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Authors: Chaz Brenchley

House of Bells

BOOK: House of Bells
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Table of Contents

A Selection of Recent Titles by Chaz Brenchley

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

A Selection of Recent Titles by Chaz Brenchley
The Keys to D'Esperance Series

THE KEYS TO D'ESPERANCE

HOUSE OF DOORS *

HOUSE OF BELLS *

 
The Selling Water by the River Series

BRIDGE OF DREAMS

RIVER OF THE WORLD

 
 

* available from Severn House

HOUSE OF BELLS
Chaz Brenchley

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

 

First world edition published 2012

in Great Britain and in the USA by

SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of

9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

Copyright © 2012 by Chaz Brenchley.

All rights reserved.

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Brenchley, Chaz.

House of bells.

1. Horror tales.

I. Title

823.9'2-dc23

ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-264-1 (Epub)

ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8156-4 (cased)

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This ebook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

ONE

S
he had never really believed in the guru.

She was a firm believer in herself, in all her guilt and grief.

And in the noble art of running away, geographical distance, that too.

It had seemed enough, once. Behind her, back in London, where everything was loud and immediate and unbearable.
Get away, get far away, be somewhere else. Somebody else.

It had seemed all too wonderfully attractive, if she were honest.

She could be honest, sometimes. If she was paid enough.

‘Money's not an issue.'

Well, of course he'd say that. For him it was not, it never had been. He'd been born to it: the Honourable Anthony Fledgwood, son of his father, junior lordling and newspaperman. Editor to one of his father's rags; entitled to appear in the very social pages that he published. Entitled? Determined, rather. Which was how Grace had bumped into him tonight, as it happened: at that kind of party where one only went to be noticed.

For him, it was his stock-in-trade; for her, a professional engagement.

Those weren't quite the same thing, though it was easy sometimes to confuse the two. Confusion was something that she traded on.

Had traded on, in the past. No longer. The cost was too great.

That night her host Dr Barrett was her employer, though he was too polite to admit it. Certainly he was far too polite to call her a hat-check girl, though really he might as well. It wasn't that kind of establishment, but even so.

By her own definitions, it was a bell, book and candle night. She and the other girls were there to answer the door, serve drinks, listen to the conversations – and contribute too, in a wide-eyed admiring kind of way – and then go home with anyone who wanted them. It was a literary party – hence the book in ‘bell, book and candle', coming handily between the doorbell and the night light: she could still amuse herself with her own bitter wit, even if she found little enough to laugh at any more – so there was likely to be a queue of hopefuls. In her own case, it was likely to be a long one. Notoriety will do that to a girl.

Notoriety will fill a room, too. Fill a party. She was one of the reasons the place was so hot tonight. A better reason – she thought – than the Soviet poet whose new book was being launched, whose embassy watchdogs stood four-square on either side of him in bad suits, glowering. In a spirit of perversity, she had ignored the poet and tried to charm the watchdogs. Having achieved nothing but a more severe glower, she was devoting herself now to their torment: sashaying by with a sway of miniskirted hips at every opportunity, trailing literati and gossipmongers at every step; bringing them the virtuous and regular orange juices they had demanded, spiked with lethal quantities of vodka they knew nothing about; sending anyone she could to murmur bright nothings into the poet's hairy ear, just a little too softly for his minders to overhear.

The vodka might be wasted effort – they were Russian, after all, and built like brick outhouses: so far they were showing no effects at all, despite the heroic quantities of Stolichnaya they were innocently imbibing – but she thought she was winning on all other fronts. Even outhouses had libidos, seemingly. They watched her come and go and come again. They watched everyone, of course; it was their job, just as it was her job – a part of her job, one of her jobs – to be watched. But even so. They watched
all
of the girls most of the time, which probably wasn't their job at all. But even so. She didn't think they did it indiscriminately. She thought they discriminated absolutely. In her favour, if it was a favour to be so coldly lusted after. She could feel their chill hunger follow her around the room like the eyes of a sinister portrait in some cheap Hammer Horror flick: dark and empty and meaningless and deadly.

Deadly to her spirits, at least, if she would let it be. But, of course, she wouldn't. She'd go on goading them, however she could manage it, for whatever mean pleasure it might give her. Already they were eyeing their charge askance, frowning after the purveyors of those whispered messages, half inclined to whisk him swiftly back to the embassy. Or else to durance vile, if life in the USSR wasn't already vile enough. A little more of this, a little more purpose to it, and she thought she really could make them believe that MI5 was trying to seduce him. The game was all the more enjoyable because they didn't know the rules. They didn't even know they were playing.

