Fault Lines [NOOK Book]

Overview

Drawing on her real-life expertise as a forensic psychologist to create "a crackling, suspenseful mystery" (Andrew Vachss), Anna Salter debuted an unforgettable heroine, Dr. Michael Stone, in Shiny Water. Now, in a thrilling new novel, Michael Stone deciphers the twisted logic of a sexual predator -- and crosses into deadly territory.
A devastatingly violent attack has left one of Michael Stone's clients paralyzed by fear; her only security is the attack dog who never leaves ...
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Fault Lines

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Overview

Drawing on her real-life expertise as a forensic psychologist to create "a crackling, suspenseful mystery" (Andrew Vachss), Anna Salter debuted an unforgettable heroine, Dr. Michael Stone, in Shiny Water. Now, in a thrilling new novel, Michael Stone deciphers the twisted logic of a sexual predator -- and crosses into deadly territory.
A devastatingly violent attack has left one of Michael Stone's clients paralyzed by fear; her only security is the attack dog who never leaves her side. Michael has her own self-protection: even when she steps into the hot tub on the deck of her sparse A-frame house in the Vermont woods, she takes her gun. Michael has learned the hard way that her profession invites danger: she's a forensic psychologist -- an expert in analyzing and, in a perfect world, outsmarting the criminal mind. But some deviants will never be understood or rehabilitated -- like the purely evil perpetrator who has crossed Michael's path before.
Alex B. Willy is a sadistic child molester, a man of monstrous deeds and chilling obsessions. Attempting to profile the psychological makeup of a molester, Michael glimpsed the darkness within through her interviews with the incarcerated Willy; flattered by her attention, he had disclosed the modus operandi of a pedophile, and even boasted about his crimes on audiotape.
Now, his thirty-year sentence suddenly cut short, Alex Willy has been granted a retrial and is sprung from prison. And the one person who threatens his freedom, who knows the depths of his sickness and his seamless lies, is Michael Stone.
Her friends want to hide her, while Michael -- gutsy, aggressive, and fiercely protective of her privacy -- feels safety lies in evading her stalker on her own terms. With horrifying brilliance, Willy has devised an even better way to get to Michael. Invading her professional world, Willy taunts her with malevolent e-mail messages and an intimate knowledge of her clients. Moving in her shadow but always two steps ahead, Alex B. Willy soon targets Michael's guarded personal life, delving along the fault lines of her psyche -- and setting her up for a chilling coup de grace.
As authentic as a case file, and as relentless as a nightmare, Fault Lines firmly places Anna Salter alongside Patricia Cornwell and Jonathan Kellerman in a master class of top-notch psychological suspense writers.
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Editorial Reviews

Jeri Wright
This was a fast, intense read....Michael Stone is a prickly, hard-headed, and very interesting protagonist, and the details of her profession made for fascinating reading....The characters are real, the story fast-paced and compelling, with some real surprises along the way. As with Salter's first novel...some of the subject matter is grim, even painful, but it is handled in a way I didn't feel bombarded with it.
The Mystery Reader.com
Jeri Wright
This was a fast, intense read....Michael Stone is a prickly, hard-headed, and very interesting protagonist, and the details of her profession made for fascinating reading....The characters are real, the story fast-paced and compelling, with some real surprises along the way. As with Salter's first novel...some of the subject matter is grim, even painful, but it is handled in a way I didn't feel bombarded with it.
The Mystery Reader.com
Kirkus Reviews
Second thriller featuring female Vermont forensic psychologist Dr. Michael Stone (Shiny Water, 1997). Dr. Stone, a specialist in child abuse and domestic violence, helped put away Alex B. Willy, a child molester whoþduring an earlier interview not admissible as evidenceþrevealed to Stone a whole batch of crimes he wasn't charged with. Though sentenced to 30 years, Willy has now been released on the technicality that the child witnesses in his trial had been overly suggestible. Clearly, Willy canþt let Stone survive knowing what she knows about him, and, indeed, amused messages from him start popping up on her E-mailþmessages that point to Willy having bugged her office and having taped her interviews with clients. Willy zeroes in on what he sees as Stone's psychic fault lines, which include the death of her daughter Jordan by SIDS while at day-care. Stone, meanwhile, hires a retired FBI agent to sweep her office for bugs. He finds nothing, but Willy keeps right on sending incredibly up-to-the-moment messages. What to do? Instead of being a sitting duck, Stone wonders whether she should go after Willy herself. At the same time, sheþs beleaguered by Camille, a deeply unstable rape-and-torture victim who now protects herself with Keeter, a dangerous Rottweiler attack dog. When Camille learns of the threat against Stone, she begins to shadow Stone secretly, with the intention of protecting her, an idea that rapidly proves more hindrance than help. The outcome, a face-off with a psychopathic pedophile, is as predictable as a heroine tied to railroad tracks. Still, there are shocks here, and each plot twist turns on a kink in an insanely brilliant mind. NotThomas Harris and The Silence of the Lambs by a long shot, but a book steadily gripping in its psychology, despite an overly familiar villain.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671036966
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 1/25/1999
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 468,631
  • File size: 295 KB

Meet the Author


Anna Salter, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist and internationally known authority on sex offenders, has written two academic books on child abuse and lectured throughout the United States and abroad. She is the author of a previous novel featuring Michael Stone, Shiny Water, available from Pocket Books. Dr. Salter is in private practice in Madison, Wisconsin, and consults to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
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Read an Excerpt


From Chapter 1

"He's dead. He's dead." The woman on the other end of the phone was sobbing. I tried to shake the sleep off. I looked at the number the emergency service had given me -- Clarrington. If the call came from Clarrington, chances were she was standing over him with a gun. Clarrington was a small, industrial town twenty miles from the thriving university community where I worked. Mills were closing in Clarrington; people were more or less constantly being put out of work, and maybe because of that -- or maybe because of some esoteric reason I knew nothing about -- Clarrington was, I thought, the center of violence in the known universe. Clarrington was like that square mile in Mexico where all the monarch butterflies go, only every antisocial, drug- or alcohol-addicted, violent person in the world seemed to pass through Clarrington.

"Where is he? Is he there?" I wasn't sure what to say. Nothing in my training as a forensic psychologist specializing in child abuse and domestic violence cases covered some of the things I ran into in the real world when I worked emergency for the Department of Psychiatry at Jefferson University Hospital. I was pretty sure "How do you feel about that?" wouldn't cover it, at least not until I figured out if she needed an ambulance.

The sobbing woman ignored me. "He's dead," she repeated. She was crying so hard I could hardly hear her. "I read about it in the paper." I slumped down in the bed. This was another ball game, entirely. I glanced at the clock. Three A.M. Grief time, maybe, for my unknown caller. Still, if she cared that much, odd she had to read about it in the paper.

