It’s the latest “wonderful read” by romantic suspense author Anji Nolan…
…and readers are delighted to find the “colorful characters, witty writing” — and of course — intense romance they’ve come to expect.
Don’t miss it while it’s 60% off the regular price!
by Anji Nolan
But when Emily’s roommate and co-worker Jude Cameron steals a large quantity of diamonds from the Transcontinental warehouse vault, the police accuse Emily of being Jude’s accomplice. And while the evidence against Emily is circumstantial, omissions from her past stack up to harm her.
Both Bill and Jack have the means to clear Emily’s name until Bill dies from a massive heart attack. Do Jack’s feelings run deep enough to help her, or has Emily’s rejection hurt him too badly?
Praise for Anji Nolan’s earlier novels:
“…colorful characters, witty writing and all set in beautiful northern Arizona! Looking forward to reading the series…”
an excerpt from
Love Will Find a Way
by Anji Nolan
The rhythmic beating of wings alerted her, and Emily looked up to see a gull hovering fifteen feet or so above the chaise on which she reclined.
“It’s a thief you know,” said an accent tinged voice.
Startled, she turned. “Who’s a thief?” She shielded her eyes against the sun, and recognized the elegantly dressed blonde from the night before. “Oh hi, Jack Clemmons isn’t it?”
He took off his sunglasses revealing ice blue eyes. “You remembered.”
“How could anyone forget you after such generous contributions to the awards dinner?”
“I’d rather you remembered my sparkling wit and personality.”
Emily smiled. “It was a receiving line. I don’t recall any chit-chat.”
“Yet I remembered the tall redhead with green eyes.”
“Occupational hazard, there aren’t many of us left.” Emily swung her legs from the chaise and retied her pareo about her hips. “So Jack, I’m guessing the accent is South African.”
“You would be correct, and you are American.”
She giggled. “No shit Sherlock, what gave me away?”
“You’re very blunt, aren’t you?”
“Is that a problem?”
Jack slipped his glasses back on as Emily dug hers from her bag.
“Not at all; I like a strong woman. Did you have fun last night?”
“I’d have had more if I’d won the diamond tennis bracelet.”
He held out a solid practical hand. “So, come take a look at the bird.” Jack helped Emily to her feet, and led her to the parapet. “See the hotel’s seafood delivery.”
He pointed. “Look up there.”
The gull had left the terrace and perched on a flagpole across the street. With wings outstretched, it bounced wildly and squawked in agitation as a deliveryman hoisted a basket of seafood on his shoulder.
“Now watch the cheeky moocher,” Jack said.
As soon as the fishmonger disappeared down the alley, the gull launched off the pole, and swooped onto the cart. There, head cocked and wings extended, it plucked an expensive tidbit from its kelpy resting-place. It rose high again, and overhead the terrace, dropped its cargo. A large snail hit the ground, bounced twice, and came to rest against the parapet. The bird swooped down beside the mollusk, and tentatively poked the cracked shell to see if its beak would penetrate. When it would not, the hungry flyer danced around the stricken escargot, webbed-feet slapping aggressively on concrete.
Coming from the city, Emily had never seen anything like the seagull dance, and as she watched in rapt fascination the bird regrouped, took the snail back in its beak, and for a second time, rose in the air letting the mollusk plummet to the unforgiving terrace below. This time, a large chunk of shell broke off, exposing the delicacy inside, and before another could swoop in and steal its hard-earned meal, the gull plucked out the spongy gastropod, swallowed it down and returned to its purloining perch across the street.
“Crafty little critter isn’t it?” said Jack.
“Might say the same about you; how long were you standing behind me?”
“A couple of minutes. I didn’t mean to disturb your sunbathing, but I couldn’t resist letting you know why the dinner I’m about to buy you is so expensive.”
“What makes you think I’m going to dinner with you?” She returned to the chaise.
“Because you said you would.”
“I clearly made an impression the last time we spoke.”
“And when exactly was that?”
“You don’t remember Walvis Bay Holdings’ diamond shipment? Last week; you expedited the gems transfer to the clearing house after the courier screwed up. My father, in his usual accusatory fashion, thought the gems had been stolen, and you said you’d make it your mission to locate them before leaving for Monaco.”
“That was you, you sound different.”
“Last week I was calling ship-to-shore.”
“You called me at JFK airport from a boat?”
“My father wanted his gems in house before he left the U.S. A business colleague said call Emiline Wilks at Transcontinental, she’ll make it happen. So I did.”
“Your father called Europe from the U.S. to have you check on a shipment clearing in New York?”
“Yup, he called me here, to call you there, to do that.”
“Holy Christmas, that’s one convoluted chain of command.”
“Par for my father’s course. He refuses to get personally involved with us peasants. Gets just about anybody, to do anything, at any time he wants.”
“You know the chance of anyone stealing a shipment from Transcontinental is pretty remote. Only a couple of us know how to access the vault, and the courier guards have the pickups timed to the minute.”
“Doesn’t wash with my father; he sees the bad in everybody.”
“Now there’s a boatload of familial resentment.”
“You better believe it. He has me on a leash so tight, I about choke myself. So, are we on for dinner, or no?”
“I’m not sure. My room-mate is due in today. Besides Transcontinental really frowns on employees accepting gratuities.”
“Something like that.”
“Well that clarifies things.”
“She’s a lesbian.”
“And you are…”
Emily smiled. “Not.”
“Boyfriend with you?”
“I’m a little old for ‘boyfriends’.”
“You know what I mean.”
“There is someone, back in the states. Is that going to prevent you from taking me to dinner?”
