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Muriel Spark - Aiding And Abetting
Note to Readers
The following story, like all those connected with the seventh Earl of Lucan, is based on hypothesis. The seventh Earl has been missing since the night of 7th November 1974 when his wife was taken to hospital, severely wounded in her head, and the body of his children’s nanny was found battered, in a mail sack, in his house. He left two ambiguous letters.
Since then he has been wanted on charges of murder and attempted murder, of which he was found guilty by a coroner’s jury. He has not shown up to face trial in the criminal courts.
The seventh Earl was officially declared dead in 1999, his body has never been found, although he has been “sighted” in numerous parts of the world, predominantly central Africa. The story of his presumed years of clandestine wanderings, his nightmare existence since his disappearance, remains a mystery, and I have no doubt would differ factually and in actual feeling from the story I have told. What we know about “Lucky” Lucan, his words, his habits, his attitudes to people and to life, from his friends, photographs and police records, I have absorbed creatively, and metamorphosed into what I have written. The parallel “story” of a fake stigmatic woman is also based on fact, but it has been fictionalized as well.
The receptionist looked tinier than ever as she showed the tall, tall Englishman into the studio of Dr. Hildegard Wolf, the psychiatrist who had come from Bavaria, then Prague, Dresden, Avila, Marseilles, then London, and now settled in Paris.
“I have come to consult you,” he said, “because I have no peace of mind. Twenty five years ago I sold my soul to the Devil.” The Englishman spoke in a very foreign French.
“Would you feel easier,” she said, “if we spoke in English? I am an English speaker of a sort since I was a student.”
“Far easier,” he said, “although, in a sense, it makes the reality more distressing. What I have to tell you is an English story.”
Dr. Wolf ’s therapeutic methods had been perfected by herself. They had made her virtually the most successful psychiatrist in Paris, or at least the most sought-after. At the same time she was tentatively copied; those who tried to do so generally failed. The method alone did not suffice. Her personality was needed as well.
What she did for the most part was talk about herself throughout the first three sessions, turning only casually on the problems of her patients; then, gradually, in an offhand way she would induce them to begin to discuss themselves. Some patients, angered, did not return after the first or at least second session, conducted on these lines. Others remonstrated, “Don’t you want to hear about my problem?”
“No, quite frankly, I don’t very much.”
Many, fascinated, returned to her studio and it was they who, so it was widely claimed, reaped their reward. By now her method was famous and even studied in the universities. The Wolf method.
“I sold my soul to the Devil.”
“Once in my life,” she said, “I had a chance to do that. Only I wasn’t offered enough. Let me tell you about it . . .”
He had heard that she would do just this. The friend who had recommended her to him, a priest who had been through her hands during a troubled period, told him, “She advised me not to try to pray. She advised me to shut up and listen. Read the Gospel, she said. Jesus is praying to you for sympathy. You have to see his point of view, what he had to put up with. Listen, don’t talk. Read the Bible. Take it in. God is talking, not you.”
Her new patient sat still and listened, luxuriating in the expenditure of money which he would have found impossible only three weeks ago. For twenty-five years, since he was struck down in England by a disaster, he had been a furtive fugitive, always precariously beholden to his friends, his many friends, but still, playing the role of benefactors, their numbers diminishing. Three weeks ago his nickname Lucky had become a solidified fact. He was lucky. He had in fact discovered some money waiting for him on the death of one of his main aiders and abetters. It had been locked in a safe, waiting for him to turn up. He could afford to have a conscience. He could now consult at leisure one of the most expensive and most highly recommended psychiatrists in Paris. “You have to listen to her, she makes you listen, first of all,” they said-“they” being at least four people. He sat blissfully in his smart clothes and listened. He sat before her desk in a leather chair with arms; he lounged. It was strange how so many people of the past had been under the impression he had already collected the money left for him in a special account. Even his benefactor’s wife had not known about its existence.
He might, in fact, have been anybody. But she arranged for the money to be handed over without a question. His name was Lucky and lucky he was indeed. But money did not last. He gambled greatly.
The windows of Dr. Wolf ’s consulting rooms on the Boulevard St. Germain were double-glazed to allow only a pleasing hum of traffic to penetrate.
“I don’t know how it struck you,” said Hildegard (Dr. Wolf ) to her patient. “But to me, selling one’s soul to the Devil involves murder. Anything less is not worthy of the designation. You can sell your soul to a number of agents, let’s face it, but to the Devil there has to be a killing or so involved. In my case, it was many years ago, I was treating a patient who became psychologically dependent on me. A young man, not very nice. His problem was a tendency to suicide. One was tempted to encourage him in his desire. He was simply nasty, simply cruel. His fortune was immense. I was offered a sum of money by his cousin, the next of kin, to slide this awful young man down the slope. But I didn’t. I sensed the meanness of the cousin, and doubted whether he would really have parted with the money once my patient was dead. I refused. Perhaps, if I had been offered a substantially larger sum, I would have made that pact with the Devil. Who knows? As it was, I said no, I wouldn’t urge the awful young man to take his own life. In fact I encouraged him to live. But to do otherwise would have definitely, I think, led to his death and I would have been guilty of murder.” “Did he ever take his life, then?”
