In the days that followed, Jenny found herself more and more drawn towards Diane, her psychiatrist’s wife, a psychiatrist she did not really need, but then there were only a couple of sessions to go. Part of it was that Jenny had taken a couple of weeks of vacation “to recover”, and without the normal routine of her office was at a bit of a loss as to what to do, especially with John mooching around like a lost soul these days. Diane was a breathe of fresh air, lively, but unlike Jenny, deeply cynical. Her enthusiastic style belied her ability to expose the dark side of life, always with humour.
Eventually the subject gnawing at Jenny had to come to the surface. They had consumed a light lunch, salad, at Juanita’s and were sitting over the remains of a bottle of Chardonnay.
“I took your advice.” Jenny smiled at Diane in expectation of recognition.
“I didn’t know I gave you any advice,” Diane responded with her habitual smile around the eyes, inviting Jenny to continue.
“The brother. I asked him. Hadley. About the brother. His brother.
“Jenny, you don’t strike me as being particularly stupid and naïve, but I think you had better fill me in,” Diane said. Jenny proceeded to describe how she had bought into the idea of Hadley having a brother, how she had gone to Hadley’s office and how she had achieved confirmation of this fact. She then went on to explain how the police were having trouble tracking the brother down, given that they did not even have his name.
“Jenny, I gave Giles a tough time at your party, but he’s not half as naïve as you,” Diane said.
“What do you mean, naïve?” Jenny was taken aback.
“The logic, Jenny. Think of the logic.” Diane poured herself another glass of Chardonnay and adopted a serious posture. “We know the voice exists. We know Hadley exists. We do not know his brother exists.”
“But he told me,” Jenny protested.
“Think, Jenny. What would he tell you if he was the bad guy?” Diane leant towards her and whispered, “my brother’s a dirty rat”. So Jenny, until you have proof of the brother’s existence, Hadley is prime suspect in my book. I didn’t say at the party that he had a brother. I just raised the possibility, principally because I wanted to get one over Giles in front of the rest of you, by bringing up a new idea he hadn’t thought of.”
“So what would you have done?” Jenny asked.
“I think you had better fill me in on the background, before I answer,” Diane replied, and Jenny went on to describe how, from her perspective, everything had developed over the last few weeks. For Diane it was a dramatic and desperate story. She knew of the kidnapping but this story, told in full, was incredible. She asked Jenny to tell her more about the three characters they had identified, Bill Hadley, Jim Duggan and Bob Mitchell and what John and Ross thought about them.
By now lunch was well over and Diane suggested they take a walk.
“You know my husband’s a psychiatrist,” she said, “and I’ve learned a lot from him. Some of the weird situations he sees have weird solutions.”
“Like what?” Jenny asked.
“No, let’s keep to the point. I have another question. John says he saw a big guy outside the apartment when you were kidnapped, so he guessed it was Bob Mitchell. Right?” Diane waited for confirmation.
“That’s what he thought,” Jenny confirmed.
“But you had one kidnapper who was not a big guy. So how do we make that fit?” Diane turned her head towards Jenny as they walked and raised her eyebrows.
“It doesn’t,” Jenny said.
“Well, I say,” Diane continued, “let’s give John’s hypothesis the benefit of the doubt. It simply means that the guy who picked you up in the street is not the same guy as your gaoler.”
“I guess that works,” Jenny agreed.
“OK, now this is where I said you were naïve. If Mitchell, or Hadley, are the bad guys, psychopaths maybe from what you tell me, you’re wasting you’re time going round to talk to them. They’ll twist you round their little finger.” Again Diane awaited Jenny’s response.
“So what do you do?” Jenny asked.
“In my book, Jenny, you go round to their place, at least from what you’ve told me about Mitchell, and beat the hell out of them. You can’t take a conventional approach with these guys. I’m sorry. This is not a very female approach.” Jenny stopped, totally bemused, not quite understanding what it was that Diane proposed. She turned to Diane, not sure of what to say. Diane smiled at her, as if nothing were wrong.
“I’ll tell you a little story about a little girl,” Diane said.
