The Saint-Germain Chronicles
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Mrs. Emmons, who always came in September, sat at her table in the spacious dining room, one hand to her bluish-silver hair as she smiled up at the Lodge's manager. "I do so look forward to my stay here, Mr. Rogers," she said archly, and put one stubby, beringed hand on his.
"It's good of you to say so," Mr. Rogers responded in a voice that managed to be gracious without hinting the least encouragement to the widow.
"I hear that you have a new chef." She looked around the dining room again. "Not a very large crowd tonight."
Mr. Rogers followed her glance and gave a little, eloquent shrug. "It's off-season, Mrs. Emmons. We're a fifth full, which is fine, since it gives us a breather before winter, and allows us a little time to keep the cabins up. We do the Lodge itself in the spring, but you're not here then."
"I'm not fond of crowds," Mrs. Emmons said, lifting her head in a haughty way it had taken her years to perfect.
Nor, thought Mr. Rogers, of the summer and winter prices. He gave her half a smile. "Certainly off-season is less hectic."
She took a nervous sip from the tall stem glass before her. Mrs. Emmons did not like margaritas, and secretly longed for a side-car, but she knew that such drinks were considered old-fashioned and she had reached that point in her life when she dreaded the reality of age. "Tell me," she said as she put the glass down, "is that nice Mr. Franciscus still with you?"
"Of course." Mr. Rogers had started away from the table, but he paused as he said this, a flicker of amusement in his impassive face.
"I've always liked to hear him play. He knows all the old songs." There was more of a sigh in her tone than she knew.
"He does indeed," Mr. Rogers agreed. "He'll be in the lounge after eight, as always."
"Oh, good," Mrs. Emmons said, a trifle too brightly before she turned her attention to the waiter who had appeared at her elbow.
Mr. Rogers was out of the dining room and halfway across the lobby when an inconspicuous door on the mezzanine opened and a familiar voice called his name. Mr. Rogers looked up swiftly, and turned toward the stairs that led to the mezzanine.
The door opened onto a small library comfortably furnished in dark-stained wood and substantial Victorian chairs upholstered in leather. There was one person in the room at the moment, and he smiled as Mr. Rogers closed the door. When he spoke, it was not in English.
"I just saw Mrs. Emmons in the dining room," Mr. Rogers said with a tinge of weariness. "She's looking forward to seeing that 'nice Mr. Franciscus.' "
"Oh, God," said Mr. Franciscus in mock horror. "I suppose that Mrs. Granger will be here soon, too?"
"She's due to arrive on Wednesday." Both men had been standing, Mr. Franciscus by the tall north-facing windows, Mr. Rogers by the door. "I've given them cabins A28 and A52, back to back over the creek."
"And if the water doesn't bother them, they'll have a fine time," Mr. Franciscus said. "I didn't have time to tune the harpsichord, so I'll have to use the piano tonight." He came away from the windows and sank into the nearest chair.
"I don't think anyone will mind." Mr. Rogers turned the chair by the writing table to a new angle as he sat.
"Perhaps not, but I should have done it." He propped his elbows on the arms of the chair and linked his fingers under his chin. His hands were beautifully shaped but surprisingly small for a pianist. "There's part of the ridge trail that's going to need reinforcement before winter or we'll have a big wash-out at the first thaw."
"I'll send Matt out to fix it. Is that where you were this afternoon? Out on the trails?" There was a mild interest but his questions were calmly asked and as calmly answered.
"Part of the time. That ranger... Jackson, Baxter, something like that, told me to remind you about the fire watch."
"Backus," Mr. Rogers said automatically. "Ever since that scare in Fox Hollow, he's been jittery about fire. He's the one who put up all the call stations on the major trails."
"It's good that someone is concerned. They lost sixteen cabins at Fox Hollow," Franciscus responded with a touch of severity. "If we had the same problem here, there's a great deal more to lose-and one hundred twenty-four cabins would be a major loss."
Mr. Rogers said nothing, watching Franciscus levelly.
"We're going to need some improvements on the stable. The roof is not in good repair and the tack room could stand some sprucing up. The hay-ride wagon should be repainted. If we can get this done before winter it would be helpful." He brushed his black jeans to rid them of dust. His boots were English, not Western, made to order in fine black leather. There was an elegance about him that had little to do with his black clothing. He stared at Mr. Rogers a moment. "Are there any disturbances that I should know about? You seem apprehensive."
"No," Mr. Rogers said slowly, after giving the matter his consideration. "It's just the usual off-season doldrums, I guess. We're a little fuller than we were last fall. There's a retired couple from Chillicothe, name of Barnes in cabin 12, they're new; a couple from Lansing with a teen-aged daughter in cabin 19. I think the girl is recovering from some sort of disease, at least that's what her mother told me-their name is Harper. There's a jumpy MD in cabin 26, Dr. Muller. Amanda Farnsworth is back again. I've put her in cabin A65."
"It's been-what?-three years since she was here last?" Franciscus asked.
"Three years." Mr. Rogers nodded. "There's also a new fellow up in cabin 33."
"Cabin 33? Isn't that a little remote?" He glanced swiftly toward the window and the wooded slope beyond the badminton courts and swimming pool. A wide, well-marked path led up the hill on the far side of these facilities, winding in easy ascent into the trees. Cabin 33 was the last cabin on the farthest branch of the trail, more than a quarter mile from the lodge and dining room.
"He requested it," Mr. Rogers said with a slight shrug. "I told him he would find it cold and quite lonely. He said that was fine."
"If that's what he wants..." Franciscus dismissed the newcomer with a turn of his hand. "What about the regulars? Aside from Mrs. Emmons, God save us, and Mrs. Granger?"
"We'll have the Blakemores for two weeks, starting on the weekend. Myron Shire is coming to finish his new book, as usual. Sally and Elizabeth Jenkins arrive next Tuesday. Sally wrote to say that Elizabeth's been in the sanatorium again and we are not to serve her anything alcoholic. We'll have all four Lellands for ten days, and then they'll go on to the Coast. Harriet Goodman is coming for six weeks, and should arrive sometime today. Sam Potter is coming with his latest young man. The Davies. The Coltraines. The Wylers. The Pastores. Professor Harris. Jim Sutton will be here, but for five days only. His newspaper wants him to cover that murder trial in Denver, so he can't stay as long as usual. The Lindholms. He's looking poorly and Martha said that he has had heart trouble this year. Richard Bachmere and his cousin, whose name I can never remember..."
"Samuel," Franciscus supplied.
"That's the one. The Muramotos won't be here until Thanksgiving this year. He's attending a conference in Seattle. The Browns. The Matins. The Luis. Tim Halloran is booked in for the weekend only, but Cynthia is in Mexico and won't be here at all. And that's about it." Mr. Rogers folded his hands over his chest.
"Not bad for fall off-season. What's the average stay?" Franciscus inquired as he patted the dust from his pant-leg, wrinkling his nose as the puffs rose.
"No, not bad for off-season. The average stay is just under two weeks, and if this year is like the last three years, we'll pick up an odd reservation or two between now and the skiers. We'll have a pretty steady flow from now until Thanksgiving. We're underbooked until just before Christmas, when we open the slopes. But those twelve cabins still have to be readied."
Franciscus nodded. "Before the skiers." He stared at his boot where his ankle was propped on his knee. "We'd better hire that band for the winter season, I think. I don't want to be stuck doing four sets a night again. Have you asked around Standing Rock for winter help?"
"Yes. We've got four women and three men on standby." He consulted his watch. "The restaurant linen truck should be here in a few minutes. I'd better get over to the kitchen. What time were you planning to start this evening?"
Franciscus shrugged. "Oh, eight-thirty sounds about right for this small crowd. I don't imagine they'll want music much after midnight. We can let Ross do a couple late sets with his guitar if there's enough of an audience. If not, then Frank can keep the bar open as long as he wants. How does that sound to you?"
"Good for the whole week. Saturday will be busier, and we'll have more guests by then. We'll make whatever arrangements are necessary." He rose. "Kathy's determined to serve chateaubriand in forcemeat on Saturday, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to talk her out of it. I know that the chef's special should live up to its name, but the price of beef today..." He rolled his eyes up as if in appeal to heaven.
"Why not indulge her? It's better she make chateaubriand in forcemeat for an off-season crowd than for the skiers. Let her have an occasional extravagance. She's a fine chef, isn't she?" Franciscus leaned back in his chair.
"So they tell me," said Mr. Rogers, switching back to English.
"Then why not?" He reached for his black hat with the silver band. "Just make sure she understands that you can't do this too often. She'll appreciate it." He got to his feet as well. "I want to take one more look through the stable before I get changed for tonight. We've got six guest stalls ready. The Browns always bring those pride-cut geldings they're so proud of. I'll get changed about the time you start serving dinner."
"Fine." Mr. Rogers held the door open and let Franciscus leave ahead of him. "I'll tell Mrs. Emmons."
Franciscus chuckled. "You've no pity, my friend. If she requests 'When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain,' I will expire, I promise you."
The two men were still smiling when they reached the lobby once more. A tall, tweedy woman in her early forties stood at the registration desk and looked around as Mr. Rogers and Franciscus reached the foot of the stairs. "Oh, there you are," she said to the men and gave them her pleasant, horsey grin.
Mr. Rogers said, "Good afternoon, Ms. Goodman" at the same time that Franciscus said, "Hello, Harriet."
"Mr. Rogers. Mr. Franciscus." She extended her hand to them, taking the manager's first. There were three leather bags by her feet and though she wore no makeup beyond lipstick, she now, as always, smelled faintly of Joy.
As he slipped behind the registration desk, Mr. Rogers found her reservation card at once and was filling in the two credit lines for her. "Six weeks this time, Ms. Goodman?"
"Yes. I'm giving myself some extra vacation. I'm getting tired. Six years on the lecture circuit is too wearing." She looked over the form. "Cabin 21. My favorite," she remarked as she scribbled her name at the bottom of the form. "Is Scott around to carry my bags?"
"I'm sorry. Scott's off at U.S.C. now," Mr. Rogers said as he took the form back.
"U.S.C? He got the scholarship? Well, good for him. He's a very bright boy. I thought it was a shame that he might lose that opportunity." She held out her hand for the key.
"He got the scholarship," Mr. Rogers said with a quick glance at Franciscus.
"I'll be happy to carry your bags, Harriet," Franciscus volunteered. "I'm curious to know how your work's been going."
Her hazel eyes were expressive and for a moment they flickered with a pleasant alarm. Then it was gone and her social polish returned. "Thank you very much. I don't know the etiquette for tipping the musician-cum-wrangler, but..."
"No tip," Franciscus said rather sharply. "Call it a courtesy for a welcome friend." He had already picked up the smallest bag and was gathering up the other two.
"I must say, I envy the shape you're in. Lugging those things around wears me out. But look at you. And you must be at least my age." She had started toward the door and the broad, old-fashioned porch that led to the path to cabin 21.
Franciscus was a few steps behind her. "I'm probably older than you think," he said easily. He was walking briskly, his heels tapping smartly on the flagging.
They were almost to cabin 21 when a frail-looking teenager in an inappropriate shirtwaist dress stepped out onto the path. Franciscus recognized her from Mr. Rogers' description of the new guests in cabin 19.
"Excuse me," she said timorously, "but could you tell me where the nearest path to the lake is?"
Harriet Goodman gave the teen-ager a quick, discerning glance, and Franciscus answered her. "You'll have to go past the lodge and take the widest path. It runs right beside the badminton courts. You can't miss it. There's a sign. But I'm afraid there's no lifeguard, so if you want to swim, you should, perhaps, use the pool. We haven't got the canoes and boats out yet, either. Two more days and they'll be ready."
"It's all right," she said in a quick, shaky voice. "I just want to walk a bit." She clutched her hands nervously, then moved sideways along the path away from them.
"That's one jumpy filly," Harriet Goodman said when the girl was out of earshot. "Who is she?"
"She's new," Franciscus said, resuming the walk to Harriet's cabin. "Mr. Rogers said that she's apparently recovering from an illness of some sort." Having seen the girl, he doubted that was the real problem, but kept his opinion to himself.
Harriet had made a similar assessment. "Recovering from an illness, my ass."
There were five wooden steps down to the door of cabin 21, which was tucked away from the rest on the path, the last one of the twelve on this walk. Harriet Goodman opened the door. "Oh, thank goodness. You people always air out the cabins. I can't tell you how much I hate that musty smell." She tossed her purse on the couch and went to the bedroom beyond. "Everything's fine. Let me check the bathroom." She disappeared and came back. "New paint and fixtures. You're angels."
"The owner doesn't like his property to get run-down," Franciscus said, as he put the bags on the racks in the bedroom.
Harriet Goodman watched him, her hands on her hips. "You know, Franciscus, you puzzle me," she said with her usual directness.
"I do? Why?" He was faintly amused and his fine brows lifted to punctuate his inquiry.
"Because you're content to remain here, I guess." There was a puckering of her forehead.
"I like it here. I value my privacy."
"Privacy?" she echoed, not believing him. "In the middle of a resort."
