Read The Way You Look Tonight Online

Authors: Richard Madeley

The Way You Look Tonight (7 page)

BOOK: The Way You Look Tonight
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Stella described the specialised research she had been conducting into psychopathy.

Ethel was intrigued. ‘You mean people like that nutcase in the Alfred Hitchcock movie? What
is
it about you Brits and psychos?’

Stella laughed. ‘Actually, some of the most interesting front-line research into psychopathic behaviour is being conducted on your side of the Atlantic, Mrs Kennedy. I was only reading
yesterday that at Berkeley—’

‘Oh, for Pete’s sake! It’s
Ethel
! Anyway, go on.’

‘Sorry . . . um . . . Ethel . . .’ Stella stammered, ‘there are some new ideas floating around now about how to diagnose psychopaths and in particular how to identify them when
they’re involved in criminal behaviour. Although of course most psychopathic personalities aren’t criminal at all.’

But Ethel wasn’t interested in the qualification. ‘What kind of criminal behaviour?’

‘Well,’ Stella said carefully, ‘at the extreme end of the scale we’re talking about repeat killers, like Jack the Ripper, at large in the last century when psychiatry was
in its infancy. In fact, it hadn’t really been conceived as a science at all, not until Freud and Jung. Even today, people who should know better think it’s a lot of
mumbo-jumbo.’

‘You mean, if folks like you had been around back then we would have nailed creeps like the Ripper, right?’ Ethel smiled to show she wasn’t trying to patronise.

But Stella considered the question seriously. ‘Well . . . perhaps we would, actually. It’s about method. I read a wonderful paragraph on the subject just the other day, written by a
German psychiatrist attached to the faculty at Harvard. Let me see . . .’ Stella placed her hands behind her back like a schoolgirl, planted her feet in the sand, closed her eyes, and
recited:


A young woman’s body is found lying on a lonely beach. She has been stabbed to death there. A single set of footprints in the sand leads away from the bloody scene; they are
identical to the ones leading to it, which are mingled with those of the victim. Which set of prints is it more important to follow?’

Stella opened her eyes. ‘Well, Ethel. What do you think?’

Ethel’s own eyes flashed. She enjoyed a challenge.

‘It’s obvious,’ she said confidently. ‘You follow the tracks leading away from the body.’

Stella shook her head. ‘No. Not according to this professor you don’t. You take the back-bearings. If you follow the signs into the past, you have a chance of understanding who the
killer is, where he’s been, where he comes from. Then you might be able to predict his next move and frustrate it, even intercept him and catch him.’

Ethel snorted. ‘That’s ridiculous! You have to chase the killer down!’

Stella raised her hands in mock defence. ‘Up to a point, of course,’ she said, ‘but that German professor was really constructing a simple model designed to make us stop and
think. If you keep racing blindly towards an unknown, empty horizon, you’re never going to give yourself time to assess the larger picture that lies behind, are you? You’re always
running to catch up.’

A waiter in plastic sandals, Bermuda shorts and a violently pink short-sleeved shirt materialised next to them.

‘Drinks, ladies?’ He proffered a tray crowded with brimming blue plastic beakers.

‘What’s in ’em?’ Ethel demanded.

‘I have no idea, ma’am.’

She pointed to his footprints trailing behind him in the sand.

‘Then follow those back to wherever you got them from and find out. OK?’

The waiter nodded uncertainly and retreated.

‘See, Stella?’ Ethel said. ‘I can take new ideas on board as well as anyone.’

Stella clapped her hands delightedly. ‘That was a very practical application of a psychiatric theorem, Ethel. I’m most impressed.’

Ethel grinned back at her. ‘Yeah, but we didn’t get our drinks, did we?’

‘No, but we will eventually,
and
we’ll find out exactly what they are.’

‘If the guy ever comes back.’ They both laughed.

After a moment Ethel spoke again, her face now serious. ‘So how much do you know about psychopaths, dear? Truly? Are you, for want of a better word, what one might describe as an
expert?’

‘Yes,’ said Stella without hesitation. ‘I am. I’ve been reading all the latest studies and theories for at least the last two years, material from both sides of the
Atlantic and the little that’s coming out of Australia, too. I’ve been asked to contribute to several papers myself. I don’t think I would have achieved my double-first from
Cambridge if it hadn’t been for my dissertation on psychopathy. Although to be honest – and I promise I’m not being conceited here – I probably know more about psychopathy
than anyone on the examination board that marked my paper.’