"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. I wasn't sure what she wanted me to say.

"I didn't know," she said, "I didn't know he was alive."

Wait a minute. Someone she didn't know was alive is dead, and she read about it in the paper. Why is she upset if she already thought he was dead? I sat up straight again and rubbed my eyes. Was I dealing with someone who wasn't playing with a full deck?

"If I'd only known he was alive...if I'd only known...." I waited for the list of regrets: the call never made, the apology never delivered, the amends only planned. "If I'd only known," she wailed, "I'd have killed him myself."

I was stumped. Ah, Clarrington. We all have regrets when someone dies, but being deprived of the chance to murder him? I opened my mouth to say something, I'm not sure what, but my unknown caller hung up. It's just as well. I'm sure there was nothing in my training to cover this.

I glanced at the black emergency book on the table beside me. It was passed back and forth from emergency worker to emergency worker. It included all of the chronic callers -- the dependent and the hysterical and the entitled folk, not to mention the truly crazy -- that made up the vast bulk of calls on emergency. Without a name I couldn't check to see if my unknown caller made a habit of scaring emergency workers. Certainly, her call didn't fit the pattern of any active emergency caller I had been briefed on. It was a strange fact that almost none of the calls that came in on emergency were true emergencies; mostly they were chronic callers who somehow figured out that a voice on the end of the phone pushed back the night.

I had too much adrenaline from the call to go back to sleep. I got up and walked downstairs and crossed the living room of the tiny A-frame and walked out onto the deck. There was just enough moon to see the small stream glistening below. I glanced at the darkness where I knew the trees began, beyond the stream.

I had retreated to the country a few years ago, to a tiny A-frame with no room for guests. The small deck, the stream below, the hot tub tucked around the bend of the L-shaped deck had all brought something I was looking for. But in my line of work I meet violent folk from time to time, and after I had moved, one had stalked me, gotten into my remote cabin, and eventually tried to kill me. Now there were times when I wouldn't go onto the deck at night without my .38 revolver tucked in my pocket.

On impulse I walked back into the house and picked up the phone to call my office answering machine. At least I think that was the impulse. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to get off the deck, where I felt exposed. I was like a drug addict these days, always thinking up excuses when I didn't want to face the real reason I was doing things. It was more than a little silly to be calling my machine. I checked it before I went to bed, and all my clients had the emergency number for anything urgent enough to be calling at night -- but to my surprise there was a message that had come in at two A.M.

"Dr. Stone, this is Camille." Camille was a new client coming in today for the first time. "I wondered if it would be okay if I brought my seizure dog to the session today. She's licensed so she's supposed to be able to go anywhere, grocery stores and things like that. Please let me know because I don't think I can come without her." The voice was tiny and had something in it I couldn't identify: not anxiety, not depression, something odd.

A seizure dog. What the heck is a seizure dog? If people can't do anything about someone having a seizure, what's a dog supposed to do? And why is Camille up at two A.M. worrying about this? She was upset enough to be up and calling me, but too polite to call the emergency number I had given her when she made the appointment. That meant the question was important to her and not just an excuse to make contact.

Was she depressed? People who couldn't sleep in the middle of the night were almost always depressed. But maybe I'd be depressed too if I had seizures so often I couldn't go for a fifty-minute therapy session without my seizure dog.

I was still thinking about it on the way into my office the next morning. The drive was fifteen minutes of green, leafy, postcard New England stuff -- three quarters of the year. Whoever put together New England decided that it was only fair -- given that New England has green, rolling hills dotted with old farmhouses, given that New England has small, winding back roads that meander next to small, curious streams, given that New England has possibly the fewest McDonald's of any place in the nation and, Vermont at least, has people with enough sense to ban highway billboards -- given all those gifts, it seemed only fair that New England miss out on something. New England has no spring.

I am a Southerner, born and bred. And while the South has many things that keep me out of it -- Mama for one -- you have to take your hat off to the South when it comes to spring. Spring starts in February in the South, and the whole world explodes. There is more color in Chapel Hill in February than there is in the entire state of Vermont in May. And the light. In a North Carolina spring there is light -- glorious, endless light -- light when you wake up and light when you go to bed. But who could go to bed? I remember sitting on my grandmother's porch on the swing in the evening -- everybody sat on their porch in the evening -- watching the azaleas sway in the breeze off the water.

I glanced at the brown landscape. It was May and the leaves were clearly waiting for mud season to end before they made an appearance. Mud season is the time when the snow melts leaving enough mud that casual visitors assume some sort of flood has gone through. It is also New England's substitute for spring. it looked less like spring and more like a setting for a horror flick.

By 9 A.M. I was sitting in my private practice office waiting for Camille. I had called at eight to let her know I had no problem with her dog. I heard the door to the small waiting room in the old Victorian house open and walked out to meet Camille. A rottweiler roughly the size of my couch walked in, sat down calmly, and looked at me in a decidedly unfriendly way. She had that I've-got-the-distance-to-your-throat-measured look that attack dogs have. She was definitely a working dog. This is a seizure dog? This dog could cause seizures.

I moved forward to shake hands with the woman on the other end of the leash and saw the dog's muscles bunch. Camille was my height but much rounder. She was pale and looked out-of-shape. Her coloring was all wrong, but I was so focused on the dog it took me a moment to realize why. It was the mismatch. Her skin was fair and her eyebrows were blond, but her hair was dark brown, almost black. Very few natural blondes dye their hair an unflattering shade of dark brown, but she had. She had bright eyes, and somehow the body she was living in, her whole appearance, didn't seem to go with those eyes. She was also shaking noticeably, but if she had seizures, maybe she had cerebral palsy too. The shaking didn't explain the dog. You don't need an attack rottweiler just to help with seizures. I know you're supposed to call them protection dogs these days, but somehow when I looked at this one, the term "attack dog" just kept coming to mind.

Camille shook hands with me limply. "I don't know if I can stay," she said as soon as we were seated. "I'm not feeling very well." She was sitting across from me, but she kept glancing at the windows over her shoulder.

"Is there anything that would make you more comfortable?" I asked. She looked extremely uncomfortable.

"Not really," she said, and silence filled the room.

I waited a few moments and then asked, "Where would you like to start?" This was clearly not someone I could just fire questions at. Probably the dog was trained to bite anyone who fired questions at her.

"I..." Her voice trailed off, and she looked down. She seemed to be fighting back tears and trying to steady herself.

"Take your time. Say what you can." I considered the options while I waited. Paranoid? No, paranoids are more concerned with what was in the room than what is outside. Paranoids scan the room and inevitably fasten on the couple of videotapes on my bookshelves. Then they look around for a camera. Paranoids keep glancing at the notes I'm writing until I hand them over for inspection.

