The Naked Face

Chapter Twenty-Two


Judd could feel the burning power of his personality across the room, coming in waves that struck like a tangible force. When Anne had said her husband was handsome, she had not exaggerated.
DeMarco had a classic Roman face with a perfectly sculptured profile, coal black eyes, and attractive streaks of gray in his dark hair. He was in his middle forties, tall and athletic, and moved with a restless animal grace. His voice was deep and magnetic. "Would you care for a drink, Doctor?"
Judd shook his head, fascinated by the man before him. Anyone would have sworn that DeMarco was a perfectly normal, charming man, a perfect host welcoming an honored guest.
There were five of them in the richly paneled library. Judd, DeMarco, Detective Angeli, and the two men who had tried to kill Judd at his apartment building, Rocky and Nick Vaccaro. They had formed a circle around Judd. He was looking into the faces of the enemy, and there was a grim satisfaction in it. Finally he knew whom he was fighting. If "fighting" was the right word. He had walked into Angeli's trap. Worse. He had phoned Angeli and invited him to come and get him! Angeli, the Judas goat who had led him here to the slaughter.
DeMarco was studying him with deep interest, his black eyes probing. "I've heard a great deal about you," he said.
Judd said nothing.
"Forgive me for having you brought here in this fashion, but it is necessary to ask you a few questions." He smiled apologetically, radiating warmth.
Judd knew what was coming, and his mind moved swiftly ahead.
"What did you and my wife talk about, Dr. Stevens?"
Judd put surprise into his voice. "Your wife? I don't know your wife."
DeMarco shook his head reproachfully. "She's been going to your office twice a week for the last three weeks."
Judd frowned thoughtfully. "I have no patient named De-Marco..."
DeMarco nodded understandingly. "Perhaps she used an other name. Maybe her maiden name. Blake - Anne Blake."
Judd carefully registered surprise. "Anne Blake?"
The two Vaccaro brothers moved in closer.
"No," DeMarco said sharply. He turned to Judd. His affable manner was gone. "Doctor, if you try to play games with me, I'm going to do things to you that you wouldn't believe."
Judd looked into his eyes and believed him. He knew that his life was hanging by a thread. He forced indignation into his voice. "You can do what you please. Until this moment I had no idea that Anne Blake was your wife."
"That could be true," Angeli said. "He - "
DeMarco ignored Angeli. "What did you and my wife talk about for three weeks?"
They had arrived at the moment of truth. From the instant Judd had seen the bronze rooster on the roof, the final pieces of the puzzle had fallen into place. Anne had not set him up for murder. She had been a victim, like himself. She had married Anthony DeMarco, successful owner of a large construction firm, without any idea of who he really was. Then something must have happened to make her suspect that her husband was not what he had seemed to be, that he was involved in something dark and terrible. With no one to talk to, she had turned for help to an analyst, a stranger, in whom she could confide. But in Judd's office her basic loyalty to her husband had kept her from discussing her fears.
"We didn't talk about much of anything," said Judd evenly. "Your wife refused to tell me what her problem was."
DeMarco's black eyes were fixed on him, probing, weigh ing. "You'll have to come up with something better than that."
How DeMarco must have panicked when he learned that his wife was going to a psychoanalyst - the wife of a leader in La Cosa Nostra. N o wonder DeMarco had killed, trying to get hold of Anne's file.
"All she told me," Judd said, "was that she was unhappy about something, but couldn't discuss it."
"That took ten seconds," DeMarco said. "I've got a record of every minute she spent in your office. What did she talk about for the rest of the three weeks? She must have told you who I am."
"She said you owned a construction company."
DeMarco was studying him coldly. Judd could feel beads of perspiration forming on his forehead.
"I've been reading up on analysis, Doctor. The patient talks about everything that's on his mind."
"That's part of the therapy," Judd said matter-of-factly. "That's why I wasn't getting anywhere with Mrs. Blake - with Mrs. DeMarco. I intended to dismiss her as a patient."
"But you didn't."
"I didn't have to. When she came to see me Friday, she told me that she was leaving for Europe."
"Annie's changed her mind. She doesn't want to go to Eu rope with me. Do you know why?"
Judd looked at him, genuinely puzzled. "No."
"Because of you, Doctor."
Judd's heart gave a little leap. He carefully kept his feel ings out of his voice. "I don't understand."
