Meanwhile, Susannah Crawford, Gavin's erstwhile girlfriend and kidnapper and Greg's murderer, is recovering from the harpoon attack that prevented her from killing Gavin; she's determined to seek revenge and, ultimately, Gavin's death.
In the wake of Greg's death, his family's vengeance replaces the path to justice. Gavin sets a trap to capture his brother's killer, but she evades him, adding extortion to her criminal achievements. Susannah acquires a new identity and starts a new life in Paris, at least temporarily. But the urge to kill Gavin takes her back to Martinique-just when it seemed as though she is gone for good.
Beyond Any Doubt is a murderous romp-but who will survive?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.84(d)|
Read an Excerpt
BEYOND ANY DOUBT
By Nicholas Ralph Morgan
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Nicholas Ralph Morgan
All right reserved.
As the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat.
Chantelle Petoire, a classical French actress stood outside the foyer of Le Ciel Theatre in Paris, France. She gazed at the display board depicting her portrait, along with other cast members of Evita. Every night during the last three months she had given a passing glance on her approach to the stage door. Tonight however, she paused to reflect on her stardom. Her portrait was centrally positioned. Staggered either side were photographs of the other cast members. This production of Evita had been a success. Chantelle Petoire's role as Eva Peron had given her the break she needed. Numerous write-ups had heralded her stardom, a stardom she had yearned for all her life. It had inaugurated fame and fortune to be within her grasp. When she thought of the auditions she had attended and the cities she had travelled to in her quest for stardom, it had all been needless. Her hometown was where she finally hit the headlines. Town being a metaphor, for she lived in a city, the romantic French city of Paris, where she was born and raised.
Tonight was the last performance of their three-month run. It had been a theatrical schedule that began May 10th, and would end today, August 5th. It had been exhausting, but Chantelle would not have swapped it for the world. The show was then going on tour across Europe, visiting many theatres within the major European cities. However, the cast now had a six-week sabbatical before the tour began, opening in Munchen in mid September. Although Chantelle would miss the show during the interim period, she looked forward to having a holiday and a well-earned rest. A chance to have some time to oneself, to reflect and be apart from the other cast members. After spending so much time together one felt a compulsion to go separate ways. It was not a question that the cast did not get on, they were like one big happy family, but a complete change of scenery was essential to retain perfection and professionalism. Ironically, one always missed one's fellow actors, but it made the reunion that more exciting. The cessation enabled one to recharge and produce a performance that the audience had paid to see.
Chantelle sighed as she looked at her photograph. Had she really hit the big time? It seemed almost unbelievable how quickly she had shot to fame. It was exhilarating. In the wake of the opening night she had relished the limelight. The many press interviews, the forthcoming contracts that were waiting to come to fruition after the European tour. Not forgetting her first song album, singing many dramatic ballads. All of this was lining up in the wings once Evita had run its course. Chantelle Petoire would be a household name like Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland.
The time was 6pm, time to be making a move. Only an hour and a half till curtain rise on the final show. Chantelle walked away from the foyer entrance, her stilettos clacking on the pavement. Most famous stars dress incognito when walking about in public, not wanting to be recognised and often wearing a sweatshirt, jogging pants, and dark glasses. But that was not Chantelle's style. This August afternoon she wore a sapphire blue dress. Her back was exposed to the summer air and her neck embraced by a diamond choker. Even though it was imitation it looked stunning, and gave her the confidence that suited her rise to fame. Her short blonde hair suited the sapphire blue garment. Chantelle wanted to appear glamorous at all times, not in the least bit perturbed from any public attention. Her neighbour Colette Dupont, who had designed the outfit especially for her, regarded Chantelle as a Hollywood celebrity. Colette profusely prophesised her rise to fame and was eager to be a part of it.
"The winner of the Oscar is Chantelle Petoire," she often said. Being a fashion designer, Colette Dupont seized the opportunity of using Chantelle to display her creations. Colette was in awe.