To look at Diane, as she stood there before Jenny, you would scarcely credit the story she told, Diane the graceful, elegant psychiatrist’s trophy wife. You know, she told Jenny, small town America has its surprises. She described how she would not be there if it were not for Giles. She had come to know Giles and not had one day’s regret after their marriage five years earlier, despite, or maybe because of, the age difference. But that was all recent history, she told Jenny. In fact, she was born in Iraq. Her father was in the oil business and that was where he was posted for many years. She learnt fluent Arabic as a child and kept it up in her later studies. She described the fascination for her of the Iraqis, how they would love to hold her in the bazaar and ask to be photographed with her, for them a striking little blonde girl.
“And now you’re going to laugh, Jenny.” Diane paused, as if wondering how to put this and then continued, “The government of the United States decided I would make a good prostitute.”
“They what?” Jenny retained her look of bemusement.
“The Gulf War. They wanted to infiltrate into Iraq women who might get close to Saddam. I was chosen.” Diane grinned broadly.
“I don’t believe you. You’re joking,” Jenny objected.
“I fit the bill, Jenny. The lingo. The looks. I had it all. They trained up five of us. Three went. They decided my psychological profile was wrong in the end. I don’t know how the others got on.”
“You are serious!” Jenny exclaimed.
“I am. And we had Special Forces training in unarmed combat. I still keep it up, but not on Giles, not yet anyway.” Diane laughed. “So you see Bob Mitchell, all six foot six of him, all two hundred and eight pounds of him, to take the toughest of the three, is easy meat for me.” They walked on while Jenny digested this information. She still did not appreciate what Diane was driving at.
“Jenny, what I am saying is forget the conventional approach. Assume we start with Mitchell, on the basis that he’s the guy who picked you up, and therefore has it coming to him. If it turns out that he’s a peaceful citizen, so be it: a casualty of war for the greater good. If he is a bad guy, then maybe we’ll rattle them, and see where they go from there.”
“Are you telling me, you volunteer to go round and beat the shit out of this guy, as they say in the police precinct?” Jenny was incredulous.
“It’s better than the crap you tried on them, Jenny, as they say in the police precinct.”
“I think Bill Hadley likes me, Diane. He’ll help me.”
“I’m sure he will, Jenny, and a lot more, maybe, if he’s who we think he might be.”
“You don’t understand, Diane.”
“ I more than understand, Jenny. Forget it. Talk to Giles.”
“I think your idea is crazy. If you’re serious.” Jenny was not sure now, what to believe about Diane. To be honest, she thought Diane’s story at best to be exaggerated, embellished.
“Jenny, forget what I said. Just have another chat with Giles, before you do anything else.” Diane had decided to use her special forces training after all. I shall just give him a playful little whack, she thought, just make a point, and see how he reacts.
From now on Jenny would only learn from Diane what she needed to know, and right now that was not very much. The only exception to the rule would be Giles. She had an obligation to him, her husband. This is small town America, she thought. If you take it upon yourself, America, to go around the world as a nation beating the shit out of exotic peoples, this is what you end up with, freaks like me. God bless America. Jesus. Giles is going to go crazy when he hears this. As Jenny took her leave of Diane, she failed to fathom the reason for the famous inscrutable smile, whether Sphinx or Mona Lisa.
That Giles would go crazy was an understatement, a very limited view of mankind’s versatility. He reasoned with her, he begged her, he ordered her, he appealed to natural morality, to the civil code, to the founding fathers on the Mayflower and it was all to no avail. Just think of the stories you will be able to tell your grandchildren, she told him. I always knew my training would be of some value, other than protecting me against you, of course.
“I’ve decided on Mitchell, Giles. He’s the toughest of the three. I like a challenge. Just think of him as one of my ex-lovers who’s come to claim me back.”
“Diane, you can’t to this. This is the United States of America. We have laws.” Giles was visibly upset, which was unusual for him.
“That’s why I can do it, Giles. They trained me. I was quite good. Still am.”
“What if he has weapons?”
“Then, Giles, I get the hell out of there, as fast as I can. Giles, if he has weapons, I’m dead meat.” This was when Giles realised that she really was serious, that she had thought it through, that she was going to go in there and do her thing. He could not understand her. She had seen the trouble it had brought John and Jenny, trying to do something privately. This was why they had a police force, surely, to do the dirty work for them.
