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Authors: Sidney Sheldon

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BOOK: Morning Noon & Night
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He finally fell asleep.

At ten o’clock the following morning, Steve Sloane appeared again at the Préfecture. The same sergeant was seated behind the desk.

“Good morning,” Steve said.


Bonjour
, monsieur. Can I help to assist you?”

Steve handed the sergeant another business card. “I’m here to see Capitaine Durer.”

“A moment.” The sergeant got up, walked into the inner office, and closed the door behind him.

Capitaine Durer, dressed in an impressive new uniform, was being interviewed by an RAI television crew from Italy. He was looking into the camera. “When I took charge of the case, the first thing I did was to make certain that there was no foul play involved in Monsieur Stanford’s death.”

The interviewer asked, “And you were satisfied that there was none, Capitaine?”

Capitaine Durer hesitated for a dramatic moment. “No. Please, gentlemen, do what you must.”

And the cameras began to flash.

The Colomba was a modest hotel but neat and clean, and his room was satisfactory. Steve’s first move was to telephone Simon Fitzgerald.

“I’m afraid this will take longer than I thought,” Sloane said.

“What’s the problem?”

“Red tape. I’m going to see the man in charge tomorrow morning, and I’ll get it straightened out. I should be on my way back to Boston by afternoon.”

“Very good, Steve. I’ll speak to you tomorrow.”

He had lunch at La Fontana on Rue Nôtre Dame, and with the rest of the day to kill, started exploring the town.

Ajaccio was a colorful Mediterranean town that still basked in the glory of having been Napoleon Bonaparte’s birthplace.
I think Harry Stanford would have identified with this place
, Steve thought.

It was the tourist season in Corsica, and the streets were crowded with visitors chatting away in French, Italian, German, and Japanese.

That evening Steve had an Italian dinner at Boccaccio and returned to his hotel.

“Any messages?” he asked the room clerk, optimistically.

“Completely satisfied. There is no question but that it was an unfortunate accident.”

The director said, “
Bene
. Let us cut to another angle and a closer shot.”

The sergeant took the opportunity to hand Capitaine Durer Sloane’s business card. “He is outside.”

“What is the matter with you?” Durer growled. “Can’t you see I’m busy? Have him come back tomorrow.” He had just received word that there were a dozen more reporters on their way, some from as far away as Russia and South Africa. “
Demain
.”


Oui
.”

“Are you ready, Capitaine?” the director asked.

Capitaine Durer smiled. “I’m ready.”

The sergeant returned to the outer office. “I am sorry, monsieur. Capitaine Durer is out of business today.”

“So am I,” Steve snapped. “Tell him that all he has to do is sign a paper authorizing the release of Mr. Stanford’s body, and I’ll be on my way. That’s not too much to ask, is it?”

“I am afraid, yes. The capitaine has many responsibles, and—”

“Can’t someone else give me the authorization?”

“Oh, no, monsieur. Only the capitaine can do the authority.”

Steve Sloane stood there, seething. “When can I see him?”

“I suggest if you try again tomorrow morning.”

The phrase
try again
grated on Steve’s ears. “I’ll do that,” he said. “By the way, I understand there was an eyewitness to the accident—Mr. Stanford’s bodyguard, a Dmitri Kaminsky.”

“Yes.”

“I would like to talk to him. Could you tell me where he’s staying?”

“Australia.”

“Is that a hotel?”

“No, monsieur.” There was pity in his voice. “It is a country.”

Steve’s voice rose an octave. “Are you telling me that the only witness to Stanford’s death was allowed by the police to leave here before anyone could interrogate him?”

“Capitaine Durer interrogated him.”

Steve took a deep breath. “Thank you.”

“No problems, monsieur.”

When Steve returned to his hotel, he reported back to Simon Fitzgerald.

“It looks like I’m going to have to stay another night here.”

“What’s going on, Steve?”

“The man in charge seems to be very busy. It’s the tourist season. He’s probably looking for some lost purses. I should be out of here by tomorrow.”

“Stay in touch.”

