Robert Miller adjusted the rearview mirror, searching the dark road behind him for anyone who might be following. His frightened reflection stared back at him in the twilight shadows. In all his years as a psychiatrist, he had never been more cognizant of his own vulnerability nor experienced such a profound sense of evil. Fear slithered through him like a venomous viper. He frantically shifted gears, his foot grinding
the accelerator into the floor.


In the confines of his Accord the air was thick with malignity.
A sixth sense warned him that he was in peril. He glanced over his shoulder into the empty back seat of the car in order to put his mind at ease that nobody was hiding there.


“Take a deep breath and get a grip, Robert,” he chided himself, hoping to gain control over his racing heart and accelerated breathing.


It had taken him months of sifting through an endless maze of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape to locate his client’s mother. The prospect of speaking with the woman had energized him but, with the interview now completed, he felt a suffocating burden. The expression on the old woman’s face compelled him to consider alternative explanations for his client’s predicament.. . . scenarios that stretched the bounds of believability.


He fingered the cassette recorder concealed in his jacket pocket. He had recorded his discussion with old woman, hoping later to confront Nick DeLucci with his mother’s words. That is, if he could break through the psychological wall behind which DeLucci had retreated.


He rewound the cassette, stopped it, held it to his ear, listened briefly, then repeated the process until he found the poignant moment when Virginia DeLucci’s words shattered like splinters his belief that humankind’s capacity for inhumanity had limits.


“I am seeing your son on a regular basis to help him cope with disturbing dreams,” Robert Miller’s voice announced.


“Dreams? What kind of dreams?” Tension laced the old woman’s voice.


“Unfathomable gruesome ones,” he answered.


The woman’s tone hardened. “He always had a highly overactive imagination.” Miller hadn’t responded, allowing the ambiguity of his silence to work its magic. The mercurial creaking of the matron’s rocking chair filled the void, escalating with the passing seconds.


“What did he tell you? What did that twisted little liar say?”
He had leaned forward, elbows on his knees, hands clasped authoritatively in front of him. The metronome of the chair’s tottering amplified in his head as the silence around them thickened. He squelched his own emotional apprehension, instead scrutinizing the crone’s haggard face, anticipating the moment at which the woman would surrender to her anxieties.


Her jaws clamped shut.


Say something damn it! His heart thumped in his ears.
The woman stopped her rocking. The contrasting stillness engulfed the room in an ambiance of hazard. The muscles around her mouth twitched. “He remembers!” she gasped in little more than a whisper. The fear in her eyes was unmistakable.


The words penetrated Miller’s heart like shards of ice. Until that moment he had clung to the belief that Nick DeLucci’s anguish was metaphorical. The old lady’s response shattered that illusion.


“Remembers what?” he asked with professional calm even though his heart pounded in his chest so loudly he feared it might drown out his words.


The woman didn’t appear to hear him. Her eyes turned wild and unfocused.


“Remembers what?” he repeated with more authority.


“No! No! No!” Her words came out like a moaning siren’s blast as her body began to twitch and tremble in disjointed movements as if it was at war with itself. “There is no devil! There is no devil! There is no devil!” she wailed.


He had not been prepared for such a reaction.


Footsteps. The old woman’s private nurse raced back into the room and hastened to her ward’s side.


“What is it, Ginny?” her caretaker asked. “What’s the matter, sweetie?”


“There is no devil! There is no devil! There is no devil!”


“Of course not, my darling. Relax. Everything will be all right.”


“No, it never happened, none of it!” the older woman shrieked.


The blue-haired nurse turned to Miller. “Perhaps you had better leave, Doctor, while I try to calm her down. You can find your way out?”


“Yes, of course.” He stood, bewildered. “I apologize for upsetting her,” he added as he turned away. And that was when he noticed the portrait on the wall behind him.


The tape recounted Miller’s hasty retreat from the retirement village Cape Cod styled cottage to a backdrop of hysteria.
Over the years he had learned that the most powerful force acting upon the human mind was fear and, as often as not, nothing was as fearful and terrible as reality. Nick DeLucci had withdrawn into catatonia after one of Miller’s several failed attempts to probe more deeply into his recurring ghoulish nightmares through hypnosis. DeLucci lay motionless, like a zombie from one of his own popular horror novels. Now the reason for this unanticipated turn of events slapped the psychiatrist in the face.


This was unlike any case with which Miller, or his mentor, Tony Bralich, was familiar. When night fell each evening, his client reached for the obsolete portable typewriter that the little man had carried with him to every session, clutching to it like a security blanket. Miller had placed the featherweight Smith-Corona in DeLucci’s room to accommodate his patient’s macabre nocturnal ritual. Trance-like, the author worked at a feverish pitch for exactly one hour; typing gibberish, indifferent and unresponsive to his surroundings and his doctors’ attempts to communicate with him.


“One hour every day. I write for exactly one hour every day. One hour, three hundred and sixty five days a year,” DeLucci had informed him during one of their earlier sessions in a flat chant-like tone.


The ear-piercing shrieks of squealing tires snatched Miller’s attention from his thoughts. The yellow dividing line vanished beneath his front bumper. Barricades, detouring a closed left driving lane, and a wall of oncoming traffic were in its stead.
He swerved further to the left, avoiding a fishtailing pickup. Blinding beams of light flooded his vision, obscuring the danger that a chorus of trumpeting horns made eminent, setting his every nerve on end.


When he stomped down on the accelerator, the Accord stuttered and the acrid scent of his fear assailed his nostrils. The engine kicked in just as the road disappeared beneath him and the vehicle launched into the empty night sky. A silent plea escaped his lips.


An eternity passed before the car again touched ground, colliding with the earth below in a jarring jolt that snapped his jaw shut. The coppery taste of blood washed across his tongue. His head thumped repeatedly against the top of the interior roof as the vehicle sped out of control on a roller coaster ride down a steep undulating embankment toward another thoroughfare.


Miller smashed the brake pedal into the floor but the Accord continued its course toward the speeding traffic below. He pumped the brakes, again and again but the pedal offered little more than a spongy resistance. His panic erupted, taking on a pulse of its own. At the bottom of the slope, he pulled the steering wheel hard to the right in a final attempt to avoid entering traffic.




A gangly man with a hawk nose and brooding black eyes pulled his rust-pocked burgundy Corvair to a stop at the point where Miller’s car left the upper road. He watched the psychiatrist’s car fishtail, then erratically somersault into a series of macabre twisting rollovers.


Angry horns blasted obscenities as the runaway vehicle bounced into traffic, leap-frogging over the top of one skidding automobile before crashing into the hood of another. The two colliding cars exploded into flames while a host of other vehicles ripped through the smoke and flaring blaze, flirting with the scattered wreckage.


The spectator wiped the last traces of brake fluid from his hands unto his already oil-soiled pants before running his long bony fingers through his Mohawk mane. Turbulent emotion festered just beneath his swarthy skin.


“He’s dead,” he sneered in the direction of his companion still seated in the car.


The portly woman’s face hinted of a perverse smile beneath an unnaturally thick mask of makeup, but she said nothing. Her eyes were the blue color of robin eggs but as impervious as a tinted windshield. She turned away. The man recognized this as a directive to move on. He tugged at his mustache as he contorted his gawkishly long body into the compact and
drove off.


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