Angel of the Dark by Sidney Sheldon

She nodded dumbly.

“What private cleaning did you do for Mrs. Baring?”

The maid squirmed. “Mrs. Baring have a friend. Sometime visit in the day.”

“A friend? You mean a man?”

Joyce Chan nodded. “After, she like me make everything clean. Only me.”

Inspector Liu could barely contain his excitement. This was more than the kind of conjecture the tabloids were running wild with. This was hard fact. The lovely Lisa Baring was having an affair!

“And did you ever meet this man? Mrs. Baring’s ‘friend’?”

Mrs. Chan shook her head no.

“But you saw him, presumably. Can you describe him to me?”

“Never see him.”

Inspector Liu frowned. “You must have seen him. You said he visited during the day. Who let him into the house? Did he drive there? What kind of car did he have?”

But the maid only repeated more firmly, “Never see him. Never. Only missus tell me afterward, come and cleaning everything.”

Inspector Liu grilled Mrs. Chan for a further thirty minutes, but the well of revelations appeared to have run dry. Yes, Mrs. Baring had a lover, but she had not asked for any “special” cleaning on the day of the murder, or in the week leading up to it. She had dismissed the domestic staff early that day and asked not to be disturbed, but apparently this was not uncommon. According to Joyce Chan, Mr. and Mrs. Baring often requested to be left alone together.

After Joyce Chan left the interview room, Inspector Liu sat thinking for a long time.

It was time for another chat with the helpful American from Interpol.

MANY PEOPLE DESCRIBED BALI AS A paradise. But for Matt Daley it was more than that. Bali was a place of magic, of healing, of transformation. It brought him back to life.

When Lisa Baring first asked him to stay, Matt assumed he’d be at Villa Mirage for a few days until his head fully healed. He’d find out everything he could about the night of the murder, and about Miles and Lisa themselves: Was there something about them that had led them to be targeted? Some link with the other victims that he hadn’t seen before, that might help them trace the killer? Then he’d report back to Danny McGuire at Interpol and head to Los Angeles to deal with his mounting problems back home.

But as he and Lisa spent more and more time together, something strange started to happen. Matt found himself caring less and less about the case, and more and more about Lisa. Though he didn’t dare ask her, he was pretty sure she felt the same way. Here in the idyllic surroundings of the villa, days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and the pair of them barely left the property at all. Domestics were dispatched to the local farms and villages for food. Books and other luxuries were ordered online. It was the longest period Matt had spent confined to one property in his entire life, but he didn’t feel trapped. Quite the opposite in fact. It was liberating.

Danny McGuire had been attempting to contact him frantically, bombarding him with e-mails and calls, but Matt couldn’t bring himself to read or respond to the messages. He’d even stopped responding to calls from his sister, Claire, or the other occasional calls he received from home. Once he opened the door to reality, to life outside the bubble, the idyll would be shattered. And Matt wasn’t ready for that. Not yet.

Villa Mirage was a world unto itself, an infinitely dazzling miniature ecosystem. Matt and Lisa would work in the morning, Matt (officially at least) on his documentary and Lisa on the mountains of paperwork already being generated by Miles’s estate. Bali might have granted her a respite from the police and the media, but there were still trustees and tax attorneys and mortgage companies to be dealt with, not to mention the shareholders of Miles’s various companies. Luckily, Lisa had excellent secretarial skills. One of the few nuggets of information Matt had managed to glean about her pre-Miles life was that she’d once worked as a paralegal in a lawyers’ office in L.A.

But both Matt and Lisa soon began living for the afternoons, when they would take off and explore Mirage’s limitless delights together. Sometimes Lisa hired local guides to lead them into the thick jungle that bordered the villa’s grounds, a world bursting with exotic and sometimes dangerous life. As the guides pointed out potential dangers—a coral snake here, a green pit viper, or a two-striped telamonia spider there—and educated them about the breathtaking flora, Matt and Lisa listened entranced, like children released into a strange, tropical Narnia. Other times they went fishing in the lagoon, or swimming in one of the deep, volcanic rock pools hidden at the foot of the cliffs. Matt loved to watch Lisa swimming. She was a slight woman, but her slender body was strong and athletic and she fairly glided through the water with all the deft grace of a young otter. There was something else there too, when she swam. Joy. Delight. A lack of inhibition that he rarely saw in her at other times. One afternoon he asked her about it.

“I’ve always loved the water.” Standing on a rock, rubbing her damp hair with a towel, Lisa looked luminous. Her dewy skin glowed like a teenager’s and her eyes sparkled with light and life. “There’s a freedom to it. The silence. The weightlessness. No one can touch you there. No one can hurt you. It’s what I imagine death to be like.”

“Death? That’s a morbid thought, isn’t it?”

“Is it?” She laughed, wrapping the towel around her hips Turkish style. “Not to me. I’ve always seen death as an escape. It doesn’t frighten me.”

Matt had heard people say this before, and had always taken it with a grain of salt. How could anyone not be scared of dying? Surely it was humanity’s most basic instinct to want to survive. Clinging to life was like breathing, a fundamental fact of human nature, a flaw or a strength depending on how you looked at it, that all of us shared. But when Lisa expressed the thought, somehow it was different. He could see in her face that she meant it. There was a strange, fatalistic aura of peace right where the fear should be. He envied her.

“Lucky you,” he said, stuffing his own clothes into a rucksack to take back to the villa. “That must help a lot, I imagine. Coming to terms with Miles’s death.”

Since their first days together, when he’d bombarded her with questions about her marriage and her past and gotten precisely nowhere, Matt had stopped asking Lisa about the murder and her husband. By unspoken mutual consent, Miles Baring’s name was no longer mentioned between them. Hearing it now, Lisa looked stricken.

“Not really,” she said bleakly. “Come on, let’s get inside. I’m cold.”

Matt could have bitten his tongue off. He hated when this pall of sadness came over Lisa, and hated even more when he was the one who cast it. Back in the villa, they dried and dressed and took some hot, sweet tea out onto the veranda. Lisa had changed into cutoff jeans and a plain white T-shirt. Barefoot, with her still-damp hair slick against her face and her knees drawn up to her chest, she looked more like a teenager than a grown woman, never mind a woman who had lived through such tribulations. Matt realized with a jolt that at some point during his long, happy days at Mirage, he had begun to view his life in a new way, as before Lisa Baring and after Lisa Baring. It had happened almost without him realizing it, but he was in love with her.

Before Lisa, Matt had been lost. It wasn’t just Raquel’s decision to leave him, although that blow had certainly hit him hard. It was many things, things he hadn’t had time to process until now, here in the deep peace of the Balinese jungle. His failed career. His adopted dad’s death. Not being able to have children with Raquel. Never knowing Andrew Jakes, the man who had given him life but then abandoned him, apparently without a moment’s regret or remorse. Researching Jakes’s murder and becoming so obsessed with this documentary, Matt now realized, had been his way of detaching from the pain. But Lisa Baring had shown him a better way.

After Lisa, it was as if a weight he hadn’t even known he’d been carrying had been lifted off his shoulders. Matt felt hopeful, happy, alive. Whatever the future held, whatever the outcome of his work with Danny McGuire to track down this elusive killer, being with Lisa made Matt realize that there was a future for him, a future as bursting with possibility as the jungle all around them was throbbing with life. Increasingly, Matt found himself hoping that his future included the presence of Lisa.

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