Syin Jannyi Friske prosi.., p.1

I'll Be There, страница 1

 

I'll Be There
 


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I'll Be There


  I’LL BE THERE

  Janet Woods

  Chapter One

  Book One

  1953-1964

  The downpour came suddenly, the rain driving out of the dusk with unrelenting fury.

  Caught halfway along the quay-side at Poole Harbour, there was nothing but shadows for shelter between Eddie Renfew and Jack Bellamy’s boat. Why the hell had he agreed to meet the man responsible for his wife’s death?

  Because he had a fully justified need for revenge.

  As suddenly as it had started, the deluge stopped, revealing the low, dark shape of Brownsea Island across a stretch of grey, wind-whipped water. Shivering, he removed his raincoat and shook the water from it.

  His eyes narrowed on the boat, trying to calculate its worth. It was old, but well maintained. The teak deck was freshly varnished and the brass-work gleamed. The shadow of a head moved across a porthole before a curtain was drawn.

  Margaret Jane was painted in brazen, gold lettering against the navy blue hull. Eddie’s face darkened. His late wife’s lover was taunting him by suggesting they meet on a boat named after an adulterer and her bastard.

  Bellamy seemed comfortably off. Perhaps his guilt was such that he intended to offer reparation. Not that it would do him any good.

  Three years had passed since Margaret’s death. Still rankling in Eddie’s memory was the scandal it had created, the knowing eyes of the mourners at the funeral, and the sensational newspaper reports.

  Bellamy had appeared at the graveside after the mourners had gone. Hidden behind a tree, Eddie had watched him throw a single red rose into the hole while the gravediggers had stood respectfully by. Eddie had enjoyed his anguish. Nobody took what belonged to Eddie Renfrew and got away with it, even if he had no more use for it.

  ‘Damn the bitch!’ he muttered, striding towards the boat. ‘She deserves to rot in hell.’

  The door was opened before he could knock and he followed Bellamy into the small cabin. Bellamy’s mouth was a thin, tense line. ‘Coffee?’

  ‘Shove it.’ He wondered what Margaret had seen in this man. He was in his early forties, tall and lanky with fair greying hair. A shiny scar ravaged one side of his face, pulling the corner of his left eye down and puckering up under the hairline.

  Margaret told him Bellamy had earned it by saving a pilot from a burning plane. The affair must have started shortly after she started work in his boatyard. Some bloody war hero, getting up another man’s wife as soon as his back was turned!

  Not bothering to hide his hostility. Eddie stared at him. ‘What did you want to see me about?’

  He didn’t muck about. ‘I want to adopt Janey.’

  Eddie gave an incredulous bark of laughter. ‘Get stuffed.’

  ‘She’s my daughter, Renfrew.’

  ‘So you say. It’s my name on her birth certificate.’

  ‘You know she’s my daughter.’ The man’s eyes never wavered. ‘Margaret told you Janey was mine when she asked for a divorce. I’ll be willing to undergo medical tests to establish the fact.’

  Eddie’s lip curled. ‘My religion doesn’t recognize divorce.’

  ‘It doesn’t recognize rape either, but that didn’t stop you. Margaret married you because she was pregnant and because she had no one else to turn to, you sanctimonious bastard.’

  Eddie’s eyes hooded. ‘Prove it.’ He frowned as his eyes focused on Jack Bellamy again. There was no doubt that Janey was this man’s daughter. She’d inherited his fair hair, the deep blue of his eyes and his height.

  Janey was unclean, he thought, and the sins of the parents must be visited on her. ‘I’ll never allow you to adopt her.’

  ‘I warn you. I’m thinking of applying for custody.’

  ‘Go ahead.’ He gave a short, sharp laugh. ‘Do you think they’ll award custody to a man who slept with my wife, then caused her death by encouraging her to get rid of her unborn child.’

  Bellamy paled. ‘That’s a damned lie. I had no idea she was pregnant. If you’d agreed to a divorce she’d never have attempted such a desperate act.’

  A nerve twitched in Eddie’s jaw as he stood. ‘Are you saying it was my fault? It’s debatable who fathered the brat.’

