When Steele got home, he showered and got dressed to go out. He was ansty. He felt violated. He needed to do something. Schram had out-smarted him, out-talked him, and out-intimidated him. It was a small consolation to him that he could have vanquished Schram with a .9 mm bullet to the temple. It was getting easier to imagine doing it. He knew he would need a close shot to stop Schram. Schram was all muscle.
He had no desire to gun down Schram in cold blood. But you could argue that a pre-emptive murder was justified. After all, Schram had virtually promised to kill people to settle his score with Steele and the rest of the world. Could you pull a gun on a man and shoot him just because he made some threats? Schram was a terrorist. It should make a difference if the terrorist had a reputation for keeping his promises, shouldn’t it? Had Schram stockpiled weapons of mass destruction? All he needed was a book of matches.
Steele was fighting to maintain perspective. He judged that he had been right to restrain himself today. He’d been right to draw Schram out and try to discover what Schram was planning. Now he knew what Schram knew about him, though it humiliated him. Schram knew about Steele’s visit to his mother and to his apartment that same day. He knew who Steele was close to. Lisa and Fr. Eglar—they were already in the mix. But how did Schram find out about Donna and Luis? Could Schram have gotten into his office?
A lot of questions. He needed Rainey. He put on a jacket and locked up. Maybe he should pull a thread across the door to be sure no one entered while he was gone. Silly, he thought, but what harm in it? He pulled a white thread from inside the pocket of his shirt and stretched it across the high jamb of the door. You couldn’t see it, but it was there. This was spy craft? Could he even imagine outsmarting Schram after what Schram had just told him? He might end up a fool. He already was. He had to keep trying.
He went to his car in the lower level, got in, and drove it out to the street. Apparently Schram didn’t have a car yet. How long would that last? Apparently Schram didn’t have a weapon yet either. How long before he would? What was his next step? Steele rang Rainey’s cell phone.
She hesitated. “I was just thinking about coming over to yours. I’m spooked a little, Andy.” It was not the first time she’d called him by his first name. It touched something deep.
“It’s best I come there then.” He couldn’t follow his own logic, but it was too late. He’d said it.
“All right…. I’ll see you in a few minutes.” He’d been by the house once before. He had dropped Rainey there one afternoon after they’d talked.
She had a little white Cape Cod on the near North Side. She had told him she owned it free and clear after her divorce. She was married to a Chicago cop who was dedicated to his work and to his buddies, but he’d had no time for his wife and daughter. She tried to make the marriage work. He was bound to be a hero. Not long after the divorce, he was shot and killed making a midnight traffic stop on Lake Shore Drive. Some gangster kids were moving drugs in a vintage Thunderbird, speeding north. He pulled them over and had probable cause for a search, reefers in plain view. He asked the driver to pop the trunk. When he did, there was a little guy sitting inside among the bags of dope with a .45 caliber pistol. The shooter was thirteen years old. Backup arrived in time to make the arrest. Gabriella was two at the time. Now she was going on four.
Steele figured Schram was onto her house by now. He had managed to get her cell phone number—getting her address would be easy. Lisa was scared for Gabriella. She said she worried about Gabriella even during the day when she was in the care of her grandparents. Steele parked in the driveway and knocked on the door. No answer. Nothing moved. He saw light flash in a window and soon the lock clicked open and the door swung free. He marched straight in. She stood in front of him. She was wearing a raspberry Harvard sweatshirt and white pants. Bare feet.
“Nice to see you, Andy.” She gave him a hug.
“You must have seen my ‘I need a hug’ button,” said Steele.
“If you need one, let me make it good,” She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed. It almost knocked his breath out. He hugged her back. What else could he do? Then she lifted her head from his shoulder and looked into his face. Their faces came forward together, almost kissing.
“We need to talk,” he said, breaking the spell.
“I don’t think we do,” she said, almost whispering.