In spite of his irritation, Steve found the island of Corsica enchanting. It had almost a thousand miles of coastline, with soaring, granite mountains that stayed snow-topped until July. The island had been ruled by the Italians until France took it over, and the combination of the two cultures was fascinating.

During his dinner at the Crêperie U San Carlu, he remembered how Simon Fitzgerald had described Harry Stanford. “
He was the only man I’ve ever known who was totally without compassion…sadistic and vindictive
.…”

Well, Harry Stanford is causing a hell of a lot of trouble even in death
, Steve thought.

On his way to his hotel, Steve stopped at a newsstand to pick up a copy of the
International Herald Tribune
. The headline read:
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE STANFORD EMPIRE
? He paid for the newspaper, and as he turned to leave, his eye was caught by the headlines in some of the other foreign papers on the stand. He picked them up and looked through them, stunned. Every single newspaper had frontpage stories about the death of Harry Stanford, and in each one of them, Capitaine Durer was prominently featured, his photograph beaming from the pages.
So that’s what’s keeping him so busy! We’ll see about that
.

At nine forty-five the following morning, Steve returned to Capitaine Durer’s reception office. The sergeant was not at his desk, and the door to the inner office was ajar. Steve pushed it open and stepped inside. The capitaine was changing into a new uniform, preparing for his morning press interviews. He looked up as Steve entered.


Qu’est-ce que vous faites ici? C’est un bureau privé! Allez-vous-en!

“I’m with
The New York Times
,” Steve Sloane said.

Instantly, Durer brightened. “Ah, come in, come in. You said your name is…?”

“Jones. John Jones.”

“Can I offer you something, perhaps? Coffee? Cognac?”

“Nothing, thanks,” Steve said.

“Please, please, sit down.” Durer’s voice became somber. “You are here, of course, about the terrible tragedy that has happened on our little island. Poor Monsieur Stanford.”

“When do you plan to release the body?” Steve asked.

Capitaine Durer sighed. “Ah, I am afraid not for many, many days. There are a great number of forms to fill out in the case of a man as important as Monsieur Stanford. There are protocols to be followed, you understand.”

“I think I do,” Steve said.

“Perhaps ten days. Perhaps, two weeks.”
By then the interest of the press will have cooled down
.

“Here’s my card,” Steve said. He handed Capitaine Durer a card.

The capitaine glanced at it, then took a closer look. “You are an attorney. You are not a reporter?”

“No. I’m Harry Stanford’s attorney.” Steve Sloane rose. “I want your authorization to release his body.”

“Ah, I wish I could give it to you,” Capitaine Durer said, regretfully. “Unfortunately, my hands are tied. I do not see how—”

“Tomorrow.”

“That is impossible! There is no way…”

“I suggest that you get in touch with your superiors in Paris. Stanford Enterprises has several very large factories in France. It would be a shame if our board of directors decided to close all of them down and build in other countries.”

Capitaine Durer was staring at him. “I…I have no control over such matters, monsieur.”

“But
I
do,” Steve assured him. “You will see that Mr. Stanford’s body is released to me tomorrow, or you’re going to find yourself in more trouble than you can possibly imagine.” Steve turned to leave.

“Wait! Monsieur! Perhaps in a few days, I can—”

“Tomorrow.” And Steve was gone.

Three hours later, Steve Sloane received a telephone call at his hotel.

“Monsieur Sloane? Ah, I have wonderful news for you! I have managed to arrange for Mr. Stanford’s body to be released to you immediately. I hope you appreciate the trouble…”

“Thank you. A private plane will leave here at eight o’clock tomorrow morning to take us back. I assume all the proper papers will be in order by then.”

“Yes, of course. Do not worry. I will see to—”

“Good.” Steve replaced the receiver.

Capitaine Durer sat there for a long time.
Merde! What bad luck! I could have been a celebrity for at least another week
.

When the plane carrying Harry Stanford’s body landed at Logan International Airport in Boston, there was a hearse waiting to meet it. Funeral services were to be held three days later.

Steve Sloane reported back to Simon Fitzgerald.

