Paul Ansley has been under suspicion for illegal trade in precious stones. His health is against him.
Lin Ansley Fletcher stands to inherit a lucrative company and a vast cattle station. The acquisition comes at a high cost.
José Cameron Cordosa-Michaels is a criminal psychologist working within the CIA. He's also the mastermind behind an elite team of specialists. Unquestionable loyalty, borne by respect and trust, binds these men.
Taking on a seemingly routine case file, Cameron Michaels unwittingly places himself and his team in jeopardy.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.03(d)|
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By Judy-Lynn Wheeler
Partridge AfricaCopyright © 2014 Judy-Lynn Wheeler
All rights reserved.
South Africa: Cape Town
Lin glanced through the mail in her hand as she climbed the patio steps to her front door. Kathy, a long time friend, was hopeless at writing, but with the recent move from the Cape to Botswana, Lin was expecting some sort of communication. Her luck was out today. Removing her shoes the moment she entered the hallway, Lin sighed with relief as her feet touched the coolness of the floor tiles. Crossing to the bureau she dropped the envelopes into the large ceramic bowl, with every intention of attending to them later. Right now what she needed was a soothing bath, food, and a decent sleep.
The past few days at the office had been brisk and there was no likelihood of the pace letting up for another two, maybe three weeks. With the start of the school holidays just around the corner, customers wanted their vehicles in tip top shape in readiness for their long awaited annual family getaways. It was hard to believe that, in such a short space of time, their business had grown as it had and that turnover was looking more than pleasing. But then, their success was largely due to her son's determination and driving force.
It was not often she looked back on her years with her husband Geoff. Those memories were far too unkind but today thoughts entered her mind. Thinking of him evoked feelings of anger and disappointment. That Geoff had hated her to such an extent never occurred to her back then. But to have done what he had.
* * *
It all went back to that hateful day during the first few months of their marriage. She'd been nauseated by what had happened but, as time went by, Geoff had kept his distance from her and remaining married to him was not all that difficult. He was away most of the time, travelling. There was never any financial hardship with him being away as Geoff plied money into her account every month, irrespective of where he was. But, while there was money, the upbringing of their child was to become her responsibility.
As an infant, Dean never wanted for anything, except his father's time. He was his father's pride and joy! Love for his child came in the form of weekly letters, which she had to read to the youngster, whether he understood them or not. But as Dean grew, he was able to read them for himself. They became precious to him and, on the odd occasion when Geoff would arrive home unexpectedly, Dean lavished his love and attention on his father. Strangely, Geoff seemed to enjoy his visits home, even though they were brief. He never stayed longer than a week at a time but, in that week, the immediate impression was one of a family unit. The fact that she did not share the same room as Geoff was never mentioned, not in the home, and certainly not out of it. But as Dean grew older and started thinking for himself, questions were posed.
Lin remembered that day only too well. Having sat down to breakfast her son had tackled her with the question. 'How come Dad and you don't share a room?' Geoff had been 'visiting' and had overheard the question. 'Son, there are times when I can't sleep and I don't like disturbing your mother. We're happy with the situation, so there's nothing to worry about. In fact, I'm going to try and come home more often.' That was when the strain on the relationship truly began. Although he was 'home', Geoff was out every night till late, sometimes only coming in, in the early hours of the following morning. Those times were soul destroying times. She endured his behaviour, the cheap smelling perfume on his clothes, the even cheaper aftershave used by his latest "friend". Geoff never demeaned himself with pathetic excuses. He simply didn't bother! Then one day, she exploded. The argument had been bitter and he demanded a divorce, which she'd granted him, on condition that he told his son the truth about the reason for the divorce. That his sexual appetite extended to other women and men and that group 'therapy' was beneficial. Geoff had been more than angry! He'd been incensed enough to attempt a foolish stunt in a plane that almost cost them their lives. Dean had undergone trauma therapy following the ordeal. Nightmares plagued her, and continued to do so for months. Geoff had left. He never asked a second time for a divorce.
Still the birthday presents, Easter parcels, Christmas bundles and letters written to Dean kept coming during his three and a half year absence. Money was transferred into her account regularly but, she used only enough for Dean's requirements, keeping a close tally of what she had spent. The balance increased in her account month by month. She changed jobs shortly after Geoff had left and, with her new job, came added responsibility and an attractive pay package. She lived comfortably.
Dean did well at school, both academically and in sports. He seemed content. It was only when letters from Geoff arrived that his attitude changed slightly. Dean became quieter. Then one day, she caught him burning a letter. Challenging him he'd replied. 'Dad's full of promises he doesn't keep.' He had handed her all the envelopes he'd kept, most were post marked from Northern Africa. Lin struggled with a deep burning anger for many a long month. She underwent counselling to see if that would help reduce the resentment she felt. It helped some.
