"You bastard," Chase said.
Guilt had been his constant companion, whether he was awake or asleep. Recognition of his mortality had not been a source of fear, for God's sake; instead, it had been his only consolation, and for a long time he had hoped for nothing more than the strength to end his own life.
Fauvel had written: He still suffered nightmares and impotence, which he felt were his only afflictions and were a result of his fear. I recognized, however, that the real problem for Patient C was an underlying lack of moral values. He could never heal himself psychologically until he made peace with his horrific past, and he could not make peace with his past until he fully understood and acknowledged the gravity of the crimes that he had committed, even if in war.
Understood and acknowledged! As if Chase had blithely pulled the trigger, waded through the blood of his victims, and then had gone in search of a good shoeshine boy to buff the stains off his boots. Jesus.
Dr. G. Sloan Fauvel—psychiatrist extraordinaire, confessor, and tower of moral rectitude—had therefore: at last commenced the long, difficult process of inculcating in Patient C, by diverse and subtle means, an understanding of the concept of morality and a capacity for guilt. If he could develop a sincere sense of guilt about what he had done, then the guilt subsequently could be relieved through classic therapy. A cure might then be possible.
Chase returned the material to the plain brown envelope. He tucked the envelope under the passenger seat.
He was shaken by the realization that he had spent so much time in the care of a physician who neither understood him nor possessed the capacity to understand. For too long, Chase had trusted in others to save him, but the only salvation was to be found in God and in himself. And after his experiences in Southeast Asia, he still was not entirely sure of God.
* * *
In the Metropolitan Bureau of Vital Statistics, in the basement of the courthouse, three women hammered away at typewriters with a rhythmic swiftness that seemed to have been arranged and conducted with all the care of a symphony-orchestra performance.
Chase stood at the reception counter, waiting for service.
The stoutest and oldest of the three women—her desk plate read NANCY ONUFER, Manager—typed to the end of a page, pulled the page from her typewriter, and placed it in a clear-plastic tray full of similar forms. "May I help you?"
He had already figured what tact Judge must have used when asking to search the files here, and he said, "I'm doing a family history, and I was wondering if I could be permitted to look up a few things in the city records."
"Certainly," said Nancy Onufer. She popped up from her chair, came to the gate at the end of the service counter, and opened it for him.
The other two women continued to type with machine-gun rapidity. There was a high degree of efficiency in the Bureau of Statistics that was unusual for any government office, no doubt because Nancy Onufer would accept no less. Her brisk but not unfriendly manner reminded Chase of the better drill sergeants whom he had known in the service.
He followed her through the office area behind the counter, past desks and worktables, and through a fire door into a large concrete-walled chamber lined with metal filing cabinets. More cabinets stood in rows down the center of the room, and to one side was a scarred worktable with three hard chairs.
"The cabinets are all labeled," Nancy Onufer said crisply. "The section to the right contains birth certificates, death certificates there, then health-department records over there, bar and restaurant licenses in that corner. Against the far wall we keep carbons of the draft-board records, then the minutes and budgets of the city council going back thirty years. You get the idea. Depending on the contents, each drawer is primarily organized either alphabetically or by date. Whatever you remove from the files must be left on this table. Do not attempt to replace the material yourself. That's my job, and I do it far more accurately than you would. No offense."
"You may not remove anything from this room. For a nominal fee, one of my assistants will provide photocopies of documents that interest you. If anything should be removed from this room, you will be subjected to a five-thousand-dollar fine and two years in prison."
"We enforce it too."
"I've no doubt. Thanks for your help."
"And no smoking," she added.
She left the room, closing the door behind her.
It had been this easy for Judge too. Chase had hoped that the city would require a sign-in procedure by which those who wanted to use the files were identified. Considering Nancy Onufer's efficiency and the law against removing documents, Chase was surprised that she didn't keep a meticulous log of visitors.
He looked up his own birth certificate and also found the minutes of the city-council meeting during which a vote had been taken to hold an awards dinner in his honor. In the carbons of the selective-service records, he located the pertinent facts regarding his past eligibility for the draft and the document calling him for service in the United States Army.
