The result when two lives collide unexpectedly cannot be predicted. It might prove a catastrophe, or possibly a catalyst.
Twenty-two-year-old architectural intern, Rawden Phillips, has had all the benefits that nature and nurture could bestow, but he is lost. Australian heiress, Olivia Summer-Hayes, who should be running a corporate empire, is running away and has started making rash decisions. Suzanne Read has been commissioned to help find them both.
Half a world away Richard Barrington, a man with a fascinating personal history, is trying to juggle long-standing loyalties with the control of a conglomerate of companies.
Played out against a background of three of the world’s most iconic cities: London, Paris and Sydney, this is galaxy of glittering personalities searching for identity and acceptance.
The Thursday lunch date had become a disaster. Well it wasn’t really a date; it was just a quick get together over lunch to finalise the arrangements for the weekend in Paris. The early November terrorist attacks had made travelling to Paris problematical, but they were still going; or at least at the start of lunch they were. They ordered as soon as they sat down and decided they could share a bottle of white wine even though both of them would be returning to work in the afternoon.
Rawden Phillips was twenty-two and was in the first year of an internship at Walter Levinson and Associates, one of the more progressive and respected architectural firms in London. The public acknowledgement of ‘progressive and respected’ had been quite an achievement for the firm. It was due mainly to Walter Levinson’s eye for young talent who he continued to employ and his strict adherence to a standard of operation and code of conduct that he had developed over many years. Leanore Lehmann was almost twenty-three. She was a lawyer in the legal department at the head office of Bousfields Bank in the city. Leanore had also been there less than a year.
Rawden and Lea had met at an office gathering at Walter Levinson’s. Lea had arrived on the arm of one of the associates and left with Rawden. They had been an ‘item’ now for about six months. At first Lea was fascinated by the ‘pretty boy’ and thought he might be ‘interesting’. Rawden had fallen under the feisty Lea’s thrall. She thrilled and frightened him all at the same time.
They went out to dinner on a couple of occasions and caught separate taxis home. Then Lea asked Rawden to come back to her apartment and the intimate side of the relationship began. For the first few months the sex was delicious. Lea loved looking at the lithe young man naked and she enjoyed his gentle touch and unhurried lovemaking. She also admired his control and quickly realised he was clearly experienced, knew exactly what he was doing and understood what women wanted. For his part Rawden found Lea exciting and dangerous. She wanted the physicality to be robust and often tried to hurry him, but Rawden was having none of that and he soothed her and waited until she would come with him and he knew she loved the satisfaction that resulted.
Then the lovemaking changed. Rawden would not linger after sex. He didn’t fall asleep in Lea’s arms and wake up to make love again in the early hours of the morning. More often than not he would leave her bed take a shower, dress and leave making some excuse about ‘having to get home’ and a ‘big day at work tomorrow’. Lea would watch him dress and delighted in the body that became progressively hidden under layers of designer underwear and fashionable clothes. Then he was gone and Lea was left wondering.
That is why she initially thought that Paris would be a good idea. They could spend the entire weekend in bed and Rawden would have no excuse to leave abruptly. It was exactly the thing about Paris that was concerning Rawden. He didn’t want to spend the entire time entwined with Leanore Lehmann.
So over a quick lunch Lea sensed Rawden was getting cold feet and his lame attempts to tell her he wanted to take some architectural photographs while he was in the ‘City of Love’ confirmed her suspicions. So she launched into a series of attacks. Initially there were small jibes about his commitment to the weekend and then stronger analysis of his attitude to their whole relationship. Rawden listened carefully and quickly ‘twigged’ to where Lea was going with all this. He bit back gently on a couple of occasions, but that only enraged Lea who finally let fly:
“You know what you should do, Rawden?”
“No, Lea, what should I do? Or more to the point what are you going to tell me to do?”
“You should go buy a rocking horse.”
Rawden threw back his head and laughed for the first time during the brief luncheon.
“What? Are you serious? Buy a rocking horse? What in heaven’s name for?”
“Because ‘pretty boy’ it would suit you perfectly. You could ride it naked in front of a full-length mirror and admire yourself astride something else. Then just like you it would oscillate backwards and forwards, but end up going nowhere at all.”
“Don’t Lea me. You are in love with yourself, Rawden Phillips. Nobody else is good enough to share you. At least riding a rocking horse you wouldn’t have to give a lame excuse to leave. You could just dismount when you are satisfied and the wooden thing would wait until you wanted to ride again without making any complaint.”
With that Leanore Lehmann drained her white wine glass, left her half eaten lunch and stormed out of the Octagonal Café and was gone from Rawden’s life. He mused that probably Paris was off this weekend. Then he wondered what he was going to do with the many hundreds of pounds worth of rail tickets and the deposit for the hotel. He thought it had been a costly lunch. Then it occurred to him that he could halve the losses by going to Paris alone and taking as much time as he liked photographing the architectural sites in which he was particularly interested.
Rawden Phillips was jolted back to reality when he checked his watch and realised he had to be back in the office by 2:00 p.m. He finished his wine paid for the lunch and wine at the counter and hurried back to Water Levinson and Associates. Unconsciously he spoke aloud as he walked briskly along the busy pavement:
“Buy a rocking horse and ride it naked in front of a full length mirror, where did that come from?”
No one took any notice. Everyone talked into mobile phones and Bluetooth devices on London Streets these days. Talking to yourself could easily be mistaken for modern day communication.
Back at his desk Rawden remembered he already had a rocking horse. Firstly, it was his and then his brother, Joss, got it as a hand me down. He wondered where it was now? Probably his mother, Charlotte, had given it away or donated it to one of her many charitable organizations. He made a mental note to ask Charlotte where the rocking horse had ended up? Walter Levinson was standing at his shoulder and broke his daydream. The old man was looking at the drawing on his angled architect’s desk.
“It’s good young Phillips, but the devil will be in the detail. How will you deliver utilities in the creative space you have designed there for instance?”
“I hadn’t got to planning the utilities yet, Mr. Levinson. This was just a concept drawing.”
