Authors: Evelyn Anthony
âWhat makes you think you're in a position to insist on any terms at all?'
She hadn't expected that. She paused and crossed her legs and pulled down the grey Chanel skirt over her knees. They were bony and they showed her age.
âYou're being rude, Mr Hastings. Don't you think you should have asked to see my husband if you meant to behave like this?'
âNo,' James snapped. âI don't. At the moment, your husband is in no condition to talk business with anyone. He's suffered a reverse, I hear. I thought that what I had to say was best said to you. You can pass the message on.'
âLet's hear it, then,' she said. Her voice was soft and cooing, and it made the words very insulting. âI may pass it on, or I may not. It depends on what you have to say.'
âJust this. Your husband was trying to do a deal with the Russians behind our backs. We've known all about it, and we did nothing because these things have happened before, and they usually die out. But unfortunately, the Russians got you really involved. So we had to take measures. Those measures have been effective. We had to teach your husband a lesson. That lesson, Mrs Karakov, was the loss of a ten-million-dollar sale to Prince Abdullah Bin Saladin. I hope you'll take it to heart.'
She got up out of the chair in a single movement. Under the make-up her face turned white. âWhat do you mean, a lesson? What do you know about the sale?'
He looked up at her. He said, âYou've lost ten million dollars and your firm has suffered a loss in reputation that can't be counted. That, Mrs Karakov, is just the beginning if you go on fighting us. We'll break you into very small pieces. Tell your husband that. Tell him to stop arsing around. His agreement with us is due for renewal this month. Tell him to get in touch with David Wasserman and get it fixed up. On the same terms, Mrs Karakov. In the meantime, we shan't supply you or any agent likely to sell to you with a single stone. Remember what we were able to do about those Russian diamonds, if you don't think we can do it.'
He walked out of the room and the apartment without waiting to hear her answer.
âLizzie, it's the second time he's rung up today. Don't you think you ought to speak to him?' Elizabeth's father looked at her. âHe's back in London, you can't expect to avoid him indefinitely. Flowers, letters, telephone calls. I'm beginning to feel sorry for the poor devil, and I never thought I would.'
âI know you are,' she said. âMum is too. I thought you'd both be quite different. It's not as if you ever liked him.'
âThat,' her father said, âhas nothing to do with it. What we're concerned about is your happiness. You're fine physically, you're a perfectly healthy girl, but you're utterly miserable and we don't like to see it. You've no energy, no interest in life, and it seems to me you're punishing yourself as much as James. I'm not sure I believe that chap Lasalle. How do you know he ever left such a message?'
âBecause he told me and I do believe him,' Elizabeth said. âWould you lie about something like that, Pop?' she challenged him.
He hesitated. âI might,' he said. âWhen I was in love with your mother I'd have done any dirty trick to get her. All's fair in love and war. I just don't think you should condemn your husband on his say-so. He asked to see me, by the way. I said I'd meet him. I hope you don't mind, Lizzie. I don't want us taking sides. If you go back together, he'd never forgive us, remember that.'
âI don't think it's very likely,' she said slowly. âI feel very sorry for him, but that's all.'
He looked hard at her. âAre you saying you don't love him any more? Are you really saying that?'
She shook her head. âNo. I do love him, that's what hurts so much. But I can't trust him, Pop, and I can't live with that. You see him if you want to, but don't raise any hopes. I'm going for a walk.'
When she had gone out, Jill Fairfax came in. âWell, what did she say?'
âMuch the same as she says to you,' he answered. âI can't help feeling she's going to regret this later. She still loves the bloody man, that's the trouble. And I must say he's taken enough stick about this and still come back for more. I told her I'd meet him, but I'm not sure how much good it'll do.'
âThere was a letter from that Frenchman,' his wife said. âI saw it in the post this morning. Now that would be a disaster. He's years older than Liz, and it'd just be on the rebound. I very nearly tore it up.'
