Leanne looked up as Eliot strode into her office, his presence dominating and filling the room. Her breath caught in her throat at the dark aura of anger surrounding him, the storm raging on his face.
He tossed a business card onto her desk then flopped into the recliner, and she saw the pain in the dark depths of his eyes. His anger was directed inwardly, not at her.
She lowered her eyes to the card and took a deep breath. Her vision blurred for a moment, but then the words came into sharp focus. Kay Palmer.
“It was in my desk drawer,” he said, his normally smooth voice harsh and grating. “She had mine, too.”
Reluctantly Leanne switched on her recorder even though she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear this, much less have a record of it.
“So you knew her.”
He shook his head, denying it even as his next words admitted it. “Apparently I went to her for manicures.”
“So the police tell me. They came by today to question me.”
She sucked in her breath, trying to keep her reaction silent, but he grinned wryly.
“Pretty damning, isn’t it? I almost told them...” He shrugged. “Well, I didn’t know what to tell them, so I took the cowardly way out and didn’t say anything. They found my card at her apartment, my name and unlisted phone number in her address book, and my name in her appointment book at Executive Styles.”
“That’s all still circumstantial,” she protested.
“It would be, but there’s more. She called my office a few weeks ago changing the time of my appointment. I remember getting the message, but I pitched it. I thought it was a joke. I never get manicures.”
“Maybe it was a joke.” There could be an explanation for all this, an explanation that didn’t stain Eliot’s hands with blood. She realized she wanted to find such an explanation, wanted to believe he was not a murderer, but she knew only too well that things usually were exactly as they seemed. And ignoring the truth not only didn’t make it go away—ignoring it could also be dangerous.
“No, it wasn’t a joke,” he answered, his expression stoic. “I went to the shop and talked to one of her co-workers. She recognized me, called me by name. Kay told her we were involved. So involved that Kay was going to ask her husband for a divorce.” His jaw clenched. “Because of me. Her friend thinks maybe Kay’s husband killed her because he was jealous. That means, even if I didn’t choke her with these hands, I still killed her.”
He had been involved with Kay. So involved that she wanted to divorce her husband to be with him. Had Kay felt the same attraction to Eliot that she herself felt, the same need to ignore the possible consequences of trusting him? Kay had paid for her trust with her life.
Leanne swallowed hard, trying to swallow this unprofessional distraction. “And you remember nothing about any of that?” she asked. “Even after you got to the shop, it didn’t look familiar. Nothing her friend told you brought up a sense of recognition, of deja vu?”
“No. Nothing. If it wasn’t for that dream, I’d think the woman was nuts, that somebody was trying to mess with my mind.”
Everything he told her was consistent with MPD. Almost everything.
“It sounds like you must have spent a lot of time with her. I know I’ve asked you this before, but it’s very important. Think before you answer. Do you have missing periods of time? Do you suddenly realize it’s night, and you can’t remember what happened to the evening? Do you check your watch and find that it’s two hours later than you thought? Find yourself wearing clothes you don’t remember putting on?”
He shook his head, his lips compressed into a thin line. “I don’t know. Maybe. That’s normal, isn’t it?”
“No,” she said quietly, a chill enveloping her at this sudden breakdown of the last barrier to a diagnosis. “No, Eliot. It’s not normal to find yourself in a place you don’t remember going to or realize that you’ve lost several hours.”
He stood and paced the length of her office. “I didn’t mean it like that. At least, I don’t think I meant it like that. I’ve always been so absorbed in my work, I’ll notice everybody going home and realize I haven’t had lunch. I can be driving down the freeway thinking about a knotty problem and miss my exit.” He stopped and looked at her, his hands lifted beseechingly. “Doesn’t everybody do things like that?”
“When you put it that way, yes, everybody does things of that nature. What I’m asking you is whether your memory lapses go beyond the normal.”
He sat down again and ran a shaky hand through his hair. “I don’t know any more what normal is. There’s something else I probably need to tell you about. I understand these other…uh…personalities take on different names.”
She nodded slowly. “Frequently.”
“Well, today when I found Kay’s card in my desk, I thought about Edward putting it there.”
“Edward?” She whispered the name as the shadow of despair darkened the windows, invading the room and settling in her gut.
“Edward was my imaginary playmate when I was a child. At first the other kids went along with the game, but then they got older and went on to other things, and I quit telling them about Edward. But I didn’t quit playing with him until I developed a crush on a girl. I went out with her and admitted to her that I still talked to an imaginary person. She laughed at me, then she told everybody else, and it took me a long time to live it down. I never played with Edward again.” He stopped, watching her closely. “The girl’s name was Kay Becker.”
