Drummond turned off the coast road, parked on a gravel frontage, and used a key to open the street door. He entered a paved courtyard, shaded by citrus trees and landscaped with numerous flowering shrubs – bushes and climbers – set in wooden and earthenware pots, tubs, urns and barrels. Against the right wall blazed a colourful rockery. The yard had been Vivian’s creation, her pride and joy.
Near the house, the yard descended steeply in crazy-paved steps. Drummond felt the spectral presence of ennui as he unlocked the solid oak front door and entered.
At once, the past was upon him. It was as though the shutting of the door activated a time warp. He could smell her perfume. The voice of commonsense said: floor polish, sensory delusion. But his heart wouldn’t wear it; he could smell her perfume.
Doors to two bedrooms, a cloakroom and a guest bathroom led off the stuccoed, white-tiled hall. At its end, wide stone steps descended into a glorious oak-floored living room, its furnishings light and colourful, desert tones of sand and green and turquoise predominating. An open, fieldstone fireplace occupied the right wall; to the left, an archway led to the kitchen.
The house was immaculate, cleaned every Thursday and aired every Sunday by a diminutive Filipino lady, Mrs Foy, who also replenished Drummond’s refrigerator with his modest needs.
He crossed the room and drew heavy, sun-proofed, bleached-cotton drapes. A wall of glass with sliding doors revealed an elevated wooden deck and a view of Surfrider Beach and a gentle Pacific Ocean.
Drummond unlocked and slid back the doors, stepped out, leaned on the wooden rail and sniffed the air. In this second week of October the weather was still good, temperature in the high seventies, the air pollution bearable. Still, it smelled tainted, and nothing like the desert.
There were a few kids out with their boards, making the most of an indifferent swell, and on the beach walkers and joggers abounded. On the deck of the house to his lower right, a nubile, blonde, topless air stewardess, one of three who rented the place, sat cross-legged in perfect yoga composure; on the deck to his lower left, a young male actor, a current soap-star, reclined on his lounger, reading a script. Everything Malibu-normal. It was as though he’d never been away.
Returning to the living room, he switched his mind to business, ignoring the house. With practice he had learned to live within it, without being a part of it. To help, he had removed all intimate reminders of Viv, all photographs, all personal possessions.
Immediately after the murder, when instinct urged him to get as far away from the house as was geographically possible, he had consulted a Psych colleague, needing help, intellectually aware that, in grief, abandonment of the home was a bad move, yet emotionally unable to practice what he professionally preached. Gradually, however, he had been able to fashion an attitude which comprised a degree of denial, the exact nature of which he never did dare stop and analyse.
Now, he simply used the house, dwelt there, without mentally touching its walls or artefacts, shutting things out, like the long-time occupant of a haunted house who knows things are happening on the edges of his vision, but never turns his head to verify.
He checked his answer phone. Three calls had come in since the previous evening. He played back the tape. Two, he sensed, were pitches. The third made him smile.
He called the first two, rejected offers of help to manage his financial affairs and cleanse his water supply, then played the third tape again.
A breathy, overtly sensuous Monroe voice whispered, “Doctor, I keep having this terrible nightmare. I’m sunbathing on my deck in the absolute nude . . . and suddenly I just know there’s someone ogling me. I turn my head – and there he is, on the deck of the house next door. And he’s gorgeous. I fancy him so much my teeth ache. And now comes the awful part. I wave to him, invite him over . . . and he can’t see me! Does this mean I’m transparent or what?”
Now another female voice, jokingly terse, “Gimme that damn phone. Hi, Paul, this is Grace, that was Tilly. What Feather-head was trying to say is – all three of us have this terrible nightmare . . . no, sorry, I mean, we’re having a tiny farewell bash on Friday night for Lou who is marrying some zillionaire creep who owns Venezuela, and we’d be absolutely knocked out of our socks if you could join us. Do try.”
For a fleeting moment he felt the stir at the image of the lovely Tilly, meditating half-naked on the deck next door, and of the equally beautiful Grace, either of whom, he knew, would be sexually available to him should he give the sign. A tempting, impossible image.