"What better place?" He hesitated, then went on. "I do like privacy, but not isolation. I have time for myself, and though there are many people around me, almost all of them pass through my life like, well, shadows."
He heard the melancholy in her voice. "I said almost all. You're not a candidate for shadow-dom, Harriet. And you know it."
Her laughter was gently self-deriding. "That will teach me to fish for compliments."
Franciscus looked at her kindly before he left the cabin. "You're being unkind to yourself. What am I but, as you call it, a musician-cum-wrangler?" He nodded to her and strolled to the door.
Her eyes narrowed as she stared at the door he had closed behind him. "Yes, Franciscus. What are you?"
He preferred playing the harpsichord to the piano, though the old instrument was cantankerous with age. He had his wrenches laid out on the elaborately painted bench and was busy with tuning forks when the teen-ager found him at work.
"Oh! I didn't mean..." She turned a curiously mottled pale pink. "You're busy. I heard music and I thought..."
"Hardly music," Franciscus said as he jangled a discordant arpeggio on the worn keys.
"I think it's pretty." Her eyes pleaded with him not to contradict her.
His curiosity was piqued. "That's kind of you to say, but it will sound a great deal better once I get it tuned."
"May I watch? I won't say anything. I promise." Her hands were knotting in the nervous way he had noticed before.
"If you wish. It's boring, so don't feel you have to stay." His penetrating dark eyes rested on her cornflower blue ones, then he gave his attention to the harpsichord again. He used his D tuning fork, struck it and placed it against the raised lid of the instrument for resonance. He worked quickly, twisting the metal tuning pegs quickly. Methodically he repeated the process with all the Ds on the keyboard.
"Is that hard, what you're doing?" she asked when he had worked his way up to F#.
"Hard? No, not when I've got my tuning forks. I can do it without them, but it takes longer because I have difficulty allowing for the resonances, the over and undertones, in my mind." He did not mind the interruption, though he did not stop his task. He selected the G fork and struck it expertly.
"You have perfect pitch?" She found the idea exciting. "I've never known anyone with perfect pitch."
"Yes." Franciscus placed the vibrating fork against the wood, and the note, eerily pure, hummed loudly in the room. "That's the resonant note of this instrument, which is why it's so much louder than the others."
The teen-aged girl looked awed. "That's amazing."
"No, it's physics," he corrected her wryly. What was wrong with that child? Franciscus asked himself. From her height and the shape of her body, she had to be at least sixteen, but she had the manner of a much younger person. Perhaps she had truly been ill. Or perhaps she was recovering from something more harmful than illness. "All instruments have one particular resonant note In the ancient world, this was attributed to magic," he went on, watching her covertly.
"Did they? That's wonderful." She sounded so forlorn that he worried she might cry.
"Is something the matter, Miss..."
"Harper," she said, with an unaccountable blush. "Emillie Harper."
"Hello, Miss Harper. I'm R. G. Franciscus." He offered her his right hand gravely.
She was about to take it when a stranger came into the room. He was a tall, lean man dressed, like Franciscus, predominantly in black, but unlike Franciscus, he wore the color with an air of menace. There was a flamboyance, a theatricality about him: his dark hair was perfectly silvered at the temples and there was a Byronic grandeur in his demeanor. His ruddy mouth curved in a romantic sneer, and though he was certainly no older than Franciscus, he gave the impression of world-weariness that the other, shorter man conspicuously lacked.
"I didn't mean to interrupt," he announced for form's sake, in a fine deep voice that oozed ennui.
"Quite all right," Franciscus assured him. "I'm almost finished tuning, and Miss Harper and I were discussing resonance. Is there anything I can do for you? Dinner service began a quarter hour ago, if you're hungry."
The stranger gave a slight shudder. "Dinner. No. I'm looking for the manager. Have you seen Mr. Rogers?" His soulful brown eyes roved around the lounge as if he suspected the man he sought to be lurking in the shadows.
"He should be with the chef. He usually is at the start of dinner," Franciscus told him with unimpaired good humor. "Give him another ten minutes and he'll be out."
"I need to see Mr. Rogers at once," the stranger stated with great finality. "It's urgent."
Emillie Harper clenched her hands tightly and stared from one man to the other. Her blue eyes were distressed and she moved in quick, fluttery starts, as if attempting to flee invisible shackles.
"Miss Harper," Franciscus said calmly, "I'm going to the kitchen to get Mr. Rogers for this... gentleman. Would you like to come with me?" He took his black wool jacket from the bench and began to roll down his shirt sleeves. With a twitch he adjusted the black silk ascot at his neck before shrugging on the jacket.
The depth of gratitude in the girl's eyes was pathetic. "Oh, yes. I would. Please."
Franciscus regarded the tall interloper. "If you'll be good enough to wait at the registration desk, Mr. Rogers will join you shortly. It's the best I can do, Mr...."
"Lorpicar," was the answer. "I'm in cabin 33."
"Are you." Franciscus had already led Emillie Harper to the door of the lounge. He sensed that Mr. Lorpicar wanted him to look back, and for that reason, he did not, although he felt a deep curiosity possess him as he led the frightened girl away.
Jim Sutton walked into the lounge shortly after ten the next evening, while Franciscus was doing his second set. The reporter was dressed with his usual finicky elegance in contrast to his face which held the comfortable appeal of a rumpled bed. He waved to Franciscus and took a seat at the bar, waiting for the buzzy and unobtrusive sounds of the harpsichord to cease.
"It's good to see you again, Mr. Sutton," the bartender said as he approached. "Cruzan with lime juice, isn't it?"
"Good to see you again, Frank. You're right about the drink." He had often been amused by the tales he had heard of reporters and bourbon: he had never liked the stuff. Rum was another matter. He put a ten dollar bill on the highly polished mahogany of the bar as Frank brought him one of the neat, square glasses used at Lost Saints Lodge with little ice and a fair amount of rum. "When eight of this is gone, you tell me."
"Sure thing, Mr. Sutton," said the bartender in his faded southern accent as he gave the reporter an indulgent smile before answering the imperious summons of Mrs. Emmons at the far end of the bar.
Jim Sutton was into his second drink when Franciscus slipped onto the stool beside Mm. "I liked what you were playing," he said by way of greeting.
Franciscus shrugged. "Haydn filtered through Duke Ellington."
"Keeps the peasants happy." He had braced his elbows on the bar and was looking over the lounge. It wasn't crowded but it was far from empty. "You're doing well this year. Rogers said that business was up again."
"It is." Franciscus took the ten dollar bill and stuffed it into Jim Sutton's vest pocket. "Frank, Mr. Sutton is my guest tonight. Present me with a tab at the end of the evening."
"Okay, Franciscus," came the answer from the other end of the bar.
"You don't use any nicknames?" Jim Sutton asked. "I don't encourage them." He looked at the reporter and thought there was more tension in the sardonic, kindly eyes than he had seen before. "How's it going?"
"I wish I had more time off," Sutton muttered as he finished his drink and set the square glass back on the bar. "This last year... God! The mass murders in Detroit, and that cult killing in Houston, and the radiation victims in St. Louis, and now this trial in Denver. I thought I was through with that when I came back from Viet Nam. I tell you, it's getting to me."
Franciscus said nothing, but he hooked the rather high heels of his custom-made black shoes over the foot brace of the stool and prepared himself to listen.
It was more than five minutes later that Jim Sutton began to speak again. "I've heard all the crap about reporters being cold sons-of-bitches. It's true of a lot of them. It's easier if you can do it that way. What can you say, though, when you look at fourteen bodies, neatly eviscerated, after two weeks of decomposition in a muddy riverbank? What do you tell the public about the twenty-six victims of a radiation leak at a reactor? Do you know what those poor bastards looked like? And the paper's managers, who know nothing about journalism, talking about finding ways to attract more advertisers! Shit!" Frank had replaced the empty glass with another. Jim Sutton looked at it, and took it with a sigh. "I've been going to a shrink. I used to scoff at the guys who did, but I've had to join them. Lelland University has offered me a post on the faculty. Three years ago I would have laughed at them, but I'm thinking about it."
"Do you want to teach?" It was the first question that Franciscus had asked and it somewhat startled Jim Sutton.
"I don't know. I've never done it. I know that my professors were blithering incompetents, and much of what they told me wasn't worth wiping my ass with. Still, I tell myself that I could make a difference, that if I had had the kind of reporter I am now for a teacher, I would have saved myself a lot of grief. Or maybe I'm just running away, and in a year, I'll be slavering to be back on the job." He tasted the drink and set it aside.
"Why not try teaching for a year, just to find out if you want to do it, and then make up your mind? Your paper will give you leave, won't it?" His suggestion was nonchalant and he said it in such a way that he did not require a response.
Jim Sutton thought about it a moment. "I could do that. It gives me an out. Whether it works or it doesn't, there is a way for me to tell myself I made the right decision." He made a barking sound that was supposed to be a laugh.
"I've got another set coming up," Franciscus said as he got off the stool. "Any requests?"
"Sure." This had become a challenge with them in the last three years. "The ballet music from Tchaikovsky's Maid of Orleans." He said it with a straight face, thinking that this was sufficiently obscure, as he himself had only heard it once, and that was a fluke.
Franciscus said, "The court scene dances? All of them?" He was unflustered and the confident, ironic smile returned. "Too easy, Jim; much too easy."
Jim Sutton shook his head. "I should have known. I'll stump you one day." He took another sip of the rum, and added, "Here's a bit of trivia for you-Tchaikovsky collected the music of the Count de Saint-Germain. Do you know who he was?"
"Oh, yes. I know." He had stepped back.
"Yeah, well..." Before he could go on, he was interrupted by Mrs. Emmons at the end of the bar who caroled out, "Oh, Mr. Franciscus, would you play 'When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain' for me?"
Emillie Harper was noticeably pale the next day as she sat by the pool in her tunic swimsuit with ruffled neck and hem. She gave a wan smile to Harriet Goodman as the older woman came through the gate onto the wide, mosaiced deck around the pool.
"Good morning," Harriet called as she saw the girl. "I thought I was the first one out."
"No," Emillie said hastily. "I haven't had much sun, so mother said I'd better do my swimming in the morning and evening."
"Good advice," Harriet concurred. "You won't be as likely to burn."
"I was hoping there might be swimming at night," she said wistfully. "I heard that Mr. Rogers has night swimming in the summer."
"Talk to him about it," Harriet suggested as she spread her towel over the depiction of a Roman bireme. She had often been struck with the very Roman fee! of the swimming pool here at Lost Saints Lodge. For some reason it did not have that phony feel that so many others had. The mosaics were part of it, but that was not it entirely. Harriet Goodman had a nose for authenticity, and she could smell it here and wondered why. It was cool but she did not deceive herself that her frisson came from the touch of the wind.
"Pardon me," Emillie said a bit later, "but haven't I seen you before? I know that sounds stupid," she added, blushing.
Harriet had cultivated her considerable charm for many years, and she used it now on the distressed girl. "Why, not at all-it's very kind of you. I do occasional television appearances and I lecture all over the country. If I made enough of an impression for you to remember me, I'm flattered."
Emillie's face brightened a little, though on someone as apprehensive and colorless as the teen-ager was, enthusiasm was difficult to perceive. "I did see you. A while ago," she added guiltily.
"Well, I've been around for quite a time." Harriet said as she lay back on the towel. What was bothering the girl? she wondered.
"I'm sorry, but I don't remember what it was you talked about." Emillie was afraid she had insulted the older woman, and was trying to keep from withdrawing entirely.
"Child abuse. I'm a psychiatrist, Miss Harper. But at the moment, I am also on vacation." Her voice was expertly neutral, and she made no move that would suggest disapproval.
"A psychiatrist?" She repeated the word as if it were contaminated.
Harriet had experienced that reaction too many times to be disturbed by it. "Yes, more Jungian than Freudian. I got into child abuse by accident." She had a rich chuckle. "That does sound ominous, doesn't it? What I meant to say, though Freud would have it that my sloppy grammar was hidden truth, is that I became interested in studying child abuse unintentionally. Since I'm a woman, when I first went into practice I had few male patients. A great many men don't feel comfortable with a woman analyst. After a while, I discovered that a fair number of my women patients were either child abusers themselves or were married to men who were." She raised her head and glanced over at the demure girl several feet away. "Now it's you who should forgive me. Here I've told you I'm on vacation and the next thing, I'm starting shop talk."
"It's all right," Emillie said in a politely gelid tone.
They had been there quite the better part of half an hour when the gate opened again. Mrs. Emmons, in a lavish flowered purple bathing suit and outrageous rhine-stoned sunglasses, sauntered up to the edge of the pooL "Oh, hello, girls," she called to the others. "Isn't it a beautiful morning?"
"Christ!" Harriet expostulated, and lay back in the sun.
A little bit later, Mrs. Granger arrived, wearing an enormous flowered hat and a beach robe of such voluminous cut that the shrunken body it covered seemed like illicit cargo. By that time Mrs. Emmons was splashing in the shallow end of the pool and hooting with delight.
