The Naked Face / Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven


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THE PHONE RANG. It was his answering service. They had been able to reach all his patients except Anne Blake. Judd thanked the operator and hung up.

So Anne was coming here today. He was disturbed at how unreasonably happy he was at the thought of seeing her. He must remember that she was only coming by because he had asked her to, as her doctor. He sat there thinking about Anne. How much he knew about her...and how little.

He put Anne's tape on the tape recorder and listened to it. It was one of her first visits.

"Comfortable, Mrs. Blake?"

"Yes, thank you."

"Relaxed?"

"Yes."

"You're clenching your fists."

"Perhaps I am a little tense."

"About what?"

A long silence.

"Tell me about your home life. You've been married six months."

"Yes."

"Go on."

"I'm married to a wonderful man. We live in a beautiful house."

"What kind of house is it?"

"Country French...It's a lovely old place. There's a long, winding driveway leading to it. High up on the roof there's a funny old bronze rooster with its tail missing. I think some hunter shot it off a long time ago. We have about five acres, mostly wooded. I go for long walks. It's like living in the country."

"Do you like the country?"

"Very much."

"Does your husband?"

"I think so."

"A man doesn't usually buy five acres in the country un less he loves it."

"He loves me. He would have bought it for me. He's very generous."

"Let's talk about him."

Silence.

"Is he good-looking?"

"Anthony's very handsome."

Judd felt a pang of unreasonable, unprofessional jealousy.

"You're compatible physically?" It was like a tongue probing at a sore tooth.

"Yes."

He knew what she would be like in bed: exciting and feminine and giving. Christ, he thought, get off the subject.

"Do you want children?"

"Oh, yes."

"Does your husband?"

"Yes, of course."

A long silence except for the silky rustling of the tape. Then:

"Mrs. Blake, you came to me because you said you had a desperate problem. It concerns your husband, doesn't it?"

Silence.

"Well, I'm assuming it does. From what you told me earlier, you love each other, you're both faithful, you both want children, you live in a beautiful home, your husband is successful, handsome, and he spoils you. And you've only been married six months. I'm afraid it's a little like the old joke: 'What's my problem, Doctor?'"

There was silence again except for the impersonal whir ring of the tape. Finally she spoke. "It's...it's difficult for me to talk about. I thought I could discuss it with a stranger, but" - he remembered vividly how she had twisted around on the couch to look up at him with those large, enigmatic eyes - "it's harder. You see" - she was speaking more rapidly now, trying to overcome the barriers that had kept her silent - " I overheard something and I - I could easily have jumped to the wrong conclusion."

"Something to do with your husband's personal life? Some woman?"

"No."

"His business?"

"Yes..."

"You thought he lied about something? Tried to get the better of someone in a deal?"

"Something like that."

Judd was on surer ground now. "And it upset your confi dence in him. It showed you a side of him that you had never seen before."

"I - I can't discuss it. I feel disloyal to him even being here. Please don't ask me anything more today, Dr. Stevens."

And that had ended that session. Judd switched off the tape.

So Anne's husband had pulled a sharp business deal. He could have cheated on his taxes. Or forced someone into bankruptcy. Anne, naturally, would be upset. She was a sen sitive woman. Her faith in her husband would be shaken.

He thought about Anne's husband as a possible suspect. He was in the construction business. Judd had never met him, but whatever business problem he was involved in could not, by any stretch of the imagination, have included John Hanson, Carol Roberts, or Judd.

What about Anne herself? Could she be a psychopath? A homicidal maniac? Judd leaned back in his chair and tried to think about her objectively.

He knew nothing about her except what she had told him. Her background could have been fictitious, she could have made it all up, but what would she have to gain? If this was some elaborate charade as a cover to murder, there had to be a motivation. The memory of her face and her voice flooded his mind, and he knew that she could have nothing to do with any of this. He would stake his life on it. The irony of the phrase made him grin.

He went over to get the tapes of Teri Washburn. Perhaps there was something there that he might have missed.

Teri had been having extra sessions lately at her own re quest. Was she under some new pressure that she had not yet confided to him? Because of her incessant preoccupation with sex, it was difficult to determine accurately her current progress. Still - why had she suddenly, urgently asked for more time with him?

