Authors: Evelyn Anthony
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For my very dear friend
Julia Hamilton had dodged the private detectives watching her. She had booked her seat on the morning flight to Jersey using another name and travelled to Heathrow by Underground. Timing had been vital; she had to arrive at the terminal at the last minute, check in and speed through to the departure lounge.
Once airborne, she couldn't be followed. The flight was bumpy but Julia didn't mind. She was never airsick and loved flying.
The skies were grey and heavy with rain; as they began their descent, she leaned to look out of the window. Below, the sun was shining through a break in the bank of cloud. The land below was green and the sea dashed against the craggy shoreline, whipped by a sharp wind.
Janey had been waiting to meet her at the airport.
It had been so easy to manipulate her cousins; they were kind, straightforward people. When she said she needed a few days' holiday, they responded with a warm invitation. Julia refused to feel guilty; what she had come to find out was more important than a mild deception. Richard Watson was on that island, and she had come to find him. Richard Watson, she was certain, held some of the missing pieces in a jigsaw of betrayal and death.
It had been easy to gain the introduction. Her cousin Janey Peterson was thrilled to have such a celebrity to show off to her friends.
Julia Hamilton, the Fleet Street megastar, author of a famous book on the Rhys child murders, now head of the
's much publicized new feature, âExposure'. Everyone, Janey had enthused, would be dying to meet her.
Including their friend, Richard Watson. A telephone call had secured an invitation to dinner. And there she was, sitting at Richard Watson's right hand, the guest of honour. There were six people round the table that night; Watson and herself, David and Janey Peterson, and a couple called Thomas. He had a booming voice and an avuncular manner. His wife was small, spoke just above a whisper, and was, as Julia had discovered during the pre-dinner drinks, quite waspish.
Julia knew that Richard Watson was observing her. It was the price of a high profile. She was used to paying it, able to deal with men who felt the need to be aggressive, and women jealous of her success. And her good looks. She had enough scars not to be conceited about either.
âWe're all such fans of yours,' Bob Thomas said. âYou must tell us what “Exposure” has up its sleeves â¦ Rumour has it you're going after a politician?'
Julia said gently, âYou never want to listen to rumours. I'm afraid you'll have to wait till the paper comes out.' She gave him a charming smile. He grinned.
âWell, it was worth a try, anyway. So what brings you to our little island â hot on the trail of some juicy scandal?' Julia shook her head.
âAfraid not. I'm having a lovely pre-Christmas break staying with David and Janey. Just relaxing and being spoiled.' She smiled at them as she said it. They were so generous and hospitable. So genuinely proud of her.
So different from the ruthless, grasping denizens of her professional world. Fiona, the waspish little wife of Bob Thomas, leaned across and said to her, âYou wrote that book, didn't you â the one about the Rhys murders â a few years ago? I can't remember the name, but it was so much better than Truman Capote's book â¦ I can't remember the name of that, either â¦'
Julia said, â
The Colour of Blood
âThat's right,' Thomas bellowed. âI thought yours was wonderful, brilliant analysis.'
âThank you,' Julia said. âI'm glad you liked it.'
âWell,' his wife whispered, âI wouldn't say I exactly liked it because of the subject. Horrifying, actually. Dreadful having to deal with child murders like that. Didn't it bother you? You must have been very young?'
Julia said, âYes, putting it mildly, it bothered me a great deal. I felt afterwards I had to write in depth about what happened and why. It was the only way I could get it out of my mind.'
Then her host, Richard Watson, joined in. âI'll admit I didn't read your book,' he said. âI found the reporting harrowing enough, even though it was brilliant. You've never followed up with another one?'
âNo, I just haven't the time. My publishers have given up nagging me. I'm really a journalist, that's what I love doing. The book was a catharsis. I don't think I'll ever do another.'
âI envy you,' Bob Thomas said. âI wish I could write a book. Couldn't put anything down to save my life.'
âI've talked enough about myself,' Julia said, turning to Richard Watson. âTell me about you. How did you come to live here?'
