As she drove to work in the bright light of day, Leanne questioned her perceptions of the night before.
It had been real, not a dream. She hadn’t imagined the man outside her window. Greta had sensed someone there. But had the man really been Eliot or had she, overly tired and with her thoughts focused on Eliot, seen his face on another man?
She walked into her office to find a message from Eliot Kane marked Urgent.
Even if not for that urgent request, she still would have known the minute he answered the phone that something was wrong. His voice came to her ears deep, resonant, and troubled.
“I just wanted to be sure you were all right,” he said. His tone and his odd question clutched her stomach with an icy hand bringing back the eerie sensations of the night before.
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
He hesitated, increasing her wariness. “No reason. We’ll discuss it tonight. I have a call on the other line. I need to run.”
He was lying about getting another call. She could hear it in his voice, but there seemed little point in pursuing the matter over the phone. Even so, she had to resist the impulse to demand to know what he’d been doing at her house...if he remembered being at her house.
“Very well,” she agreed. “This afternoon, five o’clock.”
“Yes,” he agreed, and the word seemed to come from deep within a bottomless well of despair. “We have some matters that need to be discussed.”
Did his call mean he remembered being at her house? Had he been deceiving her all along? Was his problem only a story to provide a basis for a defense of insanity for that woman’s murder? He’d come to her after Kay Palmer’s death, told her he’d dreamed it in detail. She had to acknowledge the possibility that he had committed the murder and was using her to build his defense.
However, there was one thing she did know—she’d distinctly heard the falseness in his voice when he’d lied to her about having another call, a falseness she hadn’t heard before.
He was waiting that afternoon when her four o’clock appointment left.
“Dr. Warner,” he said, rising and coming toward her, hand extended. She was again struck by his dynamic appearance.
Perhaps they occupied the same body, but this was not the same man who had stood outside her window last night. Deep in his eyes she could see kindness, concern and anxiety but not the hatred and anger she’d seen the night before.
The unbidden thought came to her that this was Dr. Jekyll.
She dismissed the thought. She had far too little evidence on which to base such a drastic diagnosis. That would be every bit as unprofessional as her sensual thoughts of him the night before.
She took his hand and felt the firmness and warmth, the determination of his grip.
The doctor in her recognized that this compelling man could also be the creature who’d stood outside her window. He could be a murderer trying to con a psychiatrist so he could escape the death penalty. At best, he was mentally ill.
But, against her will and her common sense, something deep inside was drawn to his magnetism and strength. Something in her trusted him.
She dropped his hand abruptly and turned away to lead him into her office. What on earth was the matter with her? Had she suddenly become self-destructive?
“Last night I dreamed I killed you,” he said from behind her.
Though he’d spoken in a normal tone, not loudly, the words seemed to echo in the empty rooms.
She looked back and saw that he wasn’t following her but still stood firmly planted in the reception area, his expression grim, his fists clenched at his sides.
“Come in, and we’ll discuss it,” she said, trying to maintain her composure in spite of a return of the fear from the night before. Her heart raced, and breathing became difficult.
He inclined his head toward the empty reception desk. “She left.”
“I know. She leaves at four thirty to miss some of the rush hour traffic.”
“So we’re here alone. Do you think that’s a good idea?”
“We were here alone yesterday, Eliot.” What was he working up to? She fought a sudden desire to bolt past him and through the door. He wasn’t making her feel any better with his strange comments.
“Yesterday I hadn’t dreamed about killing you.” He clenched his fists so tightly the knuckles turned white. His jaw was set square and determined, but his expression was tortured.
She made an effort to smile confidently. It was, after all, her job to be reassuring. “As you can see, I’m very much alive and unharmed.”
“So was Kay Palmer...after the first dream. We’ve got to face the possibility that I may have a split personality, and that other side of me killed her. What if I should suddenly turn into that other person and do something to you?”
She considered the possibility, had been considering it for the last few minutes. But she had chosen this career so she could help people like Eliot, and indulging her fear wouldn’t help him. She’d never before been frightened of a patient. She was trained to deal with mentally ill people.
“Please come in and sit down, Eliot, and let’s get to work.” She amazed herself with the calmness in her voice, a calmness she was far from feeling. “We have a lot to talk about.”
Turning away from him, she strode into her office and sat behind her desk, the normalcy of the action restoring some of her confidence.
Reluctantly, it seemed, he followed. This time he went straight to the window and opened the drapes, then took a tentative seat on the edge of the recliner. If he was trying to set up a defense of insanity to escape prosecution for Kay Palmer’s murder, he was certainly playing his role convincingly.
