Books are delightful society. If you go into a room and find it full of books - even without taking them from the shelves they seem to speak to you, to bid you welcome.

William Ewart Gladstone

Tác giả: Sidney Sheldon
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Five weeks after Eve entered the clinic, Keith Webster removed the bandages. He turned her head from side to side. "Do you feel any pain?" he asked. "No."
"Any tightness?"
Dr. Webster looked up at the nurse. "Bring Miss Blackwell a mirror."
Eve was rilled with a sudden fear. For weeks she had been longing to look at herself in a mirror. Now that the moment was here, she was terrified. She wanted her own face, not the face of some stranger.
When Dr. Webster handed her the mirror, she said faintly, "I'm afraid—"
"Look at yourself," he said gently.
She raised the mirror slowly. It was a miracle! There was no change at all; it was her face. She searched for the signs of scars, There were none. Her eyes filled with tears.
She looked up and said, "Thank you," and reached out to give Keith Webster a kiss. It was meant to be a brief thank-you
kiss, but she could feel his lips hungry on hers.
He pulled away, suddenly embarrassed. "I'm—I'm glad you're pleased," he said.
Pleased! "Everyone was right. You are a miracle worker."
He said shyly, "Look what I had to work with."
George Mellis had been badly shaken by what had happened. He had come perilously close to destroying everything he wanted. George had not been fully aware before of how much the control of Kruger-Brent, Ltd., meant to him. He had been satisfied to live on gifts from lonely ladies, but he was married to a Blackwell now, and within his reach was a company larger than anything his father had ever conceived of. Look at me, Papa. I'm alive again. I own a company bigger than yours. It was no longer a game. He knew he would kill to get what he wanted.
George devoted himself to creating the image of the perfect husband. He spent every possible moment with Alexandra. They breakfasted together, he took her out to lunch and he made it a point to be home early every evening. On weekends they went to the beach house Kate Blackwell owned in East Hampton, on Long Island, or flew to Dark Harbor in the company Cessna 620. Dark Harbor was George's favorite. He loved the rambling old house, with its beautiful antiques and priceless paintings. He wandered through the vast rooms. Soon all this will be mine, he thought. It was a heady feeling.
George was also the perfect grandson-in-law. He paid a great deal of attention to Kate, She was eighty-one, chairman of the board of Kruger-Brent, Ltd., and a remarkably strong, vital woman. George saw to it that he and Alexandra dined with her once a week, and he telephoned the old woman every few days to chat with her.
He was carefully building up the picture of a loving husband and caring grandson-in-law.
No one would ever suspect him of murdering two people he loved so much.
George Mellis's sense of satisfaction was abruptly shattered by a telephone call from Dr.
John Harley.
"I've made arrangements for you to see a psychiatrist. Dr. Peter Templeton."
George made his voice warm and ingratiating. "That's really not necessary any more, Dr.
Harley. I think—"
"I don't give a damn what you think. We have an agreement—I don't report you to the police, and you consult a psychiatrist. If you wish to break that agree—"
"No, no," George said hastily. "If that's what you want, fine."
"Dr. Templeton's telephone number is five-five-five-three-one-six-one. He's expecting your call. Today." And Dr. Harley dammed down the receiver.
The damned busybody, George thought angrily. The last thing in the world he needed was to waste time with a shrink, but he could not risk Dr. Harley's talking. He would call this Dr. Templeton, see him once or twice and that would be the end of it.
Eve telephoned George at the office. "I'm home." "Are you—?" He was afraid to ask. "All right?" "Come and see for yourself. Tonight." "It's difficult for me to get away just now. Alex and I—" "Eight o'clock."
He could hardly believe it. Eve stood in front of him, looking just as beautiful as ever. He studied her face closely and could find no sign of the terrible damage he had inflicted upon her.
"It's incredible! You—you look exactly the same."
"Yes. I'm still beautiful, aren't 1, George?" She smiled, a cat smile, thinking of what she planned to do to him. He was a sick animal, not fit to live. He would pay in full for what he had done to her, but not yet. She still needed him. They stood there, smiling at each other.
"Eve, I can't tell you how sorry I—"
She held up a hand. "Let's not discuss it. It's over. Nothing has changed."
But George remembered that something had changed. "I got a call from Harley," he said.
"He's arranged for me to see some damned psychiatrist."
Eve shook her head. "No. Tell him you haven't time."
"I tried. If I don't go, he'll turn in a report of the—the accident to the police."
She stood there, deep in thought. "Who is he?"
