The first door opened and the group was ushered into a small, dark room. The walls were covered with bookshelves heavy with dusty tomes. A walnut table placed in the very center of the room was the only piece of furniture. The group crowded in around it as the door closed behind them. A lock clicked into place as soon as the door was shut. There was shuffling of feet and some stray coughs.
Atop the table was a large crystal ball on a brass stand. As the already dim overhead lights flickered and died out, a pale blue glow suffused the crystal. It flickered like firelight. The crystal turned cloudy, as if mists were pouring into it. The mist swirled fitfully for a few seconds then vanished, blown away by a breeze no one could feel. The temperature in the room dropped noticeably.
A man’s head appeared inside the crystal. Long-nosed, with sunken cheeks and a wrinkled brow, the face turned, looking each member of the group directly in the eyes. The thin lips pursed in a sly smile, as if seeing something in the visitors’ eyes that amused it. Curly dark hair atop the head stirred, floating with each turn and twist as the face rotated inside the crystal.
“This is the Inner Sanctum.” a sepulchral voice declared. “A strange, fantastic world…” The eyes glinted, cold, clinically detached from the immediacy of human experience. “Controlled by a mass of living, pulsating flesh: The Mind. It destroys… distorts… creates monsters, commits murder. Yes, even you, without knowing, can commit… murrrder!”
The face smiled. It was a cold, dispassionate smile.
Harry felt cold chills trickling down his spine. The eyes of the disembodied head seemed to be staring straight into his, boring into his skull. Nervously he wiped his lips with the back of his hand. He badly wanted a drink.
“I’m scared!” Whimpered the blonde with the pink bow in her hair. Her boyfriend patted her head, grinning.
A little laugh rippled through the group.
The face disappeared, the crystal dimmed, and the overhead lights slowly came back up.
“You okay, Harry?” Asked his friend, Frank Higgins.
Beads of sweat dotted Harry Putnam’s brow.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.” He replied with a dry voice.
“Hey, if this is going to be too much, you say so. We can turn round and give it a pass, if you want.”
“Nah. I’ll be fine. Just a little… thirsty.”
Frank nodded sympathetically. He knew exactly what Harry was saying. His friend had been fighting the bottle ever since he returned from overseas, sent home from the War for battle-fatigue and nervous collapse.
“Okay. But it gets scary after this!” Frank intoned with mock grimness.
“Oh no!” Gasped the blonde on the other side of the table.
On the door opposite from the door, a section of bookshelves creaked. There was a soft click, then that section of wall swung slowly open, a secret door!
The hinges of that door squeaked in protest as it opened, creaking every inch of the way until the secret door stood completely open, a gaping rectangle with blackness beyond.
A pale, white face swam out of the darkness, seemingly as disembodied as the head in the crystal ball at first, but soon a man in a black shirt and coat stepped through. He smiled warmly at the visitors.
“Good evening! I am Raymond. I will be your host on this journey through the dark side of the human mind.”
He gave them all a smug--You have no idea what you are in for--grin.
“Welcome to the grand re-opening of Madame Monet’s Wax Museum! If you would follow me, please.”
The tour group made their way down a dark hallway. The dusty carpet underfoot swallowed the sound of their footsteps. All that could be heard was their own breathing and a distant, indistinct moaning. After a short distance in, the hallway opened up into a much larger room with an unlit chandelier overhead and velvet ropes to either side. A chill breeze wafted over them.
“Why’s it have to be so cold?” The blonde girl whined. She crossed her arms over her chest and hugged her shoulders.
“It’s for the waxworks.” Frank chimed in. “The cold air protects them from the heat of visitors and the spotlights. Don’t want your prime attractions melting, or going soft.”
Raymond the tour guide winced slightly but smiled.
“The gentleman is correct, of course.” He purred in his low, sardonic voice. “The chill in the air is from the air conditioning, for the waxworks. It has nothing to do with the spirits of the unquiet dead. There is no need for… alarm.”
His chuckle suggested otherwise.
Suddenly a bright white light clicked on and began strobing in the visitors’ faces. A second later the light switched from the tour group to the figure of a woman seated in a chair. She sat stiffly, as if unwilling to stay seated but unable to stand. Her eyes were wide, the light flashed off their glass marble-like surfaces. There was a look of restrained panic and helplessness on her face, and a hint of an angry sneer to her lips.
