Authors: Barbara Delinsky
“I’m not looking for other men.” There had been times when she had, but none had measured up to John. Not that she’d tell that to Pam. It would mean analyzing John’s appeal beyond the physical level, and she didn’t understand that herself. There was something beyond habit, something almost irrational that drew her back to him time and again. “I don’t need a man to survive.”
“I know. Still—”
“I’ll be fine. This has been a shock. That’s all.”
“Yeah, but knowing you, you’ll be back defending John within a week.”
“I’m not defending him now. I agree with you, Pam. He’s gone too far this time.”
“He didn’t tell you beforehand?”
Hillary shook her head.
“Bastard,” Pam whispered viciously. “But that’s nothing new. What’s new is his engagement. After all this time, after everything he’s achieved, it doesn’t make sense.” There was an urgency in her voice. “What is he after? I’ve been trying to figure it out, but nothing fits. John isn’t the marrying kind. He’s too much of a loner. Surrounded by people, yet alone—that’s John in a nutshell. He could never abide having any one person around for long. So what’s changed?”
Hillary had asked herself the same question dozens of times since the
airing. “Maybe he’s going through the midlife crisis he didn’t have time for ten years ago.”
“Maybe. Maybe he’s suddenly thinking of his own mortality, wanting his headstone to read ‘beloved husband.’ But if so, he’s got the wrong woman. I know Janet Curry. Her credentials are impeccable. She’s like one of the old marble buildings that line Commonwealth Avenue—smooth, stately, and cold. I can’t image anything ‘beloved’ about a relationship between those two.” She sighed. “John has never been known to do the unexpected, but this certainly was.”
“Have you spoken with him?” Hillary asked, careful to keep her anxiety in check. Over the years she had often used Pam as a source of information about John. Pam never minded, particularly since the information-sharing was mutual.
She nodded. “Saturday. Briefly. He accepted my congratulations like he does everything else—as though it’s his due. Of course, he thought I was congratulating him on the show. The man is incredible.” It wasn’t a compliment, but then, nothing Pam said about John ever was. So easy with compliments to others, she found little to like about him. “His reflexes don’t seem to work like other people’s. We may have the same father, but I’m telling you, he comes from somewhere strange. No matter that he just popped the surprise announcement of the decade, all he wanted to talk about was the program.”
“I can understand why.”
Pam looked disgusted. “So can I. Have you ever seen anything so one-sided? He managed that interview the way he’s managed things all his life. He’s a master at manipulation. He never enters a situation where he doesn’t have full control. He must have set certain ground rules that
had to follow if they wanted the interview.”
“They must have wanted it badly.”
“I’m sure they did. They had reason. We’ve been asked to provide pieces for the First Family’s trip to Moscow.”
That was the first Hillary had heard of it. “Exciting!” she said and meant it, though she felt another deep twinge of envy. Pam’s star was rising,
rising—while Hillary was still waiting for hers to get off the ground.
“Coverage will be live,” Pam explained, “which means that the reporters will have to fill the dead spots with trivia like clothes and jewelry.”
Even if Hillary had had no interest in jewelry, and even when she was at her most begrudging, she couldn’t think of Pam’s work as trivia. It was too beautiful. And too costly. She couldn’t afford to buy it herself. The only reason she was wearing a Pamela St. George Original—a bold ring with a single green tourmaline set in ceramic—was that Pam had given it to her as a gift. Not John. Pam.
“Believe me, I’m thrilled to be considered trivia,” Pam remarked. “Can you imagine the publicity we’ll be getting? Free publicity? So
decided to scoop the
story before the reporters got it. Apparently the producers were willing to compromise.”
“And go by John’s rules.”
“What else explains it? John has enemies. God only knows he has enemies. So why wasn’t
able to find them?”
“He must have given them a list of who they could talk with.”
“My name sure wasn’t on it,” Pam drawled.
“If it had been, would you have spilled the beans?”
“You bet!” she exclaimed with characteristic impulsiveness, then caught herself in the next breath and sat back in her chair looking torn.
Hillary wasn’t surprised by Pam’s ambivalence. On one hand, Pam’s grievances against John were far from minor. She thought he was a rat and had called him just that many times, particularly in the days before she’d been sophisticated enough to have other words on the tip of her tongue in moments of her undisciplined fury. Hillary had been the one to defend John, to point out that he had doubled, then tripled and quadrupled the net worth of the business, that he paid every cent of the taxes he owed, that he gave handsomely to charity. She had been his champion in all but the most defenseless of his misdeeds, some of which had been directly aimed at Pam.
On the other hand, John was still the ultimate power behind the St. George Company and, hence,
. Pam could easily pick up her designs and go elsewhere, but Hillary doubted she would. Even if it weren’t a matter of respect for the memory of her father and the company he’d started, there was the matter of John’s wrath.
“You’re afraid of him,” she mused, more in sympathy than accusation.
“Not as much as I used to be.”
“But you wouldn’t have spoken with
. You’re too good a person. If you’d agreed to be interviewed, you’d have had to choose between slandering John or lying through your teeth. You couldn’t have done either.” She paused, sat back in her chair, linked her fingers tightly, took a breath. “I can, Pam. And I’m going to. I’m going to write a book about him.”
Pam was startled. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Pam considered that for a minute. She was wary. “What kind of book?”
“A biography. I know him better than most. I’m in a perfect position to do it.”
“But you’re personally involved.”
“So you say.” Pam paused. “I don’t know, Hillary.” Her words were slow, hesitant. “I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.”
Hillary studied Pam’s face and knew from its skeptical expression the direction of her thoughts. Writing a book on John meant writing a book on the St. George Company. It also meant, to some extent, writing a book on Pam, on Pam’s mother, Patricia, and on Cutter.
