The Inheritorby Marion Zimmer Bradley
From New York Times bestselling fantasy and science fiction author comes Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Inheritor.
Leslie Barnes has just bought her first home, overlooking San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. It seems the perfect place for Leslie and her sister, a brilliant young musician...but as soon as they move in, a plague of dark events begins,/b>/i>
From New York Times bestselling fantasy and science fiction author comes Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Inheritor.
Leslie Barnes has just bought her first home, overlooking San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. It seems the perfect place for Leslie and her sister, a brilliant young musician...but as soon as they move in, a plague of dark events begins, unsettling both women. To her horror, Leslie realizes that she is living in a vortex of magickal power. She must become the guardian of that power and protect it from those who seek to use it for evil. Trained as a psychologist, Leslie is in over her head when dealing with the occult--until she meets Claire Moffatt, a charming medium, and Claire's mentor, Colin MacLaren, world-famous psychic investigator. Together they stand against evil and enable Leslie to claim her full inheritance.
Read an Excerpt
By Bradley, Marion Zimmer
Tor BooksCopyright © 1997 Bradley, Marion Zimmer
All right reserved.
"It's a beautiful house." Leslie Barnes turned regretfully from the panorama before her. The early lights of winter dusk twinkled below her, and on a clear day, she knew, the entire bay would spread out here, where now the lights of the Golden Gate made a ribbon of jewels above the fog.
Perhaps for this view she could make minor adjustments, remodel the small room off the foyer--no, there was no time or energy to spare for that. Her work must come first.
"It's truly a lovely place, the nicest I've seen. But, as I told the agent when I first called, I must have a separate room or two to see my clients."
"Clients? You're a lawyer, Miss?"
"The rooms on the ground floor--"
"I'm sorry," Leslie repeated. Why was she apologizing? This was her business. "My sister is a student at the Conservatory, and we need room for a grand piano and a harp."
The agent shrugged and sighed. "This place will go fast, you know. I have three people waiting to see it, and I couldn't even guarantee I could hold it till Monday."
"It simply isn't large enough," Leslie repeated. But she looked again with regret at the view she would have loved to live with.
The agent saw her regretful look and pressed on. "Look, one of the people considering this house is a family with three teenage kids; that little room we showed you, they're going to put two girls inthere and let the boy have the attic room. You take the little downstairs room off the garage for your patients, and the piano can go in the living room--" He was sounding like a reasonable man beset by a silly woman who didn't know what she wanted, and when Leslie shook her head he said, "Well, lady, I think you're making a big mistake, I really don't have anything else to show you. That place on Geary, maybe--"
"No parking; besides, I can't live in a place where neither Emily nor I will dare step outside after dark."
He shrugged. "Well, if we get anything, I'll call you. But you're not going to find anything bigger than this, unless you're talking about half a million dollars."
The unspoken part of that, you're too fussy, stayed with her as she went to her car and watched the agent drive off in his. But she had a right to be fussy; it was the house she would live in, perhaps forever. She could not afford to move again within ten years. And she was not sure marriage was for her, in spite of Joel--
Her thoughts ran a familiar track. If he could get it through his head that her work was important to her, as important as his law career, not just a stopgap until Mister Right came along. She stopped herself.
She was always telling her clients not to enter any serious relationship with the idea of changing the other party. She could accept Joel as he was, marry him and live with him that way, or she could refuse him. But he wasn't going to change, or if he did it would be for his own reasons which had nothing to do with her.
In any case she must build her home with the assumption that she would live in it for years. San Francisco was necessary; she could no longer live in the East Bay, with Emily at the Conservatory. The long commute every day by public transit was expensive and took up precious time as well as draining energy Emily needed for practice.
Maybe, she thought, as she turned onto the skyway approach to the Bay Bridge, she was too fussy; the piano could have gone in the living room--she would, after all, have been down with her clients half the day or more. The little room downstairs off the garage would have made an office, with some remodeling; at worst she could have found office space somewhere outside. In any case it would have been no worse than the rented apartment, cramped even for one, and since Emily had joined her, bulging at the seams with her office and Emily's piano. The harp was still in storage.