Pink more with embarrassment than the sun, Emillie Harper gathered up her towel, mumbled a few words that might be construed as excuses, and fled. Harriet propped herself on her elbow and watched Emillie go, scowling, her senses on the alert.
There was a low rock at the tip of the point, and Jim Sutton sat on it, fishing rod at the ready, gazing out over the lake to the steep slope rising on the western bank. A discarded, half-eaten sandwich had already begun to attract ants to the side of the rock.
"Hello, Jim," Harriet said as she came up behind him.
"Hi," he answered, not turning. "There's a spurious rumor that this lake has been stocked with trout."
"But no luck," she inferred.
"No luck." He reeled in the line and cast again. "I got four eighteen-inchers last year."
"Maybe it's the wrong time of day." She had the good sense to stay back from the rock where he sat, though only part of her reason had to do with fishing. "I hear that you'll have to make your stay short this year. There's that trial in Denver..."
"There is indeed." He looked down and saw the remains of his sandwich, which he kicked away.
"Mustn't litter," Harriet admonished him lightly.
"Who's littering? I'm supporting the ecological chain by providing a feeding niche," he shot back. "I don't know why I bother. Nothing's going to bite today."
Harriet selected the least rough part of a fallen log and sat on it, rather gingerly, and was pleased when it held. So much fallen wood was rotten, no matter how sound it appeared. "I'll buy you a drink if you'd like to come back to the Lodge with me."
"A very handsome offer. How can I refuse." He began to reel in his line. "You in cabin 21?"
"As usual. And you?"
"Cabin A42. As usual." He caught up his leader and held it carefully, inspecting his hook and bait before turning to her.
"Then we're almost neighbors." That was a polite fiction: a steep pathway connected the two wider trails on which their cabins were located, and the distance required a good ten minutes after dark.
"Perhaps you'd like to come by." She was careful not to sound too wistful.
"Sounds good." He faced her now, and came up beside her. "Don't worry about me, Harriet. I do take a reasonable amount of care of myself. We're neither of us children, anymore."
She put an arm across his back. "No, we're not children." They were much the same height, so their kiss was almost too easy. "I miss that."
"So do I." They started up the trail together, walking side by side. "Anyone new in your life?"
"No one important," she said with a shrug. "And you?"
"There was one woman, very sensual, but... I don't know. Like covering a disaster. Everything afterward is an anticlimax."
They had reached the first turning in the road and were startled to see the strange guest from cabin 33 coming toward them. Mr. Lorpicar nodded to both Harriet and Sutton, but did not speak, continuing down the path with an expression at once determined and abstracted.
"That's one strange duck," Harriet said as they resumed their walk.
"He's the one in cabin 33, isn't he?" Jim Sutton asked, giving the retreating figure a quick look over his shoulder.
"I think so." She dug her hands deep into the pockets of her hiking slacks, watching Jim Sutton with covert concern.
"I saw him after lunch with that Harper girl, I've seen her before, I know I have. I just can't place her..." They were at the crest of a gentle rise and through the pines they could see the back of the Lodge. "I hate it when I can't remember faces."
Harriet smiled gently. "You'll think of it. Probably it isn't this girl at all, but another one, equally colorless. Both her parents look like frightened hares." She thought about this as they approached the Lodge. "You'd think one of them would be a tyrant to have the daughter turn out that way. I thought that one of them might be pious or invalidish, but they're as painfully ordinary as the girl is."
"Such language for a psychiatrist," Jim Sutton admonished her, and then they went up the steps into the Lodge, into the lounge, and they did not talk about Emillie Harper or the peculiar Mr. Lorpicar anymore.
Nick Wyler was a hale sort of man, whose body and gestures were always a little too large for his surroundings. He enjoyed his own flamboyance, and was sincerely upset if others did not enjoy it, too. His wife, Eleanore, was a stately woman, given to wearing long skirts and Guatemalan peasant blouses. They had taken cabin A68, right on the lake, one of the largest and most expensive cabins at Lost Saints Lodge.
"Rogers, you're outdoing yourself," Nick Wyler announced as he came into the dining room. "I'm impressed, very impressed."
Mr. Rogers made a polite gesture which was very nearly a bow. "It's good of you to say so."
"That mysterious owner of yours does things right. You may tell him I said so." He gave a sweeping gesture that took in the entire dining room and implied the rest of the building. "Really beautiful restoration. None of the schlock that's turning up all over the place. I'd bet my eye teeth that the lowboy in the foyer is genuine. English, eighteenth century." He beamed and waited for his expertise to be confirmed.
"Actually, it's Dutch," Mr. Rogers said at his most apologetic. "It was built at the Hague in 1761." Before Nick Wyler could take issue with this, or embark on another round of compliments, Mr. Rogers had turned away and was leading Mrs. Emmons and Mrs. Granger to their table by the window.
"The chef's special this evening, ladies, is stuffed pork chops. And in addition to the usual dessert menu, the chef has prepared a custard-filled tart. If you'll simply tell the waiter, he'll see that your selections are brought promptly."
"I like him," Mrs. Granger confided in a loud, gravelly voice. "He knows what service means."
Mr. Rogers had signaled for the waiter and was once again at the door of the dining room. All three Harpers were waiting for him, and smiled ingratiatingly, as if they were the inferiors. Mr. Harper was solicitous of his wife and daughter and respectful to Mr. Rogers.
"Our table there, Doris, Emillie. Mr. Rogers will lead the way." He was so eager to behave properly that he was infuriating.
As Mr. Rogers held the chair for Doris Harper, he saw, with real pleasure, Harriet Goodman and Jim Sutton come in from the lounge. He hastened back to them. "A table together, I assume?"
"Why make more work than's necessary?" Jim asked magnanimously. "Harriet's got the nicer table, anyway." His voice dropped and he stared once more at the Harpers. "I know I've seen that girl. I know it."
"It'll come to you," Harriet told him patiently as they followed Mr. Rogers. She was growing tired of hearing him speculate. They saw each other so rarely that she resented time lost in senseless preoccupation with others.
Franciscus appeared in the door to the lounge and motioned to Mr. Rogers, and when the manager reached him, he said, "Where's Lorpicar? I saw him out on the trails today. Has he come back?"
"I haven't seen him," Mr. Rogers said quietly. "Oh, dear."
"I'll go have a look for him if he hasn't turned up by the end of dinner." He was dressed for playing in the lounge, not for riding at night, but he did not appear to be put out. "I saw the Blakemores come in this afternoon. I think he might be willing to play a while, and he's a good enough pianist for it."
"Last year he did an entire evening for us," Mr. Rogers recalled, not precisely relieved. "I'll make a few inquiries here, in case one of the other guests has seen Lorpicar." He watched Franciscus return to the lounge, and then went to seat the Browns and the Lindholms, who waited for him.
Dinner was almost finished and Mr. Rogers had discovered nothing about the reclusive man in cabin 33. He was about to return with this unpleasant piece of information when he saw the stranger stride through the doors into the foyer.
"Mr. Lorpicar," Mr. Rogers said as he came forward. "You're almost too late for dinner."
The cold stare that Mr. Lorpicar gave the manager was enough to silence a lesser man, but Mr. Rogers gave his blandest smile. "We were concerned when you did not return."
"What I do is my own business," Mr. Lorpicar declared, and stepped hastily into the dining room and went directly to the Harpers' table.
At the approach of Mr. Lorpicar, Emillie looked up and turned even paler than usual. "Gracious," she murmured as the formidable man bore down on her.
"I wonder who this is supposed to impress?" Harriet said very softly to Jim.
"Shush!" was the answer, with a gesture for emphasis. The rest of the dining room buzzed with conversation, and then fell silent as many eyes turned toward the Harper table.
"You did not come," Mr. Lorpicar accused Emillie. "I waited for you and you did not come."
"I couldn't," she answered breathlessly.
Mr. Rogers, watching from the door, felt rather than saw Franciscus appear at his elbow.
"Trouble?" Franciscus asked in a low voice.
"Very likely," was the manager's reply.
"See here..." Emillie's father began, but the tall, dark-clad man cut him off.
"I am not speaking to you. I am speaking to Emillie and no one else." His burning gaze went back to the girl's face. "I want to see you tonight. I must see you tonight."
The diners were silent, their reactions ranging from shock to cynical amusement to disgust to envy. Jim Sutton watched closely, his face revealing nothing, his eyes narrowed.
"I don't know if I can," she faltered, pushing her fork through the remains of her meal.
"You will." He reached out and tilted her head upward. "You will."
Doris Harper gave a little shriek and stared at her water glass as her husband pressed pleats into his napkin.
"I don't know..." Emillie began, but got no further.
"Excuse me," Franciscus said with utmost urbanity. "If Miss Harper wishes to continue what is obviously a private conversation in the lounge, I'll be glad to offer you my company so that her parents need not be concerned. If she would prefer not to talk with you just at present, Mr. Lorpicar, it might be best if you take a seat for the meal or..."
Mr. Lorpicar failed to shove Franciscus out of his way, but he did brush past him with a softly spoken curse, followed by a declaration to the room at large. "I'll eat later," and added, in the same breath to Emillie Harper, "We haven't finished yet."
Franciscus left the dining room almost at once, but not before he had bent down to Emillie and said quietly, "If you would rather not be importuned by Mr. Lorpicar, you have only to tell me so." Then he made his way back to the lounge, and if he heard the sudden rush of conversation, there was no indication of it in his manner.
There were five people in the lounge now and Frank was smothering a yawn at the bar.
"I've been meaning to tell you all evening," Harriet said to Franciscus, "that was a masterful stroke you gave in the dining room."
Franciscus raised his fine brows in polite disbelief. "It seemed the best way to deal with a very awkward situation." He looked at Jim Sutton on the other side of the small table. "Do you remember where you've seen the girl yet?"
"No." The admission bothered him; he ground out his cigarette in the fine crystal ashtray.
"You know," Harriet went on with professional detachment, "it was most interesting to watch Emillie. Most of the people in the room were looking at Lorpicar, but I found Emillie the more interesting of the two. For all her protestations, she was absolutely rapt. She looked at that man as if he were her salvation, or he a god and she his chosen acolyte. Can you imagine feeling that way for a macho nerd like Lorpicar?"
"Is macho nerd a technical term?" Franciscus asked, favoring her with a delighted, sarcastic smile.
"Of course. All conscientious psychiatrists use it." She was quite unrufflable.
"Acolytes!" Jim Sutton burst out, slapping his hand on the table top and spilling his drink. "That's it!"
"What?" Harriet inquired in her best calming tones. "That girl. Their last name isn't Harper, it's Matthisen. She was the one who caused all the furor when that religious fake in Nevada brought the suit against her for breach of contract. He makes all his followers sign contracts with him, as a way to stop the kind of prosecution that some of the other cults have run into. She, Emillie, was one of Reverend Masters' converts. She was kidnapped back by one of the professional deprogrammer. A man by the name of Eric Saul. He got himself declared persona non grata in Nevada for his work with Emillie. Reverend Masters brought suit against Emillie for breach of contract and against her parents and Eric Saul for conspiracy." His face was flushed. "I read most of the coverage of the trial. Loren Hapgood defended the Matthisens and Saul. Part of the defense was that not only was the girl under age-she was sixteen then-but that she was socially unsophisticated and particularly vulnerable to that sort of coercion." He took his glass and tossed off the rum with a tight, eager smile.
"Didn't Enid Hume serve as expert witness?" Harriet asked, thinking of her illustrious colleague. "She's been doing a lot of that in similar cases."
"Yes, she and that guy from L.A. I can't remember his name right off. It's something like Dick Smith. You know the one I mean. The psychologist who did the book a couple years back." He leaned toward Harriet, and both were so caught up in what Jim was saying that they were startled when Franciscus put in a question.
"Who won?" He sat back in his chair, hands folded around the uppermost crossed knee.
"The defense," Jim Sutton said promptly. "The argument was that she was under age and that the nature of the agreement had not been explained to her family. There was also a demonstration that she was more gullible to a con of that sort than a great many others might be."
Harriet pursed her lips. "Enid told me about this, or a similar case, and said that she was worried about kids like Emillie. They're always seeking someone stronger than they are, so that they don't have to deal with their own fears of weakness, but can identify with their master. Reverend Masters is fortunate in his name," she added wryly. "I've seen women who feel that way about domineering husbands, kids who feel that way about parents, occasionally, adults who feel that way about religious or industrial or political leaders. It's one of the attitudes that make tyranny possible." Harriet had a glass of port she had been nursing, but now she took a fair amount of the ripe liquid into her mouth.
"Reverend Masters." Jim Sutton repeated (he name three or four times to himself. "You know, he's a tail man, like Lorpicar. Not the same type. A blond, fallen-angel face, one of those men who looks thirty-five until he's sixty. He's in Arizona or New Mexico now, I think. Some place where the locals aren't watching him too closely."
"And do you think he'll continue?" Franciscus inquired gently of the two.
"Yes," Harriet said promptly. "There are always people who need a person like Masters in their lives. They invent him if they have to. He's a magnet to them."
"That's damn cynical for a woman in your line of work," Jim Sutton chided her. "You make it sound so hopeless."
