"Now," Fauvel said, unsteepling his fingers, "let's extend that analysis just a bit. Though you hoped to be shot and killed in that ambush, although you took absurd risks to ensure your death, you lived. And became a national hero."
"Life's funny, huh?"
"When you learned Lieutenant Zacharia had submitted your name for consideration for the Medal of Honor, you suffered a nervous breakdown that hospitalized you and eventually led to your honorable discharge."
"I was just burnt out."
"No, the breakdown was an attempt to punish yourself, once you'd failed to get yourself killed. Punish yourself and escape from your guilt. But the breakdown failed too, because you pulled out of it. Well regarded, honorably discharged, much too strong not to recover psychologically, you still had to carry your burden of guilt."
Chase was silent again.
Fauvel continued: "Perhaps when you chanced upon that scene in the park on Kanackaway, you recognized another opportunity to punish yourself. You must have realized that there was a strong possibility you'd be hurt or killed, and you must have subconsciously anticipated your death agreeably enough."
"You're wrong," Chase said.
Fauvel was silent.
"You're wrong," Chase repeated.
"Probably not," Fauvel said with a hint of impatience, and he used a direct stare to try to make Chase uncomfortable.
"It wasn't like that at all. I had thirty pounds on him, and I knew what I was doing. He was an amateur. He had no hope of really hurting me."
Fauvel said nothing.
Finally Chase said, "Sorry."
Fauvel smiled. "Well, you aren't a psychiatrist, so we can't expect you to see into it so clearly. You aren't detached from it like I am." He cleared his throat, looked back at the blue terrier. "Now that we've come this far—why did you solicit this extra session, Ben?"
Once he began, Chase found the telling easy. In ten minutes he had related the events of the previous day and repeated, almost word for word, the conversations that he'd had with Judge.
When Chase finished, Fauvel asked, "So. What do you want from me, then?"
"I want to know how to handle it, some advice."
"I don't advise. I guide and interpret."
"Some guidance then. When Judge calls, it's more than just the threats that upset me. It's—this feeling I have of being detached, separated from everything."
"I feel the edge," Chase said.
Fauvel said, "Ignore him."
"But don't I have a responsibility to—"
"You must," Fauvel said.
"What if he's serious?"
"What if he's really going to kill me?"
"How can you be sure?" Chase was perspiring heavily. Great dark circles stained the underarms of his shirt and plastered the cotton to his back.
Fauvel smiled at the blue terrier and shifted his gaze to a glass greyhound blown in amber. The smug, self-assured look was back. "I can be so sure of that, because Judge does not exist."
Chase did not immediately understand the reply. When he grasped the import of it, he didn't like it. "You're saying what—that this Judge isn't real?"
"Is that what you're saying, Chase?"
"You're the one who said it."
"I didn't hallucinate him. None of this. The part about the murder and the girl are in the papers."
"Oh, that was real enough," Fauvel said. "But these phone calls ... I don't know. What do you think, Chase?"
Chase was silent.
"Were they real phone calls?"
Fauvel said, "I've noticed for some time that you have begun to shake off this unnatural desire for privacy and that you're gradually facing the world more squarely, week by week."
"I haven't noticed that."
"Oh, yes. Subtly, perhaps, but you've grown curious about the rest of the world. You're beginning to be restless about getting on with life."
Chase didn't feel restless.
He felt cornered.
"Perhaps you're even beginning to experience a reawakening of your sex drive, though not much yet. Guilt overwhelmed you, because you hadn't been punished for the things that happened in that tunnel, and you didn't want to lead a normal life until you felt that you'd suffered enough."
Chase disliked the doctor's smug self-assurance. Right now all he wanted was to get out of there, to get home and close the door and open the bottle.
Fauvel said, "You couldn't accept the fact that you wanted to taste the good things of life again, and you invented Judge because he represented the remaining possibility of punishment. You had to make some excuses for being forced into life again, and Judge worked well in this respect too. You would, sooner or later, have to take the initiative to stop him. You could pretend that you still wanted seclusion in which to mourn but were no longer being permitted that indulgence."
"All wrong," Chase said. "Judge is real."
"Oh, I think not." Fauvel smiled at the amber greyhound. "If you really and truly thought this man was real, that these calls to you were real—then why wouldn't you go to the police rather than to your psychiatrist?"
Chase had no answer. "You're twisting things."
"No. Just showing you the straight truth."
Fauvel stood and stretched. "I recommend you go home and forget Judge. You don't need an excuse to live like a normal human being. You have suffered enough, Ben, more than enough. You made a terrible mistake. All right. But in that tunnel, you were in an incredibly stressful situation, under unendurable pressures. It was a mistake, not a calculated savagery. For the lives you took, you saved others. Remember that."
Chase stood, bewildered, no longer perfectly sure that he did know what was real and what was not.
Fauvel put his arm around Chase's shoulders and walked him to the door. "Friday at three," the doctor said. "Let's see how far out of your hole you've come by then. I think you're going to make it, Ben. Don't despair."
Miss Pringle escorted him to the outer door of the waiting room and closed it after him, leaving him alone in the hallway.
"Judge is real," Chase said to no one at all. "Isn't he?"
AT SIX O'CLOCK, CHASE WAS SITTING ON THE EDGE OF HIS BED BY THE nightstand and telephone, sipping Jack Daniel's. He put the drink down, wiped his sweaty hands on his slacks, cleared his throat so that his voice wouldn't catch when he tried to speak.
At five minutes past six he began to feel uneasy. He thought of going downstairs to ask Mrs. Fielding what time her clocks showed, in the event that his own was not functioning properly. He refrained from doing so only because he was afraid of missing the call while downstairs.
