False Memory Page 60


Initially she had been opposed to owning the gun. After having fired two thousand rounds during a dozen visits to a shooting range, however, she’d proved to be somewhat more effective with the weapon than Dusty was, which surprised her more than it surprised him.


She slipped the pistol into her purse. This wasn’t the ideal way to carry it, because making a quick and unhampered draw wasn’t possible. Dusty had researched holsters, strictly for use on the shooting range, but he hadn’t gotten around to selecting one yet.


Because she was wearing blue jeans, a navy-blue sweater, and a blue tweed jacket, Martie could have tucked the gun under her belt, either against her abdomen or in the small of her back, and concealed it with the sweater. In either case, the discomfort factor would be too high, so the purse was the only choice.


“We’re now officially outlaws,” she said, leaving the central compartment of the purse unzipped, for easier access.


“We were already outlaws the moment we boarded the plane.”


“Yeah, well, now we’re outlaws in New Mexico, too.”


“How’s it feel?”


“Didn’t Billy Bonney come from Santa Fe?” she asked.


“Billy the Kid? I don’t know.”


“He came from New Mexico, anyway. How I feel is not a damn thing like Billy the Kid, let me tell you. Unless he walked around so scared that he worried about wetting his pants.”


They stopped at a shopping center and purchased a tape recorder with a supply of minicassettes and batteries.


Using a directory chained in a public telephone booth, their breath pluming frostily over the pages, they went through the short list of names they had culled from the articles in Roy Closterman’s file. Some were not listed, having either died or moved out of town— or perhaps the now grown-up girls had married and were living under new names. Still, they found addresses for a few people on the list.


In the car again, eating a lunch of chicken tacos from a fast-food joint, Dusty studied the city map provided by the rental agency, while


Martie inserted batteries in the tape recorder and scanned the operating instructions. The recorder was the essence of simplicity and easy to use.


They weren’t sure what testimony they would be able to gather, whether any of it would support the story that they themselves hoped to bring to the police in California, but they had nothing to lose by trying. Without the statements of others who’d suffered at the hands of Ahriman, to establish context, the complaints Martie and Dusty filed would have the grotesque quality of paranoid rants and would not be taken seriously, even with the tape of Susan’s phone call.


Two advantages gave them heart. First, because of what Roy Closterman had uncovered, they knew there were people in Santa Fe who hated Ahriman, who suspected him of the worst offenses against his oaths as a medical doctor and therapist, and who were frustrated beyond endurance to see him escape prosecution and move out of state with his reputation intact and with his license to practice medicine unchallenged. Surely, these individuals were potential allies.


Second, because Ahriman wasn’t aware that they knew of his past and because he wasn’t likely to credit them with either the ambition or the intelligence to discover the roots of his earliest attempts at brainwashing, he wouldn’t think to look for them in Santa Fe. Which meant that at least for a day or two, and perhaps longer, they. could operate without attracting the frightening attention of the mystery men who had cut off Brian’s ear.


Here in the land of Ahriman’s past, flying below the radar of the psychiatrist and his enigmatic associates, they might be able to gather enough information to make their story credible when at last they approached the authorities in California.


No. Might wasn’t an acceptable word. Might was a loser’s word. Must was the word she wanted, from the vocabulary of winners. They must gather enough information; and because they must, they would.


Action.


Leaving the shopping center, Martie drove while Dusty consulted the map and gave directions.


Over this high land, the sky was low and the color of New Mexico gypsum. Those slowly grinding clouds were icy, too, and according to the radio weather report, they were going to scrape some snow off one another before the day was out.


Only a few blocks from the Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi, the residence was surrounded by an adobe wall with a raised, stepped arch in which was set a spindled wooden gate.


Martie parked at the curb. She and Dusty went visiting with tape recorder and concealed pistol, bringing a little California style to mystic Santa Fe.


Beside the gate, a cascading ristra of red chiles spilled down the earthen wall under a copper lamp with coppery mica panes. This bright autumn decoration, long past its season, was frosty in parts but colorful and glossy where ice jacketed the chiles.


The gate was ajar, and beyond lay a brick forecourt. Agave and century plants bristled low, and tall piñons would have cast deep shadows had there been sun.


The single-story, pueblo-style house, by itself, validated the state’s claim to be the Land of Enchantment. Solid and round-edged, all soft lines and earth tones. Deep door and window openings, with simple fenestration.