And how could she, with the small amount of family money coming from her grandmother, who had for a short time been a concert harpist and recording artist, afford anything more spacious than that little jewel on Russian Hill? Emily's share was earmarked for the Conservatory, and even so Leslie would probably have to help her before she was through. But at whatever cost they must have a place with space for them both; Emily was already chafing at the necessary rule that she could not practice until the last client had left for the day.
She had a good counseling practice, though not as good as it could have been; she still set her fees on a sliding scale based on ability to pay, instead of doing as her colleagues insisted she should do: charging what the traffic would bear. Counseling, they said truthfully, was a luxury service, and the higher fees were set, the higher the therapist's reputation. How much good had she really done with the school counseling, which was just part of the system, which she had doled out in Sacramento--
Leslie felt she had a singular rapport with disturbed teenagers. She had been cheated out of her own adolescent rebellion; when the whole world, it seemed, had been rebelling, everything from protest marches to pot, she had been working hard to survive, put herself through graduate school, and was already fighting Emily's battle for freedom. Their mother had successfully forced Leslie into taking a position as a school counselor instead of opening her own office as a therapist; and now their mother was determined that Emily's talent could be best served by earning a certificate to teach music. The idea of Emily teaching in the chaos of the public schools was rather like imagining Secretariat hauling a coal cart. Or more accurately, Leslie thought, visualizing her high-strung and highly gifted sister giving music lessons, Maria Callas as a high school basketball coach.
She had resolved that Emily should have her chance, even if it meant she herself must spend her life teaching. The inheritance had come too late for a normal adolescence or carefree college days for Leslie; but it meant freedom for Emily. And the scandal which had driven Leslie out of the public school system had at least freed them both. Her mother, Leslie reflected bitterly, had been glad to see her go. But she would never forgive her for taking Emily away.
Leslie cursed as a huge double-trailered semi truck cut into her lane of traffic, remembering the headlines splashed across the National Enquirer.
PSYCHIC TEACHER LOCATES BODY OF MISSING SCHOOLGIRL!
PIGTAIL KILLER TRAPPED BY PSYCHIC!
A fluke, Leslie reminded herself. Everybody had a psychic flash now and then. She clenched her teeth, gripping the wheel...the traffic was heavy; she had hoped to be back before rush hour traffic built up on the Bay Bridge; there must be an accident on the Bridge. She concentrated fiercely on the crawling car ahead, trying not to see again before her eyes the flash of Juanita García's body in the drainage ditch, covered with blood, long hair tightly braided by the killer who had raped and mutilated four young girls.
No, she would not remember that. She had a different life now, and a different world. Joachím Mendoza, dubbed "the Pigtail Killer" for his habit of braiding the long hair of his victims, was still on Death Row. Leslie did not approve of capital punishment, but would not have lifted a hand to save his life; she had seen Juanita García's body, had led the police there.
What if the newspapers had made a Roman holiday of the lucky hunch or psychic flash which had led to the killer? The local headlines had lasted only a day or two; Schoolteacher finds pigtail killer victim. And who ever remembered what was printed in tabloids like the Enquirer?
She had left the notoriety in Sacramento. When she relocated in San Francisco, it would be entirely behind her. If she ever found a place in San Francisco. This was the fifth house she had turned down.
She knew herself well enough to wonder why she kept finding reasons to reject every new house. The perfect house, she told herself firmly, just didn't exist. One way or another, she would have to make up her mind to some compromises. She tried hard to dismiss her own indecision as she took the freeway exit and drove through the Berkeley streets to the tiny house she had rented when she came to Berkeley.
She pulled up and parked in the driveway. The lease here was up on May first: she didn't want to be stuck with a lease for another year.
But she could think about that later. She was seeing a new client for the first time tonight.