"Sure you do. Annie and I had a long talk last night. She thinks she made a mistake about our marriage. She's not happy with me any more, because she thinks she goes for you." When DeMarco spoke, it was almost in a hypnotic whisper. "I want you to tell me all about what happened when you two were alone in your office and she was on your couch."
Judd steeled himself against the mixed emotions that were coursing through him. She did care! But what good was it going to do either of them? DeMarco was looking at him, waiting for an answer. "Nothing happened. If you read up on analysis, you'll know that every female patient goes through an emotional transference. At one time or another, they all think they're in love with their doctor. It's just a passing phase."
DeMarco was watching him intently, his black eyes prob ing into Judd's.
"How did you know she was coming to see me?" Judd asked, making the question casual.
DeMarco looked at Judd a moment, then walked over to a large desk and picked up a razor-sharp letter opener in the shape of a dagger. "One of my men saw her go into your building. There are a lot of baby doctors there and they figured maybe Annie was keeping back a little surprise from me. They followed her up to your office." He turned to Judd. "It was a surprise, all right. They found out she was going to a psychiatrist. The wife of Anthony DeMarco spilling my personal business to a headshrinker."
"I told you she didn't - "
DeMarco's voice was soft. "The Commissione held a meet ing. They voted for me to kill her, like we'd kill any traitor." He was pacing now, reminding Judd of a dangerous, caged animal. "But they can't give me orders like a peasant soldier. I am Anthony DeMarco, a Capo. I promised them that if she had discussed any of our business, I would kill the man she talked to. With these two hands." He held up his fists, one of them holding the razor-edged dagger. "That's you, Doctor."
DeMarco was circling him now as he talked, and each time that DeMarco walked in back of him, Judd unconsciously braced himself.
"You're making a mistake if - " Judd started.
"No. You know who made the mistake? Annie." He looked Judd up and down. He sounded genuinely puzzled. "How could she think you're a better man than I am?"
The Vaccaro brothers snickered.
"You're nothing. A patsy who goes to an office every day and makes - what? Thirty grand a year? Fifty? A hundred? I make more than that in a week." DeMarco's mask was slip ping away more quickly now, eroding under the pressure of his emotions. He was beginning to speak in short, excited bursts, a patina of ugliness warping his handsome features. Anne had only seen him behind his facade. Judd was looking into the naked face of a homicidal paranoiac. "You and that little putana pick each other!"
"We haven't picked each other," Judd said.
DeMarco was watching him, his eyes blazing. "She doesn't mean anything to you?"
"I told you. She's just another patient."
"OK," DeMarco said at last. "You tell her."
"Tell her what?"
"That you don't give a damn about her. I'm going to send her down here. I want you to talk to her, alone."
Judd's pulse began to race. He was going to be given a chance to save himself and Anne.
DeMarco flicked his hand and the men moved out into the hallway. DeMarco turned to Judd. His deep black eyes were hooded. He smiled gently, the mask in place again. "As long as Annie doesn't know anything, she will live. You're going to convince her that she should go to Europe with me."
Judd felt his mouth go suddenly dry. There was a trium phant glint in DeMarco's eyes. Judd knew why. He had un derestimated his opponent.
DeMarco was not a chess player, and yet he had been clever enough to know that he held a pawn that made Judd helpless. Anne. Whatever move Judd made, she was in dan ger. If he sent her away to Europe with DeMarco, he was cer tain that her life would be in jeopardy. He did not believe that DeMarco was going to let her live. La Cosa Nostra would not allow it. In Europe DeMarco would arrange an "accident." But if Judd told Anne not to go, if she found out what was happening to him, she would try to interfere, and that would mean instant death for her. There was no escape: only a choice of two traps.
From the window of her bedroom on the second floor, Anne had watched the arrival of Judd and Angeli. For one exhilarating moment, she had believed that Judd was com ing to take her away, to rescue her from the terrifying situa tion she was in. But then she had seen Angeli take out a gun and force Judd into the house.
She had known the truth about her husband for the last forty-eight hours. Before that, it had only been a dim, glimmering suspicion, so incredible that she had tried to brush it aside. It had begun a few months ago, when she had gone to a play in Manhattan and had come home unexpectedly early because the star was drunk and the curtain had been rung down in the middle of the second act. Anthony had told her that he was having a business meeting at the house, but that it would be over before she returned. When she had arrived, the meeting was still going on. And before her surprised hus band had been able to close the library door, she had heard someone angrily shouting, "I vote that we hit the factory to night and take care of the bastards once and for all!" The phrase, the ruthless appearance of the strangers in the room, and Anthony's agitation at seeing her had combined to un nerve Anne. She had let his glib explanations convince her because she had wanted desperately to be convinced. In the six months of their marriage, he had been a tender, considerate husband. She had seen occasional flashes of a violent temper, but he had always quickly managed to gain control of him self.