"The psychiatrist? Someone named Templeton. Peter Templeton."
"I've heard of him. He has a good reputation."
"Don't worry. I can just he on his couch for fifty minutes and say nothing. If—"
Eve was not listening. An idea had come to her, and she was exploring it.
She turned to George. "This may be the best thing that could have happened."
Peter Templeton was in his middle thirties, just over six feet, with broad shoulders, clean-cut features and inquisitive blue eyes, and he looked more like a quarterback than a doctor. At the moment, he was frowning at a notation on his schedule: George Mellis—grandson-in-law of Kate Blackwell
The problems of the rich held no interest for Peter Templeton. Most of his colleagues were delighted to get socially prominent patients. When Peter Templeton had first begun his practice, he had had his share, but he had quickly found he was unable to sympathize with their problems. He had dowagers in his office literally screaming because they had not been invited to some social event, financiers threatening to commit suicide because they had lost money in the stock market, overweight matrons who alternated between feasting and fat farms. The world was full of problems, and Peter Templeton had long since decided that these were not the problems he was interested in helping to solve.
George Mellis. Peter had reluctantly agreed to see him only because of his respect for Dr. John Harley. "I wish you'd send him somewhere eke, John," Peter Templeton had said.
"I really have a full schedule."
"Consider this a favor, Peter."
"What's his problem?"
"That's your department. I'm just an old country doctor."
"All right," Peter had agreed. "Have him call me."
Now he was here. Dr. Templeton pressed down the button on the intercom on his desk.
"Send Mr. Mellis in."
Peter Templeton had seen photographs of George Mellis in newspapers and magazines, but he was still unprepared for the overpowering vitality of the man. He gave new meaning to the word charisma.
They shook hands. Peter said, "Sit down, Mr. Mellis."
George looked at the couch. "Over there?"
"Wherever you're comfortable."
George took the chair opposite the desk. George looked at Peter Templeton and smiled.
He had thought he would dread this moment, but after his talk with Eve, he had changed his Bind. Dr. Templeton was going to be his ally, his witness.
Peter studied the man opposite him. When patients came to Be him for the first time, they were invariably nervous. Some covered it up with bravado, others were silent or talkative or defensive. Peter could detect no signs of nervousness in this man. On the contrary, he seemed to be enjoying himself. Curious, Peter thought.
"Dr. Harley tells me you have a problem."
George sighed. "I'm afraid I have two."
"Why don't you tell me about them?"
"I feel so ashamed. That's why I—I insisted on coming to see you." He leaned forward in his chair and said earnestly, "I did something I've never done before in my life, Doctor. I struck a woman."
Peter waited.
"We were having an argument and I blacked out, and when I came to, I had ... hit her."
He let his voice break slightly. "It was terrible."
Peter Templeton's inner voice told him he already knew what George Mellis's problem was. He enjoyed beating up women.
"Was it your wife you struck?"
"My sister-in-law."
Peter had occasionally come across items about the Blackwell twins in newspapers or magazines when they appeared at charity events or society affairs. They were identical, Peter recalled, and strikingly beautiful. So this man had hit his sister-in-law. Peter found that mildly interesting. He also found it interesting that George Mellis made it sound as though he had merely slapped her once or twice. If that had been true, John Harley would not have insisted that Peter see Mellis.
"You say you hit her. Did you hurt her?"
"As a matter of fact, I hurt her pretty badly. As I told you, Doctor, I blacked out. When I came to, I—I couldn't believe it."
When I came to. The classic defense. I didn't do it, my subconscious did it.
"Do you have any idea what caused that reaction?"
"I've been under a terrible strain lately. My father has been seriously ill. He's had several heart attacks. I've been deeply concerned about him. We're a close family."
"Is your father here?"
"He's in Greece."
That Mellis. "You said you had two problems."
"Yes. My wife, Alexandra ..." He stopped.
"You're having marital problems?"
"Not in the sense you mean. We love each other very much. It's just that—" He hesitated.
"Alexandra hasn't been well lately."
"Emotionally. She's constantly depressed. She keeps talking about suicide."
"Has she sought professional help?"
George smiled sadly. "She refuses."
Too bad, Peter thought. Some Park Avenue doctor is being cheated out of a fortune.
"Have you discussed this with Dr. Harley?"
"Since he's the family doctor, I would suggest you speak with him. If he feels it's necessary, he'll recommend a psychiatrist."
George Mellis said nervously, "No. I don't want Alexandra to feel I'm discussing her behind her back. I'm afraid Dr. Harley would—"
'That's all right, Mr. Mellis. I'll give him a call."
