Authors: Sara Craven
Rachel had vowed to reach Diablo
In London, it had seemed simple. Go out
to Columbia, bring back her brother,
Mark. It was her one chance to do
something for her beloved grandfather
with whom Mark had quarreled.
In Columbia, nothing went right. Mark
was off in the wilds of Diablo looking
for a legendary emerald--and the one
man who could guide her to the territory
was the handsome, arrogant Vitas de
Rachel didn't trust him an inch, but he
agreed to take her--at a price. Only when
it was too late did Rachel discover that
the price was far, far too high....
A few flakes of snow were drifting
down from a leaden sky as Rachel
Crichton paid off the taxi, and ran up the
shallow flight of steps to the front door.
Her urgent ring at the bell was answered
almost immediately by a tall thin woman
in a neat dark dress, a smile of
thankfulness relieving the anxiety in her
'Oh, Miss Rachel, you've come at last!
He's been asking and asking for you. Dr
Kingston wants to move him to the
Mordaunt Clinic, and he won't go. Said
he had to see you first. He's been getting
himself in a real state—and Miss
Rachel, he mustn't!'
'I know.' Rachel gave the housekeeper's
hand a comforting squeeze. Even after
twenty years, Mrs Thurston still had not
been able to come to terms with Sir
Giles Crichton's arrogant refusal to
allow any denial of his wishes. 'I came
as soon as I got your message. How—
how is he?' She made a little helpless
gesture. 'This is the last thing I was
expecting. He seemed to have got over
the last attack …'
She paused, and saw Mrs Thurston give
a little shake of her head.
'It's bad this time, Miss Rachel; the
worst yet. That's why Doctor Kingston
wants to move him. He told him to his
face that he couldn't be trusted to rest
properly here.' She swallowed. 'I was
with him when it happened, and I thought
we were going to lose him, that I did.'
'Oh, Thursty!' Rachel stared at her in
dismay. 'It must have been awful for you.
I should have been here—the play
closed over a week ago.'
'It wouldn't have made much difference.'
Mrs Thurston seemed to rouse herself
from her anxiety, and moved to help
Rachel off with her coat. 'Sir Giles has
hardly been here himself for the past
fortnight. He's been backwards and
forwards to London nearly every day.
He even spent the night there one day
last week. And when I tried to remind
him of what the doctor had said, he
nearly bit my head off. I said no more,
naturally, but I'm wondering now
whether, if I hadn't given up so easily,
this might have been avoided.'
'I don't think so, Thursty darling. And
you're not to blame yourself.' Rachel
gave a soft sigh. 'We both know what
Grandfather's like when he's got the bit
between his teeth. But what can he have
been doing in London? Did he give no
'None at all, Miss Rachel.' The older
woman hesitated. 'But he seemed—
different. More like his old self. I
wondered if it might have something to
do with Mr Mark.'
'I don't think so, Thursty,' Rachel said
gently. 'But we can always hope. Now,
I'd better go up.'
She ran up the broad, shallow flight of
stairs which led to the first floor
bedrooms, and turned along the landing
to the big double doors of the room
situated at the far end. As she
approached they opened, and a slight
grey-haired man emerged. He looked
tired and anxious, but his eyes lit up
when he saw her, and he laid a finger
conspiratorially over his lips, glancing
back towards the room he had left.
'Uncle Andrew?' she whispered. 'How is
'No worse, but certainly no better either,'
he said quietly. 'Your arrival should
help. He's under sedation, and I rely on
you, Rachel, not to allow him to get
excited in any way. Now that you're here
I'll go and arrange about that ambulance.'
He patted her cheek and went on past her
towards the stairs.
It was very warm in the bedroom. A fire
had been kindled in the old-fashioned
grate, and its leaping flames together
with a shaded bedside lamp provided all
the light in the room.
Her grandfather lay back against the
pillows, his eyes closed. He was very
pale, and there was a bluish tinge around
his mouth which frightened her, but she
was careful not to let the fright show as
she trod across the carpet, her slender
feet noiseless in their low-heeled shoes.
There was a chair close beside the bed,
and she sat down on it, waiting for him
to open his eyes and notice her there,
unwilling to disturb him purposely.
At last his eyes did open, still fiercely
blue, but with some of their former fire
dimmed. For a moment Sir Giles gazed
at her almost without recognition, then
his glance sharpened and focussed, and
he said, 'So you're here at last.'