Another figure, darker, stood behind the strobing light. A man’s mustached face glared sternly toward the woman, one fist half raised.
“For our first tableau, we have one Dr. Mark Steele, a respected physician and skilled hypnotist who happened to be married to a scheming and unfaithful wife, a wife who found herself quite dead in a country cottage frequented by the couple. Dr. Steele was immediately suspected but soon another man, Duval, was arrested and sentenced for the crime. This scene depicts the dramatic moment when his nurse, Stella, confesses her own guilt for the crime, under the persuasive power of Dr. Steele’s hypnotism.”
“One wonders if Justice was done, or if, through the power of hypnosis, the good Doctor found a way to be rid of his shrewish spouse and never face the Electric Chair himself.”
Frank leaned toward Harry and whispered.
“I covered that case. Steele was innocent and the other guy, Duval, was set up by the nurse. The whole hypnosis thing was a trick to get her to confess her guilt and save Duval from the Executioner.”
Raymond smiled indulgently.
“Of course it was.” He smirked.
The strobing light abruptly shut off.
Dry ice fog began to creep among the visitors, curling about their legs as they approached the next tableau. Recorded drums, primitive, barbaric, wildly thrumming began to pulse in pagan rhythms. A flickering red light, mimicking illumination from a low fire, came up as the next scene was revealed.
A beautiful woman, half-clad in a Pacific Islander’s garb crouched low—low enough to allow a generous view of her full breasts beneath the sarong—with totem fetishes clutched in both hands. A stone idol grimaced in front of her, offerings of fruit and sea shells piled before it.
Behind her, a man in a tweed jacket and suit had just opened the door and found her engaged in her Voodoo ceremony. Astonishment and disappointment were writ on his face. A pipe, with smoke issuing from it, was in his hand, as if just now snatched away from his lips.
“Professor Norman Leed, imminent anthropologist, was implicated in some rather grim events at the University where he teaches. He began to wonder if there truly was a curse hanging over him, retribution for his scorn at the ‘superstitious’ practices of the islanders he studied. He follows the sound of drums and finds his exotic wife engaged in pagan ceremonies! Was her forbidden magic responsible for the death and terror gripping the campus?”
Again Frank leaned toward Harry.
“Actually, the wife was raised among islanders and was using the spells she learned in her youth to try to protect her husband. She was working against the evil she felt directed at them both, though the Professor’s suspicions put a bit of a pall over their marriage, the true culprit was revealed and the couple were reconciled. Leeds wrote a book about the whole affair, a very interesting book, I’ll admit. I reviewed it for the paper when it came out.”
The drums died down and the flickering lights dimmed.
A bright light snapped on to the opposite side from the Leeds tableau, revealing a new scene.
A grim-faced man with a thin moustache, wearing dark glasses stood facing the visitors. One arm was extended toward them and in the outstretched hand were two disembodied eyes. At his feet, another, older man lie sprawled on the floor with a look of horror on his face. A terrible wound caved in the side of his head and his eye sockets were empty black holes in his face, outlined with garish red waxen gore.
“Artist David Stuart, blinded in an unfortunate accident, receives a transplant that could save his career. New eyes! Taken from a murdered man, the father of the woman he had planned to marry. An act of a generous Fate, or the bloody spoils of a vile and brutal crime?”
“This one gives me the creeps.” Muttered Harry, shivering slightly. A thin sheen of sweat had appeared across his forehead. The troubled veteran’s face mirrored the tortured misery on the wax face of the blind artist.
“Excuse me,” Frank asked their guide. “But I can’t help but notice that most of the male figures so far bear a more than passing resemblance to each other.”
Their host shrugged and smiled.
“Miss Coudreau, the remarkable young lady responsible for reopening her aunt’s wax museum, sculpted most of these figures herself. The only male model she had available as she learned her craft was her guardian, Alexander Gregor. Naturally she tried to vary the features a bit and selected appropriate costuming, but in order to open the museum on schedule, she used her sculptures of Mr. Gregor as the basis of her tableaus. One man’s face reflected through many crimes, a single presence in the midst of madness. This too, was part of her design. An Everyman experiences every facet of horror in crimes ripped from today’s headlines, from this town’s very own history.”
