Puzzled, worried, he had gone back to St. Helena to sit with himself and discuss his discovery.
His first thought was that his mother had lied to him. But that was very nearly inconceivable. She had recounted the story of his conception several times every week, for years and years, and each time that she had described the hateful demon and the violent rape, she had shuddered and wailed and wept. The experience had been real for her, not some imaginary tale that she had created to mislead him. And yet.... Sitting with himself that afternoon five years ago, discussing it with himself, he had been unable to think of any explanation other than that his mother was a liar; and himself agreed with him.
The following day, he had returned to San Francisco, wildly excited, fevered, having decided to risk sex with a woman for the first time in his thirty-five years. He had gone to a massage parlor, a thinly disguised brothel, where he had chosen a slim, attractive blonde as his masseuse.
She called herself Tammy, and except for slightly protruding upper teeth and a neck that was just a bit too long, she was as beautiful as any woman he had ever seen; or at least that's how she seemed to him as he struggled to keep from ejaculating in his trousers. In one of the cubicles that smelled of pine disinfectant and stale semen, he agreed to Tammy's price, paid her, and watched as she took off her sweater and slacks. Her body was smooth and sleek and so desirable that he stood like a post, unable to move, awe-stricken as he considered all of the things he could do with her. She sat on the edge of the narrow bed and smiled at him and suggested he undress. He stripped down to his underpants, but when the time came for him to show her his rigid penis, he was unable to take the risk, for he could see himself in a pillar of flame, put to death because of his demonic blood. He froze. He stared at Tammy's slender legs and at her wiry pubic hair and at her round breasts, wanting her, needing her, but afraid to take her. Sensing his reluctance to reveal himself, she reached out and put one hand on his crotch, felt his penis through his shorts. She slowly rubbed him through the thin cloth and said, "Oh, I want that. It's so big. I've never had one like this before. Show me. I want to see it. I've never had anything like it." And as she spoke those words he knew that somehow he was different, in spite of the fact that he could not see the difference. Tammy tried to pull off his shorts, and he slapped her face, knocked her backwards, flat on the bed; she bumped her head against the wall, threw her hands up to ward him off, screamed and screamed. Bruno wondered if he should kill her. Even though she had not seen his demonic prick, she might have recognized the inhuman quality of it merely by feeling it through his underwear. Before he could make up his mind what to do, the door of the cubicle flew open in answer to the girl's screams, and a man with a blackjack stepped in from the corridor. The bouncer was as big as Bruno, and the weapon gave him a substantial advantage. Bruno was certain that they were going to overpower him, revile him, curse and spit upon him, torture him, and then burn him at the stake; but to his utter amazement, they only made him put on his clothes and get out. Tammy didn't say another word about Bruno's unusual penis. Apparently, while she knew it was different, she was not aware of exactly how different it was: she didn't know that it was a sign of the demon that had fathered him, proof of his hellish origins. Relieved, he had dressed hurriedly and had scurried out of the massage parlor, blushing, embarrassed, but thankful that his secret had not been uncovered. He had gone back to St. Helena and had told himself about the close call he'd had, and both he and himself had agreed that Katherine had been right, and that he would have to furnish his own sex, without benefit of a woman.
Then, of course, Katherine had started coming back from the grave, and Bruno had been able to satisfy himself with her, expending copious quantities of sperm in the many lovely bodies that she had inhabited. He still had most of his sex alone, with himself, with his other self, his other half--but it was wildly exciting to thrust into the warm, tight, moist center of a woman every once in a while.
Now he stood in front of the mirror that was fixed to the door of Sally's bathroom, and he stared with fascination at the reflection of his penis, wondering what difference Tammy had sensed when she'd felt his pulsating erection in that massage parlor cubicle, five years ago.