For a moment Harriet looked very tired and every one of her forty-two years. "There are times I think it is hopeless. It might be just because I deal with child abuse, but there are times I feel that it's not going to get any better, and all the work and caring and heartbreak will be for nothing. It will go on and on and on."
Jim Sutton regarded her with alarm, but Franciscus turned his dark, compassionate eyes on her. "I understand your feeling-far better than you think. Harriet, your caring, your love is never wasted. It may not be used, but it is never wasted."
She stared at Franciscus astonished.
"You know it is true, Harriet," Franciscus said kindly. "You know it or you wouldn't be doing the work you do. And now, if you'll excuse me..." he went on in his usual tones, and rose from the table. "I have a few chores I must finish before the bar closes up for the night." He was already moving across the dimly lit room, and stopped only once on his way to speak to the Wylers.
"Well, well, well, what do you know," Jim Sutton observed, a laconic smile curving his mouth. "I'm beginning to see why you have dreams about him. He's got a great line."
"That wasn't a line," Harriet said quietly.
Jim nodded, contrition in his face. "Yeah. I know." He stared into his glass. "Are the dreams like that?"
Her answer was wry but her expression was troubled. "Not exactly. I haven't had one yet this time. I kind of miss it."
"You've got the real thing instead. Your place or mine tonight?" He put his hand on her shoulder. "Look, I didn't mean that the way it sounded. Erotic dreams, who doesn't have them? Franciscus is a good guy."
"I only have the dreams when I'm here," Harriet said, as if to explain to herself. "I wish I knew why." Her laugh was sad. "I wouldn't mind having them elsewhere. Dreams like that..."
"It's probably the proximity," Jim Sutton said, and then, sensing her withdrawal, "I'm not jealous of the other men you sleep with, so I sure as hell am not going to be jealous of a dream." He finished his rum and cocked his head in the direction of the door. "Ready?"
"God, yes," she sighed, and followed him out of the lounge into the night.
For the last two days Emillie Harper had wandered about listlessly, oblivious to the stares and whispers that followed her. She had taken to wearing slacks and turtle-neck sweaters, claiming she was cold. Her face was wan and her eyes were fever-bright.
"I'm worried about that child," Harriet said to Franciscus as they came back from the stable.
"Victim's syndrome, do you think?" Franciscus asked, his voice carefully neutral.
"More than that. I can't imagine that Lorpicar is a good lay. Men like that almost never are." She was sore from the ride, since she had not been on a horse in eight months, but she walked energetically, doing her best to ignore the protesting muscles, and reminding herself that if she walked normally now, she would be less stiff in the morning.
"Do you think they're sleeping together?" Franciscus asked. They were abreast of the enclosed swimming pool now and could hear Mrs. Emmons' familiar hoots of delight.
"What else? She drags around all day, hardly eats, and meets him somewhere at night. And I've yet to see him up before dusk." She nodded to Myron Shires, who had set a chair out on the lawn in front of the Lodge and had propped a portable typewriter on his knees and was tapping the keys with pianistic intensity. There was a two-beat pause as he waved an off-handed greeting.
"Why do you think that Lorpicar wants her?" Franciscus persisted.
"Because she's the youngest woman here, because she adores him," Harriet said distastefully. "She likes his foreign air, his domination. Poor kid."
"Foreign?" Franciscus asked, reserving his own judgment.
"He does cultivate one," Harriet allowed, glancing up as a large pickup with a two-horse trailer passed by. "Where would you say he comes from?"
Franciscus laughed. "Peoria."
"Do you say that because you're foreign yourself?" She made her inquiry casually, and added, "Your English is almost perfect, but there's something about the rhythm of it, or the word choice. You don't speak it natively, do you?"
"No, not natively." His answer, though terse, was not critical.
Harriet felt herself encouraged. "I've wondered just where you do come from..."
They had started up the wide steps of the porch, heading toward the engraved-glass doors that led into the foyer. There was a joyous shout from inside and the doors flew open.
Franciscus' face froze and then lit with a delight Harriet had never seen before. He stopped on the second step and opened his arms to the well-dressed young woman who raced toward him. They stood embraced for some little time; then he kissed her eyelids and murmured to her, "Ah, mon coeur, how good to see you again."
"And you." The young woman was perhaps twenty-two, though her face was a little young in appearance. Her dark hair fell around her shoulders, her violet eyes danced. She was sensibly dressed in a twill pantsuit with cotton shirt and high, serviceable boots. Harriet had seen enough tailor-made garments in her life to know that this young woman wore such clothes.
"You must forgive me," Franciscus said, recalling himself. "Harriet, this is Madelaine de Montalia, though the de is mere courtesy these days, of course." He had stepped back, but he held Madelaine's hand firmly in his.
"A pleasure," Harriet said. She had never before felt herself to be as much an intruder as she did standing there on the steps of the Lodge. The strength of the intimacy between Franciscus and Madelaine was so great that it was a force in the air. Harriet wanted to find a graceful way to excuse herself, but could think of none. She admitted to herself that she was curious about the young woman, and felt an indefinable sort of envy.
"You must not be shocked," Madelaine said to Harriet. "We are blood relatives, Sain... Franciscus and I. There are not so many of us left, and he and I have been very close."
You've been close in more ways than blood, Harriet thought to herself, but did not voice this observation. She felt a wistfulness, knowing that few of her old lovers would respond to her now as Franciscus did to Madelaine. "I'm not shocked," she managed to say.
"Harriet is a psychiatrist, my dear," Franciscus explained.
"Indeed?" Madelaine was genuinely pleased. "I am an archeologist."
"You seem fairly young to have..." She did not know how to express her feelings, and made a gesture in compensation.
"My face!" Madelaine clapped her free hand to her cheek. "It is very difficult, Harriet, to look so young. I assure you that I am academically qualified. I've done postdoctoral work in Europe and Asia. You mustn't assume I'm as young as I look." Her dismay was quite genuine and she turned to Franciscus. "You're worse than I am."
"It runs in the family," Harriet suggested, looking from Madelaine to Franciscus.
"Something like that," he agreed. "Harriet, will you forgive me if I leave you here?"
"Certainly. You probably want to catch up on everything." She still felt a twinge of regret, but rigorously overcame it. "I'll see you in the lounge tonight." As she started back down the stairs and along the wooded path toward her cabin, she heard Madelaine say, "I've brought one of my colleagues. I hope that's all right."
"I'm sure Mr. Rogers can work something out with the owner," Franciscus said, and was rewarded with mischievous laughter.
Harriet dug her hands into her pockets and told herself that the hurt she felt was from her unaccustomed riding, and not from loneliness.
The moon was three days past full and one edge was ragged, as if mice had been at it. Soft light illumed the path by the lake where Emillie Harper walked, her face pensive, her heart full of unspoken longing. No one, not even Reverend Masters, had made her feel so necessary as Mr. Lorpicar. A delicious shudder ran through her and she stopped to look at the faint reflection of her form in the water. She could not see the expression of her face-the image was too indistinct for that. Yet she could feel the smile and the lightness of her desires. She had never experienced any feeling before that was as irresistible as what Lorpicar summoned up in her.
A shadow crossed the moon, and she looked up, smiling her welcome and anticipation. In the next instant a change came over her, and her disappointment was almost ludicrous.
"Good evening, Miss Harper," Franciscus said kindly. He was astride his gray mare, saddle and bridle as English as his boots.
"Hello," she said listlessly.
He smiled at her as he dismounted. "I felt you might be here by the lake. Your parents are very worried about you."
"Them!" She had hoped to sound independent and confident, but even to her own ears the word was petulant. "Yes, them. They asked me if I'd look for you, and I said that I would. I thought you'd prefer talking to me than to your father."
Emillie's chin rose. "I heard that you had a Frenchwoman come to visit you."
"And so I have," Franciscus said with prompt geniality. "She's a very old friend. We're related in a way."
"Oh, are you French?" she asked, interested in spite of herself.
"No, though I've lived there upon occasion." He was leading the gray now, walking beside Emillie with easy strides, not rushing the girl, but in a subtle way not permitting her to dawdle.
"I'd like to go to France. I'd like to go to Europe. I want to be someplace interesting." Her lower lip pouted and she folded her arms.
Franciscus shook his head. "My dear Emillie, interesting is often another word for dangerous. There is an old Chinese curse to that effect."
Emillie tossed her head and her pale brown hair shimmered in the moonlight. She hoped that Mr. Lorpicar was able to see her, for she knew that her pale hair, ordinarily mousy in the daylight, turned a wonderful shade of lunar gold in bright nights. She did not look at the man beside her. "You don't know what it is to be bored."
"I don't?" His chuckle was not quite kind. "I know more of boredom than you could imagine. But I have learned."
"Learned what?" she challenged, staring along the path with ill-concealed expectation.
He did not answer her question, but remarked, "I don't think that Mr. Lorpicar will be joining you tonight." He did not add that he had gone to cabin 33 earlier and made a thorough investigation of the aloof guest. "You know, Emillie, you're letting yourself..." He did not go on. When had such advice ever been heeded? he asked himself.
"Get carried away?" she finished for him with as much defiance as she could find within herself. "I want to be carried away. I want something exciting to happen to me before it's too late."
Franciscus stopped and felt his mare nudge his shoulder with her nose. "Too late? You aren't even twenty."
She glared at him, saying darkly, "You don't know what it's like. My father wanted me to marry Ray Gunnerman! Can you imagine?"
Though Franciscus knew nothing of this unfortunate young man, he said with perfect gravity, "You're hardly at an age to get married, are you?"
"Father thinks I am. He says that I need someone to take care of me, to protect me. He thinks that I can't manage on my own." Her voice had become shrill and she had gone ahead of him on the path.
Privately, Franciscus thought that Mr. Harper might be justified in his conviction, for Emillie Harper was certainly predisposed to harm herself through her desire to be controlled. "You know," he said reminiscently, "I knew a woman, oh, many years ago..."
"That Frenchwoman?" Emillie asked so sharply that Franciscus raised his fine brows.
"No, this woman was Italian. She was a very attractive widow, and she wanted new sensations in her life. There always had to be more, and eventually, she ran out of new experiences, which frightened her badly, and she turned to the most rigorous austerity, which was just another form of sensation for her. I'm telling you about her because I think you might want to examine your life now."
"You want me to settle for Ray Gunnerman?" she demanded, flushing in that unbecoming, mottled way.
"No. But you should realize that life is not something that is done to you, but a thing that you experience for yourself. If you always look outside yourself for your definitions, you may never discover what is genuinely your own-your self." He could tell from the set of her jaw that she did not believe him.
"What happened to that Italian woman?" she asked him when he fell silent.
"She died in a fire." Which was no more than the truth. "Come, Emillie. It's time you went back to your cabin. Mr. Lorpicar won't be coming now, I think."
"You just don't want me to see him. That's the second time you said he wasn't coming." She thought he would be impressed with her determination, and was shocked when he smiled gently.
"Of course I don't want you to see him-he's a very dangerous man, Emillie."
"He's not dangerous," she protested, though with little certainty. "He wants to see me."
"I am sure he does," Franciscus agreed dryly. "But you were with him last night and the night before. Surely you can forgo tonight, for your parents' peace of mind, if not your own protection."
"Well, I'll go up to see him tomorrow afternoon," Emillie declared, putting her hands on her hips, alarmed to discover that they were trembling.
"Tomorrow afternoon? That's up to you." There was a sad amusement in his dark eyes, but he did nothing to change her mind.
"I will." She looked across the curve of the lake to the hillside where cabin 33 was located. The path was a little less than a quarter mile around the shore, but from where she stood, the cabin was no more than a hundred fifty yards away. The still water was marked by a moon path that lay like a radiant silver bar between her and the far bank where Mr. Lorpicar waited for her in vain. "He has to see me," she insisted, but turned back on the path.
"That's a matter of opinion," Franciscus said and changed the subject. "Are you going to be at the picnic at the south end of the lake tomorrow? The chef is making Mexican food."
"Oh, picnics are silly," she said with the hauteur that only a woman as young as she could express.
"But Kathy is an excellent chef, isn't she?" he asked playfully, knowing that Lost Saints Lodge had a treasure in her.
"Yes," she allowed. "I liked that stuff she made with asparagus and walnuts. I didn't know it could be a salad."
"I understand her enchiladas and chihuahuenos are superb." He was able to speak with complete sincerity.
"I might come for a little while," she said when she had given the matter her consideration. "But that's not a promise."
"Of course not," he agreed gravely as they walked past the bathing beach and pier and turned toward the break in the trees and the path that went from the beach to the badminton courts to the Lodge itself and to cabin 19 beyond, where the Harpers waited for their daughter.
Harriet Goodman was deep in conversation with Madelaine de Montalia, though most of the other guests gathered around the stone fireplace where a large, ruddy-cheeked woman held court while she put the finishing touches on the meal.
"And lots of garlic, comino, and garlic," the chef was instructing the others who stood around her, intoxicated by the smells that rose from the various cooking vessels. "Mexican or Chinese, there's no such thing as too much garlic." She paused. "Most of the time. Now, making Kung-Pao chicken..." and she was off on another description.
