"So Mother Dear has been 'in touch' again?"

"Quite understandable under the circumstances, don't you think?"

Oh, quite. I'm surprised she isn't here. You did discourage her from coming to the rescue?"

"I did my best."

"Fine. Good. Now back to the point; I want to quit the medication."

"That's absolutely out…"

"Let me finish. I've been two days without it and haven't had a seizure or a nightmare. I know that doesn't mean I'm cured; I'm not that optimistic. It does, however, seem to suggest that the drugs induce the wretched dream."

"There may be…"

"The gist of which I'm about to tell you. I've wanted to before, but up to now, it's been a jumble. I've had time, though, to sort things out. And Melanie is the key."

"Melanie?"

"The dream is about her, not me."

"I see."

"Sounds crazy, I know. But hear me out, at least."

"I wasn't being judgmental. Go ahead."

"You'll correct me if I get things wrong?"

"Wrong? How would I…"

"About Melanie's case."

Julian, I've told you before, I will not discuss…"

"I'm not asking you to discuss it—not yet, anyway. Just tell me whether what I say is true or false. Based on what you know. Otherwise, there's no way I can prove I've not gone mad. Agreed?"

The risk of betraying one patient's confidence on the basis of another's dream seemed small—especially when so little of Melanie's past was actually known. And, even if by chance a fact or two should be involved, the issue, to the nun's mind, was not Melanie, but Julian. His refusing medication was a serious decision, a mistake. What confidence he had recently recovered could be lost if he fell victim to another bout of seizures. Better to allay his fears by letting him give vent to his alleged dream.

"Okay, agreed."

10............Nxd5

 

1.e4           
2. Nf3
3. Bc4
4. b4
5. c3
6. d4
7. 0 - 0
8. Qb3
9. Nxc3
10. Nd5!
11.
12.
13.
14.

15.
16.
17.
*
1e5         
2Nc6
3Bc5
4Bxb4
5Ba5
6exd4
7dxc3
8Qe7
9Nf6?
1Nxd5
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

"Mostly there are men's voices; three, I think. None of them speaks to me. I'm only an eavesdropper. That's one of the uncanny things about the dream; I'm totally detached. The dialogue goes on regardless, like it would if I weren't there. I can't recite what's said; I don't remember. And that's another puzzling thing. I don't remember. I can tell you about dreams I had when I was five, in full detail. Why this one's an exception, I don't know. It has to be the drugs. Which isn't to say I'm spinning you a fairy tale. What I have been able to recall is real. Accurate, I mean. It's just not comprehensive. They're crude, they're violent, and they're rapists."

11. exd5...........

 

1.e4           
2. Nf3
3. Bc4
4. b4
5. c3
6. d4
7. 0 - 0
8. Qb3
9. Nxc3
10. Nd5!
11.
exd5
12. 
13.
14.
15. 
16. 
17.
0e5          
0Nc6
0Bc5
0Bxb4
0Ba5
0exd4
0dxc3
0Qe7
0Nf6?
0Nxd5
0
0
0
0
0
0
0

The nun had not expected this. And though she affected calm, she knew her surprise had registered—and that Julian, of course, had noticed.

"So it's true?"

"What's true, Julian?"

"That Melanie was raped?"

She felt he had trapped her. How could he have known? Was he guessing? Was he using the pretext of this dream to wheedle information she had denied him? The thought occurred that his dream itself might be a fabrication, a device that he had concocted to achieve some private end. What end, though? She knew Melanie was somehow important to him. But this was so implausible a scheme—if it were a scheme. Was he lying? She thought not. Yet she could not overcome the sense that Julian was trying to manipulate her.

He waited patiently for her answer.

"Yes, it is true."

"So that's the thing she can't—or won't—remember. It's no wonder, I should think. What's the situation now?"

"With Melanie?"

"Or Marcy, as the case may be."

"She's quite herself again."

"I'm glad to hear that. By the way, what caused her 'minor setback'?"

"I agreed I would listen to your dream, not answer questions about Melanie."

"But they're inseparable."

"In your mind, perhaps."

"I resent that."

"Listen, Julian. How this girl's unfortunate affair has found its way into your subconscious, only you can tell. But I sincerely doubt your medicine is to blame. It may affect the frequency with which you dream, but certainly not the content."

"Then how would you explain my little nightmare?"

"Frankly?"

"Be my guest."

"I would say that you gained this information consciously, and through guilt about how it was obtained, you locked it into your subconscious."

11............Ne5

 

1.e4           
2. Nf3
3. Bc4
4. b4
5. c3
6. d4
7. 0 - 0
8. Qb3
9. Nxc3
10. Nd5!
11. exd5
12. 
13.
14. 
15.
16. 
17.
0e5          
0Nc6
0Bc5
0Bxb4
0Ba5
0exd4
0dxc3
0Qe7
0Nf6?
0Nxd5
0
Ne5
0
0
0
0
0
0

"How moralistic. Do I detect a hint of accusation?"