"Eve, we're in trouble," George snapped. "Big trouble."
"What happened?"
"I did exactly as you told me. I said I was concerned about Alexandra, that she was suicidal."
'The sonofabitch is going to call John Harley and discuss it with him!"
"Oh, Christ! We can't let him."
Eve began to pace. She stopped suddenly. "All right. I'll handle Harley. Do you have another appointment with Temple-ton?"
"Keep it."
The following morning Eve went to see Dr. Harley at his office. John Harley liked the Blackwell family. He had watched the children grow up. He had gone through the tragedy of Marianne's death and the attack on Kate, and putting Tony away in a sanitarium. Kate had suffered so much. And then the rift between Kate and Eve. He could not imagine what had caused it, but it was none of his business. His business was to keep the family physically healthy.
When Eve walked into his office, Dr. Harley looked at her and said, "Keith Webster did a fantastic job!" The only telltale mark was a very thin, barely visible red scar across her forehead. Eve said, "Dr. Webster is going to remove the scar in a month or so."
Dr. Harley patted Eve's arm. "It only makes you more beautiful, Eve. I'm very pleased."
He motioned her to a chair. "What can I do for you?"
'This isn't about me, John. It's about Alex."
Dr. Harley frowned. "Is she having a problem? Something to do with George?"
"Oh, no," Eve said quickly. "George is behaving perfectly. In fact, it's George who's concerned about her. Alex has been acting strangely lately. She's been very depressed.
Suicidal, even."
Dr. Harley looked at Eve and said flatly, "I don't believe it. That doesn't sound like Alexandra."
"I know. I didn't believe it either, so I went to see her. I was shocked by the change in her. She's in a state of deep depression. Fm really worried, John. I can't go to Gran about it— That's why I came to you. You've got to do something." Her eyes misted. "I've lost my grandmother. I couldn't bear to lose my sister."
"How long has this been going on?"
"I'm not sure. I pleaded with her to talk to you about it. At first she refused, but I finally persuaded her. You've got to help her."
"Of course I will. Have her come in tomorrow morning. And try not to worry, Eve. There are new medications that work miracles."
Dr. Harley walked her to the door of his office. He wished Kate were not so unforgiving.
Eve was such a caring person.
When Eve returned to her apartment, she carefully cold-creamed away the red scar on her forehead.
The following morning at ten o'clock, Dr. Harley's receptionist announced, "Mrs. George Mellis is here to see you, Doctor.'
"Send her in."
She walked in slowly, unsure of herself. She was pale, and there were dark circles under her eyes.
John Harley took her hand and said, "It's good to see you, Alexandra. Now what's this I hear about your having problems?"
Her voice was low. "I feel foolish bothering you, John. I'm sure there's nothing wrong with me. If Eve hadn't insisted, I never would have come. I feel fine, physically."
"What about emotionally?"
She hesitated. "I don't sleep very well."
"What else?"
"You'll think I'm a hypochondriac ..."
"I know you better than that, Alexandra."
She lowered her eyes. "I feel depressed all the time. Sort of anxious and ... tired. George goes out of his way to make me happy and to think up things for us to do together and places for us to go. The problem is that I don't feel like doing anything or going anywhere.
Everything seems so—hopeless."
He was listening to every word, studying her. "Anything else?"
"I—I think about killing myself." Her voice was so soft he could barely hear her. She looked up at him and said, "Am I going crazy?"
He shook his head. "No. I don't think you're going crazy. Have you ever heard of anhedonia?"
She shook her head.
"It's a biological disturbance that causes the symptoms you've described. It's a fairly common condition, and there are some new drugs that make it easy to treat. These drugs have no side effects, and they're effective. I'm going to examine you, but I'm sure we won't find anything really wrong."
When the examination was completed and she had gotten dressed again, Dr. Harley said, "I'm going to give you a prescription for Wellbutrin. It's part of a new generation of antidepressants^—one of the new wonder drugs."
She watched listlessly as he wrote out a prescription.
"I want you to come back and see me a week from today. In the meantime, if you have any problems, call me, day or night." He handed her the prescription.
'Thank you, John," she said. "I just hope these will stop the dream."
"What dream?"
"Oh, I thought I told you. It's the same one every night. I'm on a boat and it's windy, and I hear the sea calling. I walk to the rail and I look down and I see myself in the water, drowning.."
She walked out of Dr. Harley's office and onto the street. She leaned against the building, taking deep breaths. I did it, Eve thought exultantly. I got away with it. She threw the prescription away.
