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He clawed at Sally's (Katherine's) pantyhose, shredding the nylon as he pulled it down her slim legs. He gripped her thighs in his large hands and forced them apart, and he moved around clumsily on the mattress until he was kneeling between her legs.


She snapped out of her trance again. Suddenly bucking, trashing, kicking, she tried to rise, but he shoved her back with ease. She pummeled him with her fists, but her punches were without force.


Seeing that he was unaffected by her blows, she opened her hands, made claws of them, struck at his face, raked his left cheek with her nails, then went for his eyes.


He jerked back, raised one arm to protect himself, winced as she gouged the back of his hand. Then he fell full-length upon her, crushing her with his big, strong body. He got one arm across her throat and pressed down, choking her.


***


Joshua Rhinehart washed the three whiskey glasses in the sink at the wet bar. To Tony and Hilary, he said, "The two of you have more at stake in this thing than I do, so why don't you come with me tomorrow when I fly down to see Rita Yancy in Hollister?"


"I was hoping you'd ask us," Hilary said.


"There's nothing we can do here right now," Tony said.


Joshua dried his hands on a dishtowel. "Good. That's settled. Now have you gotten a hotel room for the night?"


"Not yet," Tony said.


"You're welcome to stay at my place," Joshua said.


Hilary smiled prettily. "That's very kind. But we don't want to impose on you."


"You wouldn't be imposing."


"But you weren't expecting us, and we--"


"Young lady," Joshua said impatiently, "do you know how long it's been since I've had house guests? More than three years. And do you know why I haven't had any house guests in three years?


Because I didn't invite anyone to stay with me, that's why. I am not a particularly gregarious man. I don't issue invitations lightly. If I felt that you and Tony would be a burden--or, worst of all, boring--I wouldn't have invited you, either. Now let's not waste a lot of time being overly polite. You need a room. I have a room. Are you going to stay at my place or not?"


Tony laughed, and Hilary grinned at Joshua. She said, "Thank you for asking us. We'd be delighted."


"Good," Joshua said.


"I like your style," she told him.


"Most people think I'm a grump."


"But a nice grump."


Joshua found a smile of his own. "Thank you. I think I'll have that engraved on my tombstone.


'Here lies Joshua Rhinehart, a nice grump.'"


As they were leaving the office, the telephone rang, and Joshua went back to his desk. Dr.


Nicholas Rudge was calling from San Francisco.


***


Bruno Frye was still on top of the woman, pinning her to the mattress, one muscular arm across her throat.


She gagged and fought for breath. Her face was red, dark, twisted in agony.


She excited him.


"Don't fight me, Mother. Don't fight me like this. You know it's useless. You know I'll win in the end."


She writhed under his superior weight and strength. She tried to arch her back and roll to one side, and when she failed to throw him off, she was shaken by violent involuntary muscle spasms as her body reacted to the growing interruption in her air supply and in the supply of blood to her brain. At last, she seemed to realize she would never be able to get free of him, that she had absolutely no hope of escape, and so she went limp in defeat.


Convinced that the woman had surrendered spiritually as well as physically, Frye lifted his arm from her bruised throat. He raised up on his knees, taking his weight off her.


She put her hands to her neck. She gagged and coughed uncontrollably.


In a frenzy now, his heart pounding, blood roaring in his ears, aching with need, Frye got up, stood beside the bed, stripped off his clothes, threw them on top of the dresser, out of the way.


He looked down at his erection. The sight of it thrilled him. The steeliness of it. The size of it. The angry color.


He climbed onto the bed again.


She was docile now. Her eyes had a vacant look.


He ripped off her pale yellow panties and positioned himself between her slim legs. Saliva drooled out of his mouth. Dripped on her breasts.


He thrust into her. He thrust his demon staff all the way into her. Growling like an animal.


Stabbed her with his demonic penis. He stabbed and stabbed her, until his se**n flowered within her.


He pictured the milky fluid. Pictured it flowering from him, deep inside of her.


He thought of blood blossoming from a wound. Red petals spreading from a deep knife wound.


