In the offices of Renquist, Renquist & Fitzgerald, Steve Sloane and Simon Fitzgerald were having coffee. ' the great hard once said, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.""'s bothering you?" Fitzgerald asked. Steve sighed. ''m not sure. It's the Stanford family.

They puzzle me! Simon Fitzgerald snorted. ' the club." keep coming back to the same question, Simon, but I can't find the answer to it-."'s the question?" family was anxious to exhume Harry Stanford's body so they could check his DNA against the woman's. So I think we have to assume that the only possible motive for getting rid of the body would be to ensure that the woman's DNA could not be checked against Harry Stanford's. The only one who could have anything to gain from that would be the woman herself, if she were a fraud! '." yet this private detective, Frank Timmons - I 212 checked with the district attorney's -)ffice in Chicago, and he has a great reputation - ca ie up with fingerprints that prove she is the real 3ulia Stanford., My question is, who the hell dug up Harry Stanford's body and whyt "That's a billion-dollar question. If .. The intercom buzzed. A secretary's voice came over the box. '. Sloane, there's-a call for you on two., Steve Sloane picked up the telephone on the desk. ' ..

The voice on the other end of the line said, '. Sloane, this is Judge Stanford. I would appreciate it if you could drop by Rose Hill this morning.' Steve Sloane glanced at Fitzgerald. '. In about an hourt "That will be fine. Thank you.' Steve replaced the receiver. ' presence is requested at the Stanford house." wonder what they want."

"Ten to one they want to speed up the probate so they can get their hands on all-that beautiful money."? It's Tyler. How are yout "Fine, thanks." really miss you.' There was a slight pause. ' miss you too, Tyler.' The words thrilled him. ', I have some really exciting news. I can't discuss it over the phone., but it's 213 something that's going to make you very happy. When you and I -", I have to go. Someone's waiting for me." ... I The line went dead.

Tyler sat there a moment. Then he thought, He wouldn't have said he missed me if he didn't mean it. With the exception of Woody and Peggy, the family was gathered in the drawing room at Rose Hill. Steve studied their faces. Judge Stanford seemed very relaxed. Steve Slanced at Kendall. She seemed unnaturally tense. Her husband had come up from New York the day before for the meeting. Steve looked over at Marc. The Frenchman was good-looking, a few years younger than his wife. And then there was Julia. She seemed to be taking her acceptance into the family very calmly. I would have expected someone who had just inherited a billion dollars or so to be a little more excited, Steve thought. He glanced at their faces again, wondering if one of them was responsible for having Harry Stanford's body stolen, and if so, which one? And why'?

Tyler was speaking. '. Sloane, I'm familiar with the probate laws in Illinois, but I don't know how much they differ from the laws in Massachusetts. We 214 were wondering whether there - wasn't some way to expedite the procedure.' Steve smiled to himself. I should have made Sinwn take that bet. He turned to Tyler. ''re already working on it, Judge Stanford.' Tyler said pointedly, ' Stanford name might be useful in speeding things up.' He's right about that, Steve thought. He nodded. ''ll do everything I can. If it's at all possible to There were voices from the staircase. ' shut up, you stupid bitch! I don't want to hear another word. Do you understandt Woody and Peggy came down the stairs and into the room. Peggy's face was badly swollen, and she had a black eye. Woody was grinning, and his eyes were bright. ', everybody. I hope the party's not over.' The group was looking at Peggy in shock. Kendall rose. ' happened to yout '. I ... I bumped into a door.' Woody took a seat. Peggy sat next to him. Woody patted her hand and asked solicitously, ' you all right, my deart Peggy nodded, not trusting herself to speak. '.' Woody turned to the others. ', what did I miss?' Tyler looked at him disapprovingly. ' just asked Mr. Sloane if he could expedite the probating of the will.' Woody grinned.

"That would be nice.' He turned to 215 Peggy. ''d like some new clothes, wouldn't you, darlingt ' don't need any new clothes,' she said timidly. ''s right. You don't go anywhere, do yout He turned to the others. ' is very shy. She doesn't have anything to talk about, do yout Peggy got up and ran out of the room. ''ll see if she's all right,' Kendall said. She rose and hurried after her. My Godf Steve thought. If Woody behaves like this in front of others, what must it be like when he and his wife are alone? Woody turned to Steve. ' long have you been with Fitzgerald's law firmt, ' years." they could stand working for my father, I'll never know.' Steve said carefully, ' undeistand your father was ... could be difficult.' Woody snorted.

.'Difficult? He was a two-legged monster. Did you know he had nicknames for all of us? Mine was Charlie. He named me after Charlie Mccarthy, a dummy that a ventriloquist named Edgar Bergen had. He called my sister Pony, because he said she had a face like a horse. Tyler was called ..

