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Authors: Evelyn Anthony

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‘You don't like her.' His wife smiled and made a little gesture with her hands. A blue-white diamond cut in the famous Karakov style, a long baton, blazed like a meteor on her hand. ‘You don't like the woman, that's all. You think Ivan's been nice with us because he's up to something, is that it? You could be right. But you got any other reason you haven't told me? You know something I don't know?'

He never kept anything from her, and she knew it. But he was uneasy about Ivan Karakov, and not just because he thought Laura Karakov was pure poison. Which she was, of course.

Clara returned to the attack. ‘Well,' she said, ‘you know something. Tell me.'

David shrugged. ‘OK, OK, but it's just a hunch, that's all. I got nothing really to go on. Someone saw that guy Mirkovitch coming out of Karakov's office when he was here last month,' David said. ‘I wondered what he was doing there. I still wonder.'

‘Maybe Ivan wants to do a deal with Mirkovitch,' Clara said.

David dismissed the idea, with contempt. ‘He wouldn't touch the Russians. He wouldn't dare, behind our backs. Change your mind, Clara, have a drink. We got another hour before we go.'

‘All right.' She said it over her shoulder as she went out, and he heard her calling to the maid to finish his packing and put the cases in the hall for the doorman to take down.

He always grumbled that they were over seventy, and long journeys were for young men. But it didn't matter. He couldn't have resisted that cable if he'd been on his deathbed. He'd still have caught the plane to London for this meeting. Next to the imponderable, shining beauty of diamonds, the fascination of the endless struggle for power would hold him in the business until the day he died. Diamonds were the real secret. The others fought over them, looked for them, dug them up, cheated and lied and intrigued to get control of them, but only men like David Wasserman loved them for themselves. He loved all diamonds, even the poor little stones.

A few hours later, the 747 streaked ahead in the night sky, and he slept beside his wife in the first-class section. Up in the forward lounge, the duty hostess read a novel.

‘You're sure you want to come? It shouldn't mean more than a couple of days.' Dick Kruger reached out for her hand. They were side by side on mattresses, baking in the sun round the pool at the Hotel Du Cap. They went there every year; his wife Valerie had hated it, disliking the ostentation and vulgarity of the super-rich clientele. But she could never criticize the hotel itself. The setting, food and service were superb.

Ruth was not like his wife. She loved the money and the luxury. She smiled at him, her fingers twining in his. She was very dark, with curiously cat-like green eyes; she was small and slim, but the nut-brown body, barely covered in a brief bikini, was voluptuous, with a full bosom and rounded hips. She was thirty-three, unmarried, and she had been his secretary for eight months before she caught him. The affair had begun on one of his long trips abroad. He'd taken her with him because she was tri-lingual in French and German, and more than fluent in Spanish and Italian. There had been the possibility of a deal in Guinea, where illicit diggers had moved on to a rich alluvial field. Kruger had set up a number of small buying offices under the control of Diamond Enterprises which offered top prices for cash and thus plugged a major leak on to the free market. Guinea was a primitive country with few facilities, but Kruger had got tired of Valerie's refusal to travel to places like Sydney or even New York. She was bored by business trips, and didn't make a secret of it. So he took his new secretary along, because of her facility with French, which was the common language, and because she was eager to go. He had felt lonely on a lot of trips, and he was pleased to have the company. Someone to talk to when the day's business was done, rather than sitting alone drinking in some fifth-rate hotel with dodgy air-conditioning.

He hadn't meant to go to bed with her. They'd had a lot to drink, the hot spiced food had made them both sweat, and suddenly she had looked at him and said, ‘I think you're the most attractive man I've met in years. I must be pissed … I'm sorry.'

And Dick Kruger had looked into the green eyes and heard himself say, ‘That's what I've been thinking about you …'

‘So, why don't we do something about it?' She had a husky voice, and she ran a hand down his bare moist arm. ‘Let's go upstairs,' she said. ‘We can take a shower.'

Kruger had stood up. She had hold of his hand and her finger caressed his palm. ‘If there's any water,' he muttered, pulling her from the table.

‘Even if there isn't,' Ruth Fraser said, and she laughed.

