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Authors: Richard Madeley

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BOOK: The Way You Look Tonight
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The stewardess stared at her. ‘My God. You must have thought you were seeing a ghost.’

Stella gave a short laugh. ‘Some ghost. The bastard kidnapped me – his own daughter. I was held for two days in a grotty flat before my grandfather, my mother’s father, flew
down from London with the ransom. Then we went straight back home to England and I never saw my father again.’

Stella looked out of her window at the blackness outside and for a while neither of them spoke. Eventually Cassandra ventured: ‘That’s an incredible story, Stella, but forgive me . .
. I can’t quite make out how this awful man forced you to study psychology.’

Stella turned to face her new friend. ‘He didn’t, not directly. But a few years later, when I was sixteen, my mother sat me down and told me everything she knew about him. How before
the war he’d seduced her and manipulated her and lied to get her to fall for him and marry him . . . then in Nice years later he admitted to her that he was only ever interested in her
father’s money . . . and she told me the terrible things he’d done on the Riviera, about the people he’d killed, or had had killed . . . he was an absolute monster. A true
psychopath. Charming on the outside, empty and cold as ice on the inside. And as dangerous as they come. That was my father.’

Stella closed her eyes. ‘The thing is, Cassandra, I began to become fixated on the idea that psychopathy might be passed on in some way. That I might have inherited it from my father . . .
even my grandfather. A psychological ambush from both sides of the family, as it were.’

Cassandra blinked. ‘Your father, yes, I can sort of understand that. But your
grand
father? Why? Is he psychopathic too?’

Stella shook her head quickly. ‘God no. He’s a wonderful man. Kind and generous and funny. But he has certain . . . capabilities. Something frightful happened the night the ransom
was paid, and we left Nice at dawn the next morning. But I can’t say any more.’

For the first time, the air stewardess reached for Stella’s hand, and squeezed it reassuringly. ‘Of course not. Families must keep their secrets. You’ve told me a packet
already. But I don’t understand your fears for yourself.’ She smiled. ‘You’re obviously not crackers, Stella.’

The other smiled thinly in return. ‘Really? How can you be sure? Psychopaths like my father can be very good at concealing their true natures. For all you know, I’m a charming
killer, like him.’

‘Rot. But finish your story. Why did you decide to study psychology?’

Stella took a long swallow of her drink before answering.

‘Know thine enemy,’ she said at last. ‘I realised the best way of laying my fears to rest was to confront them. And what’s that old Greek proverb? “Know
thyself.” The more I learned about psychology and the human mind, the more I gradually became reassured that I was within the bounds of what might be loosely described as normal. Of course
I’m not a psychopath. But I’ll tell you this, Cassandra – I’ve become
fascinated
by them.’

Stella gently stirred her gin with the silver swizzle-stick Cassandra had put in it along with ice and lemon. ‘They’re nothing like you and me, you know,’ she continued after a
pause, ‘nothing at all. They’re like creatures from a parallel world; human, yet not in the least human. When I get to Smith, my project will be to research if people are born
psychopaths, or if they become so as they grow up. You know, the nature-versus-nurture thing.’

Cassandra slowly finished her own drink before speaking again. ‘And what’s your current assessment of the question? Your best guess, as it were?’

Stella shook her head. ‘There’s no place for gut instinct in science. But if I allowed myself that luxury, I’d say . . .’ She turned back to the now total darkness
outside the window. When she spoke again, it was with her face still averted.

‘I’d say they come straight from Hell.’

3

The battered Ford pickup most probably belonged to her boyfriend, he decided. Miami Dolphins bumper stickers and a tangle of fishing gear in the back made it obvious that
she was using a guy’s car.

He’d been parked up all morning outside one of the brand-new Kmarts, keeping an eye open for the peaches – he’d thought of them as peaches as long as he could remember
– when he saw her pull in to one of the green-shaded parking lots kept back for employees, and jump down from the cabin.

She looked exactly like a college girl should, he thought – high-top sneakers, blue pleated skirt, short-sleeved white cotton blouse. Bubble-gum lipstick and long blonde hair pulled
back in a ponytail.

Likely enough, Kmart had given her a summer vacation job. And, when he strolled into the supermarket ten minutes behind her, there she was sitting at one of the checkouts, smiling at a
customer as she gave change.