If not paranoid, what? Battered spouse. Possibly. Battered spouses are often in pretty bad shape, and they are sometimes afraid their husbands will find out they are seeing a therapist. An estranged spouse might be stalking her. But there was something in her level of fear that I had never seen before, not even in a battered spouse. I didn't think it was battering.

"I can't talk about it." She was crying. "But I need to know if I'm ever going to get better. It's been five years. I don't think I'm going to get better. I can't go outside, and I haven't been alone without Keeter since then. And sometimes I think he's in the house, and I know he's not because Keeter is just sitting there, but it really seems like he's there." She paused and cried for a few minutes.

"I didn't used to be like this," she said. "I was never like this. I was a nurse," she said as though that identity was now light-years away, which it probably was.

Rape? A violent, stranger attack? Maybe. I had seen some people in pretty bad shape from that, but never this bad. Something had shattered her whole sense of identity. She was hiding in the dark hair and the overweight body -- which I'd be willing to bet she didn't have before -- hiding in the house and behind the rottweiler, but what besides rape would make someone hide like that?

"Most people get better eventually from almost any kind of trauma," I said. I didn't say how much better. Some don't get a whole lot better, but it probably wouldn't help her to hear that right now. "I don't know what happened, and I know you can't tell me right now. But when I learn a little more about what you've been through, maybe I can give you a better idea of time." This woman needed whatever reassurance she could get, even if it was just a vague, most-people type.

"When I talk about it, it makes it worse."

"I'm sure that's true. It kicks off the flashbacks, right?" She nodded. "Tell me about Keeter," I said. She looked up, surprised. She looked at Keeter and then at me. "She won't hurt you," she said. "She's very well trained."

"She looks very well trained," I said. She had to be because it was only her training that was controlling her; this lady sure wasn't emotionally strong enough to control an attack dog right now. "I didn't ask because I was worried," I said gently, which I think was true -- although I did know a dog trainer once who was attacked by a rottweiler while she was sitting behind a desk signing its owner up for a class. The rottweiler had gone over the desk straight for her throat without any warning. I glanced at Keeter again.

"I asked because you can probably talk about her without kicking off your flashbacks since she wasn't part of whatever happened to you. You got her, afterward, right? So she's related to what happened, but she wasn't there, and maybe I could learn a little bit about your symptoms without triggering anything if you talk about Keeter and your relationship with Keeter."

She looked at me thoughtfully. I was glad to see she could pull out of herself for a moment. It was a good sign, small, but good. "I've been to counselors before. They always want to talk about what happened."

"But you can't, or you start to fall apart, right?"

"Yeah, but then they just let me talk about anything."

"We'll go at this sideways," I said. "We won't hit it directly at first, and we won't go away from it entirely either. We'll get as close as we can without tearing things up for you. Okay?"

She nodded and sighed, looking ever so very slightly relieved. "I do know a little bit about this problem," I said gently. She was lost and frightened, and she needed to know the person she was asking for directions had a clue which way to go. Otherwise, the anxiety about being lost would make the problem worse.

"What's a seizure dog?"

"Well, she's trained to press a button on the phone, which dials a number for medical help, and also, she takes me home if I'm out somewhere and get confused. I've had seizures all my life, but I didn't get a dog until a few years ago. My first dog was a little terrier, and she was wonderful, but I didn't feel safe afterward. I wanted a dog who could protect me too, and I know Keeter can, it's just...I just don't feel safe anymore, even with Keeter."

"So Keeter's a protection dog who's also trained to deal with seizures?" She nodded. It must have been something, trying to train Keeter to let help in instead of keeping people away if Camille was hurt. The two jobs didn't seem all that compatible, and I wondered which way Keeter would go in a pinch.

Camille's shaking had stopped, and I realized it was more likely anxiety than cerebral palsy. This woman was a train wreck, but what kind of train had hit her and how was she ever going to tell me?

"I was never like this," she said. "I was a nurse," she said again. "I was an ICN nurse." She looked up, and I saw her face fill up. That is part of what happens with trauma: People end up grieving their own lost lives. Camille couldn't get used to not being who she had been.

And who she had been was probably a whole lot different than who she was now. The Intensive Care Nursery is one place where nurses never get stuck putting patients in and out of examining rooms. Half the preemies are critically ill at any given moment, and codes are as common as visitors. ICN nurses have a ton of responsibility and do some procedures restricted elsewhere only to doctors.

"Tell me about being a nurse."

Her hands stopped twisting the shredded Kleenex in her lap, and she sighed. "I had a rotating shift. I could have had an escort to the car. I mean, I was on the night shift, and I got out around midnight, and some of the other nurses would call for security to escort them to the parking lot. But I was just never afraid, and security would take twenty minutes, half an hour to come. I just didn't want to sit there. So I always walked down." She stopped abruptly, and when she spoke again all the fluency was gone, and she sounded almost aphasic.

"I just never...I didn't expect...I know I locked the car...It was still locked when...I still don't know...mummy, oh, mummy." Her face had paled, and her eyes were scanning like she was watching something. Keeter stood up, looked at Camille then looked at me. Keeter had a hell of a job. How was she supposed to know whom to attack? I was just sitting there, but Camille was clearly reacting like someone was coming after her with a knife.

Keeter distracted me, and I didn't redirect Camille quickly enough. By the time I opened my mouth to get her back to safer ground she had stood up and was turning to the door. "I have to go," she said.

"Wait," I said urgently. "Don't go yet. Let's pull this together." This was no way for her to leave. I take seriously the idea that therapy shouldn't make people worse. I like to think people leave my office in at least as good shape as they came in. If Camille left now, she would have a dreadful day of flashbacks and fears.

She paused and turned back toward me.

"I want you to imagine a safe place. Sit down for a moment," I said quietly.

She stood a few minutes longer, and I said nothing, just waited. You can't just order trauma victims around; they have to make their own decisions. Finally, she perched hesitantly on the edge of the seat. I guess you'd call that sitting.

I opened my mouth to ask her to shut her eyes and then realized what a stupid idea that was and said instead, "Just imagine any place you'd feel safe -- a garden, a fortress, a boat, anything. It doesn't have to be a real place. It can be anything you can imagine." If she could do it, it would bring down her autonomic arousal. Her heart would quit pounding, her palms would quit sweating, the racing thoughts would slow. It would distract her from the threatening imagery and decrease the chances she'd spend the day having flashbacks of whatever had happened to her.

She looked in the distance for a moment and then at the floor. "There isn't any place that's safe," she said. "There isn't any place he couldn't be."

"Then imagine a place where you would feel a little less afraid, however improbable a place. A cloud, sitting at the right of God, surrounded by tanks, whatever." I waited for her to think it through.

"A grave," she said, finally. "Maybe there." I hoped against hope she'd laugh ruefully, but she didn't. Instead, for the first time a fleeting look of peace passed over her face at the thought. I felt my heart drop. When a grave is the only place people feel safe, sooner or later they try to get there.

