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Authors: Karen E. Taylor

Blood Red Dawn (10 page)

BOOK: Blood Red Dawn
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Chapter 16
Deirdre Griffin: New York City
finally awoke the evening of the next day. I felt woozy and shaky, but more importantly, I thought, rubbing the sore spot on my arm where the needle penetrated, I was angry—so angry I wanted to take Max apart with my bare hands. I couldn't even begin to imagine his rationale on drugging me. Once again everything he'd been doing to me made no sense.
The sound of his key in the lock made me wild. I sprang out of bed and hurtled toward him, hands extended, nails crooked. He caught my wrists and roughly pulled them down. “Awake, I see,” he said, a twisted smile distorting his classically handsome face.
“No thanks to you, Max. Was it necessary to drug me without my knowledge? This sort of action goes above and beyond the bounds of spousal duty, don't you think?”
“You were in a rare mood last night, little one. You'd worked yourself up into a fit complete with full-fledged delusions of a life that never existed. All that nonsense about Larry Martin and Mitch Greer and my keeping coffins in this room.” He laughed and I bristled to feel his condescension. “In a mood like that, you'd be capable of anything, so I took what action I deemed necessary. You are my wife, after all.”
“Your wife?” I gave a snarling laugh, sounding almost hysterical even to my own ears. “More like your prisoner, I would say. So what is on the agenda for tonight? Whippings? Interrogations?”
He looked hurt. “Why do you persist in making me out to be your enemy, Deirdre, when you must know, deep down in your heart, that I only want what's best for you.”
“Then let me go, Max. That would be what's best for me.”
“You say that, but you are still—”
I practically howled in frustration. “Sick? Yes, yes, yes. I am willing to admit I've been sick. I even vaguely remember the symptoms you've described. But I also remember other things, vivid things, important events which, no matter how hard you try, you cannot control or change. You may deny it all you like, but still, I know I have led a life that did not involve you. And that life was chosen by me in lieu of what you had to offer me. A life led with another man in another time and place.”
His voice lowered a bit, seeming, if possible, to be filled with love and pity. “Oh, Deirdre,” he said, “my sweet little one, I very much wish that things had turned out differently for us. That you hadn't been struck with this damned sickness holding you in delusions and false dreams. We were happy together once, surely you can remember that?”
And as he said the words, I realized that, in some small way, what he said was true. We
been happy together. At some point in my forgotten life, I had wished for nothing more than a chance for the two of us. In that moment I softened toward him, wanting more than anything to be held in his arms. It would be so easy to quit fighting, to swallow my pride, to abandon my delusions as he called them and reclaim the warmth and safety of his protection. Mouthing a soft word of consolation, I took a step toward him, stopping short when I caught the triumphant gleam in his eyes.
What the hell am I doing?
I thought,
this is Max. He's manipulating me. As he always has.
I swallowed and hardened my heart. “No, Max,” I said, glad to hear that my voice sounded steady and calm. “There was someone else; he and I were happy. You and I, as a couple, as man and wife, never existed and will never exist. As much as you keep denying these facts, you know they are true. Otherwise you wouldn't hold me so close.”
His mouth narrowed. “And you are still insisting the man in question is Mitchell Greer? Detective Mitchell Greer?”
“Good. Then we will put this delusion to the test. Do you recall what Greer looks like?”
I closed my eyes for a second and a face formed in my mind. Blue eyes, so very blue they were almost electric, his nose, strong and hawklike, and his hair, gray. I remembered the sound of his voice and the feel of his arms around me. I felt his body moving above mine and could taste his lips and his skin and his blood. My mouth curved into a smile, and I felt a contentment wash over me, the first wholesome emotion I'd experienced since waking up in this place. “Oh, yes. There's no doubt in my mind. The man I was married to is Mitch Greer. And I would know him anywhere.”
Good? His pleasant response threw me off balance. He should, by all rights, be in a rage. How could he think any of this was good?”
“With your permission then, I will try to arrange to have Detective Greer visit us tonight. If I remember correctly, and there's nothing wrong with my memory,” he gave me a wink, “he's still working in the same precinct as he did when you met him.”
That sounded wrong to me. Mitch hadn't been working as a policeman for years. Had he? We'd been away, for quite a while. I felt the truth of that in my very bones, but I kept my objections to myself. What if Max really could get Mitch here? The possibility took my breath away.
“And if you meet him,” Max continued, not noticing my hesitation, “you will know him, right?”
I nodded, wondering what Max hoped to gain by this tactic. It would do him no good, since as soon as Mitch knew I was here, he'd take me away and we would resume our lives. I felt quite sure that being in Mitch's presence and with enough time all of my memories would eventually return.
