FATAL MIND GAMES Psychiatrist Thomas Darcy should have seen the signs of madness. Yet, when he finds his favorite horse, a magnificent animal, dead in a pool of blood outside his Dublin stable, Darcy refuses to believe that one of his patients is at fault. Turning to solicitor James Fleming for help, Darcy shares his fears that someone very evil is behind his horse's death. He also convinces James -- himself torn apart by a complex love affair -- that he might find therapy beneficial. But soon after James attends his first appointment, a body is found in Darcy's office. Preoccupied with unraveling the mystery of his own emotional dark side, James also feels guilty for not acting in time to stop the murder. Now he must follow his investigation into a shadowy world of desire and madness, a place where his own demons may be waiting along with a demented and deceptive killer determined to strike again....
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Ann C. Fallon lived in Ireland for twelve years and now teaches at Queens College in New York. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, children, and dog, and is currently working on her next James Fleming mystery.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Dr. Thomas Darcy, psychiatrist and psychotherapist, closed the door behind his last patient that afternoon. Turning, he smiled tiredly at Mrs. Fogarty, who was finishing up a document on the computer.
"Long day?" she said sympathetically as she placed the papers together.
"Indeed," he said. "For you, too, I think."
Mrs. Fogarty beamed sweetly. She was a petite, dark-haired married woman in her thirties who lived nearby and came in a few hours each day, five days a week. Tom considered himself lucky. She was efficient, pleasant, warm, and discreet. Her children were young and at school, and her husband, he suspected, was a heavy drinker. Tom knew that she enjoyed her job, and admired her kindness with his patients. She was also competent at the bookkeeping, and he dreaded the day she would leave him for a more demanding job. Not that she had ever indicated any intention to leave. She handed him the case notes that she had typed and removed her coat from the hook on the back of the door.
"Till tomorrow then," he said.
"Good night, Dr. Darcy," she said, smiling. "You'll lock up the files?"
"Right, then, I'm off."
Darcy returned to his office. Pensive, preoccupied with the troubling session he'd just had, he sat at his desk, quickly making salient notes about his patient, Mary, and the problems she had recounted to him. His thick graying hair fell forward onto his brow as he bent in concentration. Of medium build, he had shoulders that were slightly bowed, and his face showed the gentle frown lines of a man habitually concerned and attentive. His was an intense expression, his blue eyes behind the half glasses revealed a deep intelligence and told of a rich but not always happy life.
Tom finished his written notes, placing them methodically in a marked manila folder. He stood and unlocked the low filing cabinet that ran the length of the narrower end of the rectangular room. Filing the folder away, as well as the typed notes which Mrs. Fogarty had given him, he closed the heavy drawer and relocked it, placing the key on his desk. Checking the pages of his desk diary to refresh his memory as to his schedule for the following day, he sighed and closed the book and slipped it into the drawer of his wide mahogany desk.
Tom turned to the small closet along the left wall of his spacious office. It felt good to shed the dark blue chalk-striped wool suit he'd opted for as his formal dress when he began his practice, and to change into a pair of well-worn corduroy trousers and a heavy heather gray flecked pullover. He checked his attaché case, ascertaining that his Filofax was safely stowed there. Removing the handheld tape recorder, he transferred it to the deep pockets of his trousers along with the cabinet key. Picking up his suit and surveying the desk and filing cabinet again in a somewhat obsessive-compulsive way, as he noted wryly to himself, he finally left his office, locking it behind him.
On his way now, he checked his outer office, a comfortable waiting room with low table lamps, soft lighting, a radio paying classical music, and magazines that were always up to date but which remained unread by his distracted patients. Mrs. Fogarty's desk was bare, the phone still, the computer covered; all was in good order. He turned off the lights and the radio and locked this door, too, behind him.
His sense of isolation, of which he was barely aware, was intensified as he stepped into the softly carpeted corridor, passing the doors of the building's other occupants. He could hear the sounds of phones ringing, of chatting, of other, fellow human beings getting on with things. He left them behind, aware that they neither knew nor cared whether or when he came and went.
Dr. Darcy's office was one of four en suite in a modern purpose-built building on the outskirts of Dublin, near the village of Dundrum. Clean, spare, characterless, he found the building itself wasn't to his personal taste, but the location was convenient for his practice: easily accessible for his patients, with a small car park next to it and a bus stop close by.