After she left, I thought it over. It sounded like rape, but it didn't sound like rape. Something more had happened, not that rape wasn't bad enough, but I had always been impressed with people's ability to recover from some pretty terrible traumas. Most women who are raped regain their ability to function more quickly than this lady had. Someone had been waiting in the parking lot that night, and something had happened -- something worse than rape -- but what?

I was still musing when the phone rang. Carlotta, my longtime best friend despite the fact that she had wasted a sixfoot frame on modeling, for God's sake, instead of basketball, was on the line. She was a lawyer now -- at least she had come to her senses and gotten a real job. Funny how you can tell if something is good news or bad just by the sound of the voice. I didn't like it when Carlotta's voice sounded like it did now. Once she had given me some very bad news, indeed, and ever since then, I cringed when I heard that sound in her voice.

"What's up?" I said.

She sighed. "Have you seen the papers?"

"No," I said, "What's in them?"

"Why don't you go get one? I'll meet you for lunch. You'll probably be able to talk by then," she said.

I glanced at my watch. It was 10:30. "No," I said evenly. "You're scaring the shit out of me, and I don't want the anxiety of racing around looking for a paper not knowing. What happened?"

There was a pause. "I'm sorry," she said. "Nobody's died." I realized I had been holding my breath as I let it out. "It's just that Willy's out."

"Willy's out? Willy's out? Willy is not out. What? How the hell could he get out?"

Carlotta started to speak, but I kept going. "How could Willy get out? Have you been in a maximum security prison recently? Those things are fortresses. He could not have gotten out. This is a joke, Carlotta. Just the sort of trick that son-of-a-bitch would play. He likes to give me a heart attack."

There was another pause, and I realized this was just what Carlotta had been trying to avoid. I was screaming at her as if she had personally smuggled Willy out of prison. I shut up. After a moment Carlotta spoke.

"He didn't escape, Michael. He won on appeal. The court remanded the case back for a new trial and released him in the meantime."

"What? On what basis?"

"Suggestibility. The court ruled that some of the social worker interviews of the abused children were leading and suggestive."

"I don't believe this." My decibel level was rising again, but what sane person's wouldn't have?

"There's more. I don't think the case will see court again, but look, I don't have time to get into it; I've got a hearing. Go get a paper, and I'll see you at Sweet Tomatoes at noon." Carlotta hung up. How could she leave me hanging like that? Why wouldn't it go back to court?

Carlotta had joined the county prosecutor's staff this year, which meant, even though Willy's case hadn't been in our county, Carlotta could probably get the prosecutors on the case to talk to her. I wondered if she had called them already and that's how she knew it wasn't going back to court.

Alex B. Willy was out of prison. I had never known Alex B. Willy out of prison, and I didn't care to now. When I met him three years ago, he was starting a thirty-year sentence for child molestation. That was long by today's anemic sentencing standards for child molestation, but it had come to light in the sentencing phase of the trial that Willy had had quite a string of victims.

He had turned out to be swimming up to his ears in narcissism, and he had delighted in telling me about all the offenses he hadn't been caught for. As bad as his known track record was, the truth was worse: Willy was not a simple, manipulative, get-the-children-to-trust-him-and-then-molest-them-pillar-of-the-community-dime-a-dozen child molester. Willy was a sexual sadist. What turned him on was hurting people, children, to be specific.

I made it to the corner and stared at the machine holding the Upper Valley Times as though it were a mortal enemy. God damn that son-of-a-bitch. No sane person would have put him on the street. I finally came up with the quarters I needed and jerked the paper out. I couldn't wait to get back to the office, so I just stood there and went through the paper until I found it.

MINISTER WINS APPEAL.

Appleton, NH -- The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled today that Alex B. Willy was entitled to a new trial on charges of first degree sexual assault against a minor. In a case that many felt was marked by overzealous prosecution and naive faith in the credibility of children's testimony, the court ruled that Mr. Willy's accusers, a six-year-old boy and a seven-year-old boy had been subjected to leading and suggestive questioning by county social workers during their investigation. The Supreme Court held that the lower Court had erred in permitting the children's testimony without first holding a "taint" hearing to determine whether the children's recollections had been too influenced by suggestive interviewing to be reliable.

The ruling stated that a new trial cannot occur until such a hearing takes place. Prosecutors must prove in the "taint" hearing that the children's recollections are reliable and were not unduly influenced by suggestive questioning. If they fail to do so, the state is barred from seeking a new trial.

Mr. Willy stated that, "I'm just grateful for the chance to prove my innocence, and I am confident that a new trial will do just that. Hopefully, this dreadful ordeal will soon be over. I hold no malice in my heart toward anyone. I know the adults involved meant well, and the children, of course, were just children and as such were easily swayed by those around them."

Classic Willy. I could feel the pull of the words even in print. He sounded exactly like a kind, innocent man, and the average person reading that statement wouldn't even question his innocence for a second. In fact, Willy sounded like a kind, innocent man who wasn't even angry about the horrible things his accusers had put him through.

Willy had a gift. Dealing with Willy was like dealing with an emotional chameleon. He knew, as though he had radar, just what kind of emotional tone people wanted to hear, and he could produce it unfailingly. I had studied Willy for countless hours, but I still didn't know how he did it. Something in me couldn't grasp it.

Slowly, I walked back to the office. Just to reassure myself of my own sanity, I opened the drawer with my Willy-tapes in it. With his permission I had audiotaped some of my interviews with him -- getting a sadist to really talk was such a rare thing I had decided to tape so I could go back over them. I could learn a lot from Willy although what he had to teach was pretty depressing.

I thumbed through the cassettes until I found the one I was looking for: the label read "Ways to Con Adults." Willy had signed permission for me to tape his interviews with the written stipulation that I could never share the tapes with anyone else. Just like Willy to tantalize me with something and then make sure I couldn't use it.

I pulled out my tape recorder and popped the tape in. I had left the tape set at the section it seemed to me was the most important. "It's very simple, Dr. Michael," Willy was saying. "Simply find out what people need. What do they need? Do they need money? I'll loan it. Do they need a listening ear? I'll be there. Do they need reassurance? I'll supply it. People are full of needs." He had laughed.

"The only difficult part is figuring out what they need most. What do they need badly enough that they will sell their firstborn, so to speak. What do they need badly enough that they will ignore what is right in front of their eyes? I have molested kids in the backseat of a car with their parents in the front seat."

I had been floored by that and hadn't spoken for a moment. Willy had laughed again. "Indeed, I have. I'd simply pull a blanket over a sleepy child and fondle them with their parents in the front seat. They'd wake up, of course, and that trapped look they'd give their parents was so satisfying. They knew they wouldn't be believed. Somehow they knew. And they were right. Their parents wouldn't have believed them if they had reported me on the spot.