  ‘Does it matter now?’ Bellamy said wearily. ‘Damn it, Renfrew, Margaret and I loved each other and wanted to get married. No one’s to blame. What’s important to me now is Janey. She’s my daughter, and I love her.’

  Eddie choked back a laugh. ‘You’ll be wanting to buy her next.’

  ‘If that’s what it takes, name your price.’

  For a moment, temptation ate at Eddie’s innards. Angrily, he snatched up his raincoat and pushed roughly past him. There were better ways of punishing Bellamy, and keeping Janey from him was one of them. ‘Everything you own wouldn’t be enough to buy her. My wife died because of you. Her elder sister watched her bleed to death, and has nightmares about it.’

  ‘You can have everything I own. Everything!’

  Jesus, he meant it! Eddie turned and stared at him. ‘You’re trash Bellamy, and I’m going to make sure Janey doesn’t take after you. Take me to court. You’ll be laughed out of town.’

  ‘At least let me see her,’ Jack shouted after him.

  ‘Go to hell.’ He slammed the door behind him before he was tempted to change his mind.

  He walked fast, anger keeping the cold at bay. When he reached the old customs house he stopped to light a cigarette, sucking the smoke deep into his lungs. After a while his temper cooled and his mind became analytical.

  That Bellamy would contemplate fighting for custody hadn’t occurred to him. He wasn’t sure what would be involved if he went ahead. There would be blood tests of course, but both Janey and Linda had the same common blood group as Margaret. Could they conclusively prove paternity from blood tests? He worried that the scandal might blow up in his face again. He didn’t relish Margaret’s shame being displayed in the pages of the newspapers for a second time.

  Then there was Linda. He loved his daughter, and she’d suffered enough? If he struck a bargain with Bellamy he could give Linda everything she’d ever want.

  ‘Get thee behind me, Satan. God wants Janey to be punished for her mother’s sin,’ he whispered

  He drew into the shadows when Bellamy strode past, his head hunched into his turned-up collar. When he reached a sporty looking Jaguar he folded himself into the seat. Seconds later the engine purred into life.

  ‘Lucky bugger,’ Eddie murmured as the car disappeared around the corner. Throwing his cigarette butt into the gutter he pulled his damp collar up round his ears and set off up the narrow main street towards the railway station. A light drizzle was falling and the shops sent streams of light pouring across the wet pavements. Potential customers were few.

  Perhaps he should see a lawyer as a precautionary measure. He stopped in front of a real estate agency and lit another cigarette whilst he thought about it. Lawyers cost money, and his cash was tied up in investments.

  Bellamy must have been bluffing about taking him to court ... but if he hadn’t? At a pinch, he could evict the tenants and sell the house in Bournemouth.

  His glance rested on a glossy photograph of something similar to the home he’d shared with Margaret. It had an astronomical price tag. He shrugged, reluctant to get rid of it. It would be passed on to Linda when he died, and would be worth a small fortune, situated as it was on the cliff top.

  ‘Gotta light?’

  Eddie spun round to confront a couple of rough looking youths with greasy, slicked-back hair. They looked slightly familiar. Breaking a thinly rolled cigarette in half, the taller of the two gave a portion to his mate.

  ‘Ta,’ he said when Eddie flicked his lighter under the end. ‘You wouldn’t know some
where cheap we could doss for a few hours.’

  ‘Sorry.’

  The lad shrugged.

  Eddie thought fast as they began to amble away. They resembled the Youths in the newspaper article who’d escaped from Borstal a couple of days earlier. ‘Wait! How would you like to earn a few quid?’

  The larger of the two turned, his pale eyes catching the light. ‘Doing what?’

  There a boat tied up at the quay. It’s called the Margaret Jane.’

  ‘So?’ There was an air of expectancy about the two now.

  ‘You could stay there.’

  ‘What’s the catch?’

  Eddie smiled.

  The smaller youth squinted his eyes against the smoke, sneering. ‘You’re not one of them, are you?’

  His cheeks began to burn. ‘Certainly not! I want the boat roughed up a bit. The bloke who owns it owes me money.’

  ‘What if we get caught?’

  ‘That’s your problem.’ His eyes caught those of the taller youth. ‘If you take the job, as far as I’m concerned ... I’ve never laid eyes on either of you.’ He made as if to walk away.