Mentally she riffled through the file. Eileen Grantson. Fourteen. Disruptive behavior, temper tantrums, breaking china, lying about it, constant fights in school. Broken home; father has custody, mother remarried and living in Texas, no siblings. The girl probably had a right to be angry at the conditions of her life. It would be easier to deal with a girl already able to express her anger than one who claimed she felt none. The human mind, Leslie told herself, was a fearful and wonderful thing, and that was why she had become a therapist; because she had never lost her sense of wonder about all the things the mind could do.
Eileen Grantson was not a prepossessing teenager. Her hair was mousy and lank, eyes a pale washy blue, hidden behind thick plastic-rimmed glasses. She slumped in a chair as if her spine was made of poor-quality cardboard.
In nearly an hour she had said almost nothing; Leslie had had to extract a few admissions from her by painstaking questions. Most teenagers were all too ready to pour out all their grievances against the world.
"You get very angry with your father sometimes, don't you, Eileen?"
"He's crazy," said Eileen sullenly. "I think he throws those old dishes around himself so he can pick a fight and say I did it."
Leslie maintained her reassuring smile, and asked, in the neutral tone she had been trained to keep, "Why do you think he would do that?"
"Because he hates me. He's my daddy and I love him, but he doesn't want anybody to love him. He didn't love my--" Eileen gave a small stifled gulp and snuffle. "That guy my mom was running around with, he was just the excuse. If my daddy had loved her she wouldn't of gone away." The words came out in a single long stream, but then Eileen, as if what she had said had frightened her, relapsed into a limp puddle of silence and self-pity.
Leslie, listening, thought over what she had heard. Was she on the fringes of discovering a case of father-daughter incest? (Freud had called it a common fantasy; what a shame he had not lived to discover how far it was from a fantasy, even in that sick Victorian age where stiff Victorian fathers had wielded almost life-and-death power over their powerless, traumatized daughters.) Maybe Grantson, unable to acknowledge his own guilt, had made a healthy gesture; put his daughter into a therapeutic situation where, sooner or later, she would be sure to tell their guilty secret and free them both.
But now she did not think so. Grantson himself had sent the girl, and sounded as if he had a very real grievance against his daughter. And Eileen's account of the divorce sounded circumstantial.
Leslie asked gently, "Why are you living with your father instead of your mother, Eileen?"
"I don't like that guy my mother married," Eileen said sullenly, "and who wants to live in Texas? All my friends are here. Not that I've got that many friends. They lie about me all the time."
Something inside Leslie suddenly bristled. "What do they lie about, Eileen? What do they say about you?"
"The same lies my father does." Eileen did not lift her eyes from the floor. "Nobody likes me. They tell lies. They say I break their things. And I didn't. Maybe I would if I could, they hate me, and I hate all of them, so there! Who wants to hang around with that dumb crowd anyhow! And how could I break their damn violin strings anyhow when I'm across the room? All right, so I wanted to play first violin and that damn rotten teacher stuck me in second violin, he's got tin ears, he's at least a quarter tone flat all the whole time, what the hell does he know about it? I want to quit Orchestra and violin lessons anyhow and my father says I'm too young to know what I want to do with my life, by the time I could make up my mind I wanted to play the violin I'd be too old to learn, so he makes me practice all the time. I think he's afraid if I do anything except practice the goddam fiddle and go to Sunday school I'll screw around and get pregnant or something!"
A familiar complaint and a familiar problem. For the first time, Eileen sounded like any of the other teenagers she had counseled. "You think your father is afraid that you're involved with sex?"
She shrugged, staring again at the floor, and Leslie knew she had asked that question too soon. She glanced briefly at the cuckoo clock on the wall, elaborately carved, Austrian, tacky; but it was easier on the teenagers to hear the impersonal striking of the clock than to end the session herself. It would strike in, perhaps, six minutes. She had accomplished as much as she was likely to accomplish in a first session. She had almost ruled out the idea of an incest victim, which was something. She was probably dealing with an uncomplicated case of an awkward teenager, at the most trying time of adolescence, resenting and half blaming herself for a broken family.
