The Naked Face

Chapter Nine


AT FOUR O'CLOCK the following afternoon Judd left his office and drove to an address on the lower West Side. It was an ancient, run-down brownstone apartment house. As he pulled up in front of the dilapidated building, Judd began to have misgivings. Perhaps he had the wrong address. Then a sign in a window of a first-floor apartment caught his eye:
Z. M
Private Investigator
Satisfaction Guaranteed
Judd alighted from the car. It was a raw, windy day with a forecast of late snow. He moved gingerly across the icy sidewalk and walked into the vestibule of the building.
The vestibule smelled of mingled odors of stale cooking and urine. He pressed the button marked "Norman Z. Moody - 1," and a moment later a buzzer sounded. He stepped inside and found Apartment 1. A sign on the door read:
Z. M
Private Investigator
He rang the bell and entered.
Moody was obviously not a man given to throwing his money away on luxuries. The office looked as though it had been furnished by a blind, hyperthyroid pack rat. Odds and ends crammed every spare inch of the room. In one corner stood a tattered Japanese screen. Next to it was an East Indian lamp, and in front of the lamp a scarred Danish-modern table. Newspapers and old magazines were piled everywhere.
A door to an inner room burst open and Norman Z. Moody emerged. He was about five foot five and must have weighed three hundred pounds. He rolled as he walked, reminding Judd of an animated Buddha. He had a round, jovial face with wide, guileless, pale blue eyes. He was totally bald and his head was egg-shaped. It was impossible to guess his age.
"Mr. Stevenson?" Moody greeted him.
"Dr. Stevens," Judd said.
"Sit down, sit down." Buddha with a Southern drawl.
Judd looked around for a seat. He removed a pile of old body-building and nudist magazines from a scrofulous-looking leather armchair with strips torn out of it, and gingerly sat down.
Moody was lowering his bulk into an oversized rocking chair. "Well, now! What can I do for you?"
Judd knew that he had made a mistake. Over the phone he had carefully given Moody his full name. A name that had been on the front page of every New York newspaper in the last few days. And he had managed to pick the only private detective in the whole city who had never even heard of him. He cast about for some excuse to walk out.
"Who recommended me?" Moody prodded.
Judd hesitated, not wanting to offend him. "I got your name out of the yellow pages."
Moody laughed. "I don't know what I'd do without the yellow pages," he said. "Greatest invention since corn liquor." He gave another little laugh.
Judd got to his feet. He was dealing with a total idiot. "I'm sorry to have taken up your time, Mr. Moody," he said. "I'd like to think about this some more before I..."
"Sure, sure. I understand," Moody said. "You'll have to pay me for the appointment, though."
"Of course," Judd said. He reached in his pocket and pulled out some bills. "How much is it?"
"Fifty dollars."
"Fifty - ?" Judd swallowed angrily, peeled off some bills and thrust them in Moody's hand. Moody counted the money carefully.
"Thanks a lot," Moody said. Judd started toward the door, feeling like a fool. "Doctor..."
Judd turned. Moody was smiling at him benevolently, tucking the money into the pocket of his waistcoat. "As long as you're stuck for the fifty dollars," he said mildly, "you might as well sit down and tell me what your problem is. I always say that nothin' takes more weight off than gettin' things off your chest."
The irony of it, coming from this silly fat man, almost made Judd laugh. Judd's whole life was devoted to listening to people get things off their chests. He studied Moody a moment. What could he lose? Perhaps talking it out with a stranger would help. Slowly he went back to his chair and sat down.
"You look like you're carryin' the weight of the world, Doc. I always say that four shoulders are better than two."
Judd was not certain how many of Moody's aphorisms he was going to be able to stand.
Moody was watching him. "What brought you here? Women, or money? I always say if you took away women and money, you'd solve most of the world's problems right there." Moody was eyeing him, waiting for an answer.
"I - I think someone is trying to kill me."
Blue eyes blinked. "You think?"
Judd brushed the question aside. "Perhaps you could give me the name of someone who specializes in investigating that kind of thing."
"I certainly can," Moody said. "Norman Z. Moody. Best in the country."
Judd sighed in despair.
