"The simple truth of the matter is that things got too much for her and she ran away," Bondelli said. He stared across at Andy Thurlow, wondering at the odd, haggard look of the man.

They sat in Bondelli's law office, a place of polished wood and leather-bound books aligned precisely behind glass covers, a place of framed diplomas and autographed photos of important people. It was early afternoon, a sunny day.

Thurlow was bent over, elbows on knees, hands clasped tightly together. I don't dare tell him my real suspicions, he thought. I don't dare ... I don't dare.

"Who'd want to harm her or take her away?" Bondelli asked. "She's gone to friends, perhaps up in 'Frisco. It's something simple as that. We'll hear from her when she's gotten over her funk."

"That's what the police think," Thurlow said. "They've completely cleared her of any complicity in Nev's death ... the physical evidence ... "

"Then the best thing we can do is get down to the necessities of Joe's case. Ruth'll come home when she's ready."

Will she? Thurlow asked himself. He couldn't shake off the feeling that he was living in a nightmare. Had he really been with Ruth at the grove? Was Nev really dead in that weird accident? Had Ruth run off? If so, where?

"We're going to have to dive directly into the legal definition of insanity," Bondelli said. "Nature and consequences. Justice requires ... "

"Justice?" Thurlow stared at the man. Bondelli had turned in his chair, revealing his profile, the mouth thinned to a shadowline beneath the mustache.

"Justice," Bondelli repeated. He swiveled to look at Thurlow. Bondelli prided himself upon his judgment of men and he studied Thurlow now. The psychologist appeared to be coming out of his blue funk. No question why the man was so shaken, of course. Still in love with Ruth Murphey ... Hudson. Terrible mess, but it'd shake down. Always did. That was one thing you learned from the law; it all came out in court. Thurlow took a deep breath, reminded himself that Bondelli wasn't a criminal lawyer. "We ought to be more interested in realism," he said. There was an undertone of wry cynicism in his voice. Justice! "This legal definition of insanity business is a lot of crap. The important thing is that the community wants the man executed --and our benighted D.A., Mr. Paret, is running for reelection."

Bondelli was shocked. "The law's above that!" He shook his head. "And the whole community isn't against Joe. Why should they be?"

Thurlow spoke as though to an unruly child: "Because they're afraid of him, naturally."

Bondelli permitted himself a glance out the window beside his desk --familiar rooftops, distant greenery, a bit of foggy smoke beginning to cloud the air above the adjoining building. The smoke curled and swirled, creating an interesting pattern against the view. He returned his attention to Thurlow, said: "The question is, how can an insane man know the nature and consequences of his act? What I want from you is to explode that nature and consequences thing."

Thurlow removed his glasses, glances at them, returned them to his nose. They made the shadows stand out sharply in the room. "An insane man doesn't think about consequences," he said. And he wondered if he was really going to let himself take part in Bondelli's mad plan for defense of Joe Murphey.

"I'm taking the position," Bondelli said, "that the original views of Lord Cottenham support our defense." Bondelli turned, pulled a thick book out of a cabinet behind him, put the book on the desk and opened it to a marker.

He can't be serious, Thurlow thought

"Here's Lord Cottenham," Bondelli said. "It is wrong to listen to any doctrine which proposes the punishment of persons laboring under insane delusions. It is inconceivable that the man who was incapable of judging between right and wrong, of knowing whether an act were good or bad, ought to be made accountable for his actions; such a man has not that within him which forms the foundation of accountability, either from a moral or a legal point of view. I consider it strange that any person should labor under a delusion and yet be aware that it was a delusion: in fact, if he were aware of his state, which could be no delusion.'"

Bondelli closed the book with a snap, stared at Thurlow as though to say: "There! It's all solved!"

Thurlow cleared his throat It was increasingly obvious that Bondelli lived in a cloud world. "That's all very true, of course," Thurlow said. "But isn't it possible that even if our esteemed district attorney suspects --or even believes --Joe Murphey to be insane, he'll think it better to execute such a man than to put him in an institution?"

"Good heavens! Why?"

"The doors of mental hospitals sometimes open," Thurlow said. "Paret was elected to protect this community --even from itself."

"But Murphey's obviously insane!"

"You aren't listening to me," Thurlow said. "Certainly he's insane. That's what people are afraid of."

"But shouldn't psychology ... "

"Psychology!" Thurlow snapped.

Bondelli stared at Thurlow in shocked silence. "Psychology's just the modern superstition," Thurlow said. "It can't do a damned thing for people like Joe. I'm sorry but that's the truth and it'll hurt less to have that out right now."

"If this is what you told Ruth Murphey, no wonder she ran away," Bondelli said.

"I told Ruth I'd help any way I can."

"You have a strange way of showing it."

"Look," Thurlow said. "We've a community up in aims, fearful, excited. Murphey's the focus for their hidden guilt feelings. They want him dead. They want this psychological pressure taken off them. You can't psychoanalyze a whole community."

