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Authors: Maria Barrett

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BOOK: Dishonored
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Phillip burst out laughing. “And everyone apparently just stepped over me to get to the dining-room!”

“Sir?”

Phillip turned and took his gin and tonic from the tray. “Can I get you a drink, Teddy?”

“No, no thanks, Pip, I’ll have to make tracks in a few minutes.”

“Oh, go on! It’s not every day that you meet up with an old school chum.” Phillip took a large gulp of his gin. “To tell the
truth I could do with some cheering up.”

“All right then!” Teddy laughed, in exactly the same way that Phillip remembered from school, a loud noisy chuckle coming
from the back of his throat. “I’ll have a pint of ale please, corporal.”

“Yes, sir.”

They walked across to the seating and Teddy stood by the fireplace while Phillip made himself comfortable in an old leather
armchair. He took out his cigarettes and offered one to Teddy.

“So what are you doing here?” he asked, lighting up.

“Ceremonial duties, a sixth-month stint by the Welsh Dragoon Guards.”

“Good Lord! I’d completely forgotten you’d gone into the Welsh Guards. Couldn’t for the life of me think who Major Latham
was when the corporal mentioned you.” Teddy laughed again just as his drink arrived. Phillip motioned for the corporal to
bring him an ashtray. “So where’re you living during this stint?”

“Clare’s family have a flat in Kensington. We’re…” Teddy broke off and grinned at Phillip’s face. “I’ve been married
for almost a year now, Pip! Didn’t you know?”

“No! Congratulations!” Of course he didn’t know; since meeting Suzy, Phillip had lost touch with nearly all the old set. He
hardly bothered to keep up his Christmas cards. Covering his dismay, he said, “Who’s the lucky girl, then?”

“Clare Bennet, now Mrs. Clare Latham. She’s the younger daughter of Brigadier Sir John Bennet.”

“Well, well, well.” Phillip smiled. “I’m pleased for you, Teddy! Not a bad career move!”

Teddy grinned. “She’s a fabulous girl, Pip! Twenty-one, gorgeous looking and all mine! You’d love her!” He swallowed down
the last of his beer. “Hey, listen! I’ve just had an idea. Clare’s got her sister coming up from Sussex tonight, for the weekend.
Why don’t we make up a four and go out for a meal?” He stopped, suddenly remembering an old piece of gossip about Phillip
and some married woman. “Erm, if you don’t have any other plans that is?”

Phillip aimed his cigarette at the fireplace and lobbed the butt perfectly into the grate. “I don’t know, Teddy, I’ve got
quite a lot to organize, I’m moving into Bertram’s flat while he’s away and I’ve got to get hold of the keys…”

“God! Bertram!” Teddy suddenly fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a set of keys.
“Voilà
! He asked me to give these to you and said he’s sorry but he had to leave early to fix something to do with his boat. It
apparently came adrift from its mooring.” Teddy chucked the keys and Phillip caught them in one hand. “Why anyone would want
to sail round the British Isles for his holiday, I don’t know. I’d be off in the Med or somewhere else hot and sunny, if it
was me.”

Phillip looked at the bunch, then up at Teddy. “Any other message? No cats to feed?”

Teddy grinned. “Don’t think so.”

Phillip made a snap decision. “OK then, you’re on for tonight!” The thought of a Friday night alone in Bertram’s flat was
a miserable one. “A couple of drinks at the Ritz, then dinner at a small Italian place I know! How’s that?”

“Sounds good to me! Clare’ll be delighted.”

Phillip drained his glass and left it on the floor. He glanced at his watch. “D’you want to have a few more here or…?”

“No, let’s get going.” Teddy patted the pocket of his blazer to check his keys were there and Phillip stood, smoothed the
crease in his trousers and looked across at his old school friend.

“Ready?”

“Yup, sure! D’you have a car here?” Teddy asked.

Phillip turned away abruptly. He was so used to driving the Mercedes, impressing people with it, that he felt bereft without
it. “No,” he said over his shoulder, keeping his face averted. God, he’d have loved the car now, Teddy would have been wowed
by it.

“Right, we’ll go in mine then.” Teddy rang for the corporal and asked for Phillip’s raincoat. It arrived seconds later and
he led the way down the stairs, stopping in the hallway to make a telephone call to Clare at her office. Phillip waited for
him outside in the cold.

“I’m parked round the back,” Teddy said as he came out. “Shall I bring the car round?”