Ethel regarded her coolly. ‘You’re quite the confident one, aren’t you?’

‘In my chosen field, yes, I am. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t think. Like your husband and his brother—’ Stella gestured to the pair, still bickering
at the griddle – ‘it’s important to know your value; what you’re good at. And anyway . . .’ Stella paused, feeling awkward for the first time since the conversation
had begun.

‘Go on.’ Ethel cocked her head to one side and considered the young woman opposite her. She reminded Stella of an inquisitive bird.

‘It’s just that . . . well, I don’t want to go into detail here, if you don’t mind, but I do have personal experience of psychopaths. One, at least.’

A few hours earlier while the Kennedys were sailing across to Martha’s Vineyard, a troubled Bobby had confided in his wife, telling her about the crisis down in the Keys.

Now, Ethel came to a decision.

‘Wait here, dear.’

She went to fetch her husband.

12

He’d ended up staying put at the diner’s window table right through the morning, following waffles and coffee with an early lunch of cracked conch with rice and
beans. The waitress had cleared his plates but now he was on his second Bud. This show was just too good to miss.

It had started with a single highway patrol car barrelling down the Overseas Highway from the direction of Tavernier, siren blaring and roof lights flashing. The turn-off to the dirt road
that led down to the water was marked by a straggle of Florida Pines and, sure enough, he saw the sedan’s brake lights glow just before it reached them. A swirl of dust enveloped it as it
swung a crazy left off the blacktop.

A minute or two later the buzzards were rising into the air in a cluster of dark specks, but they didn’t go far. They settled into a patrol of their own, cruising in slow, lazy circles
a few hundred feet above the spot where, he decided, the cops were now busy throwing up.

An hour later Route 1 looked like the Miami-Dade Police section of the Mayor’s annual parade – only going a lot faster. Cruisers, black-and-whites, emergency wagons, and three
ambulances. Why three? he wondered. There was only one body. Perhaps a bunch of people had found her – a canoeing party, maybe – and they were getting the dizzy-giddies, as his mom
would have said.

‘What d’you think is going on out there, hon?’

His waitress, with coffee he hadn’t ordered. For an insane second he felt like telling the old woman the truth.

‘Well, ma’am, I reckon they’ve found the little girl I cut to death out there last night. She must be a sight for sore eyes after those buzzards got to work on her.’

But instead he pointed to the clock-calendar above the diner’s entrance.

‘It’s the day of rest, ma’am. I do believe those fine officers are out there taking their ease and having themselves a cook-what-you-can-catch Sunday barbecue.’

She looked at him in a puzzled kind of way but her reply, when it came, was drowned out by the thunder of the police helicopter that suddenly clattered overhead.

He nodded to himself in calm self-congratulation.

They were taking him seriously now.

Finally. It was about time.

13

‘Do you believe in, ah, serendipity, Miss Arnold?’

‘You mean happy coincidence, Mr President?’

‘Yes indeed.’

‘I’ve never really thought about it, sir.’

Stella heard herself speaking from what seemed like a great distance. She felt as if she was watching a scene in a play or film, except that, absurdly, she was simultaneously appearing in it,
too.

A few minutes earlier she had watched, mystified, as Ethel tugged her husband away from the throng surrounding the barbecue and began speaking to him in low, urgent tones. He had glanced across
at Stella just once and given her a small, reassuring smile and simultaneous half-wave, before turning back to his wife. When she’d finished telling him whatever on earth she was telling him,
he’d nodded and kissed her nose before turning to retrieve his brother who, bored with cookhouse responsibilities, was wandering back down the beach with his wife.

Stella was sitting in the cosy den of their hosts’ beach house. Bobby and Jack Kennedy lounged amicably opposite her. No one else was in the room. It struck her as somehow faintly
incongruous that all three of them were sitting on enormous beanbags, arranged around a low pine table covered in pieces of twisted sun-bleached driftwood and giant white and pink sea-shells.

Through the storm-proofed, sound-proofed, double-glazed floor-to-ceiling picture window that looked out over the beach, Stella watched the silent scene of Ethel and Jackie rounding up their
children. It must be nearly time for the Kennedys to sail back across Nantucket Sound to Hyannis Port. She could see the prow of their 26-foot yacht nosing around the bluff toward the bay. It
wouldn’t surprise her in the least if Ethel later took the helm and barked out commands to the crew. She was obviously an extraordinarily –

‘Um . . . Miss Arnold?’

