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Authors: Richard Madeley

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BOOK: The Way You Look Tonight
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And so was sticking to the same . . . what was it that jackass had called it? Oh yeah, ‘modus operandi’. That was going to have to change sometime soon.

He’d still kill them in exactly the same way, obviously. He’d got that down to a fine art, now, and anyway he enjoyed it way too much to want to change a single damned
thing.

But he’d have to start working on a new trick to catch them. The investigation was obviously holding back the nails thing from the papers so they could lay a trap for him. Christ, they
must think he was born yesterday.

It didn’t matter either way. He’d work out a neat little plan B and leave them as flat-footed as before.

He selected Drive on the long lever that poked out of the old dash, and pulled out on to the Overseas Highway, turning north for once. Maybe he’d drive all the way to Key Biscayne,
where there was increasingly serious money these days.

And serious money meant perfect peaches.

18

Massachusetts had been oven-hot when Stella flew out of Boston that same afternoon. But the wave of liquid heat that poured into the cabin of her scheduled flight to Miami when
its doors opened soon after landing overwhelmed her.

She had never known humidity like it. She was standing a few feet from the nearest exit with stairs that led down to the concrete apron below, and all she wanted to do was retreat into what
remained of the air-conditioned atmosphere in the fuselage behind her.

‘Good
grief
,’ she said faintly to a trim businessman in a light grey tropical-weight suit and jaunty straw pork-pie hat, who was immediately ahead of her in the queue to
disembark. ‘Is this normal for Miami?’

He turned and gave her a chipper look.

‘This time of year? Why sure, honey!’ He gripped his black crocodile-skin valise a little tighter as the queue began to shuffle towards the exit. ‘Why d’you think they
call us the air-con capital of the continent? You’ll get used to it.’

She followed him out onto the little metal landing and into the whitest, hottest sunshine she had ever known. She gave a small gasp of shock, and almost at once felt rivulets of perspiration
begin to trickle from her hairline and down her forehead, neck and back.

‘Oh my goodness! How long does it take to get used to this?’

He shrugged. ‘A week or two. But you have to embrace it. Don’t complain about it or talk about it. You need to adopt the right psychological attitude.’ He squinted at her in
the glaring light as they began to descend the stairway. ‘Think you can do that?’

Stella didn’t reply at once; she was struggling with the unprecedented sensation of inhaling something disturbingly close to liquid air. ‘What’s that smell?’ she managed
eventually. ‘It’s like a bowl of rotting fruit in a steam-laundry.’

He laughed. ‘That’s the Sunshine State’s special scent of summertime, ma’am. But like I told you – you’ll get used to it. You might even come to like
it.’

He trotted briskly down the stairway ahead of her. She couldn’t see even the faintest marks of perspiration on the back of his spotless linen jacket.

Stella looked fuzzily at the airport terminal, sticky beads of sweat now oozing from her eyebrows and dropping down into her eyes, causing them to sting.

This was
awful.

She remembered the brick of high-denomination dollars they’d given her just before she left Boston.

Maybe she should just buy a ticket home to England and be done with the whole thing.

There was a sudden roar of diesel engine and the airport transfer bus pulled up close to the bottom of the steps. Pork-pie hat turned round and waved at her. ‘C’mon in!’ he
called. ‘The air-con’s lovely!’ He pointed at the vehicle’s sealed windows. ‘It’s gonna be like a Frigidaire in there!’ He disappeared inside the bus.

Stella tottered after him. Back in England on hot days you opened windows on a bus; here it seemed that you had to keep them tightly closed.

Maybe, she thought, as she climbed on board into a miraculous coolness, she could contrive to spend most of her time in Florida indoors.

A minute or two later there was a grinding of gears and the vehicle moved slowly across the tarmac to the terminal building.

The journey took less than five minutes but by the time they arrived, the sun had vanished behind the blackest cloud she had ever seen and fat raindrops were beginning to drum loudly on the roof
of the bus. Lightning flickered and, as she hurried into the arrivals hall, there was a violent crash of thunder, seemingly directly overhead. It made a cracking, shivering noise, like great
tree-trunks being split in two.