"Why don't you tell me about it, Doc?" Moody suggested. "Let's see if the two of us can't sort it out a little."
Judd had to smile in spite of himself. It sounded so much like himself. Just lie down and say anything that comes into your mind. Why not? He took a deep breath and, as concisely as possible, told Moody the events of the past few days. As he spoke, he forgot that Moody was there. He was really speaking to himself, putting into words the baffling things that had occurred. He carefully said nothing to Moody about his fears for his own sanity. When Judd had finished, Moody regarded him happily.
"You got yourself a dilly of a problem there. Either somebody's out to murder you, or you're afraid that you're becoming a schizophrenic paranoiac."
Judd looked up in surprise. Score one for Norman Z. Moody.
Moody went on. "You said there are two detectives on the case. Do you remember their names?"
Judd hesitated. He was reluctant to get too deeply committed to this man. All he really wanted to do was get out of there. "Frank Angeli," he answered, "and Lieutenant McGreavy."
There was an almost imperceptible change in Moody's expression.
"What reason would anyone have to kill you, Doc?"
"I have no idea. As far as I know, I haven't any enemies."
"Oh, come on. Everybody's got a few enemies layin' around. I always say enemies give a little salt to the bread of life."
Judd tried not to wince.
"No," Judd said.
"Are you a fairy?"
Judd sighed. "Look, I've been through all this with the police and - "
"Yeah. Only you're payin' me to help you," Moody said, unperturbed. "Owe anybody any money?"
"Just the normal monthly bills."
"What about your patients?"
"What about them?"
"Well, I always say if you're lookin' for seashells, go down to the seashore. Your patients are a lot of loonies. Right?"
"Wrong," Judd said curtly. "They're people with problems."
"Emotional problems that they can't solve themselves. Could one of them have it in for you? Oh, not for any real reason, but maybe somebody with an imaginary grievance against you."
"It's possible. Except for one thing. Most of my patients have been under my care for a year or more. In that length of time I've gotten to know them as well as one human being can know another."
"Don't they never get mad at you?" Moody asked innocently.
"Sometimes. But we're not looking for someone who's angry. We're looking for a homicidal paranoiac who has murdered at least two people and has made several attempts to murder me." He hesitated, then made himself go on. "If I have a patient like that and don't know it, then you're looking at the most incompetent psychoanalyst who ever lived."
He looked up and saw Moody studying him.
"I always say first things first," Moody said cheerfully. "The first thing we've gotta do is find out whether someone's trying to knock you off, or whether you're nuts. Right, Doc?" He broke into a broad smile, taking the offense out of his words.
"How?" Judd asked.
"Simple," Moody said. "Your problem is, you're standin' at home plate strikin' at curve balls, an' you don't know if anyone's pitchin'. First we're gonna find out if there's a ballgame goin' on; then we're gonna find out who the players are. You got a car?"
Judd had forgotten about walking out and finding another private detective. He sensed now behind Moody's bland, innocent face and his homespun maxims a quiet, intelligent capability.
"I think your nerves are shot," Moody said. "I want you to take a little vacation."
"Tomorrow morning."
"That's impossible," Judd protested. "I have patients scheduled..."
Moody brushed it aside. "Cancel them."
"But what good - "
"Do I tell you how to run your business?" Moody asked. "When you leave here, I want you to go straight to a travel agency. Have them get you a reservation at" - he thought a moment - "Grossinger's. That's a pretty drive up through the Catskills... Is there a garage in the apartment building where you live?"
"OK. Tell them to service your car for the trip. You don't want to have any breakdowns on the road."
"Couldn't I do this next week? Tomorrow is a full - "
"After you make your reservation, you're going back to your office and call all your patients. Tell them you've had an emergency and you'll be back in a week."
"I really can't," Judd said. "It's out of the - "
"You'd better call Angeli, too," Moody continued. "I don't want the police hunting for you while you're gone."
"Why am I doing this?" Judd asked.
"To protect your fifty dollars. That reminds me. I'm gonna need another two hundred for a retainer. Plus fifty a day and expenses."
Moody hauled his large bulk up out of the big rocker. "I want you to get a nice early start tomorrow," he said, "so you can get up there before dark. Can you leave about seven in the morning?"
