THE VOICE had a trace of a Hamburg accent. Its confident tone came through first, then the sense of the words. "Hello, can you hear me yet? If you can, say your name."
"Jost. Hartmann Jost." The words were a slurred groan that seemed divorced from the speaker.
"You know who I am?"
"Reginald Black. Of Black, Greaves and Orford, chartered accountants."
"Do not try to move, Mr. Jost, because you will find yourself unable to do so. Your drink contained a mild sedative. You have been unconscious for twenty minutes now. I gave you an injection of a muscle relaxant five minutes ago. You cannot move your limbs, but you can still talk. Do you understand?"
"Why?" mumbled Jost.
"I regret I told you a small lie, Mr. Jost. I am not an accountant, nor do I have any money that belonged to Arnold Jost, your late cousin. My real name is Doktor Bekker. I'm a psychologist. The police called me in to assist with their investigation of your cousin's murder."
"Never saw you," mumbled Jost. "At the police station."
"No, I was always behind a one-way screen, observing while Inspector Hicks talked to you. That was when we both became convinced of your guilt. Unfortunately for Inspector Hicks, he was unable to find any evidence to put you in your cousin's office at the time of his death."
"I had no motive." Jost's voice was firmer.
"Nor any means nor any opportunity, apparently. Hicks was unable to find out where you got the gun, and you were not disposed to confess. He did his best but he ran up against an immovable object. But I do not have that problem. I can give you a simple choice. You can tell me everything I want to know freely, or I can drag it out of you by interrogation under what you would call truth drugs."
"No way," said Jost.
Dr. Bekker looked at his watch. "It is now four thirty-five on a Friday evening. I know you live alone, and that no one will think anything of it if you spend a weekend away from home. I could crack you wide open inside thirty-six hours, but you might find the experience exhausting. The alternative is to spend an hour or two chatting pleasantly. This is entirely for my benefit. I wish only to prove my judgement correct, not to send you to prison. Think it over for a while."
Jost heard sounds of movement; cloth, a crack of a knee joint, a minor creak. He found that he had recovered control of his eyelids. He raised them a fraction to test the level of light in the office. He had a sensation of floating, of being inside his own body but not attached to it. He licked dry lips. His eyes and mouth worked, but nothing else could. His hands remained stubbornly limp, lying in his lap with the fingers interlaced. His legs refused to raise him to a standing position.
He was sitting in an armchair with a high back, which curved round sharply at either side to form wings about a foot long. Jost was leaning at a slight angle with his shoulder and head resting against the left wing. Dr. Bekker had moved from a matching wing chair in a deep purple fabric. The two facing chairs were separated by the length of a glass-topped table with a bamboo frame, which stretched from the right arm of Jost's chair to the left arm of the psychologist's.
Jost found that he could move his eyes freely, but not his head. Dr. Bekker had moved to the corner of the room on his right. He was sitting at an old, pedestal desk with a yellow-shaded lamp and a green telephone. There were two bookcases in Jost's field of view; one packed with volumes in identical bindings and the other a glass-fronted cabinet full of audio cassettes, which reflected the bank of filing cabinets behind Jost's chair.
The off-white venetian blinds on the second-floor windows were closed. The room was lit by the desk lamp and neon strips around the pale peach walls. He had not been moved from the room where he had passed out.
Jost looked back at the desk, at Dr. Bekker, who had represented himself as an accountant. Altering the sign on his office door had been a typical, psychologist's trick. Dr. Bekker was in his early forties, a spare man with dark hair and a pointed beard around his chin.
He was wearing half-moon reading spectacles attached to a golden neck chain. There were threads of white in his beard, but he grew his hair long to conceal the signs of age at his temples, and he plucked out visible, curling, white hairs by the roots. He was a man who took great care with his public image.
Jost, in contrast, was a man who had let himself go; even more so after losing his job as a result of being the chief suspect for the murder of his cousin. There were flakes of dandruff and cigarette ash on his black pullover, and a long streak of a toothpaste stain down the front. He was about the same age as his captor, but he looked younger. The scattering of silver in his blond hair tended not to show, and he presented a young man's undisciplined façade to the world.
There were two whisky glasses, wide-bottomed with a dimpled surface, on the glass-topped table. Jost had swallowed his first whisky and ginger ale in three gulps and accepted a refill, not suspecting that he was drugging himself. He had lit a cigarette partly to relax himself in strange surroundings, and partly to annoy the rather prissy accountant. He had smoked about half an inch of the cigarette before the drug had sent him to sleep. He could see the rest of the cigarette stubbed out in a round ashtray.
