The Naked Face / Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve


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IT HAD STARTED to snow again. From the street fifteen floors below, the sounds of traffic floated up, muted by the white, cottony flakes dancing in the arctic wind. In a lighted office across the street he saw the blurred face of a secretary streaming down the window.

"Norah - are you certain?"

"When it comes to Hollywood, you're talking to a walking encyclopedia, love. Teri was living with the head of Con tinental Studios but she was keeping an assistant director on the side. She caught him cheating on her one night and she stabbed him to death. The head of the studio pulled a lot of strings and paid off a lot of people and it was hushed up and called an accident. Part of the arrangement was that she get out of Hollywood and never come back. And she never has."

Judd stared at the phone numbly.

"Judd, are you there?"

"I'm here."

"You sound funny."

"Where did you hear all this?"

"Hear it? It was in all the newspapers and fan magazines. Everybody knew about it."

Except him. "Thanks, Norah," he said. "Say hello to Pe ter." He hung up.

So that was the "casual incident." Teri Washburn had murdered a man and had never mentioned it to him. And if she had murdered once...

Thoughtfully he picked up a pad and wrote down "Teri Washburn."

The phone rang. Judd picked it up. "Dr. Stevens..."

"Just checking to see if you're all right." It was Detective Angeli. His voice was still hoarse with a cold.

A feeling of gratitude filled Judd. Someone was on his side.

"Anything new?"

Judd hesitated. He could see no point to keeping quiet about the bomb.

"They tried again." Judd told Angeli about Moody and the bomb that had been planted in his car. "That should convince McGreavy," he concluded.

"Where's the bomb?" Angeli's voice was excited.

Judd hesitated. "It's been dismantled."

"Its been what?" Angeli asked incredulously. "Who did that?"

"Moody. He didn't think it mattered."

"Didn't matter! What does he think the Police Depart ment is for? We might have been able to tell who planted that bomb just by looking at it. We keep a file of M.O.s."

"M.O.s?"

"Modus operandi. People fall into habit patterns. If they do something one way the first time, chances are they'll keep doing it the same - I don't have to tell you."

"No," said Judd thoughtfully. Surely Moody had known that. Had he some reason for not wanting to show the bomb to McGreavy?

"Dr. Stevens - how did you hire Moody?"

"I found him in the yellow pages." It sounded ridiculous even as he said it.

He could hear Angeli swallow. "Oh. Then you really don't know a damn thing about him."

"I know I trust him. Why?"

"Right now," Angeli said, "I don't think you should trust anybody."

"But Moody couldn't possibly be connected with any of this. My God! I picked him out of the phone book, at ran dom."

"I don't care where you got him. Something smells fishy. Moody says he set a trap to catch whoever's after you, but he doesn't close the trap until the bait's already been taken, so we can't pin it on anyone. Then he shows you a bomb in your car that he could have put there himself. And wins your confidence. Right?"

"I suppose you could look at it that way," Judd said. "But - "

"Maybe your friend Moody is on the level, and maybe he's setting you up. I want you to play it nice and cool until we find out."

Moody against him? It was difficult to believe. And yet, he remembered his earlier doubts when he had thought Moody was sending him into an ambush.

"What do you want me to do?" asked Judd.

"How would you feel about leaving town? I mean really leaving town."

"I can't leave my patients."

"Dr. Stevens - "

"Besides," Judd added, "it really wouldn't solve anything, would it? I wouldn't even know what I'm running away from. When I came back, it would just start all over again."

There was a moment's silence. "You have a point." Angeli gave a sigh, and it turned into a wheeze. He sounded terrible. "When do you expect to hear from Moody again?"

"I don't know. He thinks he has some idea of who's be hind all this."

"Has it occurred to you that whoever's behind this can pay Moody a lot more than you can?" There was an urgency in Angeli's voice. "If he asks you to meet him, call me. I'll be home in bed for the next day or two. Whatever you do, Doc tor, don't meet him alone!"

"You're building up a case out of nothing," countered Judd. "Just because Moody removed the bomb from my car - "

"There's more to it than that," said Angeli. "I have a hunch you picked the wrong man."

"I'll call you if I hear from him," promised Judd. He hung up, shaken. Was Angeli being overly suspicious? It was true that Moody could have been lying about the bomb in order to win Judd's confidence. Then the next step would be easy. All he would have to do would be to call Judd and ask him to meet him in some deserted place on the pretext of having some evidence for him. Then...Judd shuddered. Could he have been that wrong about Moody's character? He re membered his reaction when he had first met Moody. He had thought that the man was ineffectual and not very bright. Then he had realized that his homespun cover was a facade that concealed a quick, sharp brain. But that didn't mean that Moody could be trusted. And yet...He heard someone at the outer reception door and looked at his watch. Anne! He quickly locked the tapes away, walked over to the private corridor door, and opened it.

Anne was standing in the corridor. She was wearing a smartly tailored navy blue suit and a small hat that framed her face. She was dreamily lost in thought, unaware that Judd was watching her. He studied her, filling himself with her beauty, trying to find some imperfection, some reason for him to tell himself that she would be wrong for him, that he would one day find someone else better suited to him. The fox and the grapes. Freud was not the father of psychiatry. Aesop was.

"Hello," he said.

She looked up, startled for an instant. Then she smiled.

"Hello."

"Come in, Mrs. Blake."

She moved past him into the office, her firm body brushing his. She turned and looked at him with those incredible violet eyes. "Did they find the hit-and-run driver?" There was concern on her face, a worried, genuine interest.

He felt again the insane urge to tell her everything. But he knew he could not. At best, it would be a cheap trick to win her sympathy. At worst, it might involve her in some un known danger.

"Not yet." He indicated a chair.

