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Authors: Gabrielle Lord

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BOOK: Death by Beauty
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Spinner shook his head, almost tut-tutting in disapproval as he looked for a suitable place for the tiny lens. After a moment’s
hesitation, he examined the framed photograph of the Port Stephens dolphins and the heavy black lace of the wrought-iron candelabra.
‘I could do something here,’ he said, ‘in this gap between the dolphins and the bookcase. I can hide the camera in that candlestick.’

Gemma pulled the tiny camera out of her bag and passed it to Spinner, who fixed it to one of the winding wrought-iron leaves,
threading the cable around the iron lace and from there behind the dolphin photograph. ‘There. Invisible.’

He picked up his tool kit and went into the bedroom, looking around for a hiding place for the second camera. This he found
in the L-shaped light on the bedside table, hiding the tiny lens along its extendable arm.

Half an hour later, both cameras were in position and tested as working well. Gemma and Spinner sat outside in Spinner’s Toyota,
watching the live feed from the cameras on a split screen on the laptop. ‘We’ve got him covered,’ said Spinner, ‘in both locations.
All he has to do is lure Mrs Litchfield into his bedroom. The voice and movement activation capability will do the rest.’

He turned to Gemma. ‘How do you feel about this? About watching Steve with another woman?’

‘How do you think I feel, Spinner?’ she said, her eyes following Steve’s appearances on the split screen. Too many mixed emotions,
too many surges of love and anger, jealousy and hope, were streaming together and churning, so that she almost felt she might
be sick. ‘It has to be done. If it saves Steve, it has to be done. There’s just no alternative.’

‘I hope you know what you’re doing.’

So do I, she thought.

Gemma started to get ready for her date with Tolmacheff as soon as she arrived home. Then she tried to put Steve out of her
mind by focusing on feeding Rafi a little earlier than usual. She aimed to be at Edgecliff at half past six so that she could
check out the office, safe in the knowledge that Tolmacheff was working in his kitchen a few kilometres away, awaiting her
arrival at around seven-thirty.

‘Are you okay?’ Mike asked her as she came out of the bedroom, dressed in her best black skirt, cream silk blouse and a gold
chain around her neck, black jacket over her arm. The key to Tolmacheff’s office was safely tucked in her slim leather wallet.

‘I’m fine,’ she said.

‘You look tired. What were you up to this afternoon?’

‘I helped Spinner to put in some spy cams,’ she said, deadpan.

‘Don’t be late,’ he said, an edge to his voice.

‘Hey man,’ said Hugo from his position on the floor, ‘that’s not very cool. Gemma’s on the job, not having fun.’

‘It’s okay, Hugo,’ said Gemma, ‘I won’t be late, that’s for sure.’

‘Are you sure you’ve thought this through?’ said Mike, walking with her to the door. ‘He’s invited you to his place. He’s
got designs on you. He’s going to want sex. How are you going to handle that?’

‘I’ll think of something. There’s always the headache excuse.’

‘Gemma, I don’t have to remind you that this man is a potential murderer. What if he’s a rapist as well?’

‘Mike, I’ve learned a few tricks over the years. I know some fancy footwork that’ll put a man out of action for a week. And
I’m not afraid to use it.’

‘Will you teach me?’ Hugo called from the other end of the hall.

‘This is a private conversation,’ said Mike.

‘I didn’t know that. You could have had it outside if you didn’t want me to hear.’

‘Good idea,’ said Mike. ‘Go outside and finish fixing my bike.’

‘I’d better go,’ said Gemma, glancing at her watch. ‘I’ve got an office to search and then a dinner date.’

She parked in the Edgecliff Centre and caught the lift. Stepping out into the narrow corridor with offices on each side, she
hurried along until she came to the door marked Satellite Imports & Promotions Pty Ltd. Mischa Bloomfield had been given a
card by the man who called himself Jacob Titov with the same business name. How were Titov and Tolmacheff connected?

With a quick look around to make sure the corridor was quite empty, Gemma slid the key into the lock and turned it. It opened
easily and she went inside. The office was one small room, with windows to the west; there was still some light in the sky
although the interior was dim. Keeping her torchlight on her phone low, Gemma flashed it around. The first thing that struck
her was how neat the place was. The shelving built along the wall was empty, apart from a small cactus in a pot and an ashtray.
She went to the desk, which took up a quarter of the room. There was just a lamp, a pen and pencil set and a phone on it.
The drawers weren’t locked, so she opened each in turn. The first and second were empty; the third one held a folder. She
flipped it open and frowned, puzzled by the contents. She found business cards bearing Tolmacheff’s name under the company
name ‘Perestroika Enterprises’, and a recent bill for the mooring of a luxury yacht at the Rushcutters Bay marina. So that’s
where some of Delphine’s money had gone, she thought. She turned on the lamp, laid out the bills and receipts and photographed
them.

