‘I’m telling you Martin, I can’t do it. Not this time.’ Alexander Goldhawk stood up,
turned his back on Carruthers, and gazed out of the fifth floor window at the
panorama of lean office blocks. He stood for several seconds, hands thrust deep into
his trouser pockets and then turned and sighed. ‘Look, times are hard, Martin. Sales
are falling and let’s face it, Chelsey’s in particular. The old man won’t buy it. We
have to make cutbacks somewhere.’
Carruthers crouched forward in his chair, examining his fingers for some imaginary
blemish before staring up at the tall, slim, silver-haired figure of Goldhawk. ‘Stop
blaming Goddard, Alex, we both know who calls the shots here. You mean you won’t
buy it. You’re the editor for heaven’s sake – what the blazes am I going to tell
‘I’m afraid Chelsey’s your problem, Martin.’ Goldhawk’s lips developed a
sympathetic twist as he strode to his desk, placing his hands flat upon it. ‘Martin, you’
re a fine agent – and you know well enough the fact that I’m not taking Chelsey’s new
work doesn’t mean it won’t be accepted elsewhere. Another publishing house might
take it, probably will. I simply can’t fit it into my budget. Sorry.’
‘So that’s it?’
‘Yes, I’m afraid it is.’
Carruthers stood, refused Goldhawk’s outstretched hand and headed for the door.
‘Martin, wait…’ Goldhawk called but Carruthers was having none of it. He hurried
down the stairs not bothering to wait for the lift. He needed a smoke and time to cool
his sizzling mind before returning home with the bad tidings.
Outside he found a small park, an oasis of quiet in bustling Kensington. He sat on a
vacant bench, drew a cigarette from his pocket and lit one. No sooner had he
switched on his mobile phone than it rang.
‘So, Martin…’ Chelsey’s voice, loud and expectant. ‘What’s the deal?’
Carruthers took two giant puffs on his cigarette. ‘There isn’t one,’ he said flatly.
‘Look there’s no point in speaking here; we’ll talk when I get back.’ He curtailed the
call before his wife had a chance to answer.
He felt double his thirty seven years as he anticipated the reaction that was sure to
follow. His relationship with Chelsey had become increasingly volatile of late, and it
hadn’t been helped by the fact that Casey Jennings, also on Carruthers’ books was
outselling her. Carruthers wouldn’t describe himself as being amongst the most placid
of people, he could rise to an argument easily enough, but Chelsey’s mood swings
had increased in volume and intensity, and even allowing for Goldhawk’s smugness
the editor had a point. Her latest offering, “A Woman’s Jungle” seemed far removed
from her earlier revered writing, and her turbulent temperament, he suspected, was a
key factor in her slide.
He’d no doubt that given time and effort he could find another publisher to accept her
work but his promise to do so was unlikely to pacify her in the slightest.
Thus with a strong sense of foreboding Carruthers extinguished his cigarette and
headed for the car.
* * *
Twenty minutes later Carruthers arrived back home. Gathering his case from the back
of his Range Rover he unlatched the gate to his detached mews house, a stone’s throw
from the river at Chiswick.
Before he was halfway up the path the door was flung open and Chelsey stood there,
a tall, lithe figure with tumbling locks of golden hair, and a scowl which obliterated
her natural beauty.
‘What the hell have you done, Martin? How have you managed to botch this up?’
‘Cool it Chelsey, just cool it, right?’ Carruthers pushed his way past her, placed his
case in the hall. ‘Let’s go through to the lounge and talk this out sensibly.’
Chelsey leaned on the door jamb, arms crossed, fingers tapping furiously on forearms
as her eyes followed him. ‘So why is there no deal, Martin; what did he say?’
Carruthers sighed, lowering himself into a chair, trying to appear calm in the face of a
simmering volcano. ‘Let’s face it love, you’re not producing the same standard of
writing you were a few years back – and the economic downturn isn’t helping, either.’
Carruthers compressed his hands, interlocked his fingers. ‘I think Goldhawk’s a fool
to reject you, he knows another leading house will snap you up…’
‘Oh they might, Martin.’ Chelsey tossed her head back, eyes all defiance, but I know
I’m producing quality stuff; it’s you who’s not up to scratch. I’ll present my own case
from now on.’
‘Fine, if that’s the way you want it,’ Carruthers flushed. ‘I can’t deliver on what you’
re producing. I’m tired of carrying the can for your falling standards.’
‘Oh! When have you ever done anything that wasn’t in your own interests, Martin?’
Chelsey whirled round, snatched Carruthers’ case from the hall, rifled through it for
her manuscript, and removing it, flung the case across the lounge where it struck his
‘Chelsey, for God’s sake, what’s got into you lately?’