“A creative concept drawing can be even more effective if it has some pragmatic solutions already built into it. Doing it the other way always calls for compromise, which is never satisfactory. Get the pragmatism and utility planning in your head first and then let your imagination fly.”
“Yes, Mr. Levinson.”
“Don’t be discouraged, young Phillips, it is a very good creative concept.”
“Thank you Mr. Levinson.”
When the old man continued his afternoon tour of the studio, chatting with his associates and other young interns, Rawden wondered what it would feel like to ride a rocking horse naked? When Levinson returned to his own office, which was separated from the main drawing studio, Rawden fumbled for his mobile phone. He rang the hotel in Paris and cancelled the reservation. He would stay somewhere more modest. Then he rang the booking office at Eurostar and asked if he could get a refund for one of the two tickets he had booked for Paris. The operator politely informed him that the tickets were non-refundable, but he could rebook using the money he had already paid perhaps for an upgrade. He had paid three hundred and fifty eight pounds for two standard return tickets to Paris on Eurostar. If he cancelled one, which was non-refundable he would effectively lose one hundred and seventy nine pounds. The other alternative, the operator informed him, was that he could upgrade to one return ticket at Standard Premium rates by paying an extra forty pounds. This would give him much more comfort, free WiFi and a three-course meal on each leg of the journey. Rawden elected to pay the additional forty pounds.
“Shall I charge that to the same credit card you nominated before, Sir?”
“Yes, thank you.” Then Rawden had an impulsive thought. Why not take Friday off work and have an extra day in Paris. He asked:
“I wonder if I could bring that booking forward to Friday the 27th at the same time?”
“I will check the availability, Sir. Yes there are a few seats left. Shall I book one for you?”
“All confirmed, Sir. The train leaves St. Pancras International at 9:22 a.m. on Friday 27th November. Thank you for booking Eurostar.”
The operator clicked off and Rawden thought ‘what the heck?’ I can at least travel in a degree of comfort and not all the money will be lost. He pocketed his phone and then doodled on his sketch block and tried to draw a representation of his childhood rocking horse from memory.
As Olivia Summer-Hayes never raised her voice, so Etienne reacted to the shout with shock and alarm and went into an automatic action.
“Etienne, garez-vous et arrêter la voiture.”
“Etienne, pull over and stop the car.”
Etienne was such an experienced driver that the Audi A4 responded to his braking and stopped almost immediately without danger. Before he could turn in the driver’s seat to ask Ms. Summer-Hayes what had caused the sudden halt she was out of the kerb-side door and was actually running down the road. Etienne secured the car, turned off the ignition, put on the safety flashing signals, pocketed the keys and got out of the car and followed her.
When he caught up with Ms. Summer-Hayes, Etienne found her kneeling down on the wet pavement checking the pulse at both neck and wrist of a body spread-eagled across the gutter and the pavement. Etienne was just becoming a careful observer when Ms. Summer-Hayes’ urgent instruction distracted him again.
“Appelez une ambulance immédiatement ! Ligne 17 sur votre téléphone.”
“Call an ambulance immediately! Dial 17 on your phone.”
Etienne went into automatic response mode as he so often did with Ms. Summer-Hayes’ instructions. He pulled his new Android smart phone from inside his coat pocket and fingered the emergency numbers into the keypad. He spoke urgently, but effectively and when he had successfully contacted the paramedic emergency response centre, he disconnected and immediately dialled the police. He then replaced his phone in his pocket and returned his attention to the body on the pavement. Ms. Summer- Hayes was checking the airways and breathing patterns of the prone person. Now Etienne had time to examine the situation in detail. The body was naked except for some tight fitting European type underwear and it looked to be that of a young man maybe in his late teens or early twenties. Etienne began to surmise the scenarios that could have got a young man into this situation but again he was interrupted.
“Il respire, mais un peu à peu près. Autant que je peux dire les deux impulsions sont fortes, mais clairement il est inconscient ou dans le coma. Combien de temps que les services d'urgence dit qu'ils seraient?”
“He is breathing, but a little roughly. As far as I can tell both pulses are strong, but clearly he is unconscious or in a coma. How long did emergency services say they would be?”
Etienne did not have to reply. The tell-tale siren of the ambulance was heard clearly as it turned from Boulevard Strasbourg and swung into Boulevard St. Denis. It was on site in less than a minute and the first of the paramedics was alongside Ms. Summer-Hayes moments after that. The police vehicles were also only seconds behind and the officers sprung from their cars and automatically started cordoning off the area. The first of the paramedics was matter of fact and spoke in soft French tones to Olivia:
Ms. Summer-Hayes responded in conversational French. She could speak four European languages fluently: French, German, Italian and Spanish and could get by in Russian and Greek. It was one of her great talents.
“J’ai vu le corps sur le côté de la route et a ordonné à mon chauffeur de s’arrêter. Nous avons ici depuis seulement quelques minutes. Son pouls est fort, mais sa respiration est laborieuse en temps et un peu erratique.”
“I saw the body on the side of the road and ordered my driver to stop. We have only been here a few minutes. His pulse is strong, but his breathing is laboured at times and a little erratic.”
“Savez-vous comment il est arrivé ici?”
“Do you know how he got here?”
“Je n’ai aucune idée. Comme j’ai dit que nous étions juste de passage quand je l'a repéré.”
“I have no idea. As I said we were just passing when I spotted him.”
The ambulance and police sirens and an emergency scene had attracted a small crowd. The policemen kept them at a safe distance and allowed the paramedics to get on with their work. Some passersby dismissed the scene as a drunken or drug-fuelled youth collapsed in the gutter and moved on quickly. A few stayed and peered at the semi naked body intrigued by the situation. The second paramedic arrived with a neck brace in one hand and carrying a scoop stretcher in the other. Olivia and Etienne stood back a little and watched the procedure. It seemed agonisingly slow but the paramedics were taking every care to ensure the patient was stabilised without further aggravating a possible spinal trauma injury. Finally, the neck brace was secured and the fitting of each half of the scoop stretcher took place. One paramedic called on the policemen to slightly raise and hold the young man’s legs as immobile as possible. He then looked to a second policeman and asked:
“Pourriez-vous se rallier à la tête du garçon et de tenir le neck brace fermement pendant que nous faisons l’ascenseur?”
