His mother’s email was sparely used, had various references to her charity work, and communications with the likes of Florenz, and others. Florenz, it seemed, was happy to report on the activities of her husband. It was clear that to him she had married the wrong man. But there were no declarations of love between his mother and Florenz, nor anything that could be construed he disliked Xavier Walthenson.
Argeter didn't figure in any conversation.
But there were others, some of whom Harry knew of rather than knew personally, and one in particular, his mother's younger sister, and most vocal against Xavier from her side of the family. Harry knew his aunt, had once been on a trip to Vegas with both women, and learned then his aunt was a drunk, drug addict and a sleaze, and whose bad conclusions about his father were borne from being rejected by him before he married her older sister.
He hadn't seen Aunt Betty for a few years, the last he'd been told was she was going through another stint of rehab and trying to dodge five to twenty years in jail for killing a passenger in her car, her last husband. Perhaps she'd finally been jailed, not that it would do much to help her. By all accounts the man had been a brute and was mixed up is some very dodgy business.
That Xavier was in charge of her defence was telling, because he didn’t have much time for the scornful, if not evil sister whom he had made an obvious mistake getting involved with.
And then Harry saw it. An email from three days ago. From the sister, Betty. She was in town, at the Ritz Carleton hotel on Central Park, requesting a visit. Just like her to issue commands, and expect to get her way, like the queen bee.
Another note in his book. Room number, and there was no date she was leaving.
Harry was tempted to look at his brothers' emails but that could wait for another day. He heard voices at the top of the stairs, one of them being Giselle, so he shut down the computer and moved to the sofa opposite her desk and sat down to wait for her arrival.
When she saw Harry sitting in the chair, she looked, momentarily, surprised, then covering it well with a slight stumble.
“Harry? Tell me you haven’t stopped to sneaking up on people?”
“It’s my business to be both invisible, and stealthy. But, no, not here, and definitely not with you. Unless, of course, you have something to hide?”
“Me? No. An open book, as you know.”
She sat down behind the desk. “But me thinks you have questions, perhaps about the Prendevilles'?”
Getting ahead of the narrative, Harry thought, and a sure sign that she wanted to control this interview.
“When you dropped that name, I’m sure you weren’t implying my father was having a relationship with Mandy. I did some digging, and it seems she has a similar passion for charity events, perhaps trying to change public opinion of her.”
“She would like to think so. Your father’s connection is only by way of charity unless of course, you have uncovered something else. Have you spoken to her yet?”
“It’s on the list. How much do you know about my mother and Florenz?”
She smiled. “You have been a busy boy. They are part of a tightly knit group from university days. I don’t think you should be judging her given the antics of your father, I’m not surprised.”
Harry viewed his grandmother, the woman who was his father’s mother, the woman who had been scorned by his grandfather, in a new light, one, up to now, he would never have thought possible. Quiet and unassuming, blending into the fabric in the background, always watching, always learning, Harry was sure she knew everything that was going on, and why.
And that somewhere in her armoury was that long knife she was going to stick in Alicia’s back at the appropriate time. Perhaps she had one for all of them and was just biding her time, down in the basement, the metaphorical spider's web.
“You may not know where my father is, but you know why he’s not here. And, don’t tell me it’s because of another woman. He’s got himself mixed up in something that impinges on that group you were referring to, and I’m guessing Argeter is involved. Mother really doesn’t like him.”
“Your mother had him worked over very early on when he tried to shake her down. He’s not very endearing, and I always believed he had some hold over your father who was rather reckless in his younger days. You might want to investigate what he got up to back in university. But a word to the wise, be careful around Argeter. He knows some very bad people.”
A name that needs to be moved up the list, perhaps Felicity could make discreet enquiries.
“Any chance I could see the file you have on Alicia. I’m betting it’s the thickest in your filing cabinet, and nothing complimentary in it.”
“That’s for me to know and for you to find out. I’m not going to make your job any easier for you. Alicia is a special kind of animal in this jungle, and you really don’t want to make an enemy out of her.”
So, things learned, Harry thought. There is a file, somewhere. Giselle knew everything and everyone. And, there was going to be a day of reckoning.
“If there’s nothing else, Harry, I’d better start justifying my presence here.”
“Don’t leave town.”
“Oh, I’m not going anywhere, anytime soon. Believe me.”
© Charles Heath 2020-2022