Jost reviewed his position, and found that it was hopeless. He could see an array of bottles and packaged hypodermic syringes and needles on a white trolley. The choices were to talk voluntarily in the hope that he could control how much he told the psychologist, or to let Bekker fish around at random in his memory, following any trail that took his fancy. Without hesitation, Jost chose the easy option.
"I keep seeing these red lights, Doctor."
Dr. Bekker took his glasses off, letting them hang on the chain, and smiled across at his prisoner. He had spent a lot of time observing Jost's category of human -- the average-size man with a drinker's belly and the relentless good humour of a travelling salesman. He had been sure that Jost would choose to dispense with the drugs. He had expected Jost to take more than a couple of minutes to make up his mind, however.
Dr. Bekker moved back to the other wing chair and gave his prisoner an encouraging smile. "Red lights?" he prompted, letting Jost find his own way to the murder.
"It started about five years ago," said Jost. "I was going out of a room; it was night and the light was on; and I was sure I saw a red light on the light switch. You know, a sort of red neon, like they put on cassette players and CD players to show you they're switched on."
"You think you saw a red light on the light switch?"
"Of course, I knew it wasn't there. It couldn't be real. But that didn't stop me turning round and going back into the room to look at the switch. It's just an ordinary light switch, white plastic with a rocker switch in the middle. Press the bit that's sticking out to switch it on or off. And no red neon light. Then the overhead light in the room went out.
"I just stood there for a minute or two. I was surprised, right? Then I got a torch and went to the fuse box. It never occurred to me to try the hall light. The fuse was okay, of course. It was the bulb that had gone. So I changed it and I got on with whatever I was going to do. But I couldn't stop looking at that switch every time I passed it."
"For a red light."
"Right. I thought it was a reflection of some sort, but I couldn't work out where it had come from. The next red light I saw was on the kitchen light switch. Just in passing, as I was switching it off as I went into the living room. So I pressed the switch again and nothing happened. That bulb had gone too.
"So that's when I started to accept it. I mean, some people can do strange things, right? I saw a guy on TV look at a column of figures and add them up faster than another guy with a calculator. And he could do multiplication or division of huge numbers in his head. And you get these faith healers, who reckon they can cure anything and everything by touching someone.
"So my talent seemed to be able to see a red light on a light switch just before the bulb goes. Talking about going: I hope I don't have to go to the bathroom while I'm paralyzed. How will I know if I need to?"
"You shall see your trousers getting wet and steam rising, Mr. Jost. But not if we get through this without undue delay. How do your red lights relate to your cousin's murder?"
"Okay, I'm getting to it." Jost looked longingly at the length of unsmoked cigarette in the ashtray. "The red lights started to show on other things after that. The first time was when I was on a call in an office and I saw a red light on an electric typewriter. Ten minutes later, it packed up. Something had broken inside it. That's how it was for a year or so. Just the occasional red light to let me know something was going to pack up. It was great for my line of business, of course. I suppose you know I was selling office equipment?"
"Yes, it was in the biography that the police put together on you," nodded the psychologist. "How was it useful to you?"
"If I saw something was going to break down; a typewriter, a photocopier; I could ask if they were getting satisfactory service from it, and turn up with a good offer for replacement or a good leasing arrangement more or less on the day it broke down. Then I had the breakthrough.
"It happened on a Thursday evening. I remember it had been raining solidly all day, and I'd got wet through four times. But I'm made a packet in commission on a leasing arrangement by being on the spot when an old machine broke down once too often."
"So what was your breakthrough?"
"I was just sitting in this pub, having my second double brandy to celebrate a good day, when I saw a spot of light. It was on the forehead of a man at the other end of the bar. I thought it was just a reflection from one of the video games at first. But it moved when he did. Bright red, like a laser beam. Then it went out. Just like it had been switched off. Well, I just sat and stared, waiting for the bloke to drop dead. Until he came over and accused me of staring at him.
"Well, he was about six foot four and twenty stone. Look at me: five-nine and twelve stone dripping wet. So I just drank up and shot off. I didn't bother trying to explain. And I didn't dare go back to that pub for a week. Not till the day after I heard the bloke had crashed his car."
"The fire brigade got him out in four bits."
"But you had nothing to do with the crash?"
