Authors: Ruthe Ogilvie
“Don’t blame yourself,” Hildy interrupted. “You didn’t do it. Greg did. Don’t forget—we were dealing with some pretty slick characters.”
“And I have a hunch Manny is just as slick,” Jay agreed.
Hildy rested her head on his shoulder, suddenly needing him to lean on. “I don’t want Courtney to go through what we did. I’m really worried. I’ve never seen Courtney act this way. She seems totally out of control. What is it about Manny that has her so fascinated? I always thought she had a pretty cool head on her shoulders, but I’m beginning to wonder.”
Jay put his arm around her. They stood there gazing up at the stars. The fragrance from the apple tree and some nearby jasmine bushes sneaked through the partly opened window into the bedroom, filling it with a delicious perfume. The soft, haunting strains of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto, coming from the radio on the bedside table, pervaded the room.
Jay leaned down and kissed Hildy. In spite of their concern for Courtney, they couldn’t ignore their deep need for each other. The kiss, casual at first, very quickly became filled with passion. He picked her up and took her to their bed. After all these years the deep love they had for each other demanded its expression.
Early the next morning Zack was sipping his first cup of coffee when the phone rang. He picked it up quickly to keep the ringing from waking the others.
Jay was already awake, and entered the room just as Zack answered the call.
“Who is it?” Jay asked.
Zack held up his hand, silencing him so he could hear what was being said on the other end. It was Gus Johnson calling from Spain.
“Gus! What did you find out?” Zack asked eagerly.
“Very little so far, but I thought I should keep you posted. I’m flying to Paris this afternoon to follow up on a lead. I plan to be there the rest of the week. I’ll be back here on Monday and call you then.”
“You found something to connect Manny to Paris?”
“That’s what I’m going there to find out,” Gus told him. “I’ll call you as soon as I know something definite.”
“Thanks, Gus. I appreciate it.” Zack hung up and faced Jay.
“What?” Jay asked impatiently. “Did he find out something about Manny?”
“He’s going to Paris to follow a lead. He’ll let me know further details when he’s ready. It’s nothing definite yet, but he’s on to something.”
“Paris!” Jay exclaimed. He was too horrified to utter what he was thinking.
“Don’t jump to any conclusions yet,” Zack warned him. “Wait and see what Gus uncovers. Don’t say anything to the others until we know for certain. Courtney mustn’t suspect what we’re doing. She might say something to Manny, and that’s the last thing we need.”
“When did Gus say he’d be in touch again?” Jay asked him.
“He’s returning to Spain on Monday. He’ll call me then. In the meantime I suggest we play it cool. Manny said he’d be here today. We’ll have a chance to evaluate him more fully. If he’s up to something he’s bound to give it away sooner or later. Let’s hope it’s sooner.”
By this time the others were approaching the breakfast room, and Zack and Jay put aside their worries and greeted them with a smile.
It was raining this morning and breakfast was being served inside. The fire in the brick fireplace crackled its warm, cozy, comforting message of peace.
On the mat in front of the fireplace Angus lay on his stomach. He put his head on his paws and emitted a deep, contented sigh. His whole family was here, and he purred.
They had just finished breakfast when the phone rang.
Courtney jumped up to answer it.
It was Manny.
Courtney returned to the room, all smiles. “Manny’s on his way!” she announced. She didn’t try to hide her excitement. “I hope you’ll be nice to him,” she pleaded.
“Aren’t we always nice to guests?” Jeremy reminded her.
“I’m going to change into my new outfit,” she announced. She acted in a daze. As she started to leave, Cammie interrupted her.
“What’s wrong with what you have on? You look fine.”
Courtney hesitated. “He’ll be here in a few minutes. I want to look my best.” She made a hasty retreat.
“I don’t think she heard a word you said,” Jeremy told Cammie. “What’s the matter with her? I’ve never seen her so agitated.”
Fran looked worried. “That’s not like my granddaughter,” he said, alarmed. “What do you suppose is going on?”
Zack sat quietly, taking it all in. He was anxious to hear what Gus would have to say, but he knew he would have to wait till Monday when he returned from Paris.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Andre open his mouth to say something, then stop. What’s on his mind? he wondered.
His thoughts were interrupted by the melodic chimes of the doorbell playing a few bars of a tune from one of Hildy’s musicals. Manny was here.
The maid ushered him in to the breakfast room where they were all sitting. All except Courtney.
“Where’s Courtney?” Manny asked.
“Right here.” Courtney stood behind him. She had on her new jumpsuit and fancy earrings she had bought to go with it. She looked like a model about to enter the runway at a fashion show.
Manny swung around and grabbed her hand. He was just about to put his arm around her when Angus rose from in front of the fireplace and came over to see what was going on.
He stood in front of Manny, staring at him. His tail was held high, a sure sign of suspicion. Then he did something Jay and Hildy had never known him to do. A soft, low growl issued from his throat.
Jay and Hildy looked at each other—then at Zack.
Zack nodded in their direction. What he had been afraid of all along had just been verified. Manny wasn’t one of the good guys.
Manny stared back at the dog. He fastened his eyes on Angus for fully ten seconds, not moving.
Angus stopped growling. His tail fell down between his legs. He emitted a pathetic sounding whimper, crawled over to the corner of the room, and cowered like a whipped puppy. What Manny did to make the dog back off was a mystery.
Out of the corner of his eye Zack saw a look of awareness on Andre’s face. He knows what’s going on! he realized with a shock. He excused himself and rose from the table. As he left he nodded to Andre, who followed him into the other room.
When they were out of earshot Zack turned and faced him. “I think you know what just happened. What was it?”