"I don't know how she does it," Harriet said loudly enough to include Franciscus in her remark.
"She's an artist," Franciscus said simply. He was stretched out under a young pine, his hands propped behind his head, his eyes all but closed.
Mrs. Emmons bustled around the wooden tables setting out the heavy square glasses that were part of the picnic utensils. "I must say, the owner must be quite a surprising man-real glass on a picnic," she enthused.
"He's something of a snob," Mr. Rogers said, raising his voice to call, "Mr. Franciscus, what's your opinion?"
Franciscus smiled. "Oh, I concur, Mr. Rogers."
"Are you going to spend the entire afternoon supine?" Madelaine asked him as Harriet rose to take her place in line for food.
"Probably." He did not look at her but there was a softening to his face that revealed more than any words or touching could.
"Madelaine!" Harriet called from her place in line. "Do you want some of this? Shall I bring you a plate?"
The dark-haired young woman looked up. "Thank you, Harriet, but no. I am still having jet lag, I think."
"Aren't you hungry?" Harriet asked, a solicitous note in her voice.
"Not at present." She paused and added, "My assistant will provide something for me later." Harriet, but no. I am still having jet lag, I think." had arrived with Madelaine. "Where's she?"
"Nadia is resting. She will be here later, perhaps." She leaned back against the tree trunk and sighed.
"Nadia is devoted to you, my heart?" Franciscus asked quietly.
"Very." She had picked up a piece of bark and was toying with it, turning it over in her hands, feeling the rough and the smooth of it.
"Good. Are you happy?" There was no anxiety in his question, but a little sadness.
Madelaine's answer was not direct. "You told me many years ago that your life is very lonely. I understand that, for I am lonely, but I would rather be lonely, having my life as it is, than to have succumbed at nineteen and never have known all that I know. When I am with you, I am happy. The rest of the time, I am content, and I am always learning."
"And the work hasn't disappointed you?" His voice was low and lazy, caressing her.
"Not yet. Every time I think that I have truly begun to understand a city or a people, something new comes to light, and I discover that I know almost nothing, and must begin again." She was pulling at the weeds that grew near the base of the tree.
"This doesn't disappoint you?"
"No. Once in a while, I become annoyed, and I suppose if my time were short, I might feel more urgency, but, as it is..." She shrugged as only a Frenchwoman can.
A shadow fell across them. "Excuse me," said Mr. Harper, "but have you seen my daughter, Emillie? She went out very early this morning, but I thought surely she'd be back by now." He gave Franciscus an ingratiating smile.
Franciscus opened his eyes. "You mean she isn't here?"
"No. My wife thought that she might have gone swimming, but her suit was in the bathroom, and it's quite chilly in the mornings..." He held a plate of enchiladas and chalupas, and he was wearing a plaid shirt and twill slacks that were supposed to make him look the outdoors sort, but only emphasized the slope of his shoulders and the pallor of his skin.
Alert now, Franciscus sat up. "When did you actually see your daughter last?"
"Well, she came in quite late, and Doris waited for her. They had a talk, and Doris left her about two, she says." His face puckered. "You don't think anything has happened to her, do you?"
"You must think so," Franciscus said with an odd combination of kindness and asperity.
"Well, yes," the middle-aged man said apologetically. "After everything the child has been through..." He stopped and looked at the food on his plate as if there might be revelations in the sauces.
Franciscus got to his feet. "If it will make you less apprehensive, I'll check out the Lodge and the pool for her, and find out if any of the staff have seen her."
"Would you?" There was a weak, manipulative kind of gratitude in the man's pale eyes, and Franciscus began to understand why it was that Emillie Harper had become the victim of the Reverend Masters.
"I'll go now." He touched Madelaine's hair gently. "You'll forgive me, my heart?"
She smiled up at him, saying cryptically, "The Count to the rescue."
"You're incorrigible," he responded affectionately as he put his black hat on. "I'll be back in a while. Tell Mr. Rogers where I've gone, will you?"
"I'll be happy to." Madelaine patted his leg, then watched as he strode off.
"He seems reliable," Mr. Harper said to Madelaine, asking for reassurance.
"He is," she said shortly, leaned back against the tree and closed her eyes.
Mr. Harper looked at her, baffled, then wandered off toward the tables, looking for his wife.
Kathy had served most of the food and had launched into a highly technical discussion with Jim Sutton about the proper way to cook scallops.
Emillie Harper was not at the Lodge, in the recreation building, at the swimming pool, the badminton courts, or the beach area of the resort. Franciscus had checked all those places and had found no trace of the girl. Those few guests who had not gone on the picnic had not seen her, and the staff could not recall noticing her.
At first Franciscus had assumed that Emillie was giving a show of childish petulance-she clearly resented Franciscus' interference in her tryst the night before. As he walked along the shore trail past the small dock, he wondered if he had been hasty, and his steps faltered. He glanced north, across the bend of the lake toward the hillside where cabin 33 was, and involuntarily his face set in anger. Why, of all the resorts in the Rocky Mountains, did Mr. Milan Lorpicar have to choose Lost Saints Lodge for his stay?
A sound intruded on his thoughts, the persistent clacking of a typewriter. The door to cabin 8 stood ajar, and Franciscus could see Myron Shires hunched over on the couch, his typewriter on the coffee table, his fingers moving like a pair of dancing spiders over the keys. Beside the typewriter there was a neat stack of pages about two inches high. The sound stopped abruptly. "Franciscus," Myron Shires said, looking up quickly.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Shires. I thought you'd be at the picnic." He liked the big, slightly distracted man, and was pleased to let him intrude on his thoughts.
"Well, I'm planning to go," he said. "What time is it?"
"After one," Franciscus said, smiling now.
"After one?" Shires repeated, amazed. "How on earth..."
"There's plenty of food," Franciscus assured him, not quite smiling at Myron Shires' consternation.
Shires laughed and gave a self-deprecating shrug. "I ought to have a keeper. My ex-wife hated it when I forgot things like this, but I get so caught up in..." He broke off. "You weren't sent to fetch me, were you?"
"No," Franciscus said, leaning against the door. "As a matter of fact I was looking for the Harper girl. Her parents are worried because she hasn't shown up for lunch."
"The Harper girl?" Shires said. "Is that the skittish teenager who looks like a ghost most of the time?"
"That's her," Franciscus nodded. "Have you seen her?"
Shires was gathering his pages into a neat stack and did not answer at once. "Not today, no. I did see her last night, walking along the trail on the other side of the beach. She stopped under the light and I thought that she was really quite graceful."
Franciscus almost dismissed this, remembering his encounter with Emillie the night before, but his curiosity was slightly piqued: he wanted to know how long the girl had waited for Mr. Lorpicar. "When was that?" he asked.
"Oh, quite late. Three, three-thirty in the morning. You know me-I'm night people." He had put the pages into a box and was putting his typewriter into its case.
"Three?" Franciscus said, dismayed. "Are you sure?"
"Well, it might have been a little earlier," Shires allowed as he closed the lid of the case. "Not much earlier, though, because I had my radio on until two and it had been off for a time." He caught sight of Franciscus' face. "Is anything wrong?"
Franciscus sighed. "I hope not." He looked at the novelist. "Do you think you can find your way to the picnic without me?"
Myron Shires laughed. "I'm absentminded, but not that absentminded," he said with real joviality. "Kathy's picnics are one of the best draws this place offers." He had put his typewriter aside and was pulling on a light jacket.
"Would you be kind enough to tell Mr. Rogers what you've told me?" Franciscus added as he went to the door.
"That I saw the Harper girl go out late? Certainly." He was plainly puzzled but too courteous to ask about the matter.
"I'll explain later, I hope. And, if you can, contrive that her parents don't hear what you say." He had the door open.
"I'm not a complete boor, Franciscus." He had picked up his key from the ashtray on the end table and turned to address a further remark to Franciscus, but the man was gone.
The path to cabin 33 was well kept. There were rails on the downhill side of it, and neat white stones on the other, and at night the lanterns were turned on, making a pool of light every fifty feet. Franciscus knew the route well, and he walked it without reading any of the signs that pointed the way to the various clusters of cabins. He moved swiftly, though with such ease that his speed was not apparent. The trail turned and grew steeper, but his pace did not slacken.
Cabin 33 had been built eight years before, when all the cabins at the north end of the lake had been added. It was of medium size, with a front room, a bedroom, bath and kitchenette, with a screened porch which was open in the summer but now had its winter shutters in place.
Franciscus made a quick circle of the place, then waited to see if Mr. Milan Lorpicar would make an appearance. The cabin was silent. Coming back to the front of cabin 33, Franciscus rapped with his knuckles. "Mr. Lorpicar?" A glance at the red tab by the doorframe told him that the maid had not yet come to change the bed and vacuum the rugs, which was not surprising with the small staff that the Lodge kept during the off-season. The more remote cabins were serviced in the late afternoon.
A second knock, somewhat louder, brought no response, and Franciscus reached into his pocket, extracting his passkey. He pounded the door one more time, recalling with certain amusement the time he had burst in on a couple at the most awkward of moments, made even more so because the husband of the woman and wife of the man were waiting for their absent partners in the recreation hall. The tension in his neck told him that this occasion would be different.
The door opened slowly onto a perfectly orderly front room. Nothing there hinted that the cabin was occupied. There were no magazines, no papers, no cameras, no clothes, no fishing tackle, nothing except what Lost Saints Lodge provided.
Emillie was in the bedroom, stretched out with only the spread over her, drawn up to her chin. She was wan, her closed eyes like bruises in her face, her mouth slightly parted.
"Emillie?" Franciscus said quietly, not wanting to alarm her. She did not awaken, so he came nearer after taking a swift look around the room to be sure that they were alone. "Emillie Harper," he said more sharply.
The girl gave a soft moan, but her eyes did not open.
Franciscus lifted the spread and saw, as he suspected, that she was naked. He was startled to see how thin she was, ribs pressing against her skin, her hips rising like promontories at either side of her abdomen. There were dark blotches here and there on her body, and he nodded grimly as he recognized them.
"God, an amateur," he said under his breath, and dropped the spread over Emillie.
A quick search revealed the girl's clothes in a heap on the bathroom floor. There was no sign of Lorpicar there, either-no toothbrush, no razor. Franciscus nodded, picked up the clothes and went back to the bedroom. He pulled the spread aside once more, and then, with deft persistence, he began to dress the unconscious Emillie Harper.
"I don't know what's wrong," Doctor Eric Muller said as he stood back from the bed. He smoothed his graying hair nervously. "This isn't my field, you know. Most of my patients are referred to me. I'm not very good at off-the-cuff diagnoses like this, and without a lab and more tests, I really couldn't say..."
Franciscus recalled that Mister Rogers had warned him that the doctor was jumpy, and so he schooled his patience. "Of course. I understand. But you will admit that it isn't usual for a girl, or a young woman, if you prefer, to be in this condition."
"No, not usual," the doctor agreed, refusing to meet Franciscus' eyes. "Her parents ought to get her to an emergency room, somewhere."
"The nearest emergency facility," Franciscus said coolly, "is thirty miles away and is operated by the forest service. They're better suited to handling broken ankles, burns, and snake bites than cases like this."
Doctor Muller tightened his clasped hands. "Well, all I can recommend is that she be taken somewhere. I can't be of much help, I'm afraid."
"Why not?" Franciscus asked. He had hoped that the doctor would be able to tell the Harpers something reassuring when he left this room.
"There aren't lab facilities here, are there? No. And I'm not licensed in this state, and with the way malpractice cases are going, I can't take responsibility. There's obviously something very wrong with the girl, but I don't think it's too serious." Doctor Muller was already edging toward the door. "Do you think Mister Rogers would mind if I checked out early?"
"That's your business, Doctor," Franciscus said with a condemning lift of his fine brows.
"There'll have to be a refund. I paid in advance." There was a whine under the arrogance, and Franciscus resisted the urge to shout at him.
"I don't think Mister Rogers would stop you from going," he said with an elegant inclination of his head.
"Yes. Well." The door opened and closed like a trap being sprung.
Franciscus remained looking down at the girl on the bed. She was in cabin 19 now, in the smaller bedroom, and her parents hovered outside. Harriet Goodman was with them, and occasionally her steady, confident tones penetrated to the darkened room.
There was a knock, and Franciscus turned to see Mr. Harper standing uncertainly near the door. "The doctor said he didn't know what was wrong. He said there would have to be tests..."
"A very wise precaution," Franciscus agreed with a reassuring smile. "But it's probably nothing more than overdoing. She's been looking a little washed out the last few days, and all her activity probably caught up with her." It was plausible enough, he knew, and Mr. Harper was searching for an acceptable explanation. "You'll probably want to call the doctor in Fox Hollow. He makes calls. And he will be able to order the right transportation for her if there is anything more than fatigue the matter." He knew that Mr. Harper was wavering, so he added, "Also, it will save Emillie embarrassment if the condition is minor."