Not rich, her cousin Janey Peterson had said. But very comfortable. Retired from a senior job in industry. Widower, rather a self-contained man, although everybody liked him. He lived in a fantastic house, part of Jersey's past in its way, and he entertained beautifully. Julia was sure to like him. He'd often talked to them about her articles in the
. He said she was the main reason he bought the newspaper.
âWell,' he leaned back and looked at her. He was a good-looking man, with remarkably blue eyes that were warm and friendly. Also shrewd. âMy wife died and I took early retirement. We had no children, you see, and I'd nobody to worry about but myself. We'd spent holidays here and made friends, so I decided to live here. You didn't have to be a millionaire in those days, or I assure you I wouldn't have qualified. And what clinched it was seeing this house for sale.'
âOh yes,' the small-voiced woman called Fiona Thomas whispered from her place on his left, leaning across him to make herself clear to Julia. âDo tell Miss Hamilton all about that.'
Julia leaned towards her. âCall me Julia,' she said. âPlease.'
Fiona smiled and sat back. âJulia,' she murmured. âHow sweet of you â¦'
âThis house is rather an oddity. But I was absolutely bowled over by the site and the views. It was very run down when I saw it; the garden was a wilderness, and it was very bleak â pouring with rain, I remember. I was intrigued by it, and, let me say, even more intrigued by the price. It had belonged to someone called Hunter â long before your time, my dear,' he said to Julia. âShe'd married a succession of rich men, and the last husband was one of the richest. She was very beautiful, and apparently very good fun. But in the end, she drank like a fish and became quite impossible. The equivalent of our tabloids absolutely adored her. She was always saying or doing something outrageous, and she was always in the news.'
âI remember,' Janey said. â“Mink is too hot to sit on,” â wasn't that her?'
Richard Watson laughed. âIt certainly was. She had a new motor car with gold-plated fittings, doorhandles, ashtray, and the seats were covered in leopardskin. She'd have been lynched by the anti-fur people today. When the Press asked her why leopardskin, that's what she said. “Because mink is too hot to sit on.” It made headlines all over the world. She really knew how to get herself into the papers.'
âShe certainly did if she came up with quotes like that,' Julia said. âI love it, I really love it. Mink is too hot to sit on â¦' She laughed. âSo what happened to her?'
âIt all ended sadly,' Watson said. âThey had this big yacht,
I think it was called, and her antics got her husband kicked off the board of his family business, so they spent their lives cruising from one tax haven to another. She used this house as a
when they berthed here. It was a forties time warp when I bought it. My drawing room was fitted up as a private cinema, screen, projector â everything left just as it was. Apparently one day she got bored, or had a row with the Jersey authorities â she was always rowing with people â it was drink, unfortunately. They just left, didn't even bother to put the house on the market. When she died, her executors put it up for sale. And I bought it.'
Someone said, âYou've done wonders with it, Dick. You ought to see the garden he's made. And all that clever lighting at night.'
âDawn and sunset are the best times,' he said. âNot that I'm up in time for the sunrises these days. But I've had a lot of fun getting it the way I wanted it. Sheila, that was her name. Sheila Hunter. Such a shame she went to pieces like that.'
âI must read up on her,' Julia said. âShe sounds interesting.'
âVery small beer compared to the scandals we get these days,' Thomas boomed cheerfully. âHardly rate a mention in the
, would she?'
âNow that could be a subject for a book for you,' his wife suggested to Julia. âI don't think there's been a biography. Of course, nobody dared when she was alive. She was a great one for suing. She had some famous black pearls. They became very fashionable.'
Julia let Richard refill her glass. The food and wine were as well chosen as the candles and winter-flower arrangements on the table. He was a man of taste and style. She liked him. She felt he liked her. She refused to feel guilty because she had come to his house under false pretences to make use of him.
As she was using her nice cousins, Janey and David Peterson, who'd been so delighted to see her. So welcoming. She withdrew from the conversation, adopting the role of a listener.
âThe definition of age', Richard Watson was saying, âis a desire to talk about the past. I find myself doing it more and more. I spent a few nights in London with my nephew â¦ the solicitor, you met him, Janey, he came over for a sailing holiday last summerâ'
âYes, I remember him, charming young man,' Janey said brightly.