CHAPTER ONE


  The big red Buick was doing eighty miles an hour.

  It was coming along Alumni Row, which fronts the University Memorial Union building, and  it was like a scarlet bullet. I saw it and stopped at the crosswalk. Rhea Carson saw it and stopped beside me.

  Rhea Carson is a lady diplomat, highly connected in the State Department.  She is a very valuable person to the United States. She is the only person in our known world that the Arab States trust, and that the Israeli government also trusts.  Abdel Nasser likes her, as do King Hussein of Jordon, Shah Mohammed Reza Palayi of Iran, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Houari Boumediene of Algeria, and the President of Syria, Noureddin Attassi.  So, too, do Moyshe Dayan and Premier Levi Eshkol of Israel.

  When the red car was a hundred feet away—

  Rhea Carson leaped in front of it.

  I had just turned to ask her a question.  I had been selected by the Board of Trustees to escort Miss Carson around the university campus.  She was here to make a speech in the new gymnasium that holds upwards of eighteen thousand people, this very evening.  Not a vacant seat could be found for that address.

  Her topic was to be: The Prospects of Permanent Peace Between Arabs and Israelis in the Near East.  Not only university students were to be there, but members of the United Nations, some congressmen, and a couple of foreign ambassadors.

  Rhea's work at the United Nations behind closed doors with members of the United Arab Republic, and behind closed doors with Israeli representatives, had brought the faint promise of hope to all Middle East negotiations.  Instead of war, there might be peace. Her silver tongue, her calm confidence, her liking for both Arab and Israeli as members of the brotherhood of men, were world famous.

  She must live to continue that great beginning.

  But now—

  Rhea Carson was trying to commit suicide!

  I did not stand there frozen.  My name is Rod Damon, I am a sociology professor at the university.  I am also the founder of the League for Sexual Dynamics, which I work with as an adjunct to the sociology program.  Add in the facts that I do secret work for the Thaddeus X. Coxe Foundation and that I am trained to react with lightning speed to the new or unusual, and you may get some idea of why I did what I did so fast.

  She was in mid-air when I jumped, diving at her the way a Green Bay flanker back dives for a runner.  I went off my feet, my arms pincered in on the Carson hips, my head bent to ram her thigh with extra force.

  The car was on top of us.

  It was going to be a near thing, at best.  My arms went around a pair of soft thirty-six-inch hips and locked tight.  My momentum carried us both forward. I heard Rhea Carson give a shrill cry.  Of dismay? Of despair? Of delight? I could not tell.

  Something hit my ankle, spun me.

  Then the lady diplomat was going down hard on the pavement of the road with me on top of her, and the red care as a scarlet blur out of the corners of my eyes.  Rhea Carson bounced. I bounced right along with her. We lay there panting, staring into each other's eyes.

  "What the hell were you trying to do?"  I rasped.

  Her green eyes filled with tears.  Her red lower lip quivered. "I—I d-don't know.  All of a sudden—I had to hurl myself in front of that car."

  She sniffed and her body began to shake in nervous tremors.  She lay gasping under me and her soft flesh moved and all I could think was, she felt damn good against my hard body.

  I realized where we were and that students were running toward us across the campus.  Hundreds of eyes were glued to our quivering bodies. I tried to smile down at her as I wriggled off her belly and got to my feet.

  I caught her wrist and lifted her up.

  "You all right, Professor?"  a girl called.

  "Like, man, that was a rare scare!"  a boy howled.

  "How about you, Mrs. Carson?"

  She was smiling, brushing at her blouse and skirt, flushing a little, trying to be a good sport about the attention.  I gave her a hand to dislodge some of the dirt adhering to her skirt. I was then I noticed she had no girdle on. Her buttocks were soft, smooth and they jiggled where I touched them.

  "I—I'm all right," she told the students, blinking in her nervousness.  My hand caught her elbow firmly.

  "You're coming along with me, young lady," I said, turning her on a heel and helping her to the walk.

  "Oh, but really!  I don't want to be any bother," she said hurriedly.

