I spend the night in the hotel recommended by the good doctor, but although it's peaceful and I'm exhausted, I sleep fitfully, tormented by questions and murkily evolving answers.
At first I can't believe what my instincts are telling me. I fear that the madness of the asylum has rubbed off on me, that these are the workings of a deluded mind. I waste hours denying theories I know in my heart to be true. I shy away from the revelations and desperately explore alternate solutions, but I'm damned to return each time to the warped, crazy truth.
I keep fixing on the image of the doll, how Andeanna dressed it in girl's clothes and smeared its face with make-up. If I could escape that image, perhaps I could seek false answers elsewhere. But I can't lie to myself, no matter how hard I try. The truth won't let itself be denied.
By morning, I can fight no longer. I don't know the complete story, but it won't be difficult to fill in the gaps. Dangerous and awful, yes, but not difficult. I know who to turn to, how to find him, how to force a confession from him if he resists. No more screwing around with lies and ghosts. We're done with that shit. Only the hellish pit of the truth remains.
On an express train back to London. Lack of sleep must be getting to me, because I don't remember buying a ticket or boarding. The last thing I recall, I was having an early breakfast at the hotel.
I should be worried about Bond Gardiner's warning, but I'm not. I'm sure I can slip in and out of the city before anyone clocks me. Exhaustion troubles me more than Gardiner's threat. I don't want to spiral out of control. I need to stay focused.
Leaning back in my seat, I close my eyes, tune out the world around me and try to sleep. But I have no more success here than I did in the hotel. The doll haunts me, fills my thoughts, lets nothing distract me. Maybe the mad don't need to sleep. Maybe their insanity is all they require to sustain them.
In a taxi. I've lost track of my movements again - I have no memory of getting off the train. I look out of the window and grunt softly. I'm back in London. I feel a bulge in one of my pockets. Letting my fingers steal in to explore, I trace the outline of a gun. Axel Nelke's. I must have gone to Heathrow, broken into the car and reclaimed it.
Leaning forward, I ask the driver if we'll be much longer. 'Ten minutes, guv,' he answers cheerfully. I don't need to ask for the destination. Sitting back, I smile softly. For the first time since the asylum, I can turn away from the image of the doll and all the questions and answers that go with it. No need to guess any longer. Ten minutes, give or take, and all will be made clear.
I phase out again. Next thing I know, I'm stealing through the grounds of the Menderes mansion. The ghosts trail along beside me, hunched over, expressions intent, as if homing in on a scent. They look like hounds. Hungry, hellish hounds about to be fed.
I sneak around back, quietly break in through a window and glide through the familiar rooms, advancing silently, encountering no one.
I find my target in the pool room, playing solo, a game where losing and winning are the same, where triumph goes hand in hand with despair. I wait for him to pot the black before stepping forward to clap slowly.
Gregory Menderes looks up, startled, raising his cue defensively. When he sees me, the tip of the cue drops, then lifts again, as if he can't make up his mind whether I'm a threat or not. Eventually he lays the cue aside and smiles warily. 'Mr Sanders. May I ask how you got in?'
'The name's Ed Sieveking,' I reply quietly. 'But you already knew that, didn't you?' Greygo's eyes narrow, but he says nothing. 'Who's in the house with us?'
'Nobody,' he says with a smile. I take out the gun and aim. His smile vanishes. 'Nobody,' he repeats, sullenly this time.
'The cleaners work early. They're finished for the day. So are the gardeners. I cook for myself most nights. There's nobody else.'
'Not since my father died. I kept some here for a while, to warn off the media, but now that interest in him has diminished, they're not needed.'
That's a bonus. I keep the gun trained on him, readying myself for business. 'I've just come back from Darlington.' The young man's face pales - he no longer has a tan, and I'm sure he never did, that he sprayed it on ahead of our meeting to disguise the natural colour of his flesh - and his jaw drops. It's the reaction I anticipated. Confirmation that I'm not crazy.
'We're going upstairs,' I tell him. 'You're going to take me to wherever you store the outfits. Then you're going to change. If you act like you don't know what I'm talking about, I'll put a bullet through you where it will really hurt.'
'Ed . . . ' he begins.
'Walk, Gregory. Don't talk.'
