Authors: William Deverell
Tags: #General Fiction
It’s the one holiday that truly unnerves me.
The Saturday of a Labour Day weekend was when the seed was planted from which ultimately grew the nut that is Timothy Dare. Though I actually should have celebrated a few
days ago. I call it Insemination Day. Saturday, September 2, 1967. Victoria guesses about ten p.m.
She was able to be that specific?
She kept a journal of some sort. She says it’s full of puerile poetry, and she won’t show it to me. Very stubborn about that.
Well, a teenage diary …
Sure, but … Is she hiding something?
Here, lie down. Rest that foot. I hope it’s not the ligaments.
Just muscle strain. It’ll be a few weeks before I can put my full weight on it. I should be okay for the rally, I won’t let my sponsors down.
How are you doing otherwise?
Well, as you’ve personally observed, I’ve found myself being somewhat quick-triggered lately. I don’t know what’s wrong with me …
the cause of my sudden brittle temper? Maybe it was in concealment all along, waiting to emerge, to take its turn after fear and despair were exhausted. Anger at someone who kills out of blind hate, anger at Schulter too, and Mundt and Vivian Lalonde. Even at Sally, for her agonizing wait-and-see attitude. At myself, for my panicky flight, my twisted ankle. At the gods.
In part, I blame my behaviour at the party on my frustration over the Chauncey Wilmott case. A promising lead had evaporated that morning. The computers had pulled out the name of a forestry worker with a history of three attacks against gay men, one this summer. But it turned out he’d been in a logging camp for the last month.
Another factor: I was weary. I’d worked all day drawing up a homophobic profile for the police: high incidence of sociopathy; aggressors come from all economic levels; as well – and it’s all balled up with fear – they usually hate women too.
How well Grundy fits the bill. I really
him to be the murderer, want to hear him explain to a judge how he’d suffered another psychotic episode: Chauncey Wilmott playing his final dramatic role, the devil in disguise – à la Dr. Barbara Loews Wiseman. I hadn’t considered, till now, that her homosexuality might have been a factor in her death.
But the evidence continues to point away from Grundy. Dotty Chung reported that he and Lyall weren’t on passenger rosters of any scheduled flights to the Skeena area on the day after Wilmott’s murder, nor on any return flights. They’d spent only one night in a hotel – in Terrace, after the rafting trip. The other rafters, a dozen of them, had been put up there as well, before heading homeward.
The couple running the Whitewater tours have closed the operation for the season and have left for a holiday in Cuba. The woman Grundy pulled from the river, the Edmonton hairdresser, hasn’t returned Dotty’s calls. We found that odd, and Dotty intends to persevere.
I still can’t accept that they drove all that distance. A day and a night on the road: it doesn’t make sense. Had they paid cash for airline tickets, flown up on false names? A charter flight? But I mustn’t let my repugnance for Grundy exaggerate the hints that grumble in my gut.
I’ve gone off track. Let me clear the air over my poor behaviour at your party. Sally had picked me up in her Saab, and was perky in a way that seemed unrelated to the fact we were a couple for the evening. She warned me not to mope in a corner – this was a chance to make new acquaintances, broaden my friendships.
She wasn’t in the mood for tales of murder, didn’t want to hear about the Wilmott case, didn’t want me to raise it in company. “Don’t dampen the party,” she commanded. Little did I know that I’d ultimately do so more than figuratively.
You were gracious to leave your other guests in order to show us through your home. Sally was delighted with your taste
in art and architecture, and I enjoyed – with just a gentle squeamishness – the panorama of city and sea from your swimming-pool patio.
Richard was all I expected him to be: charming, attractive in a hefty masculine way, and with a robust wit. I laughed too brightly at one of his risqué stories, and I later found myself being chastised for that by Evelyn Mendel. She may be your closest friend, so you must forgive me if I find her political correctness wearying. She was carrying on about the fickleness of men, and I was concerned at first she’d heard rumours (I wouldn’t dream of accusing you) of my supposed fling with a patient.