“Don’t see him with you, so probably not.”
“Then we’ll say no more about him and move on.”
“Good. And my offer is not a gratuity.” Jack pulled up a chair. “Look around, it appears we’re the only people under sixty staying at this hotel, and since we’re both going to get hungry at some point, why not eat together. It’ll be fun, and we can talk about something other than stock portfolios, how much we dropped on the tables last night, or who died when, from what, and left whom, God knows how much money.”
“You’re staying here too?”
“No. At the moment I’m a glorified tour guide living on The Adamas, that’s my father’s yacht.”
“How exotic.” Emily extended her hand. “But a promise is a promise. Hello Jack, my friends call me Emily.”
“Well I’m pleased you so generously brought me into the realm of ‘friend’ and might I suggest dinner at six. Shall I meet you in the lobby or come to your room.”
“Umm, let me think about that…” Emily tapped a finger on the arm of the chaise.
“Oh come on now, you didn’t think I was suggesting—”
“Suggesting what, Mr. Clemmons?”
Jack blushed. “Er, nothing. I’ll be in the lobby at six.” He smiled thinly and walked away.
Emily saw Jack as the elevator doors opened. And not knowing where they would be going, but realizing most anywhere in Monte Carlo is dressy, she had opted to wear a silk faille two-piece, with Manolos and matching purse.
Jack walked forward and kissed her routinely on both cheeks. “A vision in pale blue, how lovely, Misook I believe.”
“How perceptive, are you a buyer for Saks in your spare time?”
He smiled. “And the shoes?”
“Don’t tell me you know they’re Manolo Blahniks?”
“I was going to say can you walk in them?”
“What had you in mind? If you’re thinking the Appalachian Trail we could have a problem, but if it’s just a turn around the square, I’m your gal.”
“Then Ms. Emily Sarcasm you are indeed my gal,” he proffered his arm. “Walk this way.”
She linked his arm as he led her under the cavernous dome of The Hermitage’s Jardin d’Hiver, and as they stepped out into Monaco’s balmy evening air, he paused. “Room-mate arrive?”
“Yes, finally. I was in the shower and didn’t even see her. She stopped at the room long enough to ditch her bag then went to the casino. She drives me nuts with her gambling. She’s always working on ‘her system’ or looking for a cock-a-mamie angle to make money. I’m sick of bailing her out and listening to her sob stories.”
“Sob stories, “asked Jack.
“The tables are rigged. Somebody stole my stash. A compulsive gamblers usual excuses.”
“Look up there.” Jack pointed to a street corner lamppost.
“What are they?”
“Cameras. They are everywhere. The Monaco Tourist Authority brags that you could leave a million bucks in a convertible and if it was stolen, they’d have the thief before he got to the border.”
“Well that takes care of that excuse. What about the rigged tables?”
“Now that’s out of my sphere of knowledge; I never gamble. What little money my father pays me is precious.”
“Maybe you should meet her and try and impart that wisdom, I’m getting nowhere. In fact, some things have happened lately to make me realize it’s time we parted ways. Anyway, I sent her a message at the casino saying I was having dinner with you. And I’m sort of glad I wasn’t around when she arrived. Her mood, which is not good at the best of times, will not have improved by sitting in Geneva airport for twenty four hours waiting to use her staff pass.”
“Isn’t getting all psyched up for a trip and being left hanging irritating?”
“For those of us who aren’t rich enough to live on a yacht in Monte Carlo harbor, getting a free pass or paying ten percent is worth the hassle.”
“Direct, but point taken. Keep walking Ms. Emily, I can see we’re going to get along like a house on fire.”
Along with Jack and Emily, many others had chosen to promenade before the impressive Belle Époque buildings of the Square Beaumarchais, and as the smell of coffee and expensive perfume permeated the air, Emily enjoyed the solid feel of Jack’s arm, and the way his body fit next to hers.
“So, Jack, what if I’d been a frumpy matron, with bleached blonde hair and ill-fitting dentures. Would we still be going out to dinner?”
“You think I’m that shallow?”
They stopped at Raffi’s, an open air café bustling with patrons. “So, here we are,” said Jack, leading her to a table replete with canapés and an open bottle of champagne.
“I see you called ahead,” said Emily.
“It pays to be prepared.” Jack poured the wine. “Being airline staff, you obviously get to travel anywhere, have you been here before?”
“First time. This champagne is yummy, and I love canapés. I could happily make a meal of them. How about you?”
She giggled. “Monaco; you live here all the time?”
“No, my father has me organize tours for his business associates. This is just one venue for me. I stay on the yacht until it loads up, then I decamp to The Hermitage.”
“So that’s why you were loitering about.”
“I’m not sure The Hermitage would approve of anyone loitering about.”
“It is a bit old school,’ said Emily. “But I really do like it. I sat in the lobby for hours yesterday imagining all the famous people who’d checked in.”
“You know it’s stood on the Square Beaumarchais since the early 1900’s, and while most people know about Monte Carlo’s casino because it has been in several movies, I think The Hermitage is the more beautiful building. Did you know it’s a registered historical monument?”
Emily giggled. “That your tour-guide speech?”
“Yup, that’s the opening salvo.”
“I hate it. Standing around, spouting a load of nonsense to people who don’t give a rat’s ass, it’s demoralizing.” Jack took a large swallow of champagne. “I’d give my right arm to chuck it all in.”
“You work for your father. Tell him you’re not happy and want to do something else.”
“Wish I could. It’s not that simple.”
“Why? I’m presuming you’re over twenty-one.”