“Could you come round to the boy’s head and hold the neck brace firmly while we do the lift?”
The policeman moved in a smooth and well-drilled way. He was quickly in position and looked inquiringly at the paramedic who nodded indicating he was doing just what he wanted. The second paramedic had gone to the rear doors of the ambulance and extracted and unfolded the gurney, which he placed as close to the scoop stretcher as he could get it. Then the two paramedics positioned themselves on either side of the stretcher and indicated to the policemen that they should now assist with the lift. The second paramedic routinely said:
“Sur trois. Un, deux, trois.”
“On three. One, two, three.”
The four worked with synchronicity and the scoop stretcher was placed on the gurney. Immediately a thermal blanket was unfolded and spread over the young man’s body to hide his nakedness. This signalled the conclusion of the show for the casual observers who began to disperse, chatting among themselves. The leading paramedic now manoeuvred the gurney into the back of the ambulance. As the second paramedic was about to close the doors Olivia asked:
“Puis-je rouler avec lui à l'hôpital?”
“Can I ride with him to the hospital?”
“Vous pourriez être utile en fournissant des informations au service des urgences et en donnant une première déclaration à la police, donc si vous pouvez épargner du temps, il serait utile.”
“You could be useful in providing information in the emergency department and giving an initial statement to the police, so if you can spare the time it would help.”
“Etienne, je vais monter à l'hôpital en ambulance. Vous devez suivre dans la voiture.”
“Etienne, I am going to ride to the hospital in the ambulance. You should follow in the car.”
“Oui, Mme Summer-Hayes.”
“Yes, Ms. Summer-Hayes.”
Olivia Summer-Hayes climbed into the back of the ambulance and the first paramedic closed the doors. The second paramedic in the back of the ambulance was fitting an oxygen mask to the boy’s face and attaching a monitoring device to his finger. Then he placed patches to the boy’s chest and connected them to wires feeding back to machines displaying graphs of vital signs. For the first time Olivia had time to look down at the young man. The ambulance moved off and the siren started to blare. Olivia saw a quite handsome face and she wondered how this boy had got himself into this situation?
The ambulance ride northeast to St. Louis Hospital was short and the accident and emergency department reception was swift and effective. The gurney disappeared behind the sliding doors and Olivia was momentarily nonplussed. What was she doing here? Had her brief role in this situation now ended? A nurse with a clipboard quickly drew her back into the unfolding event. She invited Olivia to sit in the reception area and took what little details she could provide. A policeman, who Olivia recognised from the emergency scene was next to ask her questions. She could provide little real information but the young officer noted it all down diligently. In the end Olivia produced her business card printed in both English and French and gave it to the nurse. She then asked:
“Si ce ne serait pas trop d’ennui pourriez-vous me contacter lorsque le jeune homme reprend conscience et laissez-moi savoir comment il se fait? Si il n’y a rien que je peux faire, je serais heureux de vous aider.”
“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble could you contact me when the young man regains consciousness and let me know how he is getting on? If there is anything I can do, I would be pleased to help.”
“Je vous remercie Mme Summer-Hayes je transmettrai vos coordonnées sur Notre Agent Sociocommunautaire.”
“Thank you Ms. Summer-Hayes I will pass your details onto our Community Relations Officer.”
Etienne had parked the Audi and was now making his way through the Accident and Emergency Department to Ms. Summer-Hayes.
“Ah, Etienne. Nous avons fait tout ce que nous pouvons faire ici pour le moment. Peut-être vous ne devriez conduire me maison.”
“Ah, Etienne. We have done all we can do here for the moment. Perhaps you should drive me home.”
“Certainement, Mme Summer-Hayes.”
“Certainly, Ms. Summer-Hayes.”
Etienne drove Olivia home in silence to her apartment building in the Marais district on Rue de Rivoli. When Olivia got out of the car she was quite effusive in her thanks for his help and then she said:
“Je n’aurez pas besoin de la voiture jusqu'au Lundi matin, Etienne. Je vous verrai ensuite.”
“I won’t need the car until Monday morning, Etienne. I’ll see you then.”
Olivia used the key code on the front door of the apartment building and was reassured that Marcel, one of the building’s three regular Concierges, was working the night shift in the foyer. They exchanged greetings and then Olivia took the elevator to her apartment, one of only two on the fourth floor. She manipulated her key into the lock and then the dead bolt, which were keyed alike and entered immediately illuminating the entrance hall lights. When she had removed her coat and gloves and placed her bags on the hall table she went to the sitting room and poured herself a large cognac. She allowed herself to sink into one of the leather armchairs and kicked off her shoes. Snuggled up in the spacious chair she cradled and warmed the crystal brandy balloon with her hands and drank slowly and tried to make sense of the events that had unfolded since she left the Ambassador’s guest speaking engagement earlier that evening. It all had a rather surreal feeling. Encountering an almost naked young man on the pavement of a Parisian Boulevard. Stopping the car in a rather uncharacteristic fashion. Accompanying the boy to the hospital in an ambulance and leaving her card in case a further contact was needed. It was not a usual pattern for Olivia Summer-Hayes. Then there was the image of the young man; a beautiful boy even in his unconscious state.
What was she thinking? She drained the glass and cradled the crystal in her hands.
Olivia Summer-Hayes was the only surviving child of her father, billionaire businessman, Charles Summer-Hayes. Charles was a sixth generation Australian originally from the landed gentry class, but his father William had diversified from landholding and pastoral interests after the Second World War and had invested part of the family fortune into coal mining. It had made the Summer-Hayes’ dynasty even richer. For his part Charles had gone even further with substantial procurements in media and retail interests. When he lost his wife, Sheila, and only son, Jordan, in a light aircraft crash in October 1999, all his hopes rested on Olivia. However, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry’.