Dispelling it, he dialled their number, got a machine, expressed his congratulations to Lou and regret that he’d be out of town.
Then he occupied himself loading and checking the video and recording equipment he would need for the forensic hypnosis session.
The West Los Angeles Police Station is a modern, two-storey structure of pale mauve stucco panels in white cement frames; it has a startling entrance faced in fire-engine-red ceramic tiles. The building occupies a corner site on Butler Avenue, close to the junction of the I-10 and the I-405 which Drummond had used that morning.
Facing the station, on the east side of Butler Avenue, is a parking lot, with service bays for the patrol and unmarked cars of the bureau. At ten minutes to three, Drummond drove the Daimler onto the lot and unloaded his equipment from the trunk.
“Hey, Doc, need a hand with that stuff?”
It was Carl Younger, a Homicide detective, coming out of a service bay.
“Hello, Carl, yes, I’d be obliged.”
Younger picked up a tripod and a case of lights, Drummond the video camera case and the audio equipment.
“Hope you can get something out of this Keegan guy. We’re in a bind on the Mar Vista thing.”
“So I hear.”
They crossed Butler Avenue and entered the red-tiled maw, its architectural style described by Dick Gage as ‘early Deep-throat’.
From the reception hall they turned right down a corridor, through a door, passing the holding cells, and up a staircase into a huge room of desks and computers.
Dick Gage, in conference in a small adjoining office, spotted Drummond’s arrival and came out. Gage was thirty-six, five-feet ten, with a strong, handsome face and a mop of dark brown wavy hair. Characteristically, his grey slacks and white shirt looked rumpled, his tie loosened to mid-chest.
He hit Drummond with a broad grin of genuine pleasure at seeing him, ran a teasing eye over his friend’s appearance and shook his head. “Paradise is sure agreeing with you, chum. You make me feel like a tank testing ground.”
Drummond, returning the inspection and the grin, said, “Funny you should say that...”
Turning to business, Gage gestured towards the stairs, relieving Younger of the equipment.
Drummond said, “Thanks, Carl, see you later, maybe.”
“In Duke’s? I’ll be there.”
“Oh, do you drink, Detective Younger?” cracked Gage.
The Lieutenant led the way down the stairs, saying over his shoulder, “I’m bringing Keegan in at 4.30 – okay? An hour and a half to set up?”
“That’s fine. Where are you putting us?”
“Same place as last time.”
A meandering route took them to a small office at the rear of the building. The usual furniture had been cleared from the room and replaced with a comfortable, fabric-covered recliner chair for Keegan, and a typist’s chair and small table for Drummond.
“We’ll be through there,” said Gage, indicating a second door to an adjoining office.
“We? Who else will be observing, Dick?”
Gage gave a headshake that indicated vagueness and some puzzlement. “I don’t know. I’ve had word that the Parker Centre will be sending people down . . . maybe the FBI, too. I don’t yet know names or how many.”
“Well, that’s okay as long as they all understand the rules of forensic hypnosis – absolutely no interference or interruption, and any questions must be handwritten, initialled and passed through the door. You know the drill. Anything less than absolute professionalism will never stand up in court.”
“I’ll make sure they toe the line. You need a hand with anything here?”
Drummond opened the door to the adjoining office, looked inside, saw that a TV monitor was already in place. “No, I’ll manage, Dick.”
“Anything more you want to know about Tom Keegan? – not that we have much.”
Drummond shook his head. “Only the usual – name, address and case number. I already know too much from the papers and I’m trying to forget that as it is. If this ever gets to court, one leading question from me could negate this entire session. And as it’s pretty well the only thing you’ve got...”
Gage rolled his eyes entreatingly. “Per-lease, no leading questions.”
Drummond grinned. “Okay, get outta here, let a pro get to work.”
When Gage had gone, Drummond set up the video camera and lights, framing to encompass both chairs, and ran cable beneath the interconnecting door to the TV monitor next door.
