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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31





Chapter Nineteen

            Peter and Jamie drove Madison to the funeral in Connecticut. She was still in shock, struggling desperately to make sense of it all. 'It's surreal,' she mused, sitting in the back of peter's BMW. 'I can't quite explain it - but it's like everything is happening in slow motion.'

            'I know,' Jamie agreed, turning her blonde head to commiserate with her best friend. 'First of all, I find out Stella isn't my mother,' Madison continued, 'and before I even have a chance to talk to her, she's .she's gone.'

            'What exactly did Michael tell you?' Jamie asked sympathetically.

            'Not much. Apparently there was a robbery, and Stella and this guy she was living with were both shot. It's so awful.'

            'Goddamnit!' Peter muttered angrily. 'Nobody's safe any more.' 'Did they put up a fight?' Jamie asked.

            'Who knows?' Madison aid, thinking how strange Michael had sounded on the phone. There had been something in his voice, a coldness she couldn't quite understand. Stella, his adored wife of over twenty-seven years was gone, and it was almost as if he'd completely disconnected.

            Death affects people in different ways, she thought. He'll probably fall to pieces at the funeral. She wished for the hundredth time that she'd an opportunity to talk to Stella, find out more about why she'd never been told the truth.

            Too late now. There was no going back.

***

            Michael greeted her at the door of the big country house. He was dressed in a black suit and appeared to be perfectly normal and at ease. She threw her arms around him and gave him a big hug. 'I'm so sorry,' she murmured, holding him tight, tears filling her eyes. 'It's such a tragedy.'

            'I know,' he agreed, still sounding strange.

            Before she could say anything else, he let go of her and turned to greet Jamie and Peter. She studied him for a moment, noticing that his eyes were not red-rimmed, which meant he hadn't been crying. Was it because Stella had left him for another man that he didn't seem upset? Could he be that cold?

            She was beginning to wonder about the father she'd thought she'd known all these years. It was odd, but in many ways it was almost as if he was a total stranger.

            A black limousine waited in the driveway to take them to the nearby church. Madison got in and sat next to Michael. He didn't say a word.

            The funeral was a small affair, not more than two dozen people gathered in clusters. Victor had driven up from New York in a chauffeured car to show his respect. Embracing Madison, he murmured words of comfort. She thanked him and looked around, realizing that she knew hardly anyone. Most of the people there were the friends Michaels and Stella had made in Connecticut. The only New Yorker she recognized was Stella's best friend, Warner Carlysle, a jewellery designer. Madison had known Warner since she was a kid, not intimately but well enough to be able to go over and exchange condolences. She wondered if Warner knew the truth about Stella not being her mother, and suspected that she did.

            Warner was a tall, attractive woman, with short auburn hair and huge tinted shades. She seemed visibly distressed. 'I can't understand how this happened,' she said, obviously ill at ease. 'Why would anybody want to kill them?'

            'It's all so crazy,' Madison agreed. 'Crazy is right,' Warner answered bitterly. 'Did they take her jewellery?'

            'I have no idea,' Madison said, remembering Stella's magnificent collection of Art Deco treasures, and wondering why Warner would be worrying about that at a time like this. 'Stella was very security- conscious. I think she kept most of her good stuff in the bank.'

            'Smart,' Warner said, adjusting her gold and emerald necklace.

            'Uh.did you know the man she was living with?' Madison asked. 'Who was he?'

            'Lucien Martin, an artist in his twenties,' Warner said, nervously fidgeting with her shades. 'The moment they met it was instant attraction, then a few weeks later she moved in with him.' Warner shook her head in disbelief.

            After the church service, everyone trooped out to the burial ground where there was another short ceremony. Then when that was over, there was a catered reception back at the house.

            Warner has loading her plate at the buffet table when Madison approached her again. 'Was she that unhappy with Michael?' she asked.

            'Your father never gave her the attention she craved,' Warner explained, piling more food on to her plate. 'Stella required constant assurance that she was the most beautiful creature on earth. After a time Michael got tired of telling her. Then she met Lucien, and he was there to tell her a thousand times a day.'

            'What was he like?'

            'A younger version of Michael,' Warner said shortly. 'And he adored her.' She walked over to the couch in the living room and sat down with her plate of food. Madison followed.

             'Whatever you do, do not mention Lucien to Michael,' Warner said. 'Michael was very angry and bitter about Stella running off. In fact,' she paused for a long moment, nervously looking around, 'he even threatened her.'

            'Threatened her? Madison said, her heart beating fast.

            'Yes, Stella was so scared that she and Lucien moved from his house into a high-security apartment. She shut herself off from Michael - didn't want anything from him, not his money, nothing. She was planning on moving to New York with Lucien to get away from him. Then Michael found out, and he was furious.'

             Madison took a long, deep breath before speaking. 'You're - you're not saying he could have had anything to do with their deaths, are you?'

            Warner stared at her with an impassive expression. 'We'll get together next week,' she said. 'I can't discuss it now.'

            The woman's upset, Madison thought. She doesn't know what she's talking about.

            'I found out the truth about Stella and me,' Madison blurted out, waiting for a reaction. 'The truth?' Warner said carefully, putting her plate down on the coffee table.

            'Michael told me.'

            'Oh, God, I thought he never would.'

            'I guess you knew all along.'

            'Yes,' Warner said. 'Stella and I were friends for over thirty years. I introduced her to Michael.'

            'You did?'

            'He was a friend of the man I was seeing then.'

            'I had no idea they met through you.'

            'Guilty, I'm afraid.'

            'Here's my big regret.'

            'What?'

            'That I wasn't able to talk to Stella before this happened.'

            'I'm sure it must be very difficult for you.'