“Kay Becker, Kay Palmer. Are you saying you think it’s the same person?”
“Kay Palmer was the dead woman’s married name. The police said I went to school with her.”
“What do you think?”
“I don’t know. It’s possible. She moved across town to a different school when I was fourteen, right after our little fiasco, and I never saw her again. Twenty years later, with her hair dyed—maybe. I can’t say for sure. I’ve only seen her in my dream and on the television news spots.”
“So you gave up your invisible friend because a girl betrayed you and embarrassed you, and now that girl could be a victim of a brutal murder.”
“It doesn’t sound good, does it?”
He was right about that. It didn’t sound good. If Edward had emerged during Eliot’s childhood and felt Eliot had deserted him, he could have resurfaced years later to take revenge on the person who’d caused such desertion.
Yet she still found herself reluctant to make such a diagnosis, to admit that Eliot was a killer.
Was she simply being cautious, as any doctor would be, or was she so drawn to Eliot on a personal basis that she’d lost sight of her objectivity?
The mere fact that she had to ask herself such a question was uncomfortably disturbing.
“I suggest we try hypnosis again,” she said briskly, trying to mask her self-doubts as well as her fear of what they might discover.
He shot up from the chair and leaned across her desk, a scowl creasing his brow. “You can’t be serious! What if this Edward comes out and tries to kill you?”
She drew back instinctively. Was he threatening her? The possibility still existed that he was a cold-blooded killer needing a defense of insanity. That was something else she couldn’t—or didn’t want to—accept.
“You’ll be under hypnosis,” she said. “I can handle it.”
“I’d feel better with a little insurance.” His features grim, he reached inside his pocket, then slapped his hand on her desk with a thud.
She jumped to her feet at the action, the noise. When he drew back his hand, a .38 caliber revolver lay on her desk.
“Do you know how to use that?” he demanded.
“Eliot, where did you get a gun?” she gasped, images of her father’s last moments flashing through her mind.
“It’s legal, it’s registered,” he assured her. “Can you use it?”
“My father enjoyed hunting. He taught me to shoot when I was very young.” But that didn’t mean she could. She hadn’t touched a gun since her father’s death. That gun was a .38, very similar to the one now lying on her desk.
Slowly she sank back into her chair.
“Take it, and we’ll get on with the hypnosis,” he ordered.
She tried to laugh, but it came out a shrill hiccup. “This is absurd. Are you suggesting I should shoot you if another personality manifests? Please...put the gun away. We’ll go somewhere more public if you’re concerned about my safety.”
He thrust out of the chair and strode around the desk to her. She flinched backward from the hurricane raging in his eyes.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I’d never hurt you. But...” He hefted the gun with one hand, cradled hers with the other, laid the revolver in it and closed her fingers around it. His flesh against hers was warm, but the steel in her palm was cold...and deadly.
“I don’t know about this other person, this Edward,” he went on. “In my dream he hated you. Remember what happened last night when a patient got out of control. And Hedlund’s half my size.”
She looked away from him and dropped the weapon back onto her desk. Her fingers burned on the outside of her hand where he’d touched her and felt icy on the inside where she’d touched the cold steel.
“I will not hold a gun on a patient. If you’re concerned, we’ll postpone further treatment until I can work you in during regular hours or get a colleague to join me.”
He studied her intently for a moment, then straightened his tie and smoothed his suit jacket. “You’re probably right.” He turned and started toward the door.
She leapt to her feet and went after him, a little surprised at the strength of her need to prevent him from leaving. She put a restraining hand on his arm just as he reached the door. He stopped and looked down at her hand.
Suddenly self-conscious, she withdrew her hand from his arm. “What are you going to do?”
“What I ought to do is call the policemen who came to see me today and tell them everything. I can’t take the chance I might hurt somebody else.”
“But?” she urged, hearing the reservation in his words.
He shifted uncomfortably, looking across the room toward the window rather than at her. “But the thought of being trapped in prison—” He shook his head. “I can’t.”
“Then let me help you.”
For a long moment he didn’t speak. Finally he looked at her and drew in a deep breath. “If you can see me during regular office hours tomorrow, if we can be sure you have someone here to help you, just in case, okay. Otherwise—” He shook his head. “I’m not going to put you in danger.”
“I’ll arrange something,” she agreed. “Come back and sit down. We have a lot to talk about even without hypnosis.”
His gaze flickered back to her desk. “If you’ll sit between the door and me. And keep the gun at hand.”
“I’ll sit right there.” She indicated the end of the dark blue sofa beside the door.
He nodded curtly, strode across the room, took the gun from her desk and laid it on the lamp table beside the sofa. She cringed away from it.