Satisfied with the arrangement, he took his seat, switched on the camera, which had its own sound system, and a back-up tape recorder, and did a test run.
Into camera he said, “This is a test of my video and cassette recording equipment. My name is Doctor Paul Drummond, Forensic Investigator. I am at the West Los Angeles Police Station.” He added the date and time, which was also being generated on tape by the camera.
He allowed a few more frames to run, then stopped the camera by remote control, rewound both the video and audio tapes, and replayed them, opening the door to the adjoining office to check the quality of replay on the monitor.
Satisfied, he stopped the tapes at the end of the test and kept them in place. If the tapes were ever shown in court, the test would help his credibility. In matters of law, it paid to do everything absolutely by the book.
Promptly at 4.30, hearing the murmur of approaching voices, Drummond switched on all the recording equipment. Dick Gage, now wearing a suit jacket, his tie straightened, entered. He handed Drummond a slip of paper bearing Keegan’s details, and held the door open as Keegan came in.
Although Drummond was concentrating on Keegan, he was aware of four other men out in the corridor. They passed quickly out of his view and entered the adjoining office through its own corridor door. Drummond raised his brows questioningly to Gage, not expecting a verbal response, but getting an eloquent shrug that said Gage was in the dark about the identity of the men.
The Lieutenant said, “Tom, this is Doctor Paul Drummond. Paul – Tom Keegan.”
As the men shook hands, Gage said, “I’ll leave you to it, Paul,” and went into the corridor, closing the door.
Drummond’s first priority was to put Keegan at ease. Behind an easy smile and manner, he regarded the man intently. Keegan was six feet tall, muscular, with close-cropped greying hair, wearing a dark-blue pinstripe suit of poor quality and two decades out of style. Drummond noted the nervous washing of the man’s corded hands, the tension in the prematurely-lined face, the darting of his pale green eyes. Drummond, reminded of a hunted animal, felt a rush of sympathy for the man.
He said gently, “Now, Tom, I want you to try and relax. We’ve got a nice comfortable chair here for you. Would you like to take your jacket off?”
Keegan gave a nod, removed the coat, handed it to Drummond who slipped it over the back of his own chair. Keegan’s movements, as he settled into the recliner chair, seemed poorly coordinated, though whether from nervousness or something pathological, Drummond couldn’t determine. There was certainly something odd and pathetic about the man’s manner and bearing.
Sitting, Drummond said, “Tom, I’d like to draw your attention to this video camera and tape recorder, both of which are now recording this conversation. Is that okay with you?”
Keegan nodded and mouthed, “Sure,” but no sound came out.
Drummond turned to camera and repeated the ident he had recorded for the test, adding, “With me today is Mister Tom Keegan of,” he consulted the slip of paper Gage had handed him, “four-five-nine Lomita Street, Los Angeles, and we will be discussing the events of September twenty-four of this year.”
He addressed Keegan, “Tom, did anyone force or coerce you to come here today?” A headshake. “Will you please tell me why you are here today?”
Now, for the first time, Keegan spoke, and surprised Drummond. From long experience Drummond knew better than to judge a person by their appearance, yet with Keegan he’d fallen into the trap. To accompany the clothes, the lined and weather-beaten face, the gnarled hands, Drummond had expected the voice of an ill-educated man. What he heard was halting, overtly anxious, bemused, but undeniably polished.
“I’m here . . . to undergo . . . hypnosis . . . in the hope that it will . . . help me . . . recall what happened on September twenty-four. I know . . . I received a head injury and have been in hospital since that . . . day.”
Drummond said, “Would you please tell me, in your own words, what you do remember – only what you remember or recall of that day, nothing else.”
Chin lowered, Keegan stared at the carpeted floor in front of him, his features fixed in concentration, his mouth a compressed line, eyes glaring as though trying to penetrate a veil that denied him access to life-vital information. When finally he spoke, the word came, with a shake of his head, as a breath of despair and desperation.