“I wish you wouldn’t,” Pam said quietly.
“I have to. It’s the only thing that can come out of this whole, horrendous experience. I have to in order to justify who I am.”
Pam thought about that. She looked uneasy. “John will be furious.”
“I know. But I have nothing to lose.”
“I do. I have a husband, a daughter, and a reputation. My mother doesn’t need the exposure. Neither does Cutter.”
“None of you will be hurt. None of you did anything wrong.”
“Still . . .” Pam began, only to be interrupted when a man appeared at their table. Looking up in surprise, she broke into a smile, at the same time extending a hand to be clasped and a cheek to be kissed.
“I saw you walk in and couldn’t resist saying hello,” the man said. “Damn but you look wonderful, Pamela. How have you been?”
“Just fine, Malcolm. It’s so good to see you. Please, let me introduce my friend Hillary Cox. Hillary, Malcolm McCray. I’ve sold some of my favorite pieces to Malcolm’s wife,” she told Hillary, then turned back to Malcolm. “How is Lorraine?”
“Having a great time in Vermont, now that the crowds of skiers have left. I’m heading up there myself on Friday. It’s the only place I can get any rest.”
Hillary could understand it. She knew the man’s name, if not his face. A transplant from San Francisco, Malcolm McCray owned several of the newest and most posh hotels in New York. He and his wife were also involved with the charity ball scene, if
was to be believed. Hillary wasn’t surprised that Pam knew them; her circle had grown larger and more illustrious in the past few years. Rising stars had a way of generating tails like that.
“Will you give her my best?” Pam asked.
“Of course.” Malcolm lowered his voice. “How about Brendan? Is he doing any better?”
Pam smiled sadly. “He has his ups and downs.”
“Next time he’s up, come see us. The country is a healing place.”
The sad smile remained. “Thanks. We appreciate the thought.”
With a final squeeze of her hand and a nod to Hillary, he left. Pam opened her menu, but Hillary could see that her thoughts were in Boston.
“How is he?”
“Brendan?” Closing the menu again, Pam wavered one hand. “The treatment can be worse than the disease. It’s hard not to get discouraged.”
“Are the doctors discouraged?”
“Who knows. We don’t always get straight answers from them.”
“Do you ask straight questions?”
“Of course not. Some things we don’t want to hear.”
“But you do keep smiling.”
“I have to. For Brendan’s sake, if nothing else. And it’s not so bad. I’m busy with work. It’s one escape. Ariana is another.” Her face brightened at the mention of her daughter. “She is an angel. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her. She stands for so much—hope and love—all kinds of other things. She was—is—a gift.”
After only the briefest of pauses, Hillary asked, “Are you in touch with Cutter?”
Pam studied the delicate sterling scrollwork at the end of her butter knife. “We talk. I haven’t seen him for a while, what with Brendan being sick. But,” her voice fell, “I don’t know what I’d do if I were completely cut off from him.” She took a fast breath. “This conversation is getting maudlin. Let’s order.” She glanced at the waiter, who was quickly by her side.
But Hillary wasn’t about to let the subject drop. As soon as the waiter left, she set down her wineglass. “You have a greater axe to grind than I do, you know.”
Hillary nodded. “Your life would be very different if it weren’t for him.”
After a moment’s thought, Pam propped her elbows on the arms of her chair and looked Hillary in the eye. “True. He’s not much better than scum, which is really pretty funny when you consider that he’s spent his life trying to prove what an aristocrat he is.”
“It’s time someone pointed that out,” Hillary said, thinking of her book.
Pam was thinking of it too, if her earnest tone was any indication. “But there are other ways. Less public, but more powerful ways. We’ll get him, Hillary. We’ll get him where it hurts.”
Hillary saw the purposeful set of her jaw. She had seen it before and never pursued it, but, with John’s defection, times had changed. “Is that wishful thinking on your part?”
“Believe me. He’ll get his.”
“Inside the business?”
“Inside—outside—whatever. It’s coming, Hillary.”
“Justice. Sweet, sweet justice.”
Needing more than that, Hillary tried a teasing tone. “What’s going on, Pam? You’ve hinted at things before. I’ve seen that same look on your face, and it’s stronger each time I see it. You’re doing something, aren’t you? You and Cutter?”
“John’s the one who’s doing it.”
“That’s a platitude if I’ve ever heard one.” When Pam didn’t deny it, Hillary chided, “You wouldn’t have gone on
. You wouldn’t have stood up to him in public.”
“Television was the wrong forum.”
“So what’s the right one?” Hillary thought her book was. Clearly, Pam disagreed.
“There’s a right one. Trust me. He’ll get his.”
“When?” After several seconds of silence, Hillary asked, “How?”
Pam sighed. “I can’t say more now. But think about it. It stands to reason that when a man like John goes through life hurting the people closest to him, at some point they’ll strike back. You want to strike now—as many of us have wanted to for years—but there are ways and there are ways. Some are better than others. It may take time to do it right, but it will happen. So help me God, it will.”
Hillary wasn’t particularly reassured. She wanted to write her book. She didn’t want to wait around while Pam and Cutter and whoever else they were in cahoots with plotted revenge against John. She had her own instrument of revenge, and she wanted to use it now.
“Don’t worry,” Pam said, misinterpreting her expression. “It won’t be cheap. We’re not talking a public smear here.”
“A public smear mightn’t be so awful,” Hillary argued. “When a man goes public, he goes public. As of last Friday night, John is fair game. He wanted the good and took it, and now he has to risk the bad.”
“I doubt he sees it that way.”
“Probably not, the pompous ass.”
Pam gave a dry smile. “Now I know he’s in trouble. When you start calling him names, he’s up the creek.”