Kate Blackwell was tired. The meeting had gone on too long, She looked around the conference table at the three men and three women on the executive board. They all seemed fresh and vital. So it's not the meeting that has been going on too long, Kate thought. I've gone on too long. I'll be eighty-two. I'm getting old. The thought depressed her, not because she had any fear of dying, but because she was not ready yet. She refused to die until Kruger-Brent, Ltd., had a member of the Blackwell family running it.
After the bitter disappointment with Eve, Kate had tried to build her future plans around Alexandra. "You know I would do anything for you, Gran, but I'm sim-ply not interested in becoming involved with the company. George would be an excellent executive ..."
"Do you agree, Kate?" Brad Rogers was addressing her. The question shook Kate out of her reverie. She looked toward Brad guiltily. "I'm sorry. What was the question?"
"We were discussing the Deleco merger." His voice was patient. Brad Rogers was concerned about Kate Blackwell. In recent months she had started daydreaming during board meetings, and then just when Brad Rogers decided Kate was becoming senile and should retire from the board, she would come up with some stunning insight that would make everyone wonder why he had not thought of it. She was an amazing woman. He thought of their brief, long-ago affair and wondered again why it had ended so abruptly.
It was George Mellis's second visit to Peter Templeton. "Has there been much violence in your past, Mr. Mellis?"
George shook his head. "No. I abhor violence." Make a note of that, you smug sonofabitch. The coroner is going to ask you about that.
"You told me your mother and father never physically punished you."
"That is correct."
"Would you say you were an obedient child?"
Careful. There are traps here. "About average, I suppose."
"The average child usually gets punished at some time or another for breaking the rules of the grown-up world."
George gave him a deprecating smile. "I guess I didn't break any rules."
He's lying, Peter Templeton thought. The question is why? What is he concealing? He recalled the conversation he had had with Dr. Harley after the first session with George Mellis.
"He said he hit his sister-in-law, John, and—"
"Hit her!" John Harley's voice was filled with indignation. "It was butchery, Peter. He smashed her cheekbone, broke her nose and three ribs, and burned her buttocks and the soles of her feet with cigarettes."
Peter Templeton felt a wave of disgust wash over him. "He didn't mention that to me."
"I'll bet he didn't," Dr. Harley snapped. "I told him if he didn't go to you, I was going to report him to the police."
Peter remembered George's words: I feel ashamed. That's why I insisted on coming to see you. So he had lied about that, too.
"Mellis told me his wife is suffering from depression, that she's talking about suicide."
"Yes, I can vouch for that. Alexandra came to see me a few days ago. I prescribed Wellbutrin. I'm quite concerned about her. What's your impression of George Mellis?"
Peter said slowly, "I don't know yet. I have a feeling he's dangerous."
Dr. Keith Webster was unable to get Eve Blackwell out of his mind. She was like a beautiful goddess, unreal and untouchable. She was outgoing and vivacious and stimulating, white he was shy and dull and drab. Keith Webster had never married, because he had never found a woman he felt was unworthy enough to be his wife. Apart from his work, his self-esteem was negligible. He had grown up with a fiercely domineering mother and a weak, bullied father. Keith Webster's sexual drive was low, and what little there was of it was sublimated in his work. But now he began to dream about Eve Blackwell, and when he recalled the dreams in the morning, he was embarrassed. She was completely healed and there was no reason for him to see her anymore, yet he knew he had to see her.
He telephoned her at her apartment. "Eve? This is Keith Webster. I hope I'm not disturbing you. I—er—I was thinking about you the other day, and I—I was just wondering how you were getting along?"
"Fine, thank you, Keith. How are you getting along?" There was that teasing note in her voice again.
"Jus—just fine," he said. There was a silence. He summoned up his nerve. "I guess you're probably too busy to have lunch with me."
Eve smiled to herself. He was such a deliciously timid little man. It would be amusing.
"I'd love to, Keith."
"Would you really?" She could hear the note of surprise in his voice. "When?"
"What about tomorrow?"
"It's a date." He spoke quickly, before she could change her mind.
Eve enjoyed the luncheon. Dr. Keith Webster acted like a young schoolboy in love. He dropped bis napkin, spilled his
wine and knocked over a vase of flowers. Watching him, Eve thought with amusement, No one would ever guess what a brilliant surgeon he is.
When the luncheon was over, Keith Webster asked shyly, "Could we—could we do this again sometime?"
