Authors: Barbara Taylor Bradford
words, you won’t help me, Professor?”
“It’s not in
my power to do that,” Fiona’s father answered.
“Is she there?
You never answer directly.”
Chambers looked out of the French doors to the rose garden, where his only
daughter was cutting back the first blooms. “Even if Fiona were in the room
with me, which she is not, what difference would it make if she chooses not to
talk to you?”
Chambers held the phone out to Fiona, who had walked in, with an armload of
roses. She shook her head, but moved closer to her father so she could hear
was ragged from strain. “You could tell her I love her. You could tell her that
nothing can, or will
change that. And that she needs to
trust me enough to let me help her find a way out of this. You could tell her
all that. If you happen to see her.”
to Luke’s impassioned speech, listened as her father disconnected the call.
“He seems a
fine man, Fiona.”
“Are you sure
the course you’ve chosen is the correct one?”
“Dad, when you
give someone your word, you keep it. You’ve been drilling that into my head
since I was three.”
“There is a
larger ethical question, however, Fiona. Are you morally bound to keep a secret
for someone without morality?”
him. “Are you?”
you to decide, my dear.”
hurled herself into a chair in frustration. “Why couldn’t you just have taught
They sat there
in silence, looking for simple answers to complicated problems. “Are the
reporters still out there?” Fiona asked.
about an hour ago. I heard on the news someone bought a plane ticket in your
name out at Kennedy. I should imagine they are rushing through Queens about
“Dad, did you
do that?” Fiona focused on her father’s face, frowning.
“I see nothing
wrong with it. You might want a trip to Montreal one day.”
for the first time in days, and moved to hug her father. “Pretty tricky, aren’t
He hugged her
back. “I have my moments.”
The ringing of
the phone made her jump. Fiona got up. “It’s probably Luke again. I’m not here.”
Chambers gave her a curious look, and answered the phone. He held up his hand
to stop Fiona from leaving the room. “You’d better take this! It’s Hayley. I
think she’s in trouble.”
hear Hayley’s sobbing half way across the room. She grabbed the phone.
Hayley was so
hysterical she could hardly get the words out. “They're going to kill me.
Please, please help me!”
you? Who’s going to kill you?”
“There’s a car
out in front of your dad’s house. If you don’t get in it and come, they’ll kill
me. Mikey too.”
“What are you
talking about? Try to stop crying. I can’t understand you.”
were silenced by a hard slap. A man’s voice, polished, strong, and condescending,
came on the line.
Chambers, it’s been a long time.”
“Who is this?!”
hurting my feelings. I certainly haven’t forgotten you. And now all of America
knows how lovely you are.”
Fiona spat the words out like a curse. “What have you done to Hayley?”
he purred. “But if you care about your little friend you’ll get into the car
that’s waiting for you in front of Daddy's house.”
“How did you
don’t insult my intelligence. Get in the car if you want Hayley and her brother
to live to see tomorrow. Although, actually, I don’t know why anyone would
care, one way or another.”
Velvet Swing looked very much the same at three in the afternoon as it did at
three in the morning. Women with surgically enhanced breasts swayed in a
desultory dance in their cages. The favorite of the moment swung tantalizingly
close to the customers in her velvet swing. Businessmen hunched at the bar, drinking
watered-down booze, checked their phones between lap dances.
bothered to look up when the young blonde woman was whisked in through a back
door and down a flight of stairs, to a place that neither light nor sound could
penetrate. A door to an inner room was pushed open and only then could Fiona
hear the sobs from Hayley, who was tied to a chair.
Her suit was
torn, she wore one shoe, and there was dried blood on her mouth and chin. Fiona
hurried across the room to her. Tears ran down Hayley’s cheeks, one of which
was swollen from a beating.
Hayley!” She turned to the man who had brought her here, a wiry Corsican thug. “Untie
her right now!”
Ma’am,” he said, but made no move.
emanated from the far corner of the room. Fiona whirled around to see Mikey on
the floor, hogtied and gagged. His face was bloody, had obviously been pummeled
almost beyond recognition. Fiona knelt before Hayley, wiping the dried blood
with the sleeve of her shirt.
on? What’s happening?”
“I’m sorry, Fiona.
So very sorry.”
spoke. “Can we cut the chitchat? You’re giving me a migraine.”
The door burst
open, and Luke Thompson was pushed inside. Like Fiona, he was untouched. When
he saw her on the floor in front of Hayley, he crossed the room in two steps
and pulled her up, held her close.
anything,” he murmured. “I’ll get us out of here.”
“Very heroic, Mr.
Thompson,” said a voice from the darkness. A light snapped on to reveal Eddie
Rivers, dressed impeccably in a dark blazer, beige slacks and conservative tie.
