"If you know where Zachary is," Mrs. Stanhope said, "and if you have any conscience at all, you will notify the police at once. Despite what you may think, it was loyalty to Zachary that prompted me to conceal the facts about his quarrel with Justin from the authorities, instead of repeating it as I should have done."

Julie put her chin up, but her voice was shaking. "Why should you have done that?"

"Because they would have arrested him, and then he would have gotten psychiatric help! Zachary killed his own brother, and he killed his wife. If he had gotten psychiatric help, then perhaps Rachel Evans would not be lying in her grave. The guilt for her death is on my shoulders, and I cannot tell you how crushing a burden it is. If it had not been obvious from the beginning that Zachary was going to be convicted of killing her, I would have had no choice but to come forward with the truth about Justin's death." She stopped, her face twisting as she visibly tried to get control. "For your own sake, turn him in. Otherwise, there will be another victim someday, and you will live the rest of your life carrying the same burden of guilt that I must bear."

"He is not a murderer!" Julie cried.

"Isn't he?"

"No!"

"But you can't deny he's a liar," Mrs. Stanhope put in irrefutably. "Either he lied to you or he lied to the authorities about Justin's death, didn't he?"

Julie refused to answer. She refused because she couldn't bear to admit it aloud.

"He is a liar," Mrs. Stanhope stated emphatically. "And he is such a good liar that he found the perfect career for himself—acting." She started to turn away, then she stopped and looked over her shoulder. "Perhaps," she added in a weary, defeated tone that was somehow more alarming and more effective than her earlier wrath had been, "Zachary truly believes his own lies and that is why he is so convincing. Perhaps he believed he was those men he played in movies, and that is why he was such a 'gifted' actor. In his movies, he played men who murdered needlessly and then escaped the consequences because they were 'heroes.' Perhaps he thought he could murder his wife and also escape the consequences because he was a film 'hero.' Perhaps," she finished emphatically, "he can no longer separate reality from fantasy."

Fighting her reeling senses, Julie clutched her purse to her chest so tightly that it collapsed in her grip. "Are you suggesting he's insane?" she demanded.

Mrs. Stanhope's shoulders drooped and her voice sunk to a whisper, as if the act of speaking suddenly took a supreme effort. "Yes, Miss Mathison. That is exactly what I am suggesting. Zachary is insane."

Julie didn't know whether the older woman lingered in the foyer or not. Without a word, she turned and left, walking swiftly out to the car, suppressing the urge to run, to flee from the evil of this house and its secrets and the seed of terrifying doubt it had planted in her heart. She'd intended to stay overnight in a motel and explore Zack's birthplace, instead she drove straight to the airport, returned the rental car, and took the first commuter flight leaving Ridgemont's tiny airport.

Chapter 55

Tommy Newton glanced up from the script he was marking on as his sister walked into the living room of his Los Angeles home, where she was spending the weekend. "What's wrong?" he asked her.

"You just got a crank call," she told him with a nervous laugh. "At least, I hope it was."

"Los Angeles is full of weirdos who make obscene calls," Tommy reassured her. Jokingly, he added, "In southern California that's an ordinary means of communication. Everybody here feels alienated, haven't you heard? That's why this town is a haven for shrinks."

"This wasn't an obscene call, Tommy."

"What was it then?"

She spoke slowly and shook her head, her brow furrowed in doubt. "The man said he was Zack Benedict."

"Zack?" Tommy repeated with a short, derisive laugh. "That's ridiculous. What else did he say?"

"He said … to tell you he's going to kill you. He said you know who killed Rachel and he's going to kill you for not testifying."

"That's crazy!"

"He didn't sound crazy, Tommy. He sounded dead serious." She shivered at her unintentional pun. "I think you ought to call the police."

Tommy hesitated then shook his head. "Whoever it was, he was a crank."

"How did a crank get your unlisted phone number?"

"Evidently," he tried to joke, "I'm personally acquainted with a crank."

His sister picked up the telephone from the table beside the sofa and held the receiver toward him. "Call the police. If you won't do it for your own safety, do it because it's your duty."

"All right," he said with a sigh, "but they'll laugh in my face."

* * *

In her house in Beverly Hills, Diana Copeland pulled out of her lover's arms and reached for the phone beside the sofa.

"Diana!" he groaned. "Let your maid answer it."

"This is my private line," she explained to the man whose face was as familiar as her own to moviegoers. "It might be a change in shooting schedule tomorrow. Hello?" she said.

"This is Zack, Dee Dee," the deep voice said. "You know who killed Rachel. You let me go to jail for it. Now you're as good as dead."

"Zack, wait—!" she burst out, but the line went silent in her hand.

"Who was that?"

Diana stood up, staring blindly at him, her body stiff with shock. "It was Zack Benedict—"

"What? Are you sure?"

"He—he called me Dee Dee. Zack is the only one who ever called me that."

Turning on her heel, she left him there and went into her bedroom, then she picked up the telephone and dialed a phone number. "Tony?" she said shakily. "I just got a call from—from Zack Benedict."

"So did I. It's some crank. It wasn't Zack."

"He called me Dee Dee! Only Zack ever did that. He said I know who killed Rachel and I let him go to jail for it. He said he's going to kill me now."

"Calm down! It's bullshit! It's some crank, maybe even some tabloid reporter, stirring up a new slant on a dying story."

"I'm calling the cops."

"Make a fool of yourself if that's what you want to do, but leave me out of it. That guy wasn't Zack."

"I tell you it was!"

* * *

Emily McDaniels sank down on a chaise lounge beside the swimming pool at the sprawling Benedict Canyon house owned by her husband, Dr. Richard Grover. Life had been one long honeymoon for the six months they'd been married, and she watched him swimming laps in the pool, admiring the way his body effortlessly cleaved the water. He cut the last lap short and surfaced at the edge of the pool, right beside her. "Who was on the phone?" he asked, shoving his hair out of his eyes with the long-fingered hands that performed delicate neurosurgery at Cedars—Sinai Medical Center. "Tell me it wasn't my answering service," he pleaded half-seriously, crossing his arms on the edge of the pool, studying her crestfallen expression.


Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance
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