She replied with a straight face, "We'd better not, Keith. I'm afraid I might fall in love with you."
He blushed wildly, not knowing what to say.
Eve patted his hand. "I'll never forget you."
He knocked over the vase of flowers again.
John Harley was having lunch at the hospital cafeteria when Keith Webster joined him.
Keith said, "John, I promise to keep it confidential, but I'd feel a lot better if you told me the truth about what happened to Eve Blackwell."
Harley hesitated, then shrugged. "All right. It was her brother-in-law, George Mellis."
And Keith Webster felt that now he was sharing a part of Eve's secret world.
George Mellis was impatient. "The money is there, the will has been changed— What the hell are we waiting for?"
Eve sat on the couch, her long legs curled up under her, watching him as he paced.
"I want to get this thing over with, Eve."
He's losing his nerve, Eve thought. He was like a deadly coiled snake. Dangerous. She had made a mistake with him once by goading him too far, and it had almost cost her her life. She would not make that mistake again.
"I agree with you," she said slowly. "I think it's time."
He stopped pacing. "When?"
"Next week."
The session was almost over and George Mellis had not once mentioned his wife. Now, suddenly he said, "I'm worried about
Alexandra, Dr. Templeton. Her depression seems to be worse. Last night she kept talking about drowning. I don't know what to do."
"I spoke to John Harley. He's given her some medication he thinks will help her."
"I hope so, Doctor," George said earnestly. "I couldn't stand it if anything happened to her."
And Peter Templeton, his ear attuned to the unspoken words, had the uneasy feeling he was witnessing a charade. There was a deadly violence in this man. "Mr. Mellis, how would you describe your past relationships with women?"
"Did you ever get angry with any of them, lose your temper?"
George Mellis saw where the questions were leading. "Never." I'm too damned smart for you, Doc. "I told you, I don't believe in violence."
It was butchery, Peter. He smashed her cheekbone, broke her nose and three ribs, and burned her buttocks and the soles of her feet with cigarettes.
"Sometimes," Peter said, "to some people violence provides a necessary outlet, an emotional release."
"I know what you mean. I have a friend who beats up whores."
I have a friend. An alarm signal. "Tell me about your friend."
"He hates prostitutes. They're always trying to rip him off. So when he finishes with them, he roughs them up a little—just to teach them a lesson." He looked at Peter's face, but saw no disapproval there. Emboldened, George went on. "I remember once he and I were in Jamaica together. This little black hooker took him up to a hotel room, and after she got his pants off, she told him she wanted more money." George smiled. "He beat the shit out of her. I'll bet she won't try that on anyone again."
He's psychotic, Peter Templeton decided. There was no friend, of course. He was boasting about himself, hiding behind an alter ego. The man was a megalomaniac, and a dangerous one.
Peter decided he had better have another talk with John Har-ley as quickly as possible.
The two men met for lunch at the Harvard Club. Peter Tem-pleton was in a difficult position. He needed to get all the information he could about George Mellis without breaching the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship.
"What can you tell me about George Mellis's wife?" he asked Harley.
"Alexandra? She's lovely. I've taken care of her and her sister, Eve, since they were babies." He chuckled. "You hear about identical twins, but you never really appreciate what that means until you see those two together."
Peter asked slowly, 'They're identical twins?"
"Nobody could ever tell them apart. They used to play all kinds of pranks when they were little tykes. I remember once when Eve was sick and supposed to get a shot, I somehow wound up giving it to Alexandra." He took a sip of his drink. "It's amazing. Now they're grown up, and I still can't tell one from the other."
Peter thought about that. "You said Alexandra came to see you because she was feeling suicidal."
"That's right."
"John, how do you know it was Alexandra?"
"That's easy," Dr. Harley said. "Eve still has a little scar on her forehead from the surgery after the beating George Mellis gave her."
So that was a blind alley. "I see."
"How are you getting along with Mellis?"
Peter hesitated, wondering how much he could say. "I haven't reached him. He's hiding behind a facade. I'm trying to break it down."
"Be careful, Peter. If you want my opinion, the man's insane." He was remembering Eve lying in bed, in a pool of blood.
"Both sisters are heir to a large fortune, aren't they?" Peter asked.
Now it was John Harley's turn to hesitate. "Well, it's private family business," he said,
"but the answer is no. Their grandmother cut off Eve without a dime. Alexandra inherits everything."
I'm worried about Alexandra, Dr. Templeton. Her depression seems to be worse. She keeps talking about drowning. I couldn't stand it if anything happened to her.