  I knew how to deal with women.  It's a big part of my job. In my roles as professor and sexologist, I am in constant contact with girl students, lady teachers and administrators, female deans.  Mostly, I can read them like a book.

  Rhea Carson wanted to be pampered.  She wanted a male to fuss over her, reassuring her against the fright that still etched lines on her face.  But she could not come out openly and say so; she had to rely on my instinctive understanding.

  "My hose, my face," she was saying, almost running as I hurried her along.  "I must be a fright."

  "My pad isn't far.  A few minutes. It's just off campus really.  You can lie down and take a rest. I'll bring you Irish coffee, in the proper glass."

  She laughed, half sobbing.

  While I was lifting out the key to my apartment in the four-apartment house where I am a tenant, she began to cry.  The tears just welled up in her eyes and trickled down her cheeks. It was her feminine reaction to her near-miss with death; I was damn glad it hadn't happened sooner.  I could handle a hysterical female in my rooms, but on the street it might have been a different matter.

  I pushed open the door; my hand at the small of her back pushed her forward into the living room of my little suite.  She bent her head, let her face fall forward into her cupped hands, and bawled.

  "I—I wanted to do it.  I really wanted to kill myself."  she sobbed. "The man in the car wasn't trying to kill me!"  I had thought of that possibility, but now I discarded the notion completely.  Her wet face raised to look at me. "I actually t-tried to c-commit suicide!"

  "But that's silly.  Why should you want to do that?"

  "I d-don't know.  That's what frightens me."

  She was shaking all over in the first stages of incipient hysteria.  I had to do something to snap her out of it, or she would become a hospital case.  And with her talk due for eight o'clock tonight, this would be front page news stuff.

  I guided her to an easy chair.  "You sit down there. I'm going to make you comfortable."

  As she sat, I knelt down and reached under her skirt, sliding my palms along her stockinged thighs.  She forgot her tears and her fright and sat up a little straighter.

  She said, "Oh!"

  "I just want to take your stocking off, to check for bruises."  I smiled up at her startled face. My fingers were working on the garter clasp, unfastening it and its two mates.  I began rolling down the black nylon.

  "But—but really..."

  Her thigh skin was very smooth.  Creamy. Was I mistaken, or did her leg give a little shiver where my fingertips caressed her?  She did not push my hand away, but her color heightened.

  I undid the other garter and rolled down the other stocking.  With the nylons crumpled at her ankles, I slipped off her shoes and removed the stockings.  Her legs were damn shapely, naked with her skirt hem pushed to her upper thighs.

  She half laughed, "I'm showing you a lot, Professor."

  I was putting her stockings in her shoes as I let my eyes assess her legs.  I nodded, saying, "But you aren't worrying about what happened back there."

  Her laughter rang out.  It was a nice laughter, a little deep and throaty.  Cleopatra might have laughed like that, or Delilah, or even Jezebel.  There is much of all those women in every female born.

  I lean forward and kissed her soft thigh, well above the knee.  Her flesh smelled good, with the faintest trace of Shalimar perfume.  Up this close, I could see beneath the skirt hem to her black girdle. Rhea Carson wore no panties, so my eyes had a treat.

  "Well, really," she gasped as her fingers caught my head and held it motionless.  "I ought to feel insulted, Professor! What in the world do you think you're doing?"

  Her voice told me with its quaver that she was not as averse to my kisses as her words implied.  Her fingers were quivering on my head, but they did not move my lips away from her soft thigh flesh.  Rhea Carson was poised on a psychic fence. One wrong move and she would flop one way; the right move, even the right words, might topple her over on my side where the fun was, and where there was no incipient hysteria.

  "You're a damn attractive female, Rhea,"  my lips told her, moving against her thigh flesh.  "I think you forget about that when you get so involved with the international situation."

  My lips kissed along the soft thigh.  The hands on my head went right along with me, as if they were mesmerized.

  It would have been fatal to tell her I just wanted to get her mind off the near-accident.  I would have insulted her femininity, which means: her appeal to a male. A woman can forgive almost anything but that.  Rhea Carson was no exception, diplomat though she might be.

