Tell me your dreams, p.5
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       Tell Me Your Dreams, p.5
 

           Sidney Sheldon
Chapter Five

  The next few months were misery for Ashley. The image of Jim Cleary's bloody, mutilated body kept going through her mind. She thought of seeing Dr. Speakman again, but she knew she dare not discuss this with anyone. She felt guilty even thinking that her father might have done such a terrible thing. She pushed the thought away and tried to concentrate on her work. It was impossible. She looked down in dismay at a logo she had just botched.

  Shane Miller was watching her, concerned. "Are you all right, Ashley?" She forced a smile. "I'm fine. "

  "I really am sorry about your friend. " She had told him about Jim. "I'll - I'll get over it. "

  "What about dinner tonight?"

  "Thanks, Shane. I - I'm not up to it just yet. Next week. "

  "Right. If there's anything I can do - "

  "I appreciate it. There's nothing anyone can do. "

  Toni said to Alette, "Miss Tight Ass has a problem. Well, she can get stuffed. "

  "I feel dispiace - sorry for her. She is troubled. "

  "Sod her. We all have our problems, don't we, luv?"

  As Ashley was leaving on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend, Dennis Tibble stopped her. "Hey, babe. I need a favor. "

  "I'm sorry, Dennis, I - "

  "Come on. Lighten up!" He took Ashley's arm. "I need some advice from a woman's point of view. "

  "Dennis, I'm not in the - "

  "I've fallen in love with somebody, and I want to marry her, but there are problems. Will you help me?"

  Ashley hesitated. She did not like Dennis Tibble, but she could see no harm in trying to help him. "Can this wait until tomorrow?"

  "I need to talk to you now. It's really urgent. " Ashley took a deep breath. "All right. "

  "Can we go to your apartment?" She shook her head. "No. " She would never be able to make him leave. "Will you stop by my place?" Ashley hesitated. "Very well. " That way I can leave when I want to. If I can help him get the woman he's in love with, maybe he'll leave me alone.

  * * *

  Toni said to Alette, "God! Goody Two-shoes is going to the twerp's apartment. Can you believe she could be that stupid? Where's her sodding brains?"

  "She's just trying to help him. There's nothing wrong with - "

  "Oh, come on, Alette. When are you going to grow up? The man wants to bonk her. "

  "Non va. Non si fa cosi. "

  "I couldn't have said it better myself. "

  Dennis Tibble's apartment was furnished in neonightmare. Posters of old horror movies hung from the walls, next to pinups of naked models and wild animals feeding. Tiny erotic wood carvings were spread out on tables.

  It's the apartment of a madman, Ashley thought. She could not wait to get out of there.

  "Hey, I'm glad you could come, baby. I really appreciate this. If - "

  "I can't stay long, Dennis. " Ashley warned him. "Tell me about this woman you're in love with. "

  "She's really something. " He held out a cigarette. "Cigarette?"

  "I don't smoke. " She watched him light up. "How about a drink?"

  "I don't drink. "

  He grinned. "You don't smoke, you don't drink. That leaves an interesting activity, doesn't it?" She said to him sharply, "Dennis, if you don't - "

  "Only kidding. " He walked over to the bar and poured some wine. "Have a little wine. That can't hurt you. " He handed her the glass. She took a sip of wine. "Tell me about Miss Right. " Dennis Tibble sat down on the couch next to Ashley. "I've never met anybody like her. She's sexy like you and - "

  "Stop it or I'll leave. "

  "Hey, that was meant as a compliment. Anyway, she's crazy about me, but her mother and father are very social, and they hate me. " Ashley made no comment.

  "So the thing is, if I push it, she'll marry me, but she'll alienate her family. She's really close to them, and if I marry her, they'll sure as hell disown her. Then one day, she'll probably blame me. Do you see the problem?"

  Ashley took another sip of wine. "Yes. I. . . " After that, time seemed to vanish in a mist.

  She awakened slowly, knowing that something was terribly wrong. She felt as though she had been drugged. It was an enormous effort merely to open her eyes. Ashley looked around the room and began to panic. She was lying in a bed, naked, in a cheap hotel room. She managed to sit up, and her head started to pound. She had no idea where she was or how she had gotten there. There was a room service menu on the nightstand, and she reached over and picked it up. The Chicago Loop Hotel. She read it again, stunned. What am I doing in Chicago? How long have I been here? The visit to Dennis Tibble's apartment had been on Friday. What day is this? With growing alarm, she picked up the telephone. "May I help you?"

  It was difficult for Ashley to speak. "What - what day is this?"

  "Today is the seventeenth of - "

  "No. I mean what day of the week is this?"

  "Oh. Today is Monday. Can I - " Ashley replaced the receiver in a daze. Monday. She had lost two days and two nights. She sat up at the edge of the bed, trying to remember. She had gone to Dennis Tibble's apartment. . . . She had had a glass of wine. . . . After that, everything was a blank.

  He had put something in her glass of wine that had made her temporarily lose her memory. She had read about incidents where a drug like that had been used. It was called the "date rape drug. " That was what he had given her. The talk about wanting her advice had been a ruse. And like a fool, I fell for it. She had no recollection of going to the airport, flying to Chicago or checking into this seedy hotel room with Tibble. And worse - no recollection of what had happened in this room.