“And so, when he is not the man you expect,” Max continued, “will you allow that I might be right, that all of these flashes you take for memory may indeed be nothing but delusional dreams?”
“If. Not when. And it won't happen the way you say, Max. When will he be here?” My heart pounded wildly and I felt flushed with excitement. Mitch. Here. With me. Finally the nightmare was over for good.
Max glanced at his watch. “The sooner the better, my dear. I'd like to close this issue right now.”
I wanted to laugh at him. Wanted to gloat about how I'd been right all along, to throw back into his face the fact that he was not the one I chose to spend eternity with. Yet there was something unsettling about the certainty he exuded, the willingness he showed in offering to arrange this meeting. Did he not know how it would turn out? How on earth was this to his advantage? I might not have remembered all that much, but I knew for a fact that Max never did anything from unselfish motives. It was difficult to reconcile this Max with the man I thought I knew. “You surprise me, Max,” I admitted. “I'd think the last person in the world you'd want me to meet at this point in time would be Mitchell Greer.”
He inclined his head, hiding his eyes from mine, but not before I caught that same triumphant gleam I'd seen before. “I've told you, over and over, Deirdre, that all I want is what's best for you. And this meeting will be good for you. Will be good for us.”
“Finally,” I smiled at him and kissed him on the cheek, “we are agreed on something.”
“And afterward you will be able to resume the life you once led, the life we once led, free of the delusions and the fevered dreams.”
Again his certainty disturbed me, but I said nothing.
“Then it's settled. Now, why don't you get dressed in one of those pretty outfits we bought last night. I'll try to get in touch with Greer and I'll wait for you outside.”
I noticed then that I was wearing a nightgown and not the clothes I'd had on earlier. I shuddered; the thoughts that he'd undressed me and re-dressed me while I was sleeping offended me, frightened me. What other liberties did he feel entitled to take upon my inert body? I glared over at him but he ignored my glance and walked out the door closing it softly behind him.
“Bastard,” I whispered. “I still can't imagine what you hope to gain by this, but it will finally be made right. Mitch will make it all right again.”
Smiling, I looked through the armoire and tried to determine what one should wear to be reunited with one's husband.
Something about the arrangement of colors—all black, red and white with one touch of green—and the scent of new garments triggered a flood of memories that had been tickling my mind since our shopping trip. I saw an office, filled with racks of clothes, my clothes, but not ones I would wear. Rather they were clothes that I had designed. Another missing piece clicked into place. I'd been a fashion designer in that other life. The recognition of that fact combined with my vision of the office invoked memories of late nights spent working on sketches and materials invoices and pattern constructions. There seemed to always be the smell of strong coffee in the air along with a faint whiff of roses. There were voices lifted outside of the office along with laughter and the face of a good friend. Her name rushed into my mind like a giant gulp of air—Gwen DeAngelis. And along with the name came a great wash of sadness and anger. I saw Gwen, staked to a bed, her bright blood coating the walls and floors, the victim of a crazed attack by Larry Martin. Mitch had been there, too. I remembered the comfort of his arm tightening around my shoulders just as clearly as if his arm were resting there now.
And what was it about Larry Martin? There was something about him that continued to haunt my thoughts. Mitch had killed him, I remembered that, but there remained a nagging doubt that his death hadn't been the end. Try as I might, though, the way forward remained blocked. The memories had a perverse way of staying just slightly out of focus. No matter, I knew that I was now reconstructing my prior life. Perhaps it was the fact that I'd quit taking the drink Max provided me. Perhaps it was just a natural progression as the sickness that had enveloped me abated.
Whatever the cause, I still believed that being with Mitch again would solve everything. “But,” I laughed to myself, “you can't meet him wearing this nightgown.” So I tried on three of the outfits before finally deciding on the last: a pair of skin-tight black velvet leggings and a loose-fitting hunter green sweater that hung to midthigh. Once again Vivienne's face came to my mind. She was laughing, she seemed to laugh a lot, and she was saying how green would compliment my complexion. I insisted the color was unlucky for me, not knowing why. I felt silly thinking it at the time and I felt silly now. Luck is what one makes out of life. I would wear the sweater, regardless of its color.
I slid into a pair of ankle-high black suede boots and began to apply some of the makeup I'd bought, using the armoire mirror. Then I stood back to check my image, running my fingers through my short bleached hair, wishing I'd had a chance to stop at a beauty salon. “But it doesn't really matter,” I told my reflection. “Mitch loves me regardless of how I look. I know he does.”
