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Authors: Gabrielle Lord

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BOOK: Death by Beauty
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‘Angelo left his briefcase on the dining table one morning while he was involved in a long phone conversation in the kitchen.
I looked through it, trying to find out more about the two properties he had up for sale. I came upon these – he’d had them
posted to his office at Edgecliff, which is why I hadn’t seen them come to the house – and I raced into the study and photocopied
them, all the time listening to his voice in the kitchen, terrified he’d come in and find me doing it. I almost got caught
but I put them back into his briefcase just in time.’

‘And he doesn’t know you’ve seen them?’ Gemma asked, tapping the papers.

Delphine shook her head.

‘Do you know anything about this Adel Milani?’

Again, Delphine shook her head, this time more vehemently. ‘It came as a terrible shock to see that name where mine used to
be. First he replaces me with her on his insurance policy. Then he takes out a new policy on me.’ She clutched the tissue
in her hand, knuckles whitening. ‘I’m worth three million dollars to him when I’m dead. Gemma, I can’t help but think the
worst. That’s why I’m here.’ She took a deep breath and sat up straight. ‘My husband is planning to kill me.’

Gemma thought for a moment as she noted down the name of the insurance company. ‘Apart from these documents,’ she said, ‘has
anything else happened to make you believe that? Has he said anything? Done anything?’

‘He wants to take me hiking in the high country,’ she said. ‘He’s never shown the slightest interest in hiking or camping.
Now suddenly, he’s keen for us to go. He hasn’t wanted to spend any time with me since our honeymoon, and even then he was
always wandering off, discussing business on the phone with his partners.’

‘Partners?’

Delphine shrugged. ‘That’s what he calls them. Some kind of businessmen. They often call him. From what I can gather, they’re
involved in running medical centres. He doesn’t discuss his business matters with me.’ Delphine dabbed her eyes, straightened
her shoulders and drew herself together. ‘I think they’re all crooks,’ she added.

Gemma put the documents back on her desk and looked closely at Delphine.

‘Gemma, I don’t know what to do. I have no proof. No crime has been committed. How can I convince the police that I’m not
just suspicious? My solicitor has suggested that I leave a detailed note with him and also with a trusted friend. He also
wants me to check Angelo’s diary to see if I can find out if he’ll be away for a day or more so that I can organise some removalists
to put everything valuable into storage. And he thinks I should be using some sort of bug on his phone. But my husband has
no need to discuss my murder with anybody. That is something he can do all by himself. I’m sure—’ Her voice faltered. ‘I’m
sure his plan is for me to have an accident while we’re hiking. He’s a very strong man, my husband. And the high country that
he’s chosen is full of cliffs and fast-flowing rivers. I’m not young. I’m not particularly strong. I would be no match for
him. Gemma, can you help me? I’m supposed to be going away with him in two weeks’ time.’

Gemma stood up and walked to the window, standing with her back against it, arms folded, regarding the woman sitting in front
of her. Her case was like witch-ducking: if Delphine fell to her death, she would be proved right about her husband’s criminal
intent.

‘You should move out right now,’ Gemma said decisively. ‘And make sure he doesn’t know where you’re going.’

‘But my husband is a very dangerous man. I’m scared that if I do anything to cause him to suspect that I know what he’s planning,
things could become extremely dangerous. If he suspects that I suspect …’

‘You must do everything you can to ensure your safety. No hiking, no trips away with him. And you must find out how you can
have that insurance policy cancelled. If your instincts tell you he’s planning to murder you, you need to protect yourself.

‘I’d like to help you,’ continued Gemma, ‘but there’s not much I can do except advise you to move out – fast. And try to get
access to his computer, to read his emails.’

Delphine shook her head. ‘I didn’t come here for advice. I’m here because as I said, I think he’s working with crooks and
I believe he is involved in criminal activities.’

‘What exactly?’

‘That I can’t say. But someone like him, who can lie and cheat so smoothly at the personal level, and present himself as someone
he is not, and is planning to make money out of me by
murdering
…’

Gemma realised where Delphine was going. ‘You’re thinking such a person would be equally ruthless and criminal in his business
life?’

Delphine nodded. ‘Exactly.’

‘So you want me to watch him. To catch him out in something criminal?’

‘Yes, yes,’ Delphine said with gratitude. ‘I’ve already talked to the police about it, and although they were very sympathetic
there’s not really anything they can do until there’s a crime. Which won’t help me when I’m dead. The detective I spoke with
suggested I should warn my husband that I’d left letters with my solicitor and the insurer to the effect that if anything
happened to me, he should be regarded as my killer.’

Gemma nodded. ‘Yes, I’d suggest that too.’

‘But that means confronting my husband, and my fear is if I do that, he’ll simply bring his plans forward. It wouldn’t be
hard for me to drown in the swimming pool, for instance … or break my neck on the staircase at my house. Marble floors are
very unyielding.’

She paused, her large eyes now dry and fierce, and drew a long envelope out of her briefcase.

‘I’ve written a statutory declaration about my situation. Please keep it for me in case I’m not successful … In the meantime,
find out what you can about this Adel Milani. And any of my husband’s associates. Find out how this man I’ve married has been
living so high – what his source of income was before I started paying for his lifestyle. I want to know where he got his
money in the past – there’s no evidence of arrangements with banks or building societies. Believe me, I’ve been through everything.
Including his office when he was away on a business trip recently. Here’s a copy of the key to that office,’ she said, taking
out another, smaller envelope and passing it to Gemma, ‘with the address. Please find out what’s been going on with him.’
She stopped, her face was pale.