A teenage girl, motherless, without an acceptable mother substitute, a father absorbed in his work, with little energy for his solitary daughter. And Eileen was the pawn in this struggle. Perhaps she could help the girl to see that she was not the target of this hostility, that her father's problems were her father's problems and not her fault, that her mother's flight was her mother's problem and not Eileen's inadequacy as a daughter.
"Tell me about those dishes your father says you broke," she said calmly, knowing it would bring them to the end of the hour in a state of tension which would keep the girl thinking about her problem until the next session.
"I don't know anything about them. They were just there on the floor. He threw one right at me and then he said I did it," Eileen said, raising her voice for the first time. "I didn't do it! It wasn't any accident either! He threw it at me!"
"Why would he do that, Eileen? You think he threw it? At you?"
"Because he hates me," Eileen cried. "He wants me to get in trouble so I'll have to go live with my mother in Texas! He hates me! He hates me! He hates me!"
The box of Kleenex unobtrusively placed on the table behind Eileen's chair--but she had not cried and Leslie had never had to tell her it was there--rose abruptly from the table and came flying at Leslie across the desk. Dazed, Leslie ducked. She would not have thought that the girl had had her hands anywhere near the box. And Eileen seemed such a quiet, unaggressive girl! "Eileen--"
"Now I guess you're going to say I'm doing it too," Eileen shrieked, getting up out of the chair precipitately. The ashtray on Leslie's desk suddenly rose, hovered a moment in the air, and went flying in a great rush at Eileen. It struck her above the eyebrow, the sharp corner drawing blood, and the girl fell down into the chair, screaming, covering her face with her hands.
"Now you're doing it," Eileen screamed. "You're doing it too! Look at the blood! Why does everybody hate me? Why does everybody lie about me?" She cowered in the chair, smearing the blood on her face, staring in horror at her fingers.
Into the silence the cuckoo clock struck smartly five times.
* * *
"NO, I DON'T ACCUSE you of doing it, Eileen, and no, I don't know how it happened," Leslie reassured the girl again. "Drink that up, now, and don't worry. We'll talk about it next time. And if anything more happens, you can call me--all right?" She took the paper cup from Eileen's hand. "There's your father to pick you up."
Eileen was still sniffling.
"He's not going to believe this. He hates me. He'll blame me no matter what."
"So don't tell him," Leslie said briskly, and put a wad of clean folded Kleenex into Eileen's hand. She blinked, touching the Band-Aid on her forehead with scared fingers.
"What'll I say if he asks me what happened?" She was clinging now, demanding attention, help, more reassurance. Leslie didn't blame her, but she couldn't encourage it either.
"Tell him the truth, if you want to. It's your choice."
"He won't believe me."
"Then don't. Say you cut your forehead on the corner of the desk." Already Leslie was wondering if that had been what really happened. Had they shared some weird hallucination? But she had also doubted the moment of intuition--psychism--which had shown her the body of Juanita García in a drainage ditch. She patted Eileen's shoulder gently again and shoved her into the hall. Her father's car was at the foot of the steps. Eileen thrust her arms awkwardly into her down jacket, struggled into her backpack and ran clumsily down. The car door slammed behind her.
It was a relief to step inside and close the door.
She might have believed that Eileen had somehow, unseen, reached the box of tissues and flung them across the desk. But neither of them had been within reach of the ashtray.
She knew she hadn't thrown it. And Eileen couldn't have reached it without getting up out of the chair, and then she could hardly have thrown it at herself, hard, and been back in the chair in time for the ashtray to hit her hard enough to draw blood.
Leslie went back in the office and picked up the ashtray. There was a smear of blood on the sharp corner; it felt warm and tingled in her hand, and she had to force herself to put it carefully down. Her impulse was to drop it, draw her hand back in horror.