“I got into a bit of trouble back home. I’m under court orders.”
“What did you do, murder someone?”
“Uh-oh. How ‘not quite’?”
“Motor vehicle fatality. Some friends and I got a little drunk—”
“Okay, a lot. You really want to know. My story isn’t pretty.”
“Stuff that makes anyone as bent out of shape as you appear to be, rarely is. I’m a big girl let’s hear it.”
“The trouble started at my graduation ceremony.”
“In South Africa?”
Jack nodded. “Cape Town University, I studied international finance. I was valedictorian and me a bunch of friends started celebrating that, and our freedom from school, hours before the speeches ended.”
“Okay, we got the drunk driver admission. What next?”
“After polishing off two magnums of champagne, a bottle of vodka and a fifth of gin, we piled into three convertibles and headed for the beach.”
“And is that where the bad stuff happened?”
Jack frowned. “You gonna let me get through this or what?”
“Sorry, airline worker, deadlines are a religion.”
“With the booze gone, someone suggested we hit The Palms. It’s a ritzy beach resort on the dunes, but they refused us entry, ‘cos we were all so cooked. And I said ‘let’s try Nelly Palmers’. It was a ways off, but they’d serve a pickled warthog, if it had a cent. I was the only one who knew the way, so I took the lead.”
“When you knew you were too looped to drive?”
“I’m not proud of that,” answered Jack. “But we wanted some fun. Needed to let off steam and celebrate our freedom. I admit I was driving fast. But the roads were empty, and everyone seemed okay with it. Nobody said slow down so I hurtled on. Then as I rounded a corner, I misjudged the curve, and ended up fishtailing for half a mile.”
“Did you crash?”
“No. But the wall of dust I kicked up wiped out visibility for the guys behind me. I was totally unaware anything had happened until there was an explosion.”
“Pretty much my thought.” Jack took another sip of wine. “As I looked in my rearview, a huge orange fireball was where my friends should be. I slammed my car into reverse and my friend Rick and I jumped out, and the girls with us took off to get help.
At first, we just stood and watched as pieces of metal shot from the mushroom cloud rising into the sky. We were helpless. Jimbo, driver of the second car, had veered across the road and hit a power pole, which snapped in two. The front of his car was folded round the stake like a giant fortune cookie, and the overhead wires had snapped, catapulting the top of the pole across the road.”
“Oh my God,” said Emily hand to her mouth.
“It sliced through the third car, like a cheese cutter.” Jack paused to collect himself. “Then I heard a scream. Rick said it was my imagination, but it wasn’t. I couldn’t see much through the smoke, but I had to do something and stumbled forward. A wall of flame exploded out of nowhere and when I hit the ground, I felt a body. I pulled it from the flames, and Rick who was pre-med, stayed with them as I began to circle the area looking for other survivors. There was another explosion. I recall being launched upward. Then everything went black.”
“Jack I am so sorry. I assume your friends died.”
His eyes glazed and he nodded. “Everything was my fault.”
“You tried to help; there was nothing you could do.”
“Seven of my closest friends died because of my reckless stupidity.”
Emily touched his arm. “It was an accident Jack, one of those awful inexplicable things that just happen.”
“Apparently the judge trying my case wasn’t entirely of the same opinion. If it hadn’t been for my father’s influence I’d be in jail now.”
“So that’s a good thing.”
“No it isn’t. Before we left the court my father not only convinced the judge that to prevent another drunken episode he should retain control over me until I was thirty. But also, that I was unfit to handle the responsibility of an inheritance left me by my mother.”
“That’s not all bad. How old are you now?”
“I’ll be twenty-nine in a few weeks.”
“So another year or so and you’re free.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“I smell a cop-out Mr. Clemmons. Are we feeling just a tad sorry for our self?”
Jack smiled indulgently. “I told you, my major at university was international finance. You can’t disappear for years and pick up where you left off. Things move so fast, you have to be right on top of trends or you’re lost.”
“Your life isn’t so bad,” Emily replied. “You live on a yacht, travel the world—”
“A penniless lackey at my father’s beck and call.”
“We’re all at somebody’s beck and call. You just have to make the best of the hand you’re dealt.”
“Oh my Miss Emiline Wilks, where were you three years ago?”
“Let’s see; Fiji, meeting Bill.”
“Are you going to tell me about him?”
“He was opening a resort and we hit it off after I helped him with something.”
Jack smiled. “Much like you helped me.”
“Yeah, that’s me, the all American girl-scout.”
Jack took Emily’s hand. “I have badges you can earn.”
“I’m sure you do, but here’s our waiter, so just tell him what you’d like to eat.”
Jack grinned and kissed her knuckles.
During dinner, Emily was amazed how much Jack knew about the world, but how unaware he was of the effect his good looks and attentive demeanor had on a woman. The two conversed in bits and pieces of languages they’d learned on their travels, swapped horror stories about lost luggage, and laughed uncontrollably about misadventures with foreign plumbing. They criticized everything about monopolistic communication companies, and the lack of a universal electrical system. And when it appeared a crowd was gathering, and their table was needed, Emily suggested they return to The Hermitage for a nightcap.
Emily led Jack to a quiet spot in The Hermitage’s lounge, and a waiter immediately attended them. “Coffee all right, or do you want something stronger,” she asked.
“Coffee’s good. I do love how civilized this place is. They really don’t mind if you sit all night and just watch the world go by. Now, tell me about the boyfrie—sorry, gentleman friend back in America. I assume you argued and are now unattached.”
“And you would be wrong. I’m not only here for the awards dinner. I’m working out an issue.”