“So the old man is finally home,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s going to be quite a reunion.”

“A reunion?”

“Yes. It should be interesting,” he said. “Harry Stanford’s children are coming here to celebrate their father’s death. Tyler, Woody, and Kendall.”

Chapter Eight

J
udge Tyler Stanford had first seen the story on Chicago’s station WBBM. He had stared at the television set, mesmerized, his heart pounding. There was a picture of the yacht
Blue Skies
, and a news commentator was saying, “…in a storm, in Corsican waters, when the tragedy occurred. Dmitri Kaminsky, Harry Stanford’s bodyguard, was a witness to the accident, but was unable to save his employer. Harry Stanford was known in financial circles as one of the shrewdest…”

Tyler sat there, watching the shifting images, remembering, remembering.…

It was the loud voices that had awakened him in the middle of the night. He was fourteen years old. He had listened to the angry voices for a few minutes, then crept down the upstairs hall to the staircase. In the foyer below, his mother
and father were having a fight. His mother was screaming, and he watched his father slap her across the face.

The picture on the television set shifted. There was a scene of Harry Stanford in the Oval Office of the White House, shaking hands with President Ronald Reagan. “…One of the cornerstones of the president’s new financial task force, Harry Stanford has been an important adviser to…”

They were playing football in back of the house, and his brother, Woody, threw the ball toward the house. Tyler chased it, and as he picked it up, he heard his father, on the other side of the hedge. “I’m in love with you. You know that!”

He stopped, thrilled that his mother and father were not fighting, and then he heard the voice of their governess, Rosemary. “You’re married. I want you to leave me alone.”

And he suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He loved his mother and he loved Rosemary. His father was a terrifying stranger.

The picture on the screen flashed to a series of shots of Harry Stanford posing with Margaret Thatcher…President Mitterrand…Mikhail Gorbachev.…The announcer
was saying, “The legendary tycoon was equally at home with factory workers and world leaders.”

He was passing the door to his father’s office when he heard Rosemary’s voice. “I’m leaving.” And then his father’s voice, “I won’t let you leave. You’ve got to be reasonable, Rosemary! This is the only way that you and I can…”

“I won’t listen to you. And I’m keeping the baby!”

Then Rosemary had disappeared.

The scene on the television set shifted again. There were old clips of the Stanford family in front of a church, watching a coffin being lifted into a hearse. The commentator was saying, “…Harry Stanford and the children beside the coffin…Mrs. Stanford’s suicide was attributed to her failing health. According to police investigators, Harry Stanford…”

In the middle of the night, he had been shaken awake by his father. “Get up, son. I have some bad news for you.”

The fourteen-year-old boy began trembling.

“Your mother had an accident, Tyler.”

It was a lie. His father had killed her. She had committed suicide because of his father and his affair with Rosemary.

The newspapers had been filled with the story. It was a scandal that rocked Boston, and the tabloids took full advantage of it. There was no way to keep the news from the Stanford children. Their classmates made their lives hell. In just twenty-four hours, the three young children had lost the two people they loved most. And it was their father who was to blame.

“I don’t care if he is our father.” Kendall sobbed. “I hate him.”

“Me, too!”

“Me, too!”

They thought about running away, but they had nowhere to go. They decided to rebel.

Tyler was delegated to talk to him. “We want a different father. We don’t want you.”

Harry Stanford had looked at him and said, coldly, “I think we can arrange that.”

Three weeks later, they were all shipped off to different boarding schools.

As the years went by, the children saw very little of their father. They read about him in newspapers, or watched him on television, escorting beautiful women or chatting with celebrities, but the only time they were with him was on what he called “occasions”—photo opportunities at Christmastime or other holidays—to show what a devoted father he was. After that, the children were sent back to their different schools and camps until the next “occasion.”