“Fitting that you should ask that question just now.” Raymond remarked. “Because here we find a scene dedicated to the man who served as the model for the others. Here we find ‘Gregor the Great’ himself, the great hypnotist, who in a moment of anger turned his vast mental powers against a drunken heckler at one of his performances, to lethal effect!”
The new scene revealed a tall man, mustached, wearing a suit and black stage-cape. A tiny spotlight focused on his eyes, fierce with anger, staring at another with one hand half-curled into a fist. The object of his gaze staggered out of his chair, face flushed red, eyes desperate with pain, with a hand clutched over his heart.
“The heckler died of a heart attack, according to the Coroner’s report, and Gregor the Great was cleared of any wrongdoing. Though exonerated, Gregor blamed himself for the man’s death and abandoned his career as a stage hypnotist. He feels remorse and anguish for this one act of powerful rage to this very day and lives a life of solitude, with his wife, in exile far from the spotlights and stages that once were his very life!”
Harry stopped moving with the group. He stood transfixed, staring at the glass eyes of the angry hypnotist. The miniature spotlight cast across those eyes made them stand out from the wax figure’s shadowed face. There was something about those eyes, something alive in them that called to him, that tried force its way through his own eyes and burrow into his brain. Those eyes were steel daggers, digging, digging, digging mercilessly into his very soul.
Frank asked him a question, but Harry could barely hear. It was as if Frank’s voice was speaking to him from underwater, muffled and gargly. Harry couldn’t make out the words. He felt dizzy, suddenly terribly tired. The pain in his head swelled until a numb darkness swept over him.
When he came to, it was as if he was surfacing from deep underwater, breaking into consciousness with a gasp. Shouts pounded in his ears. Someone was shaking him from behind. Harry was so tired. He wished the voices would stop shouting and let him sleep. Grudgingly he opened his eyes and found himself in the middle of a scene of horror.
His own hands were wrapped around Frank’s neck, squeezing with terrible power. Frank’s face was reddish-purple, his eyes were bloodshot and bulging from their sockets. Frank’s tongue stuck out from between bluish lips, surrounded by foaming spittle pink with flecks of blood. A ghastly gurgling bubbled in Frank’s throat but could not rise past Harry’s fingers to reach to his mouth.
Harry shouted with horror and tried to let go, but his hands worked with a mind of their own, tightening their grip on Frank’s throat.
“Somebody, help him!” Harry moaned.
The blonde was shrieking nearby.
His head swam in a whirlpool of screams. Men were pulling at his hands, beating on his arms, trying to pry loose his grip with no success.
All the blood vessel’s in Frank’s eyes burst at once. The gurgling in his throat, beneath Frank’s iron-like fingers, died away to a rattle that soon fell silent.
Someone lifted the heavy metal pole anchoring the velvet ropes and smashed Harry in the head with it. There was a terrible explosion of colors that turned to blackness inside his eyes. Harry felt his fingers go limp, His hands let go, as he tumbled to the floor.
“Thank God!” He murmured as the blackness swallowed him and men’s bodies piled on him, restraining him.
The props on the plane were still winding down as Alexander Gregor stepped out of the cabin door and began to stalk down the metal stairs. He still wore the blue silk tropical shirt with green parrots and brown tikis that he had put on in Hawaii, in stubborn defiance of the chillier climate he was forced to return to. There had been no formal announcement of his impending arrival and the Gregors had been careful to travel as discretely as possible, but there was still a crowd of reporters and curiosity seekers gathered at the landing strip to greet him. He was a little jowelier than when he left, and the bags under his eyes were more pronounced. His eyes glittered dangerously as he stared toward the popping flash-bulbs and extended microphones of the press.
“Smile darling, we don’t want them thinking we’re unfriendly.”
Maura was stunning as always in white shorts and a sleeveless red top. Sensible woman that she was, she had known to wrap a sweater around her shoulders. She’d had more than a couple of drinks on the flight. It showed in her half-lidded eyes and lazy smile.
“They had no right to drag us back here.” Alex growled.
“They didn’t drag us back here. Nina asked you to come and then cried until you agreed.”
She had one eyebrow arched and wore an overly innocent expression. She smiled and waved at a couple of reporters she recognized.
Gregor scowled, but didn’t say a word.