Chantelle turned the corner and headed for the stage door. She conscientiously applied herself to the theatrical profession, and was generally the first person to arrive. It was important to be early and relax before stepping into character. Similar to a caterpillar changing into a butterfly, she would transfer from Chantelle Petoire to Eva Peron.
"Bonsoir Chantelle," said Marcel, the stage door attendant. "Good luck with your last performance."
"Merci," she replied. The thin middle-aged man gave her a bouquet.
"These arrived for you earlier," he said. Chantelle received the colourful display of flowers and inhaled the scented aroma. The bouquet was one of many she had received over the past three months from various people, including the producer, her male co-star, and close friends. Naturally, her family had been very supportive but had preferred to keep a low profile. Chantelle managed to pluck the attached card and read it. As predicted, it was a token gesture from the company, expressing their gratitude for the success that she had brought to the show.
"It is so thoughtful of them," she said to Marcel as he gave her the key to her dressing room. "I have had the best three months of my life."
"I am glad you have enjoyed being at the theatre. I have welcomed the extra overtime the last three months," he said. Chantelle laughed at Marcel's apparent humour.
"Too many encores is it? Keeping you here later than it should," she stated jovially.
"Not at all. You give as many encores as you like," reacted Marcel cordially.
"Tonight is the last performance and I know I shall not want the encores to finish, but I will try and bear you in mind. After all, you do have a home to go to unlike us thespians, for the stage is our home," she said. Marcel smiled. He was a sweet guy, of the camp effeminate type and always pleased to see you.
The smell of lingering grease paint was all too evident as Chantelle made her way to her dressing room. She looked into the serene stage as she passed by the wings. The lights were down and the scenery ready for the opening act. In less than an hour and a half the silent subdued stage shall be buzzing with speech, song and drama. Hopefully entertaining the audience that sat before it.
In contrast to the glittering glamour of the auditorium was the drab interior of backstage. The glittering chandeliers, the gold edged décor that the public were familiar with and expected, just vanished like a magicians trick the moment one went backstage. The theatre itself epitomised hypocrisy, full of glamour on the outside but behind the scenes dust, cobwebs and shabby paintwork.
Chantelle Petoire entered her dressing room. Her costumes hung on a rack to the left. Her make-up and toiletries were placed on a dressing table. She made use of a vacant vase and filled it with water. She proudly displayed the bouquet of flowers. The room was stuffy so she opened the window. For a few seconds she watched the people walk by and the evening traffic jam as always at this time of day. Being the star of the show Chantelle had sole use of this room, along with a private shower. Each day she made use of this facility. It was symbolic to her performance. Taking a shower was the first thing she did to begin her character transformation. She would discard the clothes of Chantelle Petoire, cleanse her body and then re-dress as Eva Peron.
She showered for only a few minutes, just to focus her mind and relax her body. The initial part complete, Chantelle sat at her dressing table wearing a robe. Now that the Max Factor was removed, the grease paint could be applied. She looked into the mirror. The surrounding light bulbs illuminated the contours of her face as she blended the make-up across her skin. Her short blonde hairstyle that she loved so much, with the sides curving forward over her ears and fading into her facial features, would soon be concealed by a shoulder length blonde wig with a flood of curls. The visual character of Eva Peron was emerging. In the distance Chantelle heard her fellow thespians arriving. The sound of their muffled conversations as they passed by her dressing room shattered the silence. In response to a knock at the door she called out:
"Entre," as she put the finishing touches to her wig. The door opened and in walked Shannon Cassidy followed by Juanita Sanchez. Like Chantelle, Shannon was a singer and in her early thirties. Shannon was Chantelle's understudy. They had a mutual respect for each other. Although they had never exchanged a crossed word, Chantelle did not doubt for a second that Shannon would eagerly take over her role. Give credit where it was due, she would make a suitable Eva Peron, but the part was hers and she intended to keep it. Shannon had been given a singing role within the production. This was to satisfy her ambition and to portray her talent. Her nationality was English, though her command of French was excellent. Juanita, on the other hand, was a dancer and from the Caribbean. She was in her early twenties and her youth and vitality were constantly on show. Her elegant stature was the envy of any woman. She was also a good dancer.
