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Authors: Jeremiah Healy

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BOOK: So Like Sleep
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“Naw, naw. That was from the news. The tube. Her father owns the TV station or something.”

“You ever see her before?”

“Just when she come to see Marek. She was the kind always took the elevator, never the stairs. Great looker, but never said hello or nothin’. You know the type.”

“You know Marek at all?”

“Huh, hear some pretty funny noises comin’ from his …” He stopped. “You seem mighty interested in all this.”

I glanced at my watch. Nearly three-thirty.

“About time to check on Mom anyway. Good luck on the machinery.”

He shook the wrench at the unit. “Fuckin’ management company. Won’t pay for a service contract. Want me to fix the thing. Save a dime, you know?”

I nodded, wondering as I left him why a member of a Thursday evening group like the Creasey girl would ever come to see Marek early enough for the superintendent to see her before “knocking off at four.”

I climbed the stairs to the fourth floor. Marek’s doorway swung into a waiting area with the usual arrangement, except the chairs were leather, not plastic, and the carpets Oriental. The brown-haired, middle-aged receptionist took my name, appraised me in some paraprofessional way, and told me to please have a seat. Picking up the telephone, she buzzed, then spoke briefly into it.

The chair was comfortable. The magazines, fanned symmetrically on a knee-high table, included
Town & Country
,
Architectural Digest
, and—saints preserve us—
Ducks Unlimited
. I had counted four back issues of the last when the inside door opened and a handsome, barrel-chested man of about forty-five came out, smiling. He had bushy hair the color of a nicotine stain, whitening at the mustache, eyebrows, and sideburns. He extended a hand, and we shook warmly.

“Mr. Cuddy. I’m Clifford Marek. Do come in.” To the brunette he said, “Mrs. Porter, no calls, please.”

He ushered me into an expansive room with wood-framed diplomas and original prints on the wall and a deep-blue Persian rug on the floor. There was an impressive array of electronic equipment on bookshelves behind his desk. The desk itself was dark mahogany and very familiar. I placed it as a twin of the one that Regional Head of Claims had at Empire. Most of his subordinates assumed he owned it. His secretary had told me he only rented it. Maybe Marek had similar pretensions.

“Please,” he said, indicating a black leather armchair that was a little brother to his executive-model desk chair.

We sat. He unscrewed a fountain pen and let it hover over a clean legal pad on his desk. “Just a few preliminaries. Other psychiatrists usually relegate these to their staff, but I’ve always believed a professional should know his patients from the ground up, so to speak.”

“Six-two and a bit.”

He hesitated. “Six-two … ?”

“And a bit. That’s me, from the ground up. So to speak.”

He laughed politely but without mirth. “Good to see you’ve a sense of humor, sir.”

“I hope it’s reciprocated.”

“I beg your …”

“Frankly, Doctor, I’m here on somewhat false pretenses. I’m not a prospective patient, though I do have a problem. With the Creasey matter.”

Marek made a ceremony of recapping his pen. “I’m afraid I’ve accorded about as much time as I can spare for press interviews, so if you’ll—”

“I’m not a reporter, Doctor. I’m a private investigator.” I showed him my identification. “I’m trying to help a former patient of yours, William Daniels.”

Marek allowed his features to fall. He sighed deeply, a great father figure for a soap opera.

“A tragic young man, but I’ve already done all I can for him.”

“Perhaps—”

“You are acquainted with a Mr. Rothenberg, I presume?”

“Yes.”

“I’ve already spoken to him. By telephone, granted, but I really, really, can’t help you.”

“Doctor, what I need to know—”

“Mr. Cuddy, please, a moment.” Marek lowered his voice, sharing a secret with an obviously trustworthy stranger. “Have you ever heard of the
Tarasoff
case?”

My day for continuing legal education. “No.”

He warmed to it. “Simplified, it was a California case in which a psychotherapist was sued for failing to warn a girl or her parents that a male patient was threatening to kill her. The patient killed the girl, and the court allowed the parents to bring the suit.”

“And you’re afraid that the Creasey girl’s parents might sue you?”