It had sounded to Peter Templeton like a classic setup for murder—except that George Mellis was the heir to a large fortune of his own. There would be no reason for him to kill anyone for money. You're imagining things, Peter chided himself.
A woman was drowning in the cold sea, and he was trying to swim to her side, but the waves were too high, and she kept sinking under them and rising again. Hold on, he shouted. I'm coming. He tried to swim faster, but bis arms and legs seemed leaden, and he watched as she went down again. When he reached the place where she had disappeared, he looked around and saw an enormous white shark bearing down on him.
Peter Templeton woke up. He turned on the lights and sat up in bed, thinking about his dream.
Early the following morning, he telephoned Detective Lieutenant Nick Pappas.
Nick Pappas was a huge man, six feet four inches and weighing almost three hundred pounds. As any number of criminals could testify, not an ounce of it was fat. Lieutenant Pappas was with the homicide task force in the "silk stocking" district in Manhattan. Peter had met him several years earlier while testifying as a psychiatric expert in a murder trial, and he and Pappas had become friends. Pappas's passion was chess, and the two met once a month to play.
Nick answered the phone. "Homicide. Pappas."
"It's Peter, Nick."
"My friend! How go the mysteries of the mind?"
"Still trying to unravel them, Nick. How's Tina?"
"Fantastic. What can I do for you?"
"I need some information. Do you still have connections in Greece?"
"Do I!" Pappas moaned. "I got a hundred relatives over there, and they all need money.
The stupid part is I send it to them. Maybe you oughta analyze me."
'Too late," Peter told him. "You're a hopeless case."
'That's what Tina keeps telling me. What information do you need?"
"Have you ever heard of George Mellis?"
"The food family?"
"He's not exactly on my beat, but I know who he is. What about him?"
"I'd like to know if he has any money."
"You must be kiddin'. His family—"
"I mean money of his own."
"I'll check it out, Peter, but it'll be a waste of time. The Mel-lises are rich-rich."
"By the way, if you have anyone question George Mellis's father, tell him to handle it gently. The old man's had several heart attacks."
"Okay. I'll put it out on the wire."
Peter remembered the dream. "Nick, would you mind making a telephone call instead?
There was a different note in Pappas's voice. "Is there anything you'd like to tell me, Peter?"
'There's nothing to tell. I just want to satisfy my curiosity. Charge the phone call to me."
"Damn right I will—and the dinner you're gonna buy me when you tell me what the fuck this is all about."
"Deal." Peter Templeton hung up. He felt a little better.
Kate Blackwell was not feeling well. She was at her desk talking on the telephone when she felt the sudden attack. The room started to spin, and she gripped her desk tightly until everything righted itself again.
Brad came into the office. He took one look at her pale face and asked, "Are you all right, Kate?"
She let go of the desk. "Just a little dizzy spell. Nothing important"
"How long since you've had a medical checkup?"
"I don't have time for that nonsense, Brad."
"Find time. I'm going to have Annette call and make an appointment for you with John Harley."
"Bloody hell, Brad. Stop fussing, will you please?"
"Will you go see him?"
"If it will get you off my back."
The following morning Peter Templeton's secretary said, "Detective Pappas is calling on line one."
Peter picked up the phone. "Hello, Nick." "I think you and I better have a little talk, my friend." Peter felt a sudden anxiety stirring in him. "Did you talk to someone about Mellis?"
"I talked to Old Man Mellis himself. First of all, he's never had a heart attack in his life, and second, he said as far as he's
concerned, his son George is dead. He cut him off without a dime a few years ago.
When I asked why, the old man hung up on me. Then I called one of my old buddies at headquarters in Athens. Your George Mellis is a real beauty. The police know him well. He gets his kicks beating up girls and boys. His last victim before he left Greece was a fifteen-year-old male prosti-tute. They found his body in a hotel, and tied him in with Mellis.
The old man bought somebody off, and Georgie boy got his ass kicked out of Greece. For good. Does that satisfy you?" It did more than satisfy Peter, it terrified him. "Thanks, Nick.
I owe you one."
"Oh, no, pal. I think I'd like to collect on this one. If your boy's on the loose again, you'd better tell me."
"I will as soon as I can, Nick. Give my love to Tina." And Peter hung up. He had a lot to think about. George Mellis was coming in at noon.
Dr. John Harley was in the middle of an examination when his receptionist said, "Mrs.
George Mellis is here to see you, Doctor. She has no appointment, and I told her your schedule is—"
John Harley said, "Bring her in the side door and put her in my office."
