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Authors: Sidney Sheldon

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BOOK: Morning Noon & Night
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Chapter Four

H
is idol was Dan Quayle, and he often used the name as his touchstone.

“I don’t care what you say about Quayle, he’s the only politician with real values. Family—that’s what it’s all about. Without family values, this country would be up the creek even worse than it is. All these young kids are living together without being married, and having babies. It’s shocking. No wonder there’s so much crime. If Dan Quayle ever runs for president, he’s sure got my vote.” It was a shame, he thought, that he couldn’t vote because of a stupid law, but, regardless, he was behind Quayle all the way.

He had four children: Billy, eight, and the girls—Amy, Clarissa, and Susan, ten, twelve, and fourteen. They were wonderful children, and his greatest joy was spending what he liked to call quality time with them. His weekends were totally devoted to the children. He barbecued for them, played with them, took them to movies and ball games, and helped them with their homework. All the youngsters in the
neighborhood adored him. He repaired their bikes and toys, and invited them on picnics with his family. They gave him the nickname of Papa.

On a sunny Saturday morning, he was seated in the bleachers, watching the baseball game. It was a picture-perfect day, with warm sunshine and fluffy cumulus clouds dappling the sky. His eight-year-old son, Billy, was at bat, looking very professional and grown up in his Little League uniform. Papa’s three girls and his wife were at his side.
It doesn’t get any better than this
, he thought happily.
Why can’t all families be like ours
?

It was the bottom of the eighth inning, the score was tied, with two outs and the bases loaded. Billy was at the plate, three balls and two strikes against him.

Papa called out, encouragingly, “Get ‘em, Billy! Over the fence!”

Billy waited for the pitch. It was fast and low, and Billy swung wildly and missed.

The umpire yelled, “Strike three!”

The inning was over.

There were groans and cheers from the crowd of parents and family friends. Billy stood there disheartened, watching the teams change sides.

Papa called out, “It’s all right, son. You’ll do it next time!”

Billy tried to force a smile.

John Cotton, the team manager, was waiting for Billy. “You’re outta the game!” he said.

“But, Mr. Cotton…”

“Go on. Get off the field.”

Billy’s father watched in hurt amazement as his son left the field.
He can’t do that
, he thought.
He has to give Billy another chance. I’ll have to speak to Mr. Cotton and explain
. At that instant, the cellular phone he carried rang. He let it ring four times before he answered it. Only one person had the number.
He knows I hate to be disturbed on weekends
, he thought angrily.

Reluctantly, he lifted the antenna, pressed a button, and spoke into the mouthpiece. “Hello?”

The voice at the other end spoke quietly for several minutes. Papa listened, nodding from time to time. Finally he said, “Yes. I understand. I’ll take care of it.” He put the phone away.

“Is everything all right, darling?” his wife asked.

“No. I’m afraid it isn’t. They want me to work over the weekend. I was planning a nice barbecue for us tomorrow.”

His wife took his hand and said lovingly, “Don’t worry about it. Your work is more important.”

Not as important as my family
, he thought stubbornly.
Dan Quayle would understand
.

His hand began to itch fiercely and he scratched it.
Why does it do that
? he wondered.
I’ll have to see a dermatologist one of these days
.

John Cotton was the assistant manager at the local supermarket. A burly man in his fifties, he had agreed to manage
the Little League team because his son was a ballplayer. His team had lost that afternoon because of young Billy.

The supermarket had closed, and John Cotton was in the parking lot, walking toward his car, when a stranger approached him, carrying a package.

“Excuse me, Mr. Cotton.”

“Yes?”

“I wonder if I could talk to you for a moment?”

“The store is closed.”

“Oh, it’s not that. I wanted to talk to you about my son. Billy is very upset that you took him out of the game and told him he couldn’t play again.”

“Billy is your son? I’m sorry he was even
in
the game. He’ll never be a ballplayer.”

Billy’s father said earnestly, “You’re not being fair, Mr. Cotton. I know Billy. He’s really a fine ballplayer. You’ll see. When he plays next Saturday—”

“He isn’t
going
to play next Saturday. He’s out.”

“But…”

“No but’s. That’s it. Now, if there’s nothing else…”

“Oh, there is.” Billy’s father had unwrapped the package in his hand, revealing a baseball bat. He said pleadingly, “This is the bat that Billy used. You can see that it’s chipped, so it isn’t fair to punish him because—”

“Look, mister, I don’t give a damn about the bat. Your son is out!”