“No, he is alive today.”
The Englishman was looking at Hildegard in a penetrating way as if to read her true thoughts. Perhaps he wondered if she was in fact trying to tell him that she doubted his story. He wanted to get away from her office, now. He had paid for his first session on demand, a very stiff fee, as he reckoned, of fifteen hundred dollars for three quarters of an hour. But she talked on. He sat and listened with a large bulging leather briefcase at his feet. For the rest of the period she told him she had been living in Paris now for over twelve years, and found it congenial to her way of life and her work. She told him she had a great many friends in the fields of medicine, music, religion and art, and although well into her forties, it was just possible she might still marry. “But I would never give up my profession,” she said. “I do so love it.” His time was up, and she had not asked him a single question about himself. She took it for granted he would continue with her. She shook hands and told him to fix his next appointment with the receptionist. Which, in fact, he did.
It was towards the end of that month that Hildegard asked him her first question.
“What can I do for you?” she said, as if he was positively intruding on her professional time.
He gave her an arrogant look, sweeping her face. “First,” he said, “I have to tell you that I’m wanted by the police on two counts: murder and attempted murder. I have been wanted for over twenty years. I am the missing Lord Lucan.”
Hildegard was almost jolted at this. She was currently treating another patient who claimed, convincingly, to be the long-missing lord. She suspected collusion. “I suppose,” said the man at present sitting in her office, “that you know my story.” S
Hildegard had gathered books, and obtained press cuttings dating from 1974, when the scandal had broken, to the present day. It was a story that was forever cropping up. The man in front of her, aged about sixty-five, looked very like the latest police identikit of Lord Lucan, but so in a different way did the other patient. The man sitting in front of her had reached down for his briefcase. “The story is all here,” he said, tapping the bulging bag.
“Tell me about it,” she said.
Yes, in fact, let us all hear about it, once more. Those who were too young or even unborn at the time should be told, too. The Lord Lucan with whom this story is concerned was the seventh Earl of Lucan. He was born on 18th December 1934. He disappeared from the sights of his family and most of his friends on the night of 7th November 1974, under suspicion of having murdered his children’s nanny and having attempted to murder his wife. The murder of the girl had been an awful mistake. He had thought, in the darkness of a basement, that she was his wife. The inquest into the death of the nanny, Sandra Rivett, ended in a verdict “Murder by Lord Lucan” and a warrant for his arrest. As for his wife, Lady Lucan’s account of the events of that night fitted in with the findings of the police in all relevant details. However, the police had one very strongly felt complaint: the missing Earl had been aided and abetted in his movements subsequent to the murder. His upper-class friends, said the police, had helped the suspect to get away and cover his tracks. They mocked the police, they stonewalled the enquiries. By the time Lord Lucan’s trail had been followed to any likely destination he could have been far away, or dead by his own hand. Many, at the time, believed he had escaped to Africa, where he had friends and resources.
From time to time throughout the intervening years “sightings” of the missing suspect have been reported. The legend has not been allowed to fade. On 9th July 1994 the Daily Express wrote about him and the frightful end of Sandra Rivett by mistaken identity.
The work, it appeared, of a madman or someone deranged by pressure beyond his control. His checks were bouncing all over smart Belgravia, the
school fees had not been paid, he had overdrafted at four banks, borrowed money from a lender (at 18 percent interest), £7,000 from playboy Taki and £3,000 from another Greek. His mentor, gambler Stephen Raphael, had also lent him £3,000.
On the night of 7th November 1974, the basement of his wife’s house was dark. The light bulb had been removed. Down the stairs came a woman. Lucan struck, not his wife but the nanny. “When is Sandra’s night off?” he had asked one of his daughters very recently. “Thursday,” she said. But that Thursday Sandra did not take her evening off; instead she went down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea for herself and Lucan’s estranged wife. Sandra was bashed and bludgeoned. She was stuffed into a sack. Bashed also was Lucan’s wife when she came down to see what was the matter. She was bashed and bloodied. She told how she had at last foiled the attacker whom she named as her husband. She bit him; she had got him by the balls, unmanned him, offered to do a deal of complicity with him and then, when he went to the bathroom to wash away the blood, slipped out of the house and staggered a few yards down the street to a pub into which she burst, covered with blood. “Murder! . . . the children are still in the house . . .”
He had tried to choke her with a gloved hand and to finish her with the same blunt instrument by which Sandra was killed.
The police arrived at the house. The Earl had fled. He had telephoned his mother telling her to take care of the children, which she did, that very night.
The Earl was known to have been seen briefly by a friend. Then lost. Smuggled out of the country or dead by his own hand?
The good Dr. Wolf looked at her patient and let the above facts run through her head. Was this man sitting in front of her, the claimant to be Lord Lucan, in fact the missing murder suspect? He was smiling, smiling away at her thoughtfulness. And what had he to smile about? She could ring Interpol, but had private reasons not to do so.
