Lovers and LiarsBy: Sally Beauman
Lovers and Liars by Sally Beauman
One frosty January morning, an exquisitely dressed, beautiful blonde woman sends four identical parcels to four different -destinations: Paris, New York, Venice and London. But there are mysteries here: the transaction is less innocent than it seems, and the lovely woman is not the person she claims to be.
Photographer Pascal Lamartine receives his package in Paris: it is a woman’s black glove, scented and disturbing. In London, reporter Gini Hunter, daughter of a famous American journalist, opens her parcel to find even more threatening contents. And within hours Gini’s enterprising editor assigns both her and Pascal to the story of a lifetime - a story rich in potential scandal. They must investigate John Hawthorne, the charming, charismatic US Ambassador to Great Britain, and the rumours now circulating about him. If true, then Hawthorne’s golden reputation conceals an ever darker secret.
The rich scion of a famous American Emily, once judged perfect presidential material, John Hawthorne appears to have thrown away his political career to take a diplornattc postin& Why;’ And what is the truth about his wife, List, 2 cekimated beauty, adept at seducing the media? Why should such an apparently devoted wife now be linked to the whisperings agamst him, the sexual slaixters, the rumour campaign? Gini and Pascal find themselves trapped in a mirror-world where all evidence, even tape-recordings, even photographs, is suspect. And they cannot remain distanced, for this %ory toadies their own lives, their brief passionate love affair, which ignited and ended in a. war zone twelve years before. In investigatmg John -Hawthorne, they must also examine their own loyzkies and the secrets of dwir hearts.
Defily woven of crotic’secrets and unfi4* deceptiow that span more than two decades, Lovers and Liars is a story brimming with surprises and suspense. It is a story of love, ambition and murderous desires. From its gripping opening to its shocking conclusion, it is a story no reader will be able to put down.
LONDON NEW YORK SYDNEY TORONTO
This edition published 1994 by BCA
by arrangement with Transworld Publishers Ltd Copyright Sally Beauman 1994
The right of Sally Beauman to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All of the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
This book is sold subject to the Standard Conditions of Sale of Net Books and may not be resold in the UK below the net price fixed by the publishers for the book.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.
Printed and bound in Australia
by Griffin Paperbacks, Netley, South Australia.
To James; with my love and thanks also to m friends y Carlos, Alexis, Howard, and that great games-player, Mr Mackenzie.
PROLOGUE FOUR PARCELS
THE MAIN London office of ICD - Intercontinental Deliveries - is off St Mary Axe in the City. A century ago, there was a dank overcrowded cluster of houses around the courtyard site. They included a lodging-house for sailors, a brothel and a public house which sold gin at twopence a glass. But that was a century ago, before City land values rose to their present heights: ICD’s head office was now on the fifteenth floor of an elegant temple of steel and glass.
From this office-, true to the company name, five continents were linked. An expanding fleet of planes, trucks, vans and motor cycles ensured that urgent parcels and documents were delivered promptly, by uniformed courier, all over the world.
In the summer of 1993, a new employee was hired to adorn ICD’s recently redecorated reception area. The position was advertised in The Times. The successful candidate was a twinset-and-pearls girl named Susannah. She had a diploma in flower arranging from a Swiss finishing-school, a generous dress allowance from her businessman father and an accent like the finest cut-glass.
Had Susannah’s assets been purely decorative, subsequent events might have turned out very differently. But she proved to be intelligent, a fast efficient worker, with good word-processing skills. More important still Susannah had an excellent memory. Unlike
most witnesses, her recall of events was unwavering and sharp. This was to prove important, for it was Susannah, early in
January the following year, who took delivery of the four identical parcels, and Susannah - returning to the office after the extended Christmas and New Year break - who at nine-thirty in the morning took their sender’s odd and crucial first call.
it was a Tuesday morning. It was threatening snow outside, and the City was still quiet. Susannah expected business to be slack. The New Year’s celebrations had fallen on a weekend, so yesterday, a Monday, had been a holiday too. An extra day’s escape from office tedium. Susannah yawned and stretched. She was not complaining; the long weekend had given her an extra morning on the ski-slopes at Gstaad.
