NINE

Gonzo was right.

The one thing which stands out from all the other entries in Cindy Mellish’s digital diary is the description of her encounters with Dr Andrew Vasey. Prior to that, the text is mostly made up of long flowery transcriptions of her thoughts about the beautiful, delectable, incredible Josh, followed by a series of interminably depressing passages about her longing for the now-absent hero.

Doyle finds himself deciding that his own daughter will not go through this kind of turmoil when she reaches her teens. He’s not going to allow it to happen. Just to be sure, he makes the further decision that Amy will not go out with boys until she is of sufficient emotional maturity to deal with any unfortunate circumstances. Which, in Doyle’s estimation, means no earlier than her twenty-fifth birthday.

The first mention of Vasey is in mid-September of last year:

September 17

I haven’t written here for a while. This summer was so bad. It just wasn’t the same without Josh. Mom kept trying to cheer me up, but it just didn’t do it for me. I needed Josh. He was all I could think about every day.

I’m glad to be back at college. It helps to take my mind off things. Plus it’s great to see M again. She’s so nice to me. She can see how upset I still am. Last night she gave me a business card for this therapist friend of her dad’s. His name is Dr Andrew Vasey. She said he’s amazing, and that he could really help me get myself together again. She said he would even do a session for free. I don’t think I’ll call him, but it was a kind thought.

Nothing much happens for the next few days. Then:

September 26

I’ve been a wreck this week. It’s been months since Josh and I split up, and I know I should be over him by now. But it doesn’t work like that. Not for me, anyway. I always thought he was the one.

M has made a decision for me. She’s booked me in with that therapist. I don’t really want to go, but she’s insistent. Maybe it’ll help. What the hell. It can’t get any worse.

There is another tedious interlude, but then it really kicks off:

October 8

Oh. My. God.

It still seems unreal. I’m not even sure I can write about this, but here goes. .

I saw Vasey today. It should have been a good day. It should have helped me. It should have been a lot of things it wasn’t.

Here’s what happened.

The session started off OK. He told me to call him Andy, which I did in the session. Now, though, it just seems way too familiar, and that’s the last place I want to go.

He asked me what was going on in my life, what was bothering me. It didn’t take long for me to get onto the subject of Josh. I mean, what else do I ever think about? He asked me more questions about why we split up and how it affected me. I started crying, just like I always do when I talk about Josh. But this time it was different somehow. I really felt like a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. It was so good to talk to someone who I felt could understand and help me.

But then the questions started to get weird. I mean really weird. I suppose I expected some intimate questions, because that’s what these people do, right? They get inside your mind. But not like this. I can’t even bring myself to write down the exact words he used. He wanted to know how Josh and I were when we were together. Sexually, I mean. What positions we liked, how I liked to be touched by him, whether we ever had oral sex. I mean, Jesus!

I asked Vasey if it was all right for him to ask me those things. He said that he needed to appreciate in detail how our relationship worked. I told him I wasn’t comfortable with that. He said all of his clients feel that way at first, but they soon get used to it. I didn’t know what to believe or what to say. He’s the professional, right? What do I know?

But then he did something which made me reach a decision pretty damn quickly.

He put his hand on my knee.

I mean, hello! This is not what doctors do, right? Questions are one thing, even when they get so personal. But touching?? I don’t think so.

So I was out of there. I muttered something about this not really helping, I grabbed my coat and I left.

Sitting here now, writing all this down, it feels like I imagined it. Like I’m telling somebody else’s story. But I know it happened. I’m just not sure how I feel about it. Later, I’ll probably get real upset. Or angry. Or both. Right now I’m just too stunned for words.

And what will I tell M? This is a close friend of her dad’s. Would it upset her? Would she fall out with me? I don’t know what to do.

Other than revealing that she decides not to say anything to M, whoever that is, Cindy doesn’t refer to the incident again until November of last year, a month after her consultation with Vasey.

November 10

Unbelievable.

He came back. Vasey. He came to see me at the bookstore today. He tried to apologize. He said he got carried away in the session, and that he wasn’t normally like that. I said it was OK, and that we should just leave it at that. I didn’t really want to speak to him.