Olivia was headstrong and fiercely independent. She enjoyed all the trappings of a privileged childhood and expensive education, but when Charles thought she might ease into the Summer-Hayes’ business empire as his potential successor and its next anointed leader, she eschewed the proposition. She expressed a desire to be her own woman and make her own way. At first Charles was annoyed. Then he sought advice and decided to let Olivia have her way, hoping she would come back to the fold in due course.
With a prodigious skill and aptitude for languages Olivia expressed a desire to go into the Department of Foreign Affairs with diplomatic postings as her ticket to the world and to get away from New South Wales and the Summer-Hayes’ dynasty. With his considerable political connections Charles smoothed the way for her and she was quickly on an accelerated path in the Diplomatic Service. Olivia got all the plum postings in Buenos Aries, London and Washington and then landed the dream posting as Personal Assistant to the Ambassador in Paris, a position she had held now for four years. Olivia loved Paris.
When she first arrived she was given a comfortable but small apartment as part of her appointment contract. That did not last long. When Charles visited to see how she was settling in, he was taken aback by her accommodation and within a week he was showing her around the magnificent apartment she now occupied on Rue de Rivoli. He said it was a birthday gift. Olivia was overwhelmed, but thankful. She liked fine things. It was to be her father’s last gift. He suffered a massive heart attack and died in his Sydney office within the year. Olivia flew home for the funeral and was badgered by lawyers and corporate executives wondering how she was going to proceed now that she was one of the wealthiest women in Australia. She proceeded by flying back to Paris to resume her duties at the Australian Embassy. A flummoxed coterie of chief executives, solicitors and family friends were left behind to ponder how all this would eventually play out.
The businesses thrived under the highly competent executives, notably Richard Barrington, who Charles Summer-Hayes had headhunted to run his empire. The solicitors went through the process of wills, probate, endowments and legacies and in due course informed Olivia of her substantial fortune. The family estate at Summerhaven Park in the Hunter Valley was put in the hands of a management team who used their initiative and some of Olivia’s money to make it thrive as a bloodstock and thoroughbred breeding establishment and they kept the heiress informed of her ever expanding stable of racehorses who were now winning races in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
The sprawling family mansion was mothballed and only essential maintenance and a biannual spring and autumn clean and renovation programme was kept going according to Olivia’s quite detailed and specific instructions. Everything was done just as she asked, as no one knew whether or not she might return from Paris at anytime. A skeleton staff was kept on and provided with accommodation as part of their salary package. Olivia did not return.
Olivia Summer-Hayes astounded everyone at the Australian Embassy and indeed the Foreign Affairs Department with her determination to keep on working. She loved Parisian life with a passion and as no one else seemed to want to love her she was quite content to be wedded to the ‘City of Love’.
Olivia uncurled from the comfortable chair and poured herself another cognac. This time she walked shoeless around the sitting room trying to make sense of all the thoughts that were in her head. Eventually she decided that sleep would be the best solution to her mindset and she decided to let her subconscious put all these things into the correct neural compartments while she slept. This was a system that had always worked in the past.
The next morning she woke refreshed and the events of Friday night seemed appropriately pigeonholed in her mind. She luxuriated in a warm bath, dressed casually, but fashionably and decided to walk to her favourite café for brunch. Over beautiful croissants and excellent coffee she scanned the newspaper for any reports of the young man found on the pavement the previous evening but found none. One of the Embassy staff passed by and waved but did not stop. Ms. Summer-Hayes was formidable and a little daunting. She was not easily approached socially.
Olivia walked the streets window shopping and noting the heightened security that had become a feature of the city since the November shootings. It was early afternoon when she arrived home. There was a message on the answering machine from the caterers who were organising the luncheon party for her for the following day. She telephoned back and confirmed all the details for their arrival and the menu was checked one final time. Olivia had tickets for the opera that Saturday evening but she didn’t feel in the mood for opera so she prepared a light Caesar salad for her evening meal and settled down in her favourite chair to read. She fell asleep and was woken by the throbbing and clanging of her mobile phone. She didn’t recognise the number so she adopted a formal tone:
“Olivia Summer-Hayes parlant”.
“Olivia Summer-Hayes speaking.”
“Mme Summer-Hayes il s’agit de l’Agent des Relations Communautaires de l’hôpital St Louis. Vous accompagne un jeune homme à l’hôpital Vendredi soir.”
“Ms. Summer-Hayes this is the Community Relations Officer at St Louis Hospital. You accompanied a young man into the hospital on Friday night.”
“Oh oui. Comment est il?”
“Oh yes. How is he?”
“Eh bien, il a repris connaissance, mais aucune idée de qui il est ou ce qui lui n’est arrivé. Il n’a aucun vêtements ou les documents à nous donner un indice. L’équipe d’Accident et d’urgence soupçonne une amnésie traumatique.”
“Well he has regained consciousness, but has no idea who he is or what happened to him. He has no clothes or documents to give us a clue. The Accident and Emergency team suspect a traumatic amnesia.”
“Oh dear, le pauvre garçon.”
“Oh dear, the poor boy.”
“Nous gardera lui à l’hôpital pour quelques jours d’observation, mais jusqu’à présent, tous nos tests et analyses pour lésions corporelles graves sont sont révélés négatifs. Vous avez dit à l’infirmière d’entrées que vous souhaitez être contacté si vous pouviez aider, c’est pourquoi je suis téléphoner.”
“We will be keeping him in the hospital for a few days for observation, but so far all our tests and scans for serious physical injuries have proved negative. You said to the admissions nurse that you would like to be contacted if you could help, so that is why I am telephoning.”
“C’est exact. Je serais heureux de faire quelque chose que vous pensez pourrait aider.”
“That’s correct. I would be happy to do anything that you think might help.”
“Bien pourriez-vous venir Lundi et discuter de la situation avec moi. Nous pensons que le jeune homme peut être en mesure d'être libéré à ce moment-là, mais bien sûr avec l’amnésie et aucun document d’identification ou quoi que ce soit d’ailleurs, il a clairement aura nulle part où aller. Nous tenons à le libérer dans les soins d’une personne qui pouvaient suivre l’évolution de la situation pour nous et ramener à l’hôpital pour des vérifications progressives. Pensez-vous que vous pourriez aider de cette façon? Je sais que c’est beaucoup demander et votre situation personnelle peut-être vous empêcher d'être en mesure d’aider.”
