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Damon Hunter was placing some files into his briefcase when Marcus Bradfield walked through the open door of his office, an attempt at a solemn expression on his handsome, fleshy face. Oddly enough, the extra padding in his cheeks lent him the air of a middle-aged cherub. "Bit of news."
Damon broke off what he was doing, directly meeting his boss's gaze. "Don't tell meSelwyn Chancellor's dead."
"Exactly right." Bradfield sank heavily into one of the armchairs in front of Damon's desk. Bradfield was an affluent man, born of wealth, well-respected, a leading light of the city's elite. His grandfather, Patrick Bradfield, had been one of the original partners who had founded Bradfield Douglass. "Maurice rang me." A faint smile spread across Bradfield's face. "He did his best, but he didn't sound all that grief-stricken."
"Difficult when you're glad," Damon commented briefly. He had no time for Maurice Chancellor. Ditto for Champagne Charlie, the son Troy. "Why didn't he ring me, as well? I'm handling the will."
"Maurice likes to deal with the top people, Damon," Bradfield said with a smirk. "Selwyn Chancellor has employed this firm for many long years. I'm a full partner. You're still an associate. Am I right?"
"And I'm quite sure there will be a full partnership on offer in the near future," Damon countered, knowing it to be true. He had brought a lot of new business to the firm. In fact, he was gaining a reputation in the City as the can-do guy. "I still say he should have rung me, after he rang you." He held firm. "That was the correct thing to do."
"Poor man was in shock." Bradfield gave way to a wry chuckle. "I said I'd tell you."
"Not good enough! Did he tell you he'd contacted Carol Emmett, his niece? The family may have been estranged for years, but clearly she must be told."
"Didn't mention young Carol." Bradfield waved that one away. "Why would he? He hasn't acknowledged her since the big rift. Now there's a beautiful girl. Met her a number of times. She darn nearly charmed the pants off me."
"Okay, so I'm getting on, as my dear wife never fails to remind me. Bit wild, young Carol, I hear."
"Justyoung," Damon clipped off, thinking Carol Emmett not only looked a handful she was bound to be one. "She has to know."
"I dare say the old man remembered her?" Bradfield gave Damon one of his guileless stares.
"He did that." Damon kept his face neutral. "She was his granddaughter."
"He paid her no attention at all!" Condemnation was in Bradfield's blue eyes. Marcus was a staunch family man with three daughters of marriageable age.
"As far as you know."
Marcus gave him a long, searching look. "Damon, you know as well as I do, the family as good as abandoned her and her mother. Now, there's a swinger, that Roxanne! A real glamour girl, though no one seems to like her. You should hear my wife! Another thing, my boy"
"I'm not your boy, Marcus."
"Another thing, my man, Maurice wants this kept quiet until morning when the press will be informed. Selwyn Chancellor was an important man. The premier could even want a state funeral."
"Against Selwyn Chancellor's wishes?" Damon shook his head. "He stipulated a quiet funeral, family and a few chosen friends only. He is to be buried in the garden of his country home, Beaumont, where I assume he died. Carol is to be invited."
"Not Jeff and Roxanne?" Bradfield asked as though that violated some set of rules.
"No way. Jeff Emmett might be one of your 'good ole boys,' but he and Roxanne are specifically excluded."
"So bygones won't be bygones? We all know Selwyn and his wifewhat was her name again?"
"Elaine," Damon supplied.
"Blamed Roxanne for the death of their son Adam, the heir apparent. It was a bit suspicious you have to admitall set to go through the Heads for a good day's sailing, only Adam takes a wallop on the head from the boom on the mainsail before pitching into the harbour. Roxanne tries to chuck in a lifebuoy, finds it unfastened but still attached, so she throws in every cushion to hand, anything that would float. Meanwhile the boat is moving on at around eight knots."
"She couldn't swim. That much was true."
"I've always said, men don't teach their wives enough about boats and light aircraft. They rely on always being there."
"I agree. Roxanne was believed."
"Not by everybody." Bradfield sighed. "Even to mention the case to my darling wife is to get into a heated argument. Old Selwyn didn't believe her; the mother was the more vehement of the two. She never accepted the coroner's finding. We're both yachtsmen so we know what can happen. But Adam Chancellor's parents continued to hold their daughter-in-law guilty of some crime."