Anne was watching his face. "You look tired. Should you be back at work so soon?"

Oh, God. He didn't think he could stand any sympathy. Not just now. And not from her. He said, "I'm fine. I can celed my appointments for today. My exchange wasn't able to reach you."

An anxious expression crossed her face. She was afraid she was intruding. Anne - intruding. "I'm so sorry. If you'd rather I left..."

"Please, no," he said quickly. "I'm glad they couldn't reach you." This would be the last time he saw her. "How are you feeling?" he asked.

She hesitated, started to say something, then changed her mind. " A little confused."

She was looking at him oddly, and there was something in her look that touched a faint, long-lost chord that he could almost, but not quite, remember. He felt a warmth flowing from her, an overpowering physical longing - and he sud denly realized what he was doing. He was attributing his own emotions to her. And for an instant he had been fooled, like any first-year psychiatry student.

"When do you leave for Europe?" he asked.

"On Christmas morning."

"Just you and your husband?" He felt like a gibbering idiot, reduced to banalities. Babbitt, on an off day.

"Where will you go?"

"Stockholm - Paris - London - Rome."

I'd love to show you Rome, thought Judd. He had spent a year there interning at the American hospital. There was a fantastic old restaurant called Cybele near the Tivoli Gar dens, high on a mountaintop by an ancient pagan shrine, where you could sit in the sun and watch the hundreds of wild pigeons darken the sky over the dappled cliffs.

And Anne was on her way to Rome with her husband.

"It will be a second honeymoon," she said. There was strain in her voice, so faint that he might almost have imagined it. An untrained ear would not have caught it.

Judd looked at her more closely. On the surface she seemed calm, normal, but underneath he sensed a tension. If this was the picture of a young girl in love going to Europe on a second honeymoon, then a piece of the picture was missing.

And he suddenly realized what it was.

There was no excitement in Anne. Or if there was, it was overshadowed by a patina of some stronger emotion. Sad ness? Regret?

He realized that he was staring at her. "How - how long will you be away?" Babbitt strikes again.

A small smile crossed her lips, as though she knew what he was doing. "I'm not certain," she answered gravely. "Anthony's plans are indefinite."

"I see." He looked down at the rug, miserable. He had to put an end to this. He couldn't let Anne leave, feeling that he was a complete fool. Send her away now. "Mrs. Blake..." he began.

"Yes?"

He tried to keep his voice light. " I really got you back here under false pretenses. It wasn't necessary for you to see me again. I just wanted to - to say good-bye."

Oddly, puzzlingly, some of the tension seemed to drain out of her. " I know," she said quietly. "I wanted to say good-bye, too." There was something in her voice that caught at him again.

She was getting to her feet. "Judd..." She looked up at him, holding his eyes with hers, and he saw in her eyes what she must have seen in his. It was a mirrored reflection of a current so strong that it was almost physical. He started to move toward her, then stopped. He could not let her become involved in the danger that surrounded him.

When he finally spoke, his voice was almost under control. "Drop me a card from Rome."

She looked at him for a long moment. "Please take care of yourself, Judd."

He nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

And she was gone.

The phone rang three times before Judd heard it. He picked it up.

"That you, Doc?" It was Moody. His voice practically leaped out of the telephone, crackling with excitement. "You alone?"

"Yes."

There was an odd quality in Moody's excitement that Judd could not quite identify. Caution? Fear?

"Doc - remember I told you I had a hunch who might be behind this?"

"Yes..."

"I was right."

Judd felt a quick chill go through him. "You know who killed Hanson and Carol?"

"Yeah. I know who. And I know why. You're next, Doctor."

"Tell me - "

"Not over the phone," said Moody. "We'd better meet somewhere and talk about it. Come alone."

Judd stared at the phone in his hand.

COME ALONE!

"Are you listening?" asked Moody's voice.

"Yes," said Judd quickly. What had Angeli said? Whatever you do, Doctor, don't meet him alone. "Why can't we meet here?" he asked, stalling for time.

"I think I'm being followed. I managed to shake them off. I'm calling from the Five Star Meat Packing Company. It's on Twenty-third Street, west of Tenth Avenue, near the docks."

Judd still found it impossible to believe that Moody was setting a trap for him. He decided to test him. "I'll bring Angeli."

Moody's voice was sharp. "Don't bring anyone. Come by yourself."

And there it was.

Judd thought of the fat little Buddha at the other end of the phone. His guileless friend who was charging him fifty dollars a day and expenses to set him up for his own murder.

Judd kept his voice controlled. "Very well," he said. "I'll be right over." He tried one parting shot. "Are you sure you really know who's behind this, Moody?"

"Dead sure, Doc. Have you ever heard of Don Vinton?" And Moody hung up.

Judd stood there, trying to sort out the storm of emotions that raced through him. He looked up Angeli's home number and dialed it. It rang five times, and Judd was filled with a sudden panicky fear that Angeli might not be at home. Dare he go meet Moody alone?

Then he heard Angeli's nasal voice. "Hello?"

"Judd Stevens. Moody just called."

There was a quickening in Angeli's voice. "What did he say?"

Judd hesitated, feeling a last vestige of unreasonable loy alty and - yes, affection - toward the bumbling little fat man who was plotting to cold-bloodedly murder him. "He asked me to meet him at the Five Star Meat Packing Company. It's on Twenty-third Street near Tenth Avenue. He told me to come alone."

Angeli laughed mirthlessly. "I'll bet he did. Don't budge out of that office, Doctor. I'm going to call Lieutenant McGreavy. We'll both pick you up."

"Right," said Judd. He hung up slowly. Norman Z. Moody. The jolly Buddha from the yellow pages. Judd felt a sudden, inexplicable sadness. He had liked Moody. And trusted him.

And Moody was waiting to kill him.


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