“Mr. Gregor! Alexander Gregor!” shouted a reporter with more than the usual cheek. “They’re saying that you can kill with just the power of your mind! What do you have to say about those rumors?”
Alex gave him a quote that no newspaper would dare to print.
“They say the silliest things, don’t they?” She cooed at the reporter. He was young and she was sure she could sway the tone of his story with the right smile and the right pose. She squared her shoulders and lifted her breasts ever so slightly toward him.
The newshound grinned like a fool and snapped off a few photos until the flash sizzled.
Still got it. Maura thought with a satisfied chuckle.
Alex continued to shoulder his way toward the car waiting for them.
“Ma, look! It’s Gregor the Great, in person!” yelled an excited boy.
Gregor smiled, despite himself. It had been a long time since people called him “Gregor the Great” and deep down he kind of missed it. He turned toward the voice, ready to offer an autograph to a genuine fan.
“Don’t look him in the eyes!” the anxious mother said, slapping her palm over the boy’s eyes. She glared at Gregor but didn’t, couldn’t, meet his gaze.
Alex said nothing but smiled and gave the couple a little stage bow. His face was a mask of professional poise, but Maura knew him well enough to see the tears creeping into his eyes.
She took him by the arm and steered him to the car.
“I’m going to murder dear, sweet little Nina!” she muttered through gritted teeth and a practiced smile.
The Gregors’ hired car dropped them off at the grand Victorian mansion that doubled as a wax museum and the private residence of Nina Coudreau, who until a couple of years ago had been a ward of the couple. The car had to slip around to the back entrance, the loading ramp for museum supplies, due to the crowd of onlookers and more press milling around the front. The Gregors carrying their own bags, slipped through the loading doors, which at one time had been the doors to an attached garage, which had likely been a stable before that.
Nina was waiting for them, accompanied by one of her assistants. The weasely looking man had a thin, pockmarked face and reminded Alex far too much of Rudi Poldan, the mad plastic surgeon turned wax sculptor who had nearly murdered the lot of them several years ago.
“Wilmer, get the bags, would you dear?”
Alex reluctantly let the little man take his suitcase. He didn’t trust him.
Nina, twenty-three now, was short and curvaceous with curly blonde hair and irresistible dimples. She was wearing a plaid skirt that Maura thought was scandalously short and a white blouse that needed a couple of buttons fastened. She even had a bow in her hair, which was put up the way she knew Alex liked it.
“I’m going to murder her.” Maura whispered under her breath.
The girl practically squealed, bouncing in place for a moment before running up to hug Alex. She stood on her tippy toes so she could kiss him on the cheek.
“I’m so glad you came! This whole thing has been awful, simply terribly awful!” She clung tightly to Alex and did a cute little corkscrew shimmy.
Maura was reminded, not for the first time, that Nina was not a blood relative to either of them. The couple had simply taken her in as her guardians when her Aunt Valerie, the Madame Monet of Madame Monet’s Wax Museum, had been murdered.
“Hello, Maura.” She said with a dimpled smile that even Maura, to be utterly truthful, couldn’t quite resist.
“What is the meaning of all this?” Alex practically exploded. “Didn’t I say that I didn’t want you, that I forbade you from putting that damned ‘Gregor the Great’ scene on display?”
Nina let go and hurriedly stepped back a few paces.
“Uncle Alex, I needed something spectacular to bring in the crowds. Everyone around here knew about you and that you were involved with what happened to Aunt Valerie. I needed something local to get them in the door.”
The girl pouted, but there was genuine fire in her eyes. She was ready to challenge Alex and didn’t seem at all inclined to back down, even though she knew he had a towering temper.
Maura felt an involuntary twinge of admiration. The simpering teenage girl they’d taken in was growing into a regular spitfire. She approved. In principle.
“Oh? Then why didn’t you put your Aunt Valerie on display too? I’m sure that would bring the ghouls running!”
“The display goes up next week.” Said Nina quietly. “As soon as I pick out the right dress for Aunt Valerie.”
Nina flinched but she also balled her fists.
“You’re a public figure!” she snapped. “That incident is in public record. I have every right to base a display on what happened.”
“What about my face?” Alex stormed. “Don’t I have some right to how my own face is used?”