The eyes that stared back at me were filled with a combination of hope and doubt. “He does,” I said with more conviction than I felt. “You know it's true.” I dared not say out loud what I was thinking. What if Max was right? What if it were all only a dream? Why else would he allow me to meet Mitch? My throat closed up in momentary panic, I drew in a ragged breath. My mouth felt dry and cottony. “Damn Max,” I said, balling my hands into fists until I felt my fingernails bite into the skin. “Damn him to hell. He's wrong. He must be wrong. Has to be wrong.”
Chapter 17
aking a deep breath, I exited my little room into Max's office. He was talking on the phone and when he looked up at me, he lowered his voice a bit while giving me an appraising glance. I noticed a hint of caution in his tone as well as a proprietorial approval of my appearance in his eyes. For some reason, his look annoyed me. He didn't own me, he'd never own me, and I hadn't dressed for him.
“Good,” he said, glancing back at his desk and turning his chair so that his back was turned to me. “I'll expect to see you in an hour or so. I needn't remind you that this is extremely important to me. See that you get it right this time.”
His words held an unspoken threat and I wondered briefly if he was talking to Mitch. The thought disturbed me; it sounded as if Mitch was in Max's employ. Could things have changed that much in just a short time? However, when the person spoke from the other end of the phone I recognized the voice. “Practice makes perfect, Max,” Derek said. “I promise you won't be disappointed.”
“I'd better not be,” Max said and hung up the phone.
“Instructions to the watchdog?”
“Derek. For one of mine, he is quite attentive to you.”
He stood up. “You've not been available lately to give him instructions. I had to take over the mentor role with him and his loyalty transferred in the process. I assure you, though, that he is still yours. Nothing can change the bond between the creator and her creation. You should remember that, Deirdre, if you remember nothing else. It is that same bond which you and I share.”
I shrugged. “I do not quite think of it in those terms. And I'm still not sure that I created Derek. One would think there'd be some spark of recognition.”
“There will be.” Max gave a brief laugh as if at a private joke. “By the way, you look quite lovely. I've always liked you in that color and I've never been sure why you don't wear it more often. It brings out the green in your eyes.” He smiled as he walked past me and over to the bar. There he poured out a glass of red wine and held it out to me.
Immediately suspicious, I sniffed at it. It seemed like an ordinary red wine, a Merlot, I thought, or one of the blended reds. But what if he'd drugged it? What if he'd spiked it with something to ensure that I was out cold by the time Mitch arrived?
As if sensing my thoughts, Max laughed, poured himself a glass from the same bottle and drained it. “It's quite safe, Deirdre, I assure you. After our last battle, I've quit trying to give you the medication you so desperately need. I daresay that by now, your natural immunities will carry on and you'll recuperate well enough without it, albeit a bit more slowly.”
Max? Giving in to me?
It must be a trick,
I thought as I sipped my wine slowly. But I detected no trace of drug in the wine, nor did it have the bitter taste the tonic had. I took a bigger swallow. Just plain wine.
“Why won't you trust me, Deirdre?”
“Let me give you a hint,” I said. “You bring me here and keep me a prisoner, you tell me lies, and why, wasn't it just last night that you slipped a needle into my arm? Hardly seems the sort of behavior that inspires trust, does it?”
He laid a hand on my shoulder and I shrugged him away. “It breaks my heart the way you won't open up to me.”
“Heart? That is a good one, Max. When have you ever had a heart?”
He sighed. “What little you remember of me, Deirdre, is totally wrong. How can I convince you of that?”
“You can't. It's that simple, Max. I remember more than is necessary to know that you can't be trusted. Why else would you drug me, poison me, lie to me and keep me prisoner here when all I want is to be let free.”
“This is about Mitch, isn't it? The man you've built up in your mind to be the perfect husband. The perfect mate. How many times do I need to tell you? He doesn't exist, Deirdre. I hesitate to bring him here—”
“Because you know I'm right.”
“No, little one.” He came over to me and wrapped his arms around me, holding me tightly. I did not pull away, but neither did I respond to his attentions. His touch made my skin crawl. “I hesitate to bring him here, because I fear how you may react. The truth may be too big a shock for you. You may lose what little grasp of reality you now possess.”
“There is nothing wrong with my sanity, Max. Despite what you want me to believe, I know what I know. I am fine. Healthy and strong. Or would be if you'd just let me go.”
He held me out at arms' length. “You're more trouble than you're worth sometimes, Deirdre. I don't know why I bother. If I didn't love you so much, if I didn't care what happened to you, I would just let you go. Surely you can see that?”