“Giles, calm down. Just think of it as a female remake of Terminator Two or Robo-she-cop.” If nothing else, she knew how to wind him up.
The other thing that concerned Giles was that the name of Hadley had come up. He knew Hadley reasonably well. He felt it better to keep quiet about this for the moment. In Diane’s current mood, she might change her mind and go after Hadley first. That would be embarrassing. He could imagine the scene of Hadley coming to see him and being introduced: Mr Hadley, have you met my wife, Diane? I may be a psychiatrist, he thought, but the female psyche continues to evade me.
“Ah well, Diane,” he said, “I suppose there’s always the possibility of divorce, if I want to exculpate myself from this madness.” She laughed and smiled back at him.
“Giles, if you don’t think our marriage can survive a couple of brawls I may wish to have with strange men behind closed doors, then I wonder why you married me to start with. Do you really think anyone would believe Mitchell, if he accused little old me of beating him to pulp in his own home? I don’t think so.” This looked as good a point as any to end the debate, so they did. It was also the case that Diane did not believe in procrastination, but she was nervous, so she retrieved her old combat notes and took care to differentiate between the lethal and the non-lethal moves.
Bob Mitchell was snoring on his sofa in front of a football game on TV, when the entry bell rang. The trashcan contained a couple of empty peanut packs and numerous beer cans. On the table was a half empty bottle of Bourbon and a half full glass. Bob had installed an entry video system to vet his callers. He liked what he saw, took a moment to tidy the place and pressed the entry buzzer. He moved to the door to let her in. Looks too classy for me, he thought. I like the shape though, slim, lithe, pretty eyes. I like her smile and yes, blonde is OK for me. The relevant word that did not occur to Bob was “disarming”.
She walked in without a word. Circled his lounge and then took a seat, motioning to him to take a seat opposite. If there was anything unusual, it had not struck Bob yet. Nothing had struck him yet, but that would soon change. Diane had reconnoitred the flat on entry and established that there were no weapons visibly to hand, not surprising, but you never know, there could be an ornamental Samurai sword or whatever. It was unlikely, she thought, that he would routinely carry weapons on his person, and there were no suspicious bulges on him that she could see. She wanted to take this slowly, to leave a sense of menace, for when he thought about it afterwards. Silence. Bob Mitchell looked at her, but he was not sure of what to say. He felt tongue-tied like a kid at the annual ball. Surely she should say something: she must have come for a reason. Silence. He coughed.
Diane judged her moment. As he leant forward in his seat towards her to break the silence, her steel capped left shoe shot out catching him on the right shin with an audible crack. He automatically reached down in pain, and shock, and she grabbed his hair with both hands, smashing his head onto the glass coffee table, which shattered. So far no blood. She stood up, thinking, OK I’ve made my point, now he’ll talk. But Bob Mitchell, tough guy used to inflicting pain, was not slow to react. He had not had Special Forces training. He had trained on the streets, and you can argue about which training is better.
This was the moment Diane did not want: escalation. He pulled from his boot a three-inch blade. She had underestimated this weapons freak. She wanted to speak, to back down, but he looked too grim. She circled anti-clockwise and he followed. Then, as she spun back clockwise, he had the impression she was retreating. Again her left foot flicked out, catching his right wrist and sending the blade flying into the corner of the lounge. In one movement Bob, agile for his two hundred and eighty pounds, somersaulted backwards over the sofa, grabbing her hair and pulling her down with him. She felt herself spin through the air like a rag doll, as his weight exerted its leverage upon her.
Even as they hit the floor, Bob had extracted his automatic from his shoulder holster. She felt the cold metal of the barrel rammed into her mouth as her head cracked against the oak frame of the bookcase. He has not had time to release the safety catch was the thought that came to her, as she brought her knee up into his groin and violently arched her back to pull her head clear of the weapon. The weapon was in his left hand. She grabbed his wrist with her right hand and smashed his hand into the glass door of the bookcase. She heard the thump of the automatic land on the carpet, curled her body into an unbelievable posture to at once rise to her feet, grab the weapon and hurl it, smashing, through the window. Bob had also regained his feet, by now disarmed, she hoped. She couldn’t believe how he had come through that blow to the groin so fast, but she was already driving hard into his solar plexus and he went down. As he fell, she gave him a relatively gentle rabbit chop on the larynx, not to shatter it, but just to leave him sore. The final anaesthesia was a blow of the right foot to the left temple. Grunts but no words had been exchanged.