            'It is -especially as we were never really close. Stella was always kind of .. I was about to say cold, but it was more like distanced, you know?'

            'Yes, I do know, and that was because you weren't hers, and you never could be,' Warner explained. 'You were the constant reminder that Michael had a great love before her. Stella needed to be number one in his life and she never felt she was.'

            'How could she think that?' Madison said. 'Michael worshipped her.'

            Warner nodded again. 'We have to talk, but this is not the place. I'll call you next week.'

            'Please,' Madison said. 'I have so many questions I was hoping Stella could answer. Maybe you can answer some of them for me.'

            'I'll try,' Warner said.

            Somehow Madison got through the rest of the day. Then later, when most people had left, she asked Michael if he'd like her to say the night. He said no. she didn't push it, instead she said goodbye and got into the car to return to New York with Jamie and Peter.

            'Jesus!' Peter said, as they headed for the city. 'What a day.'

            'Not one I'd want to repeat,' Madison said, with a weary sigh.

            'How are you holding up?' Jamie asked.

            'All I can say is thank God you both came with me,' she replied. 'I'm for ever grateful.'

            'We wouldn't have let you go by yourself,' Jamie said.

            'No way,' Peter added.

            'It's so damn ironic,' Madison said, shaking her head. 'Today I buried a mother I never had. Isn't that something?'

            Jamie nodded understandingly. 'You handled it well, as only you could.'

            'Here's the thing,' Madison said softly. 'I love Michael very much, only right now I'm completely confused about everything. I have no clue who he is anymore.'

            'Come stay with us for a few days,' Jamie suggested. 'We're not crazy about leaving you alone in your apartment.'

            'I'm not alone,' she said. 'I have a dog, and a doorman. Oh, yes, and David on the phone every day.'

            'Scratch him.'

            'And then, of course, there's Jake, who's somewhere in Paris and I have no idea where.'

            'I hate to be mean,' Jamie said, 'but Jake sounds like a one-nighter.'

            'Don't you mean a one-weeker?' Madison said wryly.

            'I'm not saying he doesn't like you,' Jamie said quickly, 'only that he does seem to be Mr unreliable.'

            'Why would you think that?'

            'Well, wasn't he living with a call-girl in L.A.?'

            'He wasn't living with her, it was a quick affair.'

            'Listen, girls,' Peter interrupted, the voice of experience, 'any man who's sleeping with a call-girl is not exactly a winner in the love stakes. Because .if you have to pay for it -'

            'He didn't pay for it,' Madison interrupted irritably. 'He wasn't aware that she was a working girl.'

            'Oh, please,' Peter said, with a short, dry laugh. 'A man knows immediately.'

            'How?' Jamie said, fixing him with a suspicious look.

            'Those women have a certain technique,' Peter explained. 'It's all very professional.'

            'How would you know?' Jamie persisted.

            'I'm a man, aren't I ?'

            'A married man, Peter. And when did you ever pay for it?'

            'Never did, darling.'

            'Then how do you know all these things?' she asked accusingly.

            'Bachelor parties,' he said, with a slight smirk.

            'Bachelor parties!' Jamie and Madison exclaimed in unison. 'Didn't they go out in nineteen sixty-five?'

            Peter laughed uncomfortably. 'You women,' he said, 'you'll never accept there's a double standard.'

            'Bullshit!' Madison said.

            'Crap!' Jamie said.

            Later, when Peter pulled up his BMW outside Madison's apartment, Jamie was still worrying. 'I'll be fine,' Madison assured them. 'All I need is time and space to think things out.'

            'Okay,' Jamie said. 'But don't forget, we're only a phone-call away.'

            'Thanks,' Madison said, getting out of the car. 'It's pretty special to have friends I can rely on.'

            'Love you,' Jamie said.

            Calvin was delighted to welcome her back. 'Hope everything went all right, Miss,' he said, escorting her up to her apartment. 'I walked the dog about an hour ago, so he won't be needing to go out again.'

            'Thanks, Calvin,' she said, letting herself in.

            'Thanks, Calvin,' she said, letting herself in.

            Slammer, out of the kindness of his heart, decided not to punish her. Instead he jumped all over her, thoroughly licking every inch of bare flesh he could find. She petted him for a minute, then went into the kitchen and threw him a treat. After that she did the usual ritual of checking out answering machine.

            No Jake.

            Plenty of David.

            Damn! Where was Jake?

            'Can we meet?' David's voice said. 'I think you owe me that.'

            I owe you nothing, David, and I never will. Get over it!

            The third call was from Kimm Florian. A cryptic 'Call me back immediately.'

            So she did .

            Kimm picked up on the first ring. 'I need to see you as soon as possible,' she said. 'I can come over now.'

            Madison glanced at her watch, it was almost midnight. 'it'll have to be tomorrow,' she said. 'I just got back from a funeral and I'm out of it.'

            'A funeral,' Kimm said slowly. 'whose?'

            'The woman who wasn't my mother.'

            'Stella died?'

            'I'm afraid so.'

            'How did it happen?'

            'The police said it was a home invasion. She and her boyfriend were shot.'

            'Execution-style?'

            'What does that mean?'

            'Was it execution-style?' Kimm repeated.

            'I don't know the details,' Madison replied. 'I only know they were both shot.' 'How early can you see me tomorrow?' Kimm asked, a certain urgency in her tone.

            'Do you have news for me?'

            'Yes, I do. And it's information you should hear at once.' A beat. 'I found out about Gloria.'

            'What?' she said, her heart jumping. 'What did you find out?'

            'Can't tell you over the phone. I have to see you in person.'

            'Come for breakfast.'

            'I'll be there,' Kimm said. 'And, Madison, prepare yourself. You're not going to like what you hear.

   


Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62