Tyler sat hypnotized by what he was watching. On the television screen was a montage of factories in different parts of the world, with pictures of his father. “…one of the largest privately held conglomerates in the world. Harry Stanford, who created it, was a legend…The question in the minds of Wall Street experts is, What is going to happen to the family-owned company now that its founder is gone? Harry Stanford left three children, but it is not known who will inherit the multibillion-dollar fortune that Stanford left behind, or who will control the corporation.…”

He was six years old. He loved roaming around the large house, exploring all the exciting rooms. The only place that was off-limits to him was his father’s office. Tyler was aware that important meetings went on in there. Impressive-looking men dressed in dark suits were constantly coming and going, meeting with his father. The fact that the office was off-limits to Tyler made it irresistible.

One day when his father was away, Tyler decided to go into the office. The huge room was overpowering, awesome. Tyler stood there, looking at the large desk and at the huge leather chair that his father sat in.
One day I’m going to sit in that chair, and I’m going to be important like Father
. He moved over to the desk and examined it. There were dozens of official-looking papers on it. He moved around to the back of the desk and sat in his father’s chair. It felt wonderful.
I’m important now, too!


What the hell are you doing
?”

Tyler looked up, startled. His father stood in the doorway, furious.

“Who told you you could sit behind that desk?”

The young boy was trembling. “I…I just wanted to see what it was like.…”

His father stormed over to him. “Well, you’ll never know what it’s like!
Never!
Now get the hell out of here and
stay out
!”

Tyler ran upstairs, sobbing, and his mother came to his room. She put her arms around him. “Don’t cry, darling. It’s going to be all right.”

“It’s…it’s
not
going to be all right,” he sobbed. “He…he hates me!”

“No. He doesn’t hate you.”

“All I did was to sit in his chair.”

“It’s
his
chair, darling. He doesn’t want anyone to sit in it.”

He could not stop crying. She held him close and said, “Tyler, when your father and I were married, he said he wanted me to be part of his company. He gave me one share of stock. It was kind of a family joke. I’m going to give you that share. I’ll put it in a trust for you. So now you’re part of the company, too. All right?”

There were one hundred shares of stock in Stanford Enterprises, and Tyler was now a proud owner of one share.

When Harry Stanford heard what his wife had done, he scoffed, “What the hell do you think he’s going to do with that one share? Take over the company?”

Tyler switched off the television set and sat there, adjusting to the news. He felt a deep sense of satisfaction. Traditionally, sons wanted to be successful to please their fathers. Tyler Stanford had longed to be a success so he could
destroy
his father.

As a child, he had a recurring dream that his father was charged with murdering his mother, and Tyler was the one who would pass sentence.
I sentence you to die in the electric chair!
Sometimes the dream would vary, and Tyler would sentence his father to be hanged or poisoned or shot. The dreams became almost real.

The military school he was sent to was in Mississippi, and it was four years of pure hell. Tyler hated the discipline and the rigid life-style. In his first year at school, he seriously contemplated committing suicide, and the only thing that stopped him was the determination not to give his father that satisfaction.
He killed my mother. He’s not going to kill me
.

It seemed to Tyler that his instructors were particularly hard on him, and he was sure his father was responsible. Tyler refused to let the school break him. Although he was forced to go home on holidays, his visits with his father grew more and more unpleasant.

His brother and sister were also home for holidays, but there was no sense of kinship. Their father had destroyed that. They were strangers to one another, waiting for the holidays to be over so they could escape.

Tyler knew that his father was a multibillionaire but that
the small allowance that Tyler, Woody, and Kendall had came from their mother’s estate. As he grew older, Tyler wondered whether he was entitled to the family fortune. He was sure he and his siblings were being cheated.
I need an attorney
. That, of course, was out of the question, but his next thought was,
I’m going to become an attorney
.

When Tyler’s father heard about his son’s plans, he said, “So, you’re going to become a lawyer, huh? I suppose you think I’ll give you a job with Stanford Enterprises. Well, forget it. I wouldn’t let you within a mile of it!”

When Tyler was graduated from law school, he could have practiced in Boston, and because of the family name, he would have been welcomed on the boards of dozens of companies, but he preferred to get far away from his father.