He’d tracked her easily since then. She lived with her parents and brother in a pink-and-white clapboard one-storey conch house. It was on a quiet street just off the Overseas Highway,
the road that ran all the way down from Miami and across arching bridges linking the islands of the Keys, right down to Southernmost Point on the last one in the chain, Key West.

Gumbo Limbo Drive lay on the Atlantic side of Key Largo, and as he drove past the house, he caught glimpses of sparkling ocean between palms and bougainvillea-covered porches.

Now he figured it was the brother’s car she drove to work each day. There didn’t seem to be any special guy hanging around; he’d followed her on her dates and all of them
turned out to be with girlfriends.

He was ready.

That afternoon he had deliberately queued at her aisle in the store, so she could be the one to sell him the knife he’d just picked out especially for her. He thought
that was pretty neat. He almost laughed when she smiled up at him and asked if he would be using it for fishing or hunting, but he managed to hold it together. Jesus, it was fucking funny
though.

Things had gone much better this, his second time. She’d lasted twice as long as the first one and she’d made some really exciting noises, pretty loud ones, too. He was far
enough down the little-used salt creek for that not to matter and anyway the skiff he’d stolen was fairly high-sided, so most of her racket was diverted straight up into the night sky. The
noise of the drumming of her heels against the deck had transferred straight down into the water. No one but him was any the wiser.

And when it was over, only he could hear her special song, the verse he would always sing to them when it was done.

He was annoyed that the newspapers hadn’t reported his personal sign-off after the first one, but to be fair to them the cops had probably held it back. Some dumb cat-and-mouse game or
other. But he had the feeling that this time they’d want everyone to know about his signature. It showed that he was no random killer and the cops would get that now, however stupid they
were. The papers, too; they loved that kind of angle.

And you had to admit it – as signatures went, this one looked pretty damn cool, even if it was going to cost him a fortune in knives. He bought only the best; he felt he owed them
that.

He took one last look at her as he prepared to slip out of the boat and begin wading back up the channel. But he knew that the image, striking though it was, would begin to fade soon
enough.

Next time he’d make sure to bring a camera.

4

‘That’s not a car, Professor Rockfair. That’s a big boat on wheels.’

The woman standing beside Stella in Logan Airport’s passenger pick-up zone laughed.

‘It’s a Lincoln Continental Convertible, my dear, Jeb’s pride and joy, especially since he heard that President Kennedy took delivery of exactly the same model last month for
his official motorcades. With the top down like that it
does
have the look of a motor-launch, I agree. But it’s such a lovely day we thought you’d like the sun on your face and
the wind in your hair on the drive back home.’

Jeb Rockfair was carefully nosing the gleaming silver open-topped sedan into the parking bay. Once he was satisfied, he looked up and gave them both the A-OK circle of forefinger and thumb.

‘Welcome to New England, Stella,’ he called to her. ‘Hop in! I know it’s a bit of a squeeze, but we’ll manage somehow.’

Stella giggled. ‘I’ve never seen a car as big as this in my whole life. Oh my goodness! The doors are on backwards!’

Jeb had opened the rear door closest to the kerb. ‘Yup. The back doors swing open towards the front. Neat, huh? Just like the old stagecoaches. Let me get your bags for you.’

‘Thank you, Professor.’

Jeb Rockfair glanced meaningfully towards his wife as he swung Stella’s two suitcases into the trunk. ‘She been calling you that too?’

‘She certainly has, ever since the arrivals hall.’

‘Right.’ He ushered Stella into the back of the car and got behind the wheel, his wife sliding onto the leather-covered bench seat beside him.

‘Now see here, Stella,’ he said, once he’d started the engine and pulled out onto the airport’s exit lane. ‘Dorothy and I don’t have many Rockfair rules but
here’s one you’ll break again at your peril. No “professor” this or “professor” that from here on in, OK? It’s Jeb and Dorothy, period. I mean, Jeez, were
you planning on calling our daughter “Miss Sylvia”?’

Stella gave a passable imitation of the Queen. ‘Neow, it was going to be Miss Rockfair, eactually,’ she said in a nasal, clipped tone. Her hosts roared with laughter.

‘You’re a chip off the old block – that’s just the kind of stunt your mother might pull!’ Jeb said when he’d caught his breath. ‘You’re quite the
mimic, Stella . . . Dottie, we’re in the presence of royalty! The Queen of England is in the back of our sedan! How’d you learn to do that, honey?’