“Bill and I have the same philosophies, we like many of the same things. But when it comes right down to it, his age gives him limitations. He’s a lot older than me, twenty-six years in fact.”
“Thank you for that unnecessary musical interlude.”
Jack grinned. “Sorry, the age thing was a bit of a shock, please go on.”
“Bill is extremely special. He helped me when I needed a friend. He’s supportive, and generous. He has the wherewithal to give me most everything I want—”
“I hear you. That ‘most anything’ will put a spanner in the works every time.”
“You’ve got some pretty sarcastic notions for a grown man who appears to be completely controlled by his father. What are you, twenty-nine going on twelve?”
“Touché Ms. Emily, I now have official warning that you bite.”
“Sorry, but I’ve known Bill three years, and he’s pretty much everything to me.”
“But you’re still single, so I assume he’s married.”
“There you go again. No, he’s not.”
“Then what’s holding him back?”
“He wants marriage, but I’m still thinking about it.”
“After three years. Why?”
“Because it’s none of your beeswax, that’s why.”
Jack ran a finger across an eyebrow. “Now I’m sorry. We were getting on so well, I thought we could be honest.”
“You’re right. If our relationship is so perfect, why am I having dinner and flirting with a virtual stranger? I can only say it’s complicated.”
“I’m quite good at complicated. Tell me, my shoulder is at your disposal.”
“I want kids,” said Emily sadly. “Lots of them. But Bill caught mumps at the wrong time and he’s sterile.”
“Now that’s a biggee. Couldn’t you adopt?”
“He says he’s too old.”
“Then I see your dilemma.”
“Do you want kids?”
Jack raised an eyebrow. “Is that an invitation?”
Jack covered her hand with his. “I am. I’m very attracted to you, can’t you feel it?”
“You just met me. You have no idea who I am.”
“Don’t care. We feel right, that’s good enough for me.”
“Well Mr. Clemmons, in case you have forgotten, I’m taken.” Emily watched Jack for a moment, attempting to assess what was happening between them. She loved Bill, of that she had no doubt. But in a few short hours, Jack had set her senses reeling, had her heart pounding and introduced feelings that muddled her thinking.
“You know,” Jack said, breaking the silence. “Twelve guests can live comfortably aboard The Adamas, and the crew is ready to take off anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.”
“What are you trying to do, sell me a cruise?”
He laughed. “Not even close, I’m trying to sell you me.”
Emily wasn’t ready to admit Jack was irresistible. “On such a night with so charming a companion tearing at my sensibilities, I could easily surrender,” she said playfully. “Unfortunately, unlike you, my circumstances don’t allow me to sail off at a moment’s notice.”
“Are you making fun of me?”
She held up her thumb and forefinger. “Little bit. So what’s the scoop Jack?”
“I’m not entirely sure what you’re getting at,” answered Jack. “But here goes. Someone with no knowledge of the impact you’re having on me, might suggest that I plan to impress you with my surroundings, and simply maneuver you into a sexual encounter.”
“But you’re not?”
“How ‘not exactly’?”
“Good grief, you certainly know how to put a guy on the spot.”
“All part of my charm, dish.”
“You’re a genuinely interesting person, you’ve woven your way into my psyche, and I want so much more than sex from you.”
Emily laughed. “Did you get that line off a crackerjack box?”
“Was it good? Did I convince you about the not-just-sex thing?”
Emily held up her thumb and finger again. “Little bit,” she giggled. “But if you remember, I’m taken.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” whispered Jack. “Don’t you feel anything between us?”
Emily chewed on her lip. “How about we get more coffee and you tell me about your family.”
“It’s not a pretty subject.”
“Everybody has a gross Uncle Morty in the closet. How bad can yours be?”
Jack smiled. “You know Emily I can’t believe I feel so comfortable with you. We just met and I feel like I’ve known you all my life. What’s that all about?”
“It doesn’t have to be about anything. Sometimes it’s simply two people becoming friends and getting together for dinner and a chat.”
“Is that all we are?”
“I don’t know you well enough to answer that.”
Jack summoned the lounge waiter. “The hell with coffee. If I’m going to spill my guts, I need a brandy. You want some?”
“I’ll have a sip of yours if that’s okay.” He summoned the waiter.
Emily took a small sip when he handed her the snifter. “Our meeting is simply karma,” she said. “An amusing cosmic event.”
“Don’t be flip,” said Jack. “I’m serious. What sort of spell have you put on me?”
“I don’t need a spell Jack. I might feel something too. But I can keep everything in perspective and not get carried away.”
“I’ve wanted to carry you away from the minute I saw you.”
“I know. Now tell me something really personal about yourself. Then, when you get me drunk and disabled, violate my person, and leave me spent and abandoned in the Kasbah; I can point the police directly at you.”
“God, I really love your sense of humor.”
Jack reached for her hand and she pulled it away.
“Tell me who you are Jack Clemmons.”
Jack offered Emily the brandy but she declined more. Then he took a large swallow, and set the glass aside. “I’m the only child of Peter and Iona Clemmons of Walvis Bay, a small township on the Atlantic coast of west central Namibia in Africa. The settlement is about eleven-hundred square kilometers and has a population of around forty-six thousand. Most of us can trace our families back to the eighteen hundreds, when Dutch colonists incorporated the bay into the Cape Colony.”
“So your heritage is European, like mine, yay, something in common. What do your folks do?”