“Just so. Of course, there is no precedent for such a suit in Massachusetts, and I knew, learned, of nothing from William that would have—that could have—led me to believe he would do anything to hurt Jennifer. But, well, one can’t be too careful.”

“You said that you gave press interviews?”

“Yes.”

“Can’t you tell me what you told them?”

“Certainly,” said Marek, opening his hands like a priest in benediction. “But that was a description of what happened in the group session. William’s confession, that is.” Marek arranged his mouth to appear rueful. “I’m sure there are some who would criticize me for doing so, but I could not hope to muzzle the rest of the therapy group, and I wanted William to have the benefit of at least an accurate account of what happened.”

“That was good of you,” I said with a straight face.

Marek gave a joyless laugh. “The ironic aspect of this whole matter is that through the media coverage, the marvelous advantages of hypnosis in therapy are being widely publicized. As Mrs. Porter no doubt told you, only a late cancellation even allowed … But I digress. There is really nothing I can tell you that will help. William, that is.”

So to speak. I tried a different approach. “May I see the room where the group session was held?”

“The room?” He thought about it. “I can see no help for you there.”

“Any harm in indulging me?”

“Well …” Marek looked to the grandfather clock face up to the left.

“For the sake of two former patients?”

The Shakespearean sigh again. “If you wish.”

He rose. I followed through a doorway that led into a squarish room, furnished mostly with a circle of chairs and one in the middle. The chair in the middle faced the doorway we used. There was a low table near one of the chairs. A second interior door opened onto a bathroom, and a closed third door, if I had my directions right, would lead back into the reception foyer.

“As I said, there isn’t much to see.”

“Any changes since that night?”

“Changes? No.”

“William sat in the center chair?”

“That’s right. The member being hypnotized that night would sit there, the other members and I in the circle.”

“Where did you sit?”

“Where I always do,” said Marek, pointing to the chair nearest the low table.

“What’s the table’s purpose?”

“Purpose?”

“Yeah, what does it do that makes you always sit next to it?”

“Well. That’s where … the table holds the syringe with the flurazepam. As well as, of course, other items should a patient become … well, too excited.”

“One of the lab reports said William tested positive for flurazepam. What exactly is it?”

“You would call it a relaxant. It simply enhances the subject’s chances of a successful hypnosis.”

I expect I frowned, because Marek said, “Is something wrong?”

“You both drug and hypnotize the patient?”

“That’s correct.”

“Isn’t that kind of like wearing both a belt and suspenders?”

“No, not at all. The drug and the hypnosis are complementary aides to successful therapy.”

“When do you administer the drug?”

“Just a few minutes before the session begins. It works quickly and is quite harmless.”

“The other patients are here when you inject the night’s subject?”

“Yes. Originally, I did that so new members would be able to see how painless and easy the entire process was. Now I suppose I just do it from … oh, habit.”

“Then after you inject the patient, everybody gets to ask questions?”

“Well,” said Marek, a bit defensively, “it’s considerably more monitored than that. I channel and redirect the session at various points in various ways.”

“Did you have many new members?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“New members. Turnover in the therapy group.”

“Oh, no, the group was quite stable.” A wink. “No pun intended.” The sigh again. “Of course, now, with two members gone, and given the circumstances, I’ve been seeing the remaining members privately.”

“Do you plan to start the group up again?”

“Perhaps. After a time.”

I walked to the center chair, turned, and sat in it. Marek looked down at me. I looked up and past him to the doorway. There was a video camera mounted above it. The lens seemed pointed at me.

“Is the camera focused on this chair?”

Marek half turned, came back smiling. “Yes, yes it is. I often tape the sessions. It permits more thorough analysis of difficulties and more vivid demonstrations of progress.”

“Did you videotape William’s group often?”

“Yes. You see, that group was truly an experiment. Indeed, an experiment within an experiment, if you will. Very few psychiatrists use hypnosis in a group context, though I have had marvelous results with it. I pushed the experiment a step further, using hypnosis with a mixed group.”

“Racially mixed, you mean?”

“Yes, but not only race. Social class, education, age. We have—had—quite a cross-section in the group, and it was amazing how imaginative the members were in questioning each other. I was in the process of writing a paper on it when …” He waved off the bad memory.