She made herself some coffee, greeted a few late arrivals who worked backstage in accounts, arranged the fresh flowers she always had on her desk, and in a desultory way flicked through the pages of December Vogue.
Her mind was still on the ski-slopes, and a certain stockbroker she had met, who took the worst of the black runs with fearless skill. He had been at Eton with her older brothers, and a fellow guest at her chalet. She wondered whether, as promised, he would call her to arrange lunch. When the telephone rang at nine-thirty, she felt a sense of pleased anticipation - but it was not her stockbroker. A woman’s voice. Business, then. Susannah checked her watch, and logged the call.
Most ICD deliveries were requested by female secretaries, so there was nothing unusual about this call initially - except the caller’s voice, which was low-pitched, English, harmonious, with an accent very similar to Susannah’s own. Susannah would have denied fiercely that she was a snob, had anyone ever accused her of such a thing, but she was certainly aware, as is everyone English, of the subtle and tell-tale modulations of accent. She responded at once to the fact that her caller was one of her own peer group - and this was to prove useful. As a witness, and from the first, Susannah was alert.
There was, however, something odd about the caller’s manner. It was exceptionally hesitant, even vague.
‘I wonder/ said the voice, as if this were the most unlikely request to make to a courier company, ‘if you could possibly arrange hand-delivery of four parcelsT
‘Of course,’ Susannah said. ‘The destination of the parcels?’
‘One must go to Paris/ said the voice, ‘and one to New York-! ‘City or stateT Susannah interrupted.
‘Oh, city. Yes. Manhattan. Then one is within London, and the fourth must go to Venice … ‘ The voice sounded apologetic, doubtful, as if Venice were a village in Tibet, or some Arctic Circle settlement. There was a breathy pause. ‘Will that be possibleT ‘Absolutely. No problem.’
‘How wonderful.’ The voice sounded greatly relieved. ‘How clever. The thing is … the four parcels must be delivered tomorrow morning, without fail.’
Susannah’s manner became a little less warm. She began to suspect that this female caller was putting her on. ‘I can guarantee that/ she replied crisply, ‘providing we take delivery before four this afternoon.’
‘Oh, they’ll definitely be with you this morning.’ ‘Would you like me to arrange a pick-upT
‘Pick-upT There was a hesitation, then a low laugh. ‘No. That won’t be necessary. I’ll bring them over to your office myself. Theyll be with you by eleven … ‘
By now, Susannah found the woman’s approach distinctly odd. Urgency mixed with such vagueness was unusual. The woman sounded spaced-out, or perhaps under some terrible pressure. Susannah began to run down the details on her despatch programme, at which point - or so she would later claim - the woman became evasive.
‘Size of parcelsT Susannah said. ‘I’m sorryT
‘Size. You see, if they’re especially large or heavy, I need to make special arrangements.’
‘Oh, they’re not large.‘The woman sounded reproachful. ‘They’re light. Quite light. Not heavy at all .
‘Contents?’ ‘I don’t understand .
‘We need to attach customs declaration forms for the three going abroad,’ Susannah explained. ‘Because of narcotics regulations, mainly. So I need an indication as to contents.’
‘Oh I see.’ The voice sounded amused. ‘Well, I’m not sending cocaine, and I don’t think I’d use a courier company if I were … Still, I do see the problem. Contents … yes. Could you put “Gifts”T
‘I’d need to be more specific, I’m afraid . ‘Of course. Birthday giftsT
Susannah set her lips. ‘More specific still. Confectionery. Books. Toys - something like that.’
‘Oh, that’s easy then. Birthday gifts - articles of clothing. Put that, please.’
,on all those going abroadT
‘Yes.’ There was a pleasant laugh. ‘Odd, isn’t it? All my closest friends seem to be Capricorns
Susannah made a face at her computer. She began flashing up details of flights and courier runs. Watching figures and times, she began to run down the remaining queries: address of sender, addresses of recipients, preferred method of billing. The voice interrupted.