  "I'm going to tell you something you can file away and then forget," I went on, still kissing up and down her shivering thigh.  "When I saw you, I told myself you were one female I'd like to take to bed."

  It was a risk. She could get to her feet and go storming out of my pad, assuring me she was going to make a complaint to the university authorities.  I might get the sack for what I was doing, for what I'd just said. But if I knew my women—and as the founder of L.S.D. I flattered myself that I did—she would sit and take it, and silently beg for more.  It had been a long time since Rhea Carson had thought of herself in terms of legs, breasts and her own latent sexuality.

  Her eyes were mere slits, staring down at me.  Her tongue tip was moistening her full red mouth.  Almost for the first time, I looked at her as a possible bed-mate

  She was in her late thirties, she was four inches over five feet, and she weighted in the neighborhood of a hundred and twenty pounds.  This poundage was nicely distributed. Her hips were wide, her middle was slim, but she carried a pair of breasts that made big bulges in her tailored blouse.  It may have been my imagination, but the bulges looked bigger than they had been before I took her stockings off.

  "Better undress," I informed her happily.  "Please stand."

  "You must be j-joking!  I haven't taken my clothes off in front of a man in five years."  She was still poised on the borderline between hysteria and anger.  Her eyes were wide, her full lips trembled. Shock had entered her system by this time, but I was giving her something beside her troubles to think about, and I could only hope it would work.

  "You should have...lots of times," I told her, putting a palm on her calf and sliding it up to her soft outer thigh and back again.  "You're a very attractive woman."

  "I'm a woman with a curse," she whispered, her fear showing again.  Under my hand her thigh trembled, but her libido had nothing to do with it.

  I lifted to my feet.  She made a pretty picture, seated on the big divan with her legs nude from upper thighs to her red toenails.  I sat down beside her, put my left arm about her shoulders. She was going to require to gentle, slow approach.  So I set about it, drawing her closer.

  "Tell me," I breathed.

  "I—I've tried to kill myself before this," she whimpered.  Her head fell sideways onto my shoulder. Her eyelids closed.

  "It was in a Paris hotel.  I tried to throw myself out a window of the ninth floor.  Luckily, the chambermaid opened the door just as I was sliding a leg over the sill.  She caught me and dragged me back."

  My right hand was stroking her cheek and throat.  I let my palm slip downward so that it could feel the heaviness of her breast.  She stirred a little, her thighs pressed together, she opened her lips to breathe.  I was transferring one emotional spasm to another, and she didn't fight me.

  "If you didn't have suicidal tendencies, you wouldn't have tried to kill yourself," I pointed out.

  "But I never have had them," she whispered defensively.  "I'm a happy woman. I have money, everything I want. I'm well thought of, everywhere."

  "What about your husband?  Could trouble with him cause you to have a death complex?"

  Her nipples were getting hard under my hands.  She was twisting a little to the sensations building in her flesh.  I went on caressing her breasts.

  She licked her lips while her head shook back and forth.  "My husband died some years ago."

  "Perhaps subconsciously you want to join him?"

  "No.  Nothing like that.  We were never madly in love.  He was in the diplomatic service too.  We would go months on end without seeing each other."

  I am an amateur psychologist, in connection with my sociology work, but her problem was too deep-rooted for me to find.  All I could do was prevent hysteria until a psychiatrist took over.

  When she began to cry again, softly, I drew her sideways and with my fingers under her chin, lifted her mouth to my kiss.  I caught her lips between mine. I kissed her gently, wetly. Her body shivered, she pressed her mouth to mine and let her lips go wide.

  Her lips were moist, her tongue was a silent voice calling out to me for help and reassurance.  My own mouth and tongue gave her that reassurance while I used a finger and a thumb to drawn down her blouse zipper.  As she felt the cool air on her back, she let her breasts mash into my chest.

