Shakespeare's Dark Lady
The Victory of English chastity under the Feigned Name of Avisa
13 Farrar street
Loved your letter--it helped. I stopped squirreling about her, got out the files and thought. And theorized. And deduced. I think I've got it 90 percent sorted out, and setting it down on paper as per your request will help it jell. (I agree with you that phone calls are almost as unsatisfactory as they are expensive. Especially to Honolulu.)
I would never have thought Amelia could look as sad as when she came in for her first session since her baby was born. Her "temperamental genius" (as she once called Daniel) developed an acute reactive psychosis - apparently he was addicted to Prozac - the day he returned from an AIDS conference in France. Same day baby William was born, two weeks premature. Daniel saw William and Amelia in the maternity hospital, then overdosed on Prozac and went berserk in his laboratory, then berserker after he found his way home. He'd been under a lot of pressure to find a vaccine for HIV, but of course there's more to it than that.
Amelia's life--and baby William's--were thought to be at risk until they got him committed ("sectioned" was the word used in the report I saw) and medicated at the Warneford Hospital, an asylum in Oxford. (They really do still call them asylums, would you believe?) They put him in a room with padded floor and walls and when the Prozac had worn off they tried clozapine, which didn't affect him much one way or the other.
He spent the first two days hunkering in a corner, babbling to himself about his mother and Lawrence Hungerford and some secret society, something to do with a cross --and his discovery of the vaccine he was looking for--as if he were some kind of Messiah that would save future generations from AIDS He told everybody Tom Brokaw called him a saint on television--he even thought he'd won the Nobel Prize. All in all, a classic picture of folie de grandeur.
After his afternoon medication he was usually quiet enough to be left alone with Amelia, who came to visit every day with William once she was home from the maternity hospital. On the eighth day he'd just been heavily sedated, and when the consultant came back an hour later to let them out he didn't go in to check on Daniel. Two hours later they found him unconscious with blood all over the place.
No, he hadn't tried to kill himself. He'd had an epileptic seizure and bitten deep into the side of his tongue. The blood was all down the front of his clothes and around his head in a pool on the floor. The report says they moved him on to chlorpromazine-- which may have triggered the convulsion, assuming his threshold was low enough at the time.
Of course they monitored him around the clock after that, but there were no more incidents and when he regained full consciousness, two days later, he was perfectly lucid. He was discharged a week later with strict orders not to neglect his prescribed medication. He's on Risperdal now - and no more Prozac, on pain of death!
You can imagine how distressed Amelia was by everything. I'm convinced she now loves her husband in a way she's never been capable of loving before--and his breakdown coming so soon after childbirth was just excruciating. Plus she had Scotland Yard on her back. They got her permission to take a sample of Daniel's blood while he was at the Warneford--and a copy of a picture of a woman they found in his pocket. Amelia was absolutely certain that--
There's the bell--my new client is at the door. More later,
Daniel's smile when he entered Katie's office for his second session with her was positively radiant. Hard to believe this was the man who only weeks earlier had been on the flight deck of a psychiatric hospital.
He pointed at the couch over by the window, shook his head and grinned at Katie as he took a chair. Katie raised her adipose frame from her own chair and moved to the one opposite his.
"Amelia brought William in for a few minutes yesterday--a very determined bundle of humanity, I'd say. He has a pugnacious chin."
Daniel's face clouded over for a moment, then brightened. "I can't see enough of him. . .or Amelia. And I'm clearly not a workaholic--I've thoroughly enjoyed not working since I put the research on hold. Only, Professor Talbot at the Whitehead made his offer official this morning, and I said yes. So I'm joining the Book of Life--the Human Genome Project. Billions of genes to sequence by the year 2005."
"All by yourself?"
Daniel laughed. "I start next month."
"Let's go over the things we talked about yesterday," Katie said.
"I've been thinking about it, and some of what seemed true when I lost touch with reality has come back to me. I just knew Amelia didn't love me-at least, I couldn't believe she did. It even seemed blindingly clear to me that William could be my father-in-law's child and not mine. My Psychotic Break, by Daniel Bosworth."
Katie knew better than to ask him what his thoughts were now about William's parentage.
"So how are you feeling in general?" she said.
"Quite well, actually. I'm taking only the drugs Dr. Bendix prescribed. No side effects other than a dry mouth."
"Can we go back to your mother?" On this subject Katie knew Daniel would talk freely. Facts would be no problem. Getting real feelings out of him, now, that was another matter. "Did you bring the photograph?"
He ferreted in his left inside pocket, went white, and jumped up to take his jacket off and turn it inside out. Then with a muffled sigh he saw the jacket's right inner pocket, photo safely tucked inside.
