Authors: A. Denis Clift
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road
Annapolis, MD 21402
Â© 1987 by Denis Clift
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published by Ballantine Books in 1987.
First Naval Institute Press edition published in 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-87021-051-8 (eBook)
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.
Print editions meet the requirements of ANSI/NISO z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
For Artie and Ann
Each character in the novel
A Death in Geneva
is the invention of the author. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is both coincidental and totally unintentional.
A most peculiar name for the yacht, you know. The
were called the vanishing people, Zulu in origin, whose sole business was war
âCaptain William Roger Renfro, DSC Royal Navy, Retired â¢ St. Georges, Malta
he rain had continued for days, often violently, with savage gusts of wind tearing through the ivy of the mansion. Now, in the momentary lull at early evening, rays of sunlight fanned through the racing banks of black clouds, illuminating the yellow of a goldfinch darting to his imperiled home.
Thirty feet beyond the nest, the silhouette of a woman crossed behind the drawn lace curtains of French doors off the second floor balcony.
“Are we late, Ellen?”
“It's going on seven-forty, Mrs. Burdette. You have an hour. The dinner is set for eight-thirty. You are not expected until eight-forty-five, very comfortable time, no need to worry.”
Constance Starring Burdette strode across the thick yellow rug of the bedroom tying the sash of her satin robe. She seated herself at the glass-topped dressing table, tilted her head back as she switched on the hairdryer and swiveled around to face her companion. “Seven-forty; are we the same as London?”
“We're five hours ahead of the States, the same as London,” the maid replied.
For a few moments, the drone of the machine was the only sound in the room. The newly appointed American ambassador to the European Offices of the United Nations thought through the distance which
separated her from her family. Facing the mirror, she contemplated her face in silence. The guilt never goes away, does it? she thought And yet, I shouldn't . . . the self-recrimination was fleeting. “It's almost three in the afternoon, Memorial Day. The children said they were taking a gang to the Hamptons . . . what did Bruce write . . . run an audit on the Long Island beer industry.” A silver-handled hairbrush coursed through shining black waves of hair, pacing her words.
“Mr. Burdette called while you were showering.” Ellen set down a silver tray bearing cigarettes and a glass of sherry. “He said he was at the university grading finals . . . didn't want to trouble you, wished you luck, wanted to tell you he was looking forward to coming over next month.”
“Thank you, Ellen, just what I need.” She took a long sip of the sherry. The rings on her fingers traded beams with the chandelier as she set to work, applying a rich emollient on her face, working gently around the eyes, stroking firmly from the lines at the corners of the mouth up over the still smooth cheeks. With a deft application of paint and powder, the features of the face were highlighted, a touch of rouge to accentuate the broad cheekbones, mascara to enhance the eyes which were somewhat too narrow, a coral lipstick to the generous mouth. She sat back to draw deeply on a cigarette, followed by another sip of sherry.
“That will have to do. What am I wearing? Yes, good,” as Ellen held up the white silk suit.
“It's elegant, Mrs. Burdette. All eyes will be on you.”
Ambassador Burdette absorbed the praise without comment. Her eyes caught the leather document case, seal broken, on the bed where she had been poring through its contents just an hour before . . . The fools, she thought, the worthless fools, harassing Tommie with their idiot schemes . . . dangerous, mindless madness. Half the world's tonnage laid up, a worldwide slump idling the cargo fleets, transport rates continuing to dive, only the Towerpoint fleet making a profit . . . and Adrian and the other directors pressing him to diversify . . . the Australian mining industry! . . . God give me strength. Her brother had continued to forward his most confidential, personal reports on Towerpoint for her eyes only. He trusted her judgment more than any other than his own. . . . Australian mining! . . . so he should!
She snuffed the cigarette against the crystal of the ashtray. “Ellen, remind me to call Tommie tomorrow, very important! I'll want to have those papers. Don't forget.”
The telephone rang punctuating the assignment. “It's Mr. William Pinkerslaw, Mrs. Burdette, calling from downstairs. He has your papers for this evening.”
“Have the . . . the butler, I must learn his name . . . tell him I'll be down in a minute. Make sure he is offered a drink.”
She dressed quickly. “I should wear the flag tonight, don't you think?” Ellen removed a richly wrought creation of sapphires, rubies, and diamonds from the bottom drawer of one of the jewel cases and opened the clasp.
“I don't look like a marine, do I? Perhaps the sapphire and diamond spray would . . .”
“The flag is stunning, Mrs. Burdette. Shall I bring your sherry downstairs?”
“No,” . . . a quick check in the floor-length mirrorâ“no; we should go. You have my speech?”
“Good evening, Ambassador Burdette.” The deputy chief of mission rose, closing a notebook and tucking it under his left arm. He gave a quick twist to his red-and-black-striped bow tie as he stepped forward to greet her.
“Let's sit down over here, Mr. Pinkerslaw. Do you have the president's statement at Arlington today?”
“Yes I do, Ambassador Burdette. A telegram of the advance came in two hours ago.” He handed her the text. “I have taken the liberty of having the paragraph on America's friends and allies retyped in speech type, thinking you would probably wish to use it this evening.” He drew his copy of the speech from his notebook. “I thought, if you agree, that it might read well up near the front, top of page two, right after your introductory remarks where . . .”