A porch extended the width of the structure, supported by time-smoothed fir-log columns and by carved corbels painted with blue star designs. In the ceiling, aspen latillas bridged the spaces between the large fir vigas that supported the roof.


Rosettes, conchas, and rope braids were carved into the arched front door. The hand-forged, hand-stamped iron coyote knocker hung from its hind legs. Its forelegs swung against a large iron clavo set in the door, and when Dusty knocked, the sound carried across the forecourt in the cold, still air.


The thirty-something woman who responded to the knock must have been only two generations out of Italy on one side of her family; but another branch of her tree unmistakably had Navajo grafted on to it. Lovely, with high cheekbones, eyes as black as raven feathers, hair even blacker than Martie’s, she was a Southwest princess in a white blouse with bluebirds embroidered on the collar, a faded denim skirt, folded bobbysocks and scuffed white sneakers.


Dusty introduced himself and Martie. “We’re looking for Chase Glyson.”


“I’m Zina Glyson,” she said, “his wife. Maybe I can help.”


Dusty hesitated, and Martie said, “We’d very much like to talk to him about Dr. Ahriman. Mark Ahriman.”


No tension came into Mrs. Glyson’s serene face, and her voice remained pleasant when she said, “You come here to my door, speaking the devil’s name. Why should I talk to you?”


“He’s not the devil,” Martie said. “He's more a vampire, and we want to drive a stake straight through the bastard’s heart.”


Mrs. Glyson’s direct and analytic stare was as penetrating as that of any elder sitting on a tribal council. After a moment, she stepped back and invited them off the cold porch, into the warm rooms beyond the thick adobe walls.


Ordinarily, the doctor did not carry a concealed weapon, but with all the unknowables of the Rhodes situation, he believed that prudence required him to be armed.


Martie and Dusty were no immediate danger to him out there in New Mexico. They would pose no threat when and if they returned, either, unless he wasn’t able to get close enough to them to speak the names—Shaw, Narvilly—that activated their programs.


Skeet was another matter. His holey brain, drilled by drugs, didn’t seem able to hold the essential details of a control program without periodic reloading. If the little dope fiend, for whatever reason, got it into his addled head to stalk Ahriman, he might not respond immediately to Dr. Yen Lo and might be able to use a knife or gun or whatever other weapon he was carrying.


The doctor’s double-breasted, gray pinstripe suit by Ermenegildo Zegna was elegantly tailored; and strictly as a fashion issue, there ought to have been a federal law against spoiling the garment’s lines by wearing a shoulder holster under it. Fortunately, ever the man of foresight, the doctor had commissioned a custom holster of supple leather, which carried his pistol so deep under the arm and so snugly against the body that even the master tailors in Italy would not have been able to detect the weapon.


Unsightly bulge was eliminated, as well, by the fact that the weapon was a compact automatic, the Taurus PT-111 Millennium fitted with a Pearce grip extension. Quite small but powerful.


After his busy night, the doctor had slept late, which was possible because he didn’t need to keep the usual Thursday-morning appointment with Susan Jagger now that she was so dead. With no commitments until after lunch, he enjoyed a visit to his favorite antique-toy store, where he purchased a mint-condition Gunsmoke Dodge City playset by Marx for only $3,250, and a die-cast Johnny Lightning Custom Ferrari for only $115.


A couple of other customers were browsing in the store, chatting with the owner, and Dr. Ahriman had great fun imagining what it would be like to surprise them by drawing his pistol and gut-shooting them without provocation. He did not do this, of course, because he was pleased with his purchases and wanted the owner to feel comfortable with him when he returned to shop for other treasures in the future.


The kitchen was redolent of baking corn bread, and from a large pot on the stove rose the beefy aroma of beanless chili.


Zina phoned her husband at work. They owned a gallery on Canyon Road. When he heard why Martie and Dusty had sought him out, he came home in less than ten minutes.


While waiting for him, Zina set out red ceramic mugs of strong coffee mellowed with cinnamon, and pinwheel cookies topped with toasted pine nuts.


Chase, when he arrived, appeared to earn his living not in an art gallery but as a cowboy on the range: tall and lanky, tousled straw-yellow hair, a handsome face abraded by wind and sun. He was one of those men who, just by walking through any stable, would win the trust of horses, which would nicker softly at him and strain their necks across stall doors to nuzzle his hands.