Stella jumped. ‘Oh . . . I’m so sorry, Mr President; I was drifting a little. You have to understand that this is a very . . . unusual situation for me to find myself in. I’ve
lost my bearings a bit, I’m afraid. A couple of hours ago I thought I might just possibly be shaking hands with you or your brother. Now I’m in this lovely room with you both.
It’s all rather overwhelming and . . . well, confusing.’

Bobby grinned at her. ‘My brother and I call it the five-minute rule. Most, ah, first-timers like you, if I can put it like that, Miss Arnold, feel just fine in the time it takes to smoke
a cigarette. I see you’ve almost finished yours.’

She looked down at her hand in surprise. ‘I didn’t even realise I’d lit this,’ she said, with a short laugh. ‘But do you know, I believe you may be right. The
ringing in my ears is fading.’

The brothers laughed. ‘She’s making jokes now, Bobby,’ Jack said. ‘I think we can, ah, safely start.’

They really
do
speak with a Boston drawl, Stella thought to herself. ‘Please call me Stella,’ she said. ‘And – excuse me – why did you ask about
serendipity just now, Mr President?’

‘Jack, I’ll take point on this.’

Bobby slid down from his beanbag and settled more comfortably on the floor, his tanned feet splayed out on pale floorboards, hands clasped around his knees. He looks about nineteen, Stella
thought, especially with his floppy fringe.

‘Ethel told us what you are studying, or intending to study, at Smith,’ he began. ‘It seems you’re an expert on psychopaths, Miss Arnold, ah,
Stella
. . .
especially dangerous ones.’

She looked at him appreciatively. ‘My goodness. You know there’s a difference, then? Mention the word psychopath to most people, however educated and intelligent they are, and all
they can see is garrottes and flashing knives. But we’re beginning to understand that psychopaths come in all shapes and sizes, and many aren’t dangerous at all. In fact there’s
one body of thought that suggests leaders in industry and particularly politics might quite often display psychopathic tendencies. I actually think—’

She clapped a hand over her mouth. ‘Forgive me! I didn’t mean . . . I wasn’t trying to imply . . .’

But the two men opposite her were laughing. ‘There you go, Jack!’ grinned Bobby, reaching across and punching his brother’s thigh. ‘I always said you were the psycho of
the family. Turns out science agrees with me! Stella, if and when the opportunity arises I’d like to buy you a beer.’

Stella smiled at him ruefully. ‘All I was trying to say was—’

‘It’s OK, it’s OK, we get it. Anyway. Let’s focus. Dangerous psychopaths. Repeat murderers, for example. Tell us about them.’

She had recovered herself.

‘Well, I’m not going to affect some kind of false modesty about this,’ she said calmly. ‘I’m more or less at the top of my field – my
academic
field,
I should say, in terms of the latest thinking on criminal psychopathy. Obviously, not in terms of the psychiatric treatments, and so on – but even there I have a fair amount of theoretical
knowledge.’

‘That’s fine, just fine.’ Bobby told her. ‘Now, tell Jack and me what you were telling my wife out there on the beach a few minutes ago.’

Stella obediently repeated most of what she’d said to Ethel, adding: ‘In fact I was at a conference on the subject a few weeks before I left England and to be honest I came to
realise that I knew as much, if not more, than some of the main speakers. I think a lot of European faculties are still a bit snobbish about American academia, to be honest, and they don’t
read enough of the new research and studies being done over here.’

Bobby nodded, thoughtfully. ‘Right. So . . . and this is purely a “for instance”, Stella . . . if someone were to present you with details of a contemporary repeat homicide
case – who’d been murdered, how, the way their bodies were left, and so on – you might be able to tell us something about the killer?’

‘In theory, yes,’ Stella answered carefully. ‘But it would totally depend on how much information there was to hand. With a reasonable amount of data, though, I could probably
give you a general idea of the kind of person he might be; things such as his likely age, the kind of job he might have, and some reasonably intelligent guesses about his background.’ She
smiled at them. ‘Well, with a bit of luck and a following wind, anyway.’

BOOK: The Way You Look Tonight
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

McNally's Gamble by Lawrence Sanders
Star-Crossed by Kele Moon
Obstruction of Justice by Perri O'Shaughnessy
NO ORDINARY OWL by Lauraine Snelling and Kathleen Damp Wright
Secret Hollows by Reid, Terri
Stepping Up by Culp, Robert
Nightingales at War by Donna Douglas