Shakespeare's Dark Lady
The Victory of English chastity under the Feigned Name of Avisa
"Thanks for coming, David, " Katie said.
Katie led David Bendix into her office, waved him to the couch and settled herself behind her desk.
"I hear Rosie has moved back to Hawaii," he said.
"Her mother wanted her nearer to home since her father died. Look, David, I'm sorry to drag you out like this, but as I said on the phone, I'm at a point with Amelia where knowing more about her background is critical."
"England's a long commute. Do I assume phone sessions?"
"Expensive and far from ideal, but better than nothing. More to the point, Amelia's made dramatic progress but we're still far from finished-- partly because there's so much she just doesn't remember. If you could fill in some of the gaps in her history, doctor to doctor, I'd be a lot better equipped to give her the help she needs."
Bendix's eyes met hers for a moment, then slid away. "As the family doctor, I wouldn't necessarily--"
"I want you to tell me doctor to doctor, but I'm asking you as Lawrence Hungerford's closest friend. You were, weren't you?"
"I . . . well, I'd known him since Exeter and¼Go ahead, ask away."
"What happened the night Sarah Hungerford died?"
Bendix looked thoroughly miserable. "I assume anything we talk about here is confidential?"
"Of course. Good God, Lawrence Hungerford is dead. And I'm a psychiatrist-- in fact the psychiatrist you referred Amelia to. You know anything you say here will go no further."
"All right. Lawrence and Sarah first met while we, Lawrence and I, were. . .. . ."
"David, I'm really most interested in the day she died."
He looked at her and almost smiled. "Does an internist have to tell a psychiatrist that Eliot was right? Our ends are in our beginnings"
Katie sighed. "I'm sorry, tell it in your own way. Lawrence met Sarah right here in Cambridge, I believe."
"And worshipped her. She was a perfect match for him: vivacious, well educated, from a good family--and a nice girl."
"Meaning a virgin?"
"I suppose. . .In 1956 Lawrence inherited after his father died, as the only son--"
"Was there not a daughter?"
"No, unless you count one illegitimate daughter who was apparently something of a skeleton in the cupboard that no one talked about. Anyway, after he settled the estate, Lawrence went back to Oxford."
"Oh, no, they hadn't married yet."
"His idea or hers?"
"Her parents, actually. You see, Lawrence was a very¼.. active young man. Romantically, I mean."
"Like most young men, wouldn't you say? Raging hormones and all that?"
"I suppose so. And he didn't exactly keep his exploits a secret. He-"
"Wait a minute. Why would Sarah put up with his fooling around?"
"Because he wasn't, at least not in any sense that would really threaten their relationship . Once he fell for her he stopped seeing other women socially, and he really wanted to marry her. But from time to time he did visit prostitutes. Sarah probably didn't know, but her father surely did once he had Lawrence checked out."
"Still, they got married," Katie said.
"In 1957. I was Lawrence's best man." Bendix took out a handkerchief and touched it to his forehead. "The two of them went off to Venice for the honeymoon.. ."
He stuffed the handkerchief back, none too neatly. "Lawrence had a . . . problem." He waited a moment, then said, "And so do I, Katie. He told me all of this in the strictest confidence, and I agreed-no, I swore solemnly-never to tell a living soul. "
"Lawrence is dead. But Amelia isn't, and this is to help her, remember? David, I need to know what happened."
"All right," he said, but he paused for a long moment and when he finally spoke his voice was so low Katie could barely hear it. "He came to me for a checkup not long after the honeymoon, because he found he couldn't¼well, he was impotent with Sarah. Totally. I examined him, told him that nothing was wrong physically, suggested he satisfy Sarah in other ways and give himself a little time to adjust"
"To sex with a partner who didn't have multiple partners. Whom he cared deeply about.."
"Strikes me as sound advice. Did he follow it?"
"Only for a little while. Soon he became so frustrated--or frightened--that he went with prostitutes again."
"What about Sarah?"
"She drank. At one point Lawrence told me she showed signs of a drinking problem. I asked about his problem, suggested he see a sex therapist, but nothing I said to him would shake his conviction that his problem was physical "
Bendix sighed. "His sperm count was lower than normal and he knew having children might take a long time-assuming it happened at all."
"Yet he had Amelia. . . . . How?"
"Do you suppose I could have a cup of coffee?"