Both thoughts wildly excited him: se**n and blood.


He didn't go soft.


Sweating, grunting, slobbering, he made thrust after thrust after thrust. Into her. Into. In.


Later, he would use the knife.


***


Joshua Rhinehart flipped a switch on his desk phone, putting the call from Dr. Nicholas Rudge on the conference speaker, so that Tony and Hilary could hear the conversation.


"I tried your home number first," Rudge said. "I didn't expect you to be at the office at this hour."


"I'm a workaholic, doctor."


"You should try to do something about it," Rudge said with what sounded like genuine concern.


"That's no way to live. I've treated more than a few overly-ambitious men for whom work had become the only interest in their lives. An obsessive attitude toward work can destroy you."


"Dr. Rudge, what is your medical specialty?"


"Psychiatry."


"I suspected as much."


"You're the executor?"


"That's right. I presume you heard all about his death."


"Just what the newspaper had to say."


"While handling some estate matters, I discovered that Mr. Frye had been seeing you regularly during the year and a half prior to his death."


"He came in once a month," Rudge said.


"Were you aware that he was homicidal?"


"Of course not," Rudge said.


"You treated him all that time and weren't aware that he was capable of violence?"


"I knew he was deeply disturbed," Rudge said. "But I didn't think he was a danger to anyone.


However, you must understand that he didn't really give me a chance to spot the violent side of him. I mean, as I said, he only came in once a month, I wanted to see him at least once every week, and preferably twice, but he refused. On the one hand, he wanted me to help him. But at the same time, he was afraid of what he might learn about himself. After a while, I decided not to press him too hard about making weekly visits because I was afraid that he might back off altogether and even cancel his monthly appointment. I figured a little therapy was better than none, you see."


"What brought him to you?"


"Are you asking what was wrong with him, what he was complaining of?"


"That's what I'm asking, all right."


"As an attorney, Mr. Rhinehart, you ought to be aware that I can't give out that sort of information indiscriminately. I have a doctor-patient privilege to protect."


"The patient is dead, Dr. Rudge."


"That doesn't make any difference."


"It sure as hell makes a difference to the patient."


"He placed his trust in me."


"When the patient is dead, the concept of doctor-patient privilege has little or no legal validity."


"Perhaps it has no legal validity," Rudge said. "But the oral validity remains. I still have certain responsibilities. I wouldn't do anything to damage the reputation of a patient, regardless of whether he's dead or alive."


"Commendable," Joshua said. "But in this case, nothing you could tell me would damage his reputation one whit more than he damaged it himself."


"That, too, makes no difference."


"Doctor, this is an extraordinary situation. This very day, I have come into possession of information which indicates that Bruno Frye murdered a number of women over the past five years, a large number of women, and got away with it."


"You're joking."


"I don't know what sort of thing strikes you as funny, Dr. Rudge. But I don't make jokes about mass murder."


Rudge was silent.


Joshua said, "Furthermore, I have reason to believe that Frye didn't act alone. He may have had a partner in homicide. And that partner may still be walking around, alive and free."


"This is extraordinary."


"That's what I said."


"Have you given this information of yours to the police?"


"No," Joshua said. "For one thing, it's probably not enough to get their attention. What I've discovered convinces me--and two other people who are involved in this. But the police will probably say it's only circumstantial evidence. And for another thing--I'm not sure which police agency has primary jurisdiction in the case. The murders might have been committed in several counties, in a number of cities. Now it seems to me that Frye might have told you something that doesn't appear all that important by itself, but which fits in with the facts that I've uncovered.


If, during those eighteen months of therapy, you acquired a bit of knowledge that complements my information, then perhaps I'll have enough to decide which police agency to approach--and enough to convince them of the seriousness of the situation."


"Well...."


"Dr. Rudge, if you persist in protecting this particular patient, yet more murders may occur.


Other women. Do you want their deaths on your conscience?"


"All right," Rudge said. "But this can't be done on the telephone."


"I'll come to San Francisco tomorrow, at your earliest convenience."


"My morning is free," Rudge said.