She said, “There is another ‘Lord Lucan’ in Paris at the moment. I wonder which of you is the real one? Anyway, our time is up. I will be away tomorrow. Come on Friday.”
“I will see you on Friday.”
Hildegard weighed up the odds between the two claimants while she ate her lunch at her favorite bistro in the rue du Dragon. She was eating tripe, their speciality. And what, she wondered, did Lucky mean by a pact with the Devil? She might bring him round to this. Whether he was the real Lord Lucan or not, Hildegard felt he was referring to something genuinely in his past. She would not be at all surprised to find that, as the missing Earl, he was a fake; but she would be astonished if he had not at some earlier time compromised his conscience:
“I sold my soul to the Devil.” That must mean something.
Walker, the name by which her other Lucan patient had asked to be called, had an appointment with Hildegard two days later. Walker was a surname; his first name, Robert, was never used. “Robert Walker. Please always call me Walker. Nobody must guess that I am the seventh Earl of Lucan. There is a warrant out for my arrest.” Walker was tall, white-haired, white moustached. From the newspaper photographs dating back twenty-odd years, he might well be the missing Earl, and again, he might not.
“On the whole,” said Hildegard, “I think he is not Lucan. And neither is the other, most probably.” She was talking to her companion-in-life (as he had been for over five years), Jean-Pierre Roget. They sat in the sitting room, part of their large flat. It was evening. She sat in a beige leather armchair, and so did he.
“Undoubtedly,” he said, “the two men are acquainted with each other, working together. It would be too much to ask that they should separately consult you among all the psychiatrists in Paris, two imposters, or one an imposter, one real. I can’t believe it.”
“Nor can I,” she said. “Nor do I.”
“You should try to keep an open mind.”
“What does that mean?” she said.
“At least listen well to what they say.”
“I’ve listened to Walker. He sounds very troubled.” “It’s taken him a long time to be troubled. What has he been doing all these years not to be troubled before?” Jean-Pierre wondered aloud.
“Escaping from justice. Running away here and there.
He had friends.”
“And Interpol? How does he know you won’t hand him over?”
“Neither of them knows,” she said. “That’s what I can’t understand.”
“Oh,” he said, “I can. People generally have faith in the discretion of a psychiatrist, as they do with a priest.” “Professionally, I was quite happy working with Walker,” she said. “But now, with this new one . . . Sooner or later I’ll have to come to grips with him.” “What does he call himself?”
“Lucan,” she said. “Just that.”
“What do his friends call him?”
“He says he’s called Lucky. His friends have always called him Lucky Lucan. That was in the papers.” “Which of your two patients,” said Jean-Pierre, “resembles his photographs most?”
“Both of them,” said Hildegard.
“Hildegard,” he said, “could either of them have anything on you? Something from your past, anything?” “Oh, my God,” she said. “There is always that possibility. Anyone any time could have something in their past. I can’t think . . . but it would be unlikely, unbelievable. What would such people want with my past?”
“Perhaps nothing,” he said.
“Perhaps-what do you mean, Jean-Pierre?” “Well, I don’t mean exactly that you yourself might be wanted by Interpol. On the other hand . . .”
“On the other hand, what?” She had become uneasy, menacing. Jean-Pierre decided to back off. “There is no other hand,” he said, “since you are not on the wanted list.” He smiled very fe
“No,” she said. “If one of them is the real Lucan he might imagine that he had something on me. Anyone might get that idea. They are probably in it together, is all I say.”
Walker kept his appointment with Hildegard.
“I am not really interested in whether you are Lord Lucan or not,” she told him. “I am interested in you, what you are doing here, why you need a psychiatrist, why your nerve has failed you if that is so. I am interested in a number of important factors, but not greatly in what your name may have been in 1974. You are prompted to see me now, in these weeks. Why?”
“In England,” he said, “I have been declared officially dead in order to wind up my estate. I have come to think of myself as a dead man. It distresses me.”
“It is believed by some people,” she said, “that the real Lord Lucan committed suicide shortly after he had murdered a girl over twenty years ago. It is a rational belief.”
“His body was never found,” said Walker. “Naturally.
Because I am Lucan.”
“You are not the only claimant,” she said.
“Really? Who is the other?”
“There could be many others. Several, at least. At what scope or advantage I can’t imagine. I should have thought you’d want to keep it quiet.”
“I am keeping it quiet,” said Walker. “My secret is safe with you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“I have only to ring Interpol.”
“So have I.”
“To give yourself up?” she said.
“No, to give you up, Dr.Wolf.”
“Me? What do you mean?” Her voice had changed as if she had difficulty swallowing, as if her mouth was dry. “You are Beate Pappenheim, the fake stigmatic from Bavaria who was exposed in 1986, who disappeared with so many millions of marks from the Pappenheim Catholic Fund that nobody knew how many, who-” “What you are saying,” she said, “means nothing to me. Let’s return to your problem, which, as I see it, is one of identity.”
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