  When she drew back for air, mouth open and her cheeks flushed, I drew her blouse off her shoulders and down her arms.  Her plump shoulders were indented by blue brassiere straps, her milky breasts overflowed the bra cups in creamy softness that shook as she breathed.

  I kissed her bared shoulders, I ran my mouth down the swells of her breasts where they bulged up out of the C cups.  My tongue ran across that warm breast-flesh where it was exposed.

  "I must be crazy," she gasped.  "I feel as if I'm in some sort of dream.  I only met you an hour or two ago and now I'm letting you treat me like—like a call girl."

  "Why not—a wife?"  I whispered.

  She shivered, still half in her dream world.

  "I admit I haven't been myself lately," she murmured above my head.  "Ever since I had that accident in Paris—oooh, you must stop! I—I can't think straight when you're...doing that."  Her soft palms cupped my face. Instead of lifting my mouth away from her, she move my lips from one breast to the other.

  "You do too much thinking," I breathed.  "It's time you relaxed a little. Everybody needs relaxation, even famous lady diplomats."

  Her voice was a throaty murmur.  "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to seduce me, Professor Damon."

  My hand was moving inside her brassiere, sliding fingers under her breast.  I could hear her panting above me. She damn well like what I was doing. She could talk all she wanted, but she needed this love play the way a sick child needs medicine.

  I got the breast out, so that its weight was held by the down pulled brassiere cup.  It quivered, big and white and swollen, and the dark brown nipple was an inch long. I kissed her nipple while I freed her other breast.  She was sighing steadily and she turned her torso sideways until her unkissed nipple almost touched my mouth. I drew it in, welcoming it with a lashing tongue tip.

  Rhea Carson moaned.

  I was affected myself.  Kissing her heavy breasts, having seen her handsome legs in stockings and without, my maleness was being geared for what the French call fruit d'amour.

  "We must stop," she whispered.

  "Give me a reason," I breathed onto her wet nipple.

  "We've only just me."

  I kissed her other breast.  "I could know you for ten years and not be any more aroused by your womanhood than I am right now."

  "Are you aroused?"

  "Find out for yourself."

  She put a hand toward my loins, but drew it back instantly.  Her body grew stiff against me as she pushed herself away. "I must be mad!"  she cried. She did not cover her breasts. They quivered naked in front of me as she lifted her hand and patted her hair in the gesture of the eternal woman.

  I saw that her eyes were fever-bright and that her coloring was heightened.  Maybe she wanted to put up a front, perhaps she wanted to make sure I didn't think she was a pushover, but Rhea Carson desperately needed bedding by a virile male, even if she didn't know it.

  Naturally I was not going to fling myself at her as might an overheated schoolboy.  I am a mature man. I have made love to women as a vocation and as an avocation. This woman wanted a sampling of the Damon technique, but I wanted her to know and accept that fact, admit it honestly to herself.

  So when she got to her feet and stood looking down at me, her breasts bare, I did absolutely nothing.  We locked stares. She drew in a deep breath.

  "At least I stopped your hysteria," I smiled.

  She blinked in surprise, then in sudden anger.  She would not come out and tell me she wanted a love-in.  She had to play the great lady. Maybe she even wanted me to make the first move so she could reject me and build her ego.  It was possible; I've know women like that. Now I'd hurt that ego by as good as telling her I didn't think she was attractive enough to bed down.

  "Is that why you did it?"  she whispered.

  "At first—yes."

  Her pride clung to the two words.  "At first?"

  I reached out and hooked her behind a knee, bringing her down onto my lap.  Her soft thigh felt my excited manhood. She pressed it while she tried to fight my arms that closed around her.

  "Of course, at first," I explained.  "But when I saw how attractive you are, it became for real.  You know?"

  She knew all right.  Her thigh was tight against me.  Rhea Carson tried the haughty bit.  "All right, but you'd better let me go.  We can't do anything about it. We have to continue our walking tour of the university."

  "I don't think we better.  I might not be able to save you next time."

  The fear glinted in her eyes.  Unconsciously she softened the muscular structure of her body so that she lay soft and warm against me.  I took advantage of her changed mood to slide her skirt up to her loins. My hands went between her soft thighs and upward.

