Secrets Among the Shadows

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Chapter 8

He strode angrily off her porch and went to his car. How could she possibly have known he wasn’t Eliot? What had he done wrong? He’d mimicked that idiot perfectly.

She’d known, and she hadn’t wanted anything to do with him. That was going to stop. He was damn tired of Eliot having it all. It was his turn.

He slammed his car door and drove away, tires squealing.

This hadn’t been a good encounter. She knew he wasn’t Eliot. She rejected him. She refused to let him inside, and she mentioned an event he hadn’t known about. How had he missed the scene in her office with somebody named Bruce? Was Eliot regaining control? He had to pay more attention.

He parked the car in his garage. It wouldn’t happen again. None of it. So what if Leanne could tell them apart? Nobody else could, and she wasn’t going to be alive much longer.

***

Eliot awoke with a start and a chill as the hatred from his dream washed over him. A strange voice brought him upright in his chair, instantly awake, his gaze darting around the room.

It was only the television.

He picked up the remote control and turned it off.

Damn! He was sleeping so poorly at night, he’d fallen asleep in front of the television again.

And dreamed about stalking Leanne again.

Heart racing, he looked down at his clothes, at his hands, at his sock-clad feet, searching for answers that weren’t there.

Could he have gone to Leanne’s house, tried to force his way in, hoping to find the opportunity to harm her? Had it really happened, as his dream about killing Kay Palmer had really happened, or was it only a dream—a warning—like the first ones about killing Kay Palmer and the one about killing Leanne?

But this dream had been crystal clear. It seemed that the ones that hadn’t happened—yet—were out of focus and blurred, more like an illusion and less like reality. This one had had the clarity of an event actually happening.

With a sweaty hand, he pulled her business card from his wallet then reached for the telephone and called her home number.

Four rings. Five.

“You’ve reached Leanne Warner’s residence. Please leave your number and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

He tried to control his panic, tried to reassure himself that she could be out or asleep or screening her calls. But he couldn’t rid himself of an image of her lying in her bed, eyes wide in death.

“Leanne, it’s Eliot. I just want to know if you’re all right. I’m coming over there to check on you. If you’re okay but don’t want to see me, leave a note on the door. I just need to know you’re all right. I had another dream.”

Adding the request for a note, admitting the possibility that she might be avoiding him, might have cause to fear him, grated through him in a way that was physically painful. He didn’t want anyone to fear him, especially not Leanne.

He looked around for his shoes. At least they were where he remembered leaving them. He yanked the laces tight, reliving every moment of that dream, worrying about Leanne’s safety. If he’d done anything to her—

He couldn’t think about that. He hadn’t hurt her in the dream. He’d wanted to, but she’d slammed the door in his face.

So where was she? Why wasn’t she answering her phone? Surely she wouldn’t just ignore him. He was, after all, her patient, and he didn’t think Leanne Warner was the type of doctor to ignore a patient.

However, she’d been frightened in his dream. The memory of the fear in her eyes tortured him. He didn’t want her to fear him. He wanted to see her eyes soothing and calm, the way they’d been when he’d first met her, or alert and piercing as when she listened to him and computed every word he said, or bright and alive and echoing the unexpressed desire he felt for her.

No, he corrected himself, not the last. He couldn’t deny that Leanne was a damned attractive woman, and he wanted her as a woman—what man wouldn’t?—but his relationship with her was doctor-patient. It had to be that way.

When he thought of her as a woman rather than a doctor, he regretted all the things he’d told her. And right now he had to be honest with her, trust her. She was his only hope, his only possibility of finding sanity, of discovering if he had murdered a woman, if he would have to spend the rest of his life in prison.

If he was planning to murder her.

Grabbing his keys, he started out the door then realized he didn’t know where Leanne lived. He looked at her card again, but while it had her office phone number and address, it contained only her home phone number, not her home address.

He threw his keys onto the coffee table in disgust then sank back into the recliner, head in his hands.