“Well could you come in on Monday and discuss the situation with me. We think the young man may be able to be discharged by then, but of course with the amnesia and no identifying documents or anything for that matter, he will clearly have nowhere to go. We would like to release him into someone’s care who could monitor the situation for us and bring him back to the hospital for progressive check-ups. Do you think you could help in this way? I know it is a lot to ask and your personal circumstances may prevent you from being able to help.”
“Au contraire. Je suis attaché à l’Ambassade d'Australie et nous avons un hébergement d’urgence disponible pour les types de circonstances similaires. Je serais heureux de communiquer avec l’Ambassadeur et voir ce que nous pouvons arranger.”
“On the contrary. I am attached to the Australian Embassy and we have emergency accommodation available for similar types of circumstances. I would be glad to contact the Ambassador and see what we can arrange.”
“Ce serait merveilleux, Mme Summer-Hayes. Peut-être nous pourrions discuter il encore Lundi lorsque l’état du jeune homme est plus claire.”
“That would be wonderful, Ms. Summer-Hayes. Perhaps we could discuss it further on Monday when the young man’s condition is clearer.”
“Bien sûr. Je sonder le Personnel de l’Ambassade avant Lundi et mis les roues en mouvement et s’il vous plaît, appelez-moi Olivia.”
“Certainly. I will sound out the Embassy Staff before Monday and set the wheels in motion and please, call me Olivia.”
“Merci, Olivia. Je suis désolé. Vous êtes Australien, bien sûr. Je devrais ont parlé de vous en Anglais. Il suffit de demander à la réception pour moi et je viendrai vers le bas et vous guider à partir de là et je promets que nous seront converser dans votre langue maternelle.”
“Thank you, Olivia. I do apologise. You are Australian, of course. I should have spoken to you in English. Just ask at reception for me and I will come down and guide you from there and I promise we will converse in your native tongue.”
“C’est vraiment pas un problème, mais je vous remercie. Pour qui je demanderai Lundi?”
“It really isn’t an issue, but thank you. For whom shall I ask on Monday?” Michelle responded in perfect English with an alluring French accent:
“I am Michelle Ecran, the Chief Community Relations Officer. Just ask for Michelle.”
“Thank you, Michelle.”
“No, thank you, Olivia.”
The call ended and Olivia’s mind raced.
In the evening Olivia ate her previously prepared Caesar salad and drank a glass of chilled Semillon Sauvignon Blanc and started watching a recently released art house French film on television, but she gave up half way through and turned it off. Her second glass of the refreshing white wine accompanied her thoughts of the young man in the hospital suffering from severe memory loss or traumatic amnesia. She could not seem to suppress his image. Eventually she retired early and woke several times during the night having seen the accident scene all over again.
Olivia rose early and was bathed and dressed when the caterers arrived on Sunday morning. It was a sit down luncheon party for twelve. The guests were mostly new appointees to the Paris Embassy and a few Foreign Affairs delegates who were in the city for the Paris climate talks. They were all Australians and knew Ms. Summer-Hayes by reputation if not personally. It was a luncheon invitation that could not be refused. One of the richest women in Australia had invited you to lunch; clearly you would go just to see how the other half lived, even if the other half might be a rather strange woman, working in the Australian Embassy in Paris, when she could be doing anything else she liked based on her wealth and connections.
The guests began arriving around midday and found Ms. Summer-Hayes both elegant and charming. Some guests, who knew her better than the others, thought she seemed a little distant and distracted, but they said nothing. Course after course of Australian themed cuisine was presented. Prawns, scallops and rock lobster started proceedings and the main course was outstanding Australian beef served in the French style as Filet Mignon with exquisite potatoes and beans. Peach Melba for dessert sparked lively discussion about the history of the dish and a selection of the finest French cheeses followed. All courses were complimented with Australian wines from various districts around the country. Ms. Summer- Hayes announced that the beef would be accompanied by a bold Shiraz from the Hunter Valley, where her family estate was. When cross- examined about whether the wine came from her own vineyards in New South Wales Olivia had to reply:
“Alas no, but I am extremely confident about the quality and do know the wine maker personally.”
After that Olivia seemed to withdraw into a memory induced haze that could have seemed to the guests like a melancholic state. When a fresh- faced Australian youth, who later identified himself as Llewelyn Evans, a newly appointed officer at the Embassy, spilt the expensive Shiraz all over the linen tablecloth, Olivia was briefly alert and feigned amusement, but she quickly faded. She remained like this for the rest of the luncheon and when the guests had taken their leave and the caterers had cleaned up and departed, Olivia sank into an even deeper malaise and thoughts of her home in Australia and the young man in the hospital jostled for her attention.
On Monday morning Olivia Summer-Hayes was at her desk in the Embassy as usual, until she made a surprise announcement that she would be taking the rest of the day off and promptly left. The Embassy staff, who knew her, were simply ‘gob smacked’ and wondered if Ms. Summer-Hayes had ever taken a day off before? Olivia did not ring for Etienne to drive her. Instead she caught the first available taxi and headed for the hospital.
Charlotte Phillips loved her kitchen. It was beautifully appointed and had every labour saving gadget and appliance of which you could dream. Sometimes she regretted that the heavy demands of entertaining Gerard’s clients had forced her to engage caterers more often than she would have liked, but the workload for her, on her own, would have been too much. So when she got an opportunity to get into the kitchen and ‘ply her trade’, she relished it.
With Joss home from school she was preparing an American style breakfast with pancakes, maple syrup and whipped butter. As she prepared the pancake batter she thought to herself that ‘McDonalds’ had a lot to answer for. Rawden would like freshly cooked pancakes too. Gerard was down and had seated himself at the small dining table that the family used when only they were eating. He had the Friday papers stacked beside him and was working his way through the financial pages diligently. ‘McDonalds’ had not seduced Gerard so Charlotte was frying bacon and eggs with tomato for her husband. Her multi-tasking had also seen freshly squeezed orange juice prepared and it was in a glass pitcher that was sitting in a bath of ice water to chill it before it was carried to the table. The American theme was completed with the aroma of freshly percolated coffee that was pervading everything with a warm atmosphere of comfortable domesticity.
