STRANGE BODIES (a gripping crime thriller) (8 page)

BOOK: STRANGE BODIES (a gripping crime thriller)
5.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

‘I’d better get back. Would you get in touch with Lucas, in CECI. Give him a quick rundown of that and see if he’s got any ideas. He might figure out a way to pick up the eavesdropper or to jam whatever’s doing it.’

They headed out, Mrs Halifax to contact Lucas and Adams back to the boardroom where the level of chatter sounded like a noisy cocktail party.

‘Okay people. Go home. More bright ideas needed tomorrow.’


As they broke for the day Mrs Halifax buzzed through, ‘It’s confirmed, sir. You can see Miss Browne at six o’clock tomorrow if that suits you. I told her Commander Nicholas Adams would like a few words. She said she’s looking forward to meeting you again. She can’t confirm Verity Burne, but she’ll probably be there as she lives next door.’

Chapter 15

The previous Friday night

As with every Friday night, the ticket-only audience waited impatiently for the top rating television show, Adelaide Browne’s RAZZ! Forty minutes before airtime Adelaide sat in front of the mirror and looked at herself critically. Her blue eyes sparkled and the only flaw on her creamy skin was a small bruise on her jaw.

‘Lucy, do you think makeup covers the mark enough?

‘Everyone knows about the attack, Addie. I think you should play it up a bit more, good for the ratings,’ said Lucy Winsome, her beautician and dresser.

Adelaide hummed her theme song, “
Razzle Dazzle,
” as she continued the scrutiny. The inspiration for the current format had hit her during a revival of the old musical “
”. At the time she had a successful daytime talk show, number one in its time slot. The show had followed a predictable format: the usual guests—visiting celebs, whoever was flogging a new book or product, but what lifted it out of the ordinary was Adelaide herself. She had
, that indefinable X-factor that made people watch her. In the last two years she had gone from being a minor celebrity to an international phenomenon with a very different interview show.

The fact that she had a stunning appearance helped, and that was combined with a sharp intellect and a shrewd, practical approach to life.

‘Have you seen the rundown? I can’t find my schedule anywhere. Now that those bloody Richardsons haven’t responded to my calls I need to rethink. No, dammit, I’ll announce them as planned and if they don’t show, too bad.’ She shrugged. ‘Not the end of the world.

‘Now, check when that blasted Rex King is on. Never shuts up about himself so I want him on first. I can throw to an ad break earlier if he goes on and on about how brilliant he is in his latest movie. Hmmm. Who’s next? Oh yes, Meredith Gilson. Love her and loved her latest book ... then the music break, that new singer, Portia Balboa … and finally that ghastly pair, um, Walter and Cissy Cooper. Cissy, for God’s sake, her real name’s Pam, and she calls him Big Daddy! What is she—twelve! No, I want that order changed. I’ll have the Coopers on just before the news break, then Stephanie ... don’t want dear Merri sitting next to Rex … King Leer, they call him. The Coopers’ll feel relaxed and think I’ve finished with them. Then an ad break, then I announce the spotlight victims.

‘That reminds me—did Verity drop anything in? She promised some extra razzle dazzle, a couple more items, for that pair tonight.’

As she spoke, Lucy tried to finish her makeup. ‘Hey, can you just keep quiet for a few minutes while I do your lips. Have you decided which dress you’re wearing tonight?’

‘The hot pink Tallulah X dropped in yesterday. It’s in that new four-way stretch Velura that fits like a glove, fabulous stuff and she cuts it so cleverly.’

After Adelaide had wriggled into the high necked, long sleeved dress Lucy pulled up the long concealed fastener. ‘Only you could get away with something like this.’

The carefully placed slashes gave tantalising glimpses of flesh, much more alluring than a barely-there dress would be. A split from ankle to mid-thigh ran up the left side, revealing a long shapely leg.

‘Can you make sure someone has my black jacket for the victim segment? Can’t have them distracted by the body. Hair up? No, forget the hair, I’ll wear it loose over one side to hide the skin dressing on my forehead, a gold clip mike on the other side.

‘Now I need my quiet time. Get those changes to Sukey for me, sweetie. If you see Amy, ask her to come in for a quick neck massage, this damn headache is giving me hell. Hand me my phone before you go. I’ll see if I can track down Verity.’

Lucy handed her the phone then headed out the door.

