The Naked Face / Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen


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AFTER LUNCH, Judd returned to his office. He went through the same careful routine, checking to make sure that he exposed himself to minimum vulnerability.

For whatever that was worth.

He began going through the tapes again, listening for anything that might provide some clue. It was like turning on a torrent of verbal graffiti. The gusher of sounds that spewed forth was filled with hatred...perversion...fear...self-pity...megalomania...loneliness...emptiness...pain...

At the end of three hours he had found only one new name to add to his list: Bruce Boyd, the man with whom John Hanson had last lived. He put the Hanson tape on the recorder again.

"...I suppose I fell in love with Bruce the first time I saw him. He was the most beautiful man I had ever seen."

"Was he the passive or dominant partner, John?"

"Dominant. That's one of the things that attracted me to him. He's very strong. In fact, later, when we became lovers, we used to quarrel about that."

"Why?"

"Bruce didn't realize how strong he really was. He used to walk up behind me and hit me on the back. He meant it as a loving gesture, but one day he almost broke my spine. I wanted to kill him. When he shook hands, he would crush your fingers. He always pretended to be sorry, but Bruce enjoys hurting people. He didn't need whips. He's very strong..."

Judd stopped the tape and sat there, thinking. The homosexual pattern did not fit into his concept of the killer, but on the other hand, Boyd had been involved with Hanson and was a sadist and an egotist.

He looked at the two names on his list: Teri Washburn, who had killed a man in Hollywood and had never mentioned it; and Bruce Boyd, John Hanson's last lover. If it were one of them - which one?

Teri Washburn lived in a penthouse suite on Sutton Place. The entire apartment was decorated in shocking pink: walls, furniture, drapes. There were expensive pieces scattered around the room, and the wall was covered with French impressionists. Judd recognized two Manets, two Degas, a Monet, and a Renoir before Teri walked into the room. He had phoned her to tell her that he wanted to come by. She had gotten ready for him. She was wearing a wispy pink negligee with nothing on underneath it.

"You really came," she exclaimed happily.

"I wanted to talk to you."

"Sure. A little drinkie?"

"No, thanks."

"Then I think I'll fix myself one to celebrate," Teri said. She moved toward the coral-shell bar in the corner of the large living room.

Judd watched her thoughtfully.

She returned with her drink and sat next to him on the pink couch. "So your cock finally got you up here, honey," she said. "I knew you couldn't hold out on little Teri. I'm nuts about you, Judd. I'd do anything for you. You name it. You make all the crummy pricks I've known in my life look like dirt." She put her drink down and put her hand on his trousers.

Judd took her hands in his. "Teri," he said. "I need your help."

Her mind was traveling in its own groove. "I know, baby," she moaned. "I'm going to fuck you like you've never been fucked in your life."

"Teri - listen to me! Someone is trying to murder me!"

Her eyes registered slow surprise. Acting - or real? He remembered a performance he had seen her give on one of the late late shows. Real. She was good, but not that good an actress.

"For Christ sake! Who - who'd want to murder you?"

"It could be someone connected with one of my patients."

"But - Jesus - why?"

"That's what I'm trying to find out, Teri. Have any of your friends ever talked about killing .. . or murder? Maybe as a party game, for laughs?"

Teri shook her head. "No."

"Do you know anyone named Don Vinton?" He watched her closely.

"Don Vinton? Uhn-uhn. Should I?"

"Teri - how do you feel about murder?" A small shiver went through her body. He was holding her wrists and he could feel her pulse racing. "Does murder excite you?"

"I don't know."

"Think about it," Judd insisted. "Does the thought of it excite you?"

Her pulse was beginning to skip irregularly. "No! Of course not."

"Why didn't you tell me about the man you killed in Hollywood?"

Without warning she reached out to rake his face with her long fingernails. He grabbed her wrists.

"You rotten sonofabitch! That was twenty years ago. .. . So that's why you came. Get out of here. Get out! She collapsed in sobbing hysteria.

Judd watched her a moment. Teri was capable of being involved in a thrill murder. Her insecurity, her total lack of self-esteem, would make her easy prey to anyone who wanted to use her. She was like a piece of soft clay lying in the gutter. The person who picked her up could mould her into a beautiful statue - or into a deadly weapon. The question was, Who had picked her up last? Don Vinton?

Judd got to his feet. "I'm sorry," he said.

He walked out of the pink apartment.

Bruce Boyd occupied a house in a converted mews off the park in Greenwich Village. The door was opened by a white-jacketed Filipino butler. Judd gave his name and was invited to wait in the foyer. The butler disappeared. Ten minutes went by, then fifteen. Judd checked his irritation. Perhaps he should have told Detective Angeli he was coming here. If Judd's theory was right, the next attempt on his life would take place very soon. And his attacker would try to make certain of his success.

The butler reappeared. "Mr. Boyd will see you now," he said. He led Judd upstairs to a tastefully decorated study, then discreetly withdrew.

Boyd was at a desk, writing. He was a beautiful man with sharp, delicate features, an aquiline nose, and a sensuous, full mouth. He had blond hair curled into ringlets. He got to his feet as Judd entered. He was about six foot three with the chest and shoulders of a football player. Judd thought about his physical identi-kit of the killer. Boyd matched it. Judd wished more than ever that he had left some word with Angeli.

Boyd's voice was soft and cultured. "Forgive me for keeping you waiting, Dr. Stevens," he said pleasantly. "I'm Bruce Boyd." He held out his hand.

Judd reached out to take it and Boyd hit him in the mouth with a granite fist. The blow was totally unexpected, and the impact of it sent Judd crashing against a standing lamp, knocking it over as his body fell to the floor.

"I'm sorry, Doctor," said Boyd, looking down at him. "You had that coming. You've been a naughty boy, haven't you? Get up and I'll fix you a drink."

Judd shook his head groggily. He started to push himself up from the floor. When he got halfway up, Boyd kicked him in the groin with the tip of his shoe and Judd fell writhing to the floor in agony. "I've been waiting for you to call," Boyd said.

Judd looked up through the blinding waves of pain at the figure that towered over him. He tried to speak, but he couldn't get the words out.

"Don't try to talk," Boyd said sympathetically. "It must hurt. I know why you're here. You want to ask me about Johnny."

Judd started to nod and Boyd kicked him in the head. Through a red blur he heard Boyd's voice coming from some distant place through a cottony filter, fading in and out. "We loved each other until he went to you. You made him feel like a freak. You made him feel our love was dirty. Do you know who made it dirty, Dr. Stevens? You."

Judd felt something hard smash into his ribs, sending an exquisite river of pain through his veins. He was seeing everything in beautiful colors now, as though his head were filled with shimmering rainbows.

"Who gave you the right to tell people how to love, Doctor? You sit there in your office like some kind of god, condemning everyone who doesn't think like you."

That's not true, Judd was answering somewhere in his mind. Hanson had never had choices before. I gave him choices. And he didn't choose you.

"Now Johnny's dead," said the blond giant towering over him. "You killed my Johnny. And now I'm going to kill you."

He felt another kick behind his ear, and he began to slip into unconsciousness. Some remote part of his mind watched with a detached interest as the rest of him began to die. That small isolated piece of intelligence in his cerebellum continued to function, its impulses flashing out weakening patterns of thought. He reproached himself for not having come closer to the truth. He had expected the killer to be a dark, Latin type, and he was blond. He had been sure that the killer was not a homosexual, and he had been wrong. He had found his homicidal maniac, and now he was going to die for it.

He lost consciousness.


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