Then one day her son suggested that she join him and some friends at a competition being held. He'd warned her that other parents would be there and begged her not to say anything else but that his father was abroad, working on a project. Lin was horrified at the extent of the lie they were living. But she went with her son that day prepared to keep up the pretence for his sake.
The competition had been an interesting one. Paint Ball, or Paint War Games as it was sometimes called, was new to her. The object of the game was to seek out and annihilate the opposition with guns loaded with plugs of paint. Once the ball struck and left its mark on the target, that person was considered out of play, and was retired from the field. Her introduction to the game a few weeks later had given her an outlet when she so badly needed one. Geoff had re-entered their lives for a brief period only to threaten her existence, with catastrophic results, for him.
* * *
It was almost a year since his death. He couldn't hurt her or Dean again, so why did this deep burning resentment still exist. Lin had given up her executive full time job to help at the garage. This arrangement was convenient for both her and Dean. Tonight though, she was unusually tired. After discarding her clothes carelessly she summonsed enough energy for a quick shower before falling into bed.
The following morning, feeling slightly better for having had a solid nights' sleep, and feeling hungrier than she had in a while, she sat down to a healthy breakfast and remembered the neglected post. There was the odd minor account, the dog license renewal, an invitation to a launch of a new motor vehicle, and an official looking envelope addressed to her, with the sender's stamp on the back, marked Keenan & Finch (Attorneys). Lin toyed with the envelope not having heard of the firm. On opening the letter she read the contents and had to re-read the neat paragraph several times before it penetrated her shocked state. She didn't care much for surprises, her life had been too full of those, and most of them had been unpleasant. This one though, was just so totally unexpected. Her father wanted to meet with her.
Lin had always known of his existence and the reasons behind her being brought up in convents most of her growing years. As an adolescent, she had attended normal main stream schooling and had stayed with a middle aged couple whom she'd looked upon as parents. They were wonderful people and she had spent several years with them before graduating and eventually marrying. Sadly they had both been killed in a motor accident, shortly before Dean had been born. Up until now, there had been no direct contact with her father. The sound of a phone ringing shrilly jolted her out of her reverie.
"Mum, are you OK?" She heard the concern in her son's voice. Glancing at her watch she understood why. It was after eight thirty. Usually, she was at the garage by seven o'clock.
She apologized. "I'm fine, I guess I lost track of time." Then she told him about the letter but not what it contained.
"Well, its quiet this morning, we've only two vehicles coming in later, so I can cope here if you need to attend to other things. I'll probably be up for lunch, if that's OK with you?" Dean knew he could arrive for lunch any time but he always made a point of asking. He said goodbye.
Most businesses and attorney's offices opened at nine o'clock so she reread the letter for the umpteenth time. At the stroke of nine, she dialled the given number, gave her name and asked for the writer, Mr Finch.
"One moment please, Mrs Fletcher." The line beeped and buzzed.
Then a male voice answered. "Mrs Fletcher, I gather you're responding to my letter regarding Paul Ansley?"
They spoke briefly, and Desmond Finch, as was his name, set up an appointment for the next day to go through all the relevant details of her father's request.
For the remainder of that day Lin was unable to settle down to anything constructive. Dean arrived on time for lunch and threw a dozen questions at her, none of which, she was able to answer. She never got to the garage. Instead she drove down to the Waterfront to get some fresh air. The few hours on the Wharf did wonders for her well-being and precious little for her bank account. Unable to resist the quaint boutiques, she indulged by buying a new dress for herself and a mod shirt for her son, the kind he enjoyed wearing. Dean was past the stage of having his mother shop for him but he was a sucker for presents, and she enjoyed buying him the odd gift.
From the Waterfront, she phoned her hair salon to see whether they would take her, as a last minute appointment. An hour later her hairdresser was fussing around her because of the severity of her hairstyle. She always wore the thick auburn tresses in a French roll to keep them under control. Sasha had been at her for months to allow him to do something with her hair. To him, keeping the tresses bound was sacrilege. Today, to his absolute delight, she gave him carte blanche. For the next few hours Lin succumbed to the ministrations of the girls, and the excited instructions Sasha was handing out.
Finally, before turning her to face the mirror, one of the girls suggested she wear some makeup, but Sasha would not hear of it. Instead, he himself applied a mere touch of gloss to her lips. She was ready for the world to see or so he oozed. Lin was speechless for a brief moment then something akin to panic set in and she found it difficult to breathe. The person she was looking at was not her! The shock must have been evident on her face because Sasha shooed everyone away before sitting down next to her. She became aware of him when he spoke. "You've been hiding for too long. You need to bring out the true you."