Pork-pie grinned at her. ‘Another perfect day in Paradise,’ he said. ‘How long you staying in Florida?’

Stella looked out at the sudden tropical downpour which was now so ferocious that anything further than fifty yards away from the terminal was completely obscured from view.

‘I only wish I knew.’

The elderly professor replaced the handset in her study and stared blankly at her bookshelves opposite.

‘My goodness,’ she said at last.

She could honestly say that it had been the most extraordinary phone call she could remember receiving since the war.

It had come from the State Department in Washington, of all places. An extremely polite American had telephoned to ask her –
her
– to provide the White House with her
general assessment of a former Girton student, Stella Arnold. Her reliability, honesty, and, specifically and most importantly, her standing in current academia on the subject of psychopathy and
criminal psychopaths in particular.

Professor Harriet Donnelly had initially offered a rather frosty response.

‘And why should you want to know this, may I ask?’

The pleasant voice, speaking from more than three and a half thousand miles away, had explained that Stella Arnold was being considered for a special internship at the White House, and that this
phone call was part of a perfectly normal series of background checks.

‘I see,’ said Professor Donnelly. ‘Well, I don’t suppose it can do any harm . . . Miss Arnold is of impeccable character, I can certainly vouch for that. As for her
specialist knowledge in the field of criminal psychopathic behaviour, she is, considering her extreme youth, exceptional. At the Paris conference on the subject last summer, she—’

The pleasant voice interrupted her to explain that the decision on the internship had to be finalised within twenty-four hours and therefore something in writing would be required. If Miss
Donnelly could possibly put the salient points in telegram form, that would be greatly appreciated. There was no need to worry about the cost; she must feel free to use as many words as necessary,
she would be promptly reimbursed.

So now the professor crossed the study to her writing desk and switched on its green-shaded lawyer’s light. She opened a large leather-bound notebook and took out a fountain pen and began
to compose a restrained eulogy to the most exceptional student of Psychology she had ever had the pleasure – no, the honour – of tutoring.

PART TWO
19

Stella was sixteen when they finally told her everything. About him; about what he really was; what he really had been all along.

She’d suspected much of it for a long time, of course. Most fathers didn’t go round kidnapping their own children for ransom.

The biggest shock was to be told that he was dead, and had been for so long. She’d always had a vague idea of him continuing his shadowy, underground existence down on the Côte
d’Azur, pursuing a violent criminal lifestyle underwritten by the enormous ransom her grandfather had been forced to pay for her release.

She’d always despised him, and learning that he was long dead changed nothing.

But as her mother sat there before her, steadily turning the secret pages of their shared pasts, her father’s death turned out not to be the biggest surprise, after all.

Because there was something else her mother had to tell her.

Or rather, that her grandfather was about to confess.

Stella was sitting with her mother in the breakfast room of the Dower House, the country home tucked beneath the Weald of Kent where Diana had grown up before the war; the
place where she first encountered James Blackwell, the man who would steal her heart – and, a decade later, for two terrible days, her daughter.

Diana’s mother and father had insisted that she and their granddaughter live with them in the Dower House when they returned so unexpectedly and dramatically from the south of France, the
very day after Stella’s release.

‘Just for a while, anyway,’ her father Oliver had said. ‘Until you both find your feet.’

But the arrangement had become permanent. Stella had been boarding at a girls’ public school in neighbouring Sussex for the past six years and Diana had accepted an offer from her old
Cambridge college to complete the degree in Politics that the war had interrupted. She’d gone on to take her doctorate at Girton, where she now lectured.

Mother and daughter spent their holidays back in Kent with Oliver and wife Gwen and now, on this sunny August morning four months after Stella’s sixteenth birthday, Diana
was reluctantly embarking on the conversation she had been dreading for so long.

‘Do I
have
to tell her?’ she’d almost pleaded with her father the night before, with Stella safely upstairs in her bedroom. ‘It’s not as if she ever asks
about it, or him.’

‘Which means she probably thinks about it a good deal,’ Oliver had replied evenly. ‘One day she’ll simply confront you outright, and you’ll be caught off-balance.
She won’t take any flannel, either – you know what she’s like. Once she sets her mind to something she’s an unstoppable force. You need to seize the initiative, now, my
dear. It’s best for you and fairest for her.’

