Authors: Susan Lewis
Tags: #General, #Fiction
‘Will you stop this,’ he snapped. ‘This is
home and if you feel that strongly about Michelle staying here, then I’ll book her into a goddamned hotel and be done with it.’
Though Ellen would have liked nothing better than to leave it at that, she knew she couldn’t. ‘You just don’t get it, do you?’ she cried. ‘I’ve got no rights here, Michael. I don’t have any say in what goes on. He’s her son and I don’t want to be here when she walks through that door and makes me feel as though I’m some kind of understudy, living with
son and his father while she’s off saving the world.’
Michael dropped his head and pushed a hand through his hair. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I guess I didn’t see it that way.’ He looked up at her face and saw the anguish in her eyes. ‘You do have rights,’ he told her, ‘and you do have a say. She’s a reasonable woman, I’m sure she’ll understand.’
Ellen closed her eyes and sucked in her lips to stop herself exploding again, or maybe it was to hold back the tears. ‘I guess I’m not being reasonable,’ she said finally.
’s his mother and I’ve got to accept that.’
‘He loves you,’ Michael said softly. ‘We both do.’
Ellen swallowed, then took a breath.
‘And think how it’s going to make her feel if she knows she’s driven you out,’ he added.
Ellen’s eyes flashed with fury. ‘Do you seriously think I give a damn about the way she feels, when she doesn’t even have the courtesy to remember I live here when she leaves a message on the machine? Do you think she’s given a single thought to how difficult it might be for me, having her around? Has she hell? She just assumes she can come swanning in here and we’re all going to welcome her with open arms like it’s all we’ve ever been waiting for to make up our little family. That’s presuming, of course, she’s remembered I exist. I mean, do you ever talk about me to her, Michael? Does my name ever get mentioned? And what about Tom Chambers? Surely he knows I live here? Or maybe he doesn’t. Maybe you forgot to tell him too. You keep saying I’m one of the executives on this movie, but that’s not really true, is it? It’s all yours, Michael. You’re taking all the decisions and I don’t remember you consulting me on a single damn thing since the day you flew over to Washington and worked it all out with Chambers. You’ve never brought the movie up for discussion with any of us. You just decided it was going to be made and expected us all to go along with it. Well, that’s OK. Since you’re pulling the strings at World Wide you can do that. But stop making out like I’ve got some equal share in all this, when it’s total bullshit and you know it.’
Michael’s eyes were glittering hard with anger. ‘So what do you want, that I cancel it just to make you feel like you’ve got some power? Or would you prefer that I handed Chambers over to you every time he calls?’
‘I don’t think what I want features here any more,’ she responded. ‘So you just do what you have to do,’ and
past him she went through the door that led to the master bedroom suite.
It was an hour later, after a long, and partially relaxing jacuzzi bath while Michael showered in the cubicle next to her, that Ellen finally donned a cover-all nightie and walked through their dressing-room into the spacious bedroom that looked out on one side to a fabulous view of the glittering valley lights below, and in front to the beautifully lit pool terrace.
She already knew she would find Michael there as she could hear the TV, but she was surprised to discover the bed littered with scripts and videotapes. Normally they never brought their work into the bedroom, so she was unsure what kind of gesture this was. But being in no mood to start fighting all over again, she merely pulled back the fresh cotton cover her side and slipped into bed.
Michael turned to look at her, then searched for the remote and shut off the TV. ‘Whatever I have to do to make you believe that you’re more important to me than anything or anyone, I’ll do it,’ he told her.
Ellen looked up at him and felt what remained of her anger starting to dissolve.
‘Just please don’t ever wear a nightie like that into my bed again,’ he implored. ‘The punishment is too severe for the crime.’
Unable to stop herself, Ellen laughed. ‘Your bed?’ she said.
Michael pulled a face. ‘Oh God,
bed,’ he corrected.
‘So what’s all this?’ she said, indicating the scripts and videotapes.
He glanced at her sheepishly, and she wondered if he knew how like Robbie he was when he put on that look. ‘I need to do some work, and this is where you are,’ he said.