Billy’s father sighed unhappily. “You’re sure you won’t change your mind?”

“No chance.”

As Cotton reached for the door handle of his car, Billy’s father
swung the bat against the rear window, smashing it.

Cotton stared at him in shock. “What…what the hell are you doing?”

“Warming up,” Papa explained. He raised the bat and swung it again, smashing it against Cotton’s kneecap.

John Cotton screamed and fell to the ground, writhing in pain. “You’re crazy!” he yelled. “Help!”

Billy’s father knelt beside him and said softly, “Make one more sound, and I’ll break your other kneecap.”

Cotton stared up at him in agony, terrified.

“If my son isn’t in the game next Saturday, I’ll kill you and I’ll kill your son. Do I make myself clear?”

Cotton looked into the man’s eyes and nodded, fighting to keep from screaming with pain.

“Good. Oh, and I wouldn’t want this to get out. I’ve got friends.” He looked at his watch. He had just enough time to catch the next flight to Boston.

His hand began to itch again.

At seven o’clock Sunday morning, dressed in a vested suit and carrying an expensive leather briefcase, he walked past Vendome, through Copley Square, and on to Stuart Street. A half block past the Park Plaza Castle, he entered the Boston Trust Building and approached the guard. With dozens of tenants in the huge building, there would be no way the guard at the reception desk could identify him.

“Good morning,” the man said.

“Good morning, sir. May I help you?”

He sighed. “Even God can’t help me. They think I have nothing to do but spend my Sundays doing the work that someone else should have done.”

The guard said, sympathetically, “I know the feeling.” He pushed a log book forward. “Would you sign in, please?”

He signed in and walked over to the bank of elevators. The office he was looking for was on the fifth floor. He took the elevator to the sixth floor, walked down a flight, and moved down the corridor. The legend on the door read,
RENQUIST
,
RENQUIST & FITZGERALD
,
ATTORNEYS AT LAW
. He looked around to make certain the corridor was deserted, then opened his briefcase and took out a small pick and a tension tool. It took him five seconds to open the locked door. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him.

The reception room was furnished in old-fashioned conservative taste, as befitted one of Boston’s top law firms. The man stood there a moment, orienting himself, then moved toward the back, to a filing room where records were kept. Inside the room was a bank of steel cabinets with alphabetical labels on the front. He tried the cabinet marked
R
-
S
. It was locked.

From his briefcase, he removed a blank key, a file, and a pair of pliers. He pushed the blank key inside the small cabinet lock, gently turning it from side to side. After a moment, he withdrew it and examined the black markings on it. Holding the key with the pair of pliers, he carefully filed off the black spots. He put the key into the lock again, and repeated the procedure. He was humming quietly to himself as he picked the lock, and he smiled as he suddenly realized what he was humming. “Far Away Places.”

I’ll take my family on vacation, he thought happily.
A real vacation. I’ll bet the kids would love Hawaii
.

The cabinet drawer came open, and he pulled it toward him. It took only a moment to find the folder he wanted. He removed a small Pentax camera from his briefcase and went to work. Ten minutes later he was finished. He took several pieces of Kleenex from the briefcase, walked over to the water cooler, and wet them. He returned to the filing room and wiped up the steel shavings on the floor. He locked the file cabinet, made his way out to the corridor, locked the front door to the offices, and left the building.

Chapter Five

A
t sea, later that evening, Captain Vacarro came to Harry Stanford’s stateroom.

“Signor Stanford…”

“Yes?”

The captain pointed to the electronic map on the wall. “I’m afraid the winds are getting worse. The
libeccio
is centered in the Strait of Bonifacio. I would suggest that we take shelter in a harbor until—”

Stanford cut him short. “This is a good ship, and you’re a good captain. I’m sure you can handle it.”

Captain Vacarro hesitated. “As you say, signor. I will do my best.”

“I’m sure you will, Captain.”

Harry Stanford sat in the office of his suite, planning his strategy. He would meet René in Corsica and get everything
straightened out. After that, the helicopter would fly him to Naples, and from there he would charter a plane to take him to Boston.
Everything is going to be fine
, he decided.
All I need is forty-eight hours. Just forty-eight hours
.

