OnFriday, March 13, 1949, the most desirable woman in the world, certainly in David Gilmore’s world, came into his life. Very desirable and, although he didn’t know it then, very dangerous.
The shiny brass plate on the high street of the small country town bore the legend D. Gilmore LLB Solicitor. It had been on the wall for six months.
The black Bakelite telephone on his desk jangled. He picked up the receiver.
“Mr Gilmore,” the voice of Miss Halliwell, his secretary, said. “There’s a Mrs Drake to see you. She doesn’t have an appointment, but . . .”
Miss Halliwell knew as well as he how slow business was. He smiled to himself.
“Oh, I think we might find time for Mrs Drake.”
“Right, Mr Gilmore.”
The line went dead and David Gilmore stood up to meet his client.
She was beautiful. More than that, she was striking. She was quite tall, slim, with dark eyes, dark eyes in a pale face that was accentuated by black hair and scarlet lipstick. She was perhaps thirty-five or thirty-six years old, a few years older than David himself.
She held out a hand like white porcelain, with crimson nails.
“Mr Gilmore. I’m Olivia Drake.”
She wore a single-breasted, dove-grey suit. He was no fashion expert but he recognised style and quality when he saw it.
“Please take a seat, Mrs Drake. How can I help you?”
She held her head slightly to one side as she looked at him, as though appraising him.
“I’ve had an accident. In my car.”
“Oh, dear. Were you hurt?”
“No, no. It was simply a collision. I slowed at a road junction and a car just ran into the back of me. But my car is a Bentley and it looks as though the repairs . . . well, you know what garages are like.”
“Yes, of course. It sounds very straightforward. The other driver is at fault. No problems.” He smiled at her.
“Thank you. It’s just that my husband insists that we get every penny.” She gave a wry smile. “He insists on his pound of flesh. As he does in all things. Perhaps you know him. Andrew Drake?”
“Ah! Yes, of course,” David said. “I hadn’t realised. Yes. Drake Enterprises, Drake Construction?”
“Yes.” Her dark eyes looked into his. “He puts his name on everything he owns.”
For a moment she was silent.
“Shall I give you details of the accident?”
Ten minutes later she rose to go. As he showed her out, David said, “Tell me, Mrs Drake, why did you come to me?”
“Oh, a friend recommended you, I think.”
“Who was that?”
Again she hesitated.
“You know, I’m not certain. Goodbye, Mr Gilmore.”
He released her hand.
“I’ll be in touch,” he said, as she left.
He sat and gazed at the closed door for a few minutes. There was still the faint fragrance of her perfume. She had been so elegant, so poised, and yet in her face there had been a sadness, an indefinable sense of a woman troubled. Over the next days she was constantly in his mind. Sometimes he could picture her face, those sad, dark eyes, those full soft lips. Sometimes her face refused to take shape.
He must forget her. She was married. She was married to a very rich, successful man.
Then the telephone rang and Miss Halliwell told him that Mrs Drake was on the line. David could feel his pulse racing, and his mouth was dry.
“Hello, Mr Gilmore, it’s Olivia Drake.”
“How nice to hear from you, Mrs Drake. I’ve submitted your claim against the other driver’s insurers but it will take a few weeks yet, I’m afraid.”
“I’m not concerned about that,” she said. “Actually . . .” She paused. “Actually I was wondering if you’d like to come to dinner tomorrow night. If that’s not too short notice. And, of course, if you are interested.”
Interested? What did she mean?
“No, not at all. I mean, it’s not short notice. That’s very kind of you.”
“I just thought that my husband might be able to recommend you to some of his business contacts. We are at Holly Mount, at the top of Break Neck Hill. Do you know it?”
“I’ll find it,” David said.