"There are subtleties, of course, which I can't expect you to grasp. You are really such a limited student." Which, I thought every time I heard the tape, was true.

"Like what?"

"What they need. What they hunger for. Ultimately, it's never anything concrete. Oh, sometimes it starts with money, a loan to get them out of debt or something, but it always turns out that the money represents something else -- importance or support or something -- something that turns out to be much more addictive than money.

"The highest level" -- and I could still remember Willy's eyes starting to shine -- "is to supply something crucial that the person is not even aware of needing, something completely unseen that they become totally dependent on my providing. Then you can take chances, which of course intensifies the excitement."

"Like what?"

"Oh, you can make the abuse of their child a little more obvious and a little more obvious until they have to work not to see it."

"And what is it that people need badly enough, even unconsciously, to tolerate your molesting their child? Friendship? Self-worth? What is it you supply, Mr. Willy, that is worth so much?"

"Well, Dr. Michael, no good cook shares all the ingredients. Really, you don't expect me to do all the work for you, do you?"

And what was it that Willy had supplied me with, that kept me coming back to see him? Willy didn't want to talk about that, but then again, neither did I.

I popped the tape, picked up the newspaper, and stared glumly at the article. A taint hearing. The case was over. There wasn't any way to prove something didn't exist. It was like trying to prove a white elephant wasn't in the room. Some misguided fool had asked a leading question somewhere along the way, and after that, anything the children said would be considered tainted.

Never mind that the children disclosed abuse before the interview with the county social worker -- otherwise, there wouldn't have been an interview. Never mind how many symptoms the children had -- and Willy had described to me their deterioration in gloating detail.

The bottom line was simple: One thing people surely needed was to believe they could tell who was safe and who wasn't, and a whole lot of people had trusted Willy. He looked good; he talked good; he was a popular minister in his community who had regularly visited the sick and the elderly. A lot of people had been devoted to him. If there was any way to explain away the accusations against him, people would take it. And now they had one.

Copyright © 1998 by Dr. Anna Salter

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

"He's dead. He's dead." The woman on the other end of the phone was sobbing. I tried to shake the sleep off. I looked at the number the emergency service had given me -- Clarrington. If the call came from Clarrington, chances were she was standing over him with a gun. Clarrington was a small, industrial town twenty miles from the thriving university community where I worked. Mills were closing in Clarrington; people were more or less constantly being put out of work, and maybe because of that -- or maybe because of some esoteric reason I knew nothing about -- Clarrington was, I thought, the center of violence in the known universe. Clarrington was like that square mile in Mexico where all the monarch butterflies go, only every antisocial, drug- or alcohol- addicted, violent person in the world seemed to pass through Clarrington.

"Where is he? Is he there?" I wasn't sure what to say. Nothing in my training as a forensic psychologist specializing in child abuse and domestic violence cases covered some of the things I ran into in the real world when I worked emergency for the Department of Psychiatry at Jefferson University Hospital. I was pretty sure "How do you feel about that?" wouldn't cover it, at least not until I figured out if she needed an ambulance.

The sobbing woman ignored me. "He's dead," she repeated. She was crying so hard I could hardly hear her. "I read about it in the paper." I slumped down in the bed. This was another ball game, entirely. I glanced at the clock. Three A.M. Grief time, maybe, for my unknown caller. Still, if she cared that much, odd she had to read about it in the paper.

"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. I wasn't sure what she wanted me to say.

"I didn't know," she said, "I didn't know he was alive."

Wait a minute. Someone she didn't know was alive is dead, and she read about it in the paper. Why is she upset if she already thought he was dead? I sat up straight again and rubbed my eyes. Was I dealing with someone who wasn't playing with a full deck?

"If I'd only known he was alive...if I'd only known...." I waited for the list of regrets: the call never made, the apology never delivered, the amends only planned. "If I'd only known," she wailed, "I'd have killed him myself."

I was stumped. Ah, Clarrington. We all have regrets when someone dies, but being deprived of the chance to murder him? I opened my mouth to say something, I'm not sure what, but my unknown caller hung up. It's just as well. I'm sure there was nothing in my training to cover this.

I glanced at the black emergency book on the table beside me. It was passed back and forth from emergency worker to emergency worker. It included all of the chronic callers -- the dependent and the hysterical and the entitled folk, not to mention the truly crazy -- that made up the vast bulk of calls on emergency. Without a name I couldn't check to see if my unknown caller made a habit of scaring emergency workers. Certainly, her call didn't fit the pattern of any active emergency caller I had been briefed on. It was a strange fact that almost none of the calls that came in on emergency were true emergencies; mostly they were chronic callers who somehow figured out that a voice on the end of the phone pushed back the night.

I had too much adrenaline from the call to go back to sleep. I got up and walked downstairs and crossed the living room of the tiny A-frame and walked out onto the deck. There was just enough moon to see the small stream glistening below. I glanced at the darkness where I knew the trees began, beyond the stream.

I had retreated to the country a few years ago, to a tiny A-frame with no room for guests. The small deck, the stream below, the hot tub tucked around the bend of the L-shaped deck had all brought something I was looking for. But in my line of work I meet violent folk from time to time, and after I had moved, one had stalked me, gotten into my remote cabin, and eventually tried to kill me. Now there were times when I wouldn't go onto the deck at night without my .38 revolver tucked in my pocket.

On impulse I walked back into the house and picked up the phone to call my office answering machine. At least I think that was the impulse. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to get off the deck, where I felt exposed. I was like a drug addict these days, always thinking up excuses when I didn't want to face the real reason I was doing things. It was more than a little silly to be calling my machine. I checked it before I went to bed, and all my clients had the emergency number for anything urgent enough to be calling at night -- but to my surprise there was a message that had come in at two A.M.

"Dr. Stone, this is Camille." Camille was a new client coming in today for the first time. "I wondered if it would be okay if I brought my seizure dog to the session today. She's licensed so she's supposed to be able to go anywhere, grocery stores and things like that. Please let me know because I don't think I can come without her." The voice was tiny and had something in it I couldn't identify: not anxiety, not depression, something odd.

A seizure dog. What the heck is a seizure dog? If people can't do anything about someone having a seizure, what's a dog supposed to do? And why is Camille up at two A.M. worrying about this? She was upset enough to be up and calling me, but too polite to call the emergency number I had given her when she made the appointment. That meant the question was important to her and not just an excuse to make contact.

Was she depressed? People who couldn't sleep in the middle of the night were almost always depressed. But maybe I'd be depressed too if I had seizures so often I couldn't go for a fifty-minute therapy session without my seizure dog.

