Authors: Evelyn Anthony
They had never succeeded in getting a foot in that particular door. The Soviet Union broke up, and when the political situation stabilized, Moscow supplied the technical expertise to deal with exploration and development. Westerners were not invited. Andrews had lived with that shadow over his career ever since. It wasn't lifted by rumours that the deposits in Archangel were very rich indeed.
The tube train pulled into Swiss Cottage, and he pushed his way on to the platform. It was Monday the 23rd. Less than forty-eight hours to wait, then he would sit round the big table in the boardroom on the top floor of Diamond House and find out if that one unlucky incident, forever viewed as his blunder, was connected with the summons from Heyderman. He had a wretched feeling that it was. He checked his watch. He and Susan planned to take their daughter to the cinema to see the latest Spielberg epic. He decided not to mention his worries to his wife. She took everything to heart, fiercely loyal to him and unable to be of any help because she couldn't master the complexities of his business. He made up his mind to put his fear aside and enjoy the evening. Thank God for his family. He had always kept his priorities right.
âWhy do we
have to interrupt our holiday?' she demanded. âLast year he called you back after ten days. He does it on purpose!'
She looked up at him, scowling. Reece didn't want her to be upset; he'd broken the news to her tactfully, assuring her it wouldn't be for long, dreading her temper and the sulks that would follow. Her bad moods lasted for days sometimes, and he had no defence against her. He loved her so much and he couldn't bear it when they were at odds with each other. They had been enjoying their holiday in Malaga; there were so many beautiful places to visit, and they were keen sightseers. They toured the ancient villages, staying a night or two at small hotels, then moving on. It was their perfect holiday; neither liked swimming or lying on beaches in the sun. They were so happy together, so ideally suited. She had taken the news that he had to go to London for a Board meeting very calmly, and he had imagined there wouldn't be a storm. Now, as he was undressing, and she lay naked on the bed, her body silvery in the shuttered gloom, she began to abuse Julius Heyderman and complain angrily about the disruption of their holiday. He knew she was jealous because he was so loyal to his boss. She accused him of putting Heyderman's interests before her happiness; he always denied it angrily. It was the only cause of their infrequent rows. They agreed on everything else, shared everything else.
âDarling,' he protested. âDon't spoil our evening. I've got to go. You'll be all right here, it'll only take a few days then I'll be back.'
He sat on the edge of the big bed beside her. He stroked her gently in the way she liked.
âCome on,' he wheedled. âWe've got our lovely siesta time â¦ then we'll go for a drive, it'll be nice and cool by then. I've looked up a new place to eat, and we can have some good wine. You know how much you enjoy that â¦'
She turned her head away, and said, punishing him, âI don't feel like going anywhere. What am I supposed to do on my own? You know how lonely I get â I won't wait around here, I'll go home.'
He spoiled her, he admitted that, but then he liked to indulge her, pander to her silly whims. It made him feel strong and protective. She had jerked away from his caressing hand.
âDon't,' she said. âI don't feel like that, either.'
It was useless to stand against her; he wanted her so much, the sight of her lying there, her legs drawn up against him, roused him till he was ready to beg. He had to make peace. âI'll do it the way you liked last time,' he whispered, capitulating. âI can't go away with you feeling angry with me â¦ You'll be miserable, too, you know you will.' He put his hands on her and shifted her on to her stomach. She was very thin and light. He stroked her back and buttocks.