He decided to set up a law practice in Chicago. In the beginning, it was difficult. He refused to trade on his family name, and clients were scarce. Chicago politics were run by the Machine, and Tyler very quickly learned that it would be advantageous for a young lawyer to become involved with the powerful central Cook County Lawyers Association. He was given a job with the district attorney’s office. He had a keen mind and was a quick study, and it was not long before he became invaluable to them. He prosecuted felons accused of every conceivable crime, and his record of convictions was phenomenal.

He rose rapidly through the ranks, and finally the day
came when he received his reward. He was elected Cook County circuit court judge. He had thought his father finally would be proud of him. He was wrong.

“You? A circuit court judge? For God’s sake, I wouldn’t let you judge a baking contest!”

Judge Tyler Stanford was a short, slightly overweight man with sharp, calculating eyes and a hard mouth. He had none of his father’s charisma or attractiveness. His outstanding feature was a deep, sonorous voice, perfect for pronouncing sentence.

Tyler Stanford was a private man who kept his thoughts to himself. He was forty years old, but he looked much older than his years. He prided himself on having no sense of humor. Life was too grim for levity. His only hobby was chess, and once a week he played at a local club, where he invariably won.

Tyler Stanford was a brilliant jurist, held in high esteem by his fellow judges, who often came to him for advice. Very few people were aware that he was one of
the
Stanfords. He never mentioned his father’s name.

The judge’s chambers were in the large Cook County Criminal Court Building at Twenty-sixth and California streets, a fourteen-story stone edifice with steps leading up to the front entrance. It was in a dangerous neighborhood, and a notice outside, stated:
BY JUDICIAL ORDER
,
ALL PERSONS ENTERING THIS BUILDING SHALL SUBMIT TO SEARCH
.

This was where Tyler spent his days, hearing cases involving
robbery, burglary, rape, shootings, drugs, and murders. Ruthless in his decisions, he became known as the Hanging Judge. All day long he listened to defendants pleading poverty, child abuse, broken homes, and a hundred other excuses. He accepted none of them. A crime was a crime and had to be punished. And in the back of his mind, always, was his father.

Tyler Stanford’s fellow judges knew very little about his personal life. They knew that he had had a bitter marriage and was now divorced, and that he lived alone in a small three-bedroom Georgian house on Kimbark Avenue in Hyde Park. The area was surrounded by beautiful old homes, because the great fire of 1871 that razed Chicago had whimsically spared the Hyde Park district. He made no friends in the neighborhood, and his neighbors knew nothing about him. He had a housekeeper who came in three times a week, but Tyler did the shopping himself. He was a methodical man with a fixed routine. On Saturdays, he went to Harper Court, a small shopping mall near his home, or to Mr. G’s Fine Foods or Medici’s on Fifty-seventh Street.

From time to time, at official gatherings, Tyler would meet the wives of his fellow jurists. They sensed that he was lonely, and they offered to introduce him to women friends or invite him to dinner. He always declined.

“I’m busy that evening.”

His evenings seemed to be full, but they had no idea what he was doing with them.

“Tyler isn’t interested in anything but the law,” one of the judges explained to his wife. “And he’s just not interested in meeting any women yet. I heard he had a terrible marriage.”

He was right.

After his divorce, Tyler had sworn to himself that he would never become emotionally involved again. And then he had met Lee, and everything had suddenly changed. Lee was beautiful, sensitive, and caring—the one Tyler wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Tyler loved Lee, but why should Lee love him? A successful model, Lee had dozens of admirers, most of them wealthy. And Lee liked expensive things.

Tyler had felt that his cause was hopeless. There was no way to compete with others for Lee’s affection. But overnight, with the death of his father, everything could change. He could become wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.

He could give Lee the world.

Tyler walked into the chambers of the chief judge. “Keith, I’m afraid I have to go to Boston for a few days. Family affairs. I wonder if you would have someone take over my caseload for me.”

“Of course. I’ll arrange it,” the chief judge said.

“Thank you.”

That afternoon, Judge Tyler Stanford was on his way to Boston. On the plane, he thought again about his father’s words on that terrible day: “
I know your dirty little secret
.”

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