Mr. Harper wagged his head quickly. "Yes. Yes, that's important. Emillie hates... attention." He came nearer the bed. "Is there any change?"
"Not that I've noticed." It was the truth, he knew, but only a portion of it. "You might like Ms. Goodman or my friend Ms. Montalia to sit with Emillie until she wakes up."
"Oh, her mother and I will do that," Mr. Harper said at once.
Franciscus realized that he had pressed the matter too much. "Of course. But I'm sure that either lady would be pleased to help out while you take dinner, or speak with Dr. Fitzallen, when he comes." It was all Franciscus could do to hold back his sardonic smile. Mr. Harper was so transparently reassured by that very proper name, and would doubtless be horrified when the physician, a forty-two-year-old Kiowa, arrived. That was for later, he thought.
"Did you... anyone... give her first aid?" Mr. Harper asked in growing distress.
"I know some first aid," Franciscus said kindly. "I checked her pulse, and breathing, and did my best to determine that no bones were broken." It was a facile lie, and not in the strictest sense dishonest. "Mr. Harper," he went on in sterner tones, "your daughter is suffering from some sort of psychological problem, isn't she?" Though he could not force the frightened father to discuss his daughter's involvement with the Reverend Masters, he felt he had to dispel the illusion that all was well.
"Not exactly," he said, watching Franciscus uneasily.
"Because," Franciscus went on relentlessly, "if she is, this may be a form of shock, and in that case, the treatment might be adjusted to her needs." He waited, not moving, standing by Emillie as if guarding her.
"There has been a little difficulty," Mr. Harper said when he could not endure the silence.
"Be sure you tell Dr. Fitzallen all about it. Otherwise he may, inadvertently, do the wrong thing." With a nod, he left the bedside and went to the door to the sitting room. "Harriet," he said crisply as he started across the room, "get Jim and join me for a drink."
Harriet Goodman was wise enough to ask no questions of him, though there were many of them building up in her as she hastened after him.
"I was horrified!" Mrs. Emmons announced with delight as she told Mrs. Granger, who had been asleep with a headache, of the excitement she had missed. "The girl was white as a sheet-I can't tell you." She signaled Frank, the bartender, to send over another round of margaritas, though she still longed for a side-car.
At the other end of the lounge, Franciscus sat with Harriet Goodman and Jim Sutton. His face was turned away from the two old women who were now regaling Frank with a catalogue of their feelings on this occasion. "I can't insist, of course," he said to Jim Sutton.
"Let's hear it for the First Amendment," Jim said. "I don't like to sit on good stories, and this one is a beauty." He was drinking coffee and it had grown cold as they talked. Now he made a face as he tasted it. "Christ, this is awful."
Harriet Goodman regarded Franciscus gravely. "That child may be seriously ill."
"She is in danger, I'll concede that," Franciscus responded.
"It's more than that. I helped her mother undress her, and there were some very disturbing..." She could not find a word that satisfied her.
"I saw them," Franciscus said calmly, but quietly so that this revelation would not attract the two women at the other end of the lounge.
"Saw them?" Harriet repeated, and Jim Sutton leaned forward.
"What were they like? Harriet hasn't told me anything about this."
Franciscus hesitated a moment. "There were a number of marks on her and... scratches."
Jim Sutton shook his head. "That guy Lorpicar must be one hell of a kink in bed."
"That's not funny, Jim," Harriet reprimanded him sharply.
"No, it's not," he agreed. "What... how did she get the marks? Was it Lorpicar?"
"Probably," Franciscus said. "She was in his cabin, on his bed, with just the spread over her." He let this information sink in, and then said, "With what Emillie has already been through with that Reverend Masters, she's in no shape for more notoriety. And if this gets a lot of press attention..."
"Which it might," Jim allowed.
Franciscus gestured his accord and went on, "... then she might not come out of it very well. The family has already changed its name, and that means there was a lot of pressure on them to begin with. If this is added..."
"Yes," Harriet said in her calm way. "You're right. Whatever is happening to that girl, it must be dealt with circumspectly. That means you, Jim."
"It means you, too. You can't go putting this in a casebook and getting a big publicity tour for it," Jim shot back, more caustically than he had intended.
"Both of you, stop it," Franciscus said with such" assurance and resignation that the other two were silenced at once, like guilty children. "I'm asking that you each suspend your first inclinations and keep quiet about what is going on here. If it gets any worse, then you'll have to do whatever your professions demand. However, Harriet, with your training, I hope that you'll be willing to spend some time with Emillie once she regains consciousness."
"You seem fairly certain that she will regain consciousness," Harriet snapped.
"Oh, I'm certain. I've seen this condition before. Not here. I hadn't expected to encounter this... affliction here." He stared toward the window and the long, dense shadows that heralded night. There were patches of yellow sunlight at the ends of dusty bars of light, and the air was still.
"If you know what it is, why didn't you tell the Harpers?" Jim Sutton demanded, sensing a greater mystery.
"Because they wouldn't believe me. They want to talk to a doctor, not to me. Jorry Fitzallen is welcome to talk to me after he's seen Emillie."
Harriet tried to smile. "You're right about her parents. They do need to hear bad news from men with authority." She stood up. "I want to change before dinner, and I've got less than half an hour to do that. I'll look in on the girl on my way back to the cabin."
"Thank you," Franciscus said, then turned his attention to Jim Sutton. "Well? Are you willing to sit on this story for a little while?"
He shrugged. "I'm on vacation. There's a murder trial coming up in Denver that will keep my paper in advertisers for the next six months. I'll pretend that I haven't seen or heard a thing. Unless it gets bigger. That would make a difference." He raised his glass in a toast. "I must be running out of steam-two years ago, maybe even last year, I would have filed the story and be damned. It might be time to be a teacher, after all." He tossed off his drink and looked away.
The dining room was about to open when Franciscus came through the foyer beside the lobby calling out, "Mr. Rogers, may I see you a moment."
The manager looked up from his stand by the entrance to the dining room. "Why, certainly, Mr. Franciscus. In the library?"
"Fine." Franciscus was already climbing the stairs, and he held the door for Mr. Rogers as he came up.
"It's about Lorpicar?" Mr. Rogers said as the door closed.
"Yes. I've been up to his cabin and checked it out. Wherever he's staying, it's not there. No one is staying there. That means that there are almost a hundred other places he could be. I've asked the staff to check their unoccupied cabins for signs of entry, but I doubt he'd be that foolish, though God knows he's bungled enough so far..." He pounded the bookcase with his small fist, and the heavy oak sagged. "We don't even know that he's at the resort. He could be camping out beyond the cabins."
"What about Fox Hollow? Do you think he could have gone that far?" Mr. Rogers asked, and only the slightly higher pitch of his voice belied the calm of his demeanor.
"I doubt it. That ranger... Backus, he would have seen something if Lorpicar were commuting." He sat down. "The idiot doesn't know enough not to leave bruises!"
"And the girl?" Mr. Rogers said.
"I think we got her in time. If we can keep Lorpicar away from her for a couple of nights, she'll be all right. Certainly no worse than she was in the hands of Reverend Masters." He laughed once, mirthlessly.
"What are you going to do?" Mr. Rogers had not taken a seat, but watched as Franciscus paced the area between the bookcases and the overstuffed Victorian chairs.
"Find him. Before he makes a worse mistake." He halted, his hand to his forehead. "He could have chosen any resort in the Rockies!"
"And what would have happened to that girl if you had not found her?" He expected no answer and got none.
"Harriet thinks that giving Emillie a crucifix would not be a good idea, considering what she's been through. She's probably right, but it makes our job tougher. Because you can be completely confident that Lorpicar believes the myths." Franciscus looked out the window. "I'll see if Kathy can spare some garlic. That will help."
"I'll tell her that you want some," Mr. Rogers promised.
Suddenly Franciscus chuckled. "I'm being an Uncle... what? Not Tom, surely. An Uncle Vlad? Uncle Bela? But what else can I do? Either we stop this rash youngster or Madelaine, and you, and I will be exposed to needless risk." He gave Mr. Rogers a steady look and though Franciscus was quite short, he had a kind of majesty in his stance. "We've come through worse, old friend. I'm not blaming you, I'm miffed at myself for being caught napping."
Mr. Rogers allowed himself to smile. "Thank you for that." He took a step toward the door. "I'd better go down and start dinner seating. Oh." He turned in the open door. "There was a call from Fox Hollow. Jorry Fitzallen will be here by eight."
"Good. By then, I'll have a better idea where we stand."
Franciscus' confidence was destined to be short-lived. He had left the library and had not yet reached the glass doors opening onto the porch when he heard an anguished shout from the area of the lounge and Harriet Goodman started toward him.
"Franciscus!" she called in a steadier tone, though by that time, Mrs. Emmons had turned on her barstool and was watching with undisguised enthusiasm while Nick and Eleanore Wyler paused on the threshold of the dining room to listen to the latest. Eleanore Wyler was wearing a long Algerian caftan with elaborate piping embroidery with little mirrors worked into it, and she shimmered in the dusk.
Assuming a levity he did not feel, Franciscus put his small hands on his hips. "Ms. Goodman, if that frog is still living under your bathtub..." It had happened the year before and had become a harmless joke. The Wylers had been most amused by it, and Nick Wyler chortled and began in a loud voice to remind Eleanore of the various methods that were used to rout the offending frog.
Under the cover of this hearty basso, Harriet nodded gratefully. "Thanks. I realized as soon as I spoke that I should have remained quiet. You've got your wits about you, which is more than I do." She put her hand up to wipe her brow, saying very softly, "I'm sorry, but Emillie is missing."
"Missing?" Franciscus repeated, genuinely alarmed.
"I heard Mrs. Harper making a fuss, so I went up the path to their cabin and asked what was wrong. She said she'd been out of Emillie's bedroom for a few moments-I gather from her choice of euphemisms that she was in the John-and when she came back the bedroom door was open and Emillie was nowhere to be seen."
Franciscus rubbed his smooth-shaven face. "I see. Thank you. And if you'll excuse me now..." He had motioned to Mr. Rogers, but did not approach the manager. Instead he was out the glass doors in a few seconds, walking swiftly on the east-bound path past the parking lot to the trail leading to the Harpers' cabin 19. His thoughts, which had been in turmoil when Harriet had spoken to him, were now focused and untainted by anger. He had let the matter go on too long, he told himself, but without useless condemnation. He had not supposed that any vampire would be as obvious, as flamboyantly inept as Milan Lorpicar. He lengthened his stride and steeled himself to deal with Doris Harper.
Jorry Fitzallen had required little persuasion-he allowed himself to be put up in one of the "best cabins and provided with one of Kathy's special late suppers. He was curious about the girl, he said, and would not be needed in Fox Hollow that night unless an emergency arose. He spent the evening listening to the descriptions of the missing girl from her parents, from Harriet Goodman, from all those who had seen Emillie, and all those who had an opinion. From Jim Sutton he got the background of Emillie's disputes with Reverend Masters, and shook his head with distress. He had treated a few of the good Reverend's followers and had some strong words about that cult leader. He was not able to talk to Dr. Eric Muller, for though the physician had examined Emillie Harper, he kept insisting that he was only a dermatologist and had never encountered anything like Emillie's wounds before and did not want to again. At last Jorry Fitzallen abandoned the questions for the pleasure of talking shop with Harriet Goodman.
There was no music in the lounge that night, for Mr. Franciscus was out with half the day staff, searching for Emillie Harper, and for the strange Mr. Lorpicar.
"I knew he was not to be trusted," Mrs. Emmons told the Jenkins sisters, Sally and Elizabeth, who had arrived that afternoon shortly before Emillie Harper was reported missing.
"But how could you? What was he like?" Sally asked, watching her sister stare longingly at Mrs. Emmons' margarita.
"Well, you know. Men like that-oh, very handsome in a savage way. Tall, dark, atrocious manners, and so domineering!" Her intended condemnation was wistful. "Anyone could see at once that there would be no discouraging such a man once he made up his mind about a woman."
The Wylers, at the next table, were indulging in more speculation. "If she had bruises all over her, maybe he simply beat her up. Girls like to be treated rough if they're inhibited, and if ever I saw someone who is..." Nick Wyler asserted loudly.
"I can't imagine what that poor child must have gone through," Eleanore agreed in a tone that implied she knew what she would want done to her, had Mr. Lorpicar-and everyone was certain that her assailant was Mr. Lorpicar-chosen her instead of Emillie Harper.
The Browns, Ted and Katherine, came in and were instantly seized upon for news. Since they had brought their own horses, they had been out on the trails with Franciscus and two others. Enjoying this moment of attention, they described their meeting with the ranger named Backus who had reluctantly promised to alert his fire patrol to the two missing guests.
"I think," Ted Brown said, his smiling making seams in his face, "that Backus thought those two don't want to be found for a while. He said as much to Franciscus."
There were knowing laughs in answer to this, and listening, Harriet Goodman was glad that the Harpers had remained in their cabin rather than come to the lounge.
"That Backus sure didn't want to help out," Katherine Brown agreed with playful indignation. "He's worried about fire, not a couple of missing people."