"Shall my associates and I meet you at your offices at ten o'clock?"


"That'll be fine," Rudge said. "But I warn you--before I discuss Mr. Frye's therapy, I'll want to hear this evidence of yours in more detail."


"Naturally."


"And if I'm not convinced that there's a clear and present danger, I'll keep his file sealed."


"Oh, I have no doubt that we can convince you," Joshua said. "I'm quite sure we can make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. We'll see you in the morning, doctor."


Joshua hung up. He looked at Tony and Hilary. "Tomorrow's going to be a busy day, First San Francisco and Dr. Rudge, then Hollister and the mysterious Rita Yancy."


Hilary got up from the couch where she had sat through the call. "I don't care if we have to fly halfway around the world. At least things seem to be breaking. For the first time, I feel that we're actually going to find out what's behind all of this."


"I feel the same way," Tony said. He smiled at Joshua. "You know ... the way you handled Rudge ...


you've got a real talent for interrogation. You'd make a good detective."


"I'll add that to my tombstone," Joshua said, "'Here lies Joshua Rhinehart, a nice grump who would have made a good detective.'" He stood up. "I'm starved. At home I've got steaks in the freezer and a lot of bottles of Robert Mondavi's Cabernet Sauvignon. What are we waiting for?"


***


Frye turned away from the blood-drenched bed and from the blood-splashed wall behind the bed.


He put the bloody knife on the dresser and walked out of the room.


The house was filled with an unearthly quiet.


His demonic energy was gone. He was heavy-lidded, heavy-limbed, lethargic, sated.


In the bathroom, he adjusted the water in the shower until it was as hot as he could stand it. He stepped into the stall and soaped himself, washed the blood out of his hair, washed it off his face and body. He rinsed, then lathered up again, rinsed a second time.


His mind was a blank. He thought of nothing except the details of cleaning up. The sight of the blood swirling down the drain did not make him think of the dead woman in the next room; it was only dirt being sluiced away.


All he wanted to do was make himself presentable and then go sleep in the van for several hours.


He was exhausted. His arms felt as if they were made of lead; his legs were rubber.


He got out of the shower and dried himself on a big towel. The cloth smelled like the woman, but it had neither pleasant nor unpleasant associations for him.


He spent a lot of time at the sink, working on his hands with a brush that he found beside the soap dish, getting every trace of blood out of his knuckle creases, taking special care with his caked fingernails.


On his way out of the bathroom, intending to fetch his clothes from the bedroom, he noticed a full-length mirror on the door, which he hadn't seen on his way to the shower. He stopped to examine himself, looking for smears of blood that he might have missed. He was as spotless and fresh and pink as a well-scrubbed baby.


He stared at the reflection of his flaccid penis and the drooping testicles beneath it, and he tried very hard to see the mark of the demon. He knew that he was not like other men; he had no doubt whatsoever about that. His mother had been terrified that someone would find out about him and that the world would learn that he was half-demon, the child of an ordinary woman and a scaly, fanged, sulphurous beast. Her fear of exposure was transmitted to Bruno at an early age, and he still dreaded being found out and subsequently burned alive. He had never been na*ed in front of another person. In school, he had not gone out for sports, and he had been excused from gymnasium for supposed religious objections to taking showers in the nude with other boys. He had never even completely stripped for a physician. His mother had been positive that anyone who saw his s*x org*ns would know at once that his manhood was the genetic legacy of a demon father; and he had been impressed and deeply affected by her fearful, unwavering certainty.


But as he looked at himself in the mirror, he couldn't see anything that made his s*x org*ns different from those of other men. Shortly after his mother's fatal heart attack, he had gone to a pornographic movie in San Francisco, eager to learn how a normal man's penis looked. He'd been surprised and baffled to discover that the men in the film were all very much like him. He'd gone to other pictures of the same sort, but he hadn't seen even one man who was strikingly different from him. Some of them had bigger penises than his; some of them had smaller organs; some were thicker, some thinner; some were curved slightly; some of them were circumcised, and some were not. But those were all just minor variations, not the awful, shocking, fundamental differences which he had expected.

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