"'Course I bloody didn't!" said Jost indignantly.
"So how was this a breakthrough?"
"I heard the widow picked up a bundle from the insurance. And I saw an advert in the paper later that day. Get some easy insurance. No medical, just fill in their form and send them the money. The whole idea came together about a week later. I had a chat with an insurance agent in a pub. We used to work much the same territory, and he was always trying to sell me life insurance, and so on.
"This guy told me it's perfectly possible to insure the life of anyone at all against accidental death, even a complete stranger. All you have to do is fill in a form and pay the premiums. The person insured need never know about it, and the cash goes to the beneficiary nominated by whoever's paying, not the next-of-kin."
"And what would be the point of insuring the life of a complete stranger?" frowned the psychiatrist. "For someone other than yourself?"
"None, really. The scheme's usually used by people wanting to insure the lives of business partners..."
"But you could look for red lights on people in pubs and insure their lives?"
"Not quite. You have to find out who the person is and where they live, which isn't easy sometimes. And I only insured them against accidents. Anything more would have involved too many questions. Of course, every policy didn't pay off. All the red light tells me is something's about to break down, not how. It may be natural causes, like a light bulb wearing out or someone having a heart attack."
"And if your client had a heart attack, you got nothing?"
"Right." Jost tried to nod, but his head remained stuck at its slight angle, leaning against the back and the wing of the chair. "All I got was a note from the insurance company saying the deceased had popped off from natural causes, and so had the policy."
"What sort of yield did you receive on your investment?"
"Pretty good, once I got into it." Jost tried to grin. He felt that he managed a Mona-Lisa smirk. "It's all a matter of picking and choosing. If I see a doddering old pensioner with a red light, I don't bother. Same with a hard drinker or a heavy smoker over about forty. Someone likely to croak from a heart attack is no use to me. But someone fairly young, or someone healthy, is always a good bet for an accident."
"And how much did you insure these people for?"
"Nothing excessive. Twenty-five to fifty thousand. Or sometimes a hundred thousand."
"And the insurance companies didn't become suspicious?"
"I couldn't manage it that often," said Jost patiently. "Think about it. How often are you likely to meet someone who's going to die? Never mind in an accident. You really have to put yourself about to meet the right people. Then you have to find out their full name and address, age, and so on for the forms. So the insurance company puts the right person on their computer. And I used a different name and address for the beneficiary every time. Of course, I missed a few at the beginning. They had their accident before I could get the details and organize the policy."
"Why did the insurance companies not pick you up as a statistical anomaly?" frowned the psychologist. He found Jost's secret profession of much more interest than the murder of Arnold Jost. "Was there not a jump in people being insured immediately before a fatal accident?"
"I can't have given them enough business to be statistically significant," said Jost. "And I began to see the red light on them earlier and earlier. When the person's got just an hour or two left, it's as bright as a laser beam. But sometimes, it's just a dim glow, something you could miss quite easily if you weren't not looking for it. People like that have got anything up to six months or even a year left. They're usually people who are going to die of natural causes. The accident cases are brighter and you get less notice."
"Have you ever thought of warning someone?" frowned the psychiatrist.
"Thought of it, yes. But what do you say? Excuse me, I've just seen a spot of red light on your forehead and it means you're going to have a fatal accident in the next few months. Who'd believe that?"
"What about someone with a very bright spot? Someone with just a few hours left?"
"The problem's the same. First, how do you make them believe you when no one else can see the spot? And if you make them change their plans and they don't get killed, how do you prove you saved their life? I mean, a head-shrinker like yourself must hear all sorts of silly stories that people believe perfectly sincerely. But they're still just figments of their imagination, even if they come out with them under truth drugs. Just because some stupid people believe the Earth's flat, that doesn't make it pancake-shaped."
"One can make an assessment from the demeanour of the patient, Mr. Jost. And one can look at other evidence to see if it supports the belief. So you never made any attempt to interfere with the flow of destiny?"
"The way I saw it, I didn't know if I could. And how did I know that person didn't deserve to die? After all, they were complete strangers. Well, most of them."
"So you included people you knew in your scheme?"
"When I was working as a rep, before the bloody police got me fired," said Jost bitterly, "I did see red lights on a couple of clients."
"But you did nothing about it?"
"Well, they weren't friends. I was a bit of a nuisance to them, really. Always trying to get them to buy more than they needed to put a bit more commission in my pocket. And I always did a bit better for myself while someone new was feeling his way into the dead man's shoes, as it were."