"Maybe she was," Damon suggested. "She certainly acted strangely in the days that followednot a sign of a tear, always dressed up to the nines. Not that that makes her guilty of anything. But the whole thing was a bit strange; I've read up on it all. The tragedy damn near split the city in two. But, whatever story Roxanne Chancellor told, it worked. As far as I'm concerned, more questions were asked than there were answers for."
Bradfield stared down at his locked hands, as though they might hold the answer. "Speculation won't get us anywhere. It was years ago. Just about everyone has forgotten."
"Not true, Marcus."
"Why so judgemental?" Bradfield asked, not wanting to take the issue further. "The verdict is what counts. Jeff Emmett did the right thinghe adopted Roxanne's little daughter not long after they were married."
"I'm sure Roxanne forced him into it. No love lost between her and the Chancellor family." Damon gathered up his briefcase. "Look, I'm out of here. It's been a long day." For some time now he had been the first to arrive and often the last to leave.
Marcus cranked to his feet. He had put on a good deal of weight in the past few years, with his tailor gamely keeping pace. "Me, too. They mightn't have slung Roxanne into jail, as some in the family no doubt wanted, but she copped plenty of torture. You'll want to tell your client as soon as possible."
Damon started to the door. "I intend to."
Bradfield stayed him with a hand on his shoulder. "You're coming Saturday night?"
"Wouldn't miss it." Damon managed to sound enthusiastic when he didn't really want to go to Julie Bradfield's just-the-right-side-of-thirty birthday party.
"Every night I go down on my knees and pray my Julie finds a good husband," Marcus confided. One prayer stuck in the groove; Damon knew Marcus had his eye on him.
"And I'm sure she'll find one." Damon gave his boss a reassuring smile.
As long as it's not me.
He knew her address; one of the inner suburbs. She had moved out of the Emmett house as soon as she'd started university. He knew she was studying law, a good student who could do so much better if she put her mind to it. He had his sources at the university where he had graduated top of his class. Carol Emmett wasn't known as a party girl precisely, but the word was she was "wildly popular." She was certainly social. There was hardly a venue she visited where she wasn't photographed by what passed for the paparazzi. He knew her by her press coverage. She was ravishingly pretty, if pint-sized, with a mop of lustrous red curls, porcelain skin and brilliant blue eyes.
It was his job to find her and as soon as possible.
The unit Carol Emmett and two of her girlfriends were renting was part of a block of twenty. Most of the units were rented out to the better-heeled university students who knew they had to stick to certain rules or they'd be out the door. The block was in a good, mainly residential area with a small park nearby. There was security; that was good. He went up to the door and was about to press the button for apartment eight when two young women emerged from the lift. Their outfitsone of them was wearing a mega-short skirt exposing more than just her plump kneesindicated they were having a night out on the town. They gave him a giggling, comprehensive once-over. They would definitely know him again. He was a guy who stood out, not only for his heightsix-twohis chiselled good looks, but his aura of success.
"Who are you looking for, handsome?" The cheekier of the two, the one with the plump knees, spoke, a bright, inquisitive expression on her face.
"Carol Emmett." He answered in a relaxed way, but it came out with in-built authority.
"Well, you can't be the cops!" Cheeky eyed his beautifully tailored Italian business-suit, the shirt, the tie, even the shoes on his feet.
"Certainly not. I come as a friend."
"Ooh, lucky Caro!" she whistled, continuing to study him, her head tipped to one side. "Bit old for her, though, aren't you? Like, the guys Caro dates are our age."
Was thirty old these days? How depressing. "So you do know her?"
"Course we do," the other girl chimed in. She was plain, with an extraordinary hot-pink streak in her dark spiked hairdo, no doubt to shift focus from an over-long nose. "She's our flatmate. You won't find her at home. She's out looking for Trace."
"And Trace would be?"
"One of our mates," the cheeky one supplied, still eyeing him over. "Trace is always getting herself into trouble. Caro likes to keep an eye on her."
"Any idea where she might have headed? I need to discuss a business matter with her. It's urgent."
The two girls looked at each other, before deciding on giving him the information he sought. Evidently he had passed muster. "I'd say Trace's little hidey-hole," Cheeky said. "She doesn't live here; can't afford it. We can't either, only for Caro. She helps us out. She's not in any trouble, is she?" Both girls suddenly looked concerned.
"Of course not. I only need to speak to her. Where does TraceI assume that's Traceylive?"