It's starting again, the kind of thing I thought I'd left behind in Sacramento. She remembered something she had read about the parapsychology studies at Duke University; a famous psychologist had said, "On any other subject, one tenth of the evidence would already have convinced me; on this subject, ten times the evidence would not convince me, because I know it to be impossible."
Now she was faced with evidence and did not know what to believe. She sat down at her desk and forced herself to write up the session, adding her own observations and what she had seen--or what I thought I saw, she added to herself grimly--and filed the account away before she could challenge the reality of it in her own mind.
She seemed to remember that there had been a study of poltergeist phenomena by a reputable psychologist; tomorrow she would go to the Berkeley campus library and dig it out. If she had a poltergeist for a patient, she ought, at least, to know what was known about them, if anything. After that session she wanted nothing more than to make herself a cup of tea, draw herself a bath with millions of scented bubbles, soak in it for an hour with a frivolous book, and think about nothing till the next morning.
However, the light glowed red on the answering machine, and she forced herself to rewind and play back the tape. There might be a message from a new client, Emily might have called to say she would be late, the real estate agent might have called back to tell her about another house, or Judy Attenbury might be forcing herself to vomit her dinner again.
But there was only one message.
"Joel here, Leslie. I was out of the office all afternoon taking Bobby to a ball game, so I have to stay overtime to make up for it. Give me a call and we'll get a bite together when I finish, okay? Love ya. 'Bye now."
She smiled; how like Joel that was. Bobby was a black ghetto child Joel had adopted in the "Big Brother" program, and he spent a considerable amount of time with the kid, taking a real interest in him. She wondered what he would have had to say about Eileen and her poltergeist, and wished she could tell him. But what happened in a counseling session was only a little less inviolate than what went on behind the screens of the confessional. And what could a lawyer do to help? You couldn't drag a poltergeist into court and have it bound over with an injunction to keep the peace, or to cease and desist!
She waited while his office phone rang twice; at last his voice, curt and preoccupied.
Manchester, Ames, Carmody and Beckenham."
"Joel? It's Leslie."
"Les!" The voice changed, became warm and welcoming. "I hoped you'd call. All ready to go? Pick you up in ten minutes?"
She laughed. "Where are we going?"
"Put on your fanciest outfit and I'll take you dancing at the Claremont. I'm due for a celebration; the judge threw the Hanrahan case out of court. Insufficient evidence for a true bill."
"How wonderful, darling!" She knew he had worked long and hard over the Hanrahan case, for relatively little in the way of fees, and this was a very real victory for him. "But could we have a raincheck on the celebration? I had a rough day and another lined up for tomorrow; I'd really rather have a quiet bite somewhere, and an early night." Besides, she remembered, the Claremont food, though splendid, was expensive.
"All right, honey; we'll go to that little Greek place you like, the one on College Avenue," he agreed. "Or if you're really too tired, I could pick something up and bring it over?"
That was what she loved about him; he was always concerned about her, always ready to change a cherished plan, even at a moment's notice.
"No, Greek food sounds wonderful. And we'll celebrate some other time, I promise."
"I'll pick you up in twenty minutes, then?"
In high spirits she ran up the stairs, pulling off her jacket and blouse, choosing a fresh silk print in a raspberry red that made her dark eyes glow, and ran a quick brush through her short dark curls.
If she had believed in destiny, she might have thought that she had left Sacramento to meet Joel Beckenham. Such a difference from Nick--
She had never really been serious about Nick Beckenham. They had dated a dozen times, shared a liking for Italian foods, for the revival of Big Bands from the forties when neither of them had been born; he was halfway engaged to a former classmate of Leslie's, finishing up a Master's degree in Chicago, and while Margot was away, Nick went out with Leslie. She had kissed him two or three times on the cheek, no more; they celebrated together when he was promoted from patrolman to detective. And it was not true that he had come to question her about the missing schoolgirls, though two of them had been pupils at the high school where Leslie was on the counseling staff. She might even have been the last to see Juanita García alive; the girl had been in her office only the day before her parents had reported her missing, and no one had seen Juanita after the girl had left the counseling center.