Tom Darcy eased his dark blue BMW out of the crowded car park and into the pleasure of a soft Irish early evening in mid-autumn. Soft in that the rain was a version of mist, and when the sun did choose to shine, as it did now, there was still warmth in its rays. Tom could feel its healing power on his arm as he leaned it on the open window of his car.
He drove without haste to the south, toward Enniskerry and the riding stables there. He had taken out his tape recorder with the idea that he'd make a few more notes regarding Mary, but as he drove, he let the problems and woes of the day and its patients drift out of his mind and allowed the view of the fields and their autumnal browns and reds and golds fill his eyes and soothe his spirit.
The wheels of the car crunched on the gravel as he pulled into the yard abutting the stable area. The sound triggered off a memory, and he was caught up again with worry about Mary and how she had found herself driving at some distance from her house, not knowing how she got there. He shook his head. "That's not what I am here for now," he muttered to himself, as he habitually did when he knew himself to be alone. No. Riding was to clear his head of every conscious thought and unconscious association.
He felt his mood lift as he anticipated the energetic gallop through the fields. Walking briskly toward the stable yard, he only then noticed the unusual number of people clustering at the entrance to the main stable, which housed the privately owned horses.
As if suddenly thrown into a dream, he watched all, or it seemed all, of the people turn their heads with one accord and stare at him. Knowing they couldn't be looking for him, he turned and looked over his shoulder, expecting to see someone else following behind him.
There was no one.
He walked on.
"Dr. Darcy!" The owner of the stables, a well-built, strappingly healthy woman in her fifties, advanced toward him with long powerful strides.
"Dr. Darcy," she repeated and held out her hand.
Surprised, he shook it. "Mrs. Killian?" She held his hand between her own.
"Come," she said, drawing him toward her own house at some remove from the stable and the crowd.
Alarm now filled him. His mind raced, sorting through myriad possibilities and rejecting them all. This was, after all, neutral territory -- neither hospital nor office nor home -- and he relaxed slightly.
"I'm afraid I have some very shocking and disturbing news," Mrs. Killian said in her brusque manner, which had always reminded Tom of fictional colonels in fictional British armies in a fictional India.
"Yes," he replied slowly, caught by the word "shocking" -- no, this surely did not involve him, "shocking" had connotations that would not apply to him or his work. He consciously distanced himself from any possibility of real involvement in whatever had happened.
"Your horse, your beloved horse." Her voice thickened.
"Quixote?" he exclaimed.
"Yes, Quixote. I'm terribly sorry, but she's dead."
Years of training allowed him to not cry out. The cry came up his gorge and into his mouth. It was stopped there by the clenching of his teeth. Anger seeped into his face.
"Was there an accident?" he said severely, pulling his hand away from her unwelcome comforting clasp. "Was someone riding her? Have you put her down?"
Darcy turned unconsciously toward the stable and then back.
"What do mean she's dead?" he said abruptly, reality sinking in.
"Brendan, you know Brendan, the stable boy. He went into the stalls to get Quixote warmed up and saddled in time for your arrival. When he saw the stall empty he thought the horse was in the ring, although this surprised him. But, you see," Mrs. Killian paused, drawing breath, "the stall wasn't empty. Quixote was there, but when Brendan didn't see her head looking out from the half door, he went to the ring and then to the yard. When he didn't find her he assumed one of the lads had taken Quixote up the field to graze. Brendan decided he might as well take advantage of the opportunity, so to speak, to muck out Quixote's stall. That was when he opened the door and...dear God...wasn't Quixote there all the time...lying dead."
Tom turned again toward the stable. "Heart attack?" he said with resignation.
"Well, we've contacted the large animal vet in Wicklow. I think he'll tell us..."
She seemed to him less than forthcoming.
"Tell us what?"
She didn't answer.
"I'd like to see her," Darcy said forcefully.
"Yes, I knew that you would." She took a step. "Listen, Dr. Darcy, it wasn't a heart attack."
"Then you do know what it was. For Chrissakes, just tell me." Darcy began to move off, annoyed with her lack of frankness.
"No, wait. Dr. Darcy. I do believe that Quixote was..."
"She was murdered."
Copyright © 2000 by Ann C. Fallon
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