He passed it to Katie as he took his seat again, flinging his jacket on the empty couch.
"It's very special," he said.
That had to be the understatement of the year.
She looked at the back first: Oxford, October l956. Then the front. The woman had an attractive face, not unlike Daniel's. The same clean lines and strong nose. The eyes were perhaps a fraction too close, which gave the whole face an unusual intensity. The full lips she shared with her son, along with the dense dark hair, though hers was obviously permed. It was the kind of face you tend to remember, especially the sad look about the eyes.
She handed the photograph back to Daniel, who fingered it for a moment and looked at Katie as if trying to avoid the eyes of his mother. When he did look, he seemed to shrink into his chair. He pulled his knees up almost under his chin and locked his arms around them so that his heels rested on the edge of the chair and his chin on his knees. In this oddly childlike posture he gazed at the photograph--clasped between thumb and forefinger in both hands, in front of him--as tears silently rolled down his cheeks.
The silence lasted several minutes. Katie waited, happy for Daniel.
"She was murdered," he said finally, his voice down to a whisper. "I eventually traced her body but not her identity."
He was shaking head to toe, and Katie wondered for a moment if he could keep his bearings. But he took a tissue from the table beside him, wiped away the last tears and took a deep calming breath.
"It was classified as an unsolved murder," he said. "It's still unsolved so far as I know. Her body was found in a hotel bathroom in Swindon--that's in Wiltshire. Back in l985 they told me the forensic lab's report from l959 showed she. . ."
". . ..was asphyxiated. The hotel was the kind you rent by the hour, no signatures on the register, no questions asked."
"She was a prostitute?" Katie said softly.
Distant bells were ringing for Katie, who nonetheless instinctively knew to move on to another subject.
"Tell me how you feel about Amelia."
He looked straight at her. Dark eyes somewhere between brown and green.
"It's. . .very odd," he said. "Since they locked me up at the Warneford, I've realized just how much I really love her." He looked chagrined. "I really can't see enough of her--and William. Even though. . .even if. . ."
The tears started again. This time he grabbed a handful of tissues without looking.
"I want her. Desperately. Sometimes, just once in a while, I know she's there--for me, for herself. That's when she's lovely and loving and tender and. . . looking up to me, something like the way she was with him. Very. . .feminine. D'you know what I mean?"
"I know exactly what you mean," Katie said.
"Other times. . . Well, it's as if there are two of her. I've wanted to say this to someone for so long. It's like there are two different women, two Amelias, one tough, walled in, and one.. . yielding."
"Again, the side she showed to her father?"
He nodded. "And that's the side I connect with, the side I love--only not that submissive, of course. But gentler--less masculine. That's an oversimplification, I know, because most of the time I admire her for being assertive and feisty when she's. . . It's complicated. Amelia's complicated, and I wouldn't change that if I could. Or her, really."
"How do you find her now that you two have left England and are trying a new life over here?"
"She's her lovely self almost all the time now. Even on her own territory. . ..Maybe because she's on her own territory. Or because Lawrence is dead."
"Or because she's a happy mother?" Katie said.
"Oh, no--well, yes." Pain shadowed his face again. "We've got so many strikes against us," he said. "Do you really think we have a chance?"
Katie glanced up toward the clock. Daniel's hour would soon be up. How pathetic he looked--and how appealing.
"Against you there's history," she said. "Even pathology. On your side, there's love. Love heals. You both have the desire to change. And the means."
"You mean you?" The grin was back.
Katie smiled back but then said, very seriously, "God knows it won't be easy, Daniel. There'll be plenty of pain along the road, but you asked me if I think you have a chance together. I do."
Even if Lawrence Hungerford is William's father.
Daniel was quiet for a long moment. "You'll know I'm crazy," he said finally, "but. . . "
"All right. I really believe I'm one of life's survivors. Things do go wrong along the way--horribly wrong--but I always somehow land on my feet. That has to sound crazy coming from a scientist Even crazier, I have this angel I call Janey who's usually around every time I get to some really big decision in my life. Or when I'm under serious stress. ."
"Please go on."
He was quiet for a full minute.
"Was your guardian angel around when you flipped out?"
"No. You see, always before she'd been there to protect me. . ..You do understand, don't you?" His voice was so low Katie had to strain to hear it. "Please, say you do."
"She let me down. My angel let me down."
Katie didn't have to think about her next question. It asked itself.
"Daniel, I know that you met Black Jenny, Amelia's Elizabethan fantasy. She told me. Can you tell me about it?"
He was fumbling with his hands, weaving a cat's cradle with fingers that pumped in and out.