Judd picked up one of her tapes at random and put it on.

"Let's talk about your marriages, Teri. You've been married five times."

"Six, but who's counting?"

"Were you faithful to your husbands?"

Laughter.

"You're putting me on. There isn't a man in the world who can satisfy me. It's a physical thing."

"What do you mean by 'a physical thing?'"

"I mean that's the way I'm built. I just got a hot hole and it's gotta be kept filled all the time."

"Do you believe that?"

"That it's gotta be kept filled?"

"That you're different, physically, from any other woman."

"Certainly. The studio doctor told me. It's a glandular thing or something." A pause. "He was a lousy lay."

"I've seen all your charts. Physiologically your body is nor mal in every respect."

"Fuck the charts, Charley. Why don't you find out for yourself?"

"Have you ever been in love, Teri?"

"I could be in love with you."

Silence.

"Get that look off your face. I can't help it. I told you. It's the way I'm built. I'm always hungry."

"I believe you. But it's not your body that's hungry. It's your emotions."

"I've never been fucked in my emotions. Do you want to give it a whirl?"

"No. "

"What do you want?"

"To help you."

"Why don't you come over here and sit down next to me?"

"That will be all for today."

Judd switched off the tape. He remembered a dialogue they had had when Teri was talking about her career as a big star and he had asked her why she left Hollywood.

"I slapped some obnoxious jerk at a drunken party," she had said. "And he turned out to be Mr. Big. He had me thrown out of Hollywood on my Polack ass."

Judd had not probed any further because at that time he was more interested in her home background, and the subject had never come up again. Now he felt a small nagging doubt. He should have explored it further. He had never had any interest in Hollywood except in the way Dr. Louis Leakey or Margaret Mead might be interested in the natives of Patagonia. Who would know about Teri Washburn, the glamour star?

Norah Hadley was a movie buff. Judd had seen a collec tion of movie magazines at their house and had kidded Peter about them. Norah had spent the entire evening defending Hollywood. He picked up the receiver and dialed.

Norah answered the phone.

"Hello," said Judd.

"Judd!" Her voice was warm and friendly. "You called to tell me when you're coming to dinner."

"We'll do it soon."

"You'd better," she said. " I promised Ingrid. She's beauti ful."

Judd was sure she was. But not in the way Anne was beau tiful.

"You break another date with her and we'll be at war with Sweden."

"It won't happen again."

"Are you all over your accident?"

"Oh, yes."

"What a horrible thing that was."

There was a hesitant note in Norah's voice. "Judd...about Christmas Day. Peter and I would like you to share it with us. Please."

He felt the old familiar tightening in his chest. They went through this every year. Peter and Norah were his dearest friends, and they hated it that he spent every Christmas alone, walking among strangers, losing himself in alien crowds, driving his body to keep moving until he was too exhausted to think. It was as though he were celebrating some terrible black mass for the dead, letting his grief take posses sion of him and tear him apart, lacerating and shriving him in some ancient ritual over which he had no control. You're dramatizing it, he told himself wearily.

"Judd..."

He cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, Norah." He knew how much she cared. "Perhaps next Christmas."

She tried to keep the disappointment out of her voice. "Sure. I'll tell Pete."

"Thanks." He suddenly remembered why he had called. "Norah - do you know who Teri Washburn is?"

"The Teri Washburn? The star? Why do you ask?"

"I - I saw her on Madison Avenue this morning."

"In person? Honestly?" She was like an eager child. "How did she look? Old? Young? Thin? Fat?"

"She looked fine. She used to be a pretty big star, didn't she?"

"Pretty big? Teri Washburn was the biggest - and in every way, if you know what I mean."

"Whatever made a girl like that leave Hollywood?"

"She didn't exactly leave. She was booted out."

So Teri had told him the truth. Judd felt better.

"You doctors keep your heads buried in the sand, don't you? Teri Washburn was involved in one of the hottest scan dals Hollywood ever had."

"Really?" said Judd. "What happened?"

"She murdered her boyfriend."


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