Easy. Too easy.
When he left the storage vault, Nancy Onufer said, "Find what you were looking for?"
"Yes, thank you."
"No trouble, Mr. Chase," she said, immediately turning back to her work.
Her reply stopped him. "You know me?"
She glanced up and flashed a smile. "Who doesn't?"
He crossed the open office area to her desk. "If you hadn't known who I was, would you have asked for a name and ID before I went into the file room?"
"Certainly. No one's ever taken any records in the twelve years I've been here, but I still keep a log of visitors." She tapped a notebook on the edge of her desk. "I just put your name down."
"This may sound like an odd request, but could you tell me who was here this past Tuesday?" When Mrs. Onufer hesitated, he said, "I'm being bothered a lot by reporters, and I don't care for all the publicity. They've said everything about me there is to be said, after all. It's getting to be overkill. I've heard there's a local man working on a series for a national magazine, against my wishes, and I was wondering if he'd been here Tuesday."
He thought that the lie was transparent, but she trusted him. He was a war hero, after all. "It must be a pain in the butt. But journalists—they can never leave anyone alone. Anyway, I don't see the harm in telling you who was here. There's nothing confidential about the visitors' log." She consulted the notebook. "Only nine people came around all Tuesday. These two are from an architectural firm, checking some power-and-water easements on properties they're developing. I know them. These four were women, and you're looking for a man, so we can rule them out. That leaves three—here, here, and here."
As she showed him the names, Chase tried to commit them to memory. "No ... I guess ... none of them is him."
"Do you ordinarily just take names—or ask for ID?"
"Always ID, unless I know the person."
"Well, thanks for your help."
Acutely conscious of all the work on her desk, Nancy Onufer shut the notebook, dismissed Chase with a quick smile, and returned to her typing.
When he left the courthouse, it was a quarter till noon, and he was starving. He went to a drive-in restaurant—Diamond Dell—that had been a favorite hangout when he'd been in high school.
He was surprised by his appetite. Sitting in the car, he ate two cheeseburgers, a large order of fries, and cole slaw, washing it all down with a Pepsi. That was more than he had eaten in any three meals during the past year.
After lunch, at a nearby service station, he used the phone-booth directory to find numbers for the men who were possibles in Nancy Onufer's log. When he called the first, he got the guy's wife; she gave him a work number for her husband. Chase dialed it and spoke to the suspect—who sounded nothing whatsoever like Judge. The second man was at home, and he sounded even less like Judge than the first.
The directory had no number for the third man—Howard Devore which might only mean that his telephone was unlisted. Or it might mean that the name was phony. Of course, Mrs. Onufer always asked for ID, so if Judge was using a phony name, he also must have access to a source of false identification.
Because he didn't trust himself to remember every clue and to notice links between them, Chase went to a drugstore and purchased a small ringbound notebook and a Bic pen. Inspired by Mrs. Onufer's efficiency, he made a neat list:
Alias—Howard Devote (possible)
No criminal record (prints not on file)
Can pick locks (Fauvel's office)
May own a red Volkswagen
Owns a pistol with sound suppressor
Sitting in his car in the drugstore parking lot, he studied the list for a while, then added another item:
Unemployed or on vacation
He could think of no other way to explain how Judge could call him at any hour, follow him in the middle of the afternoon, and spend two days researching his life. The killer neither sounded nor acted old enough to be retired. Unemployed, on vacation—or on a leave of absence from his work.
But how could that information be useful in finding the bastard? It narrowed the field of suspects but not significantly. The local economy was bad; therefore, more than a few people were out of work. And it was summer, vacation season.
He closed the notebook and started the car. He was dead serious about tracking down Judge, but he felt less like Sam Spade than like Nancy Drew.
* * *
Glenda Kleaver, the young blonde in charge of the Press-Dispatch morgue room, was about five feet eleven, only two inches shorter than Chase. In spite of her size, her voice was as soft as the July breeze that lazily stirred maple-leaf shadows across the sun-gilded windows. She moved with natural grace, and Chase was instantly fascinated with her, not solely because of her quiet beauty but because she seemed to calm the world around her by her very presence.