"Except the murderer," she had said dryly to Nick, "or are you indicating that I'm a suspect?"
"Don't be silly, Les." The young policeman laughed, but his face was still troubled. "There's a nut out there; we've got three girls dead already. Same age. They all have long black hair..."
That was when she had seen it clearly; like her own face reflected in a mirror, or under running water. She had heard the high, rising note of horror in her own voice.
"She's in a ditch...a drainage ditch," she heard herself say, "with her hair braided. He liked to braid their hair..."
"How did you know that? Leslie, that's what we kept back, so we could weed out the crazies who called in with fake confessions. Down at the station we're calling him the pigtail killer because he braids their hair after they're dead--"
"I saw her," Leslie whispered, "lying in the ditch. A drainage ditch by a windmill. Wearing her black leather jacket--"
Nick had piled her into the black and white police cruiser then, siren screaming. She had never gone to look at Juanita's actual body. She had seen it, in that terrifying underwater flash, clearly enough. A real girl, a girl who had been in her office the day before, Juanita García sixteen years old, and black hair falling to her waist. Black hair, braided into intricate strands. She had heard herself babbling; she had seen the killer's hands, the killer's face. Joachím Mendoza's face, with the crescent-shaped scar and the mended harelip with a moustache split along the scar, and the broken eyebrows. She had seen it later when they picked him up and found braided locks of hair and the girls' bloodstained panties in his room, and she was still seeing him, from time to time, in nightmares. Nick's squad car partner had sat there staring with his mouth open while she was babbling out her description. He had never believed, she supposed, that she had seen Mendoza's face only in her mind. He never stopped wondering if somehow she had been involved, even an eyewitness.
Nick had been nice. He had stood by her, reassured her about her own sanity. But the Enquirer had kept calling, had wanted to fly her to Chicago to try and get psychic impressions about a new sex murder. And there had been crank calls and crazies, until she had cut it all off. And of course there had been Juanita García mother, who had burst into a tirade of abuse at the funeral.
"Why didn't you get your psychic flash when she was in your office, why didn't you warn her before she went out to meet that crazy killer? You wanted her to die so you could get your name in the papers?"
Leslie said what was true; that she would have given a year of her life if she had known beforehand, if she had foreseen that Juanita was to walk from her office into the hands of an insane killer. She would have warned the girl, would have begged Juanita to be careful. But no fateful flash had crossed her mind when Juanita stood sullen in her office, habitual truant, delinquent, stoned out of her mind on pot and contempt. What made the García woman think Juanita would have listened to a warning about murder? She hadn't listened to anything else her teachers and counselors had ever said.
She became aware that she was staring into the mirror, seeing Juanita García's long dark hair, her drowned face under water, instead of her own face. The telephone was ringing; she made a dash for the extension in the hall. Over the noise she heard the sound of a Bach prelude; Emily was home and had begun practicing.
The voice was thick, curdled and strange; she had a hard time making out words in it. But disturbed persons sometimes found it hard to get what they were saying out; their thoughts frightened them too much.
"I'm sorry," Leslie repeated patiently, "I can't understand you."
"Is--is--is Alison there?"
"I'm sorry; I think you must have a wrong number."
The voice mumbled, protested indistinctly, finally clicked away into a dial tone. Leslie hung up. Crank call, or innocent wrong number? They had taught her when she was putting in her time on a suicide prevention hotline that there were no wrong numbers; they dial your number for a purpose, even if they have to hide it from themselves. She wasn't quite sure she believed it--surely it wasn't as cut-and-dried, as Freudian, as that, surely fingers sometimes slipped or eyes read the wrong digit in a telephone book. She heard footsteps on the stairs and recognized them as her sister Emily's; she was putting pearl studs in her ears when Emily looked into her room. Tall, coltish and seventeen, dark auburn hair drawn back into a formal bun, Emily's adolescent rebellion took the form of overprecision rather than grubbiness. She had studied ballet for four years before she had finally chosen the piano, and it still showed in the long delicate neck on which her head was a long-stemmed lily, the posture which gave her the illusion of more height than her modest five foot seven.