“Yes, all right.” Phillip watched Teddy go, watched his jaunty stride and heard him whistle as he went. For a moment he envied
Teddy. What have I got, he thought, his mind drifting back to the awful scene with Suzanna, what exactly? But Teddy came around
the corner just then, peeped the horn of his Austin and Phillip put all of that from his mind. He climbed into the passenger
seat, the policeman lifted the barrier and together they set off for Kensington.

Clare Latham yanked the navy wool dress she had been wearing for work over her head as soon as she slammed the front door
of the flat shut behind her and kicked off her shoes. She ran barefoot into the bedroom, threw the dress on the bed and turned
on the transistor radio, singing along loudly to the Beatles, “Love, love me do!” Pulling out a black mini skirt and red tunic
top, she dived into a drawer for a matching scarf and finally untangled her boots from a heap of shoes. She carried the clothes
into the bathroom, ran the bath, splashing a liberal amount of perfume into the water and began removing her makeup. Jane
was arriving at six-thirty, Teddy and Phillip Mills were on their way home right now and tonight was an opportunity that Clare
was definitely going to make the most of.

Jane climbed out of the taxi, reached into her bag for her purse and mentally calculated the right tip, exactly. She handed
over the money, smiled politely and picked up her bags. Glancing up at the building, she saw that the lights were on in the
flat and was relieved that Clare was home. She was early, it was just after six and she was dying for a cup of tea.

Climbing the front steps, she rang on the buzzer and waited for the door release. Inside the entrance hall, she called the
lift, taking off her jacket as she watched the floor numbers light up and tutting because someone had obviously just gone
up. She unfastened the top two buttons on her blouse, took off her shoes and moaned when she saw the swelling on her ankles.
The weather had turned suddenly warm for spring and she couldn’t wait to peel off her woolen stockings and soak her feet in
cold water.

The lift finally arrived, she traveled up to the fifth floor and rang the front door bell, leaning against the wall, unclipping
her suspenders and rolling down the stocking on her right leg with great relief. She looked up as the door was opened and
said, “I don’t know why, Clare, but that suspender belt I bought when I was up last time really digs into my legs!” She lifted
her skirt and rubbed a red mark at the top of her thigh. “Ouch, see what I mean?”

“Gosh, yes. That looks quite nasty.”

Jane started and looked up aghast. She dropped her skirt, pressed herself back against the wall and flushed.

“Who’s that? Phillip?”

Clare’s face suddenly appeared over Phillip’s shoulder. “Jane! Oh no! Oh…” Clare darted around Phillip in the doorway
and leaped in front of her sister. “Jane! How lovely to see you!” She glanced behind her. “Go on in, Phillip, Teddy’ll get
you a drink.” She laughed nervously, her voice high with excitement. “We’ll be in right away!” She covered Jane from view
and shooed him away with her hand. In a loud whisper, she hissed, “My God, Jane! What on earth…” She gripped Jane’s elbow
and ushered her inside, her bags, shoes and jacket left in a heap in the hall, one stocking baggy and wrinkled around her
ankle. She propelled her older sister along the corridor to the bedroom and flung the door open, pushing her inside.

“Phew! That was close!” Clare locked her bedroom door and leaned against it, her makeup shiny with sweat. “D’you think he
was shocked?”

Jane turned and stared at her. “Shocked?”

“Yes! Phillip! D’you think it put him off?” Clare started to pace the floor, her fingers pinched across the bridge of her
nose. “If we hurry and find you something to wear and do your make—”

“Clare!” Jane held her hands up. “Stop! Stop right there!” She sank down on to the bed and removed both stockings, then she
rubbed her ankles, shuffled back on the bed so that her feet were up and said, “Firstly, who is Phillip and secondly, we are
not finding me anything to wear or doing my makeup! Understood?” Clare nodded sheepishly. “And thirdly, what is going on?”

Clare sat down opposite her sister on a wicker bath chair and leaned forward. “Phillip is Major Phillip Mills,” she said urgently,
“equerry to the Duke of Cumberland. He’s thirty-five, in the Scots Guards, went to the same school as Teddy and he’s single!”
She said the last word with triumph and Jane shuddered. “Oh, Jane,” she exclaimed, “he’s perfect for you! I can hardly believe
it! We’re supposed to be going out to dinner, the four of us, tonight! We’re having a few drinks at the—”

“Clare…” Jane shook her head.