"Coming up," said Katie, who needed time to think. Just how did an impotent megalomaniac with an obsession about a legitimate male heir manage to get his wife pregnant? Amelia was living proof he pulled it off-she even had his nose-but how? She took her time with the coffee, thinking hard. By the time she came back to the living room, she thought she knew how.
She handed Bendix his mug and said in her most neutral voice, "Lawrence turned Sarah into a whore, didn't he?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"He made her dress up in tarty black underwear, garters, French panties, things like that. It was the only way he could get an erection with her, wasn't it?"
Bendix took a sip of coffee and nodded, twice.
"David, how in the world did he get Sarah to go along with it? I mean, the famous Hungerford charisma must have had limits."
A very long silence. He looked thoroughly miserable. "I think it was more a question of Sarah's love. . .and desire for him. She'd do anything."
"And how did he deal with his low sperm count?"
Bendix stared at the cup in his lap as if he'd forgotten what it was there for. "They just kept trying. And trying. There wasn't much else they could do in those days. Lawrence grew more and more desperate, and poor Sarah seemed to¼retreat from the world."
And into the bottle. "How did Lawrence react when the long-awaited child came out female?"
"He was elated to be a father at last, of course, and Amelia was an adorable child. But he had so wanted a son."
Katie sighed. No wonder Amelia had problems.
"He eventually got one," she said. "A son, I mean."
"Now that, that was a tragedy," Bendix said. "We tried so hard to save that child. When he died, Lawrence was. . .devastated is really the only word for it ."
"This all happened just a month or two before Sarah died, didn't it?"
"David, we have to talk about this," Katie said gently. "Amelia has no memory of what happened on the day she was confirmed, the day her mother died. If you still can't tell a living soul what happened, you're as good as condemning her to live with her problems the rest of her life. And if you can tell me, it will be easier for you, too."
He let his hands drop to his lap, stared down at them and said, "Sarah couldn't go to the confirmation. She was too drunk to stand up."
"So Lawrence and Amelia went without her?"
"And found her when they got home. Asphyxiated. Lawrence called me. It was pretty obvious what had happened, since there was vomit all over her pillow and her body reeked of alcohol. I asked Amelia to--"
"Good God, you mean Amelia was there?"
"I asked Lawrence to send her away, but he refused at first"
Katie sat back and thought for a moment. Then, "David, was Sarah wearing her whore's outfit when she died?"
"How did you--?"
"Never mind. She was, wasn't she?"
He nodded. "Lawrence and I changed her clothes before the police arrived. It was such a tragedy and I couldn't see any reason to compound Lawrence's grief, especially--"
"David, Lawrence is dead--remember? You don't need to change the facts to protect him any more. I know he killed Sarah."
Actually, Katie didn't know--until she saw Bendix's expression, which made her think of the deer she'd caught in her headlights last week .
"To a trained pathologist it was fairly obvious," he said. "But there's something else, Katie. Sarah was dying, and both she and Lawrence knew it."
"Cervical cancer. She had a year at best. Lawrence was just putting her out of her misery, I'm sure of it. Call it mercy killing if you like."
"Was that a good reason not to turn Lawrence over to the Police Department?"
"I didn't see any point in damaging his good name. I also had Amelia's reputation to think of, remember.
"Was there an inquest?"
"Yes. Sarah had nearly suffocated on her own vomit twice before, and her alcohol problem was well known. The coroner reached a verdict of death by misadventure."
"And then Lawrence cremated Sarah in the baker's oven in the basement?"
"And the baby, too? His son?"
She sat back and closed her eyes. "Thank you again," she said when she opened them. "I think all this will help."
Katie spent the next morning going over her notes on Amelia, then made a phone call.
"Lloyd, about that autopsy report you checked for me a few days ago. Were you looking at the original and not a copy?"
"Sarah Hungerford's? I think so."
"Could you check again to make sure?"
Ten minutes later, he called back. "Katie, what's going on here?'
"I'm afraid I can't really say, Lloyd. Why?"
"That report is missing from the file."
"You're sure about this?"
"The files are held alphabetically. Sarah Hungerford's was there and now it's not. But that's not all. I checked the freezer. A sample of Lawrence Hungerford's blood taken when his body was brought in here has disappeared as well. Bendix, the guy who did both autopsies, wasn't available when I called to see if he knew anything. Sorry to come up blanks this time."
"I wouldn't call it blanks, Lloyd. Not this time."