Tell me your dreams, p.24
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       Tell Me Your Dreams, p.24

           Sidney Sheldon
 
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Chapter Twenty-Four

  The following morning a male nurse was escorting Ashley back to her room. He said, "You seem different today. "

  "Do I, Bill?"

  "Yeah. Almost like another person. " Toni said softly, "That's because of you. "

  "What do you mean?"

  "You make me feel different. " She touched his arm and looked into his eyes. "You make me feel wonderful. "

  "Come on. "

  "I mean it. You're very sexy. Do you know that?"

  "No. "

  "Well, you are. Are you married. Bill?"

  "I was, once. "

  "Your wife was mad to ever let you go. How long have you worked here, Bill?"

  "Five years. "

  "That's a long time. Do you ever feel you want to get out of here?"

  "Sometimes, sure. "

  Toni lowered her voice. "You know there's nothing really wrong with me. I admit I had a little problem when I came in, but I'm cured now. I'd like to get out of here, too. I'll bet you could help me. The two of us could leave here together. We'd have a wonderful time. "

  He studied her a moment. "I don't know what to say. "

  "Yes, you do. Look how simple it would be. All you have to do is let me out of here one night when everyone's asleep, and we'll be on our way. " She looked over at him and said softly, "I'll make it worth your while. "

  He nodded. "Let me think about it. "

  "You do that," Toni said confidently.

  When Toni returned to the room, she said to Alette, "We're getting out of this place. "

  The following morning, Ashley was escorted into Dr. Keller's office.

  "Good morning, Ashley. "

  "Good morning, Gilbert. "

  "We're going to try some Sodium Amytal this morning. Have you ever had it?"

  "No. "

  "Well, you'll find it's very relaxing. "

  Ashley nodded. "All right. I'm ready. "

  Five minutes later. Dr. Keller was talking to Toni.

  "Good morning, Toni. "

  "Hi, Dockie. "

  "Are you happy here, Toni?"

  "It's funny you should ask that. To tell you the truth, I'm really beginning to like this place. I feel at home here. "

  "Then why do you want to escape?"

  Toni's voice hardened. "What?"

  "Bill tells me that you asked him to help you escape from here. "

  "That son of a bitch!" There was fury in her voice. She flew out of the chair, ran over to the desk, picked up a paperweight and flung it at Dr. Keller's head.

  He ducked.

  "I'll kill you, and I'll kill him!"

  Dr. Keller grabbed her. "Toni - "

  He watched the expression on Ashley's face change. Toni had gone. He found that his heart was pounding.

  "Ashley!"

  When Ashley awakened, she opened her eyes, looked around, puzzled, and said, "Is everything all right?"

  "Toni attacked me. She was angry because I found out she was trying to escape. "

  "I - I'm sorry. I had a feeling that something bad was happening. "

  "It's all right. I want to bring you and Toni and Alette together. "

  "No!"

  "Why not?"

  "I'm afraid. I - I don't want to meet them. Don't you understand? They're not real. They're my imagination. "

  "Sooner or later, you're going to have to meet them, Ashley. You have to get to know one another. It's the only way you're going to be cured. "

  Ashley stood up. "I want to go back to my room. "

  When she was returned to her room, Ashley watched the attendant leave. She was filled with a deep sense of despair. She thought. I'm never going to get out of here. They're lying to me. They can't cure me. She could not face the reality that other personalities were living inside of her. . . . Because of them, people had been murdered, families destroyed. Why me, God? She began to weep. What did I ever do to you? She sat down on the bed and thought, I can't go on like this. There's only one way to end it. I have to do it now.

  She got up and walked around the small room, looking for something sharp. There was nothing. The rooms had been carefully designed so that there was nothing in them that would allow the patients to harm themselves.

  As her eyes darted around the room, she saw the paints and canvas and paintbrushes and walked over to them. The handles of the paintbrushes were wooden. Ashley snapped one in half, exposing sharp, jagged edges. Slowly, she took the sharp edge and placed it on her wrist. In one fast, deep movement, she cut into her veins and her blood began to pour out. Ashley placed the jagged edge on her other wrist and repeated the movement. She stood there, watching the blood stain the carpet. She began to feel cold. She dropped to the floor and curled up into a fetal position.