"What was the phone, Les? Was that Mommy?"
Leslie shook her head. "Wrong number."
"Did you get the house?" Emily asked eagerly.
Les shook her head. "Not quite big enough--no good place for an office and a piano."
Emily sighed. "It sounded so good when you told me about it. Are you going out?"
"Joel and I are getting a bite of dinner somewhere. There's hamburger in the freezer."
Emily made a face, and Leslie remembered she was going through a vegetarian phase again. "I had some salad on the way home; all I want is a carton of yogurt. Did the piano tuner come?"
"I didn't have a chance to call him. Is there something wrong with it, Em?" She came down the stairs, catching up her camel-hair coat, and glanced into the big old square living room; Emily ran her hands over the keys and grimaced. "Can't you hear?" Her look of contempt was promptly concealed; she said with careful kindness, "Call him tomorrow--early, won't you, Les?"
"You call him," Leslie said with cheerful brutality, "you're the one who can't live with it the way it is. I have an early appointment, and I'm seriously thinking of calling another agency; this one doesn't seem to have anything more to show me." Emily wandered to the piano, sat down on the bench and ran off a few scales, tilting her head and grimacing. "Les, do you have any real honest-to-God crazies among your patients? I know, you can't tell me anything about your clients," she mimicked impatiently. "It's just that when the phone rang I got a little scared. There was a real crazy call earlier today. The--the person didn't really talk at all. Just kind of--" she hesitated. "--kind of buzzed. And breathed."
"Nothing wrong with breathing," Leslie said. "Everybody does it twenty-four hours a day."
"Only this wasn't just breathing. Whoever it was, was doing it on purpose--oh, damn it, that's not what I mean either. I didn't get the idea this was the kind of call you'd call a heavy breather. Not a sex call. I wasn't even sure it was a man. It felt--" again Emily hesitated, choosing her words. "It sounded sinister. Kind of, well, menacing. I got really bad vibrations."
"It sounds as if it might have been the same person," said Leslie, thinking over the texture of the call. It was someone more seriously disturbed than any of her clients. She was a therapist, not a medical doctor or a psychiatrist; her clients suffered from commonplace neurotic problems, from the pressures and stresses of society or jobs, marriage troubles, inability to adjust to school or parental expectations.
And even a psychiatrist could do little, Leslie thought, against the more grievous wounds to the human mind and spirit. One of her clients, Susan Hamilton, was the single parent of a brain-damaged child; at seven, Christina could not or would not speak, and was just beginning toilet training. There were a handful of labels for her: brain-damaged, autistic, learning-disabled, emotionally neglected, retarded. Labels, but no help. Speech therapists and special education programs could do little more for Chrissy than to train her as they would train a dog, make her somewhat less offensive to social sensibilities. Leslie could do nothing for Christina, and little for her mother except to allow her to vent her enormous rage at a blind and uncaring universe which dropped this enormous burden on her, which had destroyed her marriage and now would probably destroy her.
"No, none of my clients is seriously disturbed," she agreed, then thinking of Eileen Grantson, was not so sure. "Did they ask for me by name?"
"No, no name, no words at all. It was awful, Les, it didn't even sound human. Like a lost soul crying from purgatory."
Yes. That was exactly what it sounded like. But tonight Leslie didn't want to think about lost souls. Not with Juanita García's face still before her eyes, haunting her, not after the sight of that ashtray flying across the room, Eileen's forehead bleeding, she wanted to be nice and rational. Man, she remembered one of her professors saying, is not a rational animal, but a rationalizing animal.
Emily frowned, bending her head close to the keyboard.
