Professional golfer Alan Saxon, finding himself short of money, is grateful to get an offer to fly off to Australia to take part in a prestigious Skins Game. But Sydney proves no escape; he's back in the city where he spent his honeymoon. Sadly, his ex-wife, Rosemary, is about to marry and deny him access to their beloved teenage daughter.
To add to his troubles, Diane, the attractive wife of wealthy Warren Oxley, the Aussie tycoon who's sponsoring the Skins, idolizes Saxon and insists on being his caddie during the contest. When he plays a practice round with her at the Greenblades Country Club, Saxon is overpowered and Diane is abducted, plunging him into a nightmare world of violence, betrayal, murder, financial intrigue, and sexual obsession, as well as the ploys of dedicated environmentalists. The Skins Game becomes a struggle to save his own hide where only his skill with a golf club can ward off extreme danger and deepening heartache.
About the Author
Keith Miles, who lives in England, is the author of more than thirty mysteries, one of which, written as Edward Marston, was nominated for a prestigious Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. He has also written more than forty original plays for radio, TV, and the theater; worked as a story editor for a movie company; and run his own professional theater group.
Read an Excerpt
By Keith Miles
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 2002 Keith Miles
All right reserved.
Chapter OneI suppose it had to happen sooner or later but it still hurt me deeply. That was her intention. She rang at the worst possible moment. I was sitting at my little table in Carnoustie, wrestling with my VAT return, trying to reduce three whole months of anarchic life to neat columns of figures. Mathematically, I'm not a convincing liar. It was a gruesome chore and not helped by the fact that I had, as usual, left it until the eleventh hour. We were parked in a gateway down a quiet country lane in Berkshire. Nobody was about. Even the birds were muted. Facing up to the reality of my financial situation is something that I can only do in the utmost privacy.
I was soon invaded. The telephone interrupted me and threw my calculations into disarray. I snatched up the receiver in a foul mood.
It was Rosemary. Her voice was a cocktail of charm, hostility and polite malice. With plenty of ice.
'What do you want?' I grunted.
'I have something important to tell you.'
'That makes a change.'
'Don't be sarcastic.'
'Then don't provoke my sarcasm.'
Her famous sigh. 'Must you be so tedious, Alan?'
'Get to the punchline.'
'It's very tiresome.'
'State your business and depart gracefully.'
'I'm going to get married.'
The words were like a mallet on myeardrum. My head echoed with pain and I was overcome with such a sense of betrayal that my eyes filled with tears. It was ludicrous. Rosemary had every right to get married again. We'd been divorced for years now and there was no legal barrier to hold her back. By the same token, I had a good reason to want her to find another husband. It would be wonderful to have someone to take the emotional strain off me, not to mention the monetary burdens. In theory, the news should have come as a blessed relief.
And yet I was wounded. I was angry, lonely, suddenly desperate. Could I be-no, it was unthinkable-jealous? As I slumped over the table in my motor caravan, I felt like an old stuffed sack that has just been expertly ripped apart during bayonet practice.
'Alan?' She jabbed again. 'Are you still there?'
'Then say something.'
'What do you expect me to say?'
'You must have some comment to make, surely.'
'David is an extremely nice man.'
'You'll soon put a stop to that.'
'Why must you be so disagreeable?'
'I take my cue from you, Rosemary.'
She inhaled deeply through her nose. I could see her at the other end of the line, putting a hand on her hip as she drew herself up to her full height, pursing her lips in righteous indignation. More ice was added to the cocktail. It rattled in the glass.
'I realise that this has come as a shock to you,' she said with effortless condescension. 'Coping with change was never your strong point. In fact, I can't actually remember what was. David asked me why I married you in the first place and, I must say, I'm hard put to it to come up with an answer. I mean, it's not as if it was a case of adolescent infatuation.'
'Nobody could accuse you of that!'
'You're being sarcastic again.'
'Why are you so piqued?'
'I'm not,' I lied. 'You're a big girl now, Rosemary. Free, white and over twenty-one. There's nothing to stop you getting married twice a week if you develop a taste for it. I've got no axe to grind. It lets me right out.'
Rosemary swung the mallet against my eardrum.
'I need to see you, Alan.'
'Because there's so much to discuss.'
'Talk it over with David.'
'We must make decisions.'
'You've made the only one that matters,' I said tartly. 'It's happened at last. You've found another sacrificial victim for the marriage bed. How do you propose to kill this one off?'
'We must meet.'
'Why? What else needs to be decided?'
'Lots of things.'
'We've come to a fork in the road.'
'Listen to me ...'