"So you felt no obligation to the person doomed to die?"
"Did the insurance company every ask you why you wanted the person insured?"
"Sometimes. You can always tell them a story, though. Such as you're going to be travelling abroad for a year and that person's looking after some business interest. So you want his life insured as a routine bit of careful business practice."
"And how did you handle the money? The police investigated you very thoroughly. They found no traces of large sums of money moving into and out of your bank account."
"It's easy enough to open a building society account under a false name. They don't ask questions if you give them money to look after and don't expect a credit card or a cheque book so you can spend it. They you can move it around to other accounts; remembering not to keep them open for too long because they tell the Inland Revenue how much interest they've paid. You don't want the taxman asking questions about non-existent people. It means a bit of travelling to other towns where the accounts are, but that was my job, travelling. And accommodation addresses for mail."
"So what did you do with this money? Juggle it from one account to another?"
"For about a year or so at first, while I did my research. Then I started buying things. Bits and pieces small enough to go in a deposit vault box. Things that are bound to appreciate in value, or at least keep pace with inflation. Stamps, coins, a few paintings, things I can store without attracting the same attention as cash in a bank account."
"So what was your system when you had collected a cheque from an insurance company?"
"Pay it into a building society account. Either one opened for the purpose, or one of a couple of working accounts. Then I'd run it down with cash withdrawals and cheques to auction firms. I use the cash for luxury living and I also pay some of it into my personal pension scheme or the building society account in my name."
"The police established your irregular payments of several hundred pounds at a time were the proceeds of gambling. I take it that was what you would call a silly story?"
"If you flash some cash around in the pub and buy a few rounds, who's going to call you a liar?" said Jost with his Mona-Lisa smile.
"But, at the same time, there was an element of truth in the story," said Dr. Bekker thoughtfully. "Your insurance companies were gambling by taking premiums from you. They were betting that the person you insured would not have a fatal accident while the policy was valid. In effect, you are telling me you were playing with a marked deck. If I can believe your story about red lights."
"Unless you think I killed all those people and made their deaths look like accidents," said Jost.
"No, I would not say that is in your character. A little cheating. Maybe, a little violence, remembering what happened to your cousin. But not mass murder."
"What d'you mean, cheating?" Jost protested "Nothing I did was illegal."
"What about evading the higher tax rates due on your income?" smiled the psychologist.
"There's no tax on gambling winnings. And that's all I was doing
They use their computers to work out how likely it is that X will have an accident. Only I have better information than the insurance companies. I can bet on favourites at outsider odds."
"And if they knew that, they would all refuse to take your bets."
"And I suppose you're going to tell them?" said Jost bitterly.
Dr. Bekker gave him a non-committal psychologist smile. "What I would like to hear now is what happened when the police intruded into your life. I take it your business activities were suspended when they were investigating you as a suspect for the murder of your cousin, Arnold Jost?"
Jost just looked at the psychologist.
"We could do this with so-called truth drugs," said Dr. Bekker. "It would take longer, but I would get the information in the end, given so much material as a starting point."
"You couldn't use any of this in court."
"I am not a policeman, Mr. Jost. As I said, the police were unable to incriminate you. But in my professional judgement, and that of several senior police officers, you are guilty. Call it vanity, but I want to hear your side of things to prove myself right. The whole story, including your motive, which baffles me utterly."
"It all goes back to a while before Arnold got what was coming to him. I saw a red light on my own forehead one day."
"So you can change the future? I suspected as much." Bekker interrupted in triumph. "Your red light is a sign, not a symbol of inevitability. Go on."
"It shook me up, I can tell you. I just got a quick flash in my shaving mirror. Of course, when I looked again, it had gone. It's like that. You tend to see it when you're not looking for it. But I got another flash later in the day, in a shop window. Strong, red and definitely there -- like on the forehead of a lot of dead people.
"So I went straight to my doctor and had a thorough check-up. I even paid for a body scan. The quack found nothing exciting -- blood pressure up a bit from drinking too much and eating too much junk food -- but there were no obvious signs of disease like cancers and so on."
"So you assumed you were heading for an accident?"
"That's what I thought." Jost tried to nod but nothing happened. The muscle relaxant was affecting his neck still but he felt that his smile was broadening. "Then I realized someone was following me. I must have picked it up unconsciously at first. It was just being on the alert that made me notice the same car behind me a lot of the time. So I did the only thing possible. I set a trap for the bloke, let him walk into it, got behind him and coshed him. More or less what you did to me, Doc."