âNext time,' he said, âput it in the bin. I don't like the sound of him. Never liked the French, anyway. Jill, try not to worry. You said yourself girls get very mixed up emotionally after a miscarriage. I'll see if I can talk James into being patient a bit longer. I'd better be off, we've got a Council meeting at two-thirty.'
Ray Andrews went up in the lift to Borisov's office. He'd had a good flight over and he was quite looking forward to seeing the Russian. A genuine friendship had grown up between them over the long period of negotiations.
He went into the outer office, and the secretary nodded and said to please wait a moment; she would tell Borisov that he was there. He didn't expect to wait, and the delay surprised him. Minutes passed, and he fidgeted on the hard chair. Then the door opened and she came back.
âHe'll see you,' she said. âPlease to go in.'
Ray had a smile ready when he walked through the door and his hand was reaching out to shake Borisov's. The Russian was sitting behind his desk and he didn't move.
âDimitri,' Ray said. âHow are you? It's nice to see you againâ'
âSit down, Mr Andrews.'
Ray stared at him.
. Borisov's face was like a mask, no expression, not a glimmer. He might have been looking at a complete stranger. Ray sat down. He said, âWhat's the matter? What's wrong?'
Borisov had a glass of tea in one hand. He drank some, and stared at Ray Andrews over the rim of it.
âWhy did you try to cheat me?'
Ray Andrews jerked as if he'd been struck. âWhat the hell are you talking about? Cheat you â what do you mean?'
Borisov finished his tea and put the glass down.
âYou've seen this agreement, haven't you, Mr Andrews?'
âFor Christ's sake,' Ray exploded. âStop calling me Mr Andrews! Yes of course I've seen it. I've gone through it line by line and clause by clause. It's perfectly in order!'
âI'm glad you're satisfied with it.' He sounded calm, but the pale eyes were bright with anger.
Ray said desperately, âBut what's wrong with it? Tell me!'
Borisov sighed. âYou must think we're very naÃ¯ve, just ignorant Russians who can be taken in by clever Western lawyers. Well, you've misjudged us, Mr Andrews. We have clever lawyers, too, and our President suggested they should take a closer look at this document you want us to sign. This honourable agreement between our government and your company. With your Chief Executive's personal warranty.'
He hadn't raised his voice once.
Andrews said, âWhat's wrong? What did your people find?'
âA loophole,' Borisov answered. âA clause which amounted to an option, in your company's favour. The agreement states that you undertake to send a team up to Baikal within two calendar months of the date this comes into effect. It also undertakes to keep them there for at least a year and thereafter until such time as the operation shall be concluded. Here it is, clause ten, page three. See for yourself.'
He leaned across the desk and handed the document to Andrews. It was interminably long, involved and printed in small type. The clause and the section Borisov mentioned were scored in red ink. He read it twice and then he looked at the man on the other side of the desk and shook his head.
âI don't see anything wrong with that. The team of environmentalists and experts goes in two months after this is signed, and stays there for a year; that's the minimum time for any operation of this nature. We'll just be getting into our stride at Baikal by then. It can't be done any quicker, it's not a possibility.'
âI know that,' Borisov said. âWe have environmentalists here, you know. They're not completely ignorant of the size and complexity of our problem at Baikal.'
âStop being insulting, Dimitri,' Ray said. âYou've picked on this clause ten and you've made a dreadful accusation. Please be good enough to explain it.'
âIf I have been rude, then I apologize. I shouldn't allow myself to get angry. We have had this sort of experience before, when dealing with business in the West. You don't know what is wrong with your agreement, Mr Andrews? Then I'll explain. It is hidden in these nine words. “Until such time as the operation shall be concluded.” There should be “by mutual agreement between the parties”. That would have bound you, that would have meant that you couldn't come up to Baikal for a few months, and then abandon the project as uneconomic. That was what I particularly stressed in my talks with you. The need for a commitment to the project without prejudice or time limit. In return we became part of your diamond monopoly. But you send me an agreement worded in such a way that you can walk out of Baikal any time you choose after a year, and we have no way of stopping you. Just by omitting those few little words, “by mutual agreement between the parties”.'