Several diverse points of view were heard, and in this confusion, Ted Brown ordered drinks from the bar.
It was more than an hour later, when the noise in the lounge was greater and the talk was much less unguarded, that Franciscus appeared in the doorway. His black clothes were dusty and his face was tired. At the back of his dark eyes there was a cold wrath burning.
The conversation faltered and then stopped altogether. Franciscus came across the floor with quick, relentless steps, to where Jorry Fitzallen sat with Harriet Goodman. "I need you," he said to the doctor, and without waiting for a response, he turned and left the lounge.
The Kiowa made no apologies, but followed Franciscus, hearing the talk erupt behind him as he reached the front door.
On the porch, Franciscus stopped him. "We found her. She's dead."
"You're certain?" Jorry asked. "Laymen sometimes think that..."
Franciscus cut in sharply. "I've seen enough dead bodies to recognize one, Dr. Fitzallen."
Jorry Fitzallen nodded, chastened, though he was not sure why. "Where is she?"
"In cabin 19. Her parents are... distraught. If you have a sedative, a strong one, Mrs. Harper could use it." The words were crisp, and Franciscus' ire was no longer apparent, though Jorry Fitzallen was sure that it had not lessened.
"I'll get my bag. Cabin 19 is on the eastern path, isn't it?"
"Yes. Second from the end on the right." He studied the physician's sharp features. "You will need to be very discreet, Jorry."
Jorry Fitzallen puzzled the meaning of that remark all the way from his car to cabin 19.
Madelaine de Montalia was seated beside Mrs. Harper, her arm around Doris Harper's shoulder, a barrier for the near-hysterical sobs that slammed through her like seismic shocks. Franciscus, who was pouring a third double scotch for the stunned Mr. Harper, gave Jorry Fitzallen a quick glance and cocked his head toward the women on the couch.
With a nod, the doctor put his bag on the coffee table and crouched before Mrs. Harper.
Doris Harper gasped at the newcomer, looking toward her husband in deep distress. "Howard..." she wailed.
Franciscus stepped in, letting Mrs. Harper see the full compelling force of his dark eyes. "Yes, you are very fortunate, Mrs. Harper. Dr. Fitzallen came as soon as our message reached him, and he's waiting to have a look at you."
"But Emillie..." the woman cried out.
"That will wait," was Franciscus' immediate reply. He laid one beautiful, small hand on her shoulder. "You must be taken care of first." Had that ever happened to this poor, faded, middle-aged woman before in her life? Franciscus thought. He had seen women like her, all his life long. They tried to buy safety and love and protection by putting themselves last, and it had never saved them. He sighed.
"I'm going to give you an injection, Mrs. Harper," Jorry Fitzallen was saying in his most professional tones. "I want you to lie down on the couch afterward. You'll stay with her, will you, Miss... ?"
"As long as you think is wise," Madelaine answered at once.
Mrs. Harper gave a little, desperate nod of thanks and gritted her teeth for the injection.
"I think she'll sleep for several hours," the doctor said to Franciscus and Mr. Harper. "But she's already under tension, from what Mr. Franciscus has told me, Mr. Harper, and it would be wise to get her back into familiar surroundings as soon as possible."
"But we sold everything when we moved and changed..." He stopped, glancing uneasily from one man to the other.
"Your name, yes," Franciscus said gently. "But now that doesn't matter, and you will have to make certain arrangements. If you have family in another part of the country..."
"God help me, the funeral," Mr. Harper said, aghast, and put his hands to his eyes.
Before either Franciscus or Jorry Fitzallen could speak, Madelaine came up beside them. "I think that Mr. Harper would like a little time to himself, gentlemen." With a deft move, she extricated the grieving father from the other two. "Let's see the body," Jorry Fitzallen said quietly, feeling that same disquieting fatigue that the dead always gave him.
Franciscus held the door and the two passed into the smaller bedroom.
Emillie was nude, and her skin was more mottled than before, though this time the marks were pale. The body had a waxy shine and looked greenish in the muted light.
"Jesus H. Christ," Jorry Fitzallen murmured at the sight of her. "Is there any post-mortem lividity?"
"A little in the buttocks. That's about it." Franciscus kept his voice level and emotionless.
"Exsanguination is your cause of death, then. Not that there could be much doubt, given her color." He bent to touch one of the many wounds, this one on the inside of her elbow. "How many of these on her?"
"Sixteen total. Seven old, nine new. It happened before, which is why you were called. She was unconscious." Franciscus had folded his arms and was looking down at the dead girl.
"If her blood loss was as heavy as I think it might have been, no wonder she was out cold." He bent over the girl and examined the wound at the elbow. "What kind of creature makes bites like this? Or is this one of the new torture cults at work?"
"The wounds were made by a vampire; a very sloppy and greedy one," Franciscus stated surely.
"Oh, for the love of God, don't joke!" Jorry Fitzallen snapped. "I'll have to notify the county about this at once. The sheriff and the medical examiner should be alerted." He was inspecting two more of the bites now, one on the curve of her ribs and one just above her hip. "They're not deep. She shouldn't have bled like this."
Franciscus was silent.
"This is going to take a while," Jorry said, rather remotely. "I'm going to have to be very thorough. Will you give the ambulance service in Red Well a call. Tell them it isn't urgent, but they better bring a cold box."
"Of course," Franciscus said, grateful for the dismissal. There were too many things he had to do for him to spend more time with the Kiowa physician.
The Harpers left the next morning, and so did the Barneses, though they had done little but sit in their cabin and play table tennis in the recreation hall.
"She was so close to us," said Mr. Barnes, who had been in the first cabin on the eastern trail. He looked about nervously, as if he thought that death might be lurking around the registration desk.
"I quite understand," Mr. Rogers assured him, and handed him the accounting of the elderly couple's brief stay.
"How many have checked out this morning?" Madelaine asked when the lobby was empty. She had been standing at the mezzanine, watching Mr. Rogers.
"Dr. Muller, the Barneses, the Harpers, Amanda Farnsworth and the Lindholms. As Martha so correctly pointed out, a man with a heart condition does not need to be distressed, and the events of the last two days are distressing." He had closed the huge, leather-bound register.
"But Lorpicar is still here," Madelaine said, her violet eyes brightening with anger.
"Apparently. No one has seen him. He hasn't checked out. He could have decamped without bothering to settle his account, and that would be quite acceptable to me," Mr. Rogers said austerely, but with an understated familiarity.
The lobby doors by the foyer opened and Jim Sutton strode into the room. "Have either of you seen Harriet?" he asked anxiously.
"No, not since breakfast," Mr. Rogers answered. "Miss Montalia?"
"Not this morning."
Jim sighed, tried to look irritated and only succeeded in looking worried. "She was talking some nonsense about that Lorpicar whacko. She said that she could figure out where he was hiding if she could only figure out what his guilt-patterns are. What a time to start thinking like a shrink!" He started toward the door and turned back. "If Franciscus comes in, ask him if he's seen her. It's crazy, I know," he went on in a voice that ached to be reassured. "It's because of that girl. You'd think I'd be used to bizarre deaths by now, wouldn't you? But with Harriet trying to prove a point, damn her..." He pushed the door open and was gone.
"Where's the Comte?" Madelaine asked Mr. Rogers quietly.
"Searching the cabins on the north end of the lake. He's already done the southern ones." His face showed no emotion, but he added, "I thank you."
Madelaine tossed her head. "I'll tell him. He likes Harriet." She was down the stairs and almost to the doors. "So do I."
"Next we'll have Mrs. Emmons out skulking in the bushes!" Franciscus burst out when Madelaine had told him about Harriet. "Why couldn't she have waited a bit?"
"For the same reason you didn't, probably," Madelaine said with a sad, amused smile.
He touched her face, a gesture of infinite longing. "I do love you, my heart. The words are nothing. But now, they are all we can share." He took her in his arms briefly, his face pressed against her hair. She was only half a head shorter than he and she was so lonely for him that she gave a little cry, as if in remembered pain.
"Why not you, when I love you best?" she protested.
"You know the answer. It is not possible when you and I are of the same blood. Before, well, since we do not die, we must find our paradise here on earth, and for a time it was ours. My dearest love, believe this. We have had our heaven together. And our hell," he added, thinking back to the desolation of war.
Their kiss was brief and intense, as if each feared to make it longer. It was Madelaine who stood back. "We have not found Harriet," she reminded him.
"And we must do that, if we are to prevent another tragedy." He agreed promptly, taking her hand. "You know what we are looking for. Undoubtedly he will have his box of earth somewhere near."
"And if he has treated Harriet to the same brutality that he gave Emillie?" Madelaine asked gently.
Franciscus tried for humor. "Well, we won't be able to keep Jim Sutton from filing a story on it."
"Don't mock, Saint-Germain."
He sighed. "If he has, we must be very, very cautious. We must be so in any case." He stopped in the open door of the empty cabin. "I don't want to sell this place. I like it here. These mountains remind me of my home, and the life is pleasant. I suppose it is wisest, though."
Madelaine touched his arm. "She may be all right. And a girl like Emillie... there will not be too many questions asked. You need not give up Lost Saints Lodge."
"Perhaps." He shook off the, despondency. "I'll take the west side of the trail and you take the east. We should be able to do all the cabins in half an hour."
Harriet was on the floor of a tool shed near the stable. There were savage discolorations on her throat and wrists, and one of the rips in her skin still bled sluggishly.
"Good God," Madelaine said in disgust. "Hasn't that man any sense?"
"The evidence is against it," Franciscus said wryly. He bent to pick up Harriet. "She'll come out of it, but I think we'd better hold her in the Lodge. There's a room behind my... workshop where I've got a bed. Jorry Fitzallen can check her over."
"And what will he say?" Madelaine asked, not able to conceal her anxiety.
"My dear, Jorry Fitzallen is a Kiowa. He will be very circumspect. Last year there was a shamanistic killing which he attributed to snakebite, which, if you stretch a point, was true." He carried Harriet easily, as if she were little more than a child. "You'd best make sure that there is no one on the trail. I would not like to have any more rumors flying than we already have to contend with."
Jim Sutton had turned first pale, but now his face was flushed and he stammered as he spoke. "If I get m-my hands on that b-bastard..."
"You will endanger yourself and Harriet needlessly," Franciscus said sharply. "It won't work, Jim. It's much better that you stay with Harriet-she will be grateful, you know-than that you waste your energy running around the hills looking for this man."
The room off what Franciscus called his workshop was spartanly simple. There was a narrow, hard captain's bed, a simple writing table, and a chair. On the wall were three paintings, two of unremarkable subjects and talents, one, clearly by a more skilled hand, showed a rough-visaged Orpheus lamenting his lost Eurydice.
"This is yours?" Jim Sutton asked as he glanced around. Now that the shock of seeing Harriet had lessened, he was intrigued by his surroundings.
"It's damned austere," he said uncomfortably.
"I prefer it," Franciscus responded.
"That Orpheus looks something like a Botticelli," he remarked after staring at it a little while.
"It does, doesn't it?" Franciscus drew the single chair up to the bed where Harriet lay. "Come, sit down. She'll be awake by sunset. I'll have Frank send in an occasional double Cruzan." He waited while Jim Sutton reluctantly sat down. "I would recommend that you open the door only to me and Mr. Rogers. It's true that Lorpicar hasn't been found, but there is a possibility"-he knew it was, in fact, a certainty-"that Lorpicar may try to find Harriet to... finish what he started."
Jim Sutton's eyes were too bright. "I'll kill him," he vowed.
"Will you." Franciscus looked at the reporter. "Harriet needs your help. Leave Lorpicar to me."
"You?" There was polite incredulity in his expression.
"I know what I am up against, my friend. You don't. And in this instance, a lack of knowledge might be fatal." He bent over Harriet, his dark eyes keen. "She will recover. I don't think there will be any serious aftereffects."
"God, I hope not," Jim Sutton said quite devoutly.
Franciscus almost smiled. "I'll send you word when we've found Lorpicar. Until then, if you want to stay here, fine. If you'd rather leave, it would be best if you let Mr. Rogers know so that someone else can stay with Harriet."
"Then she isn't safe yet?" he said, catching at Franciscus' sleeve.
"She, herself, is not in any great danger. But Lorpicar is another matter, and he may still try to reach her." He wanted to be certain that Jim Sutton did not underestimate the risk involved. "Harriet is all right now, but if Lorpicar has another go at her..."
"Oh, shit." Jim rubbed his face. "The world is full of psychos. I swear it is."
Franciscus said nothing, but before he closed the door, he saw Jim Sutton take Harriet's unresisting hand between his own.
There was little conversation at dinner, though Kathy had outdone herself with the food. Guests drank more heavily than usual, and Nick Wyler had offered to stand guard on the porch with a shotgun, but Mr. Rogers had quickly put an end to that idea, much to the relief of the other guests. By the time the dining room was empty much of the fear had been dispelled, though Mrs. Emmons had declared that she would not sleep a moment for fear she would be the next victim.