He looks at the gun and my twitching finger, nods glumly and starts for the corridor. I let him pass, seeing so much now, telltale signs I must have subconsciously noted before but paid no heed to. Bile rises up my throat but I force it down as I fall into step behind him, careful not to get too close, taking no risks, not when I'm so close to the truth that I can feel it sliding through the hairs of my nape like a snake.
If Greygo is afraid - and he must be - he masks it well. That doesn't surprise me. He's used to hiding his emotions. His training in RADA, his years on the stage, his preference for character roles. I recall Andrew Moore telling me that his grandson could be a star, that fame was his for the taking. But Gregory Menderes was never interested in fame, only in honing his craft, perfecting the art of getting into the skin of the people he was pretending to be. I wish I'd researched his background more thoroughly, looked into the roles he'd taken over the years. I bet I would have found precursors. Joe and I focused on Andeanna and Mikis. We never dug into their son's past in great depth. Didn't think he was worth the study.
Joe . . . What would he think of this? I can never tell him, whatever the outcome. I can never tell anyone. This is the sort of truth you carry deep in your heart and never reveal. If I walk out of this alive, I'll invent something for Joe. I'm good at that. I carved a living out of stories once upon a time.
Greygo leads me to his mother's bedroom and heads for a built-in wardrobe.
'Hold it,' I snap, edging ahead of him, sliding open the doors. There are four shelves loaded with clothes and boxes. 'Are these the costumes?'
'Yes,' he says. 'But there's also a bag stowed away beneath the lowest shelf. I'll need that to create the full effect.'
I back out of the closet and tap the gun's trigger with my finger. 'Don't come up with anything that looks remotely like a weapon,' I warn him.
Greygo gets down on his knees and reaches into the dark. He emerges with a stuffed plastic bag. I tell him to dump the contents on the floor in the middle of the room. A shower of padding, corsets, bras, tights, knickers. I stare at the undergarments, then clear my throat, forcing back the bile, which is rising again. 'Put them on,' I croak.
He undresses without argument, revealing a smooth, shaven chest, arms and legs. He pauses at his boxer shorts. 'Would you mind looking away?'
'Ed, please, there's no need to - '
'Just do it.'
Greygo sighs dolefully, then slides down his shorts. His genitals have been waxed bare. His nudity unsettles me. I'm not homophobic, but seeing him like this, thinking of all that has passed between us, I feel nauseous. Though not as much as many men in my position might. I'm surprised by that. I thought I'd be more bothered by the gender side of things. Maybe I will be, later, when I've had time to think and reflect. Right now, everything has the unreal quality of a dream.
'Get dressed,' I snarl, averting my gaze.
It's a complicated process. Each step must be followed in exact order. It looks uncomfortable, especially around the groin, but Greygo seems at ease and takes no notice of the biting straps.
With all the padding in place, in all the right places, he rolls on the tights and fastens the bra over the synthetic but real-looking breasts. Then he returns to the wardrobe. He picks a red dress, steps into it and slides it up over the tights, straps and padding. I expect him to turn and ask me to zip him up at the back, but he manages it himself, then slips into a pair of high-heeled shoes.
Then there's just the wig. He takes it out of a box, fixes it in place, throws his head back and beams at me, turning on his full range of charms.
My breath catches in my throat. I step backwards, shocked, almost dropping the gun. The disguise will need a few more touches before it's perfect. His features are incredibly similar to his mother's, but there's still something masculine about his face minus make-up and lipstick, earrings and eyelashes. And he needs to add coloured contacts. Yet even at this halfway stage, the figure is unmistakable.
'Andeanna,' I groan.
Gregory Menderes raises an eyebrow, purses his lips and says in her voice, 'The one and only.' He grins sexily. 'A kiss for old times' sake, Ed?'
I can't answer. I can only stare at the face of the man who is the woman I fell in love with and killed for, and wait for the furies of insanity to sweep down from the tormented heavens and take me.
Greygo sits at the dressing table, working on his face. I watch Andeanna swim into being in the mirror, and I'm amazed by the transformation. It isn't just the look. As he progresses, he becomes a woman - the way he moves his hands and arches his neck, the frame of his shoulders, the subtle sway of his hips as he leans forwards and backwards on the chair, the way he crosses his legs. Even knowing who it really is, I have to forcibly remind myself that this isn't Andeanna - a he, not a she, a cruel conspirator to be executed, not a restored lover to be adored.