Damn! The part of him that wanted to harm her knew where she lived, but the part that wanted to save her didn’t. He searched his mind frantically. The knowledge had to be there. If he could access it for evil, why couldn’t he access it for good?

He lifted his head and stared at nothing. Maybe he could access it. In the dream he’d seen himself driving down the street, turning at the corner. With a chill, he realized that everything had been so clear, he could remember the names on the street sign. The intersection wasn’t far from where he lived.

Which meant it wouldn’t take him long to get over there.

Or long to have driven home again.

Unable to wait for the elevator, he took the stairs from his fifth floor apartment down to the lobby.

From behind the desk by the front door, Fred, the security guard looked up from the book he was reading...or dozing over.

“Evening, Mr. Kane,” Fred greeted.

Eliot tensed to see if the guard would comment on this being Eliot’s second trip out for one evening, but Fred only smiled.

“Evening, Fred.”

He nodded and went on down to the underground parking garage. He’d have liked to ask if Fred had seen him a few minutes ago, but the man would think he was nuts.

And he was, wasn’t he?

His car was in its usual place. That, at least, was reassuring. He unlocked the door, slid behind the wheel and pulled out, tires screaming...the sound echoing the scream of panic inside his head.

He had no trouble locating Leanne’s street. As he turned down it, he immediately and frighteningly recognized the street and the house from his dreams. He parked in front and raced up the walk. The porch light was on, and light came through the windows of the downstairs rooms. Leanne must be home.

There was no note on the door. He rang the doorbell and waited, drumming his fingers on the frame, becoming more and more anxious with every second that passed.

No one answered. He rang again then pounded. Some of those old bells didn’t work very well.

Still no response.

What if he had harmed her? What if he’d gone inside and just didn’t remember that part? In his dream of killing her, he’d found an unlocked window on one side of the house.

Sending up a silent prayer that he wouldn’t find it, he dashed around the house looking for a window that matched the one in his dream.

It was just where he’d seen it.

Panic surrounded him, pushing against him, trying to suffocate him. If that window was unlocked, he didn’t know if he could control that panic.

He reached upward and shoved...hard. The window didn’t budge, and he felt a moment of giddy relief.

But despair again overwhelmed him. The death dream was something that hadn’t happened. So what if another window had been unlocked tonight, a different window?

He charged around the house, tripping over rocks, trampling flowers and getting scratched by bushes, testing every window on the first floor, ending up back on her porch. That window, like all the others, was securely locked.

What should he do now? Continue pounding on the door, rouse the neighbors and have them call the police? Or go home and spend the night worrying?

A whoosh of air sounded behind him. Before he could turn, something heavy slammed against his back, knocking him to the wooden boards of the porch. An unseen monster with hot breath growled menacingly as Eliot tried to roll over and defend himself.

“Dixie, hold!” a male voice called. “Don’t move, or she’ll kill you,” the same voice warned.

Eliot believed him. He lay very still.

“Who are you, and what do you want?” the man asked.

“I’m Eliot Kane. I’m looking for Leanne Warner.”

“By trying to break into her house in the middle of the night?”

“I knocked. Nobody answered. I was worried about her.”

“Why were you worried?” Leanne’s voice came from the same vicinity as the unknown man’s.

In spite of everything, Eliot let out a long sigh of relief. At the movement, the creature on his back snarled again, its breath hot on his neck, sending shivers down his spine.

“I dreamed I was here, and I threatened you,” he explained. “I called you and didn’t get an answer, so I came over.” Anguish rose as he realized what she must be thinking. “It’s all right,” he said. “I’m...myself.”

Leanne was silent for a moment. “You can let him up,” she finally said quietly as if speaking to the other man.

“You’re sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” But she didn’t sound sure.

“I’m going to call off Dixie, Mr. Eliot Kane, but she can have your throat between her jaws in a split second if you make one wrong move. Dixie, release.”

The weight lifted from his back, and Eliot rolled over then climbed to his feet. The huge black Doberman now sitting inches away bared her teeth in a snarl at his sudden movement.