  Rhea Carson moaned, quivering.

  "Damn you," she whispered.  "I should have known when I learned you headed that League for Sexual Dynamics that you'd make a play for me."

  I came damn near belting her.  Instead, I made her suffer. My fingers went to work under her girdle.  When she gave soft little cries as she writhed and twisted—not to free herself from my caresses but to spread them over a particular area—I knew I had her.

  "Want to go walking?"

  "Yes—no!  Oh, damn you!  Damon, you—no!"

  She turned in my arms, threw an arm about my neck and kissed me with widespread lips.  She moaned and panted in my open mouth, quivering in reaction to my fondling fingers. Her bared legs were wide apart, she was an honestly hungry woman.

  "What do you want to do?"  I breathed against her tongue, then bit it before she could answer.

  At last she managed to gulp, "Bed me, bed me!  I've never felt like this, all crazy, all shaking."

  The hysteria was gone for sure.

  She was turning, putting her hands down low on me, gripping me, clambering onto my lap with her thighs open.  I think she wanted me to take her right there on my divan. I am no man for hurry-up jobs; a woman is a fine wine to be sampled slowly and carefully, especially the first time.

  Her breath was coming and going right in my face.  I had to slow her down before she got things too far along the way.  My zipper was undone, her soft hand was inside holding me, trying to free me for her pleasure.

  My thumbs and forefingers caught her stiff nipples, pinched them hard.  She gave a cry of pain. Her green eyes blazed down at me as she straddled my legs.

  "What'd you do that for?"  she snapped.

  "Don't rush!"  I snapped. "We have all day.  I want to enjoy this. I want you to enjoy it just as much."

  "But I need it.  I need you!"

  I kissed each of her breasts before I said, "You're going to need me even more, honey.  Now stand up."

  She slid backwards to the floor.  I bent and caught her skirt, unzipping it, pushing it down past her girdled hips and shapely thighs.  As she stepped out of it, she was standing naked in a crumpled black girdle gathered about her hips that hid nothing of her dark femininity, while her breasts were staring at me above her down pulled brassiere cups.

  "Undress me," I ordered.

  She nodded, biting her lower lips, staring at my open fly.  Her body was fleshy, but not fat. There were red girdle marks on her hips where the up drawn girdle bared them.  As a practicing sexologist, I studied her body with more than the normal interest of a soon-to-be-lover.

  Her breasts were hemispherical, as are the great majority of breasts in the English-speaking world.  Not for her the conical, the bowl, the elongated mammary of the rest of the world. In hemispherical breasts, the height is equal to the radius of their circumference.  All this did not detract from their attractiveness; I mention it because I mentally noted it, myself.

  The area of the areolas is always more sensitive than the rest of the breast because the skin there is thinner, and affords a more direct route to the nerves which send pleasurable sensations through the female body.  Her nipples were long when erect, and individual peculiarity not restricted to white women alone. The ridges of her areolas were of a prominent type known as tubercular.

  While I studied her body, she was undoing my shirt buttons, tugging my Hathaway out of my slacks.  Her fingers flew to my belt buckle, undid it, began thrusting slacks and shorts downward. Her eyes widened in surprise at sight of my male power.

  "Oh!  Oh, my goodness!"

  I caught her girdle and did some pushing myself.  She helped me with a couple of thumbs at the upper girdle.  It dropped and lay on the carpet as I put my arms around her waist and lifted her, carrying her like that toward the bedroom.

  She opened her thighs and caught hold of me, in a teasing grip, laughing softly, "My stallion!"  She giggled, rubbing her thighs together.

  "You've been around, I take it?"

  She flushed, then laughed, turning to kiss my cheek.  "I've been around. Yes, I'm not always the lady diplomat, sometimes I'm just a wanting woman.  Like now."

  I dropped her to her bare feet on the bedroom carpeting.  She whirled and threw her arms about me, giving me the feel of her naked front.  Her mouth was a moist invitation to venery, her tongue, as it flicked against mine, a silent voice that called to me imploringly.