'It was a set-up from the start, wasn't it?' I mutter.
'Of course,' he answers in Andeanna's voice.
'Not like that,' I snap. 'Use your own voice.'
'This is my voice, darling,' he answers without changing key.
'Stop it,' I warn him, 'or so help me . . . '
He sighs like Andeanna did when talking about her life with the Turk. 'You don't understand, Ed. When I'm dressed like this, when I have this body and face, I am my mother. I can't alter my voice to suit you. If you want me to speak as Greygo, I'll have to shed these clothes. Do you want me to do that?'
'No.' It's difficult facing him in this guise, but if he took it off, I'd spend the rest of the conversation wanting him to put it back on. I don't think I'd be able to believe he's Andeanna - my Andeanna - without seeing him as her all the time. 'One question before we start. Did you arrange the murder of your father to get your hands on his money?'
Andeanna shakes her . . . No. I must think of him as he really is. Greygo shakes his head.
'Nothing that venal,' he says. 'I'm surprised you had to ask.'
'Just wanted to make sure.' Sitting on the bed, I rest the gun in my lap and nod for him to begin.
'I assume you know the full story, how my mother discovered my father in flagrante delicto and lost her head?'
'Good. That saves us a lot of time. Let's cut to my beginning. Love for my mother took precedence over all others. That included love for my father and you.'
'For me!' I snort.
He smiles but doesn't press the point. 'My mother always knew that I was . . . shall we say special?'
'Let's say bent as a boomerang,' I correct him.
He shrugs. 'I was never overly bothered about sex, so it's a moot point. I wasn't afraid of what I was, but I was conscious of my father and how the truth would hurt him. It was hard enough telling him I was intent on becoming an actor, but if I'd told him I was gay . . . I think he could have forced himself to accept me, but it would have stung him to his core. I didn't want to bring more misery into his life, not after what had happened with my mother, so I've been mostly celibate. I even had a few flings with women, to make it look as if I was a hot-blooded hetero. Anyway, my sexual orientation isn't the issue here.'
He shakes his head. 'What my mother saw in me as a child wasn't a craving for cock - pardon me for being so crude - but a desire to be feminine. I loved dressing up, trying on beautiful clothes and undergarments. I wanted to be part of that world of glamour and disguise. Sex had nothing to do with it.
'She knew I used to sneak into her room and raid her wardrobe. In fact, sometimes I'd find clothes that were too small for her, which I'm sure she bought with me in mind. My father, on the other hand, knew nothing about it until he discovered me dressed in one of her outfits when I was nine years old. He thrashed me to within an inch of my life.' Greygo's face softens. 'I never blamed him. It's how people of his generation thought. Hell, it's how many of our generation think.'
Greygo smirks at me. 'What about you, Ed? We never discussed it before. Where do you stand on the homosexual issue?'
'Live and let live,' I grunt. 'I've no problem with gays. But I've no interest in them either.'
'That's a shame,' he murmurs, pouting playfully.
I stare at those lips. I think about all the times I've kissed them. The hardcore hetero in me wants me to recoil, to maybe bash them to shreds, to make him pay for what he did. But in truth, I'm not bothered. I should be, but I'm not. I loved Andeanna so much that I don't think I would have cared if she'd turned out to be a tranny, not if everything else had been on the level. I could have lived with that. It was an adjustment I would have been happy to make. For her.
'That was the only time he hit me,' Greygo continues. 'After that, I went underground, with the help of my mother. She took me under her wing and let me dress up when he wasn't around. She taught me how to apply make-up and wear the clothes, but also how to remove all traces of my alter ego when I left her room. Through her, I learnt the importance of separating one's identities.
'She was so brave,' he says softly. 'My father would have beaten her terribly if he'd found out. It was the one time in her life that she betrayed him, and she did it for my sake.'
'Not the only time,' I contradict him. 'There was her affair, too.'
He chuckles. 'With Axel Nelke? Surely you know better by now. I don't know where Andrew got the idea that she was having an affair. Bond played along with the lie for reasons of his own. So did I. But you must have come to understand how devoted and loyal she was. She could never have betrayed my father.'
To my surprise, I realize he doesn't know about her fling with Gardiner. A spiteful part of me wants to immediately shatter his illusions, but that would mean a detour, and I don't want to waste time. I came here to learn, not enlighten.