“Easy, girl,” the short, white-haired man standing beside Leanne said, quieting the dog.

Leanne studied the man on her porch. He was Eliot now; she was positive of that. Almost positive. She’d been momentarily deceived once that evening.

“Eliot, this is my friend, Thurman Powers...Dr. Thurman Powers, and his dog, Dixie. Thurman, this is the patient I was telling you about.”

Eliot flinched at her words, and she realized he must be feeling extremely vulnerable and exposed.

“Why don’t we all go inside,” she invited, “have a glass of tea and get acquainted.” Get everyone on the same footing instead of Eliot feeling like a victim.

Both men nodded though she sensed reluctance on Eliot’s part. Thurman, however, was like a race-horse at the gate. When she’d gone over to talk to him after Edward left, rather than being upset at her disturbing his retirement, he’d been intrigued by the complexity of Eliot’s case, the many unanswered questions.

She went in with the two men, and Dixie followed close behind.

Greta met them at the door, scampering across the area rug, skidding when she hit the hardwood, tail wagging ecstatically in irregular patterns, greeting the four arrivals in turn, including her buddy, Dixie. She was fascinated with the newcomer, approaching him as if he was her new best friend...completely unlike her earlier behavior when he’d been at the door as Edward.

With a smile, Eliot reached down to pet her. “I think she likes me.” Leanne studied his face, his smile, Greta’s reaction, and she knew for certain he was Eliot, not Edward.

“Yes,” she said slowly, watching Thurman for any clues to what he might be thinking, “she does. But she didn’t like Edward. She growled at him both times he was here, tried to lunge out of my arms and attack him tonight. You were right. Edward was here tonight and he did frighten me.”

He straightened, despair in his dark gaze, and looked from her to Thurman.

“You can trust Thurman. You need to trust him.”

He compressed his lips and shook his head. “Edward. That is his name, isn’t it? In my dream you called him that, and he was startled. He wondered how you knew.”

“Yes, that’s what happened.” Leanne’s lips felt stiff as she verified that Eliot had been the man at her door. “Sit down and I’ll go get some iced tea.” She indicated the overstuffed gray sofa with small, pale pink flowers that matched the larger flowers in the area rug. Not exactly a professional setting, but she wasn’t accustomed to seeing patients in her home.

Eliot moved toward the sofa, and she went into the kitchen, escaping for a moment until she could regain her composure. This was her first experience with MPD. It was eerie to be frightened by a man then attracted to him all in the same evening.

Bringing Thurman in on the case had definitely been the right thing to do. Not only did she need his expertise, but with another doctor present, she’d have to remain strictly professional. If he and Eliot were compatible, she could, if necessary, request that Thurman take over the case.

Yet, perversely, because she was personally involved, because she admired Eliot’s gritted determination in defiance of the agony in his eyes, in spite of her fear of him and of becoming too involved with him, she wanted to be the one to help him.

If he could be helped.

She had to remember that. Eliot was mentally ill, and not all mentally ill persons could be helped.

She filled the glasses and returned to the living room.

Thurman sat on the sofa beside Eliot, and the two were engaged in quiet, intense conversation. Greta had curled into a small ball in Eliot’s lap, and Dixie had her head on Thurman’s feet with her rump against Eliot’s ankle. Animals...and Thurman...were foolproof, she thought. They saw the inner person. Eliot had certainly won over the animals. He had a core of goodness—but he also had the potential for evil. She’d be very interested to get Thurman’s opinion of him after he left.

“Eliot’s been telling me a little about his situation,” Thurman said as she handed him a glass of tea. “Very interesting.”

Thurman always had been the master of understatement.

Eliot accepted his drink, his fingers touching hers, sending darts of sensation through her body as he took the glass from her. She drew back immediately.

“Thank you,” Eliot said, his eyes meeting hers, and for a split second she wondered if he was thanking her for the tea or the touch.

This was ridiculous! She had to stop acting like a lovelorn teenager.

She moved hurriedly across the room and took a seat in an arm chair.