“It’s just that he told Teddy he needed cheering up and he’s at a loose end while he’s on leave, he works in India at the
moment, some sort of job for the maharajah and he said…”

“Clare—”

“He’s jolly good-looking don’t you think, Jane? And much nearer your age than any of the other people we’ve introduced you
to—”

“Clare! That’s enough!” Jane stood up. She knew that Clare had the best intentions but she really didn’t think this was a
good idea. She was tired, she had the beginnings of a headache and she’d been on enough of Clare’s blind dates to last her
a lifetime. “Look,” she said, as kindly as she could, “why don’t you go out with this Phillip chap and leave me behind. I’m
sure you’d be able to rustle up one of your glamorous girlfriends to make up a four.” Jane smiled, one of her no-nonsense,
older-sister smiles, and straightened her skirt. “How about Abby?” she suggested but looking across at her sister, she saw
Clare’s face drop. “Perhaps not Abby,” she said lamely.

Clare stood and walked across to the door. “I’d better tell them you’re not coming,” she said miserably.

Jane caught the hint of a tear in her voice and heard a faint sniff. She hated herself.

“Oh all right,” she said a few moments later, just as Clare pulled the door open. “If it means that much to you I’ll come!”

Clare spun around. “Really? You will?”

“Yes.” Jane smiled despite her irritation and longed for a stronger will power. “Give me a few minutes to smarten myself up,”
she said. “But I’m warning you, I’m not putting on anything fancy!”

“No, no of course not!” Clare beamed, thoroughly pleased with herself. She was convinced this was it, she had at last found
the right man for Jane. In her book, twenty-six and unmarried was practically a sin. “See you in a few minutes then?”

“Yes, a few minutes.” Clare shut the door behind her and Jane sighed heavily. “Not that I’ve got anything fancy,” she muttered,
looking in the mirror and smoothing her hair. “And even if I did,” she said aloud to her reflection, “it wouldn’t make the
slightest bit of difference.”

The cocktail bar at the Ritz was full and as Phillip sat across the table from Jane in silence the noise and hub of conversation
around them served only to make him feel more miserable. It was a mistake, this evening; he was in a bad mood, depressed even,
and he should never have agreed to come out.

He looked across the room at Teddy and Clare who had by chance met up with a friend of Teddy’s and who stood at the bar talking
animatedly and laughing, Clare furtively glancing over every now and then to check how her sister was getting on. She was
a good-looking girl, he thought, watching as she slipped on to a bar stool and showed an expanse of long slim thigh, and she
was giving it her best shot, leaving them alone to chat, giving them plenty of time to get to know each other. He turned his
attention back to Jane and attempted a smile. It was a shame, he was really too down to enjoy himself.

“Would you like a smoke?” he said, to make conversation.

“Yes, please,” Phillip held out his cigarette case and Jane took one. She waited for him to offer her a light, then said,
“It’s pretty ghastly this, isn’t it?”

“What?” Phillip sat back.

“This evening. Clare glancing over every five seconds to see if we’re having a good time, leaving us alone expectantly.” She
smiled, genuinely amused at Phillip’s shock. “Oh it’s all right,’’ she said, “I’m quite used to it! Clare and her matchmaking,
she’s always miles out!”

He smiled back. “You don’t mind?”

“Not really. Every time she does it I say never again, but then,” Jane shrugged, “I try not to take it too seriously.”

“You’re very tolerant.”

“Yes, yes I think I must be.” They both smiled. “Look,” she said, leaning forward and noticing Clare out of the corner of
her eye, craning her neck to see what they were doing. “I don’t think I can stand much more of this agony. I have to be up
early in the morning to do some painting and I could really do with an early night. Would you be agreeable to me having a
headache and you offering to take me home?” She smiled. “That way Clare isn’t disappointed.”

The relief on Phillip’s face was obvious. Jane bent and picked her bag up off the floor. “Good,” she said, “that’s decided
then.”

Phillip finished his drink. “Thanks, Jane, I appreciate…”

She shrugged and cut him short. “Shall we go? We can nip over and tell them on the way out.”

“Right.” He stood, offered her his arm and she took it. Jane, pressing her hand to her brow and Phillip looking concerned
made their way over to tell Clare and Teddy that they were leaving.

Outside the hotel Phillip stood with Jane while the doorman hailed a cab. He glanced at her neat navy suit, low-heeled shoes
and matching bag and thought briefly how nice she looked; sensible and smart. The cab arrived and the doorman helped her inside.

BOOK: Dishonored
2.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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