  And then the room went dark.

  When Dr. Gilbert Keller heard the news, he was shocked. He went to visit Ashley in the infirmary. Her wrists were heavily bandaged. Watching her lying there, Dr. Keller thought, I can't ever let this happen again.

  "We almost lost you," he said. "It would have made me look bad. "

  Ashley managed a wry smile. "I'm sorry. But everything seems so - so hopeless. "

  "That's where you're wrong," Dr. Keller assured her. "Do you want to be helped, Ashley?"

  "Yes. "

  "Then you have to believe in me. You have to work with me. I can't do it alone. What do you say?"

  There was a long silence. "What do you want me to do?"

  "First, I want a promise from you that you'll never try to harm yourself again. "

  "All right. I promise. "

  "I'm going to get the same promise now from Toni and Alette. I'm going to put you to sleep now. "

  A few minutes later. Dr. Keller was speaking to Toni.

  "That selfish bitch tried to kill us all. She thinks only about herself. Do you see what I mean?"

  "Toni - "

  "Well, I'm not having it. I - "

  "Will you be quiet and listen to me?"

  "I'm listening. "

  "I want you to promise that you'll never harm Ashley. "

  "Why should I promise?"

  "I'll tell you why. Because you're part of her. You were born out of her pain. I don't know yet what you've had to go through, Toni, but I know that it must have been terrible. But you have to realize that she went through the same thing, and Alette was born for the same reason as you. The three of you have a lot in common. You should help each other, not hate each other. Will you give me your word?"

  Nothing.

  "Toni?"

  "I suppose so," she said grudgingly.

  "Thank you. Do you want to talk about England now?"

  "No. "

  "Alette. Are you there?"

  "Yes. " Where do you think I am, stupid?

  "I want you to make me the same promise that Toni did. Promise never to harm Ashley. "

  That's the only one you care about, isn't it? Ashley,

  Ashley, Ashley. What about us?

  "Alette?"

  "Yes. I promise. "

  The months were going by, and there were no signs of progress. Dr. Keller sat at his desk, reviewing notes, recalling sessions, trying to find a clue to what was wrong. He was taking care of half a dozen other patients, but he found that it was Ashley he was most concerned about. There was such an incredible chasm between her innocent vulnerability and the dark forces that were able to take over her life. Every time he talked to Ashley, he had an overpowering urge to try to protect her. She's like a daughter to me, he thought. Who am I kidding? I'm falling in love with her.

  Dr. Keller went to see Otto Lewison. "I have a problem, Otto. "

  "I thought that was reserved for our patients. "

  "This involves one of our patients. Ashley Patterson. "

  "Oh?"

  "I find that I'm - I'm very attracted to her. "

  "Reverse transference?"

  "Y
es. "

  "That could be very dangerous for both of you, Gilbert. "

  "I know. "

  "Well, as long as you're aware of it. . . Be careful. "

  "I intend to. "

  NOVEMBER.

  I gave Ashley a diary this morning.

  "I want you and Toni and Alette to use this, Ashley. You can keep it in your room. Anytime that any of you has any thoughts or ideas that you prefer to write down instead of talking to me, just put them down. "

  "All right, Gilbert. "

  A month later. Dr. Keller wrote in his diary:

  DECEMBER

  The treatment is at a standstill. Toni and Alette refuse to discuss the past. It is becoming more difficult to persuade Ashley to undergo hypnosis.

  MARCH

  The diary is still blank. I'm not sure whether the most resistance is coming from Ashley or Toni. When I do hypnotize Ashley, Toni and Alette come out very briefly. They are adamant about not discussing the past.

  JUNE

  I meet with Ashley regularly, but I feel there's no progress. The diary is still untouched. I have given Alette an easel and a set of paints. I am hoping that if she begins to paint, there may be a breakthrough.

  JULY

  Something happened, but I'm not sure if it's a sign of progress. Alette painted a beautiful picture of the hospital grounds. When I complimented her on it, she seemed pleased. That evening the painting was torn to shreds.

  Dr. Keller and Otto Lewison were having coffee. "I think I'm going to try a little group therapy," Dr. Keller said. "Nothing else seems to be working. "

  "How many patients did you have in mind?"