“Mr Mitchell,” Diane said to his inert form, “this did not go the way I expected. I’ve never done this for real before. It’s not like training, where you know the moves. To tell you the truth, I’m scared shitless, and I’m getting the hell out of here.” This should never have happened. I wish I had listened to Giles, was her last thought as she left.
When he finally regained consciousness some minutes later, Bob was confused. He looked around him, surveyed the damage. His first thought was that he had been hitting the bourbon too hard. He saw the smashed bottle on the floor. Then he sniffed. There was a lingering scent of perfume, and he began to believe he really had had a visitor, an elegant blonde who packed a powerful punch. He called Hadley.
“Bill, the jeweller’s exacting retribution. Three heavies just tried to do me over. I fought them off, but they’ve trashed the place. I’m gonna shoot that little shit. Let’s meet.” Without waiting for a reply, he hung up.
“But you’re my wife.” Giles’ anguish hung on his words. He was seated in his study on a red leather armchair. Diane knelt at his feet on a Kashan rug. She had just related the events at Mitchell’s place. “I hear this stuff from my patients. That’s professional. But you’re my wife.”
“You know I trained with the Special Forces.” She felt the easy sense of release from having told her story. The earlier tension had subsided.
“Yes, but I thought that was like evening classes, you know, Karate.” Giles was mortified by what she had told him, by what she had done. “You entered a citizen’s house with intent to beat him senseless, which is what you did. You don’t do that, Diane.”
“Giles, some innocent citizen! You name me an innocent citizen who pulls a three-inch blade from his boot and then rams an automatic down my throat.” She was reliving the scene and flushed red with the memory of the exertion and danger.
“But that’s not the point,” he protested.
“That is the point. We now know this guy’s guilty as hell, and by contagion the other two.” She rose and moved towards the desk and the telephone.
“You can’t tell Jenny,” he said.
“I know, Giles.” She felt everything slip away from her. “I hated every moment, just as you do. And I can’t tell anyone. Only you. I didn’t think of this. The reality is that there’s still no evidence and anyone I tell is at risk because I tell them. So I must shut up…and regret what I did. I can’t believe this is true. What go into me?” She came across to him. Nestled herself against him, and the tears she had not learned in Special Forces training flowed freely.
As he held her against him, Giles began to visualise a contest, like a chess game. The Grand Masters were pitted against each other. It seemed Hadley, whom he knew, was one Grand Master. Who was Hadley’s opponent? He thought about this. John had struck a posture; but not John against Hadley, he hoped. Jenny, even worse. Diane, please no, Diane who had just entered the fray. Or was it just Hadley against the system? He thought about Hadley, nice guy pleasant, intelligent. Maybe he should ask John, or Jenny, if this was the guy they mentioned who had raised the spectre of the psyschopath, when they came round to see him that time. Hadley, a psychopath? Unlikely. But then that was true of psychopaths. From what Diane had established today it was Hadley. It had to be Hadley. But she was crazy, with what she did today. Was she psychopathic? Was it Diane? He did not want to follow this line of thought. Diane had no idea of his thoughts, but she rose and left him, exhausted.
I am personally involved now, with what Diane has done today, he thought. So it has got to be Giles against the world. Who else can compete against whomever it may be, other than me? Dear god, let it not be Diane. I know it is not Diane. I have been married to her for five years. And? Would I have guessed that she would do what she did today? Is this Special Forces stuff really true? I never checked it. Maybe she was in an asylum, and lied to me. God, I am going mad. I must think, employ my training. He took a sheet of paper and wrote names at the top of each column, and then he began to fill in what he knew beneath each name. By midnight he realised that he knew very little. The names were first of all his friends, John, Jenny and Ross; then his acquaintance Hadley, followed by Duggan and Mitchell, Mitchell who had tried to kill his wife, or so she said. Do not get emotional, he decided. But as for Diane, he was not capable of putting her name at the top of a column. If it was Diane, then life was not worth living. I need more names, he told himself. Let it not be someone among these, among my friends.