But he wouldn’t go away. He kept saying that I’d had a huge effect on him. He said he couldn’t stop thinking about me. I wasn’t interested. I mean, jeez, the guy is at least thirty-five! And after the way he behaved, did he really think he could sweet-talk me?

And then guess what? He did it again. He touched me. On the breast this time.

So I slapped him.

I mean, I am not one for confrontation. I hate violence of any kind. But this was a reflex action. I didn’t even think about it. I just slapped him real hard across the face and yelled at him to get out.

He told me I was making a big mistake, and that nobody treats him like that. I don’t know what I said back. I just kept screaming at him. I may have even used some swear words, which isn’t like me.

But he went. I got him out of the store. He said he was going to come back again, but I don’t think he will.

And you know what? I feel proud. I stood up for myself. Maybe it’s the new me. Maybe I’m a lot stronger now.

Maybe my visit to Vasey did me some good after all.

When he’s finished reading, Doyle gets out of the car. He puts the laptop and the printout in the trunk, then locks them away. Before he goes back into the station house, he checks his watch. It’s a few minutes after two.

Less than ten hours before somebody gets what is possibly their final chance to hear the clocks chime twelve.

He realizes something is wrong as soon as he enters the squad-room. Jay Holden is giving him a stare he usually reserves for perps and people who have riled him. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of a stare like that.

Doyle starts toward his desk. He tenses when Holden stands up and intercepts him.

‘Can we talk?’ Holden says.

Doyle looks into Holden’s eyes and tries to find whatever’s bugging the man.

‘Sure.’

The two men find a room where they can be alone. It’s a room they use for interviewing suspects. It contains the obligatory wooden table and some plastic chairs, but also too many file cabinets that don’t really belong here.

Doyle leans against a radiator and folds his arms.

‘What’s up, Jay?’

Holden doesn’t take up a relaxed pose. He clenches and unclenches his fists, which in Doyle’s experience is not a promising start to any discussion.

‘S’pose you tell me, Cal. What is up?’

Doyle waits for elaboration. Doesn’t get any.

‘Look, man, I don’t know what’s on your mind, but whatever it is-’

‘I took a phone call while you were out at lunch.’

Uh-oh, thinks Doyle. If this was from my little helper. .

‘From Mrs Mellish. Cindy Mellish’s mother.’

Doyle almost breathes a sigh of relief, but it sticks in his chest. The lesser of two evils maybe, but still not good news.

‘Okay. And?’

‘She asked about the computer. ’Course, this being my case, and me knowing everything about it, I asked her what the fuck she was talking about. “You know,” she said. “The computer. The one Detective Doyle borrowed from me.”’

Ah, thinks Doyle. This cat is definitely out of its bag.

‘Yeah, I guess I shoulda told you about that.’

‘You guess? Man, what the fuck is going on?’

Doyle holds off for as long as he dares before Holden can guess that he’s desperately trying to come up with something plausible.

‘Look, I got tired of being the office boy, all right? So I went to speak with Mrs Mellish. I’m assigned to the case too, remember? I thought maybe it would help. Maybe she could give me something useful. We got talking, and she told me about how Cindy liked to write. All kinds of personal shit about her life. It sounded like there was a chance something might be in her bedroom, so I asked to see it. I couldn’t find anything in her notebooks, but then it got mentioned that she also wrote on her computer, so I asked if I could borrow it so I could take a look at that too. If there was nothing on the computer, I was just going to hand it back and that would be it.’

Doyle pauses, partly because he knows that people who ramble on too long often do so because they’re trying to hide something, which he is, but also because he wants to check whether Holden appears convinced with the story so far. Holden continues to glare at him, but when he speaks, there is a slight softening of his tone.

‘You shoulda brought it to me, Cal. Even just a mention. Something.’

‘You’re right. I should have. I apologize.’

Holden nods. A sign it’s over. They can forget about it. Unless there’s a next time.

Doyle considers this. He wasn’t intending to say anything more about the diary. His plan was to go see Vasey himself and hope it led somewhere. But he’s wondering if this hasn’t changed things. Didn’t Holden ask him about the computer? Isn’t this a prime opportunity to bring his colleagues into it without breaking the terms of his contract with the mysterious phone caller?

He adds, ‘But maybe it paid off.’

Holden narrows his eyes at him. ‘In what way?’