She turned her head to look at him and sighed. He was right. She'd fret and suffer if they parted without making it up. âI hate the Heydermans,' she muttered, more to herself than to him. âEspecially him. He rules our lives â¦'
Reece woke first. She slept like a child, her mouth ajar, exhausted and sated. He'd known how to win her round. He smiled fondly and slipped out of bed to shower the sweat away. He hoped she'd hear him and come to join him, splashing and laughing under the water. Or she could sleep on and he'd wake her later. He'd made a note of the best restaurant some ten kilometres away in the next town. They'd make it a special evening, the best food, plenty of the strong Spanish wine she loved. She always wanted sex after she'd been drinking wine. They were abstemious at home, careful with money, leading quite frugal lives. On holiday they splurged. It would be the best evening of the holiday so far. âAnd there'll be more like it when I come back,' he promised. âWe'll stay a few days longer, so you won't miss out. I'll ring every day. Mind you don't fall for any Spaniard while I'm gone â¦'
Arthur Harris was a small man; he had a full head of greying hair that grew back from an intelligent forehead and the forehead was part of a sensitive face. The nose was too long and the lips too thin; he had never been good-looking, and now his skin had the same greyish tinge as his hair. His very dark eyes looked out on the world with sadness. Socially, he possessed great charm. Outside his role as Managing Director of D.E. London Arthur led a varied life; he loved sailing, and was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. He had a fine Carolean house near Hamble, and sailed most weekends. He collected pictures, mostly seventeenth-century Dutch landscapes; he chose them with care and love of beauty. He read a great deal; there were few subjects he was unable to discuss, and he was an erudite and witty conversationalist.
From the moment he came through the big, glass-fronted doors of the offices in Blackfriars Road, he changed completely. He sat in his office behind a fine eighteenth-century French desk and conducted the operation of Diamond Enterprises London with the ruthlessness inherited from his grandfather. Pat Harris had left Canada where he had been prospecting and settled in South Africa. There he teamed up with Jan Heyderman from Holland. Secretly, Arthur hated the great man; he seemed to the boy an oversized Dutch bully with a bellowing voice that could be heard from one end of a mine shaft to the other. And he had always hated Julius. They had grown up together, two ill-assorted characters, bound to one another by the association of their grandfathers. Arthur's grandfather Pat Harris was the junior partner. The disparity in the two heirs' positions carried over into adult life, when the boys went into business and found their adult feelings were embittered by the added friction of power politics.
Physically they were poles apart. Julius was very tall, built like a heavyweight, his personality so strong he dominated any gathering. He had always made Arthur feel inadequate. They were natural enemies even before he had married Julius's sister.
Arthur knew that only his enormous stock-holdings in Diamond Enterprises prevented his brother-in-law from throwing him off the Board. He also knew that, in spite of the seeming impossibility of doing it, Julius Heyderman was determined that one day he would succeed.
In retaliation, Arthur was equally determined to stay as Managing Director of the London business until the last moment of his working life.
Arthur got the news that his brother-in-law Julius was arriving when he returned from a trip to the boat yard. He was thinking of having a new boat built for Cowes next year. He hadn't mentioned it to his wife, because he never told her anything if he could help it. She was as keen on sailing as he was, and very competent, but she made their only common interest a weapon to use against him. If he mentioned the new boat, she would sneer, humiliating him. He had long guarded against her tongue by keeping her at a distance.
Christina Heyderman Harris was a good-looking woman in her early fifties, who had once been beautiful. She had shared her brother's blond colouring and she had the same remarkably clear blue eyes. But disappointment and hatred for her husband had soured her looks as it had distorted her character. Her mouth was thin and turned down, her expression set in a habitual sneer as if she had just seen him make a fool of himself. She was twenty-two and the biggest catch in South African society when she fell in love with Arthur. Arthur was slight, sensitive in looks and manner, so different from the hearty sports-mad friends surrounding her brother that she was fascinated by the contrast. She indulged in a romantic fantasy about the quiet, reserved young man, convinced that she had found a soul-mate. He talked about art, about the theatre, about books.
