Broken Queen

Page 30

“No, thanks,” I answer for us both as we’re shown into Tilbury’s oversized, luxurious office where he takes a seat behind his desk, and we’re directed to sit on the leather chairs across from it. Behind him on the wall are various degrees. Apart from that, there is nothing personal. No photos of anyone, not even a dog. As far as I know, he’s never married and never had children, nor does he have siblings.
He opens the laptop on his desk and puts a pair of reading glasses on. “Now about Hannah. She’s fourteen, if I recall.”
I grip the arms of the seat at the mention of Hannah’s name, her age. So far, it’s all the truth. But things are going to get trickier when he digs deeper. Good news is we have enough on him that he’ll go along with what he need him to go along with.
“That was Vittoria’s age, and you worked with her for about a year, is that right, Doctor?” I ask.
He types something, then turns back to us and removes his glasses. “That’s right. Vittoria’s case was complicated, and well, I was not as experienced as I am now. Your sister’s case is less involved from what I gather. You can expect her to spend about four months, perhaps five, at the clinic. My methods have developed over time, their effectiveness and… thoroughness, depending on the patient’s receptibility, of course.” He leans toward us. “I’m sure I’m not failing to protect anyone’s rights to privacy when I say Vittoria was of a difficult nature.”
“How do you mean?”
“She was not so malleable. Easy to bend.”
Did he really just say that of a fourteen-year-old girl in his care? The look in my eyes must alarm him because he clears his throat.
“Go on, Doctor,” Bruno says. “We’d hold anything you say about any former patient in strictest confidence. Our visit here is a secret. And given the delicate nature of things, well, I think I can say we can all speak openly. We are, of course, prepared to pay substantially for any help you are able to provide.”
Tilbury clears his throat. “Let’s speak freely indeed.” Because money talks. Fucking greedy bastard.
Bruno and I remain silent.
“I took custody of Vittoria within a few days of… the incident. She was a minor, and of course, given the circumstances, she wouldn’t have been prosecuted and her name never released to the public, but these things have a way of getting out, don’t they? Especially for a family such as theirs. Her father wanted to erase the event altogether. He wanted her unblemished. Pure. Like she had been. And I understand. He loved his daughter, and I believe it broke a piece of him to see her so broken.” He stops to drink a sip of steaming lemon water from his glass on the desk. “But when I was finished, I’m happy to say I was able to give him his little girl back almost exactly as she was before.”
“Almostexactly?” Bruno asks.
“Well, like I told you, I was not as experienced, and Vittoria’s case was… shall we say extreme? Hannah will be delivered exactly as you want her.”
I like these Stepford Wives vibes less and less.
“How was Vittoria’s case extreme?” I ask, focusing on what I need to get out of this meeting.
He hesitates.
“Geno Russo is dead, Dr. Tilbury,” I say, leaning my elbows on his desk. “I have no intention of sharing anything I learn here about Vittoria. I just want to be sure this is the right place and the best treatment for my sister.”
He nods. “I was unable to isolate the event in Vittoria’s case.”
We wait.
“In the end, more time was erased than ideal, but it was erased. Now as to my methods,” he says, changing the subject. I put a pin in it and watch as he directs our attention to the side wall, where a screen silently descends from the ceiling. “I use a specific type of hypnosis coupled with electroconvulsive therapy, ECT as you may know it…” he continues, but I stop listening because the room darkens, and an image fills the screen.
My heart misses a beat as I take her in. She looks a lot like she does now just younger. So much younger. Her face is softer, more rounded, hair cut like a kid took scissors to it, and it looks like it hasn’t been brushed in days. She’s barefoot, wearing a hospital gown that is too big on her and she’s alone in a padded room with a cot in one corner. Everything is pristine white and too bright. And Vittoria is pacing, pacing, pacing and muttering to herself. Every few minutes, she stops to look at her hands back and front, back and front, like I’ve seen her do a few times. But I see how red the skin of her hands is, and the blotches look raw. Her lips move, and although there’s audio, we can’t make out the words.
Dr. Tilbury, looking much like he does now, enters with two men in scrubs, and it’s like a fucking horror movie. Vittoria stops dead, looks at him, then at them. She takes a step back and shakes her head. But then her expression changes. It softens. And I see Geno Russo come into the screen behind the doctor.
“Daddy.” She tilts her head, then looks at her hands again, back and front before scratching her head almost violently. When she looks back up, her eyes are wet with tears. Against the doctor’s orders, Geno Russo hugs his daughter, and I see him squeeze his eyes shut.
This is the same man who ordered his men to slice our faces, to smash my father’s knees. The same man to whom a human life, a child’s life, was worth fifteen hundred dollars. I can’t reconcile the two.
“Daddy. I can’t get them clean. I can’t,” Vittoria says, drawing back. “Tell them I need the bleach. Tell them I need it. I need it, or it won’t come off. Daddy, tell them…”
“That’s enough,” I say, turning back to the doctor. He’s watching as if entertained, as if all that’s missing is a fucking tub of popcorn. I’m going to fucking kill him.
“But my methods—”
“Shut it off!”