'I was devastated when she died,' he continues, eyes cloudy. 'It wasn't just my mother I'd lost, but my teacher, confidante and friend. She wasn't only a huge part of my regular life, but all of my secret life.'
I start to say how hard it must have been, sympathizing with him out of habit, then stop and frown. 'But she isn't dead.'
'I know that now,' he says, 'but I didn't then. At the time I thought, along with the rest of the world, that she'd perished in a car crash. I mourned for many years before I discovered she was still alive.'
'How did you find out?' I ask, then silently warn myself to be careful - he almost has me feeling sorry for him. I have to remember what he's done. Save the pity for myself.
'I'd known for a long time that something wasn't right with my father, the way he responded when my mother's name was mentioned, the guarded looks he shared with Bond. I began to eavesdrop on conversations and search through his files when he was away, to no avail.
'The breakthrough came when I was arrested.' He laughs. 'I used to visit tranny bars and clubs - for the fashion, not casual sex. I was at a private party when it was raided. Since I was underage, I was taken into custody. I had to phone someone but I didn't dare call my father, so I rang Bond. I knew my mother had relied on him and hoped that I could too. He bailed me out and took me back to his place.
'Bond said nothing about what I'd been up to - he didn't want to know. He mixed a drink for me, let me have a bath, lent me some of his clothes. Then he was summoned away on business. My snooping instincts got the better of me. I found letters from St Michael's Psychiatric Hospital referring to a patient by the name of Deleena Emerson. I got straight on the line to her doctor and demanded to know the truth. I threatened to expose him if he refused to cooperate.
'I was appalled,' Greygo mumbles. 'My father loved her. I couldn't understand how he could have done that to her. I didn't know about Christina Whiteoak at the time, and could think of no reason why he . . . '
Greygo can't bring himself to say 'ruined her life' or 'destroyed her'. It's the first true indication I've seen that Gregory Menderes really did love his father.
'Did you go see her?' I ask.
'Of course. I fled, hailed the first cab I found and offered the driver as much as he wanted to drive me to Darlington. When I got there . . . ' He stops, lips thinning.
'It's OK,' I tell him. 'You can skip this bit. I've seen her. I can imagine.'
He nods gratefully. 'Cutting a long story short, I sat down with Bond when I got back and forced the story out of him. I couldn't approach my father. I never did. To the very end he assumed that I thought she was dead.
'I didn't know what to do. I wanted to hate somebody, but who? Not Bond - he was only following orders. Not the staff at St Michael's - they were strangers who had been bullied or bribed. There was only one person I could truly hate, and that was the one person I could never bring myself to despise - my father.'
'Explain how you couldn't hate him,' I interject.
Greygo shrugs. 'I loved him.'
'But he stole your mother from you. He wiped her mind and locked her away in a madhouse.'
'I know, but that aside . . . ' He laughs sickly. 'What I mean is, I knew I should hate him, I knew I had to hate him, but I couldn't make myself. I wanted him to pay for what he'd done, but I could no more attack him than I could cut out my own heart then sew it back in again. I couldn't hate or harm him, Ed. But Andeanna Menderes could.'
Greygo rises from his chair at the dressing table and turns. He looks so feminine that for a moment I truly forget who he is and almost race across to clutch Andeanna and kiss her and tell her how much I've missed her. I catch myself in time, but only just.
'This isn't a mere disguise,' Greygo says, taking several steps towards me. 'I'm not just pretending to be a woman. When I transform, I transform completely. When I was with you as Andeanna, I didn't know where I ended and my mother began. I wasn't playing. I was Andeanna Menderes.'
'Are you pleading innocence?' I sneer. 'Copping some fucked-up schizophrenic plea? It wasn't me, it was my mummy. Is that what you're trying to pull?'
'No,' he sighs. 'I planned the seduction and the assassination. I was behind it all, and self-aware every step of the way. But when I was immersed in the part, it was total immersion. It went beyond role-playing. Look at me. Listen to me.' He touches his throat and strokes it sensuously. 'I have to speak like this when I become her. I have no voice of my own right now. If my life depended on it, I couldn't do Greygo's voice or any of the others.'
I stare at him blankly. 'What others?'
He looks surprised. 'I thought you knew.'
I think furiously and it hits me. 'Etienne Anders. You were the mystic.'