Swiveling the recliner around to face her, Eliot dropped into it. He clutched his hands tightly together, no longer attempting an unconcerned facade.
She leaned back, hoping to help him to relax by presenting an example. “Let’s talk about the situation with Kay Palmer. You dreamed about her the night she was killed.”
He dipped his head in a brief affirmative.
“And you have no memory of that night.”
“None. As far as I know I was home all evening.”
“Are you positive you didn’t lose a period of time? Be watching one television program one minute then something else entirely different the next? Look at the clock and realize two hours had passed without your noticing it?”
“I’m not positive about anything anymore.”
“Tell me about that evening, every detail you remember from the time you left work.”
“I was at the office until around six. Then I went by the gym and worked out for an hour. I stopped to get a pizza. Went home and ate it while I watched a movie on television. I don’t remember there being any gaps in the plot. I watched the news and went to bed. While I was sleeping, that’s the only time I can’t account for.”
“What time was Kay murdered?”
“The paper said between eight p.m. and midnight.”
“So it could have happened after you went to sleep. Except the network news is over at ten-thirty, and that seems a little late for a crab leg dinner.”
He flinched. “Not necessarily. According to her friend at the shop, after Kay asked her husband for a divorce, if he agreed, she was going to call me to come over and celebrate. That would put the dinner later than normal.”
His words hit Leanne in her mid-section. The possibility of Eliot’s guilt was becoming more certain with every new fact. And still she didn’t want to believe it. Still she wanted to find another explanation.
“Her friend said she was going to call me on my private phone number.”
“A private number? An unlisted number, you mean?”
“I guess. My home phone is unlisted.” He scowled, a crease appearing between his eyebrows. “Her friend said it was the number I gave her just for her use. My home phone’s unlisted, but a lot of people have the number.”
“A second cell phone?”
“Not that I know of. Nothing I’m being billed for.”
“Surely you’d have noticed if you had an extra cell phone lying around.” She realized she was helping Eliot build a favorable argument instead of trying to be neutral. Against everything she knew to be right, against everything she knew to be safe, she was letting her emotions lead her.
“Okay,” she continued briskly, “check with your cell provider about extra lines.”
“And Kay’s husband. I need to talk to him.”
“The man who’s supposed to have a terrible temper, who might have killed Kay? Do you think that’s a good idea?”
Eliot grinned wryly. “He’ll be talking to the man who might have killed Kay, too. Who do you think is in the most danger? I’m the one who dreamed about doing it. How can you explain that dream if Wayne did it?”
“I don’t know,” Leanne admitted. “Mental telepathy is a proven fact, and psychics sometimes have dreams or visions of a murder.” Was she doing it again, trying to exculpate Eliot, or was she being fair? It was getting harder and harder to differentiate. “I’m not saying that’s what happened to you. But we do have a lot of questions that we can’t answer until we learn more facts.”
“Fine. When do we do that? When can you get me in during regular hours so somebody else will be here and we can do more hypnosis?”
He’d just given her the opening she needed. “Eliot, I’d like your permission to bring in a colleague. The gentleman I’m thinking of is retired from private practice. In fact, I took over this practice from him. I used to work with him. He’s a brilliant man and has a great deal of expertise in the field of multiple personality disorder. More than I do.” Not to mention that the presence of another doctor—especially Thurman—should get her back on track as far as objectivity.
“No.” Eliot’s answer was firm and immediate, and his features hardened to granite. “You told me anything I said to you would be confidential. I could have never told you so much if I’d known you planned to share that information with your colleagues.”
“Eliot, please. I don’t plan to tell anyone except another doctor. You make it sound like some kind of a gossip fest. If you went to a doctor for a physical problem, you wouldn’t be upset if he needed to consult with another doctor. If you don’t want me to, I won’t. The decision is yours. But if I have to wait to work you in during regular office hours, it’s probably going to be a couple of weeks.”
Eliot seemed to be undergoing an inner struggle, a fact that didn’t surprise her at all. From the beginning, he’d appeared reluctant to tell her everything. Naturally he would hesitate about her bringing in an unknown third party. After what he’d admitted about his teenage relationship with a girl who’d betrayed his confidence, such hesitation was to be expected. He probably found it difficult to trust anybody.
“All right,” he finally said, rising from the chair. “Go ahead. In the meantime—” He looked down at the gun on the lamp table. “Take that home with you. Lock your doors and windows. And promise me, if I should try to hurt you...”
She shook her head, knowing she couldn’t make any such promise. “I’ll lock my doors and windows.”
“And take the gun home with you.”
She looked at the black metal object lying on her lamp table. That’s all it was, she told herself. Metal molded into a certain shape, wooden grips on the handle. Material that could just as easily have been part of the table on which it lay. Inert. It could only cause harm if a person used it.