  ‘How much, mister.’

  ‘Five quid.’

  ‘Twenty?’

  Eddie took his wallet. ‘Ten, take it or leave it.’

  Two fivers changed hands. ‘I want a good job done, and if you’re caught you’ve never met me, okay?’

  ‘We won’t get caught. We’ve got a mate pickin’ us up later. Anyway, we know how to keep our mouths shut.’ The boys headed off towards the quay, their hips jerking in cocky unison.

  A train whistle sounded in the distance. Eddie started to run, just making it through the barrier gates before they closed across the upper end of High Street. He boarded the train with seconds to spare.

  Two hours later he joined the crowds on Waterloo station, then took a taxi to the middle of a long curve of regency houses situated in Regents Park. He let himself in through the front door with his key, the only one of Sarah Wyman’s staff to have this privilege.

  ‘Has madam called?’ he asked the butler, helping himself to a finger of scotch.

  ‘Yes sir. Madam requested that you ring her. Will you require dinner, sir?’

  ‘A sandwich and a pot of tea will do. Why don’t you and your wife take the evening off? Pamela can look after me.’

  ‘Thank you, sir.’ Eddie loved being called sir by the servants. He’d fallen on his feet when he’d applied for the job of personal assistant to Sarah Wyman. Sarah was a shrewd businesswoman.

  No one would guess she’d been born and bred in a Birmingham slum. Her accent had been ironed out, replaced by one as unaffectedly middle-class as the one Eddie had assumed. She was in her early thirties, and the possessor of an elegant thinness achieved by strict dieting. Socially popular, Sarah Wyman used her contacts well and had become wealthy in her own right. She was also amoral.

  She and Eddie had understood each other right from the start. His job involved much more than secretarial work - and for his discretion she paid well. Sarah was the only woman Eddie had ever admired, though he didn’t approve of her, and certainly didn’t trust her.

  He swallowed his scotch and poured himself another, nursing it whilst he stared at the fire. As far as he was concerned, women fell into two categories.

  The first encompassed women like his mother. She’d been a placid, quiet natured woman, whose mission in life was to make sure her husband and child were well cared for. His father had been a religious man, and strict with his wife. If the meal wasn’t on the table on time, or his shirts not ironed to perfection, he’d chastise her in front of Eddie, whipping her with a knotted cord. Afterwards, his father would continue the punishment in private. When Eddie thought to look through the keyhole he saw that punishment and power merged into one.

  ‘Always rule a women with an iron fist,’ his father had advised him. ‘They’re born with the sin of Eve, and incite lust in the loins of men.’

  His mother had died shortly after his father. She’d suffered from depression, and had faded away in the mental ward of the hospital she’d been admitted to.

  The second category contained sluts like his late wife. Sarah Wyman was the queen of sluts. She lived to satisfy her passion, and made no bones about it. That both excited and repulsed Eddie. He’d never met a woman so erotically sensual, and derived pleasure from catering to her appetite for the unusual - as long as he didn’t have to be personally involved.

  Sarah lived apart from her husband, who was older than her, and didn’t really care what she did – as long as she was discreet. Her relationship with Eddie was strictly business, despite the banter that went on between them in private. He was good at his job, and Sarah showed her appreciation by advising him on investments.

  She’d introduced him to her stockbroker of late, and under his expertise, Eddie’s small nest-egg had grown. Now he left everything to the stock-broker, signing over the greater portion of his salary to invest. One day, he intended to be wealthy, just like Jack Bellamy.

  He was grinning when he dialed the number of Sarah’s Paris flat. ‘Good evening, madam.’

  ‘Edward?’ she breathed, her voice a low, delicious murmur. ‘Where have you been all day?’

  ‘I had some business to take care of in Poole.’

  ‘Something naughty, I hope.’

  ‘I’m afraid not. How’s Paris?’

  ‘Absolutely divine.’ Her voice became a sensuous purr. ‘You’re a genius, Edward. They’re deliciously black and glossy, and so magnificently feral.’

  ‘Expensive, I’m afraid. I had to fly them in from Morocco.’