Rachel tried to ignore the implied
reproach in his words of greeting, to
forget that if he'd been backwards and
forwards to London as Mrs Thurston had
opportunities for him to contact her if
he'd wanted—opportunities that had
remained neglected. She tried to forget
too that the reproach had always been
there, ever since, in fact, the longed-for
first grandchild had been born a girl
instead of the boy he had set his heart on,
and had not been alleviated even with
Mark's birth some two and a half years
She bent over the bed and put her lips to
his cheek. 'I'm here, Grandfather. Can I
get you a drink or anything?'
'No, child.' The effort of speaking
seemed to be using up his breath at an
alarming rate, she thought. 'Just—listen.'
He closed his eyes again and lay still,
absorbed with some interior struggle for
strength. She was just beginning to grow
uneasy, when he said, 'Have you heard
'No, darling,' she said gently. 'Not a
He gave a slight nod. 'Not important. I—
know where he is.'
'You know?' Rachel felt a stab of anger.
'And you never told me? You never ...'
'I'm telling you now, child,' he
interrupted , testily, and she subsided,
remembering what the doctor had said
about not letting him become excited. 'It
was by chance I found out. I had to go up
to Town to see old Grainger. I was
having lunch at the club afterwards when
Larry Forsyth walked in. Do you
'I think so,' Rachel returned almost
mechanically, her brain still whirling
from the news she had just received.
'Wasn't he in the diplomatic service?'
Her grandfather gave a grunt. 'Still is.
He's been out in Colombia for a couple
of years. And that's where he saw Mark,
less than three weeks ago.'
'In Colombia?' Rachel shook her head. 'It
sounds most unlikely. Was he sure it was
'Of course he was sure!' Sir Giles
sounded irritable. 'Knew him at once,
and Mark recognised him too. He was
dining with some people—name of
Arviles. Senor Arviles is one of the top
lawyers in Bogota, according to Larry.'
'Mark was at university with someone
called Arviles— Miguel Arviles,'
Rachel said slowly. 'But I didn't know
he was a Colombian. And I didn't realise
that Mark was on particularly close
terms with him either.'
But then, she thought, why should she
had known? Mark had never been
forthcoming about his friendships, and
Rachel had had to learn to curb her
curiosity, knowing that any suspicion of
over-protectiveness would be resented.
She frowned a little. 'Did Mr Forsyth
know what Mark was actually doing
'Of course not. He assumed I would
know all about it and I allowed him to
think so, or did you imagine I was
prepared to make him cognisant of our
private affairs?' Sir Giles' eyes glared a
little under the bushy white brows and
Rachel said hurriedly,
'No, no. It was silly of me. Did—did
Mark send any kind of message?'
'Apparently he had very little to say for
himself,' her grandfather said shortly.
'That's why I asked whether you'd heard
from him. It occurred to me that as he
must realise his whereabouts are now
known, he might have been in touch.' He
was silent for a moment, his breathing
Rachel was silent too, remembering.
There had been family rows before,
some of them quite spectacular, as when
she had announced her intention of going
to drama school, but somehow she had
known they had not really been
important. Grandfather had been irritated
by the idea of her wishing to become an
actress and had expressed his views
forcibly, but she had always suspected
he was merely going through the
motions. It didn't really matter to him
what Rachel did with her working life,
because she would merely be filling in
time before she made a suitable
But Mark was different. Grandfather had
plans for Mark, and had never made any
secret of the fact, and none of these plans
took into account Mark's openly
acknowledged passion for geology, and
his desire to study it at university. Harsh
words had been uttered on both sides,
but Mark had got his way in the end—as
resignedly. Perhaps Grandfather had
thought it was just a boyish quirk from
which Mark would recover in his own
good time if left unopposed. Only it
hadn't been like that. When he had left
university, it was to seek work as a
geologist, not to succumb to the none too
subtle pressure being exerted to make
him join the family firm.
And that was when the real row had
started. Rachel had been staying at
Abbots Field during that weekend, and
she had been powerless to intercede
while her grandfather and her brother
prepared to tear each other to pieces.
The trouble was they were too alike in
many ways, she thought. Neither of them
could easily see any point of view other
than his own, or even believe that such a
thing existed. The weekend had been full
of tensions—rather like duellists, she
had thought afterwards, selecting their
weapons and taking the prescribed
paces, but the first shots had not been
exchanged until Sunday evening at
dinner, just when she'd begun to hope
that an open confrontation might be
avoided. They'd quickly passed from