Today it gave her little comfort.
"We don't know," she admitted. "We've never been able to figure it out. Usually it happens late at night, when she's alone. We come in the next morning, find her free. Blood pumping from her temple. Blood on her fist. For a while we had her watched twenty-four hours a day. Then we set up video cameras, recorded everything. As far as we can tell, the restraints just fall off her. Then she hits herself until we make her stop."
"And she still does?" Roger's manner had intensified.
Linden turned from the window to face him again. "Not as much as before. I can get you a copy of the tapes if you want. You can watch for yourself. Now it only happens three or four times a night. Occasionally during the day, not often."
"What changed?" he asked.
Gazing at him, she remembered that his father had done everything in his power to protect both Joan and her. Roger's stare conveyed the impression that he would not have done the same.
Her shoulders sagged, and she sighed again. "Mr Covenant, you have to understand this. She was going to kill herself. One punch at a time, she was beating herself to death. We tried everything we could think of. Even electroshock--which I loathe. During the first six or seven months, we gave her an entire pharmacy of sedatives, tranquilizers, soporifics, stimulants, neural inhibiters, beta blockers, SSRIs, anti-seizure drugs--enough medication to comatize a horse. Nothing worked. Nothing even slowed her down. She was killing herself."
Apparently something within her required those blows. Linden considered it possible that the Land's old enemy had left a delayed compulsion like a post-hypnotic suggestion in Joan's shattered mind, commanding her to bring about her own death.
Not for the first time, Linden wondered what Sheriff Lytton had said or done to Joan during the brief time when she had been in his care. When Julius Berenford had driven to Haven Farm after Covenant's murder, he had found Joan there: confused and frightened, with no memory of what had transpired; but able to speak and respond. Wishing to search for Covenant and Linden without interference, Julius had sent Joan to County Hospital with Barton Lytton; and by the time they had reached the hospital Joan's mind was gone. Linden had asked Lytton what he had done, of course, pushed him for an answer; but he had told her nothing.
"And she was getting worse," Linden went on. "More frantic. Hysterical. She hit herself more often. Sometimes she refused to eat, went days without food. She fought us so hard that it took three orderlies and a nurse to fix an IV. She began to lose alarming amounts of blood."
"What changed?" Roger repeated intently. "What did you do?"
Linden hesitated on the edge of risks which she had not meant to take. Without warning the air of Joan's room seemed crowded with dangerous possibilities. How much of the truth could she afford to expose to this unformed and foolish young man?
But then she tightened her resolve and met his question squarely. "Three months ago, I gave her back her wedding ring."
Without glancing away from him, Linden reached to the collar of Joan's nightgown and lifted it aside to reveal the delicate silver chain hanging around her neck. From the end of the chain, still hidden by the nightgown, dangled a white gold wedding band. Joan had lost so much weight that she could not have kept a ring on any of her fingers.
Roger's smile hinted at sudden hungers. "I'm impressed, Dr Avery. That was obviously the right thing to do. But I would not have expected--" He stopped short of saying that he would not have expected such insight from her. "How did you figure it out? What made you think of it?"
Committed now, Linden shrugged. "It just came to me one night.
From The Runes of Earth: The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Book 1 by Stephen R. Donaldson. Copyright Stephen R. Donaldson 2004. All rights reserved.
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