‘I found something on the computer. A diary.’

Holden is clearly interested now. ‘Go on.’

‘When Cindy broke up with her boyfriend she went to see a shrink. A friend of a friend. He came on to her. She rejected him. This was last October. A month later he tracked her down. In the bookstore, no less. He tried it on again. This time she slapped him.’

There are questions written all over Holden’s face.

‘Hold up. The shrink tried to hit on her? During a consultation? And then he went to see her at her place of work?’

Doyle frowns. When you put it like that. .

‘Yeah. Crazy, huh? But worth a look, wouldn’t you say?’

Holden stares again. Doyle imagines that there are all sorts of doubts and queries jockeying for position in his brain.

Finally, Holden shakes his head, turns away, and takes the few short paces across the room. At the door, he pauses and faces Doyle again.

‘You coming, or what?’

Vasey’s practice is situated on the twentieth floor of an office building on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-second Street. Doyle finds himself comparing it with the office of Travis Repp. It’s like comparing a prize Arabian stallion with a three-legged mule.

Instead of an indifferent girl with a nail fixation, the receptionist here is a model of clinical efficiency and professionalism. She smiles appreciatively at the two hunky policemen in front of her, offers them a seat and coffee while she puts through a call announcing their presence. The cops relax on a tan leather sofa and leaf through magazines that are crisp and current instead of the curled specimens dating from the previous century that are normally on display in waiting rooms. When they’re done with the magazines, the detectives while away their time observing the tropical fish in the tank set into the wall. Cynic that he is, Doyle wonders if all this is designed to lull clients into a false sense of security and calm before the shrink pounces on their brains and dissects their thoughts.

As if timing everything to perfection, the glossy-haired receptionist waits until Doyle drains his coffee cup before crooning that they can enter the inner sanctum. Doyle is almost reluctant to abandon the comfort and service that would better that of most hotels.

Vasey’s office is as big as the Eighth Precinct squadroom. It has a small seating area with comfy-looking chairs and a coffee table, a long bookcase housing weighty tomes on psychology, and a display cabinet exhibiting a softly lit collection of fossils. At the far end of the room, framed by the vast window behind him, Vasey sits at a pale wooden desk. As his visitors enter, he finishes typing at his computer and stands to greet them. He appears to Doyle to be over six feet tall and in his early forties. He also looks tanned, well-groomed, healthy, self-assured, and not short of a few bucks. Some people always end up grabbing the shitty end of the stick, thinks Doyle.

‘Gentlemen,’ says Vasey. ‘Come on in.’

He shakes their hands, waves them into chairs, then retakes his own seat behind the vast desk.

‘What can I do for you?’

Doyle is happy to let Holden lead the questioning. Partly as an acknowledgement of Holden’s role as primary investigator on this case, but also because he hates talking to psychologists, psychotherapists, psychoanalysts and anybody else who has ‘psycho’ as the first part of their profession. They make him feel uncomfortable. He always thinks they are capable of seeing meaning beyond what he actually intends to impart — that every word he utters reveals clues to his psyche, rendering him transparent. He finds himself being overly cautious in what he says, for fear that he is being analyzed and labeled as exhibiting all kinds of neuroses and psychoses. He doesn’t know where this unease originated. Perhaps a traumatic event in his childhood. He should probably ask a shrink.

‘Just some routine questions,’ says Holden. ‘Your name came up in a case we’re investigating, so we have to check it out.’

Vasey glances at Doyle, who gives him nothing, then back to Holden.

‘May I ask what the case is?’

‘Do you know the name Cindy Mellish?’

Vasey thinks for a moment. ‘It doesn’t ring any bells. Should it

‘She was the girl murdered in the East Village bookstore on Saturday.’

‘Her? God! Then this is serious.’

‘It’s serious, all right.’

‘And my name came up? How?’

‘Miss Mellish kept a diary. Your name was in it. She said she came to see you. Here, at your office.’

‘Really? Just a minute.’ Vasey’s fingers fly over his keyboard.

‘No. I’ve never had a client by that name. Are you sure about this?’

Holden looks across to Doyle, who takes the reins. ‘It’s possible she was never an official client. According to the diary, Cindy’s appointment with you was made by a student friend of hers. Apparently, you’re a close buddy of the friend’s father.’