But I soon understood that Evelyn’s censure was directed elsewhere – she was drawing my attention toward a tête-à-tête involving your husband. Let me think about how to state my impressions …
Anyway, as Evelyn and I chatted, we engaged, as shrinks like to do, in the game of analyzing those present – the insecure, name-dropping PR consultant; the political pollster with his suspect candour (be suspicious when you hear the mantras of “frankly,” “honestly,” “to tell the truth”); Patricia Lang, your husband’s partner, showing off her bare midriff and silver-ringed belly button. And Werner Mundt, who in his mid-fifties can’t accept that he’s no longer young, but retains enough charm to intrigue his way into the beds of many women.
Sally seemed to be enjoying herself in her breezy way, sizing you up as she chatted with you, flitting off, basking in the praise of a parent who had all the Miriam books, and finally finding herself in Mundt’s orbit – he’d been slowly, relentlessly, sidling up to her. He’d never met her before and must have assumed she was available.
“God’s gift,” Evelyn muttered.
Mundt dominated the conversation – as Sally told me later – and it moved from the impersonal (dazzling sunset, excellent
Merlot, and, when he learned she was an illustrator, trends in painting) to the suggestive (all art represents an unfolding and a flowering of the sexual drive). He seemed pompous to her, expounding upon his narrow range of expertise: sex and the unconscious.
Mundt talks in a soft voice that forces his listeners to come close: a tool of the arrogant, a power play – you’ll have to listen carefully if you’re to hear the gems that drop from my lips. He’d trapped her against a railing, and she was able to stall his advance only by explaining she’d arrived with me, her long-time partner. Unfortunately, he must have gathered we were no longer together, and he pressed her enough to determine that as a fact. (Sally can be fearsomely guileless.)
Jealousy distorts perception, and though rationally I should have expected Sally to dismiss Werner as a bore, I didn’t read her signals well: she seemed interested, was nodding, smiling brightly.
I’m afraid that’s when I found myself drinking to excess of the excellent Merlot, and feeling discomfort from the closeness of those crowded around the barbecue. All the time, my eyes were on Sally, who finally gave Mundt an escape line and skipped away, then joined me – while the roué looked on.
But we were unable to exchange any confidences because I was half-listening to a political party hireling who was carrying on about how elections are won or lost not on policy but scandal. In a lowered voice, she added, “Is one about to erupt, Dr. Dare?”
I had the sense that she’d learned – from whatever secret sources – that the item in
magazine about the high-ranking member of the B.C. cabinet related to a patient lately in my care. Whose file I’d mislaid.
I was in enough of a bind over that – especially with one of my overseers hovering not far away – that I mumbled only a vague response and quickly changed the subject to the Stanley Park murder, causing the conversation to peter out.
Sally allowed herself to be drawn away by another Miriam fan. I was having that congested feeling I get when surrounded by smokers, so I drifted to the sidelines again, strolled around the pool with affected nonchalance. Twilight had set in, lights twinkling through the gloom of Burrard Inlet.
From the far side of your oval pool, I watched the byplay within a clot of people, a hydra-headed organism in fluid movement with drinks and plates of lamb kebabs. I felt like an alien, fretful, disoriented, and lonely. Was an anxiety attack coming or was I merely feeling a massing of irritation – at myself, at my weaknesses, my poorly integrated being?
It was then I saw you alone, perhaps taking a break, a reward, the party sufficiently ignited, and you were craning this way and that. I realized you were looking for your husband, because you seemed relieved when he came from the house bearing two bottles of cognac. But two minutes later, you tightened – as Patricia Lang exited the house.
It isn’t for me to say …
Yes, it is. Don’t I owe it you as a friend? The fact is that Evelyn and I saw – earlier, as we stood unnoticed in the background – Ms. Lang’s hand lightly caress your husband’s rump. Evelyn said nothing, just glanced at me with an acknowledgement that required no words.