"I ought to have been a violinist, so I could tune my own instrument. Listen, Les, maybe I ought to study piano tuning. I do have perfect pitch, and it's awfully well paid. The Conservatory is so damned expensive. If I could earn some money it would be easier on you, too--"
"We'll manage, honey. Just be patient. Believe me, I know what it's like, when I was in college I had five dollars a week and my bus fare, and I couldn't tell you how many times I walked home four miles to save the bus fare! It just about kept me in toothpaste and Tampax. And speaking of toothpaste and Tampax, I wish sometimes you'd get your own instead of cadging mine all the time!" Behind her words, she realized what she was doing; ordinary sisterly squabbles to lighten the memory of that ashtray flying across the room. She heard steps on the porch.
"There's Joel now. Have a good supper, Em; I'll be home before midnight, I suppose--"
"Unless Prince Charming carries you off for the night," Emily suggested, and Leslie shook her head.
"Early appointment tomorrow."
"Take your keys," Emily said. "I'm going to be out late; I'm babysitting the Simmons' brat, and I do mean brat. That's why I think piano tuning would be easier. Even on the ears."
Leslie checked her purse for keys. "Be sure to lock the deadbolt, then," she admonished, and went to let Joel in.
Copyright 1984 by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Excerpted from The Inheritor by Bradley, Marion Zimmer Copyright © 1997 by Bradley, Marion Zimmer. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Marion Zimmer Bradley was born in Albany, NY and lived for many years in Berkeley, CA. Best known as a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and romantic occult fiction, Bradley was also the editor of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine and many anthologies. Her most famous works include the Darkover series of science fiction novels and the New York Times bestselling The Mists of Avalon. Bradley's romantic, magical, contemporary novels for Tor include The Inheritor, Heartlight, Ghostlight, and Witch Hill. Marion Zimmer Bradley died in 1999.
- Date of Birth:
- June 30, 1930
- Date of Death:
- September 25, 1999
- Place of Birth:
- Albany, New York
- Place of Death:
- Berkeley, California
- B.A., Hardin-Simmons College, 1964; additional study at University of California, Berkeley, 1965-1967
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Something of a modern gothic horror novel, set in San Francisco in the early 1980's, it's kind of... atmospheric and weird. Leslie is an unwilling psychic; it's nothing she wants or can control, but occasionally she has had glimpses of missing/murdered people, and has worked with the police to help them find these people. Her day job is as a psychologist, and she is also the guardian for her 17-year old sister,a musical prodigy. Weird, unexplained things are happening, even before they move into a house previously owned by another psychologist psychic. Some modern readers may be appalled at the immorality of Leslie dumping boyfriend A and quickly falling into bed with boyfriend B; that's just "not done" in contemporary romance these days, though as a lifestyle in the 1970's and 1 980's, really no big deal, and a younger reader might be even more interested in that "taste" of the period. My problem is that Leslie seems too willing to bend over backwards to overlook the creepiness of Simon, boyfriend B; even to him having definitely killed a cat and perhaps even murdered a junkie prostitute in a dark ritual for his own gain. Oh, and he might be willing to sacrifice the little sister, too. While I appreciate that in the end, every human being is shown as redeemable, capable of being brought into the light, and Leslie and Simon are presented as having a HEA, in some ways, that's even worse. It's a spine-tingling, suitably Halloween-y story, and well-written, but the ending doesn't feel satisfying to me.
This was the first I read in this series, an update to her earlier works about Avalon and Atlantis. To really get what's going on read Heartlight, Fall of Atlantis, and Lady of Avalon. Her concepts of reincarnation and karma continue into the modern day with this novel. It was really fascinating to see her same old characters live in the modern day with no memory of who they once were.
The Inheritor was a very well-written book in which Marion Zimmer Bradley tied in elements of fantasy, while maintaining a very modern story. This book takes place in San Francisco and has some very peculiar twists and turns that anyone is sure to enjoy.