‘I think your faithful wife needs to come clean.’ Mary’s outburst at Richard stunned us both into silence. My mind latched onto that one word. Faithful. My long-held secret was about to be exposed. How could she?
Richard’s face went pale and then reddened; He struck a fist on Hamish’s desktop. ‘What the hell does that mean?’
Oh no, Richard, please.
Hamish raised a hand, cleared his throat, and Mary’s phone rang.
Mary dug it out and looked at the screen before answering. ‘Where the fuck are you, you selfish bastard?’ She glared at us. ‘Don’t you realise I’m fighting a war here.’
Richard stood up. ‘Now wait a minute...’
Mary waved him to sit back down, her voice quietened. ‘So you’re back, then?’
Richard still stood, his face still red. Mary listened for a few moments, then said. ‘Hang on a moment.’
She turned to us. ‘It’s Charles.’
Richard clenched his fist. ‘What the hell you mean about fighting a war?’
I stood up as well. ‘For Christ’s sake, Mary. Calm down. We’re trying to lay Jane to rest.’
Hamish joined the party. ‘Who’s Charles?’
Mary turned to him. ‘He’s Delcie’s cousin. And someone who could help me sort out this mess, once and for all.’
Richard snorted. ‘I suppose he’s also on your paternity list?’
‘That surprise you, Mr. Know-it-all?’
‘Mary,’ I said. ‘That’s enough, or I’m leaving.’
‘And me,’ echoed Richard, though he didn’t move.
The room fell silent until Hamish intervened. ‘I suggest we ask Charles to join us.’
Mary nodded. ‘All agree?’
Richard shrugged. I said yes.
While Mary was speaking to Charles and giving him instructions, I took advantage of Richard’s vulnerability. ‘She’s not herself,’ I said. ‘Too many things on her mind.’
He stared at me. ‘What did she mean about you? And Angelique?’
I sighed, patted his arm as if it was nothing. ‘Stirring up trouble, that’s all.’
It wasn’t all. And maybe one day I’d tell him the truth. As far as Mary went, she could only guess. Both Richard and Charles were suitors of mine. Same as her — we had several admirers fawning around us — although she thrived on airing her beaus in public.
I didn’t. Not all of them.
We both sat down. ‘And if Charles is on her paternity list, it shows she is as much in the dark as us.’
Richard nodded, pointed at Hamish. ‘I want this whole thing sorted, Donaldson. Both of us should take the bloody test and be done with it.’
I didn’t push it.
‘Okay, he’ll be here soon,’ said Mary, addressing Hamish. ‘Now about my grandson. What’s going to happen to him?’
Whew. The paternity subject had been brushed aside.
Hamish coughed, picked up a file, and read from it. ‘Junior—we’ve called him that—is making progress, but he’ll need specialist care for a few more weeks. Before I leave, I suggest we transfer him to Jakarta.’
‘Specialist treatment? Jakarta?’ Mary clutched her throat. ‘Who’s going to pay for that?’
Uh. Oh. Here we go again. My time had come. ‘Rod said he’d fund the trip.’
Mary stared at me. ‘You’ve been talking to Rod? When?’
I stared back. ‘All you care about is money. Well let me tell you a few facts of life, Lady High-and-Mighty Parrington. I care about Junior. And so does Rod.’ While Mary spluttered, I thrust home my advantage. ‘If you want your grandson off your hands, we’re find a caring home for him—even if he stays with me at the Manor.’
‘I’ll second that,’ said Richard, surprising me. ‘You’ve done nothing but plant spurious seeds since you arrived. The quicker you bugger off back to England, the better.’
Mary’s face quivered, and she buried her head in her hands. ‘I hate you. You’re both so beastly to me.’
Hamish got out of his chair, walked around to Mary, and put a hand on her shoulder. He looked at us. ‘Have we finished?’
Mary started to sob. I was half-inclined to comfort her, but she’d tried my patience and found me wanting. I nodded to Hamish. ‘I think we all know where we stand.’
Right, I need to write some notes. Can you take a break, and we’ll reconvene when Charles arrives?’
I hadn’t finished. ‘And the paternity tests? Charles can be stubborn when his integrity is questioned. Would you try to gain his agreement before a real war breaks out?’
‘He’d better,’ said Richard, ‘or else he’ll have me to deal with…’
‘And me,’ said Mary.
Hamish gestured to the door. ‘Please, I don’t want any more arguments. He looked at his watch. ‘I’ll send someone to find you after I’ve briefed Charles.’
Outside in the corridor, I suggested we took an early dinner. I was tired, it had been a long day, and they both looked whacked out.
‘Good idea,’ said Richard. ‘Where to?’
‘Count me out,’ said Mary, ‘I don’t want you ganging up on me again.’
I looked at her, caught hold of Richard’s arm. ‘Come with me. There’s a really nice place close by.’ I smiled. ‘Ideal for plotting.’ At long last, I felt most of my demons fade away. I’d stood up to Mary, and found a new direction.