I shrugged. “No, Max. All I can see is you. Standing in my way. Along with the vision of you, staked out solidly on your office door.”
His hands on my shoulders tightened and I thought for a moment that he might hit me. Instead, he pulled me to him again and kissed me, hard and long on the lips.
I reacted this time, pushing him away with all my strength. “Don't you ever touch me again,” I hissed, backing away from him until I reached the door of my room. “I killed you once,” I said softly, “I can do it again. And will.”
“Threats, Deirdre? Has it come to this?”
“Damn straight.” The use of one of Mitch's favorite phrases fortified me. “Do not push me too hard, Max. You might be the one to break.”
“Suit yourself,” he said, walking over to his desk and sitting back down. “After the meeting with Detective Greer, you may see things differently. Or not. Right now I'm not sure I care. You've got nowhere to go but here anyway. No money, no friends, no prospects. You should be damned thankful I take care of you. I doubt that sleeping in a subway tunnel with the homeless and the rats would appeal to you.”
“The company would be better, at least.” He refused to comment, but I could tell from the tightening of his mouth that he was angry. And suddenly I was tired, too tired for this verbal sparring match. “I am going back to my room. Call me when he gets here.”
He shook his head and busied himself with the stack of papers before him.
Just as I started to enter my room, there was a knock on the external door. Max gave me a quick glance and nod, and got up from his desk. I pushed the door closed behind me and leaned back against it; my heart pounded, my stomach rolled and my feet seemed rooted into the ground.
“Thank you for coming so quickly, Detective,” Max said to the man at the door, his voice pleasant and calm, all traces of anger gone. “I promise we won't take up too much of your time.”
“Wasn't a problem, Hunter,” the man said. “I'm off duty and this was on my way home anyway. Now what can I do for you?”
My view was blocked by Max, until he stepped aside to let the man in. Still leaning against the closed door, I stared at the toes of my suede boots, afraid to meet the man's eyes. It sounded so much like the Mitch I remembered. Or thought I remembered. But surely he could see me standing here. Why didn't he say something?
Max moved over to me and took my arm, leading me across the room. “Come on now, Deirdre, this is Mitch. You wanted to see him, didn't you? Don't be rude, the man's gone out of his way to accept my invitation.”
All of a sudden, this whole situation seemed like a huge mistake. I dared not move or speak. Max nudged me forward a bit more. “This is Deirdre,” he said, draping an arm around my neck. “Do you remember my wife, Detective Greer?”
I had no choice, I had to look up into his face. And my eyes met his. It was Mitch, my Mitch. Just looking at his face brought back so many memories. I could hear his laughter, feel his touch on my skin, his kiss on my lips. I remembered how we would run through the forests of Maine and over the moors of Whitby, he as the Wolf and I as the Cat. I could replay all the silly arguments we'd had and how we'd spend the next day making love as an apology and an affirmation. I remembered further back, before we were married. Chris had urged me to visit him in the hospital. I could see his haunted eyes as clearly as I saw them now.
He extended his hand to me. “Mrs. Hunter? Yes, we met briefly a few years ago. You've changed your hair, haven't you? If I remember correctly you were a redhead last time I saw you.”
I couldn't say a word, couldn't take the hand he offered. It didn't matter that I longed for the touch of that hand, that everything about him was exactly as I remembered, that I knew this was indeed Mitch Greer standing in front of me. My heart fell. All I needed to know was in his eyes. They were the same blue, they had the same intensity I remembered loving, but they were, when they looked on me, empty—completely empty and devoid of any special emotion. I could have been anyone in his eyes. Or no one. My heart stopped and I backed away from him as if he were threatening me.
“Mrs. Hunter?” I noticed his quick panicked glance at Max, before turning his attention back to me. “Are you okay? You look pale. I know you've been sick, Max told me all about it. Maybe you should sit down.”
I shook my head in response. “No,” I said quietly, my voice betraying tears. Clapping my hand to my mouth, I continued to retreat from him, until my back was once again up against the door. I took one last look into those eyes, at once so familiar yet so very distant, dropped my head, turned swiftly, and after fumbling with the doorknob, went back into my room.
That fumbling enabled me to hear Mitch's subsequent comment to Max. “Is she okay? Should I go after her?”
“No,” Max said, “she's just had a shock. It's for the best.”
“Did I say something wrong?” His voice sounded distant, different somehow, but I assumed it was muffled somewhat by the closed door.
Max's laugh, on the other hand, sounded perfectly clear and caused a chill to run up my spine. “No, Detective, you were perfect.”
BOOK: Blood Red Dawn
5.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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