'Naturally. How else could she have replicated the voice? Etienne was my weakest creation. You would have seen through her if you hadn't been so preoccupied. I never really got under her skin. I threw on a lot of make-up and clothes, but I never felt like a true medium.'
I grin grudgingly as I think back. He's right - I should have seen it. The forced joviality, the heavy make-up, the pitch-perfect voice when she summoned Andeanna, the facial similarities. Last night, when I was putting it all together, I assumed that the mystic was a paid cohort, but of course it was much safer for the master actor to simply assume another disguise and play the part himself.
I frown as I think back to what Greygo said - others, plural. 'Who else were you?' I ask, running through all the faces I've encountered recently, searching for any that might have been Greygo in drag.
'Only one more,' he says, his smile slipping.
He hesitates. 'It's not relevant.'
'Tell me,' I growl.
'You won't like it. I had to get close to you, to know what made you tick, to keep tabs on you.'
I don't know what he's getting at. Who could he have been? One of the staff at the Royal Munster? I think of Fred Lloyd and smile at the absurdity. I flash on more faces, as many as I can recall, but none matches. 'I give up,' I mutter.
'You really want to know?' I glare at him archly. 'OK,' he says, removing his wig and lowering his head. He rolls his shoulders and spreads his legs, instantly becoming more masculine, even in the dress and make-up. When he looks up again, he's smiling, and there's something hauntingly familiar in that smile.
In spite of the feeling that I should recognize him, I can't place him until he speaks in a light northern brogue. 'Have a good trip up north, Ed? Should have taken me along. We could have gone to the footie. You haven't seen the beautiful game played properly till you've seen it in the Stadium of Light.'
Regardless of the face, I'd know that voice anywhere. It's the voice of the one true friend I've made since Belinda tricked me all those years ago, the one person apart from Andeanna who I let into my life.
In an instant, the rest of the mystery clicks into place. Joe was the one I turned to when I ran into trouble with Andeanna. He was a sympathetic audience, always there for me, except when Andeanna was around. Greygo was both my lover and my best friend. What one couldn't find out about me, the other could. As shocked as I am, I have to admire the genius behind it. Gregory Menderes is in a different class. I've known some sly bastards in my time, but Greygo puts them all in the shade. He played me with contemptuous ease. His only mistake was to not finish me off after I'd killed his father. I wonder how he botched such a vital part of the plan. Were there others he wanted me to kill while I was at it?
'I spent months dressing up as her, slipping further into the disguise.'
The words come suddenly out of the silence. Looking up, I see that Greygo is wiping away the make-up. He's still wearing the dress but is speaking as himself now, not as Andeanna or Joe. I must have blanked out for a while, but he hasn't seized the chance to turn on me.
'I'd never tried so hard to become someone else. It had to be perfect if it was going to work. I went on holidays and masqueraded as my mother the whole time, sleeping as her, eating as her, flirting as her. I took men back to my room and made love to them, testing the bounds of my disguise. I made mistakes to begin with, but eventually I learnt to mask every last masculine trace. I discovered how to make a man love me but never know me, how to be and not just be like. Then I was ready.'
He licks his lips. Small dabs of lipstick cling to them like faded bloodstains. 'You weren't the first,' he says sheepishly. 'There were two others before you, a couple of your fellow assassins. I approached them as I approached you, tried to make them fall in love with me. It didn't work. I could attract them, but I - '
'Wait,' I interrupt. 'I don't get it. Why not just hire someone to kill him?'
'I tried, several times, wheedled names out of Bond and my father, approached a variety of contacts openly and offered them a fortune to accept the hit. They wouldn't bite. In the guise of my mother, I had to be a woman with no history - they all thought that she was dead, so I had to use my Deleena Emerson alias. The trouble was, no assassin would take on a target like the Turk when their would-be employer was a nobody who couldn't offer them protection from the Turk's men when they came gunning for revenge. As Greygo I might have been able to convince one of them, but I couldn't authorize a hit as myself. It had to be as my mother. So I decided to create a scene.'
'A scene,' I grunt. 'That's it. You staged a film noir plot. A scheming femme fatale seduces a capable but gullible patsy, spins him a tale of woe involving life with her abusive husband, and . . . ' I nod at the cunning of it.