I was still thinking about it on the way into my office the next morning. The drive was fifteen minutes of green, leafy, postcard New England stuff -- three quarters of the year. Whoever put together New England decided that it was only fair -- given that New England has green, rolling hills dotted with old farmhouses, given that New England has small, winding back roads that meander next to small, curious streams, given that New England has possibly the fewest McDonald's of any place in the nation and, Vermont at least, has people with enough sense to ban highway billboards -- given all those gifts, it seemed only fair that New England miss out on something. New England has no spring.

I am a Southerner, born and bred. And while the South has many things that keep me out of it -- Mama for one -- you have to take your hat off to the South when it comes to spring. Spring starts in February in the South, and the whole world explodes. There is more color in Chapel Hill in February than there is in the entire state of Vermont in May. And the light. In a North Carolina spring there is light -- glorious, endless light -- light when you wake up and light when you go to bed. But who could go to bed? I remember sitting on my grandmother's porch on the swing in the evening -- everybody sat on their porch in the evening -- watching the azaleas sway in the breeze off the water.

I glanced at the brown landscape. It was May and the leaves were clearly waiting for mud season to end before they made an appearance. Mud season is the time when the snow melts leaving enough mud that casual visitors assume some sort of flood has gone through. It is also New England's substitute for spring. it looked less like spring and more like a setting for a horror flick.

By 9 A.M. I was sitting in my private practice office waiting for Camille. I had called at eight to let her know I had no problem with her dog. I heard the door to the small waiting room in the old Victorian house open and walked out to meet Camille. A rottweiler roughly the size of my couch walked in, sat down calmly, and looked at me in a decidedly unfriendly way. She had that I've-got-the-distance-to-your-throat-measured look that attack dogs have. She was definitely a working dog. This is a seizure dog? This dog could cause seizures.

I moved forward to shake hands with the woman on the other end of the leash and saw the dog's muscles bunch. Camille was my height but much rounder. She was pale and looked out-of-shape. Her coloring was all wrong, but I was so focused on the dog it took me a moment to realize why. It was the mismatch. Her skin was fair and her eyebrows were blond, but her hair was dark brown, almost black. Very few natural blondes dye their hair an unflattering shade of dark brown, but she had. She had bright eyes, and somehow the body she was living in, her whole appearance, didn't seem to go with those eyes. She was also shaking noticeably, but if she had seizures, maybe she had cerebral palsy too. The shaking didn't explain the dog. You don't need an attack rottweiler just to help with seizures. I know you're supposed to call them protection dogs these days, but somehow when I looked at this one, the term "attack dog" just kept coming to mind.

Camille shook hands with me limply. "I don't know if I can stay," she said as soon as we were seated. "I'm not feeling very well." She was sitting across from me, but she kept glancing at the windows over her shoulder.

"Is there anything that would make you more comfortable?" I asked. She looked extremely uncomfortable.

"Not really," she said, and silence filled the room.

I waited a few moments and then asked, "Where would you like to start?" This was clearly not someone I could just fire questions at. Probably the dog was trained to bite anyone who fired questions at her.

"I..." Her voice trailed off, and she looked down. She seemed to be fighting back tears and trying to steady herself.

"Take your time. Say what you can." I considered the options while I waited. Paranoid? No, paranoids are more concerned with what was in the room than what is outside. Paranoids scan the room and inevitably fasten on the couple of videotapes on my bookshelves. Then they look around for a camera. Paranoids keep glancing at the notes I'm writing until I hand them over for inspection.

If not paranoid, what? Battered spouse. Possibly. Battered spouses are often in pretty bad shape, and they are sometimes afraid their husbands will find out they are seeing a therapist. An estranged spouse might be stalking her. But there was something in her level of fear that I had never seen before, not even in a battered spouse. I didn't think it was battering.

"I can't talk about it." She was crying. "But I need to know if I'm ever going to get better. It's been five years. I don't think I'm going to get better. I can't go outside, and I haven't been alone without Keeter since then. And sometimes I think he's in the house, and I know he's not because Keeter is just sitting there, but it really seems like he's there." She paused and cried for a few minutes.

"I didn't used to be like this," she said. "I was never like this. I was a nurse," she said as though that identity was now light-years away, which it probably was.

Rape? A violent, stranger attack? Maybe. I had seen some people in pretty bad shape from that, but never this bad. Something had shattered her whole sense of identity. She was hiding in the dark hair and the overweight body -- which I'd be willing to bet she didn't have before -- hiding in the house and behind the rottweiler, but what besides rape would make someone hide like that?

"Most people get better eventually from almost any kind of trauma," I said. I didn't say how much better. Some don't get a whole lot better, but it probably wouldn't help her to hear that right now. "I don't know what happened, and I know you can't tell me right now. But when I learn a little more about what you've been through, maybe I can give you a better idea of time." This woman needed whatever reassurance she could get, even if it was just a vague, most-people type.

"When I talk about it, it makes it worse."

"I'm sure that's true. It kicks off the flashbacks, right?" She nodded. "Tell me about Keeter," I said. She looked up, surprised. She looked at Keeter and then at me. "She won't hurt you," she said. "She's very well trained."

"She looks very well trained," I said. She had to be because it was only her training that was controlling her; this lady sure wasn't emotionally strong enough to control an attack dog right now. "I didn't ask because I was worried," I said gently, which I think was true -- although I did know a dog trainer once who was attacked by a rottweiler while she was sitting behind a desk signing its owner up for a class. The rottweiler had gone over the desk straight for her throat without any warning. I glanced at Keeter again.

"I asked because you can probably talk about her without kicking off your flashbacks since she wasn't part of whatever happened to you. You got her, afterward, right? So she's related to what happened, but she wasn't there, and maybe I could learn a little bit about your symptoms without triggering anything if you talk about Keeter and your relationship with Keeter."

She looked at me thoughtfully. I was glad to see she could pull out of herself for a moment. It was a good sign, small, but good. "I've been to counselors before. They always want to talk about what happened."

"But you can't, or you start to fall apart, right?"

"Yeah, but then they just let me talk about anything."

"We'll go at this sideways," I said. "We won't hit it directly at first, and we won't go away from it entirely either. We'll get as close as we can without tearing things up for you. Okay?"

She nodded and sighed, looking ever so very slightly relieved. "I do know a little bit about this problem," I said gently. She was lost and frightened, and she needed to know the person she was asking for directions had a clue which way to go. Otherwise, the anxiety about being lost would make the problem worse.

"What's a seizure dog?"

"Well, she's trained to press a button on the phone, which dials a number for medical help, and also, she takes me home if I'm out somewhere and get confused. I've had seizures all my life, but I didn't get a dog until a few years ago. My first dog was a little terrier, and she was wonderful, but I didn't feel safe afterward. I wanted a dog who could protect me too, and I know Keeter can, it's just...I just don't feel safe anymore, even with Keeter."