“Walvis Bay’s main claim to fame is a deep-water port, and my father is the major shareholder of the freight handling company that enables thousands of cargo ships to dock there. He also owns Walvis Bay Holdings, trading Namibian commodities like industrial diamonds, copper, gold, zinc, and uranium all over the world.”
“So he’s rich.”
“Ergo, so are you.”
“Not so fast my little gold-digging friend; let me tell you why that will probably never be.” Jack took a swallow of brandy. “For some time, my father and other influential business leaders have been working to convince corporations to use our docks, instead of South Africa’s further to the south. Their goal is to promote Walvis Bay and its commercial potential, and my no-brain useless job is to float around the world and select venues from which my father can host meetings and fancy parties for potential business partners. By bringing The Adamas, to Monaco, I get to be a glorified deckhand pandering to the ostentatious whims of the world’s fat cat corporate vipers. In the coming month, I have the pleasure of remaining on hand to provide tour guide services to a parade of diamond dripping dowagers, while father convinces their husband’s to part with their money.”
“Yikes, that’s some speech, and did I detect a smidge of anger in there?”
“Do you blame me?”
“So you’re an events coordinator; it doesn’t sound like a bad job to me. Try loading airline cargo for a living. Tell your father you’re going to find a position you like better, somewhere else.”
“It’s not as simple as that.”
“Tell him you’re unhappy and need to find something that inspires you. He’s your dad, surely he wants you to be happy and fulfilled.”
“You’d think, but as he sees it, my life is an ongoing catalog of mistakes.”
“We’ve all made mistakes.”
“There you are,” said Jack. “Spirit lifting again, you sure you’re taken?”
“Positive. Now don’t try and change the subject. Why don’t you simply jump outside the box, go it alone, plunge into the unknown.”
“Would your parents trust you to plunge into the unknown?”
“I don’t have any parents around to stop me. They died in car accident when I was a kid. My grandmother raised me for a couple of years before she also died. Then I was sort of adopted by Jude, who is now my compulsive gambler roommate, and her companion Tina. It’s funny; I found it strengthening to come from a place where I had to grow up fast. But I know the downside is that it makes you feel very isolated.”
“You don’t seem to have a problem being outgoing.”
“Believe me until I met Bill, I was where you are. I once found it difficult to bare even a pinch of my soul. But when you find someone you can totally trust, and let all your angst out, things will fall into place.”
“How’d you get so wise, what are you twenty-five?”
“Twenty-eight,” answered Emily. “What does your mother say about all this conflict?”
“Don’t have a mother. Maybe none of this crap would have happened if I did.”
“That’s a real what-the-heck statement, what happened to her?”
“She and another couple were killed by elephant poachers while on safari. My father barely got out alive.”
“No wonder he’s over protective.”
“It’s not that. He never cared about me. My mother was his only love and once she was gone, all he did was work. I was raised by a series of governesses, and servants. Can you imagine what it’s like to be surrounded by a bunch of people who only care about you because your father pays them?”
She squeezed his hand. “I can’t begin to understand what you went through. All I can say is; I’ve only known you a couple of days, and I care about you.”
“Do you know how good it feels to hear someone say that?”
“Actually, I do. Now lose the blues.” Emily looked at her watch. “Wow, look at the time. I’ve had a lovely time Jack. Dinner was scrummy and your tour guiding was impeccable. But I have to get back to my room. Jude is probably pacing the floor wondering where I am.”
“Will I see you again?”
Emily smiled. They had opened, and closed, a million Pandora’s boxes. Had discussed politics, religion, and world affairs, and had compatibly set the world to rights with similar ideologies and irreverent humor. Philosophically Jack appeared to be a younger version of Bill, and Emily found that revelation dangerously intoxicating. “As I said, you’re a few years too late.”
“It’s never too late,” whispered Jack. He was delighted he’d at last found a strong, intelligent woman who could hold her own on a dozen disparate subjects. And while she seemed reticent to delve too deeply into her personal life, he brushed any concern aside. Everyone is entitled to a few secrets. He certainly had his share. When he looked in her eyes, seeing honesty and sincerity went along with her beauty and intelligence, whatever hers might be; he didn’t care. And he couldn’t let her simply disappear from his life. “Have dinner with me tomorrow. I’ll show you the yacht.”
“Open ocean with a man I just met…really?”
Jack put “scout fingers” to his temple. “No seriously, dinner and a boat ride. That’s all, I swear.”
“Let me think about it. Goodnight Jack.”
“At least let me walk you to your room.”
Emily raised an eyebrow. “The elevator is it Buster.” As the doors closed, she watched his face. He had the look of an abandoned puppy.
When Emily entered her room, it was clear Jude had not returned. It wasn’t unusual for her roommate to disappear for days on end to gamble, so Emily tidied up the space and got ready for bed.
Surrounded by the cool permanence of The Hermitage’s ancient marble bathroom, Emily took up a silver-backed hairbrush that had been her Grandmother’s and drew long sweeps through her chestnut hair. Her eyes closed, as she took pleasure from the relaxing strokes of the precious memento of happier times. But her mind was filled with confusion. Bill had shown his appreciation for her in a million ways, and showered her with affection and attention. Nevertheless, something intangible was always missing. Thoughts of Jack raced through her mind, and unexpected guilt flooded over her. Had he displayed that intangible something? Conflict threatened to overwhelm her, and as a barely perceptible draft wafted across her lashes, Emily opened her eyes. Her mother’s face looked back from the mirror.