After a while, he let his gaze travel upward from his s*x org*ns to his flat, hard, muscular belly, then up to his huge chest, and farther up until he met the gaze of the other Bruno in the looking glass. When he stared into his own eyes, everything at the periphery of his vision faded away, and the very foundations of reality turned molten and assumed new forms; without drugs or alcohol, he was swept into an hallucinogenic experience. He reached out and touched the mirror, and the fingers of the other Bruno touched his fingers from the far side of the glass. As if in a dream, he drifted closer to the mirror, pressed his nose to the other Bruno's nose. He looked deep into the other's eyes, and those eyes peered deep into his. For a moment, he forgot that he was only confronting a reflection; the other Bruno was real. He kissed the other, and the kiss was cold. He pulled back a few inches. So did the other Bruno. He licked his lips. So did the other Bruno. Then they kissed again. He licked the other Bruno's open mouth, and gradually the kiss became warm, but it never grew as soft and pleasant as he had expected. In spite of the three powerful orgasms that Sally-Katherine had drawn from him, his penis stiffened yet again, and when it was very hard he pressed it against the other Bruno's penis and slowly rotated his hips, rubbing their erect organs together, still kissing, still gazing rapturously into the eyes that stared out of the mirror. For a minute or two, he was happier than he had been in days.
But then the hallucination abruptly dissolved, and reality came back like a hammer striking iron.
He became aware that he really was not holding his other self and that he was trying to have sex with nothing more than a flat reflection. A strong electric current of emotion seemed to jump across the synapse between the eyes in the looking glass and his own eyes, and a tremendous shock blasted through his body; it was an emotional shock, but it also affected him physically, making him twitch and shake. His lethargy burned away in an instant. Suddenly he was re-energized; his mind was spinning, sparking.
He remembered that he was dead. Half of him was dead. The bitch had stabbed him last week, in Los Angeles. Now he was both dead and alive.
A profound sorrow welled up in him.
Tears came to his eyes.
He realized that he couldn't hold himself as he once had done. Not ever again.
He couldn't fondle himself or be fondled by himself as he once had done. Not ever again.
He now had only two hands, not four; only one penis, not two; only one mouth, not two.
He could never kiss himself again, never feel his two tongues caressing each other. Not ever again.
Half of him was dead. He wept.
He never again would have sex with himself as he'd had it thousands of times in the past. Now he would have no lover but his hand, the limited pleasure of mast**bation.
He was alone.
For a while, he stood in front of the mirror, crying, his broad shoulders bent under the terrible weight of abject despair. But slowly his unbearable grief and self-pity gave way to rising anger.
She had done this to him. Katherine. The bitch. She had killed half of him, had left him feeling incomplete and wretchedly empty, hollow. The selfish, hateful, vicious bitch! As his fury mounted, he was possessed by an urge to break things. Naked, he stormed through the bungalow--living room and kitchen and bathroom--smashing furniture, ripping upholstery, breaking dishes, cursing his mother, cursing his demon father, cursing a world that he sometimes couldn't understand at all.
In Joshua Rhinehart's kitchen, Hilary scrubbed three large baking potatoes and lined them up on the counter, so that they were ready to be popped into the microwave oven as soon as the thick steaks were approaching perfection on the broiler. The menial labor was relaxing. She watched her hands as she worked, and she thought about little more than the food that had to be prepared, and her worries receded to the back of her mind.
Tony was making the salad. He stood at the sink beside her, his shirt sleeves rolled up, washing and chopping fresh vegetables.
While they prepared dinner, Joshua called the sheriff from the kitchen phone. He told Laurenski about the withdrawal of funds from Frye's accounts in San Francisco and about the look-alike who was down in Los Angeles somewhere, searching for Hilary. He also passed along the mass murder theory that he and Tony and Hilary had arrived at in his office a short while ago. There was really not much that Laurenski could do, for (so far as they knew) no crimes had been committed in his jurisdiction. But Frye was most likely guilty of local crimes of which they were, for the moment, unaware. And it was even more likely that crimes might yet be committed in the county before the mystery of the look-alike was solved. Because of that, and because Laurenski's reputation had been stained slightly when he had vouched for Frye to the Los Angeles Police Department last Wednesday night, Joshua thought (and Hilary agreed) that the sheriff was entitled to know everything that they knew. Even though Hilary could hear only one end of the telephone conversation, she could tell that Peter Laurenski was fascinated, and she knew, from Joshua's responses, that the sheriff twice suggested that they exhume the body in Frye's grave to determine whether or not it actually was Bruno Frye. Joshua preferred to wait until Dr. Rudge and Rita Yancy had been heard from, but he assured Laurenski that an exhumation would take place if Rudge and Yancy were unable to answer all of the questions he intended to ask.