She laughed again, then sitting up she drew the nightie over her head and tossed it to the floor.
Leaning over her he began kissing her neck and
, while sliding a hand beneath the covers. She lay back, feeling the desire slake through her as he began teasing her in a way he knew she could never resist. Because of tension and tiredness this was the first time they’d made love in almost a week, and though they both knew that the issues between them weren’t entirely resolved, they welcomed the closeness – or they would have, had Robbie’s voice not come across the intercom at that moment calling for Michael.
He was gone much longer than he expected, and by the time he returned Ellen was already asleep. He looked down at her and silently prayed that she hadn’t heard the talk he’d just had with his son. But he was pretty certain he’d managed to turn off the intercom in time, and besides, there was no way she’d be asleep right now if she had overheard what’d been said.
IT HAD TAKEN
a while to set up the safe passage, so by the time word finally came for them to move out, Chambers felt a rough edge of frustration to his relief. Carlota was becoming too regular a visitor now, and presenting such a temptation that he was almost ready to damn his own morality for forbidding it.
‘We leave at sundown for Popayán,’ Morales said, spreading a map over the cluttered table. ‘From there we will head for Neiva.’
Chambers looked at him sharply. Neiva was a hot, Huila lowland town of small significance. It would take them several hours to get there from Popayán, provided they didn’t run into any marauding gangs of
and cutthroat guerrillas on the way. He could wish it was going to happen faster than this.
‘What’s at Neiva?’ he asked.
is sending someone there to meet us,’ Morales answered. He looked long and hard into Chambers’s eyes. ‘
’s men have taken Salvador Molina,’ he said, switching from Spanish to English. ‘
wishes for you to know that it is all right to kill him.’
Chambers’s steely grey eyes remained on Morales. He was developing his own theories on what was happening here and he didn’t much like them – especially not when it seemed as if he was about to be set up to take the
for a killing that he was not alone in wanting. No-one, but no-one was to be trusted, it seemed. Not even Morales.
Still silent, he walked up the narrow stone staircase to the small room he had shared with no-one and began to pack up his belongings. Were it not for how badly he wanted Molina he’d be figuring out how to give Morales the slip the minute they hit Popayán. As it was, he was prepared to believe they had Molina, and there wasn’t any doubt in Chambers’s mind that Molina was the one who had pulled the trigger on Rachel. Question was, who else had he pulled the trigger on for
, or was it the Cali Cartel, to want him dead and a fall guy for the killing?
With his bag packed he walked over to the window to close it and noticed Carlota sitting on a wall opposite, waiting for him to come out for his walk. He looked at his watch, then up over the hills to see how far the sun was from setting. No time for a final visit to the strange and silent statues of the valley, but he wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye to the girl.
‘You are late today,’ she chided, as he crossed the street towards her. ‘Did you forget me?’
Chambers smiled to himself. He hadn’t realized that she saw their afternoon strolls as pre-arranged trysts. ‘How could I forget you?’ he teased.
Her dark eyes shone with pleasure as she got up from the wall and stepped in close to him. ‘You like my hair this way?’ she said coyly, tilting her head to one side so he could better see how she had folded it around a carved bone slide.
‘It’s lovely,’ he answered, unable to stop himself noticing the exquisite length of her neck, nor the softly inviting flesh of her shoulders. ‘I’ve come to say goodbye,’ he told her.
Her head snapped up and he felt a genuine sorrow in his heart as he saw the confusion in her eyes. ‘But
? Where do you go?’ she asked.
He smiled and touched her face with his fingers. ‘You knew I wasn’t going to stay,’ he said gently.
Her eyes were desperately searching his and for one minute he thought she was going to cry. Instead she looked off down the street to where her neighbours and friends were going about their business. ‘Will you kiss me once?’ she asked, turning back. ‘Will you make them think that you care for me?’
‘I do care for you,’ he smiled.
‘You don’t make love to me. That means you don’t care for me,’ she replied sulkily.
He looked into her eyes and wondered if one day she would understand that it was because he cared for her that he wouldn’t make love to her.