On the positive side, if he was using her—needed her testimony—he wouldn’t hurt her.
Somehow the thought wasn’t as comforting as it should be. She didn’t want to believe he was using her.
She didn’t want to believe he had severe mental problems, either. But it was becoming more and more obvious that one or the other must be true.
She took out her recorder and turned it on.
“Eliot,” she began, watching him closely for his reaction, “before we talk about your dream, I’d like to discuss your visit to my house last night.”
His pupils constricted, and he paled visibly. Pretty tough reactions to fake. “What are you talking about?”
“Last night you came to my house and stood in the street watching me.”
“That’s impossible,” he said, but he didn’t sound like he believed his own assertion. “I don’t even know where you live.”
That was true, she realized. And her home phone was unlisted. Had she made a mistake after all?
“So you’re saying you weren’t there, you didn’t stand across the street and look into my bedroom window?”
He leaned his forehead against his hand and groaned, then lifted his gaze to hers again. She flinched from the agony in that gaze. “In my dream,” he said softly, “I was at your house. I crossed the street, opened a window, went upstairs and strangled you in your bed.”
His quiet words settled around her, pushing her down into a quicksand of fear. She hadn’t been mistaken. He’d been there. Did that also mean his other dream had been real, that he’d killed Kay Palmer?
“What did my house look like in your dream?” she asked, making a conscious effort to sound detached and professional rather than frightened and uncertain.
He took a deep breath, and she realized he was working every bit as hard if not harder than she to stay in control. “Two story. I couldn’t tell exactly what color in the dark, but it was a light shade. Maybe white. Older, turn of the century style. Lots of trees and bushes. A small front porch. In the bedroom I saw an iron bedframe and a white comforter.”
A chill encompassed her entire body.
“How close am I?” he demanded.
She swallowed, hoping her voice would come out normal. “One hundred percent. You’ve accurately described the details of my house and only the details you could have seen from the street. Even the comforter on my bed which you saw as white actually has blue flowers, too small to be seen from a distance.”
For a moment his eyes squeezed closed and his mouth compressed as if he would shut out her words. But he opened his eyes and looked at her again, his chin lifting slightly, determinedly. “What did I do?”
“Nothing. You stared up at me, then left.” At least, she thought he left. “I’d like to hypnotize you and let you tell me about your dream.”
“Hypnotize me?” He scowled, folding his arms across his chest.
She had expected resistance. If he was lying, of course he’d oppose hypnosis. But even if he was telling the truth, someone with as much self-control as he would be reluctant to relinquish that control.
She smiled and leaned back, holding a pencil at both ends in a determinedly casual gesture. “Again, television and the movies have led you astray. I can’t hypnotize you and take over your mind, make you bark like a dog or go out and...” She stopped herself in midsentence. She’d been about to say go out and commit murder.
“Do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do,” she finished. “You’ll be in charge of your soul at all times.” She changed her smile to a grin in an effort to make her last statement sound flippant, less grim than the situation warranted.
“Fine,” he said determinedly. “Then let’s do it. Whatever it takes to get to the bottom of things.” His hand darted inside his jacket as though for a pack of cigarettes, and Leanne froze with the memory of his cigarette the night before.
But when he withdrew his hand, it was empty.
“Please feel free to smoke,” she said tensely, unsure what the action might bring with it—perhaps a change in personality? “I need you to relax.”
He shook his head, reached inside his jacket again and withdrew a pack of peppermint gum, proffering it to her. “I gave up smoking several months ago. This is my substitute addiction. Would you like a stick?”
She blinked twice rapidly, assessing this new information. Another point for the possibility of a multiple personality disorder. The different personas frequently exhibited different habits.
“No, thank you,” she finally answered.
He returned the gum to his pocket without taking a stick for himself. “I haven’t done that—reach for a cigarette—for some time now. Stress. Brings back old habits.”
He sounded sincere, as though he really didn’t remember smoking a cigarette just last night. “Yes,” she agreed. “Stress can do that.” She shuffled papers on her desk, giving herself a minute to regain her composure. “If you’re ready to proceed with the hypnosis, you may loosen your tie or take off your jacket, whatever you need to get comfortable. The control that reclines the chair is located on the right side.”
He leaned back stiffly but made no move to do anything further. She hadn’t really expected him to. This wasn’t going to be easy.
And maybe not safe.