Ah, Allis, what can I say? I won’t insult you with reassuring lies, but my sense from their various touches and glances is that the affair is a mere novelty, that it lacks substance and, as these things do, will deteriorate into predictability and guilt. Have strength, my dear Allison. Don’t feel diminished. You’re an attractive woman of warmth and sensitivity – and strength.
But before I become maudlin, let me escape back to your patio, to Werner Mundt, who sauntered lazily toward me, snifters of cognac in either hand, and extended me one, perhaps as a token of apology for having tried to mousetrap my wife. I seemed pensive, he said, adding that he had some inkling of what might be bothering me. I merely nodded.
“Sordid business. Ugly accusation. Don’t quote me, Tim – I can’t say this strongly enough: deny, deny, deny. The Lalonde woman’s a stunner, I hear. One could hardly be blamed, but it’s your word against hers, and you have a clear advantage – if she was a well-balanced person, she wouldn’t have engaged your services. And for God’s sake, hire a lawyer.”
“She’s an obsessive stalker. That should be apparent to someone with your experience.”
in a state, Tim. I gather there’ve been marital problems.”
I barely touched him, just a nudge of my hand to push him away, but he must have expected worse because he took a step back, lost his balance, fell flailing into the pool. Fortunately, it was the deep end. Unfortunately, he was a capable swimmer. I helped him out with an ill-intended apology. While towelling off, he made light of the incident, hinting I’d misunderstood his sense of humour.
If Richard, as you say, was able to laugh over it, he’s worth salvaging, and I hope you both can accept my invitation to take another plunge: risk my table. Next weekend? You will call to let me know. I’ll also invite Sally.
There were other misadventures this week. For instance, this episode at the Hastings MediCentre, on a stormy mid-afternoon Tuesday. Dripping wet, I stood before the elevator, gaining courage before, finally, entering it. My destination was the office of Martha Wade, anger counsellor to the hero of the Skeena River. Martha wanted to discuss what she described as a puzzling tidbit with him during her last weekend session – he’d been typically insincere and (never before seen) upset, even hostile.
The building was old, the elevator slow, and I stood flat against a mirrored wall, taking deep breaths. As the elevator crept past the seventh floor, I had (I swear) a premonition. I was going to suffocate in here.
Almost immediately the elevator shuddered to a stop between floors, and the lights went out. A battery-powered auxiliary came on presently, but I was on the verge of a panic attack. I began punching all the buttons. I shouted, banged my fists on the door. There was no response, and I turned in despair and saw my wet, haggard reflection in the dim light, the fear in my eyes, and I had a flash of memory, from childhood, of another, more dreadful prison, a locked box of horrors …
The vision vanished as the lights came back on and the elevator lurched, rose several feet, stopped, and opened at the eighth floor. I staggered out on legs that had turned to jelly.
In Martha Wade’s waiting room, a harried mother and her two squabbling boys went silent as the dripping ghoul with scarecrow hair announced himself to the receptionist. Martha Wade, a gentle greying woman, came out to claim me. As I followed her in, I heard a trembling voice behind me, “Mommy, is that him?”
“Quiet, Walter,” was the sharp response.
Martha explained, as she brought me a towel, that this censorious mother’s preferred tool of discipline was to raise the spectre of the bogeyman.
I found the boy’s question pertinent. Was that me? The neurotic mess in Martha Wade’s office – was that all there was of Timothy Dare? Was there another saner, centred Timothy, buried under an avalanche of early trauma?
Martha made me tea and nursed me back to a relatively level plane before telling me about her abbreviated one-on-one with Grundy Grundison at their final session – her service contract was over at the end of August.
“He was just back from the Skeena River, and still puffed up.” She showed me a note transcribed from the tape of that session:
That rafting trip was like a major catharsis for me, I feel I’ve changed big time. I really feel different
. Martha refused to play to his need for applause.