It wasn’t the first time Cindy Wilks had appeared. She was always there when Emily had a crisis of conscience. Although this time, she looked different. Her hazel eyes, familiar with gentle acquiescence, were gone, replaced by Emily’s deep green. They were full of unquestionable determination, and her mother’s small calm voice echoed uncharacteristically loud in her head. What are you thinking? Bill isn’t perfect, but he’s the man for you. He can give you almost everything. Jack Clemmons is a flirtation. Don’t give up what you have, for someone you barely know.
Emily had never felt her mother’s presence so intensely, or heard her message so clearly. No matter what, she could not see Jack Clemmons again. She pushed the sadness of her mother’s loss into the remotest corner of her memory. And as the vision faded; Emily replaced the hairbrush in its case.
Emily woke as the sun poured through the balcony window. Jude’s bed had not been slept in, and she shook her head. What now? How much has she lost, and how much is it going to cost? Emily was fed up with Jude’s gambling; fed up with the lies and deceit, and more than fed up helping someone who would never change, out of tricky situations. However, as Emily climbed into the shower, she determined to put a positive spin on Jude’s hopeless situation. Her mind was finally made up. As soon as she returned to America, she was putting Jude’s nonsense behind her, and moving in with Bill.
Emily was dressed when she heard the Ving card in the door, followed by a cuss word. She knew it could only be Jude. And as her roommate stepped inside the room there was no mistaking she was as mad.
“Don’t say a fucking word,” snapped Jude. “I lost all my money and now I’m leaving.”
“Shut up and get my ticket.”
“We’re wait-list for tomorrow, remember. And what happened to your face?”
A purpled bruise and an angry welt accompanied a cut around Jude’s eye. “Had an argument with somebody, and they may be waiting down stairs. Go get my ticket.”
“First, tell me what happened.”
“Don’t want to talk about it,” hissed Jude. “Just do as I say. Go get the goddamn ticket.”
“Whoa, hang on, why are you mad at me?”
“I’m not. Get the fucking ticket.”
“The flight is fully booked,” said Emily calmly. “You won’t get on today.”
“I need to leave now. And I want some money for a cab.”
“Money? Why do you want money? Surely you left some in the hotel safe.”
“What word didn’t you understand when I said ‘I lost all my money’?”
“Oh my God what did you do? Do you owe money now? Who did this to you?”
“Skip the inquisition, and move your ass.”
“I knew this would happen if you went to the casino. Well tough luck Jude, you’re on your own. I’ll get your ticket, but I’m through bailing you out.”
As Emily headed for the door, Jude grabbed her arm, and viscously twisted it behind her back. “You ungrateful spoiled brat. All I want is cab fare to Nice airport. Now you’ve got two choices, either you give it willingly, or I’ll beat it out of you.”
Squirming from her grasp, Emily lurched toward the door, but Jude was too quick. She grabbed Emily’s hair, pulled her back into the room, and spun her onto the bed.
“You crazy bitch,” screamed Emily. “You’ve gone too far this time. I warned you what would happen if you hit me again. I’m calling the authorities.”
Jude slapped Emily hard as she reached for the phone. “My, my, haven’t you suddenly become Miss Upstanding citizen. Now we have to change the plan.” She ripped the phone wire from the wall. “It’s obvious you can’t be trusted so…” Jude turned, and dragged a suitcase from the closet. She threw it at Emily, grazing her face. “Get packing.”
Emily felt a bump forming on her cheek bone. “Screw you, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll give you the ticket and some money, and you can get the hell away from me.”
“Too late for that; you’re coming with me, if I have to drag you.” Jude took a step toward the bed. “Besides you owe me.”
“Owe you? Are you kidding? We had this conversation a dozen times. I’m done. I owe you nothing.”
Jude’s eyes glazed as she took hold of Emily’s hair. “Who was it gave you shelter when your husband kicked you out? Who protected your lily-white ass after Bear Mountain? Who gave you money for drugs when you were selling your ass in the street?”
“That wasn’t me,” said Emily. “That was you, and Tina. Look, none of what you’re saying makes sense. You need help, let me call a doctor.”
Emily attempted to stand, but Jude pushed her down and pulled a cigarette lighter from her pocket. Re-connecting with Emily’s hair, she flicked on the lighter and moved the flame closer. “What if I simply deal with you right now? Nobody will know, I can say it was an accident. You wanted a cigarette, the wind blew your hair and with too much hairspray, whoosh, up it went a ball of flames.”
Tears streamed down Emily’s face. Jude was clearly unbalanced and in no state to reason. “Okay Jude, whatever you say. We can sort this out. Let me go so I can pack. We’ll go home, right now. Give me a few minutes.”
As Jude backed off, Emily threw her things into the suitcase.
Within the hour Emily had retrieved her money and their tickets from the hotel’s safety deposit box, and the pair made their way back to reception. Jude watched Emily closely, but she was able to scrawl ‘help, call the police’ on the credit card receipt.
“Sorry Mademoiselle,” said the desk clerk, pushing the receipt back toward Emily. “What might this say?”
“Er, it’s a thank you…a thank you to the housekeepers,” whispered Emily.
But Jude was within earshot, and after snatching the receipt, stood with her full weight on Emily’s foot. “Sorry, our mistake,” she said to the clerk. “Wrong amount for the tip, could you print us another receipt?” The desk clerk turned to get another docket. “Do that again,” Jude hissed, “and I’ll kill you.”
The receipt was produced, signed without further incident, and the women got in a cab to Nice airport.
After several miles of tense silence, Jude put her hand on Emily’s knee. “Why so quiet?” she said. “Aren’t you glad to be going home?”
Emily slapped the hand away. “Shut up, I don’t want to hear any of your crap right now.”