‘Bloody hell, Verity. Where are you,’ fumed Adelaide, when she was bumped to Verity’s messages. ‘Ring me as soon as you get this.
. I’m on in twenty and I need that extra ammo on the Coopers.’

The screen cleared and Verity appeared. ‘Plenty of time. I’m sending the latest stuff through as we speak. Check your printer—it should be there now. Busy, have to go. Break a leg! ‘Bye.’

For once Adelaide hadn’t managed to get a word in.


After the show, Amy was waiting with Ken, one of the station’s security guards, as Adelaide made her way off the set. ‘Thank God that’s over for another week. Only two more to go this year. If that stupid woman hadn’t stopped whining I swear I would have bopped her one. Little Cissy, caught with her hand in the till for fifty mill! Fifty million dollars for “household expenses and renovations!” And her stupid husband denying everything. Darling Verity came through again—can’t wait to see the full story in

She turned to the guard. ‘It’s alright tonight, Ken, that pair are having a little chat with the fraud squad. They’re more interested in getting out of here in one piece than having a go at me. I wonder who informed all those shareholders.’ She grinned.

‘We’ll see you to your dressing room, Miss Browne,’ said Ken firmly. He and Amy made a formidable escort; Ken was well over two metres and built to match, and Amy, almost as tall, was Adelaide’s personal trainer and bodyguard.

Since an attack two weeks ago by an irate “victim” who’d managed to elude the police waiting for him, Adelaide had been escorted to and from the set and the car park.

She thanked Ken as he left her at the door then slumped down on a squashy couch, kicked her shoes off and moaned, ‘Coffee, for God’s sake, coffee, before I die.’

Knowing Adelaide’s usual, Lucy had primed the machine and handed a mug of black coffee over seconds later.

‘Aaah, that’s better, thanks, Lu. How did you think it went tonight? I hope I didn’t make a mistake announcing the Richardsons for next week.’

‘I did feel a bit sorry for that Cissy Cooper. She seemed so young and, I don’t know, naïve maybe,’ said Amy, sipping green tea.

‘That cunning bitch is older than me, forty if she’s a day. Lots of
expensive cosmetic surgery. She’s on her third husband and pulled the same stunt with the previous two. They’re in jail, but she wasn’t even questioned. And don’t feel sorry for him either—she’s the brains but he went along with it.’

‘Oh, why didn’t you mention all of that?’

‘That was the arrangement J.J. and I agreed on. I got enough for the show and the rest is for tomorrow morning’s
. I don’t know where she gets this stuff.’

Lucy grabbed a juice from the bar fridge and swallowed a mouthful. ‘Let’s get you out of that dress before the droppers-in start dropping in,’ she said.

Amy and Lucy exchanged glances as Lucy helped her out of the dress. It was Adelaide’s first show after a week resting from the assault. The injuries were mild but she was bruised and still suffering from headaches caused by a bump on the head. The previous week the station had put together a program of highlights from some of the earlier shows, plus a dramatic re-enactment of the assault, some of it caught on security cameras. One of the guards had grabbed the man before he had done any real damage to her.

A news camera had followed her to the hospital and captured her being treated by a Dr Richard Wainwright in A & E. She smiled to herself as she remembered the run-in with the stern doctor who fought tooth and nail to keep the camera out. She had shed a few tears and given him the big blue-eyed look that usually sent strong men to their knees. He had capitulated, but with bad grace, and only after a call from the head of the hospital board.

Adelaide slipped a silk top on and turned to give her hair a quick ruffle with her fingers. She shook her head vigorously. ‘This wig is fabulous, the best yet. I’ll keep it on till I get home. I can barely feel it. Can you order another one the same please, Lucy?’

Amy said, ‘Why don’t we go home and I can give you a massage for the headache so you’ll get a comfortable night’s sleep. You must be feeling a little ...’

‘No, I’m fine,’ broke in Adelaide. She swallowed the rest of the coffee. ‘And I’m expecting, you might say, my personal physician.’ She stretched and smiled wickedly. ‘I think he can see me home and administer some hands-on therapy. Mmm-mmm.’

Lucy gasped. ‘You mean Dr Wainwright! How did you manage that? He looked so grim on that video in the Emergency room. Was that him in the VIP seats? Wow.’

Amy laughed. ‘Lucy, you should know by now that once Addie sets her sights on a man, he’s a goner. And just how did you get him to come here tonight?’