‘But, Daddy . . . apart from anything else, what on earth do I say about
your
part in it all? Only you and I and Mummy know what you did. Stella will be horrified.’

Her father went across to a silver cigarette box on the card table in the centre of the drawing room and brought it back with him to the sofa they were sharing.

‘She’ll be shocked, certainly,’ he said at last, sitting next to her and stretching his legs out before him, ‘but possibly rather thrilled, too. Don’t deceive
yourself, Diana – Stella holds no sort of candle for her father. She detests him. In any case, she’s such an innately rational person that I’m sure she’ll see the logic in
what I did . . . what I
had
to do, that night.’

He lit a cigarette and waved it expansively in the air. ‘Remember how well she handled her kidnapping, Diana. She was only ten but she wasn’t the least bit afraid – in fact
when I delivered the ransom to that bastard he told me that Stella had been in a constant state of simmering fury throughout. She’d even managed to attack him – remember the scratches
and bite marks I saw on his face and wrist?’

Diana smiled despite herself. Her father was so proud of Stella, and of her fighting spirit.

She looked at him sidelong as they both drew on their cigarettes. He hadn’t changed much since that last, extraordinary night in Nice. Now in his mid-fifties, Oliver Arnold was one of the
leading libel barristers of his day. He was still dressed in the three-piece navy suit he’d worn to court that morning. His cufflinks were unclipped and his tie was loosened, as they always
were at this time of the evening. Perhaps his hair was a touch greyer about his temples, and his waist a little thicker, but that was all.

Occasionally, when she was in town and one of her father’s more celebrated cases was under way, she would drop in to the public gallery to watch him conducting cross-examination. Sometimes
she wondered what a trembling witness might think if they knew that just a few years earlier, the bewigged, gowned and languid figure standing in the well of the court had, without hesitation or a
shred of compunction . . .

He broke into her train of thought. ‘Diana? Did you hear what I just said?’

‘Sorry, no. Just thinking of something. Again, Daddy?’

‘I was saying that once you’ve told Stella everything we know about her father, I’ll tell her the final part about me and him. What really happened that night. Unless of course
you think it’d be better coming from you.’

She was suffused with relief.

‘It was what I was most dreading telling her. And no, I really think it will be better coming from you, Daddy. But aren’t you in the least bit, well . . . anxious about telling her
everything? What you had to do to protect us both?’ He smiled at his daughter.

‘Don’t worry. Just think of it as a closing speech.’

20

The car had just breasted Cutler Ridge – the only area of raised ground in this part of southern Florida, particularly vulnerable in the hurricane season – and was
heading down towards the swamps and marshes that divided the mainland from the first of the Keys, the chain of narrow islands that stretched out like a long string of pearls into the Gulf of
Mexico.

Stella leaned forward to speak to the driver. ‘How much further?’

He paused in the act of inserting yet another potato chip into his mouth. She had watched in growing amazement as he went through pack after pack of them. This must be his sixth since leaving
the airport. It would certainly help to explain the size of his stomach, which was pressing gently against the lower curve of the car’s steering wheel. He must be the fattest agent in the
entire US Secret Service, she decided.

‘To Largo Lodge, ma’am?’ he replied, small crumbs of crisp spraying from his lips and landing on the dashboard in front of him. ‘Well, let’s see now. Key
Largo’s about thirty miles, the Lodge’ll be another five. We’ll be there in forty minutes, I reckon, if the swing bridge ain’t up to let one of these here luxury launches
through the Sound. That always adds another quarter of an hour.’

‘Thank you.’ Stella sank back into her seat. The scenery outside was boring; an endless flat expanse of fields sown with regimented fruit trees and bisected by drainage canals. Now
and again they passed a scruffy-looking palm at the roadside. She was looking forward to the point where, according to the crumpled map she’d found in the back of the car, the Atlantic began
to press up against the highway to the left, and the Gulf of Mexico pushed in from the right. That would be the start of the Florida Keys, and . . .

BOOK: The Way You Look Tonight
6.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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