“You gave me permission, in writing, to use your likeness when you agreed to model for my sculpting. And you’re a public figure! I don’t even need your permission to make a wax statue of you!”
Alex was furious now. His face was flushed and his fists were clenched. Maura started to say something to try to calm him down. The damage, after all, had already been done and there was no point in berating the girl.
That’s when Nina burst into tears, covering her face with her hands.
“I’m so scared, Uncle Alex. The whole thing is just so terrible. Right here, inside Aunt Valerie’s museum, on opening day! And everyone is being so mean, and…and…”
It was as if a button had been pressed. The rage visibly drained from Alex’s face. He stammered something, shifted awkwardly from foot to foot as she broke into full, body-wracking sobs. Then he put his arms around her and kissed her on top of the head.
“There, there! There’s nothing we can do about that now.” He sighed. “We’ll just have to see what we can do to clean up this mess. It’s going to be alright, Curly Girl.”
He used his pet nickname for her and she snuggled her head against his chest.
Maura rolled her eyes.
I really do need to murder that girl. She thought to herself.
“I’m glad you came.” Inspector Brant said, offering his hand.
Gregor, wearing a gray, black-flecked suit, strode through the door like a stick of dynamite about to explode. He was clearly not happy to be there.
“I don’t know why you were so determined to drag me back here.” Snapped Gregor. “Maura and I were in Hawaii when this whole thing happened. We had nothing to do with any of it!”
Brant waved his hands placatingly.
“I know! I know. I never suggested that you were involved in any way. We…the Department and I, were hoping you would consult for us, maybe answer a few questions about this case that we can’t figure out for ourselves.”
Gregor glared at him.
“What is there to figure out? You have a dozen witnesses who saw your suspect commit the crime. What possible question could there be?”
“Well,” Brant scratched the top of his head. “For one thing, the suspect, Harold Putnam, doesn’t remember committing the crime. The victim was his best friend. There was no sign of animosity between them. He had no reason to attack the victim. Putnam has no history of violent crime. Hell, the man’s a decorated war hero!”
“He wouldn’t be the first soldier to come back from the War with a screw or two loose.” Grumbled Gregor.
“No, of course not. And that was what we all figured, at first. Battle-fatigue. Flashbacks. We brought a shrink in to give him the once over, first thing.”
“Clean bill of health. Putnam is troubled, of course. Who wouldn’t be with the things he’s seen? Had some trouble with alcohol and morphine when he first came back, but he’d been sober for weeks before the…incident. Doc said he was as level-headed as anyone had a right to be, coming back from the kind of Hell he’d been through. He had problems, but he was dealing with them. Then, whammo! This happened, out of nowhere.”
Gregor frowned. He scowled. He chewed his lip.
But ultimately he nodded.
“Alright. I’ll take a look at him.” He said with a sigh. “Don’t get your hopes up, though. I don’t know anything I can do for him beyond what your own shrink can.”
Harry Putnam sat in a gray metal folding chair with his face in his hands.
Alex Gregor turned off the pencil-flashlight he’d been using and rubbed his mouth with one hand.
“There’s no doubt about it.” He said to Inspector Brant. “He’s definitely been hypnotized at some point in the past. A real deep, professional job. He doesn’t remember it, but I can tell. There’s a chance he was acting out some kind of post-hypnotic suggestion.”
“So he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions?”
“It’s possible. But I’m not sure how to prove it.”
Gregor looked at the man and then rubbed his own eyes.
“I suppose I can try to hypnotize him, myself. See if I can unlock his memories and find out if some else really is to blame.”
Alex leaned in, composed himself, a calm, quiet kind of strength seemed to flow into him. He held up the pencil-light prepared to shine it in and out of Harry’s eyes.
“Mr. Putnam, if you please, could you look up at me?”
Harry’s head raised. His face was lined with misery.
His eyes met Gregor’s.
“That’s it. Look into my eyes, Harry. You’re safe here. There’s no one but your friends here. We’re going to help you.”
Gregor swung the light in and out of Harry’s face, slowly. He spoke calmly, softly, but with an unshakeable sense of authority. His eyes locked with Harry’s and he focused his will on the distraught man, probing into those bleary gray orbs in search of something underneath.
Something in those eyes looked back at him, something cold and malevolent and ferocious.