  I've got to get out of here, Ashley thought desperately. She felt unclean, as though every inch of her body had been violated. What had he done to her? Trying not to think about it, she got out of bed, walked into the tiny bathroom and stepped into the shower. She let the stream of hot water pound against her body, trying to wash away whatever terrible, dirty things had happened to her. What if he had gotten her pregnant? The thought of having his child was sickening. Ashley got out of the shower, dried herself and walked over to the closet. Her clothes were missing. The only things inside the closet were a black leather miniskirt, a cheap-looking tube top and a pair of spiked high-heeled shoes. She was repelled by the thought of putting on the clothes, but she had no choice. She dressed quickly and glanced in the mirror. She looked like a prostitute.

  Ashley examined her purse. Only forty dollars. Her checkbook and credit card were still there. Thank God!

  She went out into the corridor. It was empty. She took the elevator down to the seedy-looking lobby and walked over to the checkout desk, where she handed the elderly cashier her credit card.

  "Leavin' us already?" He leered. "Well, you had a good time, hub?"

  Ashley stared at him, wondering what he meant and afraid to find out. She was tempted to ask him when Dennis Tibble had checked out, but she decided it was better not to bring it up.

  The cashier was putting her credit card through a machine. He frowned and put it through again. Finally, he said, "I'm sorry. This card won't go through. You've exceeded your limit. "

  Ashley's mouth dropped open. "That's impossible! There's some mistake!"

  The clerk shrugged. "Do you have another credit card?"

  "No. I - I don't Will you take a personal check?" He was eyeing her outfit disapprovingly. "I guess so, if you have some ID. "

  "I need to make a telephone call. . . . "

  "Telephone booth in the corner. "

  "San Francisco Memorial Hospital. . . "

  "Dr. Steven Patterson. "

  "One moment, please. . . "

  "Dr. Patterson's office. "

  "Sarah? This is Ashley. I need to speak to my father. "

  "I'm sorry. Miss Patterson. He's in the operating room and - "

  Ashley's grip tightened on the telephone. "Do you know how long he'll be there?"

  "It's hard to
say. I know he has another surgery scheduled after - "

  Ashley found herself fighting hysteria. "I need to talk to him. It's urgent. Can you get word to him, please? As soon as he gets a chance, have him call me. " She looked at the telephone number in the booth and gave it to her father's receptionist. "I'll wait here until he calls. "

  "I'll be sure to tell him. "

  She sat in the lobby for almost an hour, willing the telephone to ring. People passing by stared at her or ogled her, and she felt naked in the tawdry outfit she was wearing. When the phone finally rang, it startled her. She hurried back into the phone booth. "Hello. . . "

  "Ashley?" It was her father's voice. "Oh, Father, I - "

  "What's wrong?"

  "I'm in Chicago and - "

  "What are you doing in Chicago?"

  "I can't go into it now. I need an airline ticket to San Jose. I don't have any money with me. Can you help me?"

  "Of course. Hold on. " Three minutes later, her father came back on the line. "There's an American Airlines plane leaving O'Hare at ten-forty A. M. , Flight 407. There will be a ticket waiting for you at the check-in counter. I'll pick you up at the airport in San Jose and - "

  "No!" She could not let him see her like this. "I'll - I'll go to my apartment to change. "

  "All right. I'll come down and meet you for dinner. You can tell me all about it then. "

  "Thank you, Father. Thank you. "

  On the plane going home, Ashley thought about the unforgivable thing Dennis Tibble had done to her. I'm going to have to go to the police, she decided. I can't let him get away with this. How many other women has he done this to?

  When Ashley got back to her apartment, she felt as though she had returned to a sanctuary. She could not wait to get out of the tacky outfit she was wearing. She stripped it off as quickly as she could. She felt as though she needed another shower before she met her father. She started to walk over to her closet and stopped. In front of her, on the dressing table, was a burned cigarette butt.

  * * *

  They were seated at a corner table in a restaurant at The Oaks. Ashley's father was studying her, concerned. "What were you doing in Chicago?"

  "I - I don't know. "

  He looked at her, puzzled. "You don't know?" Ashley hesitated, trying to make up her mind whether to tell him what had happened. Perhaps he could give her some advice.

  She said carefully, "Dennis Tibble asked me up to his apartment to help him with a problem. . . . "

  "Dennis Tibble? That snake?" Long ago, Ashley had introduced her father to the people she worked with. "How could you have anything to do with him?"

  Ashley knew instantly that she had made a mistake. Her father had always overreacted to any problems she had. Especially when it involved a man.

  "If I ever see you around here again, Cleary. I'll break every bone in your body. "

  "It's not important," Ashley said. "I want to hear it. "

  Ashley sat still for a moment, filled with a sense of foreboding. "Well, I had a drink at Dennis's apartment and. . . "

  As she talked, she watched her father's face grow grim. There was a look in his eyes that frightened her. She tried to cut the story short. "No," her father insisted. "I want to hear it all. . . . "

  Ashley lay in bed that night, too drained to sleep, her thoughts chaotic. If what Dennis did to me becomes public, it will be humiliating. Everyone at work will know what happened. But I can't let him do this to anyone else. I have to tell the police.

  People had tried to warn her that Dennis was obsessed with her, but she had ignored them. Now, looking back ID it, she could see all the signs: Dennis had hated to see anyone else talking to her; he was constantly begging her for dates; he was always eavesdropping. . .

  At least I know who the stalker is, Ashley thought.

  At 8:30 in the morning, as Ashley was getting ready to leave for work, the telephone rang. She picked it up. "Hello. "

  "Ashley, it's Shane. Have you heard the news?"

  "What news?"

  "It's on television. They just found Dennis Tibble's body. "

  For an instant the earth seemed to shift. "Oh, my God! What happened?"

  "According to the sheriff's office, somebody stabbed him to death and then castrated him. "

 
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