Bondelli began tapping a finger impatiently on the desk. "Will you or will you not help me prove Joe's insane?"

"I'll do everything I can, but you know Joe's going to resist that form of defense, don't you?"

"Know it!" Bondelli leaned forward, arms on his desk. "The damn' fool blows his top at the slightest hint I want him to plead insanity. He keeps harping on the unwritten law!"

"Those stupid accusations against Adele," Thurlow said. "Joe's going to make it very difficult to prove him insane."

"A sane man would fake insanity now if only to save his life," Bondelli said.

"Keep that very clearly in mind," Thurlow said. "Joe can't in any way entertain the idea that he's insane. To admit that --even as a possibility --or as a necessary pretense, he'd have to face the fact that his violent act could've been a useless, senseless thing. The enormity of such an admission would be far worse than insanity. Insanity's much preferable."

"Can you get that across to a jury?" Bondelli asked. He spoke in a hushed tone.

"That Murphey considers it safer to play sane?"


Thurlow shrugged. "Who knows what a jury will believe? Joe may be a hollow shell, but that's one helluva strong shell. Nothing contradictory can be permitted to enter it. Every fiber of him is concentrated on the necessity to appear normal, to maintain the illusion of sanity --for himself as well as for others. Death is far preferable to that other admission ... Oscar Wilde concurring."

"'Each man kills the thing he loves,'" Bondelli whispered. Again, he turned, looked out the window. The smoky pattern was still there. He wondered idly if workmen were tarring a roof somewhere below him.

Thurlow looked down at Bondelli's tapping finger. "The trouble with you, Tony," he said, "is you're one of G. K. Chesterton's terrible children. You're innocent and love justice. Most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy."

As though he hadn't heard, Bondelli said: "We need something simple and elegant to show the jury. They have to be dumbfounded with the realization that ... " He broke off, stared at Thurlow. "And your prediction of Joe's trouble fits the bill precisely."

"Too technical," Thurlow said. "A jury won't sit still for it, won't understand it. Juries don't hear what they don't understand. Their minds wander. They think about dress patterns, bugs in the rose garden, what's for lunch, where to spend a vacation."

"You did predict it, didn't you? Ruth did report your words correctly?" "The psychotic break, yes, I predicted it." The words were almost a sigh. "Tony, haven't you focused on what I've been telling you? This was a sex crime -- the sword, the violence ... "

"Is he insane?"

"Of course he's insane!"

"In the legal sense?"

"In every sense."

"Well, then there's legal precedent for ... "

"Psychological precedent's more important."


"Tony, if there's one thing I've learned since becoming court psychologist here, it's that juries, spend far more energy trying to discover the judge's opinion than they do following what the opposing lawyers are presenting. Juries have a purely disgusting respect for the wisdom of judges. Any judge we get is going to be a member of this community. The community wants Joe put away permanently --dead. We can prove him insane until we're blue in the face. None of these good people will face our proof consciously, even while they're accepting it unconsciously. In fact, as we prove Joe insane, we're condemning him."

"Are you trying to tell me you can't get up on that stand and say you predicted Joe's insanity but the authorities refused to act because the man was too important a member of the community?"

"Of course I can't."

"You think they won't believe you?"

"It doesn't make any difference whether they believe me!"

"But if they believe ... "

"I'll tell you what they'll believe, Tony, and I'm surprised that you, an attorney, don't realize this. They'll believe that Paret has proof of Adele's unfaithfulness, but that some legal technicality, legal trickery on your part, prohibits introduction of the dirty details. They'll believe this because it's the easiest thing to believe. No grandstand play on my part will change that"

"You're saying we don't stand a chance?"

Thurlow shrugged. "Not if it goes to trial right away. If you can delay the trial or get a change of venue ... "

Bondelli swiveled his chair, stared through the smoke pattern outside his window. "I find it very hard to believe that reasonable, logical human beings ... "

"What's reasonable or logical about a jury?" Thurlow asked.

A flush of anger began at Bondelli's collar, spread upward across his cheeks, into his hair. He turned, glared at Thurlow. "Do you know what I think, Andy? I think the fact that Ruth ran out on you has colored your attitude toward her father. You say you'll help, but every word you ... "

"That'll be enough of that," Thurlow interrupted, his voice low, flat. He took two deep breaths. "Tell me something, Tony. Why're you taking this case? You're not a criminal lawyer."

Bondelli passed a hand across his eyes. Slowly, the flush left his skin. He glanced at Thurlow. "Sorry, Andy."

"That's all right. Can you answer the question? Do you know why you're taking this case?"

Bondelli sighed, shrugged. "When the story broke that I was representing him, two of my most important clients called and said they'd take their business elsewhere if I didn't pull out."

"That's why you're defending Joe?"

"He has to have the best defense possible."

"You're the best?"