“Maybe you’d rather I dropped you off here, and let your rich boyfriend rescue you.”
“Anything would be preferable to listening to you.”
“Is that so?” said Jude. “Well maybe he’d like to hear what I have to say.”
“There’s nothing you could say about me that would bother him, so shut up.”
“Oh, I think there is Miss High and Mighty. Do his hoity-toity fat-cat family and friends know you’re a lowly cargo bum taking him for every penny you can get? Might they be interested to know you were raised by a pair of drinking, gambling, drug-taking lesbians?”
“That’s not the way it is, and you know it. Just shut up. I’m through with you.”
“Are you indeed? Well maybe you’ll feel better after talking to the police.”
“Yes. That would be a good thing.” Emily leaned forward to redirect the driver. “Let’s stop the cab right now.”
Jude’s hand clamped onto Emily’s knee, squeezing the bone so tightly, pains shot from her ankle to thigh. “Not so fast Miss innocent, let’s review. What possible excuse could you come up with, for not reporting my involvement in that fatal accident, on Bear Mountain? How would you explain checks written from your bank account to drug dealers in Jackson Heights? Or get this one, how would you justify talking to my contacts as I smuggled certain restricted commodities through the warehouse? And just to completely immerse you in the world of the unrighteous, I’m going to let you in on the score to end all scores when I get back to the States.”
“Yeah right,” said Emily. “What are you going to do, rob a bank?”
“Better…I’m relieving good old Transcontinental of a zillion dollars’ worth of diamonds.”
Emily raised an eyebrow. “You’re sick, and a truly certifiable idiot. It can’t be done. You wouldn’t get ten miles from the airport.”
“My poor naïve Emily. I told you. I have friends, and those friends have friends, and when the shit hits the fan only you will be front and center with all manner of nasty things hanging over your head.”
“You talk such a load of bull-shit; everybody knows nothing you say is true.”
“And of course everybody knows what an innocent goody two shoes you are.”
“I’ve never done anything illegal.”
“Umm, now let’s see. Your silence after the Bear Mountain incident, Jackson Heights drug dealer pay-off.” Jude was counting off on her fingers. “Accessory to smuggling—”
“I can explain all that.”
“Well maybe you can. But in the meantime, you’ll lose your job and your fancy friends, and let’s see…all kinds of ugliness will happen to a pretty thing like you in prison.”
“You’ll get caught and lose everything too.”
“Na-ah. My friends have been covering my ass for some time and will continue to do it in the future.” Jude smiled malevolently. “You must know sacrificing you would be nothing to them, or me, for that matter. So, unless you want the wrath of some very nasty people raining down on your head, I suggest you keep your trap shut, and do as you’re told.”
The contempt in Emily’s eyes was impossible to hide.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Jude bent Emily’s fingers painfully. “And let me tell you. You say one word to anyone, and I will drop you so deep in the shit a submarine couldn’t get you out. Do you know what I mean?”
Emily snatched her hand free. “You need to be in an institution, you know that.”
It was true she owed Jude. She and her partner Tina took her in when she had nowhere else to go, but that was years ago. And as Emily recalled those early days, understanding how circumstances had changed the dynamic of their relationship since, she knew it was now imperative she find a place of her own. Feeling obligated to Jude might have prevented her from moving on. But since Tina was killed, Jude’s increasingly explosive outbursts were more than anyone could take. The awards dinner in Monaco had been a welcome opportunity to escape the tensions of living with so bitter a person. Now, as she stared blankly into the back of the seat in front of her, Emily could see no way out. She would do as she was told. She would keep quiet, and hope that like in times past, no-one would discover the truth.
Jack put down the phone and smiled. He always dreaded his father’s calls, because they invariably ended with him having to apologize for forgetting to organize some nit-picking little social detail. However, it seemed Emily’s spirit had not only bolstered his confidence on a personal level, but also prompted him to remember every tiny detail of Peter Clemmons ‘must have’ list.
He dialed The Hermitage to invite Emily to that evening’s dinner party. However, when he asked to be put through to her room, Gaston, the Guest Services Director told him Ms. Wilks had checked out.
“Do you remember her checking out?” Jack asked.
“But of course, she is normally a very beautiful woman.”
“Normally?” cut in Jack.
“Why yes Monsieur Clemmons. But this day it seemed she had befallen some accident for she had a large angry place down the side of her face.”
Jack frowned. “Did she seem upset?”
“I am not qualified to judge such a thing monsieur. But she seemed a little, er, agitated when she handed me the credit card receipt.”
“Was she questioning the charges?” asked Jack.
“I don’t think so. She had written something there, but it was so badly written I couldn’t make it out. I asked her to translate and she said it was a thank you to the staff.”
“How do you mean badly written?” asked Jack, who’d seen Emily’s neat, precise penmanship.
“It was like my mother’s writing and she has a shaky hand.”
“Do you still have the receipt?” asked Jack.
“No monsieur, the older women with her snatched it from my hand before I could staple it to the invoice.”
“So where is your signed proof of payment?”
“I gave her another receipt,” said Gaston.
“And this other woman; was there anything you remember about her?”
“Mais oui Monsieur. She was, excuse my bluntness, very masculine, and extremely angry about something. It might have had to do with the bruising and cuts on her face.”
“They both had injury?” asked a concerned Jack. “Good grief Gaston, what on earth was going on? Did you register any reports of a disturbance in Ms. Wilks room?”
“No, but it was Ferdinand who first brought the ladies condition to my attention.” Gaston handed the phone to the desk clerk. “Ferdinand, tell Monsieur Clemmons about the ladies departure.”