He was awakened at two
A
.
M
. by the wild pitching of the yacht and a howling gale outside. Stanford had been in storms before, but this was one of the worst. Captain Vacarro had been right. Harry Stanford got out of bed, holding on to the nightstand to steady himself, and made his way to the wall map. The ship was in the Strait of Bonifacio.
We should be in Ajaccio in the next few hours
, he thought.
Once we’re there, we’ll be safe
.

The events that occurred later that night were a matter of speculation. The papers strewn around the veranda suggested that the strong wind had blown some of the others away, and that Harry Stanford had tried to retrieve them, but because of the pitching yacht he had lost his balance and fallen overboard. Dmitri Kaminsky saw him fall into the water and immediately grabbed the intercom.

“Man overboard!”

Chapter Six

C
apitaine François Durer,
chef de police
in Corsica, was in a foul mood. The island was overcrowded with stupid summer tourists who were incapable of holding onto their passports, their wallets, or their children. Complaints had come streaming in all day long to the tiny police headquarters at 2 Cours Napoléon off Rue Sergent Casa-longa.

“A man snatched my purse.…”

“My ship sailed without me. My wife is on board.…”

“I bought this watch from someone on the street. It has nothing inside.…”

“The drugstores here don’t carry the pills I need.…”

The problems were endless, endless, endless.

And now it seemed that the capitaine had a body on his hands.

“I have no time for this now,” he snapped.

“But they’re waiting outside,” his assistant informed him. “What shall I tell them?”

Capitaine Durer was impatient to get to his mistress. His impulse was to say, “Take the body to some other island,” but he was, after all, the chief police official on the island.

“Very well.” He sighed. “I’ll see them briefly.”

A moment later, Captain Vacarro and Dmitri Kaminsky were ushered into the office.

“Sit down,” Capitaine Durer said, ungraciously.

The two men took chairs.

“Tell me, please, exactly what occurred.”

Captain Vacarro said, “I’m not sure exactly. I didn’t see it happen.…” He turned to Dmitri Kaminsky. “He was an eyewitness. Perhaps he should explain it.”

Dmitri took a deep breath. “It was terrible. I work…worked for the man.”

“Doing what, monsieur?”

“Bodyguard, masseur, chauffeur. Our yacht was caught in the storm last night. It was very bad. He asked me to give him a massage to relax him. Afterward, he asked me to get him a sleeping pill. They were in the bathroom. When I returned, he was standing out on the veranda, at the railing. The storm was tossing the yacht around. He had been holding some papers in his hand. One of them flew away, and he reached out to grab for it, lost his balance, and fell over the side. I raced to save him, but there was nothing I could do. I called for help. Captain Vacarro immediately stopped the ship, and through the captain’s heroic efforts, we found him. But it was too late. He had drowned.”

“I am very sorry.” He could not have cared less.

Captain Vacarro spoke up. “The wind and the sea carried the body back to the yacht. It was pure luck, but now we
would like permission to take the body home.”

“That should be no problem.” He would still have time to have a drink with his mistress before he went home to his wife. “I will have a death certificate and an exit visa for the body prepared at once.” He picked up a yellow pad. “The name of the victim?”

“Harry Stanford.”

Capitaine Durer was suddenly very still. He looked up. “Harry Stanford?”

“Yes.”


The
Harry Stanford?”

“Yes.”

And Capitaine Durer’s future suddenly became much brighter. The gods had dropped manna in his lap. Harry Stanford was an international legend! The news of his death would reverberate around the world, and he, Capitaine Durer, was in control of the situation. The immediate question was how to manipulate it for the maximum benefit to himself. Durer sat there, staring into space, thinking.

“How soon can you release the body?” Captain Vacarro asked.

He looked up. “Ah. That’s a good question.”
How much time will it take for the press to arrive? Should I ask the yacht’s captain to participate in the interview? No. Why share the glory with him? I will handle this alone
. “There is much to be done,” he said regretfully. “Papers to prepare…” He sighed. “It could well be a week or more.”

Captain Vacarro was appalled. “A week or more? But you said—”

“There are certain formalities to be observed,” Durer said
sternly. “These matters can’t be rushed.” He picked up the yellow pad again. “Who is the next of kin?”

Captain Vacarro looked at Dmitri for help.

“I guess you’d better check with his attorneys in Boston.”

“The names?”

“Renquist, Renquist, and Fitzgerald.”

BOOK: Morning Noon & Night
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ads

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