“Do you have any tapes of William in this chair?”

“Yes. But of course, I couldn’t let you see them.”

“Psychotherapist privilege?”

“Yes. I’m sure that William’s lawyer wouldn’t want anyone else to see them. It might break the circle of confidentiality.”

“I don’t recall seeing any mention of a videotape in the police report.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I don’t remember the cops mentioning a videotape, William’s confession being on tape.”

“Ah, it wasn’t.”

“Why not?”

“The fact is, he was so agitated when he came in the room, I simply forgot to flick the camera on.” Again the rueful look. “Possibly the only piece of good fortune William had.”

“Not to be on tape, you mean?”

“Just so.”

I stopped for a minute. “I thought you told me a little bit earlier that the reason you spoke to the media about the session was to give William the benefit of an accurate account of what happened.”

“That’s right,” said Marek, darkening a little.

“Well, wouldn’t a videotape have been the most accurate source?”

Marek stiffened. “As I told you, I forgot to turn it on.”

“All right, Doctor. What can you tell me about Jennifer Creasey?”

He stiffened a little more. “I thought I made it clear that because of potential litiga—”

“Please,” I said, interrupting gently. “I just mean simple, non-confidential things.”

“As I started to say, I’m afraid I can’t help you there at all. All I know of Jennifer was obtained through professional confidences, either in group or between her and me or William and me.” He looked down at his watch.

“Then you saw her privately? Outside the group setting, I mean.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Cuddy, but you’ll have to excuse me. I must prepare for my next appointment.”

He showed me through the connecting doors into the waiting area. “No further appointments for Mr. Cuddy,” he said to Mrs. Porter.

I thanked both of them and left, passing at the threshold an expensively dressed fortyish woman, furtively but intensively scratching herself.

Eight

I
SAT IN THE CAR
and took out the list of names and addresses I had copied from the file in Rothenberg’s office. One of the patients lived on a crossway I had passed on the drive to Marek’s building. The patient named Homer Linden.

Linden’s place turned out to be a small cape on one of the lesser streets of Calem, a town that seemed to have very few lesser streets. The lawn was neat, the shrubbery tended but rather sparse. I rang the doorbell. No answer.

I rang again. Still nothing. Pretty early for someone to be home from work, and no car in the driveway.

I was reaching for the list again when the door opened. A man with a shaved head and a drawn face stared out. He looked about sixty and wore a gray sweatshirt and running shorts, no socks or shoes. His legs were sinewy but skinny, and the sweatshirt swam on his torso. I was yanked back to people I had seen in the cancer ward while visiting Beth.

“Yes?” he said.

“Homer Linden?”

“Yes.”

“My name’s John Cuddy. I’m investigating the death of Jennifer Creasey. I was wondering if I could talk to you?”

“Sure,” he said, “long as you don’t mind the stink.”

He led me through a small living room and kitchen to an open cellar door. Down the stairs, the basement looked like a combination den, gymnasium, and wet bar, but smelled like all-gym. The fitness apparatus looked homemade and was bunched in a central, space-saving pattern. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves covered two walls, most holding books but many displaying trophies, plaques, and framed photos. A police scanner radio crackled and squalled once before Linden turned it off. He motioned me toward a bar stool. “Like something to drink?”

“Do you have any beer?”

“Sure do,” he said. “I’m a runner, not a teetotaler.”

He busied himself at a small refrigerator. I focused on the trophies. Most had a miniature brass-colored man captured in stride.

“Looks like you’ve been running quite awhile.”

“Hah,” he said, twisting the cap off a frosty Miller’s. “Near to fifty years. Finished third behind John Kelly the second time he took Boston.”

Linden passed the bottle to me. I accepted it but paused.

“Go ahead, drink,” he said, pulling off the sweatshirt. “I’m only halfway through my routine. Drink and ask your questions.”

I thanked him and sipped the beer. He eased down onto a rowing machine as gently as if it were actually a scull at the edge of a dock. He started pulling on the false oars, the muscles appearing magically under his skin as he exerted himself.

BOOK: So Like Sleep
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