His voice was quiet but intense as he sat down at the kitchen table with them. “What has Ahriman done to you and yours?”


Martie told him about Susan. The worsening agoraphobia, the suspected rapes. The sudden suicide.


“He made her do it somehow,” Chase Glyson said. “I believe It. I absolutely do. You came all this way because of your friend?”


“Yes. My dearest friend.” Martie saw no reason to tell more.


“Over nineteen years,” Chase said, “since he ruined my family, and more than ten since he hauled his sick ass out of Santa Fe. For a white, I hoped he was dead. Then he got famous with his books.”


“Do you mind if we tape what you tell us?” Dusty asked.


“No, don’t mind at all. But what I’ve got to say. . . hell, I’ve said it all maybe a hundred times to the cops, to different district attorneys over the years, until I was bluer in the face than a blue coyote. No one listened to me. Well, the once when someone listened and thought I might be telling the truth, then some big-shot friends of Ahriman’s paid him a visit, taught him some religion, so he’d know what he damn well was supposed to believe about my mom and dad.”


While Martie and Dusty taped Chase Glyson, Zina perched on a stool before an easel near the adobe fireplace, drawing a pencil study of a humble tableau that she’d earlier set up on one corner of the distressed-pine table at which the rest of them sat. Five pieces of Indian pottery in unusual shapes, including a double-spouted wedding pitcher.


The essence of Chase’s story was the same as in the clippings from Roy Closterman’s file. Teresa and Carl Glyson had for years operated a successful preschool, the Little Jackrabbit School, until they and three employees were accused of molesting children of both sexes. As in the Ornwahl case in Laguna Beach years later, Ahriman conducted supposedly careful, psychiatrically valid exploratory conversations with the kids, sometimes using hypnotic regression—and found a pattern of stories supporting the original accusations.


“The whole thing was a lot of bushwa, Mr. Rhodes,” said Chase Glyson. “My folks were the best people you’d want to meet.”


Zina said, “Terri, that was Chase’s mother, would have cut off her hand before she’d raise it to hurt a child.”


“My daddy, too,” said Chase. “Besides, he was hardly ever at the Little Jackrabbit. Only to do some repairs now and then, ‘cause he was handy. The school was my mother’s business. Daddy was half owner of a car dealership, and it kept him busy. Lots of people in town, they never believed a word of it.”


“But there were those who did,” Zina added darkly.


“Oh,” said Chase, “there’s always those who’ll believe anything about anybody. You whisper in their ear that ‘cause there was wine at the Last Supper, Jesus must’ve been a drunkard, and they’ll gossip their souls into perdition, passing it along. Most people figured it couldn’t be true, and with no physical evidence, it might never have resulted in convictions. . . until Valerie-Marie Padilla killed herself.”


Martie said, “One of the students, that five-year-old girl.”


“Yes, ma’am.” Chase’s face seemed to darken as if a cloud had passed between him and the ceiling lights. “She left that good-bye of hers, that colored-pencil drawing, that sad little scribble drawing that changed everything. Her and a man.”


“Anatomically correct,” Martie said.


“Worse, the man had a mustache. . . like my daddy. In the drawing, he’s wearing a cowboy hat, white with a red band, and a black feather tucked in it. Which is the type of hat my daddy always wore.”


With a violence that drew their attention, Zina Glyson tore off the top sheet from her drawing pad, balled it up, and threw it into the fireplace. “Chase’s father was my godfather, my own father’s best friend. I knew Carl from when I was a toddler. That man. . . he respected people, no matter who they were, no matter how little they had or what their faults. He respected children, too, and listened to them, and cared. Never once did he ever put his hand on me that way, and I know he didn’t touch Valerie-Marie. If she killed herself, it’s because of the hateful, evil stuff Ahriman put in her head, all the twisted sex and stories about sacrificing animals at the school and being forced to drink their blood. This child was five. What mess do you make of a little child’s mind, what awful depression do you instigate when you ask her about stuff like that under hypnosis, when you help her remember what never happened?”


“Easy, Zee,” her husband said softly. “It’s all over long ago.”


“Not for me, it isn’t.” She went to the ovens. “It won’t be over until he’s dead.” She slipped her right hand into an oven mitt. “And then I won’t believe his obituary.” She drew a pan of finished corn bread from the oven. “I’ll have to look at his corpse myself and stick a finger in its eye to see if he reacts.”

Prev Next