"She was a whore. I only got to meet her once, but I've made love to her many times in my imagination. So different from Amelia--even feminine Amelia. Almost a slave. . ."
"What did you feel in your imagination?"
"Like she was a part of me."
"And you were a part of her?"
"I was a part of her. Like we were one and the same person. Like. . .coming home."
"Home to whom, Daniel?"
"I don't know. Just home."
"Feel, Daniel. Feel what it was like coming home to her."
He closed his eyes. "I didn't want her ever to leave me. That's how I wanted her to be--Amelia, I mean. I wanted Amelia to be Black Janey."
Katie let out a long breath and checked the clock again.
"I'm sorry, but our time is up"
Back again. This is the second time I've seen him (my new client--Daniel Bosworth, of course). I know how hard it is to help clients like him, but this one has a powerful motivation to change. And he's getting help and he trusts me, his help. (He ended the session with a beaut of a Freudian slip.)
You and I have talked and talked about the link between creative brilliance and the manically grandiose personality. I'm convinced that these people frequently end up as congressmen or movie stars--or business tycoons--and that few people other than psychotherapists see through their illusory charm to the pathetically low self-esteem underneath. Even though I only know him through Amelia, I'd say Lawrence had that narcissistic sense of entitlement--the whole world owed him not just a living but slavish attention and unlimited love.
When I talked to Daniel about Prozac addiction and what happened to him the day William was born, he said something similar had happened to him in the spring last year in California. We concluded he must have gone into a fugue state lasting several days.
The main thing worrying him isn't the fact that he didn't find an AIDS vaccine-- he's almost relieved about that. The biggie was the search for his birth mother, which has really been going on. He brought a photo in to show me-- his real mother, a prostitute and murder victim. ( still unsolved).
At this point an idea was beginning to take shape and I decided to talk to David Bendix again. He'd seen Daniel a couple of times and whether my hunch was right or not, I thought he might have a fresh viewpoint on this case (miss you, Rosie). Getting it out of him was as tedious as it ever gets, but he told me that in the mid-50s Lawrence had been obsessed with an Oxford prostitute apparently known as Black Jenny.
After Daniel's Freudian slip I had to prove my theory. I was thinking back to what Daniel told me about his mother. The police report on her apparently showed death by suffocation. The clue was that she died dressed in black satin underwear--charmeuse, way too expensive for a prostitute to own.
I hope David Bendix doesn't know what now seemed clear to me--that Lawrence Hungerford murdered a woman called Black Jenny: Daniel's mother.
Did you see that movie Rain Man a few years ago, the one with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise that won all the Oscars? Tom Cruise had an autistic brother called Raymond when he was three years old, then they were separated and he grew up without knowing the brother or even knowing he existed. But he had an invisible friend called Rain Man. That was how he'd heard "Raymond" as a child, and that was the way it got stuck in his preconscious.
My hunch is that something similar happened to Daniel as a very small child. Jenny, the name he knew his mother by, became his angel Janey. Lawrence and presumably her other clients knew her as Jenny or Black Jenny. She was Black Jenny to Amelia through Lawrence's fetishist scenario with his wife, and eventually, as I'll explain, she became Amelia's fantasy.
If I'm right, Lawrence went back to England in 1959 and asphyxiated Black Jenny with a pillow. He probably took her from Oxfordshire to Wiltshire to cover his tracks, otherwise she might have been identified and linked to Daniel. I think Daniel--remember, he was only about two--was left for the day with another prostitute,and when Black Jenny didn't return to Oxford the woman panicked and abandoned him in the parking lot where he was found. She also left the photograph, which suggests this woman wanted to leave a clue to Daniel's identity. (Probably took it from Black Jenny's things. They may even have been roommates.) She could have heard that an unidentified prostitute had been found murdered in a Wiltshire hotel and put two and two together.
I tried to get David to tell me more. No dice. He'd done all the admitting he was going to do. And I'm almost positive he didn't know about the prostitute's illegitimate child, or that Lawrence had murdered her.
By this time I was convinced that Lawrence was a double murderer. I actually felt cheated that he wasn't around to stand trial--unfair that he got off scot-free by dying. I gave up on David and concentrated on helping my client. Here I faced another predicament. How much, if anything at this stage, should I tell Daniel? He fantasizes making love to Amelia as Black Jenny --so do I tell him that his prostitute mother was probably known by that name. That Lawrence Hungerford was almost certainly his father and Amelia his half-sister?
No to all the above.
In the end I decided there was no point in reporting anything to anybody, proof or no proof. I feel like the tough female heroine of a private-eye novel. Maybe I'm in the wrong business!