"So Keeter's a protection dog who's also trained to deal with seizures?" She nodded. It must have been something, trying to train Keeter to let help in instead of keeping people away if Camille was hurt. The two jobs didn't seem all that compatible, and I wondered which way Keeter would go in a pinch.

Camille's shaking had stopped, and I realized it was more likely anxiety than cerebral palsy. This woman was a train wreck, but what kind of train had hit her and how was she ever going to tell me?

"I was never like this," she said. "I was a nurse," she said again. "I was an ICN nurse." She looked up, and I saw her face fill up. That is part of what happens with trauma: People end up grieving their own lost lives. Camille couldn't get used to not being who she had been.

And who she had been was probably a whole lot different than who she was now. The Intensive Care Nursery is one place where nurses never get stuck putting patients in and out of examining rooms. Half the preemies are critically ill at any given moment, and codes are as common as visitors. ICN nurses have a ton of responsibility and do some procedures restricted elsewhere only to doctors.

"Tell me about being a nurse."

Her hands stopped twisting the shredded Kleenex in her lap, and she sighed. "I had a rotating shift. I could have had an escort to the car. I mean, I was on the night shift, and I got out around midnight, and some of the other nurses would call for security to escort them to the parking lot. But I was just never afraid, and security would take twenty minutes, half an hour to come. I just didn't want to sit there. So I always walked down." She stopped abruptly, and when she spoke again all the fluency was gone, and she sounded almost aphasic.

"I just never...I didn't expect...I know I locked the car...It was still locked when...I still don't know...mummy, oh, mummy." Her face had paled, and her eyes were scanning like she was watching something. Keeter stood up, looked at Camille then looked at me. Keeter had a hell of a job. How was she supposed to know whom to attack? I was just sitting there, but Camille was clearly reacting like someone was coming after her with a knife.

Keeter distracted me, and I didn't redirect Camille quickly enough. By the time I opened my mouth to get her back to safer ground she had stood up and was turning to the door. "I have to go," she said.

"Wait," I said urgently. "Don't go yet. Let's pull this together." This was no way for her to leave. I take seriously the idea that therapy shouldn't make people worse. I like to think people leave my office in at least as good shape as they came in. If Camille left now, she would have a dreadful day of flashbacks and fears.

She paused and turned back toward me.

"I want you to imagine a safe place. Sit down for a moment," I said quietly.

She stood a few minutes longer, and I said nothing, just waited. You can't just order trauma victims around; they have to make their own decisions. Finally, she perched hesitantly on the edge of the seat. I guess you'd call that sitting.

I opened my mouth to ask her to shut her eyes and then realized what a stupid idea that was and said instead, "Just imagine any place you'd feel safe -- a garden, a fortress, a boat, anything. It doesn't have to be a real place. It can be anything you can imagine." If she could do it, it would bring down her autonomic arousal. Her heart would quit pounding, her palms would quit sweating, the racing thoughts would slow. It would distract her from the threatening imagery and decrease the chances she'd spend the day having flashbacks of whatever had happened to her.

She looked in the distance for a moment and then at the floor. "There isn't any place that's safe," she said. "There isn't any place he couldn't be."

"Then imagine a place where you would feel a little less afraid, however improbable a place. A cloud, sitting at the right of God, surrounded by tanks, whatever." I waited for her to think it through.

"A grave," she said, finally. "Maybe there." I hoped against hope she'd laugh ruefully, but she didn't. Instead, for the first time a fleeting look of peace passed over her face at the thought. I felt my heart drop. When a grave is the only place people feel safe, sooner or later they try to get there.

After she left, I thought it over. It sounded like rape, but it didn't sound like rape. Something more had happened, not that rape wasn't bad enough, but I had always been impressed with people's ability to recover from some pretty terrible traumas. Most women who are raped regain their ability to function more quickly than this lady had. Someone had been waiting in the parking lot that night, and something had happened -- something worse than rape -- but what?

I was still musing when the phone rang. Carlotta, my longtime best friend despite the fact that she had wasted a six-foot frame on modeling, for God's sake, instead of basketball, was on the line. She was a lawyer now -- at least she had come to her senses and gotten a real job. Funny how you can tell if something is good news or bad just by the sound of the voice. I didn't like it when Carlotta's voice sounded like it did now. Once she had given me some very bad news, indeed, and ever since then, I cringed when I heard that sound in her voice.

"What's up?" I said.

She sighed. "Have you seen the papers?"

"No," I said, "What's in them?"

"Why don't you go get one? I'll meet you for lunch. You'll probably be able to talk by then," she said.

I glanced at my watch. It was 10:30. "No," I said evenly. "You're scaring the shit out of me, and I don't want the anxiety of racing around looking for a paper not knowing. What happened?"

There was a pause. "I'm sorry," she said. "Nobody's died." I realized I had been holding my breath as I let it out. "It's just that Willy's out."

"Willy's out? Willy's out? Willy is not out. What? How the hell could he get out?"

Carlotta started to speak, but I kept going. "How could Willy get out? Have you been in a maximum security prison recently? Those things are fortresses. He could not have gotten out. This is a joke, Carlotta. Just the sort of trick that son-of-a-bitch would play. He likes to give me a heart attack."

There was another pause, and I realized this was just what Carlotta had been trying to avoid. I was screaming at her as if she had personally smuggled Willy out of prison. I shut up. After a moment Carlotta spoke.

"He didn't escape, Michael. He won on appeal. The court remanded the case back for a new trial and released him in the meantime."

"What? On what basis?"

"Suggestibility. The court ruled that some of the social worker interviews of the abused children were leading and suggestive."

"I don't believe this." My decibel level was rising again, but what sane person's wouldn't have?

"There's more. I don't think the case will see court again, but look, I don't have time to get into it; I've got a hearing. Go get a paper, and I'll see you at Sweet Tomatoes at noon." Carlotta hung up. How could she leave me hanging like that? Why wouldn't it go back to court?

Carlotta had joined the county prosecutor's staff this year, which meant, even though Willy's case hadn't been in our county, Carlotta could probably get the prosecutors on the case to talk to her. I wondered if she had called them already and that's how she knew it wasn't going back to court.

Alex B. Willy was out of prison. I had never known Alex B. Willy out of prison, and I didn't care to now. When I met him three years ago, he was starting a thirty-year sentence for child molestation. That was long by today's anemic sentencing standards for child molestation, but it had come to light in the sentencing phase of the trial that Willy had had quite a string of victims.

He had turned out to be swimming up to his ears in narcissism, and he had delighted in telling me about all the offenses he hadn't been caught for. As bad as his known track record was, the truth was worse: Willy was not a simple, manipulative, get-the-children-to-trust-him-and-then-molest-them-pillar-of-the-community-dime-a-dozen child molester. Willy was a sexual sadist. What turned him on was hurting people, children, to be specific.