“And take the gun home with me,” she agreed, not sure she really meant it.
He nodded, satisfied, and left.
This time, she noted, he didn’t ask her to go to dinner. He might still want to, but now he was convinced that a murderer lived inside his head, and he was determined to protect her from that person.
As he’d observed, things didn’t look good. Even so, she had to withhold a decision until she could be positive.
The one major fact that still didn’t fit was his failure to lose time. Multiples frequently blinked and found it had changed from dawn to dusk, from Monday to Wednesday. Their clothes were different, they were in a different place. They lost not only the memory but the time spent making the memory.
Which didn’t necessarily mean he was innocent. The evidence that he was guilty of murder was quite compelling. The evidence pointed to one of two possibilities. He could have a dangerous alter ego or he could be a cold-blooded murderer who was using her—her and her compassion for him, her attraction to him—to establish a defense of insanity.
She wasn’t sure which was worse.
Greta ran in excited circles while Leanne filled her bowl with dog food. “Calm down, little one. You’re not exactly starving. In fact, the vet tells me it wouldn’t hurt you to join Weight Watchers.”
She set the bowl on the floor, and Greta pounced on it, tail wagging furiously as she crunched.
The doorbell rang. Leanne started at the sound—a sign of her tension. Greta’s head lifted from her bowl, she sniffed the air, and the fur on her back stood erect. The hair on the back of Leanne’s neck stood up, too. She wasn’t sure if it was nerves after everything that had happened lately or Greta’s reaction to someone at the door that caused it. Whatever the reason, she felt distinctly uneasy.
Greta growled as she followed Leanne to the front door. Leanne flipped on the porch light and peered through the viewer. Eliot stood there, gazing downward at the Welcome mat as if blinded by the sudden burst of light.
Reflexively, without thinking, she flung the door open. “Eliot, what are you doing here? Has something happened?”
But when the man lifted his head and smiled at her, when she saw his face, she knew it wasn’t the same Eliot who’d come to her office. She stepped backward involuntarily. Behind her Greta growled ominously. She had to restrain an impulse to slam the door, bolt it and lock herself in her bedroom.
“No, nothing’s wrong,” he said, smiling, and it was Eliot’s smile, a slight dimple forming in one cheek, but at the same time, it was different. This smile sent a chill down her spine rather than warmth around her heart. “I just thought, if you hadn’t eaten yet, we could order a pizza,” he continued, peering over her shoulder. “Are you going to invite me in?”
Greta barked sharply. Leanne jumped and gasped at the sound. She reached down to pick up the little dog. From the safety of Leanne’s arms, Greta bared her tiny teeth at him. Leanne understood the impulse.
“Mr. Kane,” she said sternly, stroking the dog’s head, trying to calm her, “you know how I feel about our doctor-patient relationship. I think you should leave now.”
She started to close the door, but he caught it, holding it open. Her heart pounded wildly, and she briefly wished she’d brought Eliot’s gun home with her to threaten this intruder.
The man’s smile slipped a little. “Leanne, I’m not asking you to sleep with me. Fine. If you don’t want me in your house, let’s go to a public restaurant and just sit at the same table while we eat. You know I’m attracted to you, and I think you feel the same way about me. We’re two adults. Why shouldn’t we get together?”
Attracted? To him? She felt faintly nauseous that this monster knew how she felt about Eliot. She forced herself to smile back at him. “Because I’m your doctor.”
“That didn’t keep you from spending almost two hours alone with me in your office last night. That’s an awful long appointment, don’t you think?”
Alone? “Dealing with Bruce Hedlund is not exactly a typical appointment.” She watched him closely for his reaction.
A puzzled expression crossed his face, but he quickly covered it with the smiling mask.
That was intriguing. He seemed to have incomplete memories of the previous evening. She found her fear and revulsion abating as scientific curiosity took over.
“We did a good job of dealing with him together.” His comment sounded weak and confused.
“That was very kind of you to stay until his brother came to get him,” she said, deliberately feeding him erroneous information.
“I’m a kind guy.”
“Yes, you are. And now, if you’ll excuse me, after our session today, I’m really tired. Good night.” As an afterthought, as a test, she added, “Edward.”
He jerked backward, his expression startled. She took advantage of his confusion to slam the door and bolt it behind her.
Edward. The man had definitely responded. Were they getting closer to confirmation of a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder? It was hard to imagine that Eliot could have faked this latest episode. The man on her porch had seemed like a totally different person—like the person who’d watched her from across the street last night.
Such a diagnosis could lead to only one conclusion. Since a second personality would be just another aspect of his own, that would almost certainly mean Eliot was a murderer.