She demonstrated the use of microfilm viewers to Chase and explained that all editions prior to January first, 1968, were now stored on film to conserve space. She explained the procedure for ordering the proper spools and for obtaining the editions that had not yet been transferred to film.
Two reporters were sitting at the machines, twisting the controls, staring into the viewers, jotting on notepads beside them.
Chase said, "Do you get many outsiders here?"
"A newspaper morgue is chiefly for the use of the staff. But we keep it open to the public without charge. We get maybe a dozen people a week."
"What are outsiders looking for here?"
"What are you looking for?" she asked.
He hesitated, then gave her the same story that he had first given Mrs. Onufer at the Metropolitan Bureau of Vital Statistics. "I'm gathering facts for a family history."
"That's what most outsiders come here for. Personally, I haven't the least bit of curiosity about dead relatives. I don't even like the living relatives very much."
He laughed, surprised to discover acidic humor in someone so gentle-looking and so soft-spoken. She was a study in contrasts. "No sense of pride in your lineage?"
"None," she said. "It's more mutt than thoroughbred."
"Nothing wrong with that."
"Go back far enough in my family tree," she said, "and I bet you'll find some ancestors hanging from the limbs by their necks."
"Descended from horse thieves, huh?"
Chase was more at ease with her than he had been in the presence of any woman since Jules Verne, the underground operation in Nam. But when it came to small talk, he was long out of practice, and as much as he would have liked to make a stronger connection with her, he was unable to think of anything to say except: "Well ... do I have to sign anything to use the files?"
"No. But I have to get everything for you, and you have to return it to me before you leave. What do you need?"
Chase had come there not to conduct research but only to ask about any outsiders who had used the morgue this past Tuesday, but no convenient cover story came to mind. He could not spin the same tale that he'd used with Mrs. Onufer, the lie about the nosy reporter—not here of all places.
Furthermore, though he had been prepared to make up any story that circumstances seemed to require, he discovered that he didn't want to lie to this woman. Her blue-gray eyes were direct, and in them he saw a forthrightness and honesty that he was compelled to respect.
On the other hand, if he told her the truth about Judge and the attempt on his life, and if she didn't believe him, he would feel like a prize ass. Oddly enough, although he had only just met her, he didn't want to embarrass himself in front of her.
Besides, one of the reporters working in the morgue might overhear too much. Then Chase's picture would be on the front page again. They might treat the story either straight or tongue-in-cheek (probably the latter, if they talked to the police), but either way the publicity would be an intolerable development.
"Sir?" Glenda said. "How can I help you? What editions would you like to see first?"
Before Chase could respond, a reporter at one of the microfilm machines looked up from his work. "Glenda, dear, could I have all the dailies between May fifteenth, 1952, and September that same year?"
"In a moment. This gentleman was first."
"That's okay," Chase said, grasping the opportunity. "I've got plenty of time."
"You sure?" she asked.
"Yeah. Get him what he needs."
"I'll be back in five minutes," she said.
As she walked the length of the small room and through the wide arch into the filing room, both Chase and the reporter watched her. She was tall but not awkward, moving with a feline grace that actually made her seem fragile.
When she had gone, the reporter said, "Thanks for waiting."
"I've got an eleven o'clock deadline on this piece, and I haven't even begun to get my sources together." He turned back to his viewer, so engrossed in his work that he apparently had not recognized Chase.
Chase returned to his Mustang, opened his notebook, and studied his list, but he had absolutely nothing to add to it, and he could not see any pertinent connections between the familiar eight items. He closed the book, started the car, and drove out into the traffic on John F. Kennedy Throughway.
Fifteen minutes later he was on the four-lane interstate beyond the city limits, doing a steady seventy miles an hour, wind whistling at the open windows and ruffling his hair. As he drove, he thought about Glenda Kleaver, and he hardly noticed the miles going by.