I made it to the corner and stared at the machine holding the Upper Valley Times as though it were a mortal enemy. God damn that son-of-a-bitch. No sane person would have put him on the street. I finally came up with the quarters I needed and jerked the paper out. I couldn't wait to get back to the office, so I just stood there and went through the paper until I found it.

MINISTER WINS APPEAL.

Appleton, NH -- The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled today that Alex B. Willy was entitled to a new trial on charges of first degree sexual assault against a minor. In a case that many felt was marked by overzealous prosecution and naive faith in the credibility of children's testimony, the court ruled that Mr. Willy's accusers, a six-year-old boy and a seven-year-old boy had been subjected to leading and suggestive questioning by county social workers during their investigation. The Supreme Court held that the lower Court had erred in permitting the children's testimony without first holding a "taint" hearing to determine whether the children's recollections had been too influenced by suggestive interviewing to be reliable.

The ruling stated that a new trial cannot occur until such a hearing takes place. Prosecutors must prove in the "taint" hearing that the children's recollections are reliable and were not unduly influenced by suggestive questioning. If they fail to do so, the state is barred from seeking a new trial.

Mr. Willy stated that, "I'm just grateful for the chance to prove my innocence, and I am confident that a new trial will do just that. Hopefully, this dreadful ordeal will soon be over. I hold no malice in my heart toward anyone. I know the adults involved meant well, and the children, of course, were just children and as such were easily swayed by those around them."

Classic Willy. I could feel the pull of the words even in print. He sounded exactly like a kind, innocent man, and the average person reading that statement wouldn't even question his innocence for a second. In fact, Willy sounded like a kind, innocent man who wasn't even angry about the horrible things his accusers had put him through.

Willy had a gift. Dealing with Willy was like dealing with an emotional chameleon. He knew, as though he had radar, just what kind of emotional tone people wanted to hear, and he could produce it unfailingly. I had studied Willy for countless hours, but I still didn't know how he did it. Something in me couldn't grasp it.

Slowly, I walked back to the office. Just to reassure myself of my own sanity, I opened the drawer with my Willy-tapes in it. With his permission I had audiotaped some of my interviews with him -- getting a sadist to really talk was such a rare thing I had decided to tape so I could go back over them. I could learn a lot from Willy although what he had to teach was pretty depressing.

I thumbed through the cassettes until I found the one I was looking for: the label read "Ways to Con Adults." Willy had signed permission for me to tape his interviews with the written stipulation that I could never share the tapes with anyone else. Just like Willy to tantalize me with something and then make sure I couldn't use it.

I pulled out my tape recorder and popped the tape in. I had left the tape set at the section it seemed to me was the most important. "It's very simple, Dr. Michael," Willy was saying. "Simply find out what people need. What do they need? Do they need money? I'll loan it. Do they need a listening ear? I'll be there. Do they need reassurance? I'll supply it. People are full of needs." He had laughed.

"The only difficult part is figuring out what they need most. What do they need badly enough that they will sell their firstborn, so to speak. What do they need badly enough that they will ignore what is right in front of their eyes? I have molested kids in the backseat of a car with their parents in the front seat."

I had been floored by that and hadn't spoken for a moment. Willy had laughed again. "Indeed, I have. I'd simply pull a blanket over a sleepy child and fondle them with their parents in the front seat. They'd wake up, of course, and that trapped look they'd give their parents was so satisfying. They knew they wouldn't be believed. Somehow they knew. And they were right. Their parents wouldn't have believed them if they had reported me on the spot."

"There are subtleties, of course, which I can't expect you to grasp. You are really such a limited student." Which, I thought every time I heard the tape, was true.

"Like what?"

"What they need. What they hunger for. Ultimately, it's never anything concrete. Oh, sometimes it starts with money, a loan to get them out of debt or something, but it always turns out that the money represents something else -- importance or support or something -- something that turns out to be much more addictive than money.

"The highest level" -- and I could still remember Willy's eyes starting to shine -- "is to supply something crucial that the person is not even aware of needing, something completely unseen that they become totally dependent on my providing. Then you can take chances, which of course intensifies the excitement."

"Like what?"

"Oh, you can make the abuse of their child a little more obvious and a little more obvious until they have to work not to see it."

"And what is it that people need badly enough, even unconsciously, to tolerate your molesting their child? Friendship? Self-worth? What is it you supply, Mr. Willy, that is worth so much?"

"Well, Dr. Michael, no good cook shares all the ingredients. Really, you don't expect me to do all the work for you, do you?"

And what was it that Willy had supplied me with, that kept me coming back to see him? Willy didn't want to talk about that, but then again, neither did I.

I popped the tape, picked up the newspaper, and stared glumly at the article. A taint hearing. The case was over. There wasn't any way to prove something didn't exist. It was like trying to prove a white elephant wasn't in the room. Some misguided fool had asked a leading question somewhere along the way, and after that, anything the children said would be considered tainted.

Never mind that the children disclosed abuse before the interview with the county social worker -- otherwise, there wouldn't have been an interview. Never mind how many symptoms the children had -- and Willy had described to me their deterioration in gloating detail.

The bottom line was simple: One thing people surely needed was to believe they could tell who was safe and who wasn't, and a whole lot of people had trusted Willy. He looked good; he talked good; he was a popular minister in his community who had regularly visited the sick and the elderly. A lot of people had been devoted to him. If there was any way to explain away the accusations against him, people would take it. And now they had one.

Copyright © 1998 by Dr. Anna Salter

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2002

    What a Book!

    This book was great. It was a real thriller. The title really went with the book. Even though the book is about lies and deciption it really has a moral at the end. The book wanted me to keep reading it and I never wanted to put it down. The author really knew what she was writing about, it was like she took part in the book. The charecters and their parts were great. I would reccomend this book to anyone that wants to read a thriller. It was great. I have to say this is the first book I never wanted to put down, all I wanted to do was finish to see what was at the end. The tharpist showed me what it could really be like in real life and how scary times can get. I never thought that you could be stalked or have to tend to house calls, or put up with someone you can't stand, and them telling you about your times with your clients, or even facing large dogs like Keeter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2002

    A Double Standard

    Dr. Salter tells the fictional story of a psychologist, Michael Stone, and her encounter with a sadistic sex offender, out on appeal. What bothers me are the lies that Dr. Stone tells her friends,[who are concerned about her safety] and blames them for having to tell these lies. How can she justify telling lies, but her clients, sexual offenders, cannot? Her clients would be discharged from treatment, for lying. Also in the book, treatment professionals tell lies to each other, and to their clients. Do we have one set of standards for our clients, but another set of standards for therapists? While this is just a story, itt appears as though we have the blind leading the blind!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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