She had decided, quite some time ago, that all of life was a game. It was how she got through. She had lost a couple of rounds, quite catastrophically – but how could that matter in the long run, or the short run, or at all? It was just a game. She could be a good loser and start again. Nothing left to lose now, after all . . .

‘Grace, girl! Amazing Grace. Still strutting your stuff, then? Of course you are. I'd be proud of you, if I had any right to be. If you were mine.'

‘Tony.' His hands were on her hips, his voice was in her ear; he was here, then. Well, of course he was here. He was a player too: on his father's behalf, and his own. If those were different. Neither man – nor any of their newspapers' avid readers – would have the least interest in a Russian poet, but there were other attractions tonight: the Beautiful People, the buzz of fashionable London. And herself. The Honourable Tony's readers were very much interested in her. Likely, he'd have a photographer stationed in the street outside. No matter. She knew a back way, if she was leaving with company, if she wanted to keep it a secret. Or she could be bold, leave by the front door, keep her face on the front page. If she chose to play it like that.

She leaned back against the familiar comfort of his body and said, ‘You wouldn't want me, darling. Your dad would disapprove.' She was fine on the front page, selling papers at 6d a time; not so good on his son's arm at a nightclub. Appalling across the dinner table in the family home; worse across the breakfast table next morning. Unthinkable within the family, permanent, married.

Just as well that had never been on the cards, then. Not a legitimate move.

Tony made a noise that was obviously meant to mean
bugger Dad
, but it wasn't very convincing. Everything he had – money, position, access: that last particularly, every open door – he owed to his father. There had never been any question of a split between them. Even before she disgraced herself utterly, finally, irrecoverably.

She was still a player, but the game was different now. All she had to play for was survival. He was out of her reach. He probably always had been; it was just that she knew it at last.

Still. He had a tight grip and a firm body. A tight grip
on
a firm body, which was hers. His father wasn't here. If anyone was watching – apart from the Russian goons – she didn't care, and apparently neither did he.

Of course, people were watching. People were always watching. There was probably somebody here who was being paid to watch her, and not by Tony or any of his rivals. When once you've been a trouble to the government, they don't ever quite let you run free. Mr Wilson would be keeping an eye on her, she was sure.

She still didn't care. She tried not to think about it much; it was too strange, knowing that the Prime Minister read reports on what you did, who you saw. Who you slept with.

She tipped her head back on Tony's shoulder, so that she could squinny sideways at his face. ‘Love the moustache, darling.' No doubt Daddy would disapprove of that too, but he shouldn't. It suited the shape of Tony's face, and made him look older at the same time. Not too much older; not too old for the velvet suit she stroked her cheek against. Not too old for her, either. Just old enough. Responsible. A newspaperman. Son of his father . . .

Oh, bugger the old man. She could say that – or at least think it – with more vehemence than Tony. Remembering that particular, dreadful breakfast.

She wouldn't let him spoil this evening too. Besides, she was here to work, not to lament past losses. Nor, strictly speaking, to tease the embassy bulldogs. Tony was legitimate, exactly the kind of man she was here to amuse. If she could play him somehow to her advantage in the doing of it, then she'd be well ahead. Scoring all down the line, both ways from the middle. If that made any sense at all. She didn't know much about sports. Her games were more complicated, and mostly played in the dark.

He seemed entirely willing to play along. His hands wanted more than a cuddle, but that was minor; there were cuddles and more for the asking, all through the flat. Presumably, he was hoping to play her too, looking for a score on his own behalf. She'd expect nothing less.

She'd best show dutiful as well as willing, in case mine host was watching. She did still want to go home with her pay packet in her handbag. That at least, whatever else she took with her, whatever detours she made on the way. She peeled herself determinedly out of his hands and smiled up at him.
Hat-check girl
, she reminded herself, but he wouldn't be parted from his trademark Nehru jacket, nor his cap. These days they were everywhere, since Lennon had appeared in one, but Tony had his first. It was absurd to be so defensive on his behalf, but she still was. ‘Can I get you a drink?'

‘Yes, why not? And fetch yourself a glass of whatever coloured water the good doctor is allowing you, and then come and talk to me. In here –' with a sideways jerk of his head towards a closed door – ‘where we can be private.'

‘Tony, it's a
party
. There's no such thing as private.'

‘That's Barrett's study. There's a reason why he shuts the door.'

BOOK: House of Bells
6.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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