'That's how it was,' Greygo agrees. 'Only it didn't work to begin with. I wasn't able to believe in the scene. I could calmly plot in the safety of my room, but out in the real world I had to become one with the story. I needed to be as convinced by the piece as those I sucked in. I couldn't do that with the first two assassins. I was beginning to think I could never do it with anyone. Then you fell into my life.'
He crosses the room and kneels in front of me. Extends his hands and cups my face. If he dropped his fingers, he could wrench the gun from me and fire before I had a chance to react. But he doesn't.
'If it's any comfort, I really am a fan of your books. I read Nights of Fear and Summer's Shades before I learnt your true identity.'
I blink. 'Do you really think this is the right time to be praising my work?'
He giggles. 'It's relevant, because that's how it started. I found myself discussing your books with a friend of my father's at a party one night. That friend was Carter Phell.'
'Carter,' I groan. I should have known my old mentor would come back to haunt me. The past is never truly dead and buried.
'To Phell's credit, he changed the subject,' Greygo continues. 'It was only later, after he'd had a few drinks, that he tracked me down and asked if I knew who you used to be. He wanted to share his juicy titbit with the one person he'd met who'd actually read Ed Sieveking's books. He didn't do it to drop you in the shit - he knew I wasn't part of my father's seedier affairs, that I wouldn't try to exploit the information. In his own strange way, he was proud of you and wanted me to know how far you'd come.
'I'd researched the other assassins as best I could, but there's only so much you can unearth about men who operate as hired killers. You can't get close to them. Writers are different. They welcome questions and love to share. It's much easier to get to know a writer, to learn about him, to consume.'
Greygo tells me how he scoured the internet for interviews with me. He attended conventions where I was present, sometimes flying halfway round the world to hear me speak. He tracked down those who knew me, agents and publishers, and carefully pumped them for info about me.
It wasn't enough. He couldn't get inside my head. He didn't want to approach me cold, as Andeanna, so he invented Joe to get close to me. He corresponded with me, taking his time, doing nothing to arouse my suspicions. He had no set plan for luring me to London. But he had a hunch that one day things would fall neatly into place. As they did when I got interested in spontaneous human combustion after he had mentioned it in a few emails.
'From that moment, you played into my hands,' he sighs. 'There was nothing odd about me inviting you to London then - it looked like I was doing it in response to your plans to write a book about a subject I had turned you on to. It was natural that, in my excitement, I'd ask you to come here so that I could share the research with you.
'I made Joe a child of the Troubles, allowing me to cover up - because of his supposed scars, I was able to wear thick clothes and stick padding down the arms and legs to make me seem larger than I am. You accepted the beard because I had a good reason for wearing it. You also didn't look at my face too closely because you didn't want me thinking that you were searching for traces of my scars.'
'You thought of everything, didn't you?' I snort.
'I had to,' he mutters. 'I was nervous the first time we met, but the more time we spent together, the less acting I had to do, until by the end, Joe was every bit as real to me as my mother. You never thought of connecting either of them to Gregory Menderes, because both were real, individual, complete.
'I think you can work out the rest,' Greygo says, rocking back on his heels. 'I juggled the alter egos, careful never to cross my wires. It wasn't easy going from your arms as Andeanna to your side as Joe, remembering what you'd told me as one and trying not to let that knowledge leak through the lips of the other.'
'A virtuoso performance,' I remark bitingly.
He shrugs. 'I don't think you can summarize it that simply. I wasn't acting - like I told you already, I became those people. I created souls, not just faces and bodies, and carried them within me, as separate and whole as my own.'
'Fancy words,' I snort.
'The truth,' he insists.
'What do you know about truth?' I sneer. 'You're one big walking, talking, stalking fucking lie. Souls? You have to be human to comprehend the quality of a soul. I'll tell you this, though.' I raise the gun and press the muzzle to his forehead. 'Souls are real. They do move on. And when you die, yours is going all the way to hell, you sick, twisted fuck.'
He doesn't display any fear, just gazes at me with a look that's half pity, half . . . what?
'Don't you understand?' I growl. 'I'm going to kill you.'
'Yes,' he says. 'I know.'
'It doesn't bother you?'
He makes a gurgling sound. 'Life hasn't been much to speak of recently. Part of the reason I slipped so easily into character was because I preferred being Joe and Andeanna. They were sweet. They could sleep at night, untouched by nightmares. They didn't look into mirrors and see a monster. I was happier as them. If I could go on being them, maybe I'd fear death. But I'm Greygo now. It's just me. And I hate myself. That's why I'm not afraid. Without my mother, my father, Joe, you . . . I'm nothing, just an empty shadow of a man. Death will be a relief.'