Joss came into the kitchen; he was dripping wet, dressed only in his school swimming togs and had a towel draped over his shoulder.
“You haven’t been swimming, have you Joss? It must be freezing.”
“The pool is heated, Mum, and it is warmer than school showers I can tell you. Besides it is a bracing way to start the day.”
Gerard looked up from his papers and gave his youngest son a broad smile of approval before Charlotte dismissed this late autumn swimming silliness with:
“Knock on Rawden’s door when you go up and tell him I am cooking pancakes.”
Joss nodded and turned and bounded barefoot up the stairs dripping pool water as he went. Charlotte shook her head and said to Gerard:
“Where does his mad athleticism come from?”
“Enjoy it, Charlotte. It is better that he gets his ‘high’ this way than all the other things he could be doing to get it.”
Freshly showered and casually dressed Joss joined Gerard and Charlotte at the breakfast table and the serving process began.
“Did you knock on Rawden’s door?”
“I did and got absolutely no response.”
“Did you go in and rouse him?”
“Excuse me, Mum, but you don’t invade a young man’s privacy first thing in the morning, just in case.”
Charlotte caught the drift, but didn’t like it all the same, so she frowned reproachfully at her youngest son, got up and went to the internal intercom and dialled three, which was Rawden’s room.
“Rawden, it’s 8:30 a.m. and I am serving pancakes down here.”
Then she served Gerard’s bacon, eggs and tomato and placed a pancake stack in front of Joss. She had toasted some thick chunks of sour dough bread for herself and had placed a selection of exotic spreads and conserves on the table. This would be her personal indulgence with a rather large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Purchasing and collecting spreads and conserves from all corners of the globe was yet another of the small passions Charlotte Phillips allowed herself.
Rawden did not appear for breakfast and when Charlotte knocked gently on his door later in the morning and then went in she discovered he was not there. The room was brilliantly tidy. The bed had been made and at a quick glance Charlotte concluded Rawden had left the house early before anyone else had stirred. Perhaps he had a weekend work assignment; although it was unusual for him not to tell her if that was the case. She conveyed what she had found and surmised to Gerard as he was preparing to leave for the City. He seemed unconcerned and agreed that Rawden’s absence was probably work related.
When Joss packed and left for his return to school late on Sunday afternoon, Rawden had still not appeared. Charlotte had become sufficiently concerned that she rang his mobile phone number and was even more worried when the call didn’t even go to Rawden’s voice mail. The computerised voice indicated:
“Your call could not be connected. The device you have tried to access is either switched off or out of service.”
Charlotte tracked down Gerard in his study and reported the situation. He could see that his wife was distressed and so they each placed a series of calls to Rawden’s friends asking if they knew of his whereabouts. No one, it seemed, had seen or heard from Rawden since he left work on Friday afternoon. Charlotte spent a sleepless night wondering about her eldest son.
On Monday morning Charlotte rang Walter Levinson’s studio and spoke to Mr. Levinson himself who indicated Rawden had not been on any assignment for the firm over the weekend and that he had not reported for work on Friday or this morning. In fact, Walter Levinson indicated he was about to get his secretary to ring Rawden and see if he was unwell and was not coming into the studio that day.
“When did you see him last, Mr. Levinson?”
“I spoke with him on Thursday afternoon. He was working on a quite creative drawing and seemed in good spirits, but then …”
“But then what, Mr. Levinson?”
“Well just as I was leaving the studio I glanced across and saw that he was doodling on his sketch block.”
“Doodling? What was he doodling?”
“Well at a distance it looked like he was drawing one of those vintage rocking horses.”
“Oh, I see. Well thank you for your trouble Mr. Levinson. It seems that Rawden has gone missing. We will keep you informed when we know more.”
“Thank you Mrs. Phillips and do not hesitate to contact me if there is anything I can do. Meanwhile if he turns up here I will ring you immediately.”
“Thank you Mr. Levinson, I would appreciate that.”
Now Charlotte Phillips was ready to panic. She rang Gerard on his private and direct line at the office and conveyed to him the latest information.
“Leave it with me ‘Charlie’, I’ll give Colin McKay a call at the ‘Met’ and see what he can find out for us.”
Charlotte rang off. She then thought that her husband hadn’t used the pet name ‘Charlie’ for years. She concluded it was a sign that he was trying to put her at her ease, but it also indicated that he too was concerned about their son’s whereabouts. Charlotte worried.
Mid-morning Holly Lloyd rang to thank Charlotte for the wonderful dinner party last Friday night. Holly immediately sensed that Charlotte was distressed and before long, as people often did with Holly Lloyd, she poured out the whole story about her worries concerning Rawden.
“Oh honey that is terrible news. He is such a sweet boy.”
“Gerard is going to contact one of his school friends at the Metropolitan Police to see if they can track him.”
“The police are fine and it is a good first step, but I wouldn’t rely on them alone. Harvey often uses private investigators back home. They are not cheap but sometimes their focus is better than the police who have so much more to do. I will have a word with Harvey and ring you back.”
Holly rang off and left Charlotte slightly bewildered. She replaced the telephone in its cradle and was about to try and think what she could do next when the phone rang again. It was Harvey Lloyd.
“Holly has just told me of the situation, Charlotte. You poor thing you must be worried half to death.”
“You don’t think we are worrying unduly then? It has only been three days.”
“Three days is too long in my experience, Charlotte. You should move quickly before the trail, if there is one, goes cold.”
“What should I do, Harvey?”
“You do nothing, Charlotte. Leave it to me. I work closely with a firm of private investigators in the States. I know they have affiliates in Britain and in Europe. I will get in touch with them and see if we can get a contact in London who can help us. Even if your son has just taken off for a few days of peace and quiet or some clandestine recreation, it is better that you know as soon as possible.”
