Nothing worth talking about,” he said with a shrug, forcing a smile.
She studied him intently, her expression dubious and a little hurt.
Damn! He certainly hadn’t meant to hurt her. But she wasn’t his psychiatrist any longer. She was his lover. She shouldn’t expect him to confess everything about his mental illness to her.
“Well,” she finally said, giving him a tentative smile, “I guess I’d better get to work. I have an early appointment.”
“Yeah, me, too.” He turned away, going back to the street where he’d parked. Behind him, he heard her garage door open.
He slid into his car and sat watching while she backed out of the garage and drove away. Smooth move, Kane, he thought sarcastically. He hadn’t wanted to put any more distance between them with his latest craziness, but he’d done it anyway by refusing to tell her. This was a no-win situation. And he’d always known that. So how come he felt like he’d just lost something really important?
That afternoon Eliot hung up the phone after a lengthy conversation with a client. He was finding it more and more difficult to keep his mind on business, to listen to what other people were saying. He constantly searched his mind for any intrusion of Edward, wanting to identify and block it before the creature could take possession of him.
Ms. Greer walked into his office and handed him a pink message slip. “This call came in while you were on the phone.”
“Thank you.” He accepted the piece of paper and glanced at the words. Detective Claude Stockton of the Dallas Police Department called. Please call back ASAP. He could almost feel the ominous vibrations from the words neatly written in Ms. Greer’s immaculate handwriting.
“I told him Kay Palmer only called you that one time,” Ms. Greer said.
He looked up to see veiled suspicion in her eyes. He couldn’t blame her.
“Has Stockton been asking you questions?”
He could tell she was curious, though too well-mannered to ask.
He found himself wishing he’d been more personal with her through the years, inquired about her family, given her something more intimate than a gift certificate for Christmas. After seven years, they should have achieved some sort of friendship, some sort of trust. He wished they were close enough that he could tell her what was going on and she, knowing him well, would be shocked and would deny that he could possibly do any such thing.
But she knew nothing about him. She’d probably wondered what his life was like outside the office and, with no information to guide her, could believe he was a murderer.
“I’m sorry he’s been bothering you, Ms. Greer,” he said. “I’m sure everything will be cleared up soon.”
She nodded, accepting that, as always, he would allow her no entrance into his life.
For several minutes after she left, he sat staring at the message, paralyzed by fear. His last conversation with Stockton had not been friendly. Did the police have more evidence? Would they ask him to turn himself in voluntarily, to submit to imprisonment?
He pushed aside the choking, suffocating feeling before it overwhelmed him.
Instead of calling the detective, he dialed Roger Fogel.
Roger took his call immediately and promised to find out what the police wanted then call Eliot back.
As he waited, Eliot found himself unable to concentrate on his work. His mind replayed over and over the events of the last couple of months, especially his conversation with Edward that morning while he’d still been half asleep.
Thurman was trying to help him find when his personality had split, what had caused it, then they’d try to put it back together. And that, he knew, was the right way to handle this.
But it made him feel so helpless.
There had to be something he could do. If this all went back to his childhood, maybe he ought to talk to his parents. It was after he went to live with them that Edward changed. They had strenuously objected to his imaginary friend, possibly more strenuously than would be expected under the circumstances. After all, most children went through a phase involving imaginary friends, brothers, sisters, even animals.
His parents had moved to Tyler a few years after his dad retired, and even though they were less than two hours away, he hadn’t seen them or talked to them in a couple of months, not since this nightmare began. He couldn’t tell them the truth, but maybe if he could talk to them about his childhood, he could find out something of significance. Maybe he could find out why they’d been so dead set against his relationship with Edward.
The phone rang, and he snatched it up before the ring was finished.
“Eliot, I think it’s time you let me get you a good criminal attorney. Stockton wants you to come in for a line-up. They have a witness, a neighbor who says she saw someone leaving Kay Palmer’s apartment the night of the murder.”