'I go this way. You and David go that way.'
'And what about Lynette?'
She exchanged the mallet for a sledgehammer now and she swung it with the precision of a blacksmith. My brain was a clanging anvil. I'd been so dazed by her initial announcement that I did not see all the consequences. I had simply not thought of Lynette. Remarriage would not only substantially alter my relationship with my ex-wife, it would have a profound effect on our daughter. I saw her little enough as it was and my rights of access were continually blocked and frustrated by Rosemary. With a new husband in the frame, my problems could only increase. I might lose the most precious thing in my life. It put a hoarse note in my voice.
'This must make no difference,' I insisted.
'That's why we must get together to thrash it out. This sort of thing can only be done face to face.' She softened slightly but I was not deceived. 'I don't think I'm an unreasonable woman and I'm sure that we can come to a compromise somehow. All that it requires is a little patience and good will on both sides.'
'Yes-yours and David's.'
'Lynette will have a new father.'
'Not while the old one is alive and kicking!'
'It will have to be Friday.'
'Out of the question.'
'I've already reserved a table for lunch.'
'Thanks for consulting me first!'
'Now don't be difficult, Alan.'
'Well, I know it may seem churlish of me but I do like to have a say in my eating arrangements ... As it happens, I've done just that. I'm having lunch with someone else on Friday.'
'Not a chance.'
'This takes precedence.'
'We'll talk through our lawyers. It may be slower that way but it's a damned sight less painful.'
'Be there at one o'clock.'
'The Dog and Doublet.'
'Rosemary, I'm lunching with a publisher in London. Even if I wanted to-which I don't-there is no way that I can get out of it.' I heard what she said and blinked in astonishment. 'The Dog and Doublet?'
'That's cruel!' I protested. 'Positively sadistic!'
'No, Rosemary. I draw the line at that.'
'We'll be waiting for you.'
'Then you'll wait in vain.' A pause. 'We?'
'Lynette must be in on this,' she said, playing her trump card with a ladylike flourish. 'It affects her whole future. Even you must concede that. We have to get together as a family once more-for the last time. I'm sure you'll be able to find the Dog and Doublet.' 'Don't bank on it.'
'Oh, by the way,' she said, grudgingly. 'Message for you from Lynette.' 'Well?'
'She sends her love. Goodbye.'
The line went dead but Rosemary's voice continued to buzz around inside my skull like an irate swarm of bees. All my resistance had been swept aside. I knew that I would do exactly as she ordered even though the prospect was quite terrifying. To see Lynette was usually an occasion of pure joy for me but to meet her in those circumstances would be an absolute ordeal. Rosemary had chosen the ideal venue for my humiliation.
The Dog and Doublet in Sissinghurst.
It was where I proposed to her.
Carnoustie is my only true home and I have no complaint about the warmth of her hospitality but there are times when a motor caravan is just not big enough to contain my whirling emotions. This was one such time. Rosemary had turned the place into a prison. Needing space and fresh air and the illusion of freedom, I let myself out of the vehicle and set off at a steady jog. It was only when I was halfway across the field that I realised I was holding the VAT return in my hand. Vengeance stirred. Giving way to a rare destructive impulse, I tore the form into pieces and threw them into the air to create an impromptu snowstorm.
It was an absurd gesture but it gave me satisfaction.
There could be awkward repercussions.
I didn't care.
* * *
The building was in one of those dirty, narrow backstreets in Soho that have become a wheel-clamper's paradise. Cars and vans littered both kerbs or mounted the pavements at crazy angles like mating tortoises. A couple of bicycles were chained to a lamppost. Someone had been spectacularly sick outside the pub. An empty pram was standing incongruously outside the sex shop. Refuse bins awaited collection. Piles of empty cardboard boxes completed the obstacle course. A stray dog sniffed its way along the wall to check if anyone had left a message on one of its answerphones. Pedestrians ambled along in the light drizzle. It was a depressing sight and only added to my feeling of despair.
I went up a short flight of steps and in through some double doors. After the filth and decay outside, I was plunged into hygienic modernity. Thick carpets, plain walls, gleaming leather upholstery. Reception was staffed by three well-dressed young women with competing hairstyles. My name meant nothing to the brunette with the plaits and she passed it on over the intercom with calm indifference. I was waved to a seat where I picked up a glossy catalogue of forthcoming publications. None of them aroused my interest, let alone the desire to buy them. How on earth did authors come to choose such weird subjects? I was still wondering who would want to read a book about a disused railway line in the Forest of Dean when a pert blonde came bobbing up to me.
'I think so.'