“Leanne,” Eliot said, “a few minutes ago you said Greta didn’t like Edward—didn’t like me.” The last words seemed to be dredged up from his depths, an admission he could barely stand to utter.

“That’s right. She wanted to attack him. I had to hold her when he was at the door.” How odd it was to be talking about him as though he were a separate entity from the man on her sofa. Yet she couldn’t bring herself to speak of him any other way. The two were very separate. A body was the only thing they shared.

“But she likes me now. How can that be possible?” He was grasping at straws...all he had to grasp at this point...hoping against the evidence that he hadn’t been the one who’d come to her door.

“Animals are very sensitive to moods,” she said. “I’m sorry, Eliot.” And she was—so desperately sorry. “You were here. I could have been mistaken the first time, seeing someone across the street that I’d only seen once before. But not this time. I saw you from only a few feet away. I talked to you.”

He nodded, his long, square-tipped fingers continuing to gently caress the little dog, and she found herself doubting her own words. Part of her couldn’t quite accept that Eliot and Edward occupied the same body, the same mind. But that was a subjective view, she reminded herself. She didn’t want him to be a sick man, especially a sick man with an evil side that hated her.

“Edward was angry when he came here,” Eliot said. “He always seems to be angry.”

“Yes, he does,” Leanne agreed. “What’s he angry about?”

“In my dream I got the impression that he’s angry at everything. The world. Me and you. He resented that you rejected him and not me. He’s tired of my having things he doesn’t. He resents me. I know that doesn’t make any sense. I...he, we have the same things. But that’s what I got from him.”

It did make sense, of course. Split personalities saw themselves as individuals. If Edward had been suppressed for years, he might feel he’d missed out on a lot of things. But this wasn’t the right time to tell that to Eliot.

“I got the idea he didn’t remember the scene in my office with Bruce Hedlund. He tried to make me believe he did, but he didn’t.” She glanced in Thurman’s direction to see how he would interpret the information. If this personality was missing memories, could there be a third personality involved, one who held those missing memories?

Thurman returned her gaze, giving a brief, barely discernible, nod.

Eliot scowled. “No, he didn’t remember. He was upset that he somehow missed it. He thought he needed to pay closer attention so I don’t regain control.”

“He’s worried you’re going to regain control?”

Eliot nodded. “That’s what he was thinking in the dream.”

“Eliot,” Thurman began, “do you ever dream about other people besides this Edward?” She’d been right. He, too, was wondering about a third personality.

Eliot’s hand stopped stroking Greta. His eyes widened in fear then narrowed in speculation. “You think I have more than one of these...these Mr. Hydes running around inside my head?”

“I think it’s much too early to make that kind of diagnosis. Have you had other dreams besides the ones about Edwards?”

“I don’t usually remember my dreams, but up until this thing started, they were pretty normal. You know...lying on the beach one minute, climbing a tall building or falling off a cliff the next. And I never before had this sense of watching somebody else, feeling somebody else’s emotions. I...” He paused then took a deep breath. “That’s not quite true,” he said slowly, haltingly, as if dragging the words from some half-forgotten cavern. “When I was a boy I used to dream about Edward. It seemed to be part of the games we played. I kept pretending even in my sleep. He and I would go treasure hunting on lost islands and things like that in my dreams. Mom and Dad used to get upset with me. They thought I spent too much time with this imaginary friend and too little time with real kids.”

“Did you?” Thurman asked.

“Probably. He was the perfect friend. We liked all the same things, we never fought. He wasn’t angry back then.”

“What did he look like? In your dreams, I mean.”

The muscles in Eliot’s jaw tensed, and Leanne knew the answer before he spoke. “Like me,” he said. “Even then he looked like me.”

Leanne exchanged a quick glance with Thurman, a knowing glance. They would discuss this revelation later, this further confirmation of multiple personality, dissociated at an early age. “These thoughts you have that seem to belong to somebody else, do you think they’re Edward’s thoughts?”

Eliot released a long breath. “I don’t know. Probably. The anger in the thoughts is the same as the anger I feel coming from him in the dreams.”