"So you are telling me that your cousin paid this man to kill you?" frowned Dr. Bekker.
"Not quite. Arnie didn't have any cash to spare. His business was in real trouble. High interest rates and a strong pound, he said. But you must have read that in the police dossier."
"I remember that his life was never insured. Was that an oversight on your part? Or just prudence?"
"There was no time for messing about with things like that, Doc. Not with a red light on my own head."
"I take it you dealt with the assassin?"
"He was planning to blow me away with a shotgun. Sawn-off, of course. The idea was to come up to me in the car, as if he wanted directions, then shove it in and blow me away. The bloke said Arnie had told him not to do anything until he was out of the country on business. A perfect alibi. The hired gun was following me to establish my pattern of movements. And looking for the best place to do the job."
"And how was he to receive payment if your cousin was so hard up?"
"Arnie and I met at a family funeral about three months before he put the contract out. He saw I wasn't short of a few bob and he must have asked a few questions. I'm his closest relative, so he must have though, if he had me bumped off, he'd inherit everything from me -- at least enough to bail out his business and leave a bit over for luxuries. He gave the hired gun a signed promise for five grand. Payable when my estate was sorted out."
"And what happened to your personal red light, Mr. Jost, when you disposed of the assassin?"
Jost shrugged. "It went out."
"You shot him with his own gun?"
"No, I strangled him with a bit of rope left over from tying him up because it was quieter. Then I buried him where no one will ever find him. Along with his shotgun."
"Did he tell you his name, the hired killer?"
"No. And I didn't ask."
"So there is no proof available that any of this ever took place? Not even a name to look up on a list of missing persons?"
"You're saying it could be just a silly story?" mocked Jost. "Or the delusion of a diseased brain?"
"I was thinking it would be difficult to support your plea of what amounts to self-defence for killing your cousin without digging up the assassins's body and laying yourself open to a second charge of cold-blooded murder. What happened to the promissory note?"
"I burned it. Keeping it to use against Arnie would have put me in as much trouble as leaving the body lying around. I had an idea that wasn't the last of it, and sure enough, the red light came back a month ago."
"Your personal early-warning system?"
"Right. The same trap worked again and I gave hired gun number two the same treatment. He didn't have his note on him but I assume it's still in a safe place. Then I waited for the next really wet day, when there wouldn't be many people about. I just walked into Arnie's office wearing two pairs of overalls. I got there about four o'clock, shot him with the second hit-man's silenced pistol, dropped the gun on the floor, put the lights out and locked the door.
"Then I took the top overall off, and the hat and the mask I was wearing, and the gloves. Everything that could have picked up powder traces from the shots. I put them in a carrier bag and got out another hat and a pair of glasses -- just frames without lenses.
"I had a bad moment when someone tried the office door but they went away when they found it locked. I waited another five minutes, then I put Arnie's coat on, got his car keys and left the office, locking the door behind me.
"I drove Arnie's car to the street where the police found it. It was about ten to five then and there were a lot of people about. No one took any notice of one more car in the rush hour and one more body strolling around. I put Arnie's coat and the second overall and the hat and the glasses in another carrier bag. I even put my shoes and socks in, too. I had spares in my own car.
"It was about half-five when I got back here. I made good time on the motorway, even though it was wet. I dumped the carrier bags in the skip in the market for all the rubbish, which goes straight to the council incinerator, and I went to one of my usual pubs. I went in the back way, so it looked like I'd been to the toilet. I picked up an empty pint pot on the way to the bar, and I had a chat with someone I knew until he offered to get me another. Then I looked at my watch and told him I'd better be moving. I said good night to the landlord and put the pint pot on the bar."
"According to the police reconstruction of your movements," said Dr. Bekker, "there were people who said you had been in the pub since about five o'clock."
"Just shows you how reliable people are." Jost restrained a broad grin in case the psychologist noticed that the muscle relaxant was wearing off. Jost tried to move his fingers but nothing happened.
"You shot your cousin on a Tuesday. I suppose you were lucky that the body remained undiscovered until the following Monday, when the porter unlocked the office so that the postman could deliver a small packet. Inspector Jarnak was rather dismayed by the time lapse."
"He got onto me soon enough."
"Starting with the closest relative is a routine move. It leads to a conviction in a great many cases."