A few weeks after the theater incident, she had picked up a telephone and had overheard Anthony's voice on an exten sion phone. "We're taking over a shipment from Toronto tonight. You'll have to have someone handle the guard. He's not with us."
She had hung up, shaken. "Take over a shipment"..."handle the guard"...They sounded ominous, but they could have been innocent business phrases. Carefully, casually, she tried to question Anthony about his business activities. It was as though a steel wall went up. She was confronted by an angry stranger who told her to take care of his home and keep out of his business. They had quarreled bitterly, and the next evening he had given her an outrageously expensive necklace and tenderly apologized.
A month later, the third incident had occurred. Anne had been awakened at four o'clock in the morning by the slam ming of a door. She had slipped into a negligee and gone downstairs to investigate. She heard voices coming from the library, raised in argument. She went toward the door, but stopped as she saw Anthony in the room talking to half a dozen strangers. Afraid that he would be angry if she inter rupted, she quietly went back upstairs and returned to bed. At breakfast the next morning, she asked him how he had slept.
"Great. I fell off at ten o'clock and never opened my eyes once."
And Anne knew that she was in trouble. She had no idea what kind of trouble or how serious it was. All she knew was that her husband had lied to her for reasons that she could not fathom. What kind of business could he be involved in that had to be conducted secretly in the middle of the night with men who looked like hoodlums? She was afraid to broach the subject again with Anthony. A panic began to build in her. There was no one with whom she could talk.
A few nights later, at a dinner party at the country club to which they belonged, someone had mentioned a psychoana lyst named Judd Stevens, and talked about how brilliant he was.
"He's a kind of analyst's analyst, if you know what I mean. He's terribly attractive, but it's wasted - he's one of those dedicated types."
Anne had carefully noted the name and the following week had gone to see him.
The first meeting with Judd had turned her life topsy turvy. She had felt herself drawn into an emotional vortex that had left her shaken. In her confusion, she had been scarcely able to talk to him, and she had left feeling like a school girl, promising herself that she would not go back. But she had gone back to prove to herself that what had happened was a fluke, an accident. Her reaction the second time was even stronger. She had always prided herself on being sensible and realistic, and now she was acting like a seven teen-year-old girl in love for the first time. She found herself unable to discuss her husband with Judd, and so they had talked about other things, and after each session Anne found herself more in love with this warm, sensitive stranger.
She knew it was hopeless because she would never divorce Anthony. She felt there must be some terrible flaw in her that would allow her to marry a man and six months later fall in love with another man. She decided that it would be better if she never saw Judd again.
And then a series of strange things had begun to happen. Carol Roberts was killed, and Judd was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver. She read in the newspapers that Judd was there when Moody's body was found in the Five Star Ware house. She had seen the name of the warehouse before.
On the letterhead of an invoice on Anthony's desk.
And a terrible suspicion began to form in her mind.
It seemed incredible that Anthony could be involved in any of the awful things that had been happening, and yet...She felt as though she was trapped in a terrifying night mare, and there was no way out. She could not discuss her fears with Judd, and she was afraid to discuss them with An thony. She told herself that her suspicions were groundless: Anthony did not even know of Judd's existence.
And then, forty-eight hours ago, Anthony had come into her bedroom and started questioning her about her visits to Judd. Her first reaction had been anger that he had been spying on her, but that had quickly given way to all the fears that had been preying upon her. As she looked into his twisted, enraged face, she knew that her husband was capable of anything.
Even murder.
During the questioning, she had made one terrible mis take. She had let him know how she felt about Judd. Antho ny's eyes had turned deep black, and he had shaken his head as though warding off a physical blow.
It was not until she was alone again that she realized how much danger Judd was in, and that she could not leave him. She told Anthony that she would not go to Europe with him.
And now Judd was here, in this house. His life in peril, be cause of her.
The bedroom door opened and Anthony walked in. He stood watching her a moment.
"You have a visitor," he said.
She walked into the library wearing a yellow skirt and blouse, her hair back loosely over her shoulders. Her face was drawn and pale, but there was an air of quiet composure about her. Judd was in the room, alone.