“You are so kind, Harvey.”
“Think nothing of it, I am glad we can help. I’ll get on to it right away and I’ll let you know as soon as I have got something.”
“Thank you so much, Harvey.”
Americans it seems don’t bother with long ‘sign offs’ on the telephone. The line had gone dead even before Charlotte had completed her statement of thanks. As she replaced the telephone she didn’t know whether she felt a little relieved or even more anxious. Clearly the wheels were in motion on a number of fronts. What did Harvey Lloyd mean by ‘clandestine recreation’? Was he suggesting Rawden was off on a weekend of ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’? God, what if he had taken a drug overdose and was lying unconscious, or worse, somewhere? Charlotte had answered her own question of whether she was relieved or more anxious. She was fraught!
She couldn’t think of anything else to do. Then she remembered Rawden’s request about getting the rocking horse down from the loft and so she telephoned the handyman service that they often used for odd jobs and explained the situation. She was told that two men would come around on Tuesday afternoon and do the job. There was a ‘ball park’ quote for the work, which would be finalised on the day depending upon the degree of difficulty involved. Charlotte was satisfied with that and then she looked around for something else to occupy her mind. She started to prepare the ingredients for an afternoon teacake.
Gerard Phillips manipulated his contacts list and pressed the call icon when he located Colin McKay’s private mobile number. Gerard and Colin had gone to Harrow together in the 1970s and had kept in contact personally and through the old boy network. Colin had risen to the rank of Assistant Commissioner and was in charge of the Police Integrity Unit at the ‘Met’.
“Gerard, how pleasant to hear from you. How can I be of service?”
“Colin thank you for taking my call. I need your help. My eldest son, Rawden, appears to have gone missing and I was wondering whether you could get your people to run some basic checks.”
“How many days, Gerard?”
“The last time we saw him was last Friday night and we can’t get any contact on his mobile phone and none of his friends have seen him. Charlotte is upset as you can imagine.”
“Yes I can. You haven’t had any strange contacts regarding the disappearance? Suspicious phone calls suggesting they know Rawden’s whereabouts, or even a ransom demand?”
“No, nothing like that so far. Are we panicking over nothing? Should we wait a few more days?”
“No Gerard, your concern is justified. Look I can get our people to do some basic checks; bank account access, credit card use, phone records. It will at least put your mind at ease. Just in case I need more could you send me a recent photograph of Rawden, something within the last few months is preferable.”
“Yes, I can do that.”
“In the meantime just sit tight. It is early days. I don’t want to alarm you but I will run a check on unidentified bodies and unexplained emergency hospital admissions and see what we come up with. I would not tell Charlotte we are looking into those areas it will only distress her further.”
“Thanks, Colin, I really appreciate it.”
“I’ll get back to you straight away if I get anything. If not, I will touch base this evening.”
“Thank you very much, Colin.”
The Assistant Commissioner ended the call and Gerard rang home. Charlotte virtually snatched the telephone from the receiver and sighed with relief when she heard her husband’s voice.
“I rang Colin McKay at the ‘Met’, ‘Charlie’. They are running some basic checks on Rawden’s bank account access and credit card use.”
“Oh, well that is something. Harvey Lloyd rang and he suggested a private investigator.”
“Yes, Harvey says he uses them a lot in the United States. He says they can make focused progress when the police get bogged down in official procedures. He was going to get a recommendation for a contact in London.”
“I’m coming home straight away, ‘Charlie’. Just stay calm and we will discuss the situation when I get there.”
“That would be good, Gerard. I am rather flustered here on my own.”
“I’ll be there in half an hour.”
After she hung up Charlotte finished her teacake preparations and put the cake tin in the oven for the prescribed forty minutes. She set the timer alarm. Before the timer had gone off Gerard Phillips was back in his own drawing room in the arms of his wife.
“Would you like a drink?”
“Yes, I would, please.”
Gerard went to the drinks cabinet and poured whiskey for himself and a brandy for his wife. As he handed the crystal brandy balloon to Charlotte the kitchen timer and front door bell went off simultaneously. Charlotte went to the oven to attend to the teacake and Gerard answered the front door. It was Harvey Lloyd.
“I rang your office, but they said you had gone home so I thought I would come personally to discuss this situation.”
“Harvey, come in. Holly not with you?”
“No, she had a hair appointment she could not reschedule.”
Charlotte put the cake on the cooling rack and came to give Harvey a hug and a kiss.
“How are you bearing up, Charlotte?”
“A bit better now I know things are happening. At least we are not just waiting and doing nothing.”
Gerard had gone again to the drinks cabinet and poured Harvey a double bourbon whiskey, which he now handed to him and invited him to sit down. Gerard and Charlotte sat on the sofa facing him.
“I rang my Agency in Boston, Massachusetts and explained the situation with Rawden. They have contacted their affiliate here in London and they are ready to take the case if you want to proceed. It will not be cheap.”
Gerard dismissed the cost factor:
“The money doesn’t matter. Just to know Rawden is safe will be worth it.”
“Have you contacted the Metropolitan Police?”
“I have. They are doing some preliminary checks.”
“Good. The Agency said that was an essential first step. They will pick up on the initial police work and run with it from there. They will need a recent photograph and you will need to sign a contract with them for their services. It is all pretty routine, but it gives them clearances to act on your behalf in semi-official situations.”
“Colin McKay at the ‘Met’ asked for a photograph too.”
“I have a recent one on my iphone. I will print off some copies.”
“Don’t waste your time ‘Charlie’. You can send the image to the police and the private investigators direct from your phone.”
“Oh, of course.”
“We can do that once you say you want to proceed. The contact in London is standing by for my call back.”
Gerard and Charlotte exchanged concerned glances and were in unspoken accord.
“Ring them please, Harvey.”
Harvey Lloyd pressed a speed dial number on his mobile phone and Gerard and Charlotte tried to make sense of the brief one-sided conversation.
“David Sutcliffe, please?”
There was a pause that was more than a beat.