  I pushed her backward.  Her legs hit the mattress edge, she fell onto the coverlets.  Instantly I was with her, drawing her nude body to mine. My head bent, my lips went across her hardened breasts.  As she moaned and ran her fingers through my hair, I kissed down her torso to her navel, and below.

  Her hips turned and twisted.  Her voice was a soft wail in the room.  The hands that held my head were gentle, almost pleading, as they swung my face this way and that for her better enjoyment.

  When neither she nor I could wait any longer, she drew me upward and between her quivering thighs.  She gasped, she shook, her tongue licking the swollen wetness of her mouth, as I fed pleasure into her flesh.

  My staying powers in the love embrace are extraordinary, my ability to prolong the sexual act a physical peculiarity.

  I have enjoyed this phenomenon of a constantly erect penis a long time, ever since my boyhood and my first venture into the games of love.  Some men might regard this priapic facility as a curse, because orgasm is often delayed for hours, if not entirely.

  The orgasm pattern in male consists of four parts.  First, the excitement phase, during which his body is conditioned to the coming orgasm by kisses and caresses.  Then occurs the plateau phase, during which the geometric apparatus is functioning. There is erection, a change in breathing, and increase in blood pressure and pulse rate.  Muscles strut and the spermatic cord shortens. In my own case, the plateau phase can continue indefinitely.

  There is no third phase, as such, in priapism.  The normal orgasm is the third phase, followed by the recovery.  But since my body never peaks in the love spasm, I am empowered to maintain phase three ad infinitum.  This results in much delight for my love partner, whom I am able to carry over the brink of orgasmic pleasure again and again, without a halt.

  A woman is constituted quite differently from a man in this regard.  One or two orgasms, and the normal man is finished. The woman can go on in a steady stream of pleasure peaks so intense as to make her faint.  There are attested cases in which woman had a dozen or more orgasms, one after the other.

  As Rhea Carson was doing right now.

  She did not know about my priapism.  All she knew was that I was damn near killing her with zon-zon.  She wailed, head thrown backwards, she snarled with her teeth buried in my shoulder; she babbled out her delight and awe even as her buttock-play threatened to hurl us off the bed.

  At ten minutes past on in the afternoon, Rhea Carson fainted.  Her body went limp, her head rolled on the crumpled sheet where it rested.  I let myself slide away from her, I lay back and stared at the ceiling.

  I was worried about Rhea Carson.  Our hours together in my bedroom had taught me that no matter what the rest of the world thought of my lady diplomat she was a woman who enjoyed life.  Her aptitude to learn—as a test, I had swung her into the reverse supine posture, which they call oolund-poolud in India, then into the purushayat, where I lay on my back while she crouched over me—told me she was not suicide-prone.  She loved performing mukhmuttunih on me, and having me please her with the French term faire minette.  No manic-depressive can act that way!

  Why then had she tried to kill herself?

  There was no doubt of it being a suicide attempt.  She had been standing beside me at the crosswalk as the car had approached.  We had not been walking, just standing. And when the car neared, she had hurled herself in its path.

  She stirred beside me.  "Rod? What time is it?"

  "Going on two.  Come on, I'll take you out to lunch!"

  "After I bathe?"

  She turned over on her belly, smiling at me.  I clapped her soft buttock. "All right. Go take your bath.  I'll wait, then take a fast shower."

  She got off the bed and walked naked into the bathroom.  She did not bother to close the door; after all we had done, neither of us held any secrets from the other.  She bent over the tub, running water into it. She found some bubble bath crystals and scattered them about generously.

  I stared at the ceiling and tried to think.  I failed to notice her when she came back into the bedroom and began looking here and there in closets, even under the bed.  At last she found what she wanted in the hall closet. An electric heater, fan-blown. She carried it into the bathroom and shut the door.

  I reached for a cigarette.

  "Holy good God!"  I rasped, and leaped.

  I ran for the bathroom door, I twisted the doorknob, I hurled myself in.  If I was wrong, I was going to look like one damned fool.