Veins stood rigid in Chelsey’s neck as she clenched her teeth. ‘Concentrate on your
main aim, why don’t you? Like promoting Jennings’ interests.’
Chelsey stormed out, a heavy thud reverberating throughout the ground floor as she
slammed the oak door shut.
Carruthers sunk forward, digging fingertips into his furrowed brow. Was that it? Had
that been at the heart of Chelsey’s fluctuating moods and deteriorating writing? The
fact that Casey Jennings, also on his books, had come to be regarded in a higher vein
Well it wasn’t his fault, he’d toiled for Chelsey, devoted more time to her cause over
the years than to anyone else. And he’d been beside himself with worry that
Goldhawk would give the thumbs down on her new work.
He should be getting on with things; there were other writers deserving of his attention
and he’d wasted too much time of late fretting over her. But even though only mid-
afternoon he needed a drink. A stiff scotch. Was that what Chelsey was driving him
Pouring a double measure, he took it out to the patio, and placing it on the table, lit a
cigarette. From the elevated decking he had a view down the sloping mews to the
Thames. On a peaceful, balmy afternoon with a soft breeze invigorating the air he
might have been at ease. Carruthers, however, was far from that enviable state of
mind. After ten minutes slouched in his chair he replenished his glass and stared
vacantly at the distant river.
It was sometime later that a hand on his shoulder restored Carruthers to
consciousness. He squinted into Chelsey’s face. No longer angry, her apologetic
stance enhancing her beauty where before her fury had blemished it.
‘I’m sorry Martin, I know you try your best for me, I let things get to me sometimes, I
simply don’t know what’s got into me of late.’ Chelsey placed an arm around his
shoulder and kissed his cheek. ‘Though I can’t accept the quality of my writing has
declined in any way.’ Her gaze slipping from Carruthers to his glass she added, ‘And
there’s really no need to resort to the booze darling. Go upstairs and sleep it off
‘I’ve done all the sleeping I’m going to.’ Carruthers got to his feet, took Chelsey in
his arms, ‘I’ll be okay love. What time is it?’
‘Around six I think. I left my watch in the lounge.’
‘You mean I’ve been slouched there for three hours… Carruthers frowned. ‘Where
have you been?’
‘Oh nowhere; just for a walk along the towpath, trying to cool myself down. We could
both do with a break, you know,’ she said, wrapping her arms around his neck.
‘Perhaps if we turned our back on London for just a few days?’
Carruthers cast an eye down the mews, catching sight of a cruiser ferrying day-
trippers along the river. ‘I can only manage a few days,’ he said, stroking his chin.
‘Oh I fully understand,’ she said, breaking away. ‘After all, Jennings will need
Carruthers sighed. There was a smile on her generous lips, but it was tight, forced.
‘Chelsey, please don’t…’
‘No, it’s okay love.’ She waved his protestation aside, dropped onto a garden
lounger and resting her back against the canvas, raised her long legs effortlessly onto
it. ‘I can only manage a few days myself. Now be a darling and fetch me an orange
Carruthers went into the kitchen, prepared Chelsey’s drink and returned to her. ‘So,
have anything in mind?’
‘Sure I have.’ Chelsey nodded, taking a sip from her drink and placing it on the table.
‘Somewhere close by. The New Forest would be ideal. We could take our cycles, or
better still, hire a couple while we’re there. What do you say?’
‘We haven’t ridden in ages,’ Carruthers scoffed, but thought on reflection it might be
the change in habit they both needed. ‘On second thoughts, perhaps you’ve got
something there – though it hardly seems your style, my love.’
‘I’ve already told you I haven’t time for anything more exotic. Please listen, Martin,’
she said, a touch of animosity back in her voice.
Carruthers knew when to call it quits - the fingers of her left hand were wrestling
those of her right, a sign of mounting irritation. ‘Okay, I can find decent
‘No need to bother, love. I’ll call Adrian. Adrian will know of somewhere.’
Adrian Frampton-Williams was Chelsey’s half brother and the mere mention of his
name these days sent Carruthers’ stomach into freefall. Not that he wasn’t supportive
– to her at least – but it seemed that Adrian’s attitude towards her extended beyond
the bounds of brotherly love. And that wasn’t all, he’d felt a hostility, both in Adrian’
s eyes and his tone of voice.
Making a big effort to curb his resentment, Carruthers placed a hand on Chelsey’s
shoulder. ‘I’ll leave you to call him then.’ Carruthers escaped into the house, away
from the sweet accent Chelsey adopted when conversing with her half-brother.
And then his mobile phone rang…
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