Carruthers recalled little of anything Noades said to him after that. He thought the barman had suggested he let matters lie and start with a clear head in the morning, but he was enveloped in a blind fury, too angry with Chelsey, too incensed with Goldhawk to pay heed to any advice.
He’d muttered something or other to Noades as they’d parted company that evening, but the first action he’d performed upon returning to his room was to call the lousy Goldhawk there and then, so charged up had he been.
But when that hadn’t worked, when repeated calls to both house phone and mobile met only a robotic recorded message, Carruthers’ basic instincts took over. Goldhawk knew who was phoning; that was why he hadn’t answered – or perhaps the two of them were cosily wrapped in each other’s arms, too indulgent in themselves to pay heed to his repeated attempts to get through.
Well they’d pay heed alright, he’d see to that. Carruthers checked his watch, eight forty five – little over forty five minutes had passed since they’d initially set out, though it seemed like hours. He wasn’t being treated like this, either by the licentious Goldhawk or his treacherous wife. He’d never have believed it could happen, but the fact that it had filled him with uncontrollable anger.
Carruthers set his enraged sights on Haslemere, and Goldhawk’s spacious Tudor mansion; at this time of evening he could reach it in two hours. And he would.
Snatching his keys from the table, Carruthers ran down to his vehicle, ramming the four- by-four into gear and narrowly avoiding a side-on collision as he exited via the hotel archway onto the village one-way system paying scant attention to approaching traffic. The
narrow miss, as the oncoming car screeched to a halt amidst angry blasts of its horn, at least
served to buck-up his concentration, if not to douse his fury.
He sped onto the M3 motorway, its lack of eastbound traffic aiding his progress, but the closer his journey took him towards the Buckinghamshire countryside, the more the veil of red before his eyes allowed pockets of realism to infiltrate his mind, much as he fought to disperse them.
Did he really expect to find Goldhawk in? Would he have been likely to have swept her back to his main residence? For what it was worth the louse had a wife, Jacqueline, making it even more unlikely he’d take Chelsey back there.
But he’d make sure Jacqueline knew about her husband’s infidelity. He’d do that alright.
It took him less than two hours to reach Goldhawk’s residence, an impressive Tudor fronted mansion in a swish crescent on the northern edge of the town. The steel-barred gates were invitingly open, which was fine – and Goldhawk’s Jaguar stood outside his garage at the top of his lengthy arced drive. Okay, so it wasn’t an Audi as Mrs. Winterman’s husband had thought, but it was the same colour and that sealed things for him.
So Goldhawk was inside, unsuspecting of his presence. He’d most probably shopped Jacqueline off for a few days, replacing her with his wife.
That thought alone generated renewed rage in Carruthers. His Range Rover catching the kerb and then mounting the pavement, he abandoned it unlocked and marched up the driveway.
But as he followed the arc towards the main door he saw at least eight or nine vehicles parked in the crown of the drive, beyond his vision until now. He’d walked into a function, and it wasn’t solely the array of vehicles that told him so – the raised voices and music flooding his ears confirmed as much.
Carruthers cursed his impetuosity, the scene he was about to create was going to be
witnessed by all and sundry, and who knew what influential literary figures he’d find inside.
But the stark realisation did little to pour water on his fire of certainty that he’d find Chelsey inside. He’d gone too far now, his indignation knew no bounds –
Carruthers rang the bell, his heart beating the drum in grim contrast – he needed to ring twice before a dinner-suited male sporting a black bow-tie answered the door.
‘I’m looking for Alexander Goldhawk – and my wife.’ Carruthers used the flat of his hand to force the unyielding figure aside and the man tottered backwards, upending an oval table and sending the tray of glasses he’d laid upon it crashing to the hardwood floor.
The commotion it caused was enough to bring Goldhawk hurrying from the main reception room. ‘What on earth – Martin…’ Goldhawk clapped his hand on brow. ‘There was no need to make such a dramatic entrance old chap – I would have invited you only…’
‘I’m sorry Mr. Goldhawk, this man simply barged in…’
‘Yes, I can see that, Bolton,’ Goldhawk said, keeping his eyes on the approaching Carruthers. ‘Get yourself cleaned up and attend to the mess.’