“Sir—” Andre hesitated.
“Come on!” Zack commanded. “Tell me!”
“Sir, I believe Manny just hypnotized the dog.”
Zack nodded. “I thought so. That must be the power he’s wielding over Courtney.”
“I believe so,” Andre replied. “Sir, if I may say something—she seems possessed, as though someone has taken over her thinking. I’ve seen acts in supper clubs where participants have been called up on stage and been hypnotized. They had the same vacant look in their eyes that I see now in Miss Courtney’s. Unfortunately she doesn’t know how to defend herself against it. There’s a way to do that, you know. You can’t be hypnotized unless you want to be—or unless you’re unaware of what’s going on. I think she was so enamored of his good looks and phony charm that she fell completely under his spell.”
“But when did he hypnotize her? She wasn’t alone with him long enough for him to—”
“Oh, but she was, Sir,” Andre interrupted. “She was alone with him on the plane all the way from Paris to New York.”
Zack’s face fell. “I should have stopped her from going back into Business Class!” he lamented. “It’s all my fault.”
“It’s not your fault, Sir,” Andre was quick to correct him. “You couldn’t have stopped her. I think he started to hypnotize her as we boarded the plane. She had no idea what was happening. His hypnotic powers may have included you temporarily, and blinded you to what was going on. These hypnotists are very clever. But you’re on to him now, so beware. Now that you know what’s going on you can defend yourself against any further attempt to keep you from finding out the truth.”
Zack reached out and shook Andre’s hand. “Thank you. You’ve done us all a great favor. The problem is—how do I undo the spell that Manny has cast over Courtney?”
“I don’t know, Sir,” Andre told him. “I guess it would take an expert on hypnotism.”
“Do you know of any such person?”
Andre shook his head. “No, Sir, I don’t. I wish I did. I’m afraid I’m not any help to you.”
“Oh, you’ve been a big help, Andre,” Zack assured him. “At least now we know what we’re up against, and that’s half the battle.”
t Courtney’s request Manny stayed through lunch and dinner. Angus remained in his corner near the fireplace.
Jay went over and patted him on the head, but he didn’t respond.
Zack watched with a hawk’s eye and saw Angus tremble under Jay’s hand as he stroked him. This wasn’t like Angus at all.
“I think Angus is sick,” Jay told the others. He went to the phone and dialed the vet, Dr. Nathaniel Drake, who lived just a few doors down the street—then hung up and went back to Angus with his leash in his hand. Angus refused to move.
“Angus,” Jay said gently.
Hildy came over and spoke to the dog in a soft tone. “Angus, get up.”
She pulled gently but firmly on his collar, but he wouldn’t budge.
Jay reached down and picked him up in his arms. “I’m taking him to the vet,” he told them.
“I’m coming with you,” Hildy announced.
Together they went down to the garage with Angus still in Jay’s arms.
Andre glanced at Zack, who sat still, expressionless. He returned Andre’s gaze and nodded.
Then something unexpected happened. As soon as Hildy and Jay left, Manny decided it was time to go. He sounded nervous.
“Do you have to leave so soon?” Courtney pleaded. “Can’t you wait till they get back with Angus?”
Manny appeared a bit unglued. “No!” he insisted. “I have to go right now!”
He spoke in a tone that defied challenge.
Zack jumped up. “I’ll get your coat.”
Courtney accompanied Manny to the door, holding on to his arm as though she would never let go. “When will I see you again?” she begged.
“I’ll call you,” Manny promised.
“Why do you have to leave?” she persisted.
But Manny was insistent. As soon as Zack handed him his coat he said goodbye abruptly, leaving a disconsolate Courtney standing at the door watching him drive off.
What is Manny afraid of? Zack wondered. Why didn’t he want to be here when Angus came back? Was he afraid the hypnotic spell he cast over him would lose its hold? If it did, Zack was sure that Angus wouldn’t react kindly to Manny’s presence.
Manny had been gone only fifteen minutes when Hildy and Jay returned with Angus.
“What did the vet say?” Zack asked them.
“He didn’t say anything,” Hildy said. “He took him into the examining room for a few minutes, then brought him out to us.”
“The minute Angus came out of the room with the vet he was his old self again,” Jay told Zack. “The vet said he checked him over thoroughly and he was fine.” He looked puzzled. “I’ve never seen Angus act like that. Something is very odd.”
Zack merely nodded and said nothing further. Jay is no dummy, he mused. He knows that I’m on to something, and as soon as he gets me alone he’ll ask me what it is. I have no choice but to tell him. But how? And how much? He didn’t want to alarm him unnecessarily.
It was Monday morning. Zack sipped his coffee while he pondered how he would tell Jay, without alarming him, what had been wrong with Angus yesterday.
But when Jay walked in with Courtney, he realized that this was not the right time.
The jangling of the phone snapped him out of his thoughts.
The maid appeared at the door. “It’s for you, Mr. Davis,” she announced. “Someone calling from Paris.”
Gus! Zack rose hastily from his chair. “I’ll take it in my room.” He took the stairs two at a time, anxious to hear what Gus had uncovered. It must be urgent! he thought. He’s not even waiting till he gets back to Spain.
He picked up the phone. “Gus! What is it?”
“I’m just about to board the plane back to Spain—Parisian Airlines, Flight #4. I’m being followed. I know who Manny Kasnov is. He’s used several aliases—Carlos Mantilla—Juan Moya—Mario Sanchez—and now Manfred Kasnov. He’s bad news, Zack. He used to be a hypnotist. He appeared in night clubs in Paris and Madrid. I have to tell you the whole story now in case I don’t make it back to Spain. He—uh—oh—” A gasp—a moan—