In the years Drummond had been practicing, and among the hundreds of anxiety cases he had treated, he had never encountered anyone who looked so lost, so totally out of control as Tom Keegan did at that moment.
“All right, Tom, now I want you to be entirely comfortable. Do you need the bathroom?”
“Do you wear contact lenses?”
“Prior to September twenty-four, had you been treated, or were you being treated, for any physical or emotional problem?”
The same effort of recall distorted Keegan’s features. “I don’t remember.”
“Do you have any fears or phobias?” It was patently obvious that the man was riven with fears, but Drummond wanted to hear his response.
“I can’t remember.”
"You can’t remember what?”
“Anything!” Keegan’s hands balled into fists. “I can’t remember anything.”
“All right, Tom, just try to relax – and tell me what you know about hypnosis.”
“What do you think hypnosis is?”
Keegan gave a shrug. “It’s – like going to sleep?”
“No. That’s a popular misconception. Hypnosis is a state of relaxation. The deeper the hypnosis, the more relaxed you are. But you can always open your eyes and end the session any time you wish. You will not be asleep, nor will you be under my control. Please be reassured on that point.”
“Now, I’ll be asking you questions and we’ll be discussing events that are relevant to September twenty-four only. I will not knowingly ask you anything that will be embarrassing or distasteful. Should it prove to be embarrassing or distasteful to you, please tell me or simply refuse to answer the question, is that clear?”
“I’m going to use a hypnotic induction called Progressive Relaxation. It’s very simple and will be very pleasant. When you are properly relaxed, you’ll be able to speak quite easily, and don’t be afraid to move and shift position if you become uncomfortable. Is that all clear?”
“Any questions before we start?”
“All right, let’s tip that recliner back and get you really comfortable.”
Drummond left his chair and settled Keegan into the reclined position. Close to him, touching him, Drummond could feel an intense heat radiating from his body. He patted Keegan on the shoulder. “Just take it easy.”
Returning to his chair, Drummond paused for a moment, fixing his concentration, then said in a soothing, monotonal voice, “I’d like you to roll your eyes right up, as though you were trying to see the inside of your forehead, while I count one . . . two . . . three. Now just allow your eyes to close . . . just close your eyes…”
Drummond continued with the induction, fixing Keegan’s attention on areas of his body, urging him to relax that part completely, then progressing to another, from the top of his head down to his toes. By the time Drummond had reached the toes, Keegan seemed to be in hypnosis, with a significant flush in his cheeks.
Drummond continued with a deepening process, counting Keegan slowly down through the numbers, elaborating at each number with suggestions of heaviness, drowsiness, tiredness. Reaching zero, Drummond was assured that Keegan had responded perfectly to hypnosis, was deeply in trance.
“All right, Tom, I’ll remind you that we will be discussing the events that took place on September twenty-fourth, and nothing else. I’d like you to go back now…”
It was as though Keegan had suddenly been given a massive electric shock.
He shot bolt upright in the chair, levering it into the erect position. His body was rigid, quiveringly stiff, every joint and muscle locked in a rigor of shock. His eyes, staring straight ahead at a blank wall, were wide with terror, his features contorted with dread. Sweat poured from his face, ran down into his collar. White-knuckled fingers clawed the arms of the chair as though he was holding on to his very life.
Aghast, Drummond could only stare. In the thousands of hypnotic regressions he had induced, he had never experienced a reaction like this. Then, prompted more by intuition than training, he said with authority, “Return to the present, Tom – now!”
Again, there was a startling reaction, this time in reverse. Keegan relaxed with equal suddenness, slumped back into the chair, which remained upright, and keeled sideways, head lolling, eyes closed.
Drummond was faced with a dilemma. His only brief here was to attempt to refresh Keegan’s memory about a past event. If, for whatever reason, Keegan was allergic to regression, the session would have to be aborted. And yet he was aware of how vital Keegan’s recollection could be to the police investigation.
The question was – in view of Keegan’s terrified reaction – did he, Drummond, have the ethical right to try again, to experiment with other approaches, different wording, and risk a repetition of the reaction? A convulsion of such severity might easily trigger a heart attack or snap bones, to say nothing of inducing severe mental trauma.