"Bonsoir," they said as they entered the dressing room. Chantelle Petoire got up from her chair and greeted them with a theatrical kiss. Juanita noticed the vase of flowers on the dressing table.
"Is that the bouquet we sent you?" she asked. "Aren't they lovely."
"Yes," replied Chantelle. "It was a kind thought, thank you."
"I can't believe it is the last night," added Shannon. "Seems only five minutes since the opening night and we were all full of the jitters, not knowing if the show would be a hit or miss." Chantelle did not reply directly to Shannon, instead, she made a reference to the newspaper Juanita had tucked under her arm.
"Is that yet another write-up for your scrap book?" she asked.
"No it is not, although I have bought today's paper where we are the main feature in the theatre column. 'The closing of Evita after a three month stupendous run'," quoted Juanita. She spoke with such enthusiasm, typical of a young spirited girl foolishly in love. Although unattached at the moment, she would be an ideal catch. "The newspaper I have here is a local one from Martinique, which my folks send to me each week. It helps me to stop feeling home-sick," she mentioned.
"Martinique?" enquired Chantelle. "Is that the Caribbean island you originate from?"
"Yes, do you know it? Have you ever been to the Caribbean?" replied Juanita, eager to talk about her home life.
"No, I can't say that I have."
"I went once," informed Shannon. "For a holiday with some friends. That was a few years ago."
"I know!" came an excited Juanita. "Why don't the three of us go during the sabbatical? I'm already returning home this weekend, the both of you are more than welcome to join me. Our house is more than big enough and we shall have fun."
"I might decide to take you up on that," remarked Shannon. "Chantelle, will you come with us?"
"Unfortunately I won't be able to. I have made other arrangements, but maybe another time," she said. Working with Shannon was one thing, but to holiday with her would be intolerable. Had Juanita's suggestion been for just the two of them then she might have accepted. A minor postponement of her prearranged plans would not matter. They would come to fruition in good time.
The three females were in high spirits as they talked about their aspirations for the future. Chantelle Petoire felt she had reached her goal. Now in her mid-thirties, musicals, theatre, and a recording contract were all she ever wanted. This she had now achieved. Juanita Sanchez was hoping to go into television, not necessarily as a dancer but as a presenter or anything of that nature to acquire fame and fortune. Shannon Cassidy however, felt she belonged in Hollywood, either singing or acting in movies. Dreams were one thing, reality another, and in Shannon's case the two would never meet.
The Tannoy interrupted their conversation:
"This is your thirty-minute call. I repeat; this is your thirty-minute call. The entrance doors are now open to the public."
"Vitement! Vitement! We only have thirty minutes to get ready. We lost track of the time," stated Chantelle. Juanita and Shannon took notice of her urgency. Shannon quickly left the dressing room to get ready. Juanita remained for a moment. Chantelle needed help with her dress for the rear clasps were too awkward. Within seconds she had squeezed into her opening attire. She thanked Juanita for her assistance and watched as the dancer dashed out of the dressing room. Juanita rushed to get ready for the opening routine.
Chantelle Petoire's final performance was looming nearer. She almost felt as nervous as the opening night. She knew her part very well and had not made any mistakes over the past three months, except for minor ones that the audience would not be any the wiser to. Would the last night be her downfall?
"Certainly not," she told herself. "Stop being so ridiculous." She took a deep breath and began some singing exercises, humming a few scales and arpeggios before breaking out into full voice. She was now ready to portray Eva Peron.