‘I sent him a VIP pack with a hand-written apology, plus an e-pass to the car park. The handsome doctor may not get much sleep tonight, and with luck, neither will I.’ She smirked sexily and turned at a knock on the door.

‘Check the screen please, Amy, and if it’s him, let him in. If it’s anyone else give them my apologies through the intercom and say I’m a little tired—first show back after the … la-la-la,’ wriggling her fingers. ‘You know the drill.’

‘Hello, doctor.’ Adelaide greeted him with a hand clasp. ‘I’m so glad you could make it. Come and have a coffee with us. I don’t think you’ve met Lucy, she works the magic on my face and hair—Lucy Winsome, Dr Richard Wainwright. Amy you’d remember, of course.’

He smiled at them but looked a bit flustered in a room full of women—tall, stately Amy, small, colourful, definitely winsome Lucy and the fabulous Adelaide Browne.


He could almost inhale the femininity.

Now that she was standing in front of him, rather than lying on a stretcher, he realised just how stunning Adelaide was. Slender but curvaceous, her face a perfect oval with high cheekbones and full lips he couldn’t take his eyes off. She smiled gently at him and pulled him over to sit next to her. Lucy handed him a coffee.

‘Hope you like it black,’ she said.

‘Thanks, this is fine, and thanks for the ticket to the show, by the way. So how are you, Miss Browne? You didn’t come back to the hospital for a check-up.’

‘I’m fine really, doctor. Amy’s been looking after me. She has some secret herbal concoction she uses and it’s almost healed now.’

‘Perhaps I’d better take a
close look at it just to be sure, Miss Browne. And it’s Richard to my friends.’

Amy broke in. ‘We’ve got to rush off, Adelaide. Supper date,’ she said, grabbing her handbag and nudging Lucy.

‘Yes, we don’t want to be late, do we, Amy,’ said Lucy, picking up her cue, standing and heading for the door.

‘What, both of you!’ said Adelaide in mock surprise. ‘Will you order one of the studio limos to drive me home, please Amy?’

Richard said, ‘I’d be delighted to drive you home. It’s the least I can do since I’m using your spot in the car park. And I think I can take care of you.’

Head tilted to one side, she ran her eyes over him slowly. ‘Well, if you’re sure you don’t mind.’

‘A pleasure. Glad to do it,’ he said smoothly. He had recovered his cool and smiled broadly at them. He stood as they made for the door.

‘Have a good time, girls. See you in the morning—not too early. Say about nine or ten.’ Adelaide waved them off.


As they entered the elevator Amy said, ‘I wonder how she managed to get him here. I almost feel sorry for the poor man.’

‘I don’t think you need worry about
. If a good looking doctor has managed to stay single this long he can look after himself. But then it
Adelaide, isn’t it. I don’t think he’s met too many like her.’

‘I just hope he
single or at least divorced. You know Adelaide’s rules. She has this strange moral immorality, no sex on the first date, no married or partnered men. So I think the handsome doctor will be going home a bit earlier than he expected tonight. She looked pretty tired, too.’

‘I checked and he’s single. But nobody thinks anything of a friendly these days. No chance of disease or pregnancy with the annual shots we get. Wanna go to a club and see if
can get lucky? It only just after ten,’ said Lucy.

‘A friendly, is that what it’s called these days? I’m so out of touch. No, I just want to go home and relax in a hot spa tub. You checked on him! I hope you didn’t tell Adelaide.’

Lucy sighed. ‘Do I look like I have a death wish! Okay, let’s go home. Actually, that spa tub sounds quite appealing. I’m too young to be getting old before my time but my feet are killing me in these shoes. I swear this man desert is going to have to become an oasis soon or Ken will start looking good! When was the last time you ...?’

‘Don’t bother asking, I can’t remember. Months, years.’

They walked out to the waiting autocab and Amy programmed for home. As the cab took them to Paddington and home, Lucy said, ‘You know how Verity’s got all these contacts at police HQ from when she was on the crime desk, well, she told me about this new group or squad or whatever they call it. They set it up a few months ago. It’s part of the APS restructure apparently, but they’re based in Sydney, over near the old Victoria Barracks.’

‘So why are you telling me this?’

‘She said to tell you she met one of the cops, Lottie something, from this group at her kick-boxing class and she, Verity, was told there’s a Scottish copper there with an Glasgow accent like yours.’

BOOK: STRANGE BODIES (a gripping crime thriller)
5.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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