Harry’s hands were at his throat before Alex could say another word. Warned by that glimpse of something in Harry’s eyes, Gregor was not caught completely unaware. He jerked back and caught Harry’s hands with his own, before they could get a grip on his throat.
“Some help, here!” Alex shouted.
Inspector Brant rushed to his aid, grabbing Harry’s hands and pulling hard.
The two men acting together were barely enough to slow Harry’s murderous grasp. Brant called for help as Alex toppled sideways off his chair and the three of them hit the floor grappling. In the end, it took both of them and three uniformed cops to wrestle Harry under control.
He was handcuffed, still glassy-eyed, hands still striving to grasp and crush someone’s throat, and dragged back to his cell. Harry didn’t utter a word or make a sound throughout the whole struggle.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Gregor.” Harry Putnam said. His hands were cuffed behind the chair. “I don’t remember what happened. Honest! I have no idea why I would do that.” The man sounded utterly miserable and forlorn.
Alex unconsciously rubbed his throat and smiled reassuringly.
“I know, Mr. Putnam. I could see that for myself. Something,” He corrected himself. “Someone else is behind all of this. I firmly believe that now. I am not entirely sure how, but we are going to get to the bottom of this. Rest assured.”
Gregor turned back to Inspector Brant.
“I’m going to try something a little different this time. Putnam seems to be keyed to react with violence to the sight my eyes staring into his. Since I cannot safely hypnotize Mr. Putnam directly, I am going to enlist the aid of my darling wife, Maura.”
The Inspector smiled at Mrs. Gregor, who had accompanied her husband on this second trip to the police station. She smiled back, a little uncertainly. She was rubbing her hands with anxiety.
“Maura, under my hypnotic control, has demonstrated and ability to see things, to perceive things, beyond normal human experience. This ability was the basis of our act, but it is no trick. This use of hypnosis is beyond the general understanding of science. It is not accepted, even by authorities in the filed of Psychiatric Hypnosis. Anything we learn this way will not be admissible as evidence. But it will provide us with answers. We will get to the truth in this matter, whether we can prove it or not. “
“Do you wish to proceed?”
Harry nodded his assent, eagerly. Brant shifted uncomfortably but also nodded.
The lights were dimmed. A comfortable chair was brought in for Maura. She composed herself, hands on the armrests, back straight. She took several deep breaths then looked up at Alex. A look of calm braveness, of complete trust settled on her face.
“I’m ready.” She said simply.
Alex used a polished pocket watch, a gift from Maura inscribed to him, as a focus. Swinging it slowly in front of her. She concentrated her gaze on the watch, eyes following its movement.
Alex spoke calmly, softly but commandingly, words they had used on stage a thousand times.
Maura relaxed, her breasts rose and fell with the slow, steady rhythm of her breathing. She closed her eyes.
A chill crept into the room, even though no window or door was open to admit it.
Gregor began by asking his wife some simple test questions. What was in Inspector Brant’s pocket? What was Harry Putnam’s mother’s name? What was the last thing Brant had for lunch? All things she had no way of knowing.
She answered each question correctly. She paused, as if looking for something on the first questions, but as the questions progressed her hesitation grew shorter and shorter, until she was giving the answers almost before Alex was through asking them.
“We’re ready.” He said to Inspector Brant.
“Maura, darling, look at Mr. Putnam here. Take a long look at him. Get to know his face, his mannerisms, his essence. Say ‘Hello’ Mr. Putnam. Introduce yourself.”
Harry frowned slightly. He and Mrs. Gregor had been introduced when they first met upon entering this interrogation room.
“Hello, Mrs. Gregor. I’m Harry.”
“Hello, Harry. Call me Maura, we’re friends here.”
“Hello, Harry. Don’t worry, everything’s going to be alright.”
Alex leaned forward, whispered something to Maura, then leaned back. They both stiffened their poses slightly.
“Look at Harry. See him. Look inside him. There is something there, something evil. Something inside Mr. Putnam made him kill his best friend, Franklin Higgins. Something inside Harry still wants to kill.”
“Can you see it?”
“Yes.” Maura squirmed in her chair. A grimace of discomfort, of disgust, tightened her face. Her breathing became shallower and more rapid.
A breeze passed through the windowless interrogation room. Brant’s notes on the table stirred and ruffled. Harry sat with his eyes closed, tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Does this thing have a name?”