Unlike her other admirers, Arthur assumed that Christina had a brain, which was true. Not till they married did he discover that she had a voracious sexual appetite which he was expected to satisfy. He couldn't. He tried, and the birth of their only child held out some hope, but the decline was rapid, as his self-confidence suffered repeated failure and her dissatisfaction turned to contempt. And then to loathing. Everything Christina had once found attractive â his gentle manner, his artistic and intellectual interests â grated upon her as evidence of his feebleness and lack of virility. But she would never leave him because of the boy. She adored her son. He was a big, brawny child who grew into a strapping Heyderman clone. Good at all forms of athletics, dim at school, cutting a swathe through the women, regardless of age, but always dominated by and devoted to his mother. He despised his father because from babyhood he sensed that Christina did. He modelled himself on his uncle, but failed because he hadn't inherited the intelligence of either set of genes. For his sake, Christina had denied herself the lovers she would have taken without a qualm of conscience about Arthur. Nothing must upset her boy. No divorce must interfere with his education and development. His life must never be blighted by a broken home. Instead it was blighted by his parents' mutual hatred, and his own role of manipulator. She had taken the message from Arthur's secretary, and felt elated at the arrival of her brother. She had been very close to Julius from childhood, right through to the time when she defied him and married Arthur. She had refused to listen to him, and paid the penalty of nearly thirty years' unhappiness. She had never told him what went wrong, she didn't need to; she was sure he guessed. He'd said at the time of her engagement, âHe's a bloody little wimp! His balls are in his brain, Christa â¦ he won't make you happy â¦' She was sure he knew why the marriage was so patently wretched. Now he was coming to London, and that must mean trouble for Arthur.
She had been reading when Arthur came back. She put the book down and said, âThere's a message for you. By the telephone.' She didn't say what it was. She just watched his face as he read it. He recognized her writing. He couldn't keep that a secret. He nerved himself.
âJulius is coming over,' he said.
âI know,' she slipped a marker between the pages of her book. âI wonder why? Something your end must have gone wrong.'
âWhy my end!' he demanded irritably. âWhy must you assume that I'm at fault? But then you can't help it.' He turned away, threw the scrap of paper in the waste-basket.
âBecause Julius wouldn't come over at this time of year and bring all the others back from holiday unless there was a real crisis, and it's not back home, or I would have heard. So â¦' she lingered on the word, ââ¦ it must be London. And that's you, isn't it?'
He had been playing this game for so many weary years. He was tired. âIf you say so,' he shrugged. Indifference was his best defence. Christina thrived on arguments. âAnyway, I shall know in two days' time.'
âI see those Americans are coming over,' she said. His secretary had volunteered answers to all her questions. She had always been charming to Arthur's staff. That way they told her things he didn't want her to know.
âThe Wassermans â¦ Yes â¦ you know, he's a director.'
âI hope you're not going to ask them down here,' she said. âDreadful old bores. I couldn't think of anything to say to either of them â¦ and you asked them to
âI won't do it this time,' Arthur said quietly. âYou made them so uncomfortable that they wouldn't want to again. I shall take them out in London.'
Christina picked up her book. She felt that she had won that round. âThank God for that,' she said. âI am surprised Julius didn't call you personally. Just sending a message by that awful Reece seems rather offhand. Or don't you think so? I do. Very casual, as if you didn't count more than any of the others â¦'
In spite of himself, Arthur's pale face flushed. She knew the weak spot and she dug into it without mercy. Julius despised him, and treated him accordingly. Arthur believed, wrongly in this instance, that his wife had confided their domestic differences to her brother. He bore her a deep, cold hatred for that betrayal.
âHe's busy,' he said coldly. âProbably doesn't want to come over. He doesn't mean to hurt intentionally. He's not like you.' He turned and walked out. He never slammed a door. He heard her laugh as he closed it.
Trouble. She was right, of course. He had an instinct for things going wrong. It had never failed him. He was a quiet man, but could fight as hard and dirty as Julius Heyderman if he had to; he prepared himself for battle. The same instinct whispered to him that their loss of the mine in Archangel had come back to haunt him.
The boardroom of the London office was a strange anachronism in an ultra-modern building. It was a long room with a low ceiling, and the walls were panelled in genuine sixteenth-century linenfold panelling. The table was a magnificent single-piece Elizabethan refectory, fourteen feet long, and the chairs were of the same period. With some regard for comfort, they had cushions and seats of crimson velvet. Overhead, there was an early Dutch brass chandelier, a museum piece in itself, like the Persian carpet on the floor, and the superbly carved oak court cupboard, which was full of liquor. The room was dark and restful; everything in it had cost a fortune and it was an exact copy of old Jan Heyderman's office in Johannesburg when he was at the height of his power. When his grandson Julius succeeded, he had stripped the original boardroom down to its walls and had it redecorated by one of the most advanced designers in the Union. Julius didn't want people coming to his boardroom and thinking of his grandfather.