The five-minute call had been given. It was time for the beginners of act one to be on stage. Chantelle left her dressing room and serenely walked to the stage. Her fellow thespians whispered numerous cheers and good wishes. They were waiting in the wings as Chantelle walked passed them. The curtain was still down. She graced the stage and quietly called everyone together.
"Bon chance tous le monde, bon chance," she said. "Good luck everyone and have a great show. Thank you for all your support." She left the stage, leaving the opening people to resume their stance. Chantelle Petoire stood in the wings ready for her entrance. The audience applauded as the musical director took his position in the pit. The orchestra played the overture and as the curtain went up the audience applauded once more. The final show had commenced.
The last performance was far from an anti-climax. The public applauded well. The cast were delighted. Their success of the last three months remained intact. Naturally, they could not leave the stage until they had sung a reprise of, 'Don't cry for me Argentina'. It became a karaoke singsong as the audience joined in. Eventually, amidst bows and encores, the curtain descended slowly. The Paris run of Evita had ended. Chantelle turned to face her fellow thespians. All began to embrace each other. Some members were shedding a few tears as they sought comfort in an emotional hug. Chantelle gave a slight chuckle as she thought of Marcel yawning at the stage door, waiting to go home. Yet so what! He liked the overtime.
Somewhat exhausted they drifted from the stage. The now famous Chantelle Petoire returned to her dressing room. She was relieved that she had fulfilled her contract admirably. It felt good to have a further success under her belt. This could only help to improve her career. All alone, she sat at the dressing table and looked in the mirror.
"Well done Chantelle," she said to herself. She removed her wig. "You have triumphed yet again." She slowly stepped out of the overbearing costume and took another shower. It was time to return to her former self, no more Eva Peron, well not for six weeks anyway.
There was always a lot of hassle after a show. Packing up your costumes; making sure every item was correctly labelled; then having to take them down to wardrobe. A question of organised chaos at a time when all you wanted to do was join everyone else in the theatre bar before going on to the after show party. Nevertheless, one remained conscientious, after all, one needed to use the same clothes and props again.
The after show party had been arranged at a nearby venue. All sorts of influential people would be there. No doubt Chantelle could exploit their importance to her advantage. Dressed in the blue sapphire outfit, she gave one last look around the dressing room. It was a nightly habit, just a last minute safety check to ensure she had not forgotten anything. She saw the Martinique newspaper lying on a nearby chair. Juanita had inadvertently left it behind earlier when she helped Chantelle with her opening costume. Then in her haste to get ready herself had forgotten to take it with her. The act of this absent-mindedness was not the problem, but it was the opening headline that gave cause for concern. As Chantelle retrieved the newspaper from the chair the front page fell open to its full potential. The headline was unavoidable.
'Business Tycoon Weds Childhood Sweetheart.' "This can not be what I think it is?" she muttered. After reading the first view lines her suspicions were correct.
'Business Tycoon Gavin Harrison is to wed childhood sweetheart Veronique Torluba at St Mary's church on August 17th.'
Excerpted from BEYOND ANY DOUBT by Nicholas Ralph Morgan Copyright © 2010 by Nicholas Ralph Morgan. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1. Evita....................3
Chapter 2. Two Years Earlier....................14
Chapter 3. The Will....................37
Chapter 4. Masquerade....................51
Chapter 5. Retribution....................69
Chapter 6. The Confession....................87
Chapter 7. Guilt....................104
Chapter 8. The Truth Unravels....................120
Chapter 9. Good Old Santa....................130
Chapter 10. A Sad New Year....................150
Chapter 11. Valentine's Day....................170
Chapter 12. A New Beginning....................180
Chapter 13. Treading The Boards....................199
Chapter 14. The Wedding....................209
Chapter 15. The Aftermath....................234
Chapter 16. The Trial....................258
Chapter 17. The Verdict....................288
Chapter 18. Dashed Hopes....................313
Chapter 19. Duped....................337
Chapter 20. A Mountainous Epilogue....................349