Eliot’s heart sank.
Of course, there was always the possibility that the witness wouldn’t identify him.
But there was an equal possibility—probability—that she would, that he’d be found guilty of Kay Palmer’s murder and sent to prison, just as Edward predicted.
The walls started closing in on him. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, something he’d never done in the office before.
But he’d never before felt he was suffocating.
“When?” he croaked.
“Monday afternoon at three o’clock.”
“Monday at three. Fine. I’ll be there.” That didn’t give him much time, but if he was a murderer, he wasn’t entitled to much time. He should be behind bars. He should be put to death. The sooner the better.
He thought about the gun he’d given Leanne. Maybe he should ask for it back and take justice into his own hands. That would be better than going to prison.
And then he’d know for sure Leanne would be safe.
“Do you want me to find you a criminal lawyer?” Roger asked.
It took Eliot a moment to comprehend what his friend was asking, to return to the idea of denying his guilt rather than taking care of matters himself. “Thanks, Roger. I’d appreciate that.”
Though he wasn’t sure if it mattered. If the witness identified him, he wasn’t going to try to get out of it, and a death sentence would be preferable to being institutionalized whether in prison or a mental facility.
He hung up and sat for a few minutes staring unseeingly into space.
That could be all the time he had left.
One part of him wanted to run screaming down the street, letting go of everything in a total panic, running so fast and so far none of this could catch him.
He’d carefully planned his life, and everything had been going right on schedule.
Murder, prison, insanity—those items weren’t on the schedule.
He bit the inside of his jaw, feeling the pain, tasting his own blood. The pain was real. The blood was real. All those other things that weren’t on his schedule were real.
He straightened and tried to take a deep breath in spite of the weight that still pressed against his chest threatening to smother him.
Seventy-two hours. He couldn’t afford to waste those hours. He wasn’t going to sit around waiting for the guillotine to descend. He’d go see Thurman tonight. He’d drive to Tyler and talk to his parents on Saturday. He’d fight Edward to the last round.
Then, if Edward had to go to prison, to a mental institution, to the gas chamber, if he had to put a gun to his own head, Eliot would do whatever had to be done to stop the monster.
And, like it or not, he had to tell Leanne what was going on. He’d involved her in all this. He’d put her in danger. She deserved to know everything. If his confession caused what she felt for him to turn to disgust—well, it couldn’t be helped. Everything would come out eventually. He’d given up on an easy fix for his problems.
What the hell kind of a relationship could Dr. Jekyll hope to have anyway?
He lifted the receiver and dialed her office number.
After the way Eliot had brushed her off that morning, Leanne was surprised—and, in spite of herself, pleased—to get his message. After making love the night before, his distant attitude had hurt. However, she’d reasoned that his actions had been natural and to be expected under the circumstances. They’d been foolish, made love in a moment out of time, achieved a closeness they would never dare repeat. So he’d retreated from her—the smart thing to do.
She knew all that. But her rational logic hadn’t eased the pain of seeing him so cold and distant.
She returned his call immediately.
“We need to talk,” he said without preamble.
“I have another client due in a few minutes.”
“I’m going over to Thurman’s tonight. When I’m through there, I’ll...”
She sucked in her breath as she waited for what he was about to suggest...come over to her house to talk? She wanted him to say it, she dreaded that he would say it. If he did, she’d have to refuse. What they’d done last night had been impulsive and dangerous. And wonderful, so wonderful she wasn’t sure she’d be able to refuse him.
“I could pick you up,” he continued, “and we could go somewhere for dinner. Some brightly lit, public place where you’d be certain you were safe. In fact, it might be better if you could follow me in your own car instead of riding with me. Just in case.”
She hadn’t expected that. “All right,” she agreed.
She hung up the phone and stared at it. Eliot had called her and asked her to dinner. When she thought of it that way, it sounded so normal...a man and a woman, attracted to each other, going out for dinner.