It was the most revealing sexual experience of his life, and he was a man who liked women and enjoyed having sex. Ruth was different. She called up a virility he'd thought was diminishing with middle age. She aroused him, satisfied him, then brought him back to a peak again and again, until he marvelled at himself.

The next morning, she was business-like and in control of the situation. All she said was, ‘Thank you for the best night of my life. Now I have your schedule here. You're meeting the Minister at ten o'clock.' She smiled at him. She had white, beautiful teeth. And they were sharp, as he now knew.

‘Which probably means any time up to eleven. And they're sending a car for you to go to the mining area at around three-thirty.'

He'd said, ‘I want you to come with us. You've never seen the sharp end of the business. And if they get too technical you can translate.'

‘I'd be fascinated,' she said, and he knew that she meant it. ‘Thank you, Mr Kruger.'

That touched him. She wasn't going to take advantage. ‘Dick,' he said.

She smiled and nodded. ‘Dick,' she repeated in that silky voice.

They made love every night, and often during the blistering afternoons. By the time they travelled back to England, he was addicted. They stopped off for a break in Paris, making some excuse to the London office, and he bought her some expensive clothes and a gold bracelet from Boucheron. He took her out to dinner at the Crillon in her new dress and everyone stared at them. It gave him a real glow to be seen with her.

He had felt guilty about cheating on Valerie, but, as time passed and he shared his business life and his sex life with Ruth, that guilt changed to resentment. He was childless, because his wife had had an abortion before they married, and couldn't have a baby because of complications. For years he had suppressed his disappointment and his anger, now it surfaced. What, he asked himself, was he getting out of this marriage?

Valerie had become a woman he no longer wanted. A woman who wouldn't travel because she found his business boring, who spent money on entertaining people with whom he had little in common and kept an expensive house which he didn't regard as home any more. Home was Ruth Fraser's flat, where he talked over the day's problems with someone who shared his passion for Diamond Enterprises, commiserated with his disappointments or frustrations, and encouraged him to believe he still had a big future. And then there was the marvellous invigorating sex Ruth gave him, making the middle years drop away till he felt as potent as a bull. She had said to him one evening when they'd been together for a year, ‘Why don't you move out? We can have a place together. Why do we have to go on lying? Valerie won't care. You spend nights away and she doesn't even bother to check up. Why don't you talk to her?'

And he had said, ‘You're right. I'll do that.' He had been so relieved.

Prepared to be generous, he had offered his wife anything she wanted if she would let him go gracefully. But she wouldn't. She'd fought. She'd pleaded, she'd reproached, she'd refused a divorce under five years … He didn't see her reaction as love for him because he didn't want to. He saw it through Ruth's viewfinder: Valerie was spiteful and holding out for money. They bought a Chelsea house and were openly living together. And working together. In the office Ruth still called him Mr Kruger. Then, as hard as she had resisted, his wife suddenly gave in. She agreed to a divorce in two years, accepting the settlement he offered. She wrote a sad and dignified letter, saying he was making a mistake but she accepted that he didn't love her any more. There was no point in fighting for him. He had read it and thrown it away. He was damned if she was going to make him feel guilty as a parting shot.

Beside him, rubbing sun oil into her legs, Ruth looked at him and frowned. Their holiday in France was over; she accepted that. He talked soothingly of a couple of days' interruption as if she was a fool and didn't know the implications of an emergency meeting with Julius as well as he did.

She said, ‘It's trouble, isn't it? And I'm coming back with you, darling.' She stopped the sun oil and smiled at him. ‘I'm not missing out on the drama. I'd go crazy sitting here not being part of it.'

He was so grateful. Another woman would have complained, or looked martyred. Valerie would have simply exploded at the intrusion. But Ruth understood. She was with him every step of the way. He talked everything over with her; he listened to her opinions and often followed her advice. ‘I love you,' he said. ‘It's time we got married.'

She lay back, stretching in the hot sun. ‘No hurry,' she murmured. ‘Let's see what the hell Heyderman wants first.'

And he knew that she meant every word.