"I...I suppose so. What will I find when I get up there?"
"With a little luck, a scorecard."
Five minutes later Judd was thoughtfully getting into his car. He had told Moody that he could not go away and leave his patients on such short notice. But he knew that he was going to. He was literally putting his life into the hands of the Falstaff of the private detective world. As he started to drive away, his eye caught Moody's sign in the window.
He'd better be right, Judd thought grimly.
The plan for the trip went smoothly. Judd stopped at a travel agency on Madison Avenue. They reserved a room for him at Grossinger's and provided him with a road map and a variety of color brochures on the Catskills. Next he telephoned his answering service and arranged for them to call his patients and cancel all his appointments until further notice. He phoned the Nineteenth Precinct and asked for Detective Angeli.
"Angeli's home sick," said an impersonal voice. "Do you want his home number?"
A few moments later he was talking to Angeli. From the sound of Angeli's voice, he had a heavy cold.
"I've decided I need to get out of town for a few days," Judd said. "I'm leaving in the morning. I wanted to check it with you."
There was a silence while Angeli thought it over. "It might not be a bad idea. Where will you go?"
"I thought I'd drive up to Grossinger's."
"All right," Angeli said. "Don't worry. I'll clear it with McGreavy." He hesitated. "I heard what happened at your office last night."
"You mean you heard McGreavy's version," Judd said.
"Did you get a look at the men who tried to kill you?"
So Angeli, at least, believed him.
"Nothing at all that could help us find them? Color, age, height?"
"I'm sorry," Judd replied. "It was dark."
Angeli sniffed. "OK. I'll keep looking. Maybe I'll have some good news for you when you get back. Be careful, Doctor."
"I will," Judd said gratefully. And he hung up.
Next he phoned Harrison Burke's employer and briefly explained Burke's situation. There was no choice but to have him committed as soon as possible. Judd then called Peter, explained that he had to go out of town for a week, and asked him to make the necessary arrangements for Burke. Peter agreed.
The decks were clear.
The thing that disturbed Judd the most was that he would be unable to see Anne on Friday. Perhaps he would never see her again.
As he drove back toward his apartment, he thought about Norman Z. Moody. He had an idea what Moody was up to. By having Judd notify all his patients that he was going away, Moody was making sure that if one of Judd's patients was the killer - if there was a killer - a trap, using Judd as the bait, would be set for him.
Moody had instructed him to leave his forwarding address with his telephone exchange and with the doorman at the apartment building. He was making certain that everyone would know where Judd was going.
When Judd pulled up in front of the apartment house, Mike was there to greet him.
"I'm leaving on a trip in the morning, Mike," Judd informed him. "Will you make sure the garage services my car and fills the tank?"
"I'll have it taken care of, Dr. Stevens. What time will you be needing the car?"
"I'll be leaving at seven." Judd sensed Mike watching him as he walked into the apartment building.
When he entered his apartment, he locked the doors and carefully checked the windows. Everything seemed to be in order.
He took two codeine pills, got undressed, and ran a hot bath, gingerly easing his aching body into it, feeling the tensions soaking out of his back and neck. He lay in the blessedly relaxing tub, thinking. Why had Moody warned him not to let the car break down on the road? Because that was the most likely place for him to be attacked, somewhere on a lonely road in the Catskills? And what could Moody do about it if Judd were attacked? Moody had refused to tell him what his plan was - if there was a plan. The more Judd examined it, the more convinced he became that he was walking into a trap. Moody had said he was setting it up for Judd's pursuers. But no matter how many times he went over it, the answer always came out the same: the trap seemed designed to catch Judd. But why? What interest could Moody have in getting him killed? My God, thought Judd. I've picked a name at random out of the yellow pages of the Manhattan Telephone Directory and I believe he wants to have me murdered! I am paranoiac!
He felt his eyes beginning to close. The pills and the hot bath had done their work well. Wearily he pulled himself out of the tub, carefully patted his bruised body dry with a fluffy towel, and put on a pair of pajamas. He got into bed and set the electric alarm clock for six. The Catskills, he thought. It was an appropriate name. And he fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.