Frank kept the bar open until eleven, and Mr. Franciscus sat at the harpsichord in the lounge, playing music no one noticed. But even the most intrepid guests were touched by fear, and the last group bought a bottle of bourbon and left together, taking comfort from the drink and familiar faces.
"You going to bed, Franciscus?" the bartender called as he finished closing out the register for the evening.
"In a while. Don't mind me." He was playing a Scarlatti sonata now. "Turn off the lights when you go."
The bartender shrugged. "Whatever you say."
Half an hour later, Franciscus sat alone in the dark. The harpsichord was silent. The last pan had rattled in the kitchen some time before and the tall clock in the lobby sounded oddly muffled as its St. Michael's chimes tolled the quarter hour.
An errant breeze scampered through the lounge and was gone. Franciscus waited, alert, a grim, sad curve to his lips.
There was a soft tread in the dining room, the whisper of cloth against cloth, the quiet squeak of a floorboard.
The lounge, at an oblique angle to the foyer and separated from the lobby by an arch, was not touched by the single light that glowed at the registration desk, and the soft footfalls turned to the lounge from the dining room, seeking the haven of darkness.
When the steps were halfway across the room, Franciscus snapped on the light over the keyboard. It was soft, dispelling little of the night around it, but to the black-cloaked figure revealed on the edge of its luminescence, it glowed bright as the heart of a star.
"Good evening, Mr. Lorpicar," Franciscus said.
Franciscus watched the tall man draw back, one arm raising as if to ward off a blow. "You've seen too many Hammer films," he remonstrated gently.
Milan Lorpicar chose to ignore this remark. "Do not think to stand in my way."
"Far too many," Franciscus sighed.
Mr. Lorpicar had been treated with fear, with hysteria, with abject adoration, with awe, but never with amused tolerance. He straightened to his full, considerable height. "You cannot stop me."
"But I can, you know." He had not moved from the piano bench. His legs were crossed at the ankle and his neat black-and-white clothes were relieved by a single ruby on a fine silver choker revealed by the open collar of his white silk shirt. Short, stocky, compact, he did not appear to be much of a threat, and Mr. Lorpicar sneered.
"You may try, Franciscus." His posture, his tone of voice, the tilt of his head all implied that Franciscus would fail.
The muted sounds of the lobby clock striking the hour caught the attention of both men in the lounge.
"It is time. I cannot stay," Mr. Lorpicar announced.
"Of course you can," Franciscus replied. He had still not risen, and he had maintained an irritatingly civil attitude. "I can't permit you to go. You have been a reckless, irresponsible barbarian since you came here, and were before, I suspect. But you need not compound your mistakes." A steely note had crept into his voice, and his dark eyes regarded the tall man evenly. There was no trace of fear in him.
Mr. Lorpicar folded his arms. "I will not tolerate your interference, Franciscus."
"You have that wrong," Franciscus said with a glittery smile. "I am the one who will not tolerate interference. You've killed one person here already and you are trying to kill another. I will not allow that."
With a terrible laugh, Mr. Lorpicar moved toward the arch to the lobby. "The woman is in the building. I feel it as surely as I felt the power of night at sunset. I will have her. She is mine."
"I think not." Franciscus raised his left hand. He held a beautiful eighteenth-century dueling pistol.
"You think that will stop me?"
"Would you prefer crucifixes and garlic?"
"If you know that, you know that bullets cannot harm me," Mr. Lorpicar announced as he started forward.
"Take one more step and you will learn otherwise." There was sufficient calm command in Franciscus' manner that Mr. Lorpicar did hesitate, regarding the shorter man with icy contempt.
"I died," he announced, "in eighteen-ninety-six."
"Dear me." He shook his head. "No wonder you believe all that nonsense about garlic and crucifixes."
Now Mr. Lorpicar faltered. "It isn't nonsense."
Franciscus got to his feet. He was a full ten inches shorter than Milan Lorpicar, but he dominated the taller, younger man. "And these last-what?-eighty-four years, you have learned nothing?"
"I have learned the power of the night, of fear, of blood." He had said it before and had always found that the reaction was one of horror, but Franciscus merely looked exasperated.
"God save us all," he said, and as Mr. Lorpicar shrank back at his words, he burst out, "Of all the absurdities!"
"We cannot say... that name," Mr. Lorpicar insisted.
"Of course you can." He sat down again, though he did not set the pistol aside. "You're a menace. Oh, don't take that as a compliment. It was not intended as one."
"You do not know the curse of this life-in-death." He made an effort to gain mastery of the situation, and was baffled when Franciscus laughed outright.
"None better." He looked at Mr. Lorpicar. "You've been so involved with your posturing and pronouncements that you have not stopped to think about what I am." He waited while this sunk in.
"You walk in the daylight..." Mr. Lorpicar began.
"And I cross running water. I also line the heels and soles of my shoes with my native earth." He saw the surprise on Mr. Lorpicar's features deepen. "I handle crucifixes. And I know that anything that breaks the spine is deadly to us, so I remind you that a bullet, hitting between the shoulder blades, will give you the true death."
"But if you're vampiric..." Mr. Lorpicar began, trying to frame an appeal.
"It means nothing. Any obligation I may have to those of my blood doesn't extend to those who do murder." It was said pragmatically, and for that reason alone Mr. Lorpicar believed him. "You're an embarrassment to our kind. It's because of you and those like you that the rest of us have been hunted and hounded and killed. Pray don't give me your excuses." He studied the tall cloaked figure at the edge of the light. "Even when I was young, when I abused the power, this life-in-death as you call it, I did not make excuses. I learned the folly of that quickly."
"You mean you want the women for yourself," Mr. Lorpicar said with cynical contempt.
"No. I don't take those who are unwilling." He heard Mr. Lorpicar's incredulous laugh. "It isn't the power and the blood, Mr. Lorpicar," he said, with such utter loneliness that the tall man was silenced. "It is the touching. Terror, certainly, has a vigor, but it is nothing compared to loving."
"Love!" Mr. Lorpicar spat out the word. "You've grown maudlin, Franciscus." He heard the chimes mark the first quarter hour. "You can't do this to me." There was a desperate note in his voice. "I must have her. You know the hunger. I must have her!"
Franciscus shook his head. "It's impossible."
"I want her!" His voice had grown louder and he moved toward the arch once more.
"Stop where you are!" Franciscus ordered, rising and aiming.
Before he could fire there was the crack of a rifle and
Mr. Lorpicar was flung back into the lounge to thrash once or twice on the floor.
Aghast, Franciscus looked toward the lobby, and saw in the dimness that Jim Sutton was standing outside the inconspicuous door to the workshop, a .22 in his hand.
"How long have you been there?" Franciscus asked after he knelt beside Mr. Lorpicar.
"Long enough to know to aim for the neck," was the answer.
"I thought vampires were supposed to melt away to dust or something when they got killed," Jim Sutton said between pants as he dragged the body of Milan Lorpicar up the trail toward cabin 33.
Franciscus, who had been further up the trail, said quietly as he came back, "One of many misconceptions, I'm afraid. We can't change shape, either."
"Damn. It would be easier to lug the body of a bat up this hill." He stood aside while Franciscus picked up the dead man. It was awkward because Mr. Lorpicar was so much taller than he, but he managed it well. "I don't think I really accept this," he added.
"There aren't any more occupied cabins from here to 33," Franciscus said, unwilling to rise to Jim Sutton's bait.
"What are you going to do?" he asked, giving in.
"Burn the cabin. Otherwise there would be too many questions to answer." He wished it had not happened. As much as he had disliked Lorpicar himself, and abhorred his behavior, he did not want the man killed.
"Why's that?" The reporter in Jim Sutton was asserting himself.
"Autopsies are... inadvisable. There's too much to explain."
Jim considered this and sighed. "I know this could be the biggest story of my career, but I'm throwing it away."
They had reached the last, isolated cabin. "Why do you say that?" He shifted Mr. Lorpicar's body. "The keys are in my left hip pocket."
As Jim retrieved them, he said, "Well, what the hell? Who'd believe me anyway?" Then stood aside and let Franciscus carry Mr. Lorpicar into his cabin.
"How'd that fire get started in the first place-that's what I want to know!" Ranger Backus demanded as he and four volunteers from the Lost Saints Lodge guests stood around the smoking ruin of cabin 33.
"I don't know," Mr. Rogers said. "I thought that Mr. Lorpicar had been out of the cabin for two days."
"You mean this is the fellow you had us looking for?" The ranger was tired and angry and the last thing in the world he wanted on his hands was another mystery.
"Yes. Mr. Franciscus and Mr. Sutton saw him briefly earlier this evening. They suggested that he should avoid the Lodge for a time because of this unpleasant business with the dead Harper girl." He gave a helpless gesture. "The fireplace was inspected last month. The stove was checked out. The... remains-" he looked toward the cabin and the mass of charred matter in the center of it-"It appears he was asleep on the couch."
"Yeah," Ranger Backus said disgustedly. "Probably smoking, and fell asleep and the couch caught on fire. It happened in Red Well last year. Damn dumb thing to do!" He rubbed his brow with his forearm. "The county'll probably send Fitzallen out to check the body over. Lucky for you this fellow didn't die like the girl."
"Yes," Mr. Rogers agreed with sincerity.
"You ought to warn your guests about smoking in bed," Ranger Backus persisted.
"Yes." Then Mr. Rogers recalled himself. "Backus, it's almost dawn, and our cook will be up soon. If you'd give the Lodge the chance to thank you for all you've done, I'd be very grateful."
The big man looked somewhat mollified. "Well..."
It was Jim Sutton who clinched the matter. "Look, Ranger Backus, I'm a reporter. After what I've seen tonight, I'd like to get your impression of what happened."
Ranger Backus beamed through his fatigue, and admitted, "Breakfast would go good right now, and that's a fact."
Harriet Goodman was pale but otherwise herself when she came to check out the next morning.
"We're sorry you're leaving," Mr. Rogers said as he handed back her credit card.
"So am I, Mr. Rogers," she said in her forthright way, "but since Jim asked me to go to Denver while he covers the trial and there's that conference in Boulder..."
"I understand." He paused and asked with great delicacy, "Will you want cabin 21 next year?"
"I... I don't think so," she said slowly. "I'm sorry, Mr. Rogers."
"So are we, Ms. Goodman," he replied.
"I'll carry your bags, Harriet," Franciscus said as he stepped out of the library.
"You don't have to," she said bracingly, but with a slight hesitation. "Jim's..."
"... waiting at the car." He came down the stairs toward her. "If nothing else, let me apologize for putting you in danger." He picked up the three pieces of luggage.
"You don't have to," she said, rather remotely. "I never realized that..." She stopped, using the opening door as an excuse for her silence.
Franciscus followed her down the steps. "Harriet, you have nothing to fear. This isn't rabies, you know. One touch doesn't... condemn you to..."
She stopped and turned to him. "And the dreams? What about the dreams?" Her eyes were sad, and though the questions were meant as accusations, they sounded more like pleas.
"Do you know Spanish?" He saw her baffled nod. "Y los todos estan suenos; Y los suenos sueno son. I think that's right."
" 'And everything is dreams; and the dreams are a dream.' " She stared at him.
"The poet was talking about life, Harriet." He began to walk once more. "You have nothing to fear from me."
She nodded. "But I'm not coming back next year."
He was not surprised. "Nor am I."
She turned to him. "Where will you go?"
"Oh, I don't know. Madelaine wants to see Paris. I haven't lived there regularly for a while." He nodded toward Jim Sutton, who stood by his three-year-old Porsche.
"How long a while?" Harriet inquired.
He paused and waited until she looked him full in the face. "One hundred eighty-six years," he said.
Her eyes flickered and turned away from him. "Goodbye, Franciscus. If that's your name."
"It's as good as another," he said, and they came to the car. "Where do you want the bags?"
"I'll take care of them," Jim Sutton said. "You'll see that her rental car is returned?"
"Of course." He held out his hand to Harriet. "You have meant a lot to me."
She took it without reluctance but without enthusiasm. "But there's only one Madelaine." There was only disappointment in her words-she was not jealous.
Franciscus shook hands with Jim Sutton, but spoke to Harriet. "That's true. There is only one Madelaine." He held the car door for her as she got in. "But then," he added, "there is only one Harriet."
Then he slammed the door and turned away; and Jim Sutton and Harriet Goodman watched him go, a neat, black-clad figure moving with easy grace through the long slanting bars of sunlight.
Text of a letter from le Comte de Saint-Germain to Madelaine de Montalia.
654 Rue de Janvier
24 December, 1981
c/o the Department of Antiquities
La Paz, Bolivia
Madelaine, my heart:
Very well, very well, I am willing to try-perhaps you are right, after all. There is certainly sufficient love between us if love is enough without life: an ocean and a continent away from you and still I feel your tread, a tremor that speeds along the veins of the earth to me. Nothing will ever diminish it, or could; not disappointment, nor sorrow, nor separation, nor, I think, the true death itself. If our attempt is not successful, nothing will have been lost, and you must not believe that it would be. Whatever comes of this, my love is the same.
That you exist is all my love asks of you; the rest is added riches, and in you, I have a treasure beyond any other.