“You need to help me, Rainey. I can’t do this myself. We are in more danger than we thought. Schram caught me this afternoon on the lakefront. He knows everything, and he’s making more threats. I feel responsible for you and everyone else.”
“Come sit down. Everyone else?” she asked, leading him into the living room. On the piano he saw a dozen framed photographs of the little girl.
“Your child, I’m guessing. Cute.”
“Gabriella. She’s at her grandparents’ this afternoon. It’s Saturday but I had some work to do.”
“Schram is threatening to hurt people. He mentioned you, Fr. Eglar, Donna, and even Luis, one of my juvenile patients. Hurt may mean kill to him now. But after talking to Fr. Eglar and listening to Schram today, I believe he plans methodically to substitute other people for us. He’s going to hurt them instead of us. His satisfaction will be that we know about it but can’t do anything to prevent it or to stop it. He’s setting the stage already.”
“He killed the nurse as a substitute for his mother,” Lisa said. “Did he make sure his mother knew of he connection?” She looked nervous. She got up and went into the dining room as if walking out of the room would distance her. She sat down at the dining room table. He went to her, sat across the corner of the table, face close to hers, demanding her attention.
“I don’t know how he’s dealing with his mother,” said Steel. “I do know he made an ass of me this afternoon. For a moment I almost pulled my gun and shot him in the head. He’s a very sick kid. He’s going to do some damage, and he plans to get away with it. He thinks using substitutes will keep him from being implicated. It’s crazy, but he believes it.”
“Andy, we’re going to beat this monster.”
“He knew I had visited his mother.”
“He said it was a first date, and I would end up his ‘step-daddy.’”
“What do you say to that?”
“Not much. He knew I had been in his apartment and seen the phone numbers on his fridge. He admitted ‘Great Balls of Fire.’ He said it was a joke. He was laughing about it.”
“Did he admit to arson at Sheila Child’s?”
“No, and I didn’t dare bring her up.”
“Did you bring up Fr. Eglar.”
“No, but Schram mentioned him as one of my friends who would be punished.”
“He must have known you visited Fr. Eglar, then.”
“True. Or he guessed I would because his was one of the four phone numbers.”
“And Sheila Child’s phone number was up there too, remember? So he had to know you knew about what he did to her.”
“Why didn’t he bring her up then?”
“You’re the shrink, honey.”
“Because she represented a different score to settle. She was punished for the sake of his mother. All the rest revolve around me and his serving time in prison.”
“Don’t think they all revolve around just you. I had something to do with his going to prison. I was a weak public defender. Fr. Eglar’s offense has nothing to do with you either.”
“Schram did seem aware that Fr. Eglar’s letter to the parole board had contained some cautionary language. He thought Fr. Eglar should have swallowed his ruse hook, line, and sinker.”
“So don’t make this about you…,” she insisted again.
“Donna and Luis are connected to Schram only through me.”
“He’s jealous of your relationships?”
“Maybe not jealous. But I have them and he doesn’t, and it’s another opportunity to get me where I’m vulnerable. Luis is my new patient. Schram may think Luis replaced him as my star patient. I abandoned him, Schram, and now have a patient-friend I prefer.”
“Do you think Schram is in love with you? Was in love with you?”
“I stupidly underestimated the power of the bond he was forming with me. It might have been about as close as he ever came to love with anyone.”
“What about your girl friend, Donna?”
“Donna is not my girl friend.”
“I thought you said she’d been your girl friend for years.”
“She’s my friend. We’ve never been lovers. We are mutually supportive.”
“Really? Well, that explains why you don’t see her very often. But Schram probably thinks she is your girl friend.”
“Possibly, but I wonder how he found out about her at all.”
“Does she visit you at your office?”
“Never--but Luis does. I let Luis come as often as he can.”
“That explains Luis.”
“Maybe Schram broke into my office and got Donna off my computer or from the card in my Rolodex.”
“Why would he pick up on that one card among many on your Rolodex?”
“I only have one or two personal cards in there.”
“I thought you ‘d have a whole pack of old friends and lovers.”