.' Steve said, uncomfortably, ' really don't think you should -' Woody grinned. ''s all right. A billion dollars heals a lot of wounds.' 216 Steve rose. ', if theres nothing else, I think I had better be going.' He could not wait to get outside, into the fresh air. Kendall found Peggy in the bathroom, putting a cold cloth to her swollen cheek.

"Peggy9 Are you all right?' Peggy turned. ''m fine. Thank you. I ... I'm sorry about what happened down there.' -- ''re apologizing?. You should be furious. How long has he been beating YOUT ' doesn't beat me,' Peggy said obstinately. 11 bumped into a door.' Kendall moved closer to her. ', why do you put up with this? You don't have to, you know.' There was a pause. ', I do.' Kendall looked at her, puzzled. ' She tumea. ' I love him.' She went on, the words pouring out. ' loves me, too. Believe me, he doesn't always act like this. The thing is, he - some- times he's not himself." mean, when he's on drugs.' 6NO3 ' .. '!" .. Peggy hesitated. ' suppose so." did it startt ' ... right after we got married." Peggy's voice 217 was ragged. ' started because of a polo game. Woody fell off his pony and was badly hurt. While he was in the hospital, they gave him drugs to help with the pain. Aey got him started.' She looked at Kendall, pleadingly. ' you see, it wasn't his fault, was it? After Woody got out of the hospital, he ... he kept on using drugs. Whenever I tried to get him to quit, he would ... beat me.", for God's sake!

He needs help! Don't you see that? You can't do this alone. He's a drug addict. What does he take? Cocamet '.' There was a small silence.

"Heroin." God! Can't you make him get some help?"'ve tried.' Her voice was a whisper. ' don't know how I've tried! He's gone to three rehabilitation hospitals.' She shook her head. ''s all right for a while, and then ... he starts again. He ... he can't help it.' Kendall put her arms around Peggy. ''m so sorry,' she said. Peggy forced a smile. ''m sure Woody will be all tight. He's trying hard. He really is.' Her face lit up. ' we were first married, he was so much fun to be with. We used to laugh all the time. He would bring me little presents and Her eyes filled with tears. ' love him so much!" there's anything I can do.. ' you,' Peggy whispered. ' appreciate that.' Kendall squeezed her hand. ''ll talk again.' 218 Kendall started down the stairs to jo . the others. She was thinking, When we were children, bef6re Mother died, we made such wonderful pkms ''re going to be a famous designer, Sis, and rm going to be the world's greatest athlete!' And the sad part of it, Kendall thought, is that he could have been. And now this. - Kendall was not sure if she felt-more sorry for Woody or for Peggy. As Kendall reached the bottom of the stairs, Clark approached her, carrying a tray with a letter on, it.

"Excuse me, Miss. Kendall. A messenger just delivered this for you.' He handed her the envelope. Kendall looked at it in surprise. ' ... T She nodded. ' you, Clark.' Kendall opened the envelope, and as she began to read the letter, she turned pale. '!' she said, under her breath. Her heart was pounding, and she felt a wave of dizziness. She stood there, bracing herself against a table, trying to catch her breath. After a moment, she turned and walked into the drawing, room, her face pale. The meeting was breaking up. ' ...' Kendall forced herself to appear calm. ' I see you for a momentt - He looked at her, concerned. ', certainly.' Tyler asked Kendall, ' you all right?" She forced a smile. ''m fine, thank you.' She took Marc's hand and led-him upstairs. When 219 they entered the bedroom, Kendall closed the door. Marc said, ' is iff Kendall handed him the envelope. The letter read: Dear Mrs. [email protected] Congratulations! Our Wild Animal Protection Association was delighted to read of your good fortune. We know how interested you are in the work we are doing, and we are counting on your further support. Therefore, we would appreciate it if you would deposit I million US dollars in our, numbered bank account in Zurich within the next ten days We look forward to hearing from you shortly. As in the other letters, all the Es were broken. ' bastards!' Marc exploded. - ' did they know I was heret Kendall asked. Marc said bitterly, ' they had to do was pick up a newspaper.' He read the letter again and shook his head. ' aren't going to quit. We have to go to the police."!'Kendall cried.'Wecan't! It's too late! Don't you see? It would be the end of everything. Everything!' Marc took her in his arms and held her tightly. ' right. We'll find a way.' But Kendall knew that there was no way. 220 It had happened a few months earlier, on what had started out to be a glorious spring day. Kendall had gone to a friend's birthday party in Ridgefield, Connecticut. It had been a wonderful party, and Kendall had chatted with old friends. She had had a glass of champagne. In the middle of a conversation, she had suddenly looked at her watch. ', no! I had no idea it was so late.