‘When I’ve got something on him, I can go back to the police. Surely he’ll be arrested and sent to jail? Then I’ll start to
feel safe again. I just have to get him out of the picture. Out of my life. You’ve no idea what it’s been like for me, pretending
I haven’t noticed anything. Fortunately, his ego is so huge that for the moment he has no reason to suspect that the rich
fool he married …’

‘I’d like to talk about your case with a friend,’ said Gemma. ‘She’s a detective. And possibly also with my sister, who’s
an experienced psychotherapist. Is that okay?’

Delphine nodded.

‘I’ll need his details – good recent photographs, date of birth, the places he goes to, the make, model and registration of
his car. And any other contacts or addresses that you know about where he might visit.’

‘I brought these along,’ said Delphine, fishing out four photographs and handing them to Gemma.

They showed a middle-aged, darkly handsome man; with frown lines and narrowed eyes, Angelo Tolmacheff presented an intriguing
face to the world. In all four photographs, despite the different surroundings – swimming pool, leaning on the railings of
a yacht, sitting at a desk or standing near a building under construction – Tolmacheff’s expression remained the same: unsmiling,
vigilant. Gemma filed the photos together with the written information Delphine had just given her in a folder and handed
over a list of her fees. Delphine studied it for a few moments.

‘I’ll write a cheque right now,’ she said. ‘Please start on this job as soon as possible.’

Delphine’s life could well depend on this, thought Gemma, as she took the cheque. And she must also be careful, a little voice
in her mind warned. This man is dangerous.

After Delphine Tolmacheff left, Gemma typed up her notes, underlining the points she would discuss with Angie.

Her thoughts were interrupted by her mobile.

‘Gemma?’

‘Yes?’

‘It’s Janet – Janet Chancy.’

‘Janet! I was just thinking about you—’

But Janet’s urgent voice cut her off. ‘Listen. I’m calling from Sapphire Springs Spa. But I might not be able to talk very
long. My phone battery’s about to die and I don’t want to use a line from
here. I’ve stumbled on something enormous here – something so huge, so unbelieveable, so, so—’

‘About DiNAH therapy?’

‘You know about that? Good, then I don’t have to waste time explaining—’ Janet’s voice faded then came back. ‘I know how it’s
done,’ she said in a conspiratorial whisper. ‘I’ve got to see you. I can’t talk now. Too many people around. You have no idea
what’s going on here. It’s the scoop of a lifetime. DiNAH – it’s not what people think. I managed to get into the medical
supercentre and – oh, it’s unbelievable! Look, I have to go but I’m coming straight to your place when I leave here. Then
we can plan what to do next.’

‘What? Now?’

‘Yes, yes. You’ll understand why when I tell you.’ Her voice dropped. ‘It’s just too shocking—’ The phone cut out.

Gemma leaned back in her chair, puzzled. Why had Janet rung
her
? They weren’t close friends. Why not her newspaper, a classic hold-the-front-page phone call? Why would she want to talk
about her discovery with a private investigator? What were she and Janet supposed to do? Gemma wondered. Raise some kind of
philosophical debate?

She knew that many researchers were questioning the ethical position of the scientific team that had perfected the DiNAH therapy
because they were in the process of patenting the revolutionary breakthrough so that they would receive all the royalties.
Most in the local scientific community argued that this treatment should be made available around the world, where its use,
especially in developing countries, could reduce post-operative infection rates and cut down the duration of hospital stays.
There was already talk of legal action and demands for peer review
before DiNAH could be patented. If Janet had new information about this therapy, it should be published immediately. So why
did she call
me?
Gemma asked herself again.

She reached for her phone and called Lance at Paradigm Laboratories, whose services she used whenever she needed to fast-track
scientific assays or DNA profiling.

‘Good to hear from you, Gemma. What’s up?’

‘What do you know about this DiNAH therapy – the accelerated healing process?’

‘Funny you should mention it. I was talking to a colleague about it the other day. It uses the patient’s own DNA to formulate
their medication. And this powerful new growth factor. A Russian, Dr Benjamin Popowitz, is
the
name in the area of enhanced growth factors. Did you know that a foetus that has been subjected to injury or surgery in utero
heals without scarring?’

‘Only because a client told me a little while ago. But that’s all I know. How come?’

‘Developing embryos have enhanced levels of something called transforming growth factors – TGFs. And some of our organs have
something called immune privilege. They’re protected from attack by the immune system. Popowitz has been working on that too.
But that’s more relevant in organ transplants.’

‘And that’s what they’re using with DiNAH therapy? Dr Popowitz’s enhanced TGFs?’

‘That plus the client’s own DNA, which apparently creates a powerful healing response. It hasn’t been peer reviewed yet. Very
much under wraps.’

‘I can imagine what sort of money fast, scarless healing might be worth,’ Gemma said. ‘It would be a huge advancement in medicine.’

‘That’s right,’ Lance said. ‘Healing is an immensely complex issue with lots of different proteins involved – for instance,
there are eight different types of growth factors, for a start. I can send you a paper on it if you like.’

‘Thanks, Lance. Maybe some other time.’ She smiled, ringing off. She turned to her laptop and Googled socialite Magda Simmonds,
searching for images. There were plenty. Most showed an elegant, handsome woman in her sixties posing with politicians and
charity workers. The photograph accompanying a piece written by Janet Chancy, ‘
Sydney Socialite: Advanced Therapy Breakthrough in Facelift Secret: Wedding date revealed!
’ from almost a year ago, showed a completely transformed Simmonds. Radiant and rejuvenated, her face shone from the photograph,
looking like a woman in her mid thirties, glossy hair piled around her unlined face, her jawline firm and youthful. If this
was what Dr Popowitz’s growth factors could do with a facelift, Gemma thought, no wonder there was such excitement about it.

The final paragraph reported that actress Harlow Hadley, a big name in the 1960s and now aged in her seventies, was rumoured
to be the next well-known personality to use the therapy.

BOOK: Death by Beauty
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