|The Evil of Two
By Brian D. Roth
Doctor Manneval shifted uncomfortably. He braced himself for Alex’s words, his verbal daggers. “All
right,” he said. “Tell me.”
Alex pressed his lips into a thin line. His pupils swelled and darkened. “Have you ever had someone
betray you, Doctor? Someone you loved.”
The doctor hardly knew what to say. He wished he had. It might have enabled him to break Alex’s reverie.
Manneval remained speechless. He had no choice but to allow Alex to continue.
A resignation of vengeance lurked in Alex Ackerson’s eyes. “My wife slept with another man. She tainted
our love. She turned it into poison.”
“I questioned her but she never gave me any answers. So I punished her. She’ll never cheat on anyone
Alex’s face lit up like a fierce jack-o-lantern.
Doctor Manneval was overcome with an urge to grip something, grip it hard. His hand clasped the chair’s
armrest like an eagle’s talon. How could the doctor explain to Alex that it had been him all along, another
him, a different him?
Staring at Alex, Doctor Manneval stroked his chin with a tremulous thumb and index finger. Did he just say
what I think he said? Do I need to call the authorities?
He probably should under the circumstances. His client had proven to be a danger to others, possibly
even himself. Manneval looked at the phone on his desk. He wanted to reach for it and couldn’t. Not
while Alex kept him in sight. Doctor Manneval forced his hand to resume clasping the armrest.
Besides, Manneval thought, even if what Alex said could be constituted as a confession, what was he
supposed to tell the authorities? While his client resembled Larry, it wasn’t he who attacked his wife but a
deranged alter-ego? One could not be cryptic when speaking to the police. Even if they apprehended
Alex, what would become of Larry Crandall?
Larry had been hypnotized for some time, floundering in a miasma of anger, of bitterness. Experience had
taught Doctor Manneval that hypnotizing someone was easy. Finding them through the fog, grasping their
hand and reeling them back into reality was always much more difficult.
Alex smiled a cold, brittle smile as gentle as an icepick. “Would you like to hear what happened to some of
my other unfaithful women?”
No, please don’t. I believe I’ve heard enough.
Of course, he didn’t dare say no to this man. “I’m open to whatever it is you have to tell me.” He lied.
“However,” the doctor squinted at the clock, “I’m afraid we’re almost out of –“
“There was this one girl,” Alex began as though Manneval hadn’t spoken at all, “a petite blonde,
Stephanie. She was going to school to be a barber. I never would have thought she was promiscuous.
She wasn’t the type. Oh, but she rode men like they were broncos at a rodeo then dared to come home
with hickeys on her neck. I punished her too.” Alex made a cutting gesture with his fingers. “Snip snip,
Loosening his tie and sweating, Doctor Manneval couldn’t endure Alex Ackerson much longer yet forced
himself to listen for another ten minutes.
They were the most dreadful of his life.