"I wanted to go up to San Francisco, get Belli or someone of that stature, but Joe refuses. He thinks it's going to be easy --the goddamn' unwritten law."

"And that leaves you."

"In this city, yes." Bondelli extended his arms onto the desk, clasped his hands into fists. "You know, I don't see the problem the same way you do, not at all. I think our biggest job's to prove he isn't faking insanity."

Thurlow took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes. They were beginning to ache. He'd been reading too much today, he thought. He said: "Well, you have a point there, Tony. If a person with delusions learns to keep quiet about them, you can have one helluva time getting him to act on those delusions where people will see him and understand. Exposing faked insanity is easy compared with the problems of detecting a concealed psychosis, but the public generally doesn't understand this."

"I see a four-pronged attack," Bondelli said. "There're four common essentials with insane killers."

Thurlow started to say something, thought better of it as Bondelli raised a hand, four fingers extended.

"First," Bondelli said, "did the victim's death profit the killer. Psychopaths usually kill strangers or persons close to them. You see, I've been doing my homework in your field, too."

"I see that," Thurlow said.

"And Adele had no insurance," Bondelli said. He lowered one finger. "Next, was the murder carefully planned?" Another finger came down. "Psychopaths don't plan their crimes. Either they leave escape to chance, or they make it ridiculously easy for the police to catch them. Joe practically advertised his presence in that office."

Thurlow nodded and began to wonder if Bondelli could be right. Am I unconsciously attacking Ruth through her father? Where the hell did she go?

"Third," Bondelli said, "was a great deal more violence than necessary used in the crime? Deranged people continue an attack beyond all reason. There's no doubt the first thrust of that sword would've killed Adele." A third finger came down.

Thurlow returned his glasses to his nose, stared at Bondelli. The attorney was so intent, so sure of himself. Was it possible?

"Fourth," Bondelli said, "was the killing accomplished with an improvised weapon? Persons who plan set themselves up with a lethal weapon beforehand. A psychopath grabs anything at hand --a cleaver, a club, a rock, a piece of furniture." The fourth finger came down and Bondelli lowered a fist to the desk. "That damned sword hung on Joe's study wall for as long as I can remember."

"It all sounds so easy," Thurlow said. "But what's the prosecution gong to be doing all this time?"

"Oh, they'll have their experts, naturally."

"Whelye among them," Thurlow said.

"Your boss at the hospital?"

"The same."

"Does ... that put you ... on a spot?"

"That doesn't bother me, Tony. He's just another part of the community syndrome. It's ... it's the whole mad mess." Thurlow looked down at his hands. "People are going to say Joe's better off dead --even if he is insane. And the prosecution experts you kiss off with a wave of the hand, they're going to be saying things the community wants to hear. Everything the judge says is likely to be interpreted ... "

"I'm sure we can get an impartial judge."

"Yes ... no doubt. But judges invariably say the question to be determined is whether at the time of the crime the accused had not the use of that part of his understanding which allowed him to know he was doing a wrong and wicked act. That part, Tony; as though the mind could be divided into compartments, part of it sane, part insane. Impossible! The mind's a unified thing. A person can't be mentally and emotionally diseased in some fictitious part without infecting the total personality. A knowledge of right and wrong --the ability to choose between God and the devil --is profoundly different from the knowledge that two plus two equals four. To make the judgment of good and evil requires an intact personality."

Thurlow looked up, studied Bondelli.

The attorney was staring out the window, lips pursed in thought. He obviously hadn't been listening.

Thurlow turned toward the window. He felt sick with frustration and despair, Ruth had run away. That was the only logical, sane, reasonable explanation. Her father was doomed, no matter ... Thurlow's muscles locked into frozen, glaring suspense. He stared out the window.

Some ten feet out, poised in the air, hovering, was an object ... a dome-shaped object with a neat round opening that faced Bondelli's window. Behind the opening, figures moved.

Thurlow opened his mouth to speak, found he had no voice. He lurched out of his chair, groped his way around the desk away from the window.

"Andy, is something wrong?" Bondelli asked. The attorney swiveled back, stared up at Thurlow.

Thurlow leaned on the desk facing the window. He looked right into the round opening in the hovering object. There were eyes inside, glowing eyes. A slender tube protruded from the opening. Painful, constricting force pressed in on Thurlow's chest. He had to fight for each breath.

My God! They're trying to kill me! he thought.

Waves of unconsciousness surged over his mind, receded, returned. His chest was a great gasping region of fire. Dimly, he saw the edge of the desk surge upward past his eyes. Something hit a carpeted floor and he realized with fading consciousness that it was his head. He tried to push himself up, collapsed. "Andy! Andy! What's wrong? Andy!" It was Bondelli's voice. The voice bounced and receded in a wavering, ringing echo box. "Andy ... Andy ... And ... "

Bondelli stood up -- from a quick examination of Thurlow, shouted for his secretary: "Mrs. Wilson! Call an ambulance! I think Dr. Thurlow's had a heart attack."