'Follow me, please.'
I hauled myself out of the chair and went across to a small lift with her. In the confined space, her perfume was quite overwhelming. We rode up four floors then came out into a large area that had been divided up into offices by a series of screens. Most of the desks were occupied by Sloaney females, poring over art-work or leafing through manuscripts or engaged in nasal conversations on the telephone. Some of them recognised me from the sports pages and I got the usual mixture of curious stares and welcoming smiles.
My guide took me to the far end and opened the door of a glass-walled inner office. Its occupant leapt up from his swivel chair.
'Alan, dear chap! Come on in!'
'Nice to meet you at last.'
Harvey Jansen belonged to the Firm Handshake Brigade and he had that look-you-straight-in-the-eye technique so beloved of insurance salesmen. In my weakened state, I found it unnerving.
'You're even taller than I imagined,' he said.
'And your hair really is grey.'
'I worry a lot.'
'On the telly, it looks silver.'
'The camera doesn't do you any favours, Alan. Makes you seem much older.'
'A cunning ruse to fool the opposition.'
'It obviously works.'
'Sorry about having to cancel lunch,' I said.
'These things happen,' he said amiably. 'Main thing is that we meet before you jet off Down Under. I'm very anxious to get something down on paper.' He indicated the chair in front of the desk. 'Take a pew.' I sat down. 'What would you like-tea, coffee, hot chocolate?'
'How do you take it?'
'Touch of milk. No sugar.'
'Hear that, Sandra?'
He grinned at his secretary and she went off to organise the refreshments. Her perfume still teased my nostrils. Jansen chuckled.
'Sandra prides herself on her fragrance.'
'Asphyxiation at five paces.'
'You get used to it.'
Harvey Jansen beamed down at me then perched on the edge of the desk. He was a big, sleek man in a blazer and flannels with a club tie. Years older than me, he was in remarkably good condition with a healthy complexion and no excess weight. Jansen was a former rowing blue from Cambridge and he still looked as if he could pull an oar. His blend of education and physique was intimidating.
'I do hope we can work together, Alan.'
'So do I.'
'We already have a number of golf titles on our list but there's always room for something special.'
'Alan Saxon on Golf. A subtle blend of instruction, anecdote and autobiography. With lavish illustrations. All we have to do is to package it properly and it could really take off.' He sounded a warning note. 'Not that it's going to make a fortune for either of us, mark you. Sporting books don't often turn out to be overnight sensations, I fear. More a case of steady sales geared to a promotional drive.' He gave a wry smile. 'Of course, the ideal time to launch you would have been in the autumn, immediately after you'd won the Open. That would've given the book lift-off.'
'We're several years too late for that.'
'No matter,' he said breezily. 'We'll market you as the elder statesman of British golf, as the mature voice of the game. There's no substitute for experience in any sport.'
He laughed with masculine heartiness then opened his door wider when he saw the blond head bobbing towards him. His secretary brought the two cups in on a tray. She handed me my coffee, gave him his tea, then took her flagrance away again. Jansen shut the door before sitting down behind his desk. I got my first uninterrupted view of the office. It was small but impeccably tidy. Books lined three walls and I ran my eye over some of the titles.
'If there's anything you want, let me know,' he invited. 'You can have it with my compliments.'
'Might even have an advance copy of Clive's book.'
'Fifty Famous Golfers?'
'That's it. You get in as number fifty.'
'I hope they're in ascending order.'
'What else?' Another hearty laugh. 'Clive's a great fan of yours. It was he who suggested we got together.'
'Best golf writer in the business.'
'When he's sober.'
'Quite the reverse,' I said. 'It's the drink that puts him in a league of his own. It liberates him. Clive says that it makes his creative juices flow. And it doesn't seem to get in the way of his game either. He can play a mean round of golf when he's had a few.'
'So I hear.' He sipped his tea. 'I'm glad you have such a high opinion of Clive Phelps. I don't suppose you'd consider letting him write this book with you?'
'No,' I said firmly.
'He thought you wouldn't.'
'If you want my story, Mr. Jansen-'
'We do, we do.'
'Then you get it in my own words.'
'I'll settle for that.'
Jansen had some more tea then set his cup aside so that he could lean forward across his desk with his hands clasped together in front of him. Having established eye contact again, he launched into what was evidently a well-prepared lecture.
'Let me give you my thoughts on this, Alan ...'
His arguments were intelligent, lucid and highly persuasive but they still could not hold my attention for more than a few minutes.
Excerpted from Green Murder by Keith Miles Copyright © 2002 by Keith Miles
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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