“I won’t take it very well if something happens to you. I’ll go all to pieces.”
“I should hope so.”
“You think that’s funny?”
She turned her back to me and hugged herself tighter. I could see her reflection in the glass of the patio door. I took a few steps across the brick and rested my hands on her shoulders. She tilted her head back against my chest.
“You shouldn’t love me.” She was talking to my reflection.
“I know, but what’s a guy to do?” I quickly added, “I love Bobby, too.” I said it so she’d know she had nothing to fear from me, now or ever. It was a nice gesture, I thought. Made me seem less like a jerk. It also had the added virtue of being true. And another minor concession to let Shelby know I wasn’t obsessed with her.
“Tell Nina I’ll call her when I can.”
“Now I really do have to go.”
“Tell Bobby I’ll be in touch.”
I kissed the back of Shelby’s head and smelled her strawberry shampoo.
She didn’t answer. I left her standing in bare feet on the cold patio brick.
Rushmore McKenzie no longer had anyplace to go. But Jake Greene had a motel room on the I-494 strip in Bloomington, so that’s where I drove. I had a club sandwich in the bar and three beers. It was nearly 2:00 A.M. before I took the elevator to my room. I showered, brushed my teeth, and climbed into bed.
“Now what?” I said out loud.
The gray light of dawn was stretching across the ceiling before I came up with an answer.
Dr. Jillian DeMarais had a suite in One Financial Plaza, which in the imagination might conjure grandness but was only two connecting rooms. The first measured eight by ten feet and contained two chairs and a sofa with a coffee table between them—a reception room without a receptionist. Jillian used to have a receptionist, someone to book appointments, answer the phone, make coffee, and ensure that patients were comfortable in the waiting room until Jillian was ready for them, only she quit. So did the one before that and the one before that. Now a machine answered Jillian’s calls.
There were four paintings, one on each of the four windowless walls—a Degas, Matisse, Chagall, and van Gogh. I had often wondered if Jillian used them to diagnose new patients, a kind of artistic Rorschach test. Before we begin, tell me which painting you like best. I preferred the Degas. I had meant to ask Jillian what that revealed about me but never did.
There was a connecting door that led to an inner office, but it was closed, and I didn’t knock on it. Jillian might be with a patient, and she hated to be interrupted. Instead, I waited. Eventually the door opened. Jillian had been alone, after all.
“I’ll be damned,” she said when she saw me.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”
“I’m like a bad penny. I keep turning up.”
I followed Jillian into her office. She sat behind a desk that had probably cost a considerable fortune when it was built by French craftsmen in the eighteenth century. I sat in front of it. Jillian studied me for a moment with dangerous blue-green eyes. Gazing into them made you forget to watch the road ahead.
“It hurt me when you stopped calling,” she said. “It hurt me worse than—you could have told me almost anything and it would have been less painful.”
“Why did you stop calling?”
“That,” I said, pointing at the medical degree hanging on the wall. “And that.” Moving my finger toward the Ph.D. from Stanford. Jillian DeMarais was two times a doctor. “And that and that.” Pointing at more diplomas, plaques, and board certifications. “You have more degrees than a thermometer.”
“You’re intelligent, educated, accomplished, beautiful, rich, and who am I? Just a cop from the neighborhood.”
“You have money now.”
“Yes, but I’ll always be just a cop from the neighborhood. You can do better. I realized it every time we went to the ballet, or the opera, or one of those charity things you’re involved in. I realized it every time we met one of your friends.”
“You should have called me.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“You’re here now,” Jillian reminded me.
“I need a favor.”
“A favor? After all this time? How audacious.”
“I didn’t know who else I could trust.”
“Trust.” She tasted the word, decided she liked it. “I’ll take that as a compliment. What kind of favor?”
“You sometimes use hypnotism in your work.”
“Sometimes. Not often.”
“I need you to hypnotize me.”
“Why? Did you forget something?”
“A license plate number.”
“Tell me about it.”