“Can you tell me that name?”
Maura shivered and moaned. The chair she sat in rocked as spasms rippled through her.
“Sevani. It calls itself Professor Sevani.” She said at last.
The result was immediate and unexpected. Harry suddenly let out a moan and went limp. His eyes rolled up until only the whites were showing. He shuddered, then an awful smile crept onto this lips.
“Alexander Gregor. ‘Gregor the Great.’” At last we meet! I have followed you career quite closely for some time now. I am very disappointed in you. To have squandered such a gift on a mere stage show, pandering for the amusement of buffoons.”
The voice coming out of Harry’s mouth wasn’t quite his own. The vocal cords and tongue making the sounds were his, so there was an echo of his normal voice there. But the words came out raspy, oddly accented, as if the speaker had learned English as a foreign language. It was very much as if Harold Putnam was mimicking the voice of another man, quite closely but still an imitation.
“Who are you? Why did you make this man commit murder?” Brant demanded.
The voice kept coming out of Harry’s mouth, snide, insinuating, with a sharp edge of sardonic wit. He showed no sign of having heard Brant, but continued his recitation like a human parrot.
“You have grasped the deeper secrets of Hypnosis. You have caught a glimpse of the deep and awesome power that can be wielded through it. To see beyond time, beyond space, to know the unknowable, to reach into the darkness of the human mind and drag forth the strange things that skitter and prance inside a man’s skull. And what do you use this knowledge for? Trivial amusements!”
“Don’t bother Inspector.” Alex explained. “This Professor Sevani isn’t actually here. He can’t hear you or answer questions. This is just a message he planted inside Harry’s mind, to be delivered when a post-hypnotic command was triggered. We are, in effect, listening to a recording of this Sevani’s words.”
“I can see him now.” Intoned Maura. Her voice was flat, toneless, eerily distant. “He is looking in through Harry’s eyes. An older man. Very thin face. A long nose. Hair, curled, dark. His eyes…his eyes are so…cold… Harry thinks he is going to help him stop drinking, by hypnotizing him. But Sevani…he wants something else.”
“By now your Maura has probably found me.” Said the voice coming from Harry’s mouth. “The two of you can work such wonders together. I wish I had an assistant so gifted, so beautiful, so…cooperative.”
The last words were delivered in a salacious whisper.
“I can’t have you spying on me, so this is where we part. Oh, do not worry. We will meet again. Soon! This game of ours is just beginning.”
The words dripped with so much raw venom that Maura was shocked out of her trance. She covered her mouth with her hands and blinked at Harry. Her face blanched white as she looked to her husband.
“Adieu, for now.”
Harry groaned as the voice of Sevani ceased to speak. He shivered violently, then retched, spilling his last prison meal all over the floor.
“Alex, dear. I need a drink.”
Gregor patted his wife’s hand.
“I think we all do.”
“Inspector, we’ve done what we could. I need to take my wife home now.”
Brant nodded and gestured toward the door.
“Of course, of course! Thank you for your assistance. There’s no way I can properly repay you. But, there is a check with your name on it waiting on the duty sergeant’s desk.”
“That should suffice.” Alex said with a crooked grin.
Brant watched Gregor help his wife to her feet and guide her out the door. She leaned on his shoulder and was still shaking like a leaf.
What the hell was he supposed to tell the DA? Christ! He needed a drink as badly as Mrs. Gregor did.
He wasn’t sure just who this Professor Sevani was, or why he wanted to use others to kill for him, but Brant was determined that he would find out.
“Our game is just beginning, you sick, evil bastard.” He growled.
The light flickered overhead.
Brant left the room in a hurry and locked the door behind him.
[Author’s Note: The character of Professor Sevani is taken from a 1915 Silent film, “The Silent Command.” In that film, Sevani uses hypnosis to commit murder and attempts to frame a young woman under his care for the crime. The evil hypnotist, one of the first villains from a Universal Horror/Suspense film—and therefore one of the first generation of Universal “Monsters” was played by Harry Carter. For this piece, I have, somewhat subtly, recast the part with David Hoffman. I figure, if Bela Lugosi and John Carradine can both play Dracula, recasting a forgotten Silent Era villain shouldn’t cause any difficulty.]