“Although I’m not sure how you plan to accomplish that. My boys run a pretty
tight ship here.”
“You’ll have a
price,” Luke said. “Guys like you always have a price, and it isn’t always
“We live in
such a cynical age,” Eddie said. “I brought you here to do you a favor.”
“I bet you did,”
Luke answered, not letting go of Fiona. “Your quarrel is with me. Let the other
again. Your quarrel is with these two bad apples, not me.” He indicated Hayley
and the whimpering Mikey.
debt is paid. I paid it. Let him go,” Fiona exclaimed.
“What debt did
you pay?” Hayley’s voice didn’t even sound like her own. “What are you talking
told you what she did for you and your scumbag brother? I like that. This lady
has real class.”
is he talking about?” Hayley was screaming at Mikey’s inert body. “What debt
did Fiona pay for you?”
ever wonder why a classy lady like your friend here would dance in a dive like
this? Not that I didn’t enjoy every little bump and grind.” Eddie smiled
Luke held Fiona
gently by both shoulders so he could look in her eyes. “Fiona, do you want to
tell me what happened?”
back at him, and with an imperceptible shake of her head said no.
See, just like in the good old days. But me, I didn’t take a vow of silence.
Mikey was into me for forty grand. A very bad accident was about to befall him
involving water. Deep water.”
dollars, Mikey!” Hayley shrieked. “Is that true?”
There was no
response from Mikey. The Corsican spoke. “I think he’s sleeping, Miss.”
Eddie went on,
relishing his story. “He knew his sister didn't have any money, so he told his
sob story to Fiona. He told her it would kill his sister if she found out. So
he not only got Fiona to work off his debt, he got her to promise not to hurt her
with the truth. The guy is good.”
A groan of
pain escaped Hayley's lips. “NOOOO! That didn’t happen.”
“I assure you
it did,” Eddie continued. “Now, I admit, I’d been trying to get this lady into that
swing since the first day I laid eyes on her. So we made a deal. She kept her
end. I kept mine. I wouldn’t have gotten involved, but he stole that DVD. I don’t
like people stealing from me. And it was a personal favorite.”
hardly process what she was hearing. “Fiona! Why didn’t you tell me?!”
friends,” Fiona said softly.
“Are you?” Eddie
said, enjoying this. “Hayley, tell her what good friends you are. Go ahead.
Everyone loves a love story.”
Shame had replaced
Hayley’s fear. A shame and regret which was so deep and genuine it was life-altering.
“It was me,
Fiona. I had Mikey steal the tape of you in the swing. It was me who played it
in front of all those people, me who ruined your reputation. I did it, not
Luke was about
to rip Hayley out of her chair, but Fiona stopped him. “Let her be, Luke. She’s
suffering enough.” She went and knelt before her friend. “I knew it was you,
Hayley. Not right away, but I figured it out pretty quickly. And I think I know
“Do you care
to tell me?” Luke asked.
at Hayley, tiny, broken, lost. “Just business stuff. Girl stuff. It’s not
important. Let it go.”
“Like I said, a
class act,” Eddie Rivers announced, that knowing smile lingering on his face.
and Luke sat close together on the banks of the Delaware River, watching the
sun set over the bridge that had changed their lives. The campfire at their
feet had burned down to embers.
“Maybe this is
not exactly the most romantic place for the start of a honeymoon,” Luke said.
yourself,” Fiona answered swiftly. “There’s no place I would rather be.” She
kissed his face, drew even closer.
to know. The guy who owns the cabin can’t use it any more, because of all the
publicity. So I bought it for you.”
Fiona began to
laugh. “Our first home.”
“He threw in
the Spam,” Luke said, chuckling with her.
“Life is good,”
Luke put his
arms around her and buried his face in her hair. “Have you heard from Hayley?”
expect to for a long time,” Fiona answered. “I have forgiven her. Now comes the
hard part. She has to forgive herself.”
suppose you’re ever going to tell me why she—”
Fiona cut him
off. “Nope. Not important.”
He looked into
those blue eyes of hers and got lost. “Want to go up?”
arm in arm up the bank toward the little fishing shack that had saved their
“Why do you
think Eddie Rivers let us go?”
ratio. If anything happened to the four of us, he’d never have another day
without a cop right in his face. Plus, I think he wanted to impress you.”
“He didn’t,” she
Because he’s going away for a very long time very soon.”
“You think?” Fiona
couldn’t believe Luke had finally figured out how to get to Eddie.
going to testify.”
“Yes, Mikey. He
didn’t like seeing his sister beaten up. Now, can you stop talking so we can
get on with the honeymoon?”
She smiled up
at him and mimed zipping her lips closed.
like it,” Luke said, and led her into their safe haven with the oil-drum
fireplace and the tin door.