He knew the nun was groping in the dark. She had no proof. Besides, his espionage had simply evened the odds. There was no need to feel guilty.

"Perhaps this matter is best resolved by calling it 'coincidence.'"

The nun's dismissing it thus was hardly satisfactory, however. That he indeed had used 'irregular' means to learn the facts did not explain the nightmare's authenticity. It was all still much too vague.

There were but few things more he could relate, besides his intuition that the dream was not a dream per se. But in exploiting the subject, he realized he had lost his chance to hear the nun's opinion. Her 'adversary status' (which he knew he had imposed himself) prejudiced whatever she might say. How to plumb her expertise without relinquishing his slim advantage? Mentally he shifted gears. The nun's black habit became a field of sixty-four squares, half of their ranks white. He peopled them with pawns, Rooks, Bishops, Queens, Kings, and the last two Knights—which had yet to be exchanged.

With a blink, the pattern disassembled.

"For the sake of argument, let's grant I do know something about her history."

"Obtained?"

"Surreptitiously, of course. Let's say Ms. Dana told me."

"I can't believe…"

"Too farfetched? We're only hypothesizing. Well, let's say, then, I pilfered Melanie's file—have it stashed away somewhere. Under my pillow. Now, with such a source of comprehensive data resting nightly under my head, do you think it likely my imagination could take those facts—through osmosis, if you like—and manufacture circumstances into which they'd fit?"

Was Julian confessing? He must have seen the file. She had difficulty reading him, this man behind the poker-face fa�ade. Why did he persist in all these bluffs and feints and stratagems?

"Julian, what's the point?"

He thought a moment. She had him there. Maybe the dream was spawned by a guilty conscious.

"A black van with a fisheye window."

"I beg your pardon; what?"

He had studied her reaction closely. The image had not rung a bell. Perhaps the nun knew nothing of the rape. Perhaps his own extrapolations could only be corroborated or dispelled by Melanie. And that was the point—one of them, at least. He had to find a rational explanation for the dream, before it came again. The exchange would have to wait. The nun apparently had no more to offer.

"Nothing, Ms. Zoe—'an undigested bit of beef.'"

He rose to go.

"Just a minute, Julian. What about your medication?"

He took the bottle from his pocket and set it on her desk.

"Here. I told you, I'm trying to kick."

"And I told you, autonomy is not the way of it here, especially for one who just caused such an uproar. I needn't remind you that this entire county was searching for a man who 'simply took a little stroll.' Sit down!"

He did.

"Honestly, Julian, you amaze me. It's bad enough you haven't offered an account—not to mention an apology—but then to say blithely that you've decided not to take the medication we prescribe, is tantamount to…"

"Blasphemy?"

"No, disrespect! Blatant, arrogant, ignorant disrespect! Your epilepsy is treatable, not curable. The seizures will resume. And the responsibility for that is yours. Accept it, and give the rest of us some credit. We're not fools, you know. Don't let conceit deprive you of a helping hand; we all can use one every now and then."

She shook the proper dosage from the pill container and held it out to him.

"Please. You wear those glasses to protect your eyes; willpower doesn't make the light less painful. Let the drugs protect you, too."

It looked incongruous to him, almost sinister—this 'representative of heaven' pushing pills. And yet he could not help believing that she cared. It was touching, even. Was she right, though? Were his nightmares and these anticonvulsants unrelated? He looked at the tablets. He plucked them from her palm, popped them into his mouth, and slowly chewed.

12. Nxe5...........

 

1.e4           
2. Nf3
3. Bc4
4. b4
5. c3
6. d4
7. 0 - 0
8. Qb3
9. Nxc3
10. Nd5!
11. exd5
12.
Nxe5
13. 
14. 
15. 
16.
17.
 
0e5          
0Nc6
0Bc5
0Bxb4
0Ba5
0exd4
0dxc3
0Qe7
0Nf6?
0Nxd5
0Ne5
0
0
0
0
0
0

With the insides of her mouth constricting sympathetically, Sister Zoe winced.

"How can you do that? Oh, swallow. Swallow, please!"

He gulped and grinned.

"Must do penance before receiving grace."

She shook her head, holding out the bottle.

"Here, take them with you."

"You mean you still trust me? Why Ms. Zoe, I'm truly flattered."

"I've simply lost my nerve—almost my dinner."

"Which reminds me, I could use a bite to eat. We're through?"

"I have your promise to obey the curfew?"

"Sure."

"You will take the pills?"

"Provisionally."

"And these walks of yours will be curtailed?"

"Abridged."

"All right, then. You may go."

 

Snuggled up...

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