Tears trickle down his cheeks. It could be an act - he is, after all, an actor of the highest calibre - but I don't think so. I believe he's truly as miserable and lonely as he claims.
'Why didn't you kill me?' I sob, tears coming again to these once barren eyes. 'Wasn't that the plan, to set me up and have me murdered too?'
He nods. 'Once you'd killed my father, it would have been simple to step into his room and remove the evidence of Sebastian Dash, plant my own in its place. I had articles of yours stored away, to frame you with. And I was ruthless enough. I lured poor Axel to his death to test you, a trial run for the real thing. As Andeanna, I could be as brutal as I needed to be.'
'So why didn't you?' I scream.
'You know why,' he says.
'No. I don't. Why?'
He looks down, tears blackening his face. When he looks up again, there's a world of wanting and pain in his eyes. 'I couldn't kill you,' he weeps. 'I turned somersaults to spare you. I knew we were finished as Ed and Andeanna, but I hoped we could continue as Ed and Joe. I wanted you to flee and carry on with your life. I would have followed. We could have been friends. Even though I knew it might backfire on me, I couldn't bring myself to finish you off. I had to . . . let you . . . go.'
He's sobbing deeply. So am I. We're almost beyond words. But I have to know. Before the end, I must have it all explained. 'Tell me the truth. Why didn't you betray me?'
He looks up, locks gazes and says in as close to silence as a whisper can ever be, 'Because I love you.'
I thought I'd fallen as far into the madness as I could.
I was wrong.
'You love me?' I splutter, incensed by the disgraceful claim.
'Crazy, isn't it?' he croaks.
'You can't mean that. You can't!'
'But I do. I love you, Ed, and I know you're going to kill me anyway, but you forced me to say it, so I have.'
'You can't love. You're a monster.'
'I wish I was,' he says softly. 'But this was always about love. Love for my mother and father, then love for you. It wouldn't have been so fucked-up if I could have distanced myself emotionally from any one of you. Love's a bitch. You know love brought us here. Deny it all you like, but you know. It doesn't make sense any other way.'
I look inside myself for a scathing remark, only to find to my dismay that he's right. About everything. I wish with all my being that he wasn't, that he was an evil, calculating bastard, or a sick fuck who'd put me through hell for kicks, but he isn't. He's a lonely, hurt, resourceful, talented young man whose love for those closest to him has led to the ruin of us all.
'You know the really crazy thing?' I ask quietly. My lips lift in a self-mocking sneer. 'I love you too.' He stares at me wordlessly, not shocked by the revelation, but by my expression of it. 'After all you've done, regardless of your sex, you're still the person I fell in love with, the one I would have given the world for.'
'Ed . . . ' he moans.
I look down at the gun, then toss it to the floor. Killing him isn't an option. Manipulator and liar though he is, he's Andeanna, he's Joe, he's all that has come to mean anything to me. I can hate him, but I can't kill him, just as I couldn't kill Belinda when she betrayed me. Gregory Menderes chose his patsy well.
As if in a dream, I rise and face the door.
'Ed?' Greygo says behind me.
'So long, Andeanna.'
I stop but don't look back. 'You want me to stay?'
'Of course!' He gets to his feet and shuffles towards me.
'No,' I murmur.
He draws to a halt. 'Ed?' he says again, fearful this time.
'You've destroyed me,' I whisper.
'But you said you love me.'
'Then you've got to stay. We can make this work. We can save each other. It won't be easy, but if nothing good comes of this, we're finished, the two of us.'
'We're finished already,' I sigh.
'No!' he protests. 'Is it because I'm a man? I can change that. Everything's possible. If you're patient, I can alter my sex, become Andeanna for real.'
'No.' I smile bitterly. 'Like I said, that isn't a problem for me. I thought it would be, but it's not. Guess I'm more metrosexual than I assumed. Don't become someone else again. Be yourself. It's time.'
'But if you leave . . . '
'Ed!' he howls.
'You've destroyed me,' I whisper again, only this time to myself, and I make for the door.
'Ed! No! We can . . . ' he starts, but he's too late. It's over. I'm gone.
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