Chapter 14

Lee Matherly finished his coffee and looked around the full table, smiling at everyone, as if they were all his children, even Elaine and Paul Honneker. He had been in an especially good mood ever since he had come to the table, though the reason for this was not entirely clear to Elaine. It was almost, she eventually decided, as if he had some big secret which he was hiding from them but which he would soon reveal. That was, as it turned out, exactly the case.

“I spoke with Captain Rand this afternoon,” Lee said. “He had some very interesting information.”

Everyone at the table looked at him, the last bits of dessert and last sips of coffee forgotten.

“Even without Celia's help, they're making some headway on this hitchhiker.”

“Oh?” Dennis asked.

“You didn't tell me,” Gordon said. He had been with his father that afternoon, though not when Rand had spoken to him.

“I wanted to save it for now,” Lee said. “I know how bad everyone has been feeling over this, and I wanted to be the one to cheer you up.”

“What did Rand have to say?” Dennis asked.

“They know the hitchhiker was bound for Philadelphia,” Lee said.

“Dammit, Lee, don't be so cryptic. Tell it all!” Paul Honneker was flushed: He was not drunk; but he had evidently had a nip or two earlier.

“Apparently, the police have had this for a couple of days, ever since they went through Celia's car, but they've been holding it because they don't want the killer to know they're onto him.”

“What?” Dennis asked. His face was hollow, his teeth bared. The way he leaned over the table reminded Elaine-perhaps melodramatically- of an animal tensing to leap.

“A sign,” Lee Matherly said. “You know how hitchhikers carry signs that say where they're headed? They flash them up for oncoming traffic to see.”

“And they found a sign in the car?” Gordon asked.

“Yes. Jammed down between the seat and the back of the seat, a piece of cardboard with PHILADELPHIA lettered on it. They figured Celia picked him up in or near the city and brought him this way, as far as the turnoff from the main highway. At that point, he forced her to drive up here. Lord knows what he had in mind-perhaps holding us hostage or something. He apparently had second thoughts when she drove onto the grounds, and he made her get out and tried to kill her there.”

Dennis relaxed again. “She always was one for picking up hitchhikers. We used to warn her about it all the time.”

“I don't see,” Paul Honneker said, “where this sign is really very much of a clue. Unless they've taken fingerprints from it and the car.”

“No,” Lee said. “Rand explained that paper didn't take prints too well and that none of the prints in the car lead them anywhere.”

“Then how can this mean anything?” Paul asked.

Lee said, “They plan to use the sign, if necessary, to jolt Celia's memory when the psychiatrist has her hypnotized.”

Paul said, “And they think that'll work?”

“The psychiatrist thinks it might. Anyway, it's a lead. And we can all breathe easier when they catch him, whoever he is.”

Elaine realized that Lee Matherly had also wondered if one of his own household was the guilty party and that this bit of news from Rand, no matter how slight, relieved him of that awful burden of doubt.

She was not convinced.

She doubted very much that the hitchhiker had returned to prowl the corridors of the house last night. That had been a member of the family.

“Well,” Lee said, rising, “I have some ledgers to look over before I can call the evening mine.” He nodded to them and left the dining room for his first floor den.

Shortly, the others had left, all but she and Gordon, as if they both had planned to be left alone.

“Come into the drawing room a while,” he said, standing and coming to her where he performed the courtesy of pulling her chair out for her. “I expected father to tell everyone about the psychiatrist who's treating Celia. We both met him, a Dr. Carter. I asked to sit in on his session, and he said I could, once Celia had been hypnotized. It was quite fascinating.”

“I imagine so,” she said as he took her hand and led her from the dining room, through the archway, across the deep carpet to a sofa where he sat beside her.

She felt warm and protected, and for a moment she forgot all about telling Lee Matherly her story.

“Did you have any contact with psychiatrists in your nurses training?” Gordon asked.

Elaine said, “Not much. Medical science still frowns a little on psychiatry, you know.”

“Well,” Gordon said, “I don't know if Dr. Carter is an example of the average psychiatrist or whether he is superior to the average, but he is a most impressive man!”

She felt herself smiling, and she realized that Gordon had put her more at ease than she had felt in days. She could hear Bess clearing the table. Lee was using the adding machine in the adjoining den. Upstairs, a phonograph was playing classical music. For the first time, this seemed like a house where people lived, instead of a house where they died. She liked it all very much, and she felt that she belonged and was not an outsider.

“In what way?” she asked.

Gordon said, “He is tall and, I imagine, the women would say he is very handsome. He's maybe thirty-five or so, terribly young for a psychiatrist, at least in my estimation.”

“Was he able to regress Celia under hypnosis, to take her back to the moment she was stabbed?”

“No,” Gordon said. “But he came close. Let me tell you exactly how it was.”

Celia had been sitting up in the hospital bed when Gordon was conducted into the room by Dr. Carter. She was pale, but as lovely as she had been before the incident. She seemed to have lost a little weight, but there was no other sign of her condition.

“Can't she see me?” Gordon had asked.

“She only sees me-and she only hears what I tell her to,” Carter had informed him. “Sit down over there. She does not even know you're here.”

Dr. Carter walked to the side of the bed and stood by Celia. He touched her face with his fingers, but she hardly seemed to notice. He cupped her chin in his hand and raised her face so that she was looking directly into his eyes.

“Hello, Celia,” he said.