At six A.M., when the alarm went off, Judd was instantly awake. As though there had been no time lapse at all, his first thought was, I don't believe in a series of coincidences and I don't believe that one of my patients is a mass murderer. Ergo, I am either a paranoiac, or am becoming one. What he needed was to consult another psychoanalyst without delay. He would phone Dr. Robbie. He knew that it would mean the end of his professional career, but there was no help for it. If he were suffering from paranoia, they would have to commit him. Did Moody suspect that he was dealing with a mental case? Was that why he suggested a vacation? Not because he believed anyone was after Judd's life, but because he could see the signs of a nervous breakdown? Perhaps the wisest course would be to follow Moody's advice and go to the Catskills for a few days. Alone, with all the pressures removed, he could calmly try to evaluate himself, try to reason out when his mind had started to trick him, when he had begun to lose touch with reality. Then, when he returned, he would make an appointment with Dr. Robbie and put himself under his care.
It was a painful decision to make, but having made it, Judd felt better. He dressed, packed a small suitcase with enough clothes for five days, and carried it out to the elevator.
Eddie was not on duty yet, and the elevator was on self-service. Judd rode down to the basement garage. He looked around for Wilt, the attendant, but he was nowhere around. The garage was deserted.
Judd spotted his car parked in a corner against the cement wall. He walked over to it, put his suitcase in the back seat, opened the front door, and eased in behind the wheel. As he reached for the ignition key, a man loomed up at his side from nowhere. Judd's heart skipped a beat.
"You're right on schedule." It was Moody.
"I didn't know you were going to see me off," Judd said.
Moody beamed at him, his cherubic face breaking into a huge smile. "I had nothin' better to do and I couldn't sleep."
Judd was suddenly grateful for the tactful way Moody had handled the situation. No reference to the fact that Judd was a mental case, just an ingenuous suggestion that he drive up to the country and take a rest. Well, the least Judd could do was to keep up the pretense that everything was normal.
"I decided you were right. I'm going to drive up and see if I can find a scorecard to the ballgame."
"Oh, you don't have to go anywhere for that," Moody said. "That's all taken care of."
Judd looked at him blankly. "I don't understand."
"It's simple. I always say when you want to get to the bottom of anything, you gotta start diggin'"
"Mr. Moody..."
Moody leaned against the door of the car. "You know what I found intriguin' about your little problem, Doc? Seemed like every five minutes somebody was tryin' to kill you - maybe. Now that 'maybe' fascinated me. There was nothin' for us to bite into 'til we found out whether you were crackin' up, or whether someone was really tryin' to turn you into a corpse."
Judd looked at him. "But the Catskills..." he said weakly.
"Oh, you wasn't never goin' to the Catskills, Doc." He opened the door of the car. "Step out here."
Bewildered, Judd stepped out of the car.
"You see, that was just advertising. I always say if you wanta catch a shark, you've gotta bloody up the water first."
Judd was watching his face.
"I'm afraid you never would have got to the Catskills," Moody said gently. He walked around to the hood of the car, fumbled with the catch, and raised the hood. Judd walked over to his side. Taped to the distributor head were three sticks of dynamite. Two thin wires were dangling loose from the ignition.
"Booby-trapped," Moody said.
Judd looked at him, baffled. "But how did you..."
Moody grinned. "I told you, I'm a bad sleeper. I got here around midnight. I paid the night man to go out and have some fun, an' I just kinda waited in the shadows. The night-man'll cost another twenty dollars," he added. "I didn't want you to look cheap."
Judd felt a sudden wave of affection toward the little fat man. "Did you see who did it?"
"Nope. It was done before I got here. At six o'clock this mornin' I figured no one was gonna show up any more, so I took a look." He pointed to the dangling wires. "Your friends are real cute. They rigged a second booby trap so if you lifted the hood all the way, this wire would detonate the dynamite. The same thing would happen if you turned on your ignition. There's enough stuff here to wipe out half the garage."
Judd felt suddenly sick to his stomach. Moody looked at him sympathetically. "Cheer up," he said. "Look at the progress we've made. We know two things. First of all, we know you're not nuts. And secondly" - the smile left his face - "we know that somebody is God Almighty anxious to murder you, Dr. Stevens."