Deep in concentration, he became aware of the intercommunicating door opening, and of Dick Gage’s arm proffering a note.
Drummond took it and read it. “What happened?” The writing was not in Gage’s hand; the author’s initial was an illegible scrawl.
Drummond moved from his chair, saying, “Tom, I’m going to touch you, just to make you more comfortable. Just relax exactly as you are, remain in hypnosis, and ignore what I shall be saying for the next few moments.”
He eased the chair back into the reclined position, settled Keegan, returned to his own chair and spoke to camera. “What you saw was an extreme allergic reaction to regression. There could be numerous reasons for it, and finding the cause might take extensive investigation. I’m loath to attempt further regression. Another convulsive reaction might cause Mister Keegan great harm. I suggest this session be terminated.”
In the silence that followed, Drummond heard an angry, “Shit!” from next door. It was not Dick Gage’s voice.
The door opened slightly, Gage’s head appeared and gave a nod.
Drummond said, “Tom, you can hear me now. Is there anything you would like to say to me or tell me . . . about anything at all?”
Keegan took a while to answer. His voice cracked and he had to clear his throat. “I can’t remember. Help me remember.”
For a moment Drummond hesitated, then made a decision. “Yes, I’ll help you. But not here, not now. We’ll talk about it later. I’m going to count you up from one to five now . . . and when I reach five you will open your eyes, be wide awake, feeling very relaxed and comfortable.
As Keegan roused himself, Drummond said to camera, “This session is now ended,” but, as always, left the camera running until the subject had left the room.
He helped Keegan to his feet. “You feeling okay?”
“Yeh, fine.” He looked anything but fine.
“What d’you remember of the session, Tom?”
Keegan frowned. “I felt good . . . nice and relaxed. I don’t remember any questions, though. Did you ask me any questions?”
“Did you feel nice and relaxed all through the session?”
“You didn’t feel . . . disturbed by anything I said?”
“Nope.” But suddenly the mask of anxiety that had previously distorted his features was in place again. “Could you help me remember, Doc?”
“I’m going to try, Tom. I’m going to arrange something.”
The door opened and Lieutenant Gage came in, his expression an amalgam of disappointment and sympathy. “He okay?”
Drummond nodded. “Tom’s asked me for help. I’m going to take him on as a private patient. Maybe all is not lost.”
Gage’s face brightened. “Great.”
Then, as though the thought had just occurred to him, Keegan said dolefully, “But I’ve got no money, Doc. How much will it cost?”
Drummond winked at Gage. “Don’t worry about money. LAPD will pick up the tab.” He handed Keegan a business card. “I’m in town every Monday through Wednesday.” To Gage, he said, “What’s happening to Tom now? Is he going back to hospital?”
“No, he’s been discharged. He’ll be taken home.”
To Keegan, Drummond said, “I’ll see you next Monday at ten o’clock, at the address on the card, Wilshire Boulevard. If you need me in the meantime, call any of those numbers, leave a message – okay?”
“Thanks, Doc. Thanks a lot.”
“Just try and relax, Tom. Once you’re back home, in familiar surroundings, your memory might well start to return. At the moment you’re very stressed, and you’re trying too hard to remember things. Give your mind a chance to heal itself.”
Gage ushered Keegan out into the corridor, but returned to say to Drummond, “I’ll be back in fifteen, give you a hand with the equipment.”
Drummond frowned in Keegan’s direction. “Will he be alone at the apartment?”
Gage nodded. “I know what you’re thinking – his name’s been in the papers and he may be in danger. To be honest, Drum, except for his address, we don’t know anything about the guy. Up till now his background hasn’t been important. But I’ll send someone with him, maybe come up with a relative who can keep an eye on him.”
Gage made a move out of the door.
“Who were all those guys in there with you?”
“I don’t know, buddy.” Gage’s eyes signalled something more than puzzlement. “They didn’t bother to introduce themselves.”