Or maybe those of us in our field are all really in the detective business. So there you have it, dear Rosie. The parts I'm almost 100 percent sure about, anyway. Now, this is a stretch. I think I've got Lawrence's pathology figured out. Try this on for size: Lawrence's idee fixe, his monomaniac obsession, was to have a legitimate son-- and who can be more devious and manipulative than a pathological narcissist? If my theory's right, Daniel the illegitimate son must have been watched and secretly manipulated by Lawrence all his life without being aware of it.
Can you imagine? If I'm right, Amelia was steered by Lawrence into unwittingly marrying his illegitimate son! I admit it's pretty shaky without hard evidence, but my guess is that the cruellest irony in Lawrence's life was that while he did not have a legitimate male heir, he did have an illlegitimate one in the shape of Daniel. In his warped mind, it was all somehow Black Jenny's fault.
I think once he'd avenged himself by killing the original Black Jenny, Lawrence killed her symbolically in every woman he had sex with. Heaven knows how many prostitutes were given that nickname and forced through the paces of his Black Jenny act. With Sarah he eventually took it to its original conclusion. He smothered her--this time for failing to produce a living son. (Not to put her out of her alcoholic misery, or to free her from death from cervical cancer, which were David's theories).
So there's Amelia, years later, fantasizing that she's an Elizabethan whore called Black Jenny - and also dreaming it in dreams that confuse Shakespeare, Othello and her father. You'll be relieved to know I can't believe any longer that there was incest for real.
In fact this just goes to show the dangers of repressed memories assuming an illusory form and coming to the surface, where a susceptible therapist (even me, dear Rosie) might take them for fact, and encourage them, unwittingly implanting memories of all kinds of sexual abuse that never occurred.
I think Lawrence "punished" Black Jenny and her surrogate successors. I think he turned the whole thing into a fetishist ritual with a nasty touch of sadism. I think Amelia accidentally entered the room once when her mother was going through their rape and suffocation scenario in her naughty French underwear. Probably unnoticed by either of them. Probably this happened several times.Possibly but probably not the time he actually took it to its final conclusion and smothered her for real. All the same the poor child must have stood there, frozen, watching, on many occasions.
After such a traumatic experience, which she repressed, puberty began and with it fantasies and dreams of being a whore dressed in sexy black underwear. She must somehow have gotten hold of the fact that Black Jenny was the name her father gave to her mother in their little act. These fantasies were her way of coping with her mother's frightful death -- her way of trying to bring her mother back to life.
I tell you, I've had my share of bizarre cases, but nothing like this one. Psychogenic amnesia, call it what you will--it's not surprising Amelia couldn't remember anything about her mother except what Lawrence told her.
Given the timing of Daniel's conception around the date in the photograph--October 1956--I think I can safely conclude that Lawrence was Daniel's father.
I haven't talked to Amelia or Daniel about any of this and don't intend to. I've seen no recent evidence of her Black Jenny fantasy--maybe she's outgrown it --and the last thing I'd do is tempt it back with a lot of unnecessary theories and revelations. Baby Willam, if he's the product of a half-brother/half-sister marriage, is a delightful one.
When I saw Amelia yesterday she was clearly, hugely enjoying him. I told you motherhood would work for her, didn't I? Daniel asked me if I think they have a shot at a life together, and I said yes--it will be tough, but yes. You'll be delighted to hear that I actually said love heals. (I know you'll translate that to 'God heals' and I know you'll pray for them. I'm glad--they'll need a lot of help in the next few months. )
Well, Rosie, life is full of surprises. Daniel and Amelia and their baby are living here in Cambridge, and since many of Amelia's oddball ideas about Shakespeare are now accepted, Harvard has offered her an associate professorship starting next semester. She hasn't said yes, but while she makes her mind up the three of them are going off to join the dog at their summer house on Nantucket.
I'm still not smoking, you'll be glad to hear, though I still get the urge. Do you remember when we were up all night discussing that guy who wanted to know where it was legal to marry your sister? I'm not sure where the law stands on half-siblings.
Well, that's all for now. No doubt you'll be as appalled by some of it as I am. If you can figure out anything further from what I've told you, let me know--like how Amelia ever got interested in Shakespeare in the first place. Bugs the hell out of me. I'll send you the draft of my paper before it goes off to the journal.
Write soon. You know how much I love your rambling letters. Say Hi to your mom. And from me a big warm hug.
A last snippet before this letter goes off. I just saw Daniel again. Now I know for sure what was making him so nervous the first time. He's just done some DNA tests on himself and baby William at the Whitehead. Somehow he's figured that Lawrence Hungerford was his own father.
The tests prove that Daniel is the biological father of William. I realized at the beginning he suspected Lawrence of being the baby's father. Still, Daniel and I are going to have to put in some painful hours.