Cheeky supplied the address which was in a less salubrious inner-city suburb. He knew he could find it easily.
A narrow winding street snaked between too many overhanging trees. He didn't like the idea of a young girl walking down this street at night. He would make a call the next morning to see if he could get those trees loped. He parked behind a car with a personalised number-plate that as good as announced Carol Emmett was inside. She was exactly where her flatmates had said she would be, checking on Trace; he didn't like it. Whether her name had changed to Emmett or not, everyone knew she was Selwyn Chancellor's granddaughter, albeit estranged. It was her grandfather's dying wish she revert to her father's name. From now on Carol Chancellor would need a bodyguard. Such a man would have to be unobtrusive, very probably with his function kept from his charge.
He exited his car and locked it, looking up at an old Victorian house that had been converted into flats. It would have been an impressive house in its day. It still was, despite the current owner's neglect. There was no security. That didn't surprise him. The front door was even ajar. He pushed it gently, walking into the hallway before scanning the names of the tenants listed on the wall. Not that he needed to. The girls had told him that Trace lived with her boyfriend in flat number six. The tone had indicated they didn't approve of Trace's boyfriend, who wasn't a university student. "Calls himself a chef," Cheeky had supplied with a snort. "Works in a sandwich bar."
"He was a chef, Amanda. Got kicked out. Temper, remember?"
He was halfway up the stairs when he heard shouting. The language was far from polite. He took the rest of the stairs at a rush. A raised male voice drowned out a young woman's. The accent was educated, though she wasn't averse to the odd swear word or two. She didn't sound afraid, rather she sounded angry, challenging. With the wrong man that tone of voice was courting trouble. He had real reason to be concerned. He didn't think that voice belonged to Tracey. It belonged to Carol Emmett, soon to be Chancellor again.
He moved silently to the door and gave it a thump with his fist. The scruffy young man that came to the door was maybe twenty-five or-six, handsome, not tall but heavily muscled. He was wearing a tight T-shirt, no doubt to show off his physique. He looked strong. But depressingly stupid.
"What d'ya want?"
"Well, that's to the point, if nothing else." The show of aggression did nothing for Damon. "I'd like a word with Ms Emmett, if I may? She's inside, isn't she?"
"Why would she wanna talk to you? Slumming, are yah?" The veins on the young man's neck were standing out.
"Can I have your name?" Damon asked crisply.
That confused the guy. "Yah gotta be joking."
"Not at all." Damon stared him down. "Step away from the door, please. I want to see Ms Emmett and her friend, Tracey. Do I take it you're the boyfriend?"
The young man fired up. "Get outta here. You're not the cops." He went to slam the door, only Damon shoved him out of the way and drove the door forward. At the same time he sighted a young dark-haired woman slumped in a chair. The cheekbone nearest him was heavily bruised, the eye almost closed. That upset him; he had seen too many incidences of abuse of women by their partners. The worst part was the victims often backed up for more. The damage was as much psychological as physical. Some women actually believed they had been asking for punishment.
Another young woman, who had to be Carol Emmett, was hurrying from the direction of the kitchen, clutching an icepack like a weapon. His immediate impression was she was infinitely lovelier in the flesh. He took in the tousled mane of ruby hair, her glowing skinhe had never seen skin glow like thatand her beautiful eyes of an intense sparkling blue. She was dressed in a short silk tunic, turquoise with a broad band of amethyst at the hem. It showed off her slender legs to perfection. There wasn't a hint of a generous curve. She was built like a ballerina. She even had a ballerina's trick of appearing to be in motion when she wasn't.
"What's going on here?" she demanded in that clear voice that gave notice she would soon find out. So, an imperious bantam weight! She could only be five-three at most. "Who are you?" She gave Damon a sharp, questioning look.
He darn near laughed, only the boyfriend took advantage of the distraction. He made a fist around the set of keys he quickly yanked out of the door, and then came at Damon in a bullocking rush, swearing and snarling.
Two things happened at once. Carol Emmett, blue eyes blazing, hurled the icepack like a missile at the boyfriend's head. It missed, but only because Damon, using his height and speed advantage, had his assailant in a deftly imposed arm-lock. The violent boyfriend was on his knees, his left arm twisted high behind his back, his right arm anchored to the floor with Damon's shoe pressed down hard on his hand.