  I was not wrong.

  She had plugged the heater into the shaving socket.  It rested now on the floor beside the tub, its coils glowing cherry red.  Sopping wet, Rhea was naked in the frothy water of the bath, half out of the tub as she reached for the electric heater.

  If that heater went into the tub water, Rhea Carson would electrocute herself as surely as if she caught hold of a live wire.  I leaped from the door toward the heater.

  I could never bend and grab the damned thing.  I had no time. She held it in her hands, raising it to drop it in the water.  Her blank eyes saw me and did not know me.

  My leg went out.  I caught the heater with my bare foot and drove it through her hands toward the back of the tub.  It hit the edge of the tub and slid down into the water.

  But my kick had been so powerful that I'd unplugged the heater as I sent it flying.  Rhea Carson was safe, and quite alive. Alive, yes; meaning not dead. But there was not spirit, no soul, nothing behind her blank eyes.

  I bent over the tub.  I had no interest in her heavy breasts and their dark nipples, both of which were shiny with bath water, nor in her dimpled navel or her hips, or anything else.  Only her eyes interested me.

  They stared up at my face like those of a dead woman.  I caught her wrists and shook her arms. She was like a newborn baby.

  "Rhea!  Rhea! Listen to me!  Can you hear me?"

  "I hear you.  Yes, I hear you."

  "Why did you do it?  Why did you lift the heater to put it in the water?"

  "I was cold.  Cold! Freezing!  The water was like ice."

  I put my hands in the water and yanked it out damn fast.  It was almost boiling, that bubble-bath frothiness.

  "The water is hot, Rhea.  Just think about it."

  My hands held her wrists, my eyes searched her face.  Slowly, very slowly, color came back into her cheeks. Her eyes darkened to sudden understanding.

  "Rod—I did it again, didn't I?"

  There was stark terror on her pretty face.  She knew now all right. The knowledge was hitting her fast, and below the belt.  She bent forward, moaning.

  "Why, Rhea?  Why"

  "I do-don't know.  I don't!"

  I got to my feet.  I lifted the electric heater and carried it with me into the bedroom.  At the door I said, "Wash yourself. I'm going to take steps this doesn't happen to you again.  And leave the door open this time."

  I didn't want her drowning herself.

  I began dialing the telephone, but I kept staring into the bathroom to make sure my lady diplomat didn't try any more stunts.  My ear waited for the telltale voice.

  "Hello?  Who's there?"

  I knew that gruff voice better than I knew my own.  It belonged to my Chief of Operations, the man who sent me out across the world whenever the Thaddeus X. Coxe Foundation decided a Coxeman was needed to keep the forces of law and order intact.  Or when somebody high up wanted to do just the opposite.

  Ever since Walrus-mustache had practically kidnapped me and talked me into taking part in what later became known as The Berlin Wall Affair, I have been leading a double life.  I have become expert in judo, karate and savate. I have been a secret agent in almost any country you can name. I have killed, I have stolen, I have discovered I am a damn good shot with a rifle or a revolver.  In short, I am two men: a professor and a paid professional spy.

  Every once in a while I start the action.

  Like now.

  I talked fast.  Walrus-mustache can listen when he must, when he understands that things are serious.  He asked a couple of pertinent questions, and I could almost see his shaggy-haired head nodding at my answers.

  Then: "Hold the fort, Professor.  I'm on my way. I may be delayed a bit because I want Doc Thayer to come along with me."

  Doctor Clinton Thayer was a neurosurgeon, one of the most brilliant in the world.  He was at the university to give a series of lectures during the next week. I don't know how Walrus-mustache expected to get him to drop everything and come along, but I'd long ago given up wondering how Old Handlebars did it.

  I just sat there staring at Rhea Carson in the bathtub after I put down the phone.  Until she got out of the tub, that is, and reached for a bath towel. Then I went into the bathroom and dried her down.

  My voice clued her in on what I had done, while my hands went over her soft flesh with the Cannon.  She was annoyed at first, but only on the surface. Deep down, she was damn happy the decision had been taken out of her hands.

