It was doubtful children gave any thought to whether or not their parents were having affairs, international or domestic criminals, but more whether they were good or bad parents.
It may have been a little different for those children whose parents had a big profile in the community, because the obsession the general public had in following celebrities making fools of themselves.
There was a stage where Harry, and later Corinne, dreaded opening the newspaper at breakfast for fear of seeing their father’s latest folly. That fear had faded once he left home, and Corinne to a lesser extent now she had grown up.
Their mother, on the other hand, often graced to pages of the newspapers for other reasons, and it was true when she said that if, and that was a very big if, she was to seek attachments, she would be very discreet.
"After all, it seems you took this long to find out, and then, only because I chose to admit it. And I expect you to be equally discreet, because it has nothing to do with your investigation."
That was a moot point, it could have everything to do with it, but Harry was happy to tell her what she wanted to hear.
The admission though fuelled a personal curiosity.
"Did you always know he would be unfaithful? You had the pick of any one of four, a group that interestingly called itself the four musketeers, and you chose him. Why not Florenz?"
"Emile was not interested, then, committing to one girl, and still doesn't believe in monogamy. At the time I did, and your father was of like mind. He was under a lot of pressure to marry well, and my parents wanted me off their hands, as shocking as that might sound."
Harry had not had a very good relationship with his grandparents on his mother's side, and come to think of it, on his father's side either, not when he realised his heart was not in law. His paternal grandfather was not a good role model, at least not after he dumped Giselle for Alicia, and coming on top of his father's infidelities, it was no surprise his brothers were like their father.
His mother’s parents had always looked down on his father, to the point where if they ever visited, it was when his father was away, or if they went there, it was almost always without their father. Worse still, they had no interest in the progeny of their daughter, and for a long time Harry had attributed that attitude to their being among the wealthiest people in the country.
Now, it sees that it was simply a matter of disliking her choice of husband. That could easily have been remedied by just leaving him and moving on, but she hadn't.
"So, why are you still here?"
"I could use that trite excuse of for the sake of the children, but you've all grown up now, and Corinne can look after herself. I might be a lot of things but deserting you, no matter what the provocation, was never a priority. These days marriage is a joke, just look at the number of divorce cases the practice handles, but it isn't to me, and despite everything your father still is my one and only real love. That's a rarity in this disposable world, and you should count yourself lucky if you find the one. That's why I would never harm him, even if the off thought passes through my mind from time to time."
Looking at her, listening to her, there was no doubting the affection she had for him. And she was right about the world of disposable relationships, it was far too easy to rid yourself of a problem and move on to the next.
The practice had several clients who had been marries and divorced more times than fingers on one hand. Out specially, and what should come as no surprise, was the prenuptial agreement.
In his mother’s case, there was no financial briefing in his premature death, not unless there was an insurance policy on his life.
"Does Dad have life insurance."
"No. Never needed it."
"No. Anything happens to me; he gets an annuity that will be more than adequate. Anything happens to him, I get nothing, just in case you are thinking of using money as motivation the kill him. I don't need his money, not that there is any."
"What about his share in the practise?"
"Oh that? There is very little he will see of it, the way his father had treated him in the will. He'd promised Xavier a full half share along with that grubby little harlot he married, but died before he could change the will, which, after a blazing row between father and son, left Xavier with nothing. His father was a proper bastard, and he should have just left after his father died and taken his clients with him."
So, no one in the practise was going to kill him for his share because there was no share. A business he had successfully helped his father to build into the business it was now, and get no compensation or recognition, which must have hurt. Just having to work with his father's mistress have been particularly galling.
There was question there, why didn't he leave?
Harry could see his mother was getting restless, and he realised that he had been dragged off track by a very skilled manipulator. Had she been leading him away in the direction of Gillian?
"There's the other two musketeers, Alexander Argeter, and Clay Shawville. I'm assuming you remember these two, who are Dads current golfing foursome, both date back to your university days, and I will not believe you if you day you don't know them.
He'd been watching her expression when he told her the two names, one was benign, but the other raised an expression that demonstrated hatred. Or worse. Argeter. It was obvious that she did not like him. More digging into their school days was warranted
"I take it you dislike Argeter."
"He was a pest then and a worse pest now. If you want to whatever that deep dive is that you referred to, he'd be the one I'd be looking at."
"What do you know about him?"
I saw her shudder, which to Harry meant something really bad happened.
"I don't want to talk about him, now or ever."
Harry shrugged. She might not get that luxury later, depending in what he turned up.
"He's from very wealthy but remarkably sane parents, never had to do anything in his life, except go from one holiday to the next. Only here a few times a year for golf and, well, I don't know what they get up to, and don't want to know."
"You see him when he's here?"
Her tone indicated that there might be more to it, and his expression might have showed it, because she added, “But not in the way you might think.”
Expect there was an inflection in it that told him otherwise, and just the way she mentioned his name.
“We were all friends back at University.”
If that was meant to be an explanation, it wasn’t helping.
“Make of it what you will Harry, but there’s nothing to be gained from it, and certainly nothing to do with your father disappearing. Perhaps you should go to the den of iniquity called the golf club. It’s where he spent the rest of his time when he was not in the office, and, if you ask me, it was his office. Now, if that’s all…”
It would matter if it was not, Harry knew he was being dismissed, and that odd feeling he was being sent on a wild goose chase.
Before that, there was just enough time to catch up with Giselle.
© Charles Heath 2020-2022