Marc is waiting for me.' There were hasty good-byes, and Ketiaall had gotten into her car and driven off. Driving back to New York, she had decided to take a winding country road over to 1684.1 She was traveling at almost fifty miles per hour as she rounded a sharp curve and spotted a car parked on the right side of the road. Kendall automatically swerved to the left. At that moment, a woman carrying a handful of freshly picked flowers started to cross the narrow road. Kendall tried frantically to avoid her, but it was too late. Everything seemed to happen in a blur. She heard a sickening thud as she hit the woman with her left front fender. Kendall brought the car to a screeching stop, her whole body trembling violently. She ran back to where the woman was lying in the road, covered with blood. Kendall stood there, frozen.

Finally she bent down and turned the woman over, and looked into her sightless eyes. ', my God!' Kendall whispered. - She felt the bile rising in her throat. She looked up, desperate, not knowing what to do.

She swung around in a panic. There were no cars in sight. She's dead, Kendall 22j, thought. I can't help her. This was not my fault, but they'll accuse me of reckless dnink driving. My blood will show alcohol.

hi go to prison!' She took one last look at the body of the woman, then hurried back to her car. The left front fender was dented, and there were blood spots on it. I've got to put the car away in a garage, Kendall thought. The police will be searching for it. She got into the car and drove off. For the rest of the drive into New York, she kept looking into the rearview mirror, expecting to see flashing red lights and to hear the sound of a siren. She drove into the garage on Ninety-sixth Street where she kept her car. Sam, the owner of the garage, was talking [email protected] Red, his mechanic. Kendall got out of the car.

"Evenin', Mrs. Renaud,' Sam said. ' ... Good evening.' She

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to keep her teeth from chattering. ' it away for the night?" ... yes, please.' Red was looking at the fender. ' got a bad dent here, Mrs. Renaud. Looks like there's blood on it.' The two men were looking at her. Kendall took a deep breath. '. I ... I hit a deer on the highway."'re lucky it didn't do more damage,' Sam said. ' friend of mine hit a deer and it ruined his car.' He grinned. ''t do much for the deer either.' 222 , you'll just put it away,' Kendall, said tightly. '.' Kendall walked over to the garage door, then looked back. The two men were staring at the fender. When Kendall got home and told Marc about the terrible thing that had happened, he took her in his arms and said,'Oh, my God! Darling, how could ... T Kendall was sobbing.

"I ... I could(In't help it. She started across the road right in front of me. She ... she had been picking flowers and '! I'm sure it wasn't your fault. It was an accident. We've got to report this to the police." - 11 know. You're right. I . @.. I should have stayed there and waited for them to come. I just ... panicked, Marc. Now ifs a hit-and-run. But there wasn't anything I could do for her. She was dead. You should have seen her face. It was awful.' He held her for a long time, until she quieted down. When Kendall spoke, she said tentatively, ' ... do we have to go to the policet He frowned. ' do you men?' She was fighting hysteria. ', it's over, isn't it? Nothing can bring her back. What good would it do for them to punish me? I didn't mean to do it. Why couldn't we just pretend it never happenedt ', if they ever traced -' - ' can they? There was no one around.." about your car? Was it damagedt 223 ''s a dent. I told the garage attendant I hit a deer.' She was fighting for control. ', no one saw the accident. Do you know what would happen to me if they arrested me and sent me to prison? I'd lose my business, everything I've built up all these years, and for what? For something that's already done! It's over!' She began to sob again. He held her close. '! We'll see. We'll see.' The morning papers gave the story a big play. What gave it added drama was the fact that the dead woman had been on her way to Manhattan to be married. The New York Times covered it as a straight news story, but the Daily News and Newsday played it up as a heart-tugging drama: Kendall bought a copy of each newspaper, and she became more and more horrified at what she had done. Her mind was filled with all the terrible ifs. if I hadn't gone to Connecticut-for my-friends birthday ... If I had stayed home that day ... If I hadn't had anything to drink.

. If the woman had picked the flowers a few seconds earlier or a few seconds later ... rm responsible for murdering another human being!

Kendall thought of the terrible grief she had caused the woman's family, and her franck's family, and she felt sick to her stomach again.

According to the newspapers, the police were asking 224 for information from anyone who might have a clue about the hit-and-run. They have no way offinding me, Kendall thought. All I have to do is act as if nothing happened.' When Kendall went to the garage to pick up her car the next morning, Red was there. 11 wiped the blood off the car,' he-.said. ' you want me to fix the dentt . Of course! She should have thought of it sooner. ', please.' Red was looking at her strangely. Or was it her imagination? ' and I talked about it last night,' he said. It's funny, you know. A deer should have done a lot more damage. 9 1 .

Kendall's heart began to beat wildly. Her mouth was Isuddenly so dry she could hardly speak..'It was ... a small deer.' Red nodded laconically.'Must have been real small.' Kendall could feel his eyes on her as she drove out of the garage. When Kendall walked into her office her secretary, Nadine, took one look at her and said, ' happened to yout Kendall froze. ' ... what do you meant ' look shaky. Let me get you some coffee.".' 225 Kendall walked over to the mirror.