‘Will you remember me?’ she said.
‘Of course I’ll remember you.’
She gazed up into his face and he looked at the seductive moistness of her mouth and noticed the gentle rise and fall of her girlish breasts. For a moment he felt engulfed by her femininity, and wished desperately that life could be so easy that all he had to do was stay right here with her.
‘Will you send me letters?’ she said shyly. ‘Flowers?’
He nodded, and felt his throat tighten as he remembered how much Rachel had loved to be sent flowers.
‘And come again one day to see me?’ she said.
‘I can’t promise that,’ he answered and watched her eyes fill with anger.
Then, very tentatively, she came up on tiptoe and with her eyes closed she parted her lips for his kiss. He looked at her a moment, then, gathering her gently in his arms, he put his mouth to hers. It was as beautiful, naïve and alluring as he’d expected and no hardship at all to hold her for a long, long time, as though they were lovers who dreaded to let go.
‘Do you promise about the flowers?’ she said, when
he lifted his head and looked into her eyes.
‘I promise,’ he said.
It was the early hours of the morning by the time Galvis steered the jeep into a brightly lit suburban street in one of the better parts of Popayán.
It wasn’t until they were inside the impressive colonial mansion that Chambers realized they were entering a hotel. It seemed they were expected, as an elegant middle-aged woman was waiting to hand them their keys. A smartly uniformed porter led them upstairs to their rooms. There were two, with an adjoining door. Morales and Chambers took the first, Galvis and Escobar the other.
‘We rest here only until morning,’ Morales said, dropping his backpack on one of the beds. ‘We take the chopper just after sunrise.’
Chambers nodded, then turned as Escobar came in through the adjoining door.
‘It’s for you,’ he said, handing Morales a note.
Morales read it quickly then tore it into pieces. ‘The chopper will come at midday,’ he informed him. ‘Now we should sleep.’
Escobar left, and as Morales began to haul off his boots Chambers disappeared into the bathroom. When he returned the room was in darkness, and he could hear Morales snoring softly. He made his way to the second bed, and lay down in the slender, silvery rays thrown in by a street light. The journey had been rough; he was bruised and exhausted, so it wasn’t long before he too was sleeping.
An hour later he woke with a start, certain he had heard a noise. He lay very still, straining his ears. On the opposite bed he could hear Morales breathing. There were no other sounds. After a while his heart rate lessened, and soon after he was heading back for his dreams.
He woke several more times, always with a jolt and a quick rush of adrenalin. It proved how ragged his nerves were, as there was never anything more sinister in the room than the empty shadows in the corners, and the rhythmic wheezes from Morales’s open mouth.
When finally the sun came up he knew he would sleep no more. He went to the window and stood watching the streets come to life. He was trying to get a sense of Rachel, wanting to feel her presence the way he had so many times these past few weeks. To his dismay it seemed she had gone, leaving a void in his heart and the vague impression of a face that might or might not have been hers. He found himself thinking of Carlota, and the craziness that had come over him one day when he had thought she was Rachel, returned in a forbidden body to torment him for the way he had betrayed her.
Morales stirred and turned over. Chambers glanced at him, then feeling the need to get out he grabbed the leather bag that contained his computer and notebooks and went silently from the room.
The streets were warm and finding a stall just opening up he ordered himself a
of two sausages and a small black coffee. He carried it to a nearby park and sat down on a bench to eat and watch the early-morning world pass by. He was becoming increasingly uneasy about the upcoming trip to Neiva and was certain he knew why.
Checking his watch for the time in LA, he decided to give it another hour before calling Michael to fill him in on his plans. Then picking up his bag he continued to walk through the park, barely seeing the schoolchildren, businessmen and street workers as they passed. Those he never failed to notice, though, were the
, the homeless children Rachel had cared so much about. A lot of them would be runners for the
, the small-scale dope-dealers who were the lowest of the low when it came to the peddling of drugs. And the kids, who were
and viciously beaten up by cops, crooks and even each other, hung about in gangs that only fools or addicts ever willingly approached.