Ray Andrews had been a director of Diamond Enterprises for five years. He was still under fifty and he had started work in the accounts department of the London office twenty years ago with a wife and one child, and no private income or expectations. He was a quiet man with a brilliant accountant's brain, and he had begun to rise steadily after the first year. It was not just a genius for figures that brought him to the notice of the management, but an acute political sense which could forecast the economic trends in Europe, America and the Far East; trends which controlled the price of metals and soft commodities in places as far from each other as Tokyo and the Ivory Coast.

Whenever there was a tax problem, or a question of economic aid to a country where D.E. had interests, Andrews packed up and flew off to sort it out. He and his wife Susan had married very young, and they had three children. They were a united family; early financial struggles had brought them very close together, and, though he was now in the £150,000-a-year bracket, they still lived modestly in a house in Swiss Cottage, and saved as much of his salary as they could. Their daughter was at home; and their elder son was in Canada, teaching, and his brother was reading Economics at Reading University.

Their small circle of friends didn't include anyone connected with Ray Andrews' business, because Susan didn't feel at home with the smart wives of the other executives. She was a gentle, homely woman, passionately interested in her brilliant husband and her children, but painfully shy with strangers. On the rare occasions when she had to meet the Harrises at some official party or dinner, she was nervous and gauche, and Julius Heyderman himself absolutely terrified her.

Ray had therefore never become intimate with any of his fellow directors except Dick Kruger, who was slightly older, and Susan had made a genuine effort to like him for her husband's sake. Kruger had been a tough, ambitious man in the early years, but now his star was fixed, and there was no surer proof of this than Arthur Harris's close friendship with him. He had left his wife after thirty years for his secretary, Ruth Fraser, and this had made Susan feel uncomfortable when she met them together. The girl was typical of the tough career woman, hard as nails and quite without embarrassment.

The scandal was an old one now, and the position between Kruger and his secretary was generally accepted, but Ray said it hadn't done him any good to get found out. His wife Valerie had been well liked, and people were sorry for her.

There was a new director, James Hastings, whom Ray and particularly Dick distrusted and disliked. Kruger's suspicions of him were pathological, he was so jealous of the up-and-coming men. Susan, meeting Hastings and his wife once or twice a year at the usual office functions, thought him smooth on the surface, but hard and supercilious underneath. He was definitely on the make. His wife had a title. Dick Kruger said nastily, ‘She would,' and that was enough to tie Susan up in knots of shyness before she opened her mouth. Her own background was middle-class professional; her father had been a small-town estate agent, and her entire life was sheltered and, in modern parlance, distinctly unsmart. But, on the whole, the business didn't intrude much into the Andrews' private life, except when it took him away on trips, and then she was miserable and moped, and wrote long letters asking when he was coming home.

He sat back in the Underground, and opened his
Evening Standard
. He went halfway through the newspaper without taking in a word, then he folded it and put it away in his overcoat pocket. Heyderman was coming, and nobody – not even Arthur Harris himself – knew what was wrong. Everyone was being dragged back for this special conference no matter what they were doing or where they were, and there were a lot of worried people in the London office.

Ray Andrews was worried too. He had a very keen instinct for trouble, which was part of his business acumen, but what he couldn't decide was what relation it might have to the only major mistake in his career. Five years ago he had gone out to Russia to get a concession for the rights to a new discovery in Archangel. The team of investigating geologists had been encouraging, and then enthusiastic; kimberlite rocks had been found, and while this didn't prove diamonds existed on that site, diamonds in depth were never found without that particular rock formation. Later reports indicated several kimberlite pipes, and by this time the team was really excited. Andrews' negotiations had been successful; the only minor point of delay was the Minister for Nuclear and Mining Development's insistence on coming to London to sign the agreement, but this was the usual way of getting a trip to London at the company's expense. Andrews came home to get Arthur's agreement to the final draft, and left an assistant in Moscow to keep a watch. A week later the whole thing blew up in his face. The Minister was arrested, charged with corruption in office, and the negotiations stopped dead. Andrews flew back on the next plane to take over, and forwarded the relevant papers to the Minister's successor. The papers were returned to him after a fortnight when all his attempts to see the new man were frustrated, with a curt note explaining that negotiations on the concession to mine the area had been suspended indefinitely while the financial links of his imprisoned predecessor with Western companies were being correlated prior to his trial. Andrews had been escorted to the airport.

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