“When I brought down their suitcases, I remember Mademoiselle Wilks repeatedly asking the older woman why they were leaving,” answered Ferdinand. “And she wanted to make a phone call, but was not allowed to do so. I assumed the older lady was irritated because the younger had them running late.”
“Thank you Ferdinand. You have been most helpful. Please put Gaston back on the phone.”
“Gaston, I have to call and find out if Ms. Wilks is alright. Could you give me her address and phone number off the registration card?”
“For you monsieur, yes. But it will be of little help. The address is simply listed as J.F.K. airport, USA, there is no phone number.”
“Isn’t that unusual?”
“Not for airline staff. If there are any problems, we simply bill the airline. However, the police authorities require a passport and full information upon entering Monaco. Maybe they can help?”
Jack might have accepted Emily’s leaving as her choice had he not been told of her distressing appearance. Now, he had to find out what happened, and knew exactly who could help.
“Hello, Jack old friend,” said Chief Inspector Labande. “What can I do for you?”
“I know this is unorthodox, but could you let me have Emiline Wilks or Judith Cameron’s complete address from the cards filled out when they entered Monaco?”
“That is not something we share with civilians Jack. May I ask the reason you need such information?”
“Naturellement, go on.”
“We er, that is she, Ms. Wilks and I, are to be married,” said Jack, resorting to a necessary lie. “I believe Ms. Cameron objects to our union and er, I think she may have taken my fiancée back to America to prevent our marriage.”
“Ah mais oui, a matter of the heart. We in Monaco understand such things. However, I am unable to help in this matter. All records are temporarily sealed while we investigate a murder along the waterfront.”
“A murder,” said a shocked Jack. “In Monaco?”
“It seems times are changing even in our little paradise. And since it is a rare occurrence, you understand how we must be very careful.”
“Yes, of course, I understand. Any idea when you might be able to give me the information?”
“Charles please; I know murder is a huge deal in Monaco, but all I want is one little address.”
“It is out of my hands. I suggest you come back in a week.”
“A week,” said Jack. “That’s an eternity. Couldn’t I try again tomorrow?”
“Jack, I tell you this because we are friends. But after I tell you what we are doing, you will see how very busy we are, and why you cannot return for at least a week.” Labande waited for some sort of confirmation that Jack agreed, but receiving no indication, he continued. “As you know, we have cameras everywhere in the principality and can pinpoint any trouble outdoors. However, it appears our dead woman knew our system well. She was well known on the Cote d’ Azure for discretely picking up tourists and taking them back to her apartment to steal their money. We have been watching her for a while and had no cause to apprehend her. But now, with this messy business, we have to go back to our cameras and identify all the individuals with whom she had contact.”
“You have the film. Surely it’s a simple case of matching passport records. This is Monaco; stuff like this doesn’t happen here. Why will it take a week to pull a few pictures?”
“As I said, times are changing. This type of thievery is more common than one might think. Naturally, it’s not something we want to advertise, so very bad for Monaco’s tourist reputation. However, when it happens, we have to look at mountains of security camera pictures and compare them to every passport and ID card we have, to see if a tourist or local is involved.”
“Surely someone must have seen something. This is a small place with eyes everywhere.”
“Just so, and right now we are closing in on one lead. A casino receptionist recognized the murder victim as being in the company of an American woman, to whom she passed a message on the night of the tragedy.”
Jack interrupted. “Whoa, stop right there. You said an American, who was given a message at the casino?”
“Yes,” said Labande. “The message was relayed as her passport was being photographed.”
“That’s my friend. Well not my friend. My friends, friend. She sent the message. It was her friend. The friend of the one I’m looking for.”
“Jack slow down, you are making no sense, whose friend did what? Look you need to come down to police headquarters. Do you want me to send a car for you?”
Within the hour, Jack was with the Inspector of Records, in front of a computer displaying all the information he required. Armed with everything he needed and oblivious to the bigger picture, Jack was eager to contact Emily. He turned to leave, but Labande blocked the door.
“No no, Jack, you cannot simply leave. You are now part of an on-going murder investigation, and you must do nothing to jeopardize it. You will need to give statements, and you cannot contact Mademoiselle Wilks, as she may alert Judith Cameron.”
“Emily wouldn’t say anything,” Jack snapped. “Besides, she could be in danger. Gaston at The Hermitage told me she had bruises on her face.”
“In that case,” interrupted Labande. “It is even more important you do nothing to interfere. If this Judith Cameron killed the Dutch woman, and afterwards beat your friend, she is very dangerous. Mademoiselle Wilks may be in fear and who knows what she might say to protect herself from another beating. You will say and do nothing, and you will not leave Monaco until I give you permission.” Jack began to protest, but was quieted. “You must give me your word you will do nothing to contact Emiline Wilks. If our investigation is damaged by your interference, our friendship will mean nothing, I will arrest you as an accessory. Do I make myself clear?”
Jack nodded sheepishly. “Who will protect Emily? Don’t you see the Cameron woman forced her to leave the Principality? I knew she wouldn’t leave willingly without saying goodbye.”
“Jack, I’m sorry, but this is the way it must be. I will contact the FBI and other American authorities and they will protect your friend if she is innocent.”
“What do you mean, if she is innocent, of course she is innocent. She was with me on the evening of the murder.”
“I understand what you say and we will need to hear more about that. Come with me now, and I will take a full statement. But make no mistake, once that is done and you leave here, I will be checking on your whereabouts. You may not leave the Principality until I tell you, and if you try to leave, it will be very bad for you.”
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