Ray Andrews got up and handed the agreement back to Borisov. He waved it away.
âKeep it, Mr Andrews. It is of no use to me. I shall have to make a very humble apology to Ivan Karakov for the way we have been delaying.'
âI didn't know about this,' Ray said slowly. âI can't expect you to believe me, but I went back to London and explained exactly what we had agreed. I got the personal guarantee you asked for, and I accepted this agreement in good faith. My Managing Director, Arthur Harris, was personally responsible for having it drawn up.'
Dimitri Borisov shrugged; he looked at Ray Andrews with indifference. The friendship which had grown up between them might never have existed.
âHe promised me,' Ray said. He had begun to sweat. He felt so angry that he shook inside. âHe gave me his word that we were going ahead with this and dealing straight with you. I believed him. You're not the only one that's been cheated. Anyway, they didn't succeed in fooling you. I'm sorry. That's all I can say to you. I'm sorry. But I wasn't a party to it.'
âWe will make an agreement with Karakov International,' Borisov remarked.
âYes,' Ray said. âI expected that.'
âWhen are you leaving?'
âI'm booked back on Tuesday.' He felt sick with shame.
âI should go earlier. There's nothing to keep you here.'
On an impulse, Ray Andrews walked to the desk and held out his hand. Dimitri Valerian Borisov ignored it.
âI didn't know about it,' Ray said again. âIt doesn't matter, but I'd like you to believe that. I didn't know about it. They cheated me too.'
Suddenly Borisov stood up, took Ray's hand and shook it. âI do believe it. I wish you a safe journey home.'
He walked out of the office, and he was in the street when he found he was still holding the useless agreement. He'd keep it. He'd take it back to London, and throw it down in front of Arthur Harris, just as it was. He went back to the hotel, and wrote out an open fax for London. He addressed it to Harris.
RETURNING AT ONCE
When he got to his room to pack there was a fax waiting for him.
PARIS DEAL SUCCESSFULLY CONCLUDED
CONCLUDE YOUR END AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
VE BROUGHT OFF THE DOUBLE
It was the racing term that really made him mad. He lost his temper! He tore the fax in half and threw it across the room. Hastings had done his part. Nobody had buggered him up and let him walk into it. But he had made a success, too, and Arthur had ruined it by a dirty trick; it made him sick to think of it. He had been sent out to lie to a man who had trusted him, and now his career was ruined because Arthur had cheated him as well as the Russians. They had all supported Harris over the years; he had, and Kruger and old Wasserman, who had a soft spot for him, and God knew how many smaller fry. Heyderman treated him as a fool.
âBy Christ,' Ray said to himself, âhe's right. There's no fool as dangerous as a dishonest one. But this time, he's going to take the full responsibility. I'm not going to shield the bastard this time. He's screwed the Russian deal, and I'm going to say so.'
He made that decision, and he knew what it would mean, and he wasn't even worried. Something had happened to him in that office, while Dimitri Borisov exposed what he was doing as a dirty, crooked confidence trick. Something had happened to him which might have happened at any time, but which had simply happened now. He had had enough. He caught the plane that evening, and spent part of the long journey drafting a full report on the progress of the Russian operation from start to finish. He was going to give it to Reece.
âThanks, Joy dear,' Reece shuffled the pages she had typed for him. She was looking better after their holiday in Bath. And he had good news for her. She would soon be back home in the sunshine, in time for Christmas.
âMr Julius says I'll be going back with him this time. He thinks it'll be tied up by then and we can leave the London end till the Annual General Meeting in March.'
She looked at him. âDoes Arthur Harris know what's going to happen? Are you sure he hasn't any idea?'
âNo,' Reece answered. âI've been compiling my report with Andrews and you're the only one who's seen it. He may think he's in for a fight, but he won't know what's going to hit him till he hears this put to the Board.' He tapped the papers. âI've put everything Andrews told me into this. It'll finish him.'