“I was too busy studying. Donna’s brother was as close as I got to an actual friend. About six years ago. But I don’t see him anymore. Our friendship became uncomfortable after Donna and I became close.”
“Donna was raped. The whole thing really bothered him, but for the wrong reason. One of his friends raped her. He wanted to deny it. He tried to get her to admit she was lying. She wouldn’t do it. He blamed me for that.”
“Should he have?”
“I supported Donna. I knew she was telling the truth.” There was a long silence.
“Okay, what do you want to do, Steele?” said Lisa.
“I was going to ask if you want to stay with me – until this blows over.”
“Just because you’re better looking than James Bond, don’t assume I’m like all the others. I see women ogling you in the street.”
“That’s always been a mystery to me. I’ve tried not to use it to my advantage.”
“It’s called seduction. And playing hard to get is just part of it.”
“I’m innocent.” He blushed.
“We’ll call from the kitchen,” she said. I have a speakerphone in there.”
“We have to do this,” he touched her shoulder as she sat at the kitchen table. He put the phone between them, took off his jacket, and sat opposite. He wrote the names and numbers of Donna and Fr. Eglar on a piece of paper. When he got to Luis, he booted his laptop, entered his password, and waited for his patient records to come up. There he was, Luis Ortiz, complete with address, phone, alternate phone, parent or guardian, appointment records, etc. He wrote down his phone number.
“Maybe Schram got into your computer and found out about everyone,” said Rainey.
“Everything’s behind a password. He’d have to get around that.”
“He could probably learn a lot from your cell phone, or from your phone bill.”
“It wouldn’t give him Luis.”
“He could get Luis from your secretary.”
“Or he might have broken into my office.”
“Or he got in with the cleaning crew.”
“Shit. Or he got a master key from Bridges. Dr. Bridges is…susceptible. He’s Schram’s new therapist. Has an office upstairs. There are too many possibilities.”
“Okay, Andy, what are you going to say?”
“Maybe you should call me Steele,” he said, and I’ll call you Rainey at least until we get through this. First names make me nervous.”
“I love a man in touch with his feelings,” she said. “Do you want me to leave the room when you talk to Donna?”
“She’s probably out with her roommate getting pizza. She likes pizza,” said Steele.
“Okay, Fr. Franz Eglar. She punched the numbers. They looked at each other as the phone rang.
“Franz Eglar speaking.”
“Hi, Fr. Franz. This is Andy Steele.”
“Hello, my friend. How are you?”
“I had a harrowing experience today I need to tell you about,” said Steele.
“Richard Schram caught up with me during my run along the lake. We talked for a long time. He seems to know everything I know about him and he knows everything about me. He wants to punish me and all those close to me, including you. He mentioned you by name.”
“He has a grudge against me in his own right,” said Fr. Eglar. Rainey smiled and nodded.
“By the way, my friend Lisa Rainey is with us now. We’re calling from her kitchen table on a speaker phone. You remember Ms. Rainey?”
“Of course, the public defender with the impossible job. Hello, Lisa.”
“Hello, Fr. Eglar,” she said. “We’re sorry to have to bother you with all this, but you are in danger.”
“No more than anyone else. Andy, have you talked to Lisa about the scapegoat business? Does she know that you and I and Lisa—and anyone else on Schram’s hit list—are actually less at risk than everyone else in town?”
“Perhaps initially, Father. But we don’t know yet what will satisfy Schram’s desire for revenge. He may be fooling himself that he can do it all with scapegoats.”
“I don’t think I can stand by while someone else is killed in my name,” said Fr. Eglar.
“Me either,” said Rainey.
“He’s counting on that reaction from all of us,” said Steel. “It’s a big part of his revenge. We can’t pretend his killing other people instead of us is fine.”
“What about the police? Have you reported him?”
“Not yet,” said Rainey.
“I suppose they can’t pick him up until they have some reason to do so. That’s our system. But couldn’t they question him or something?”