In separate cars to a public, well-lit place where she’d be safe in case his alter ego surfaced and attacked her. Not the kind of date a woman dreamed about, no more than her relationship with Eliot was the kind of relationship a woman dreamed about.
Eliot sat back in the chair in Thurman’s living room and forced himself to concentrate on the older man’s words, on finding the trance he knew he needed to achieve in order to reach Edward. Gradually, slowly, he felt himself relinquishing control, felt the familiar floating, drifting sensation.
“What’s your name?”
“Do you know Edward Dalman?”
“I’d like for you to ask Edward to speak to me.”
“Edward isn’t here.”
“Where is Edward?”
Eliot could almost find the answer to that question, could almost sense Edward’s whereabouts...almost but not quite. Edward was getting closer all the time, easier to reach. “I don’t know.”
“Okay, we’re going to look backward at your life. I want you to watch carefully, like you’re watching a movie. You’ll be able to describe everything you see and everything you felt and knew, but you’ll be emotionally detached. Going back now, back to the time when you were thirteen years old. Tell me what you see, what’s happening.”
“I’m going to the movies with the guys,” Eliot answered.
Eliot squirmed uncomfortably. “He can’t go. He wants to, but I can’t take him. I’ve got to quit playing with imaginary friends. The other kids made fun of me. They called me a baby.”
“How do you feel about not taking Edward with you?”
“Bad. I made him unhappy.”
“How can he be unhappy if he’s only imaginary?”
“He’s unhappy,” Eliot said firmly.
“Have you ever seen Edward?”
“I see him at night, when I dream.”
“But can you see him the way you see the other kids?”
“How can you take him with you if you can’t see him?”
Eliot was silent for a few moments. He knew the answer, but he wasn’t sure how to say it. “He can see with my eyes and hear with my ears. It’s like we’re the same person.”
“Okay, Eliot, let’s go back further, back to the time you were five years old, before you started school. Tell me about Edward.”
“He’s my best friend. We do everything together.”
“How do your parents feel about that?”
“They don’t want me to play with him.”
“They say he’s not real.”
“How do you know he is real if you can only see him in your dreams?”
Again Eliot hesitated, searching for the answer. “He talks to me.”
“You can hear him the same way you hear me?”
“No, not in my ears. In my head.”
“Does Edward ever get mad at you?”
“Sometimes when I spend too much time away from him.”
“Why does that make him mad?”
“He’s lonely. I’m the only one he can talk to. I’m the only one who can take him places and play with him.”
“Why is that, Eliot? Why can’t he go places by himself?”
Eliot was quiet for a long time. “He’s somewhere that he can’t see or hear or run or play without me.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know.”
“Okay, Eliot, let’s go back a little further, back to your third birthday party. Is Edward there with you?”
“How do you know?”
“I can see him.”
“You can see him? With your eyes, the same way you see other people, not just in your head?”
“What does he look like?”
“Me. Like when I look in a mirror.”
“Do you spend a lot of time with Edward?”
“We stay together all the time.”
“Do you prefer to play with him instead of other kids?”
“We always want to do the same things and it’s easier to talk. We don’t have to make words out loud.”
“You don’t have to talk out loud? Do you talk in your minds? Do you know what Edward’s thinking?”
“What does your mommy say about your playing with Edward?”
“She says she can always tell us apart even if nobody else can.”
“She can tell you apart?”
Thurman didn’t ask another question for several moments, and Eliot continued to watch the scenes of himself and Edward playing together, savoring the carefree world that no longer existed.
“Eliot, you’re three years old, quite a big boy. You know who your mommy and daddy are, don’t you?”
“Is Edward part of your family?”
“What part of the family is he?”
“He’s my brother.”
“Your brother? Is he older or younger than you?”
“We’re both three.”
“Where is Edward now?”
“I don’t know.”
“Was Edward in the car wreck with you and your parents?”
“What happened to him in that car wreck?”
“He went to sleep like Mommy and Daddy.”