"Hello, Dr. Stevens. Anthony told me that you were here."
Judd had the sensation that they were acting out a charade for the benefit of an unseen, deadly audience. He intuitively knew that Anne was aware of the situation and was placing herself in his hands, waiting to follow whatever lead he offered.
And there was nothing he could do except try to keep her alive a little longer. If Anne refused to go to Europe, De-Marco would certainly have her killed here.
He hesitated, choosing his words carefully. Each word could be as dangerous as the bomb planted in his car. "Mrs. DeMarco, your husband is upset because you changed your mind about going to Europe with him."
Anne waited, listening, weighing.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"So am I. I think you should go," Judd said, raising his voice.
Anne was studying his face, reading his eyes. "What if I refuse? What if I just walk out?"
Judd was filled with sudden alarm. "You mustn't do that." She would never leave this house alive. "Mrs. DeMarco," he said deliberately, "your husband is under the mistaken im pression that you're in love with me."
She opened her lips to speak and he quickly went on. "I explained to him that that's a normal part of analysis - an emotional transference that all patients go through."
She picked up his lead. "I know. I'm afraid it was foolish of me to go to you in the first place. I should have tried to solve my problem myself." Her eyes told him how much she meant it, how much she regretted the danger she had placed him in. "I've been thinking it over. Perhaps a holiday in Eu rope would be good for me."
He breathed a quick sigh of relief. She had understood.
But there was no way he could warn her of her real dan ger. Or did she know? And even if she knew, was there any thing she could do about it? He looked past Anne toward the library window framing the tall trees that bordered the woods. She had told him that she took long walks in them. It was possible she might be familiar with a way out. If they could get to the woods...He lowered his voice, urgently. "Anne - "
"Finished your little chat?"
Judd spun around. DeMarco had quietly walked into the room. Behind him came Angeli and the Vaccaro brothers.
Anne turned to her husband. "Yes," she said. "Dr. Stevens thinks I should go to Europe with you. I'm going to take his advice."
DeMarco smiled and looked at Judd. "I knew I could count on you, Doctor." He was radiating charm, beaming with the expansive satisfaction of a man who has achieved total victory. It was as though the incredible energy that flowed through DeMarco could be converted at will, switched from a dark evil to an overpowering, attractive warmth. No wonder Anne had been taken in by him. Even Judd found it hard to believe at this instant that this gra cious, friendly Adonis was a cold-blooded, psychopathic murderer.
DeMarco turned to Anne. "We'll be leaving early in the morning, darling. Why don't you go upstairs and start packing?"
Anne hesitated. She did not want to leave Judd alone with these men. "I..." She looked at Judd helplessly. He nod ded imperceptibly.
"All right." Anne held out her hand. "Good-bye, Dr. Stevens."
Judd took her hand. "Good-bye."
And this time it was good-bye. There was no way out. Judd watched as she turned, nodded at the others, and walked out of the room.
DeMarco looked after her. "Isn't she beautiful?" There was a strange expression on his face. Love, possessiveness - and something else. Regret? For what he was about to do to Anne?
"She doesn't know anything about all this," Judd said. "Why don't you keep her out of it? Let her go away."
He watched the switch turn in DeMarco, and it was almost physical. The charm vanished, and hate began to fill the room, a current flowing from DeMarco to Judd, not touching anyone else. There was an ecstatic, almost orgiastic expression on DeMarco's face. "Let's go, Doctor."
Judd looked around the room, measuring his chances of escape. Surely DeMarco would prefer not to kill him in his home. It had to be now or never. The Vaccaro brothers were watching him hungrily, hoping he would make a move. Angeli was standing near the window, his hand near his gun holster.
"I wouldn't try it," DeMarco said softly. "You're a dead man - but we're going to do it my way."
He gave Judd a push toward the door. The others closed in on him, and they headed toward the entrance hall.
When Anne reached the upstairs hallway, she waited near the landing, watching the hall below. She drew back out of sight as she saw Judd and the others move toward the front door. She hurried into her bedroom and looked out the win dow. The men were pushing Judd into Angeli's car.
Quickly Anne reached for the telephone and dialed opera tor. It seemed an eternity before there was an answer.
"Operator, I want the police! Hurry - it's an emergency!"
And a man's hand reached in front of her and pressed down the receiver. Anne gave a little scream and whirled around. Nick Vaccaro was standing over her, grinning.