‘Where’s my wife, you louse – where’s Chelsey?’
‘I beg your pardon? Martin what are you on – what’s this all about?’
‘My wife, where is she?’ Carruthers stormed past Goldhawk, heading for the room he’d seen him exit, turning and thrusting a finger as he went. ‘I’ll find her and then I’ll account for you.’
But Carruthers’ advance was halted as he reached the arched doorway leading into it. Five, maybe six males attending the gathering had rushed to Goldhawk’s aid, and Carruthers, his arms pinned behind him, was bundled towards the door.
‘I want my wife, you lecherous old bastard,’ Carruthers screamed. ‘I’m not going until I find her.’
Goldhawk brushed his silver hair, took a nervous look back along the passageway. ‘She’s not here, Martin – I promise you – now look try to calm down and we’ll talk about it in private – I don’t know what’s got into you but…’
‘Alexander, what’s happening, why all the rumpus?’ It was Jacqueline, Goldhawk’s wife, demure, soberly dressed in a beige, calf-length frock who emerged from the reception room – ‘Why, Mr. Carruthers, what on earth’s going on?’
‘Mr. Carruthers has himself slightly confused, my dear; I feel he is a little the worse for wear. I’ll find him a quiet place to rest, it’s perfectly alright Jacqueline.’
‘Well – if you say so.’ Goldhawk’s wife sighed and fixed Carruthers an assessing stare. ‘I’ll help out in the kitchen.’
Carruthers hung his head as Goldhawk looked to the group restraining him. ‘It’s okay, you can let him go.’ The host watched the congregation slowly disperse and approached Carruthers cautiously. ‘I don’t know what’s got into you old chap, but we’d best have a quiet chat.’
Goldhawk led Carruthers to the rear of the house, into a small, richly carpeted parlour, closing the door behind them.
‘Now, what’s got into…’
Carruthers thrust Chelsey’s mobile into Goldhawk’s unwilling hands – ‘Read it. This is Chelsey’s phone and your message to her, asking to meet and telling her she doesn’t know what she’s missing – and then of course she dropped the damned thing when you picked her up in your grey Jag…’
‘No, no – this is madness, please keep your voice down, Jacqueline is very… look.’ Goldhawk raised his hands, backed away. ‘Yes, it is – was my message, but I sent that text,
two – possibly three months ago. Sit down, Martin, please. I’d rather we deal with this cordially.’
‘Cordially, you expect me to be cordial – damn you…’ but Carruthers sat down with a vast exhalation of breath. Slowly, through his enraged senses, it was becoming clear to him that whatever had happened to Chelsey, Goldhawk hadn’t been involved.
‘But you are telling me that you had an affair with my wife.’
‘No, no, no!’ Goldhawk turned to the drink cabinet, poured himself a whisky, offered a glass to Carruthers receiving only a glare.
‘Look I’ll admit I tried it on – no hear me out…’ Carruthers seemed to Goldhawk as though he would spring from his chair. ‘I’m sure you must know the way Chelsey comes across to men – I did what any red-blooded male would do – I sent her a text, that text. It was following an afternoon function, she’d been funny, amusing – good company – I thought I’d go for it. Sorry if it distresses you old chap but it’s the oldest game known to man, and I’m as much of a player as anyone else. Only it didn’t work. I didn’t even get an answer. I regret doing it now.’ Goldhawk gave Carruthers a long look. ‘I don’t know what’s happened to Chelsey, Martin, but I can see how stressed out you are. I wouldn’t blame you for…’
‘Okay, okay.’ Carruthers cupped his face in his hands, perched awkwardly forward in his seat. ‘I jumped to conclusions, but tell me something honestly; I don’t know what’s happened to Chelsey – and right now it’s driving me out of my mind…’ he fixed Goldhawk with a hard stare, ‘but I’d call that a rejection. Was that why you rejected her novel?’
Goldhawk swallowed, remained silent.
‘Was it, damn you?’
Goldhawk threw his hands in the air, forgetting the whisky in his grasp. It showered him, made him cough. ‘I don’t know,’ and then flinching from Carruthers’ gaze he said, ‘Yes – I
think possibly it was, I suppose I gave the final thumbs down. Once again, we’re all susceptible to rejection; it doesn’t apply solely to writers.’