Her face was paler than the last time, and the shadows under her eyes were darker. "I'm sorry to barge in on you like this, John, but—"
'That's all right, Alexandra. What's the problem?"
"Everything. I—I feel awful."
"Have you been taking the Wellbutrin regularly?"
"And you still feel depressed?"
Her hands were clenched. "It's worse than depression. It's - I feel desperate. I feel as though I have no control over anything anymore. I can't stand myself. I'm afraid I'm—I'm going to do something terrible."
Dr. Harley said reassuringly, "There's nothing physically wrong with you. I'll stake my reputation on that. It's all emo-tional. Fm going to switch you to another drug, Nomifensine.
It's very effective. You should notice a change within a few days." He wrote out a prescription and handed it to her. "If you don't feel better by Friday, I want you to call me. I may want to send you to a psychiatrist."
Thirty minutes later, back in her apartment, Eve removed the pale foundation cream from her face and wiped away the smudges under her eyes.
The pace was quickening.
George Mellis sat opposite Peter Templeton, smiling and confident.
"How are you feeling today?"
"Much better, Doctor. These few sessions we've had have helped more than you know."
"Have they? In what way?"
"Oh, just having someone to talk to. That's the principle the Catholic Church is built on, isn't it? Confession?"
"I'm glad you feel the sessions have been helpful. Is your wife feeling better?"
George frowned. "I'm afraid not. She saw Dr. Harley again, but she's talking about suicide more and more. I may take her away somewhere. I think she needs a change."
It seemed to Peter that there was an ominous foreboding in those words. Could it be his imagination?
"Greece is a very relaxing place," Peter said casually. "Have you taken her there to meet your family?"
"Not yet. They're dying to meet Alex." He grinned. "The only problem is that every time Pop and I get together, he keeps trying to talk me into coming back and taking over the family business."
And at that moment, Peter knew that Alexandra Mellis was in real danger.
Long after George Mellis had left, Peter Templeton sat in his office going over his notes.
Finally, he reached for the telephone and dialed a number.
"I want you to do me a favor, John. Can you find out where George Mellis took his wife on their honeymoon?"
"I can tell you right now. I gave them some shots before they left. They went to Jamaica."
I have a friend who beats up whores.... I remember once we were in Jamaica together.
This little black whore took him up to a hotel room, and after she got his pants off, she told him she wanted more money. ...He beat the shit out of her. I'll bet she won't try that on anyone again.
Still, there was no proof that George Mellis was planning to kill his wife. John Harley had verified that Alexandra Mellis was suicidal. It's not my problem, Peter tried to tell himself.
But he knew it was his problem.
Peter Templeton had had to work his way through school. His father had been the caretaker of a college in a small town in Nebraska, and even with a scholarship, Peter had not been able
to afford to go to one of the Ivy League medical schools. He had been graduated from the University of Nebraska with honors and had gone on to study psychiatry. He had been successful from the start. His secret was that he genuinely liked people; he cared what happened to them. Alexandra Mellis was not a patient, yet he was involved with her. She was a missing part of the puzzle, and meeting her face-to-face might help him solve it. He took out George Mellis's file, found his home number and telephoned Alexandra Mellis. A maid summoned her to the phone.
"Mrs. Mellis, my name is Peter Templeton. I'm—"
"Oh, I know who you are, Doctor. George has told me about you."
Peter was surprised. He would have bet that George Mellis would not have mentioned hitn to his wife. "I wondered if we could meet. Perhaps lunch?"
"Is it about George? Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing. I just thought we might have a talk."
"Yes, certainly, Dr. Templeton."
They made an appointment for the following day.
They were seated at a corner table at La Grenouille. From the moment Alexandra had walked into the restaurant, Peter had been unable to take his eyes off her. She was dressed simply in a white skirt and blouse that showed off her figure, and she wore a single strand of pearls around her neck. Peter looked for signs of the tiredness and depression Dr. Harley had mentioned. There! were none. If Alexandra was aware of Peter's stare, she gave no sign of it.
"My husband is all right, isn't he, Dr. Templeton?"
"Yes." This was going to be much more difficult than Peter had anticipated. He was walking a very fine line. He had no right to violate the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship, yet at the same time he felt that Alexandra Mellis must be warned.
After they had ordered, Peter said, "Did your husband tell you why he's seeing me, Mrs.
"Yes. He's been under a great strain lately. His partners at the brokerage firm where he works put most of the responsibility on his shoulders. George is very conscientious, as you probably know, Doctor."
