FOR DR. ANDROCLES THURLOW, IT BEGAN WITH A telephone ringing in the night.
Thurlow's fumbling hand knocked the receiver to the floor. He spent a moment groping for it in the dark, still half asleep. His mind held trailing bits of a dream in which he relived the vivid moments just before the blast at the Lawrence Radiation lab which had injured his eyes. It was a familiar dream that had begun shortly after the accident three months ago, but he felt that it now contained a new significance which he'd have to examine professionally. Psychologist, heal thyself, he thought.
The receiver gave off a tinny voice which helped him locate it. He pressed it to his ear.
"Hullo." His voice carried a rasping sound in a dry mouth.
He cleared his throat. "Yes?"
"This is Clint Mossman."
Thurlow sat up, swung his feet out of the bed. The rug felt cold against his soles. The luminous dial of his bedside clock showed 2:18 a.m. The time and the fact that Mossman was the County's chief criminal deputy sheriff could only mean an emergency. Mossman wanted Dr. Thurlow in his capacity as court psychologist.
"You there, Andy?"
"I'm here, Clint. What is it?"
"I'm afraid I have bad news, Andy. Your old girlfriend's daddy just killed her mother."
For a moment, the words made no sense. Old girlfriend. He had only one old girlfriend here, but she was now married to someone else.
"It's Joe Murphey, Ruth Hudson's daddy," Mossman said.
"Oh, God," Thurlow muttered.
"I haven't much time," Mossman said. "I'm calling from a pay phone across the street from Joe's office building. He's holed up in his office and he has a gun. He says he'll only surrender to you."
Thurlow shook his head. "He wants to see me?"
"We need you down here right away, Andy. I know this is a tough one for you -- Ruth and all, but I've no choice. I want to prevent a gun battle ... "
"I warned you people something like this was going to happen," Thurlow said. He felt a sudden angry resentment against Mossman, the entire community of Moreno.
"I haven't time to argue with you," Mossman said. "I've told him you're coming. It shouldn't take more'n twenty minutes to get down here. Hurry it up, will you?"
"Sure, Clint. Right away."
Thurlow put the receiver back on the phone. He prepared himself for the pain of light, turned on the bedside lamp. His eyes began to water immediately. He blinked rapidly, wondered if he'd ever again be able to experience sudden light without pain.
The realization of what Mossman had said began to grow. His mind felt numb. Ruth! Where is Ruth? But that wasn't his concern any more. That was Nev Hudson's problem. He began dressing, moving softly as he'd learned to do in the nights when his father was still alive.
He took his wallet from the nightstand, found his wristwatch and buckled it onto his left wrist. The glasses, then -- the special polarizing glasses with their adjustable lenses. His eyes relaxed as soon as he put them on. The light took on a sharply defined yellow cast. He looked up, caught a view of himself in the mirror: thin face, the dark glasses behind heavy black rims, black crewcut hair high at the temples, nose long with a slight bulge below the glasses, wide mouth with slightly thicker lower lip, Lincolnesque chin, blue-shadowed and with divergent scar-like creases. A drink was what he needed, but he knew he couldn't take the time. Poor, sick Joe Murphey, he thought. God what a mess!