‘In which case, I’ve nothing more to say.’ Carruthers strode past Goldhawk as though he was heading for the door and then stopped dead. He swung his right arm, catching the editor flush on the chin. ‘Take that from both of us.’
Out in the night air, Carruthers shivered. The humidity had finally gone, at least in these parts. His conscience though, was prickling him big time. He’d commenced a two hundred and fifty mile round journey in the belief that Chelsey and Goddard were having an affair. He should have known that she wouldn’t have betrayed him.
Now all he could wonder was what had happened to her, and to go right back to Lyndhurst and hope to find her safe and well.
He’d used her, acted as though it was a privilege of his position – and she’d gone along with him, because if she hadn’t, maybe he wouldn’t have published any more of her work. After all, he was the publisher – her agent wasn’t the one pulling the strings.
But it went deeper than that – it cut deeper, because he’d been getting greedy, more demanding, creating more pressure – and all the while he was doing that he was selling her work at exorbitant profit; in effect stealing it. Her mind whisked into fury; whirling her back to a time when in adolescence she’d effected retribution for that overriding reason. And the thing was –
She’d have to effect it again.
Alexander Goldhawk felt his chin, painful where Carruthers had struck him; quite some temper that man, not unlike his wife, who he doubted would be seeing him today. Despite the blow, he regarded Carruthers as a decent enough chap as things went, though too gullible by half. Crossing the room he examined his jaw line in the mirror, only the faintest trace of a bruise there, nothing to mar his appearance, thank heavens for small mercies.
Closing the imposing oak double doors behind him, Goldhawk then slung his heavily laden briefcase into the boot of the car and slipped behind the wheel. The case and its contents could wait until later, until afternoon in all probability, because he had a surprise engagement which took priority over his day’s publishing agenda. He’d called his secretary, Joyce Wainwright, and informed her that the weekly production meeting would need to be postponed for two hours at least – in all probability it would be four. These things happened, they were unavoidable.
Goldhawk smiled; both unavoidable and desirable. Well, every so often one of his favourite writers would return his favours, as had happened on this occasion. Out of the blue it was too, and overdue. He’d almost given up on this case, had been practically convinced he’d been getting nowhere, that his overtures hadn’t been receiving the attention they deserved, and so he’d resigned himself to pulling the plug on this particular author’s ambitions – at least where Goddard and Co were concerned.
But now they had borne fruition, his endeavours hadn’t been in vain, even though the chosen location had surprised him. It was the towpath at Chiswick – a quaint, refined and attractive spot, but rather close to his conquest’s abode, although when all said and done he wasn’t unduly concerned by that.
He whistled a tune subconsciously, pleased with himself. A publisher’s lot wasn’t such a bad one, all things considered. He made plenty of money, that was the thing. A glossy cover,
a bit of patching up by a decent copy-editor, a shrewd and astute advertising campaign and publishing program and bob’s-your-uncle. If one author didn’t comply with his demands
there was always one that would. His conquest was a reasonable writer, he’d give her that, but it was his own professionalism in producing the finished article that she owed him for. Well, to be frank they all owed him. That was his justification, in that there was no remorse.
He reached Chiswick, turned off the high street and approached the Thames, parking his car in a quiet side street and strolling down to the towpath. He didn’t see her at first; she hadn’t been quite in the arranged location. He crooked his head when he heard her call; she was walking down a steep alleyway towards him. She looked a picture; he could scarcely contain his delight.
Greedy, good for nothing Goldhawk; she’d seen his approach even though he hadn’t seen her. He thought she was going to guide him to some seedy hotel for a few hours and let him have his disgusting way with her. Well, not any more buster, the game was over, at least for him. Her plans for today, for the foreseeable future were pointing in a whole new direction. Corrupt guys such as Alexander bloody Goldhawk got their comeuppance in the end, and his was nigh.
He amounted to step one in her new direction; she was already planning step two.
She strode to the top of the alleyway, through gaps in the cottages she could follow his approach, and although not close enough to focus, she could imagine his leer of anticipation.
She allowed herself a smirk and then heart pumping blood ever quicker through her veins, trod lightly down to meet him.