  "He'll think I'm crazy!"  she wailed.

  "Then a psychiatrist will cure you."

  Her smile was rueful.  "I suppose you're right.  Though it isn't every day I face up to the problem of whether I'm going mad or not."

  "Maybe you aren't going mad.  Maybe there's another explanation," I commented.

  "Like what?" she demanded.

  That one, I couldn't answer.

  I managed to get her into her brassiere, blouse and skirt before Old Handlebars rang my doorbell.  We did not bother with the girdle and her stockings. I had the feeling Thayer would order her into the university hospital, and she wouldn't need underwear there.

  I also fed her three martinis.  I had two myself.

  Walrus-mustache bulked big in the doorway, his face serious, almost drawn.  Just beyond him a stocky man with balding head and graying hair was fiddling with his tie.  Doctor Clinton Thayer. At first glance, his face appeared to have an abstracted look, as though he dreamed on other worlds.  Later I was to understand that his mind was always active, the he could think three different thoughts and speak a fourth all at the same time.

  Rhea seemed shy as they came into the living room.  Walrus-mustache bowed politely and introduced the doctor.  Then he settled down in a big wing chair.

  "You must think I'm a nut," Rhea said to the doctor.  "I'd never have bothered you. Professor Damon was worried though, and he did the phoning."

  "May I touch your head, Mrs. Carson?"  Thayer asked.

  She looked the surprise I felt, but she nodded and half turned her pretty face away.  The doctor put his hands on her head feeling all over it. Twice he nodded, then a jerk of his head drew Walrus-mustache out of the chair.

  "Put your hands where mine are," said Thayer.

  Walrus-mustache did as told.  After his fingers felt her skull for a few moments, he nodded, and his face was ashen.  His hard glance raked me, and then the doctor.

  "We'll need the utmost secrecy," he muttered.

  "Naturally, naturally.  I know Doctor Holmes of the Caldwell Neurosurgical Clinic."  Thayer turned to me. "May I used your phone?"

  Rhea swung about with half a laugh on her lips.  "I do appreciate your secrecy, but it isn't necessary to—"

  Walrus-mustache bowed.  "Mrs. Carson, you are the victim of a plot that is aimed not only at compelling you to kill yourself, but possibly at control of the entire world."

  I knew it was going to happen some day.  Old Handlebars had finally done it. He had flipped his wig.  Rhea cried out in rejection of his ominous words too.

  "Have you been in the hospital—any hospital—during the past three months, Mrs. Carson?"

  "Certainly not!  I'm—or was—as healthy as a horse!  I've had no need of medication for—ohhh!"

  She sat there, staring blankly.  After a moment she lifted her eyes to the chief.  "How did you know?" she asked softly.

  "It was Doctor Thayer who told me there might be a possibility of it, on our way over here.  I was merely asking a question he is certain to ask you."

  "But I was in that hospital for a touch of food poisoning.  It happened in Paris! There's a small, private hospital just outside Dampierre, where an ambulance brought me.  Food poisoning! Certainly that could never affect my head or my brain!"

  "You were under sedatives for a while?"

  "Yes.  For about two days, I believe."

  "It happened then."

  I interrupted.  "Don't be so mysterious.  What happened then? And why could some two-bit hospital in Paris want to harm Rhea Carson?"

  "Let me answer that," said Doctor Thayer, emerging from my bedroom where he had been phoning.  "First of all, it isn't ay two-bit hospital that treated her. Secondly, they want Rhea Carson dead because her diplomatic abilities might bring peace to Israeli and Arabs, and the men who own and operate that hospital don't want anything like that to happen.  So—they tell Rhea Carson to kill herself."

  I was gaping, my mouth open.  I asked, "But how could anybody compel her to do that?"

  "That," said Walrus-mustache, "is exactly what we are going to find out."

  He gestured and Rhea Carson got to her feet.

  Like a trained animal, like a robot.

...continue reading Coxeman Best Laid Plans in eBook or in Print