“Hello, Dr. Carter.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I don't feel,” she said.

“How old are you?”

“I am no age.”

“No age at all?” he had insisted.

“No age at all,” she said.

Dr. Carter turned to Gordon then, smiling, and explained what he had done, through hypnosis. The first step in age regression was to get the patient used to floating about in time, to accepting a fluidity of age. By giving her no age at all, he could suggest, hypnotically, that she was now only twenty years old. Now nineteen. Now eighteen. And so on until she was a child. In this case, however, it was only necessary to go back a few days, back to Monday evening.

“What time is it now?” he asked Celia.

“No time.”

“What day?”

“I don't even know,” she said. And she giggled self-consciously.

“There's no need to be ashamed of not knowing the day,” he said, speaking warmly, still touching her face.

Okay,” she said, immediately malleable to whatever he said

“Now, do you see a clock in front of you, Celia?”


“Look closely.”

“I see it.”

“Watch the hands,” he said.

“I am watching them.”

“Are they turning backwards?”


“They are, aren't they?”

“Yes,” she said, her pretty face puzzled.

“Don't worry about that. They should turn backwards. That's what we want them to do. In this case, that is perfectly natural.”

The frown was erased from the girl's face.

“It is now Wednesday morning, yesterday morning,” Carter said. “Do you remember yesterday morning?”

“I woke up in a hospital.”

“That's right.”

“I was hurt very bad,” she added. “I touched myself and I hurt where I touched myself, and the nurses came and there was this needle in my arm, feeding me glucose and…”

“Okay, fine,” he said. “You're okay now. Yesterday's hurt doesn't matter if you're okay today. Isn't that so?”

“Yes,” she said, calmed instantly.

“Now,” Dr. Carter said, “it is no longer Wednesday anymore, is it, Celia?” He stroked her chin.


“It's Monday morning, isn't it?”


Carter had then turned to Gordon and explained that he did not want to regress the patient immediately to the moment of the attack, prior to her coma. That would have been too traumatic, too sudden. Instead, he intended to regress her to Monday morning and then slowly work her through the day until the moment when she had been attacked.

And so it had gone until Carter said, “Now, it is late Monday night, and you are putting the suitcase in your car. You are going away to stay somewhere for the weekend. Is that right?”

“Yes,” Celia had said. But already there was a look of trouble on her face, a shadow of anxiety.

“Where are you going, Celia?”

She did not answer.

“Where are you going for the weekend?” Carter asked again.



She could not speak it.

“What are you afraid of?” he asked.


“Good. There is nothing to be frightened of, nothing at all. Now, where are you going for the weekend?”

At that moment, she tore herself away from the doctor's gentle hand and began to scream.

“It was horrible,” Gordon told Elaine, breaking his narrative to add his first personal comment since he had begun to relate the tale. “It was as if she were being stabbed right then, in the hospital.”

Dr. Carter had not been unduly disturbed by her sudden, violent reaction. He merely said, “Stop screaming, Celia.”

And she stopped.

He said, “No one will hurt you. No one will ever hurt you, because you are too pretty and too charming. Do you believe that anyone would ever hurt you?”

“No,” she said. But she said it reluctantly.

“It is now Wednesday morning.”

“Wednesday,” she repeated.

“Where are you?”

“The hospital.”

“Watch the clock. The hands are moving forward. Do you see how they're moving forward now?”


“It is Thursday morning now, isn't it, Celia?”

She said that it was.

At that point, Carter had turned to Gordon. “I'll have to wake her now and try again tomorrow. Would you please leave? She might be harder to control in subsequent sessions if she knows she's being observed.”

“And I left,” Gordon said. “I was quite shaken.”

“I imagine so,” Elaine said as the story slowly impressed upon her how eerie the scene must have actually been.

“At first,” Gordon said, “I considered going back to watch the other sessions, until he was finished with her. I'm sure Carter would have let me. But when I heard her scream and saw the look on her face towards the end of the session, I knew that I didn't want to be there when she finally relived the attack. That would be too much.”

For a moment, they were both quiet, and Elaine said at last: “Gordon, do you believe this hitchhiker theory?”

“What other theory is there?”

“I don't want to make you angry at me,” she said.

He leaned forward. “You couldn't do that. What is on your mind, Elaine?”

She hesitated only a moment, then told him everything.

He listened closely, and when she was finished, he said, “Come on. We have to let father know about this.”

He led her into the den and had her repeat what she had told him. Lee Matherly listened, amused at first, then more and more concerned until, when she finished, he looked deeply disturbed.

“And you never got a look at the person and haven't any idea who it was?”

“No,” she said. She did not want to go into detail about her suspicions of nearly everyone. There would be time for that when Captain Rand was here.

“I'll have to talk to father,” Lee said. “Will you wait here a few minutes?” He stood up, not waiting for a reply, and left the room.

“You must have been terrified,” Gordon said. He took her hand, and she felt his strength enclose her fingers, felt that protected aura again.

She nodded agreement.

“Don't worry,” he said. “Father will take care of this. It looks, now, like it will all be settled this evening.” He sounded grim. He had realized, just as his father must have, that her story was a strong indication that the killer was a member of the family. “It will all be settled shortly,” he repeated. “I'm certain.”

“I hope so,” Elaine said. The dark, paneled walls seemed terribly close, the air thick and unbreathable.

They waited for Lee Matherly to return.

Legacy Of Terror
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