TWO SIMON GRANT MYSTERIES
HIDING THE ELEPHANT – Chapter 31
‘Father was furious, as you can imagine. What did I need elocution lessons for? Didn’t he send me to the best school his money could buy and if they were not able to teach me to speak proper and behave like a lady what could a little bum of an unemployed actor do to change that, he was asking himself and anyone else who happened to be around. But, when have you known him to refuse me anything? So while Dominic was – at vastly inflated rates, I hasten to add – tending to my tongue and throat muscles I looked after a few muscles of his own…’
‘Oh, Spence, you’re a scream…’
‘I know. I know. Shameless, me.’ Moving herself about with the help of a triangular grip suspended from the ceiling, Anne was turning on the taps, applying hydro pressure pads to different parts of her body, talking through the misty sprays like some high-tech mermaid. ‘That’s what annoys me so much. People think he’s married me for my money. Even my own father thinks he’s married me for the money. What money?’ The question mark hovered suspended among droplets of water bouncing off the white tiles behind her, the showerhead forgotten in her hand. ‘What bloody money? I haven’t got any money of my own and when the old bugger dies, which will be long after I pop up my own clogs, he won’t leave anything behind. Except debts. He borrows, he expands his business, he pays the interest, he replaces one loan with another. He’s a developer. A brickie, for crying out loud. And a small time one at that. Nothing on the scale of Balmoral and all those other hencoops near you.’
Emma said nothing. The house, newly built and spacious, couldn’t have been bought on Dominic’s salary. Mr. Spencer and his loans must have had something to do with it.
‘Sure, the old man’s paid for the house and everything in it. Everything to do with me and my comfort, that is. He also pays for Erica. But he’s sworn never to pay for even a piece of toast for the never-do-well-money-grabbing-little-shit, which is the old bugger’s term of endearment for my hubby. And he made that absolutely clear to Dominic from the start. You know he doesn’t beat around the bush.’
Emma did. Mr. Spencer had ambushed her once at Bonner. He’d brought her a present, an oversized diamante brooch, and asked her to help Anne catch one of the more gullible boys, preferably someone with a bit of old money behind him.
‘I know Anne’s not a beauty. Nothing like her mother. You should have seen her mother’s tits. Knockouts. The girl takes after me, the poor little cow. And all that prancing about in gym gear and muscle building isn’t doing her any favours either. Maybe she can catch someone on the tennis court. Yes? A bit of hanky panky behind the bike shed and bob’s your uncle. Wouldn’t mind being a grandfather to a nice old double barrel name, I can tell you.’
Anne was only sixteen or seventeen at the time. No, Mr. Spencer certainly didn’t mince words.
‘And, if Dominic is so mercenary, what was to stop him from getting himself a real heiress? And an able-bodied one as well. With his looks…You tell me that.’
LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS – Chapter 31
Since Alex turned up in their lives there was something akin to a bond between the father and the daughter, a fellowship of semi-truths and the conspiracy of common purpose. Dr. Bennett was catching himself offering plausible excuses for Alex’s absences on the nights when he wasn’t available, tendering sensible explanations when he was out of Angel’s reach, and pouring cold water over hot gossip about his exploits among the fairer sex. After years of separation, father and daughter were spending time together at last. On their own. Bella didn’t count anyhow. If she wasn’t with her family she’d be glued to the electric typewriter upstairs, the latest passion in her life. The nights when she wasn’t working at the library, Nicola was spending in pursuit of one or another of her “projects”. There was always something else with Nicola. She first went shopping for a religion, giving preference to something obscure and difficult to pronounce, something she could hail as the one and only salvation for the ailing planet and its lost tribes. It usually required a sacrifice, a peculiar diet or a piece of clothing that signified humility, or wisdom, or recognition of one’s failings. But that didn’t last long. To follow a religion one needed to believe, Nicola soon realised and shared with everyone within earshot, follow without a doubt, have faith beyond reason. That wasn’t her, she admitted and threw herself into good causes. Animal Liberation clashed with her library hours and Greenpeace was too structured, too military. She was yet to find her spiritual home.
‘Nicola’s got a boyfriend,’ Bella said at breakfast after a night she’d spent in Nicola’s bedroom. Usually, if she stayed over she’d sleep on the sofa bed in the girls’ study. But, at around eleven the night before Nicola had phoned to say she was staying over. No details about where or who with. Just a giggle.
‘Never,’ said Angel. ‘She would have told us. She would have shouted it from the roofs. Not in a million years.’
‘What makes you think Nicola’s got a boyfriend?’ asked Dr. Bennett kindly. One couldn’t but be kind to Bella.
The girl’s eyes twinkled and for a moment looked like they used to, before the accident, bright and perceptive, full of mischief. Dr. Bennett’s chest contracted painfully.
‘She has a bath before she goes out.’ Bella said triumphantly. ‘And she changes her underwear regularly and cleans her teeth. I even caught her rummaging around Angel’s makeup and looking at the nail varnish.’
The disclosure earned her a chuckle from Dr. Bennett and a long speculative look from Angel.
‘Any idea who it might be, Sherlock?’ Angel was obviously prepared to give her cousin the benefit of the doubt.
‘I’ll find out. She won’t be able to resist the temptation to tell me. Trust me,’ Bella said, glad of the task, willing to please, as ever.
But, she never delivered on that one.
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