"I'm surprised Jarnak didn't put you on his list of suspects seeing you've got a German name, like mine. Especially as you've got the accent, which I haven't."
"Yes, I noticed his Germanophobia."
"Jarnak had no reason to have a go at me, though." Jost became indignant. "The last time anyone saw me with Arnie was at the funeral. I can't think when the time before that was."
"You helped to give yourself away with your attitude." The psychologist smiled. "You did not behave like an innocent man falsely accused. You had the demeanour of a guilty man confident that there was no proof against him."
"Says you!" scoffed Jost.
"If you refuse to believe I could see through you, tell me why I was so sure of your guilt that I lured you here and committed what amounts to a technical assault on you, Mr. Jost."
"All right, so you're clever. What happens next?"
"Well, now!" Dr. Bekker put his hands together, as if in prayer, and rested his chin on his index and middle fingers. "We seem to have reached several of the targets that I set for this meeting. I know for certain that you killed your cousin now, and I also know that your motive was self-defence."
"If you believe the red lights."
"Which is all that is keeping you out of the grasp of Inspector Jarnak," smiled Dr. Bekker. "I could go on to find out where you buried the bodies of the two hired killers, and make an anonymous telephone call to the good inspector to tell him where to dig. After all the traces of the drugs have disappeared from your body, of course. Then, there would be as little evidence of your interrogation as there is of your involvement in your cousin's murder."
"Are you thinking of blackmailing me?"
"I am not sure that I could. I doubt there is enough evidence to link you to any of the murders, and your confession on my office tape recorder was obtained under a degree of duress, and so it is inadmissible in court."
"So what do you want?" said Jost.
"First, to resolve a moral problem. You have killed three men -- all of whom intended to kill you, directly or indirectly, it has to be said. You could have gone to the police after you caught the first assassin."
"Right! I could have told them I knew someone was trying to kill me because I've got a red light on my forehead that no one else can see. The hit-man would have denied everything. So would Arnie. And he'd just have got someone else to bump me off and make it look like a cast-iron accident. And I'd have looked a prize chump when the story got in the papers. And what insurance company would have done business with me afterwards?"
Dr. Bekker moved his hands from his chin to the arms of his chair and pushed to his feet. he went round behind the desk, pulled out one of the drawers, switched off the recorder and withdraw the cassette. He wrote a code number on the label then enclosed the cassette in a plastic box, which he set on end on the desk, next to the telephone.
The psychologist took an overcoat from a cupboard. He put it on and made sure that his car keys were in the left-side pocket. Jost noticed in passing that his captor was left-handed.
"It occurs to me that your talent could be put to more beneficial use," said Dr. Bekker. "There are people who would pay very well to have an early warning of impending death -- especially if they could do something about it. If they could be given time to seek medical treatment or protection from assassination. There are others who would like a reliable warning of the death of a rival. Or a rich relative. It is something that I must talk over with some colleagues."
"And what do I get out of it?"
"The opportunity to carry on with your life as you choose -- between our special assignments. Perhaps we can even make Inspector Jarnak give you up as a lost cause. Perhaps we can get him moved to another city. There are so many, many possibilities if one has available an income generated by a man with your talent."
"So you're taking me over, sort of thing? Without even a by-your- leave?"
"Let us say we have an arrangement to our mutual advantage," smiled Dr. Bekker. "You should be quite comfortable until I get back in an hour or so. The muscle relaxant will begin to wear off in about two hours. Au revoir, Mr. Jost."
"Pardon me if I don't wish you a safe journey, Doc," said Jost bitterly.
"No need to be a bad loser, Mr. Jost." Dr. Bekker kept his smile at a relentless level. "Psychology is becoming an exact science in certain areas. Once the police pointed me at you, it was inevitable that you would give yourself away."
Rain began to lash the window behind the venetian blind as the psychologist closed and locked his office door. Jost heard him dash down the stairs. Dr. Bekker was excited. And the roads were wet. Jost managed a small movement of his left thumb, which was resting on the right. He looked across at the desk and the cassette recording of his conversation with the psychologist, feeling satisfied with his performance. A car engine whirred and coughed into life in the street, starting sluggishly on a damp evening.
Jost closed his eyes so that he could concentrate on listening. The flash of red light from Dr. Bekker's forehead on first opening his office door to Jost had been almost blinding, a veritable laser beam. Hartmann Jost was not expecting the psychologist to get much further than the next corner.
At any moment, he knew, he would hear the crash. ■