“David it’s Harvey Lloyd here … yes it is a clearance to proceed on the Rawden Phillips’ disappearance … half an hour at the Phillips’ house … it’s in Maida Vale, I will text the address. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips are both here … yes, they have a recent photograph, it will be an iphone image … thank you David, I will be here with the family.”
Harvey Lloyd pressed the mobile phone into an inactive state and looked directly at the Phillips parents. He was pleased with himself. He liked efficient and speedy operations.
“All set. David Sutcliffe will be here within a half an hour. I met him in Boston when he was working a transatlantic case. He is very good and comes highly recommended from my Agency. Trust me he will get a result.”
An hour and a half passed and Harvey stayed for a light lunch, which Charlotte prepared with alacrity and skill. The anxiety levels could not be compensated by the excellent fresh food and they were high when David Sutcliffe pressed the front door chime and he and a woman he introduced as his ‘assistant’ were ushered into the drawing room.
“Sorry we are so late, but in view of the case I wanted to brief my assistant who has ‘special talents’ in this area. May I introduce Suzanne Read?”
Suzanne smiled at everyone and immediately put them at their ease. Harvey Lloyd took special note of the extremely attractive woman who he guessed would have been in her late twenties. Charlotte noted the tailored navy blue coat and skirt she wore with the matching stylish shoes. Suzanne Read was impeccably groomed. Gerard thought her strong handshake inspired confidence. When they all sat down the Phillips and Harvey Lloyd were facing David Sutcliffe and Suzanne Read was positioned at an angle so she could observe all the players in the scene with them having her only in their peripheral vision.
The facts of the case were explained and Charlotte handed her iphone to Suzanne who examined the images of the very handsome young man who had gone missing and transferred the images to her own phone and sent copies to David Sutcliffe’s device. She then interrupted the flow of the conversation and asked:
“Who is your primary contact at the ‘Met’?
“Assistant Commissioner Colin McKay. Do you need his number?”
“No, Assistant Commissioner McKay is on our data base.”
With no further ado Suzanne pressed a number of keys on her phone pad and Rawden’s image went via the Agency’s database to Assistant Commissioner Colin McKay’s phone. The discussion of the situation continued without further interruption from the elegant operative.
David Sutcliffe produced a slim line tablet and tapped all the responses the Phillips gave to his questions onto the tablet. Suzanne Read continued to engage with her smart phone and Charlotte watched her out of the corner of her eye. Charlotte wondered if she was doing private texts or emails while the interview was proceeding and the thought annoyed her. When David Sutcliffe had entered all the relevant information he produced a document from his brief case and explained:
“This is our standard contract. It details all the services we will provide in this case and a schedule of fees and charges. It also allows you to sign disclosure clauses, which will allow us to act on your behalf when we are seeking private information. Would you like some time to read the contract and discuss whether you will require our services? The contract is valid for seven days. If you do not proceed in that time frame we will assume you do not require our help.”
David handed the contract to Gerard Phillips who looked at it briefly and then responded:
“I would like my legal team to look this over if you don’t mind. We will be in touch as soon as possible after that.”
“Of course a wise precaution. Besides it has only been three days since Rawden went missing and he may turn up at any moment.”
David Sutcliffe packed his tablet back into his brief case and looked ready to move when Suzanne Read looked up from her smart phone and focused on her possible future clients. Suzanne asked:
“Mr. and Mrs. Phillips do you know of any reason why Rawden would have caught the Friday morning Eurostar service to Paris?”
Everyone in the room was flummoxed. Gerard finally responded:
“The Eurostar to Paris on Friday morning? No I have no idea, ‘Charlie’ did you know anything about this?”
“He also booked a return journey in Standard Premium class. Rawden should have been back in London on Sunday night.”
David Sutcliffe smiled at Suzanne Read; he was not surprised by the announcement. Suzanne was an intelligent and skilled operative. In her mind Charlotte instantly apologised to Suzanne Read for thinking she was doing private texting or emails. Gerard Phillips put his head in his hands and Harvey Lloyd sat back against the sofa. The whole business had just intensified quite considerably.
Late in the afternoon Colin McKay phoned back and Gerard took the call on his mobile phone.
“Well I have some news Gerard, I don’t know whether it will help or not.”
“Anything will help at the moment, Colin.”
“Well Rawden used his credit card to book a return trip to Paris. He was travelling Standard Premium and he left London at 9:22 a.m. on Friday morning.”
Gerard Phillips didn’t have the heart to tell his friend, the Assistant Commissioner, that he had already had that information from a female private investigator, so he allowed Colin McKay to go on without interruption.
“He booked into the Hotel du Nord around lunchtime on Friday and paid for two nights’ accommodation and for two breakfasts on the Saturday and Sunday mornings. It was credit card charge of eighty-one Euros. After that he has not accessed any of his bank accounts or used his credit card again in Paris or anywhere else for that matter. I am afraid that is all I have, Gerard.”
“Thank you, Colin, you have been a great help.”
“I received a picture of Rawden and I have forwarded that to the Parisian police with all the information we have so far. I asked if they had any CCTV footage of Rawden on Saturday night in and around the Hotel du Nord. As yet I have heard nothing back from them apart from a computer generated acknowledgement of our request.”
“Thanks again. Charlotte and I really appreciate your efforts.”
“I’ll keep in touch, Gerard.”
With that Colin McKay rang off. Clearly the private investigators were going to work equally as quickly as the police and Gerard had almost decided to engage them. He made a mental note to tell David Sutcliffe about the Hotel Du Nord link and the request for CCTV footage and then he told his wife everything that had transpired between Colin McKay and himself.
The next morning Gerard dropped the David Sutcliffe and Associates’ Investigation Agency’s contract off at his legal department and asked for a speedy assessment. He received it in within the hour. There was a sticky note on the front of the contract that said it was a stock standard document of its type and the only worry was the open ended clauses relating to expenses and unforeseen charges, which could be prohibitive. Gerard dismissed that concern, signed the contract and had it couriered across the city to David Sutcliffe’s agency. He included a note about the Hotel Du Nord connection and CCTV request.