  "Not more than half a dozen. I want her to start interacting with other people. Right now she's living in a world of her own. I want her to break out of that. "

  "Good idea. It's worth a try. "

  Dr. Keller led Ashley into a small meeting room. There were six people in the room.

  "I want you to meet some friends," Dr. Keller said.

  He took Ashley around the room introducing them, but Ashley was too self-conscious to listen to their names. One name blurred into the next. There was Fat Woman, Bony Man, Bald Woman, Lame Man, Chinese Woman and Gentle Man. They all seemed very pleasant.

  "Sit down," Bald Woman said. "Would you like some coffee?"

  Ashley took a seat. "Thank you. "

  "We've heard about you," Gentle Man said. "You've been through a lot. "

  Ashley nodded.

  Bony Man said, "I guess we've all been through a lot, but we're being helped. This place is wonderful. "

  "They have the best doctors in the world," Chinese Woman said.

  They all seem so normal, Ashley thought.

  Dr. Keller sat to one side, monitoring the conversations. Forty-five minutes later he rose. "I think it's time to go, Ashley. "

  Ashley stood up. "It was nice meeting all of you. "

  Lame Man walked up to her and whispered, "Don't drink the water here. It's poisoned. They want to kill us and still collect the money from the state. "

  Ashley gulped. "Thanks. I'll - I'll remember. "

  As Ashley and Dr. Keller walked down the corridor, she said, "What are their problems?"

  "Paranoia, schizophrenia, MPD, compulsive disoders. But, Ashley, their improvement since they came here has been remarkable. Would you like to chat with them regularly?"

  "No. "

  Dr. Keller walked into Otto Lewison's office.

  "I'm not getting anywhere," he confessed. The group therapy didn't work, and the hypnotism sessions aren't working at all. I want to try something different. "

  "What?"

  "I need your permission to take Ashley to dinner off the grounds. "

  "I don't think that's a good idea, Gilbert. It could be dangerous. She's already - "

  "I know. But right now I'm the enemy. I want to become a friend. "

  "Her alter, Toni, tried to kill you once. What if she tries again?"

  "I'll handle it. "

  Dr. Lewison thought about it. "All right. Do you want someone to go with you?"

  "No. I'll be fine, Otto. "

  "When do you want to start this?"

  "Tonight. "

  'You want to take me out to dinner?"

  "Yes. I think it would be good for you to get away from this place for a while, Ashley. What do you say?"

  "Yes. "

  * * *

  Ashley was surprised at bow excited she was at the thought of going out to dinner with Gilbert Keller. It will be fun to get out of here for an evening, Ashley thought. But she knew that it was more than that. The thought of being with Gilbert Keller on a date was exhilarating.

  They were having dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Otani Gardens, five miles from the hospital. Dr. Keller knew that he was taking a risk. At any moment, Toni or Alette could take over. He had been warned. It's more important that Ashley learns to trust me so that I can help her.

  "It's funny, Gilbert," Ashley said, looking around the crowded restaurant.

  "What is?"

  "These people don't look any different from the people at the hospital. "

  "They aren't really different, Ashley. I'm sure they all have problems. The only difference is the people at the hospital aren't able to cope with them as well, so we help them. "

  "I didn't know I had any problems until - Well, you know. "

  "Do you know why, Ashley? Because you buried them. You couldn't face what happened to you, so you built the fences in your mind and shut the bad things away. To one degree or another, a lot of people do that. " He deliberately changed the subject. "How's your steak?"

  "Delicious, thank you. "

  From then on, Ashley and Dr. Keller had meals away from the hospital once a week. They had lunch at an excellent little Italian restaurant called Banducci's and dinners at The Palm, Eveleene's and The Gumbo Pot Neither Toni nor Alette made an appearance.

  One night, Dr. Keller took Ashley dancing. It was at a small nightclub with a wonderful band.

  "Are you enjoying yourself?" he asked.

  "Very much. Thank you. " She looked at him and said, "You're not like other doctors. "

  "They don't dance?"

  "You know what I mean. "

  He was holding her close, and both of them felt the urgency of the moment.

  "That could be very dangerous for both of you, Gilbert. . . . "

 
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