‘What’s the man’s name?’

‘We don’t know. The student friend is only referred to in the diary by the letter M.’

‘M? And I’m a friend of her father’s? And a consultation was arranged with me because of this relationship? I’m sorry, fellas, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. When was this session with me supposed to have taken place?’

‘At the beginning of last October.’

Vasey thinks some more. ‘No. I don’t recall anything like that. Not in October or any other month last year for that matter.’

‘Do you ever do consultations for friends and people they pass on to you?’

‘Sometimes. But I prefer not to work that way.’

‘Why is that?’

‘Because it can be difficult to remain detached. Sometimes it’s hard to reveal painful truths to friends. They might not remain friends very long.’

Holden speaks up again. ‘Dr Vasey, how did you hear about the murder of Cindy Mellish?’

‘I can’t remember. I think it was on the radio.’

‘So you haven’t seen a picture of her?’

‘No. At least I don’t think so. Maybe there was something in the newspaper, but I don’t recall it.’

Holden reaches into his pocket and takes out a photograph.

‘Take a look, please, Dr Vasey. Do you recognize her?’

Vasey picks up the photograph, studies it for several seconds, then slides it back across the desk.

‘I’ve never seen this girl in my life.’

‘Are you sure? Take another look.’

‘I don’t need another look. I have never seen this girl before, and certainly not as a client. Now, I’m sorry, gentlemen, but-’

‘Why would she lie?’ says Doyle.

Vasey turns on him. ‘What?’

‘This is a young woman’s private diary. Nobody else is likely to see it except her. Why would she make something up like that?’

‘And why would I lie, Detective? What possible reason could I have for lying about something as inconsequential as a therapy session?’

‘Who says it was inconsequential?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘According to Cindy Mellish, her session with you wasn’t all that innocent. She says you came on to her.’

Vasey’s eyes are blazing now. ‘I did what? Are you serious? Are you actually accusing me-’

‘She says you asked her inappropriate questions. Questions of a sexual nature.’

Vasey shakes his head, an expression of disbelief and revulsion on his face.

‘This is too much. Now you have really gone too far. I don’t know what-’ He stops himself in mid-sentence. Something has dawned on him. His mouth twists into a humorless smile. ‘Oh, no. No you don’t. You’re trying to make me a suspect, aren’t you? That’s what this is about. You’re getting nowhere with your murder case, and so you’re frantically trying to find someone to pin it on. Well, I’m sorry, gentlemen, but it’s not going to work. Not with me.’

Doyle presses on. ‘Dr Vasey, did you go to see Cindy Mellish at the bookstore where she worked? Did you make sexual advances to her, and did she slap you in the face?’

Vasey just sits there shaking his head slowly, as if in pity for his poor desperate interrogator.

‘Give it up, Detective. It’s not working. I don’t know what really brought you here, and frankly I don’t care. My guess is that you came across my name in some totally innocent context, drew some very tenuous and fanciful conclusions, and then concocted this whole charade to see if you could get me to blab. Well, tough. It was a nice attempt, but I’m afraid it was always doomed to fail. To be frank, even if I’d been guilty I would have seen that pathetic ruse for what it was. It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to realize what you’re doing. Now if you’ll forgive me, I have clients to see. Genuine ones.’

Doyle doesn’t want to leave. He thinks that Vasey is too smug, too smart. But Doyle also knows that, for the moment at least, he doesn’t have enough ammunition to continue this battle.

Before he departs, he warns Vasey not to leave the city.

Says Vasey, ‘I don’t plan to go anywhere, Detective. I’m innocent of any crime. Why would I need to abscond?’

In the corridor outside the office, Doyle says nothing. He remains mute as they wait for the elevator. Continues with the silent act as he pounds the button to descend.

‘He could be lying,’ says Holden. ‘He’s a shrink. He knows about lying, body language, all that shit. Right now, though, it’s just a he-said-she-said. We need more.’

Doyle is thinking the same thing. He needs more. And that need is making him furious. The diary was supposed to provide answers. It was supposed to lead him to the killer.

Did it do that? Could Vasey possibly be their man?

Maybe.

But maybe isn’t good enough.

Not when someone’s life is about to run out.

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