Turning to him Lin asked. "And what am I truly, Sasha?" Her mouth turned down fractionally.
"Look into that mirror!" Sasha studied her with a critically professional eye. "There's a strikingly beautiful woman there, only you won't let her out, and that's a crying shame. Look at the way the light catches your hair. I've done nothing to enhance that. It's all yours! Your hair is alive and living things deserve every chance to breathe." Then, as if embarrassed by his words, he continued in his usual forthright manner. He showed her several techniques to cope with the new style. Although he had given the strands some curl and cut some of the length, her hair still hung well below her shoulders. She promised Sasha she would phone if she had any difficulty adjusting to the new look. After leaving, Lin intended to go straight home but detoured via the garage instead, arriving as a client brought in a vehicle. She'd already caught Dean's expression when she heard the words.
"Who's the bombshell?" The comment came from a client.
She didn't miss the reply either from her son. "I think that was my mother!" It wasn't long before he showed up at her door. "It's a real cool look." He enthused. Dean sat down in the chair opposite reminding her he was spending the evening with friends so she wouldn't see him for dinner.
Thursday dawned, like most mornings at that time of the year with blue skies, languid warm sunshine with a mere hint of a breeze. High up over the top of the mountain lay a whisper of mist but that too would be gone once the sun warmed the day. Capetonians watched Table Mountain for the weather forecast and today was a good day for taking in the spectacular views from the top of the mountain.
Every weekend, droves of people queued for the cable car hoping to reach the top before the weather changed and the mist came down, or the wind got up too strong. But it wasn't only the mountain which attracted people. The Cape offered something for everyone. With the weather being so pleasant, Lin decided on wearing a lightweight shift. She was ready to go, with two hours in hand. Her dog, of all things, forced her to unwind, when he let out a mournful wail, reminding her of the fact she'd forgotten to feed him. On opening the kitchen door, the usual pattern was for the dog to rush in, bark his greetings, and rush out again.
This particular morning the animal stood staring at her, confused, making weird noises somewhere in his throat. It was only when she spoke that he realised his mistress and this new person were one and the same. He rushed in excitedly, knocked the table sideways and sprinted off down the passage, tearing up the loose runners in his haste, finally returning somewhat sheepishly for a good morning pat and his long awaited breakfast. He was a special animal and she loved him dearly, despite his idiosyncrasies. Once he'd licked the last few remains from his bowl Lin confined him in the back garden.
Then she was en route to the City. Negotiating traffic, at that time of the day, when business was at its peak, was an ordeal. Finally, pulling into the parking complex opposite the attorney's offices, Lin looked up at the building, a tall, glass structure, and experienced a feeling of disquiet. Shrugging it away, she walked briskly to the skywalk which led directly into the glass monolith. At the elevator doors, she checked the office number before boarding. Within moments the doors reopened at the fourteenth floor.
The offices of Keenan and Finch were beautifully furnished with mostly antique pieces, but they were warm and inviting, instead of the usual austere furnishings so often associated with law firms. She waited only a few minutes before a middle age, tall, slimly built man called her name.
"Mrs Fletcher?" He shook her hand before escorting her down a wide passage into an office where he indicated a chair. Lin hadn't spoken, yet he continued as if she had. He offered her tea which she accepted. He passed the request through to an unseen person via the intercom system on his desk before continuing.
"Let's get down to some business, shall we?" Desmond smiled politely. "I have some information to relay to you then, I will be happy to answer your questions, as best I can." He then went on to give her the details as his client had requested.
"With your mother dying shortly after childbirth, your father went through a deep depressive state and was not able to cope with the demands of a new born baby. He placed you in a convent to be taken care of." Desmond paused to allow the woman before him to absorb the information. "Months went by before he could begin to deal with aspects of his life again. Once he'd picked up the threads, Paul had spent several months at a cottage near the Convent hoping to form a bond with you." Glancing at her Desmond continued. "Your father found a good business opportunity but, unfortunately, his work took him far and wide and for lengthy periods of time and he was forced yet again to leave you with caring people, people he trusted."
Lin interrupted. "I grew up a long time ago, why the decision to make contact now?"
Desmond replied. "I'm sorry, that's one question I'm not at liberty to answer. Should you choose not to meet with Mr Ansley, I am holding a letter in trust that will be given to you in due course."
Lin asked curiously. "How old is Paul Ansley now?"
"Your father is in his sixty fourth year."
Silent for a moment Lin then made up her mind. "You can advise Paul that I will see him. Sunday, at Kirstenbosch Gardens, say around three o'clock." A natural smile formed about her lips.
Excerpted from Blue Diamond by Judy-Lynn Wheeler. Copyright © 2014 Judy-Lynn Wheeler. Excerpted by permission of Partridge Africa.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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