It was incredible. She was completely unaware of the attack on her sister. Why had no one told her?
"George told me how much better he felt having someone he could discuss his problems with." She gave Peter a grateful smile. "I'm very pleased that you're helping him."
She was so innocent! She obviously idolized her husband. What Peter had to say could destroy her. How could he inform her that her husband was a psychopath who had murdered a young male prostitute, who had been banished by his family land who had brutally assaulted her sister? Yet, how could he not?
"It must be very satisfying being a psychiatrist," Alexandra went on. "You're able to help so many people."
"Sometimes we can," Peter said carefully. "Sometimes we cant.
The food arrived. They talked as they ate, and there was an easy rapport between them.
Peter found himself enchanted by her. He suddenly became uncomfortably aware that he was envious of George Mellis.
"I'm enjoying this luncheon very much," Alexandra finally said, "but you wanted to see me for a reason, didn't you, Dr. Templeton?"
The moment of truth had arrived.
"As a matter of fact, yes. I—"
Peter stopped. His next words could shatter her life. He had come to this luncheon determined to tell her of his suspicions and suggest that her husband be put in an institution. Now that he had met Alexandra, he found it was not so simple. He thought again of George Mellis's words: She's not any better. It's the suicidal thing that worries me.
Peter thought he had never seen a happier, more normal person. Was that a result of the medication she was taking? At least he could ask her about that. He said, "John Harley told me that you're taking—"
And George Mellis's voice boomed out. 'There you are, darling! I called the house and they told me you'd be here." He turned to Peter. "Nice to see you, Dr. Templeton. May I join you?"
And the opportunity vanished.
"Why did he want to meet Alex?" Eve demanded.
"I haven't the slightest idea," George said. "Thank God she left a message where she would be in case I wanted her. With Peter Templeton, for Christ's sake! I got over there fast!"
"I don't like it."
"Believe me, there was no harm done. I questioned her afterward, and she told me they didn't discuss anything in particular."
"I think we'd better move up our plan."
George Mellis felt an almost sexual thrill at her words. He had been waiting so long for this moment. "When?"
The dizzy spells were getting worse, and things were beginning to blur in Kate's mind.
She would sit at her desk considering a proposed merger and suddenly realize the merger had taken place ten years earlier. It frightened her. She finally decided to take Brad Rogers's advice to see John Harley.
It had been a long time since Dr. Harley had been able to persuade Kate Blackwell to have a checkup, and he took full advantage of her visit. He examined her thoroughly, and when he finished he asked her to wait for him in his office. John Harley was disturbed.
Kate Blackwell was remarkably alert for her age, but there were disquieting signs. There was a definite hardening of the arteries, which would account for her occasional dizziness and weakened memory. She should have retired years ago, and yet she hung on tenaciously, unwilling to give the reins to anyone else. Who am I to talk? he thought. I should have retired ages ago.
Now, with the results of the examination in front of him, John Harley said, "I wish I were in your condition, Kate."
"Cut the soft-soap, John. What's my problem?"
"Age, mostly. There's a little hardening of the arteries, and—"
"Oh. Is that the medical term for it?" Dr. Harley asked. "Whatever it is, you've got it."
"How bad is it?"
"For your age, I'd say it was pretty normal. These things are all relative."
"Can you give me something to stop these bloody dizzy spells? I hate fainting in front of a roomful of men. It looks bad for my sex."
He nodded. "I don't think that will be any problem. When are you going to retire, Kate?"
"When I have a great-grandson to take over the business."
The two old friends who had known each other for so many years sized each other up across the desk. John Harley had not always agreed with Kate, but he had always admired her courage.
As though reading his mind, Kate sighed, "Do you know one of the great disappointments of my life, John? Eve. I really cared for that child. I wanted to give her the world, but she never gave a damn about anyone but herself."
"You're wrong, Kate. Eve cares a great deal about you."
"Like bloody hell she does."
"I'm in a position to know. Recently she"—he had to choose his words carefully—"suffered a terrible accident. She almost died."
Kate felt her heart lurch. "Why—why didn't you tell me?"
"She wouldn't let me. She was so concerned you would be worried that she made me swear not to say a word."
"Oh, my God." It was an agonized whisper. "Is—is she all right?" Kate's voice was hoarse.
"She's fine now."
Kate sat, staring into space. "Thank you for telling me, John. Thank you."
"I'll write out a prescription for those pills." When he finished writing the prescription, he looked up. Kate Blackwell had left.
Master Of The Game Master Of The Game - Sidney Sheldon Master Of The Game