  ‘They’re worth every penny.’ She became more businesslike. ‘I’ve decided to stay in Paris for a day or two longer, so my appointments will have to be rearranged. There’s nothing urgent coming up, is there?’

  ‘You have a meeting with your stockbroker and the usual social engagements. You have a luncheon appointment with Mister Wyman on Thursday.’

  ‘Oh yes. Charles is coming to London to see his solicitor, isn’t he? Be a darling and phone him for me, will you Edward? No doubt he’ll be relieved he doesn’t have to stay in London longer than necessary, and twice as relieved at missing lunch with me.’

  ‘Certainly.’ He glanced up when Pamela came into the room. Frowning, he waved her away. ‘Take it to the dining room. I’m on the phone.’

  ‘All right, Eddie.’ Pamela smiled her shy smile as she backed out through the door, all pink twin-set and imitation pearls.

  ‘Who was that?’

  ‘Pamela.’

  ‘Tell me, Edward. Are you going to propose to her?’

  ‘I’m thinking about it. My daughters need someone to look after them now their nanny is gone. I can’t leave the children at the big house in the charge of your husband’s housekeeper for ever.’

  ‘Brenda adores having them there, and so does Charles. Anyone would think they were the devoted grandparents.’ A tiny, tinkling laugh came down the line. ‘I hear the younger one has wrapped that mouldy old Viscount around her little finger. You ought to watch that child, Edward. I think she’s got an eye for the men.’

  Eddie glowered. ‘They need a mother.’

  ‘Poor darling,’ Sarah cooed. ‘Pamela’s so drearily domestic.’

  ‘She’s a good worker, and she likes the children. She won’t give me any trouble.’

  Sarah gurgled with laughter. ‘Pamela must be at least thirty. Do you suppose she’s still a virgin?’

  She’d better be if she wants to marry me, he thought, and feigned a laugh. ‘I’ll let you know when you get back from Paris.’

  ‘Do that, Edward. Have fun.’

  ‘And you, madam.’ His eyes narrowed as he replaced the receiver. Striding into his office he removed a slim, black diary from a cardboard file taped under a desk drawer, and flipped it open. Paris flat. Moulay and Sidi Youssef, he wrote over several days in January, and then returned it to its hiding place.

  Later,
in the private post office box he maintained, Eddie would receive photographs, courtesy of a Parisian gentleman with a zoom lens and a penchant towards voyeurism. It was his insurance.

  He strolled through to the dining room, his teeth gritting in a smile as Pamela rushed forward to serve him. ‘Would you like to go out for a drink after I’ve eaten?’

  ‘That would be lovely, Eddie.’

  He took her to the local tavern, where he plied her with enough vodka martinis to make her reel. Later, despite her reluctance, he made love to her with ruthless efficiency. He discovered that not only was she intact, but surprisingly easy to satisfy without too much effort on his part. Her body reminded him of his mother’s and he knew she would learn to please him. He’d make her.

  Afterwards, he proposed, placing on her finger a cheap engagement ring he’d bought especially for the occasion. He felt no guilt as she gazed with doggy-like adoration at him, and set a wedding date for the following month at the local church. Pamela was no beauty, but she was sensible. She wouldn’t make the same mistake as Margaret had. The sooner they were married, the sooner he could bury her in the country with the kids, and get on with his life.

  The following morning, two police constables knocked on the door. ‘We’re investigating an incident that took place in Poole last night, sir,’ one of them said.

  ‘Please come in.’ Eddie’s forehead wrinkled into a puzzled frown as he ushered them into his office. ‘How can I be of assistance? I can’t remember witnessing anything untoward happening in Poole yesterday.’

  One of the constables consulted his notebook. ‘I believe you had a meeting with a, Mister Jack Bellamy.’

  ‘That’s right. We met on his boat.’ He managed to keep his perplexed expression in place. ‘Nothing has happened to him, I hope.’

  ‘What makes you think something might have happened to him?’ the other man asked, his glance slowly roving around the paneled room.

  ‘He seemed overwrought.’ Eddie bit his lip and lowered his voice a fraction. ‘We had an argument over a private matter. He ... Jack Bellamy was involved with my late wife, and he was making some wild allegations. I’d intended to bring the matter to my lawyer’s attention today.’

 
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