Carruthers’ mobile phone rang. He yawned, reached across the
basin to answer it and was greeted by Casey’s throaty voice.
‘Marty – any chance we could meet up today? I’ve got great hopes
for my new effort – I’m naming it Stapleton’s Demise. I have a
feeling this could be my biggest ever, I’d really appreciate running
through the outline with you…’
Carruthers placed his razor back in the cabinet and sighed. ‘Look
Casey, this isn’t the best of times…’
‘Oh come on, Marty. You stand to gain from it as well…’
‘It’s not all about money, Casey.’
Carruthers caught Casey’s impatient exhalation. ‘Dammit – if I didn’
t know you better I’d say that was exactly what it was – that right
now your finances are balancing just fine; that you don’t need…’
‘Stop. Stop right there Casey. Don’t go down that road. You know
I wouldn’t use you as a cash cow. As a matter of fact Chelsey and I
Carruthers hesitated. Perhaps he was being unfair - Casey was,
after all, both a client and friend, and Chelsey, perhaps on account
of the mood she was in, seemed nowhere near ready; when all said
and done it was only a fifteen minute drive to her house. It couldn’t
do any harm.
‘Okay, I’ll be over shortly – but I’ll need to be quick. I’ll explain
when I see you.’
Carruthers toweled his face dry and strode to the landing. ‘I’m just
popping out,’ he said, sticking his head around the bathroom door.
‘A few loose ends to tie up.’
‘Let me guess what they are…’ but Chelsey’s tone was sarcastic
rather than malicious as she slipped off her night gown, and
Carruthers avoiding comment covered the short journey to Casey’s
Ealing Common home in a little over ten minutes.
Pulling up at Casey’s neat, ivy adorned cottage on the east side of
the common, Carruthers saw her door was ajar. He gave a quiet
tap and walked through.
‘In here, Marty,’ Casey called from her study, which she’d created
from a small subsidiary lounge. ‘Be a dear and shut the front door
will you? It seems to have got cooler all of a sudden.’
Carruthers retraced his steps and duly obliged, Casey having
slipped off her reading spectacles as he joined her in the study.
Holding them between thumb and forefinger she gave him a long,
‘So what’s the big development that you can’t find time for your
best selling author?’
Carruthers raised his eyes to the ceiling fleetingly. ‘That’s just what
I am doing,’ he said in a voice of tested patience. He sat opposite
her desk, slapping his hands on thighs. ‘As a matter of fact I’m
taking Chelsey on a few days’ break. She’s been a bit under the
weather of late.
Casey curved her full face into a sympathetic, though knowing
smile, fingering her long dark hair. ‘I heard that her latest effort got
‘How the hell have you got wind of that?’ Carruthers spurted,
astonished at the speed at which she’d come by Goldhawk’s
‘Oh come on, Marty,’ Casey leaned forward, patted Carruthers’
arm. Nothing’s sacred in this business, now you should know that.
Now I thought you’d like to spend a few moments of your precious
time with me, going through the main points of my new best seller…’
‘I repeat – that’s why I came.’
Carruthers narrowly held back from remarking on Casey’s attitude.
It was unusual for her to derive such pleasure from somebody else’
s misfortune; at least that was how it appeared to him.
He glanced around the small study, everything neat and tidy, the
wall-to-wall bookcase full of neatly filed books; her desk as orderly
as he could remember seeing it. But that was part of a growing
puzzle because things were just too ship-shape. Her computer was
switched off on her desk; no sign of writing materials and not a
manuscript or folder in sight.
‘Well, I’m waiting, Casey.’ Carruthers drummed his fingers,
hunched forward. ‘I’ve…’
‘I know, I know – you’re in a rush, your time is limited.’ Casey gave
a reproachful smile. ‘I anticipated as much – don’t look so tense. I
thought it better that I run through the storyline verbally rather than
delay you with a skeleton outline…’
Carruthers forced a smile, shook his head in disbelief. ‘But you
could have accomplished that on the phone…’
Casey chewed her lip, the corners of her mouth downturned.
‘What, and risk Chelsey’s interference? I don’t think so.’ Casey
swung away from the desk, moving her solid, shapely frame closer
to him. ‘Anyway, this is how it goes – ‘My story revolves around an
unholy trinity. By which I mean three unscrupulous individuals who
manipulate people for their own ends; all individual and self focused
characters in their own right and yet tied together by their own
cunning and greed.
As the story unfolds, increasingly they find their dishonesty doesn’t
pay; they double-cross one another, none of them profiting, and
they end up victims of their own deceit.’
Carruthers sat back, fingering his chin. ‘Okay, intriguing as far as it
goes, though at present it doesn’t stretch a whole distance. ‘This
Stapleton – I assume he’s the night in shining armour?’
‘Oh no. Far from it.’ Casey’s face soured momentarily before her
dark eyes shone. ‘But there is a hero out to set the world to rights.’
‘Okay.’ Carruthers got to his feet, gripped Casey’s shoulder. ‘But I’
d like to take your framework for the book – if I might take a copy
‘Oh what – and spoil your break Marty? No, I wouldn’t dream of it;
what can you be thinking of? I’m just so glad you came and that I
could run through the basics with you. Is there anything I can get
you or are you in too much of a hurry?’
Carruthers phone rang and he answered to the rising tone of
Chelsey’s voice. ‘I trust you’re not going to be a whole lot longer,
Martin, because if you are…’
‘No, as a matter of fact I’m on my way.’
‘Got to go,’ Carruthers mouthed to Casey, a hand over the
mouthpiece. Duty calls, I like what I’ve heard. Show me the works –
I’ll call you when I get back.’
Carruthers was aware of a raspy reply, although there was a light-
hearted punch on the arm from Casey. He felt a pang of guilt that
he’d cut her short but he’d fulfilled his obligation, and when the chips
were down Chelsey always came first.
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