“When you come in tomorrow, Eliot, we’ll do hypnotic regression to the automobile accident that killed your parents and see what develops from that,” she said. “Would you mind if Thurman joins us then?”

He grimaced then changed it to a semblance of a wry grin. “Sure, why not. The more the merrier. Isn’t that the battle cry of multiple personality patients?”

It was a terrible joke, but they all laughed anyway, breaking the awful tension.

Eliot stood, setting his empty glass on the coffee table and Greta on the floor. “So I guess I’ll see you both tomorrow.”

Leanne rose with him. Thurman lifted a quizzical eyebrow, but she shook her head. She could certainly see Eliot out without a guard.

When they stepped outside the porch light was still on, the low-watt bulb glaring in contrast to the surrounding darkness. That was the only reason, she told herself, that she continued to walk with him down the sidewalk and out to his car—to escape the glare.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and for a moment she had no idea what he was talking about. Then he gave a short bark of a laugh, lowered his head and ran a hand through his hair. “I feel like I’m apologizing for something somebody else did.”

“You mean Edward.” She knew she had to encourage him to accept Edward as a part of his own personality, but she was having a tough time accepting it herself. “You don’t have to apologize,” was all she could bring herself to say.

“Damn it, Leanne, why didn’t you use the gun I gave you to threaten Edward?”

She didn’t want to admit she hadn’t brought it home, hadn’t been able to touch the thing after he left. She’d carried it between one finger and her thumb, minimizing the contact as much as possible, and dumped it in a desk drawer. “It wasn’t handy. I thought it was you at the door until too late. Anyway, I don’t know if I could have.” But hadn’t she wished for the gun when he’d been at the door, when she’d been in direct confrontation with his anger?

“Don’t open the door to me again unless you’re sure. Though I’ll admit I feel a lot better about everything knowing you have Thurman and Dixie looking out for you.”

“I can take care of myself. And Thurman keeps a close eye on me. He’s a good friend. A good doctor, too,” she added, steering the subject away from her safety and the gun.

“I’m impressed with him,” Eliot said. He hesitated then added, “But not as impressed as I am with you.” His voice bordered on being soft, and she had to stop herself from assigning a double meaning to his words, from believing that he meant not only professionally but personally.

“Thurman has had a lot more experience than I have.” She wrapped her arms about herself as though that barrier could shield her from the inappropriate, potentially disastrous, feelings she kept having about Eliot, as though she could stop herself from thinking—hoping—that at any moment he was going to replace her self-embrace with his arms.

“Are you cold?” he asked, his gaze dropping to her folded arms. She could feel the spreading heat as it swept over the thin cotton fabric of her shirt, pulled taut over her breasts by her gesture. Against her will, she could feel her nipples tightening, hardening, wanting his touch.

“No,” she said, the word intended not only for him but also for her own runaway thoughts.

His eyes narrowed, glowing darkly. “I guess I’d better be going.” For a moment he didn’t move, then abruptly his hands jerked upward, stopping in mid-air.

She froze in place, desire and fear struggling inside her. Was he going to wrap his fingers around her throat and strangle her before Dixie could reach him? Or was he going to put his arms around her, lower his face to hers and kiss her just as if they were two normal people at the end of an evening together? She wasn’t sure which possibility she feared most.

But he halted abruptly with his hands only waist high, and dropped them to his sides, clenching them into fists. “Goodnight, Leanne,” he said tightly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Eliot.”

He walked around his car and got in. She stood on the sidewalk, let out a long breath and waved as he drove away.

So apparently normal.

But Eliot was not normal. Their relationship was not normal. He was a mentally ill person, and she was a doctor committed to helping him, though not to sacrificing her own soul in that effort, not to caring for him too much and allowing his illness to tear her heart into shreds.

In spite of her confident assertion that she could take care of herself, a shiver ran down her spine. The really odd thing was, she wasn’t sure if that shiver came from fear or anticipation. Either way, Eliot was a dangerous man, a very real threat to her.

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