Her face looked pale and drawn. They're going to know just by looking at me! Nadine came into the office with a cup of hot coffee. '. This will make you feel better.' She looked at Kendall curiously. ' everything all right?" ... I had a little accident yesterday," Kendall said. '? Was anyone hurt?' In her mind, she could see the face of the dead woman. '. I ... I hit a deer." about your car?"

"It's being repaired."'ll call your insurance company.", no, Nadine, please don't.' Kendall saw the surprised look in Nadine's eyes.

It was two days later that the first letter came: Dear Mrs. Ren=4 rm the chairman of the Wild Animal Protection Association, which is in desperate need, I'm sure that you would like to help us out. The organization needs money to preserve wild animals. We are especially interested in deer. You can wire $50,000 to "count number 804072-A at the Credit Suisse bank in Zurich. I would strongly suggest that the money be there within the nextfive days. 226 It was unsigned. All the Es in the letter were broken. Enclosed in the envelope was a newspaper clipping about the accident. Kendall read the letter twice. The threat was unmistakable. She agonized over what to do. Marc was right, she thought. I should have gone to the police. But now everything was worse.

She was a fugitive. If they found her now, it would mean prison and disgrace, as well as the end of her business. At lunchtime, she went to her bank. ' want to wire fifty thousand dollars to Switzerland.' When Kendall got home that evening, she showed the letter to Marc. He was stunned. ' God!' he said. ' could have sent thist ' ... nobody knows.' She was trembling. ', someone knows.' Her body was twitching. '"here was no one around, Marc! I ' a minute. Let's try to figure this out. Exactly what happened when you returned to townr "Nothing. I ... I put the car in the garage, and She stopped. ' got a bad dent here, Mrs. Renaud. Looks like there's blood on it.' Marc saw the expression on her face. '?' She said slowly, ' owner of the garage and his mechanic were there. They saw the blood on the fender. I told them I hit a deer, and they said there 227 should have been a lot more damage.'She remembered something else. '.. CYCST "Nadine, my secretary. I told her the same thing. I could see that she didn't believe me either. So it had to be one of the three of them." "No,' Marc said slowly. She stared at him. ' do you meanr ' down, Kendall, and listen to me. If any of them was suspicious of you, they could have told your story to a dozen people. The report of the accident has been in all the newspapers. Someone has put two and two together. I think the letter was a bluff, testing you. It was a terrible mistake to send that money." whyt ' now they know you're guilty, don't you see? You've given them the proof they needed.", God! What should I dot Kendall asked. Marc Renaud was thoughtful for a moment. ' have an idea how we can find out who these bastards are.' At ten o'clock the following morning, Kendall and Marc were seated in the office of Russell Gibbons, vice president of the Manhattan First Security Bank. ' what can I do for you, todayt Mr. Gibbons asked. Marc said, ' would like to check on a numbered bank account in Zurich.' GYest 228 Ve want to know whose account it is.' - Gibbons rubbed his hands across his chin. ' there a crime involvedt Marc said quickly, '! Why do you ask?", unless there's some kind of criminal activity, such as laundering money or breaking the laws of Switzerland or the United States, Switzerland will not violate the secrecy of its numbered bank accounts. Their reputation is built on

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', there's some way to ... T gilm sorry. I'm afraid not.' Kendall and Marc looked at each other.

Kendall's face was filled with despair. Marc rose. ' you for your time.'

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sorry I couldn't help you.' He ushered them out of his office. % When Kendall drove into the garage that evening, neither Sam nor Red was around. Kendall parked her car, and as she passed the little office, through the window she saw a typewriter on a stand. She stopped, staring at it, wondering if it had a broken letter E. I have to find out, she thought. She walked over to the office, hesitated a moment, then opened the door and stepped inside. As she moved toward the typewriter, Sam suddenly appeared out of nowhere. 4 "Evenin', Mrs. Renaud,' he said. ' I help you?' She spun around, startled. '. I ... I just left my 229 [email protected] car. Good night.'- She hurried toward the door. ' night, Mrs. Renaud.' In the morning, when Kendall passed the garage office, the typewriter was gone. In its place was a personal computer. Sam saw her staring at. it. ', huh? I decided to bring this place into the twentieth century.' Now that he could afford it? When Kendall told Marc about it that evening, he said thoughtfully, ''s a possibility, but we need proof.' Monday morning, when Kendall went to her office, Nadine was waiting for her. ' you feeling better, Mrs. Renaudt '. Thank you.' - ' was my birthday. Look what my husband got me!' She walked over -to, a closet and pulled out a luxurious mink coat. ''t it beautiful?" Copyright 2016 - 2023