‘Oh, almost anybody can do the Queen,’ Stella said, beginning to enjoy herself. ‘It’s easy, I’ll show you. What do you breathe?’

‘Huh?’

‘Come on, it’s simple. What do you breathe?

‘OK . . . air,’ they replied together.

‘And what’s on top of your head?’

‘Hair.’ Dorothy started to laugh. ‘I think I can see where this is going, but then I do lecture in linguistics.’

‘One more,’ said Stella. ‘A fox hides in its . . . ?’

‘Lair!’ Jeb shouted after a moment, as he signalled right onto the freeway out of town.

‘Right. Put them all together and what do you get? One, two, three . . .’

‘Air-hair-lair!’

‘Which is how the Queen says: “Oh, hello”,’ Stella finished. ‘See? I told you it was easy.’

Dorothy Rockfair clapped her hands and looked over her shoulder at Stella, her eyes sparkling.

‘You know what, honey? Sylvia is going to just
love
you.’

Stella was surprised at how comfortable she felt with her hosts, so soon after meeting them. Of course, she’d heard this about Americans. Everyone knew they had a
God-given talent for relaxed, easy friendliness. But she hadn’t expected things to go quite so swimmingly from the start; the Rockfairs were, she knew, a sophisticated, intellectual couple.
She was a senior member of the faculty at Smith and he was a respected historian, author of weighty but best-selling books on nineteenth-century America. Jeb was considered an expert on slavery,
the American Civil War, and President Lincoln.

They were utterly unlike the professors she’d known at Cambridge. Her glamorous and beautiful mother was the exception that proved the rule: most of the dons and academics they knew shared
the same dusty, desiccated air, along with the dusty and desiccated clothes that they affected to wear. And how ponderously they carried their academic titles and their learning! Some of her
lecturers at Girton were incapable of holding a conversation about anything outside their narrow fields of expertise.

‘Walking, talking cobwebs,’ was her mother’s usual description.

The Rockfairs could hardly be more different. For a start, they had undeniable glamour. Dorothy wasn’t exactly what you might call beautiful, Stella decided, but she certainly drew the
eye. When Stella had passed from the baggage hall into the arrivals terminal earlier, she had spotted her hostess at once: tall and slim, with beautifully cut auburn hair feathered close to her
face, and wearing black slacks pushed into ski-boots. She held a dark green ski jacket draped over one shoulder. Stella thought Dorothy Rockfair looked like a secret agent in a Hollywood spy
thriller.

For some reason, her husband reminded Stella of what she imagined a newspaper editor might look like. Strong jaw, already darkened by four o’clock shadow (it was barely past midday),
glossy black hair oiled back in a classic short-back-and-sides, and wearing a crisp, white tailored shirt tucked into well-pressed silver-grey trousers. The matching jacket – he’d
called it a ‘coat’ when he slipped it off earlier while they had stopped at a red light – was now neatly folded on the back seat next to Stella, and it looked suspiciously like
pure silk to her. Jeb had rolled his shirtsleeves back to the elbows. Muscles in tanned forearms flexed as he steered the car towards Northampton. She decided he played a lot of tennis.

Stella suddenly remembered her mother telling her that, when she was staying with her hosts the year before, Jeb been invited at short notice on to one of the USA’s most popular
entertainment television programmes,
The Ed Sullivan Show
.

‘It’s basically a variety programme, Stella,’ Diana explained. ‘Not at all the place you’d expect to see a distinguished Professor of History pop up. Anyway, they
were doing a daft musical number based on Abraham Lincoln and afterwards Ed Sullivan did a jokey interview with Jeb, as a leading expert on Lincoln’s life. He – Jeb, I mean – was
hilarious.
Extremely dry and witty. Dorothy and I watched it from home; we were so nervous for him we were drinking neat bourbon, but we needn’t have worried. We raised our glasses
to the TV when it was over and cheered. I remember telling her you’d
never
get Jeb’s British equivalent to do something like that here. Can you imagine Dr Woodman from Girton
going on
Sunday Night at the London Palladium
and larking about with Bruce Forsyth? You could hardly conceive of a more bizarre, unlikely scenario, could you? It doesn’t bear
thinking about.’

BOOK: The Way You Look Tonight
10.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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