When she checked on the review facility and zoomed, she found she could read them quite easily. Hastily, she gathered up all
the papers and put them back in what she hoped was the order in which she had found them, put the folder back into the drawer
and flicked the light off. She was about to walk away when something caught her eye – a small metal rubbish
bin beside the chair. Directing the torchlight into the bin, she saw that something had been burned in there. Carefully, using
her thumb and forefinger, she lifted the charred papers out and laid them on the desk. One was a business card and the other
a partly burned photograph of a woman. There was enough of the face left for Gemma to recognise it: she’d seen this young
woman before in the portrait drawn by Nicole at the open-door brothel.

Brie.

Questions started racing through her mind. What was Perestroika Enterprises and what was the connection with Tolmacheff? Then
fear. Tolmacheff and the vampire were definitely linked. And why had the picture been burned? She photographed the burned
photo then turned her attention to the small singed card.

She could still make out the lettering and part of the phone number superimposed on a photograph of the Opera House. ‘Be –
h – m – H – s –’

Beecham House.

Gemma immediately called Delphine.

‘The mobile number you have called is currently unavailable. Please try again later.’

Damn you, thought Gemma. Switch on your phone!

Reading from the burnt business card, Gemma called the hotel. The receptionist was reluctant to give out any information but
finally said that she thought Delphine might have gone out to dinner with friends. ‘Please ask her to call me as soon as she
comes back,’ said Gemma, leaving her name and number. ‘It is imperative that I talk to her.’

The receptionist sounded guarded, but said that she would pass on the message. Gemma glanced at her watch. She was going to
be late for dinner. Then she’d drive straight to Beecham House.

On the way to Angelo’s, she called Angie and told her what she’d found. ‘Can you do a company search on Perestroika Enterprises?
Find what that’s all about?’

When she told her about Delphine, Angie said, ‘I can call the cops at the station nearest the hotel. Maybe someone will go
down there and try to intercept her before she goes to her room. But I can’t promise anything.’

‘And it’s essential that we find Brie, too,’ Gemma added. ‘She’s eyeballed the killer, twice now, and somehow she’s connected
to Tolmacheff. I want to know how and why.’

‘I’ll do what I can,’ said Angie. ‘But if she’s gone interstate, as you say, then it’s going to be very difficult. These girls
are hard to keep track of at the best of times and at the moment, she’s lying low.’

Gemma tried calling Delphine Tolmacheff again after pulling up outside the marital home. Again, her call went through to voice-mail
and she left another urgent message. At least Delphine was safe for the next couple of hours, while her husband entertained
another woman, Gemma thought. There was nothing more she could do right now, so she checked her hair and lipstick in the rear-vision
mirror, picked up her wallet and climbed out of the car. As she made her way through the wrought-iron gate and up along the
wisteria-draped trellis, she saw the front door was open.

‘Hello? she called. ‘Angelo?’

She heard footsteps and called out again. But there was no answer. Hesitantly, she stepped into a spacious foyer, with a domed
ceiling from which hung an elaborate chandelier, fully ablaze. Gilt-framed colonial portraits hung on the walls and
a staircase curved around to a landing. As she walked further inside, Gemma saw that several rooms led off the circular foyer.
She checked the first one, a beautifully furnished lady’s sitting room, with swooning lounges and armchairs around dainty
tables, the furniture forming an irregular semicircle around a graceful fireplace, currently filled with pine cones. Copies
of
Vogue
and
House & Garden
were scattered over a low table and tall French windows were hung with ruched damask drapes.

Gemma continued to the second room, a gentleman’s study in dark green tones, with leather-bound volumes on the shelves. A
handsome cedar roll-top desk beside the window, its roller shutter half raised. She couldn’t resist glancing inside.

A folder with a heraldic shield flanked by swans printed on its cover lay on the polished surface of the desktop. Glancing
behind her to make sure she was still alone, Gemma opened it. Inside was a brochure with photos of six beautiful women on
the front page. Two of them seemed familiar. Curious, Gemma picked the brochure up but before she could identify the two familiar
faces, she was abruptly interrupted.

‘What do you think you’re doing in here?’

The deep voice made her jump in guilt and fear. She dropped the folder and spun around. Angelo Tolmacheff stood blocking the
doorway, his face dark with anger.

‘Oh, Angelo! How embarrassing!’ she said. ‘What will you think of me? I couldn’t find you and I came looking in here—’

‘And you thought you’d find me in that folder on my desk, did you? Among my personal papers?’

‘Look, I just opened it out of curiosity. I’m a curious woman. Please forgive me. I am so sorry. I was admiring your beautiful
study and I just …’

‘What did you see?’

‘Nothing,’ Gemma stuttered.

‘You opened that folder!’

What the hell was inside it? Too late, Gemma wished she’d seen more.

‘I didn’t! I didn’t have time to—’

‘Who are you? I’ve made some inquiries about Gerri Westlake and I keep running up against a brick wall. Gerri Westlake seems
to have no friends. Gerri Westlake seems to have no credit rating, she doesn’t even have a bank account. I can’t find out
where she lives.’

Gemma tensed in anticipation. This guy’s been doing his research, she realised. I should have anticipated this.

BOOK: Death by Beauty
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