When he finished talking with the sheriff, Joshua checked on Tony's salad, debated with himself about whether the lettuce was sufficiently crisp, fretted about whether the radishes were too hot or possibly not hot enough, examined the sizzling steaks as if looking for flaws in three diamonds, told Hilary to put the potatoes in the microwave oven, quickly chopped some fresh chives to go with the sour cream, and opened two bottles of California Cabernet Sauvignon, a very dry red wine from the Robert Mondavi winery just down the road. He was rather a fussbudget in the kitchen; his worrying and nitpicking amused Hilary.
She was surprised at how quickly she had developed a liking for the attorney. She seldom felt so comfortable with a person she had known only a couple of hours. But his fatherly appearance, his gruff honesty, his wit, his intelligence, and his curiously off-handed courtliness made her feel welcome and safe in his company.
They ate in the dining room, a cozy, rustic chamber with three white plaster walls, one used-brick wall, a pegged-oak floor, and an open-beam ceiling. Now and then, squalls of big raindrops burst against the charming leaded windows.
As they sat down to the meal, Joshua said, "One rule. No one talks about Bruno Frye until we've put away the last bite of our steak, the last swallow of this excellent wine, the last mouthful of coffee, and the very last sip of brandy."
"Agreed," Hilary said.
"Definitely," Tony said. "I think my mind overloaded on the subject quite some time ago. There are other things in the world worth talking about."
"Yes," Joshua said. "But unfortunately, many of them are just as thoroughly depressing as Frye's story. War and terrorism and inflation and the return of the Luddites and know-nothing politicians and--"
"--art and music and movies and the latest developments in medicine and the coming technological revolution that will vastly improve our lives in spite of the new Luddites," Hilary added.
Joshua squinted across the table at her. "Is your name Hilary or Pollyanna?"
"And is yours Joshua or Cassandra?" she asked.
"Cassandra was correct when she made her prophecies of doom and destruction," Joshua said, "but time after time everyone refused to believe her."
"If no one believes you," Hilary said, "then what good is it to be right?"
"Oh, I've given up trying to convince other people that the government is the only enemy and that Big Brother will get us all. I've stopped trying to convince them of a hundred other things that seem to be obvious truths to me but which they don't get at all. Too many of them are fools who'll never understand. But it gives me enormous satisfaction just to know I'm right and to see the ever-increasing proof of it in the daily papers. I know. And that's enough."
"Ah," Hilary said. "In other words, you don't care if the world falls apart beneath us, just so you can have the selfish pleasure of saying, 'I told you so.'"
"Ouch," Joshua said.
Tony laughed. "Beware of her, Joshua. Remember, she makes her living being clever with words."
For three-quarters of an hour, they spoke of many things, but then, somehow, in spite of their pledge, they found themselves talking about Bruno Frye once more, long before they were finished with the wine or ready for coffee and brandy.
At one point, Hilary said, "What could Katherine have done to him to make him fear her and hate her as much as he apparently does?"
"That's the same question I asked Latham Hawthorne," Joshua said.
"What'd he say?"
"He had no idea," Joshua said. "I still find it difficult to believe that there could have been such black hatred between them without it being visible even once in all the years I knew them.
Katherine always seemed to dote on him. And Bruno seemed to worship her. Of course, everyone in town thought she was something of a saint for having taken in the boy in the first place, but now it looks as if she might have been less saint than devil."
"Wait a minute," Tony said. "She took him in? What do you mean by that?"
"Just what I said. She could have let the child go to an orphanage, but she didn't. She opened her heart and her home to him."
"But," Hilary said, "we thought he was her son."
"Adopted," Joshua said.
"That wasn't in the newspapers," Tony said.
"It was done a long, long time ago," Joshua said. "Bruno had lived all but a few months of his life as a Frye. Sometimes it seemed to me that he was more like a Frye than Katherine's own child might have been if she'd had one. His eyes were the same color as Katherine's. And he certainly had the same cold, introverted, brooding personality that Katherine had--and that people say Leo had, too."
"If he was adopted," Hilary said, "there's a chance he does have a brother."
"No," Joshua said. "He didn't."
"How can you be so sure? Maybe he even has a twin!" Hilary said, excited by the thought.
Joshua frowned, "You think Katherine adopted one of a pair of twins without being aware of it?"
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