At six-fifteen he washed his hands.
At six-thirty he went to the cupboard, took down his whiskey bottle of the day—which he'd barely touched—and poured a glassful. He did not put it away again. He read the label, which he had studied a hundred times before, then carried his drink back to the bed.
By seven o'clock he was feeling the liquor. He settled back against the headboard and finally considered what Fauvel had said: that there was no Judge, that he had been illusory, a psychological mechanism for rationalizing the gradual diminishment of Chase's guilt complex. He tried to think about that, to study the meaning of it, but he could not be sure if this was a good or a bad development.
In the bathroom, he drew a tub of warm water and tested it until it was just right. He folded a damp washcloth on the wide porcelain rim of the tub and placed his drink on that. The whiskey, the water, and the rising steam conspired to make him feel as though he were floating up into soft clouds. He leaned back until his head touched the wall, closed his eyes, and tried not to think about anything—especially blocking all thoughts of Judge and the Medal of Honor and the nine months that he had spent on active duty in Nam.
Unfortunately, he began to think of Louise Allenby, the girl whose life he had saved, and in his mind's eye he saw her small, trembling, bare breasts, which had looked so inviting in the weak light of the car in lovers' lane. The thought, though pleasant enough, was unfortunate because it contributed to his first erection in nearly a year. That development was perhaps desirable; he wasn't sure. But it seemed inappropriate, given the hideous circumstances in which he'd seen the girl half undressed. He was reminded of the blood in the car—and the blood reminded him of the reasons for his recent inability to function as a man. Those reasons were still so formidable that he couldn't face them alone. The erection was short-lived, and when it was gone, he wasn't certain if it indicated an eventual end to his psychological impotency or whether it had resulted only from the warm water.
He got out of the water when his whiskey glass was empty. He was toweling himself when the telephone rang.
The electric clock showed two minutes past eight.
Naked, he sat on the bed and answered the phone.
"Sorry I'm late," Judge said.
Dr. Fauvel had been wrong.
"I thought you weren't going to call," Chase said.
"I required a little more time than I'd expected to locate some information on you."
Judge ignored the question, intent on proceeding in his own fashion. "So you see a psychiatrist once a week, do you?"
Chase did not reply.
"That alone is fairly good proof that the accusation I made yesterday is true—that your disability pension is for mental, not physical, injuries."
Chase wished that he had a drink with him, but he could not ask Judge to hold on while he poured one. For reasons that he could not explain, he didn't want Judge to know that he drank heavily.
Chase said, "How did you find out?"
"Followed you this afternoon," Judge said.
"The righteous can afford to be bold."
Judge laughed as if delighted with himself. "I saw you going into the Kaine Building, and I got into the lobby fast enough to see which elevator you took and which floor you got off at. On the eighth floor, besides Dr. Fauvel's offices, there are two dentists and three insurance companies. It was simple enough to look in the waiting rooms of those other places and inquire after you, like a friend, with the secretaries and receptionists. I left the shrink's place for last, because I just knew that's where you were. When no one knew you in the other offices, I didn't have to risk glancing in Fauvel's waiting room. I knew."
Chase said, "So what?"
He hoped that he sounded more nonchalant than he felt, for it was somehow important to make the right impression on Judge. He was sweating again. He would need to take another bath by the time this conversation was concluded. And he would need a drink, a cold drink.
"As soon as I knew you were in the psychiatrist's office," Judge said, "I decided I had to obtain copies of his personal files on you. I remained in the building, out of sight in a maintenance closet, until all the offices were closed and the employees went home."
"I don't believe you," Chase said, aware of what was coming, dreading to hear it.
"You don't want to believe me, but you do." Judge took a long, slow breath before he continued: "The eighth floor was clear by six o'clock. By six-thirty I got the door open to Dr. Fauvel's suite. I know a little about such things, and I was very careful. I didn't damage the lock, and I didn't trip any alarms because there were none. I required an additional half an hour to locate his files and to secure your records, which I copied on his photocopier."
"Breaking and entering—then theft," Chase said.
"But it hardly matters on top of murder, does it?"
"You admit that what you've done is murder."
"No. Judgment. But the authorities don't understand. They call it murder. They're part of the problem. They're not good facilitators."
Chase said nothing.
"You'll receive in the mail, probably the day after tomorrow, complete copies of Dr. Fauvel's notes on you, along with copies of several articles he's written for various medical journals. You're mentioned in all these and are, in some of them, the sole subject of discussion. Not by name. 'Patient C,' he calls you. But it's clearly you."
Chase said, "I didn't know he'd done that."
"They're interesting articles, Chase. They'll give you some idea of what he thinks of you." Judge's tone changed, became more contemptuous. "Reading those records, Chase, I found more than enough to permit me to pass judgment on you."
"I read all about how you got your Medal of Honor."
"And I read about the tunnels and what you did in them—and how you failed to expose Lieutenant Zacharia when he destroyed the evidence and falsified the report. Do you think the Congress would have voted you the Medal of Honor if they knew you killed civilians, Chase?"
"You killed women, didn't you?"
"You killed women and children, Chase, noncombatants."
"I'm not sure if I killed anyone," Chase said more to himself than to Judge. "I pulled the trigger ... but I was ... firing wildly at the walls ... I don't know."
"You don't know what it was like."
"You know nothing about me."
"You killed children. What kind of animal are you, Chase?"
"Fuck you!" Chase had come to his feet as if something had exploded close behind him. "What would you know about it? Were you ever over there, did you ever have to serve in that stinking country?"
"Some patriotic paean to duty won't change my mind, Chase. We all love this country, but most of us realize there are limits to—"
"Bullshit," Chase said.