The Tides of Memory by Sidney Sheldon

“You recognized Hamlin?”

“Not definitively. I didn’t know it was him. I wasn’t sure. Like I say, I hadn’t seen him since we were children. But as soon as Commissioner Grant mentioned the name . . .”

She left the sentence hanging.

“Did you know he’d been in prison?”

Alexia hesitated for a moment. Then she said, “Yes. The case was in the news at the time.”

“About the child who drowned.”

“Yes.” Alexia shivered. Just hearing the word drowned still made her blood run cold. “But I knew nothing about what had happened to him since. His mental illness, the delusions, all of that stuff.”

Sir Edward Manning asked, “Why do you think Hamlin would want to contact you now?”

“I have no idea. You saw his file. He’s had business and financial problems, as well as his mental health issues.”

Sir Edward Manning cast his mind back. He did remember reading something about bankruptcy. Hamlin’s auto-repair business going under during the recession.

“You think he may be after money?”

Alexia shrugged. “Like I said, I have no idea.”

“Were you lovers?”

The question was so blunt, for a moment Alexia was blindsided.

“I . . . we . . . does it matter? For heaven’s sake, Edward, it was forty years ago!”

“It may matter, Home Secretary. Does Hamlin know anything that he could use to blackmail you?”

Alexia looked away. “No. Not that I can think of.”

“What about sexual peccadilloes, things of that nature?”

“No.” Alexia shot her PPS a look that could have frozen fire.


“No! I mean maybe the odd joint. It was the sixties.” She ran a hand through her hair. “Look, when Commissioner Grant confirmed that the man at Kingsmere that night was Billy Hamlin, I was curious as much as anything. That’s why I asked you for his file, privately. But what I read disturbed me. Clearly Billy isn’t well. He’s psychotic, he develops weird obsessions with famous individuals. And now he shows up here, in England, behaving in a very confused, aggressive manner toward me. I don’t like it.”

“Nor do I, Home Secretary,” Sir Edward Manning said with feeling. “Nor do I.”

For a few moments silence fell. On one level, Alexia had told Edward the truth. She didn’t know what Billy Hamlin wanted from her. He’d mentioned his daughter being in danger, but according to his psychiatrist’s report, unspecified threats to the lives of loved ones were a common delusional theme. Or perhaps it was money he needed. Who knew?

What Alexia did know, with certainty, was that she wasn’t about to let Billy Hamlin destroy her life. She’d worked too hard for her career, and her marriage, to allow them to be threatened by a ghost from the past, a past to which she no longer felt any connection. Not while she still had breath in her body.

Besides, the girl that Billy Hamlin was looking for was already dead.

Alexia De Vere had buried Toni Gilletti a long, long time ago.


“Home Secretary?”

“I’d like you to get rid of him.”

The hairs on Sir Edward Manning’s neck stood on end. He looked at his boss with new eyes.

There’s a determination there, a ruthlessness that I didn’t appreciate before. She’s a street fighter. A survivor.

Just like me.

What had Hamlin shouted at Alexia, when the police dragged him away?

I know who you are.

Sir Edward Manning wished he could say the same. Not least because his own survival might now depend on it. He thought about Sergei Milescu and the faceless people paying him. He remembered the sharp pain of the kitchen knife as it cut through his skin, the cold terror of being tied to his own bed, helpless, with the blade hovering over his genitals. He remembered the camera and the awful, degrading things that Sergei had made him do.

Edward Manning had secrets of his own.

For a tense few seconds the civil servant and the cabinet minister eyed each other across the desk like two desert lizards. Unblinking, cold-blooded, and as still as statues, each assessed the other’s intentions. Were they to be hunting partners, ranged against Billy Hamlin? Or was one of them the predator and one the prey?

“Yes, Home Secretary. I can get rid of him. If that’s what you want.”

“It is, Edward. It is.”

“Then consider it done.” Sir Edward Manning got up to leave the room. When he reached the door he turned. “Just one small question, Home Secretary. I heard Hamlin calling you ‘Toni.’ Why was that?”

“It was a nickname I had as a little girl,” Alexia answered unhesitatingly. “To be honest with you, I can’t remember why. So strange, hearing it again all these years later.”

Sir Edward Manning said, “I can imagine.”

The door closed and he was gone.

It was all over so quickly.

There were no lawyers, no phone calls, no court appearances or appeals. After Alexia De Vere refused to see him, the police threw Billy Hamlin into the back of a van with six other protesters and kept him in a cell at Westminster police station. A few hours later a smartly dressed man arrived to claim him.

“Mr. Hamlin? There’s been a misunderstanding. You can come with me.”

The man seemed avuncular and kind. He had an educated accent and was wearing a suit. Billy felt quite safe getting into his chauffeur-driven car, assuming that they were heading straight to the Home Office. In fact, as soon as the car door closed, Billy was restrained and injected with some sort of sedative. He was dimly aware of being transferred from the fancy car to another, anonymous-looking white van and driven to Heathrow. After that, it was like a dream. His passport was taken, then returned with various hostile-looking stamps in black ink on its last pages. He was escorted, luggageless, onto an ordinary Virgin Atlantic passenger plane, strapped into his seat, and, as he fought the drug-induced sleep that inevitably claimed him, launched into the gray, drizzly sky. When he awoke, he was in New York, dumped penniless and alone back on U.S. soil like an unwanted package returned to sender.

Dazed, he found an airport bench to sit on and rummaged through his pockets for his cell phone.


No! It couldn’t be gone! What was going to happen when the voice called? Who would answer?

Billy Hamlin started to shake.

Why hadn’t Alexia De Vere listened to him? Why hadn’t he made her listen?

He had failed. Now there would be blood, more blood, and it would be on his hands.

He wept.

“Mr. Hamlin?”

Billy looked up, defeated.

He didn’t struggle as the strong arms gripped him and carried him away.

Chapter Seventeen

“Okay. So we have nine lobsters, six pounds of crayfish, fresh Adams Farm tomatoes for the salad. How many of those?”

Lydia, the Meyer family’s Filipina cook-cum-housekeeper, held up an enormous, groaning burlap sack. “Plenty. Enough to feed an army, Mrs. Lucy.”

“Good. Because we’re going to be an army. Now what else? Beef?”

“Already in the oven, slow-cooking.”

“Fresh bread?”

“Got it.”

“Strawberries? Tonic water for Teddy’s G-and-T? Oh, darn it.” Lucy Meyer clapped a hand dripping in diamonds to her fevered brow. “We’re totally out of gin. I’ll send Arnie into town to get some. Do you think the A&P’s still open?”

“At one o’clock in the afternoon? Yes, Mrs. Lucy. Definitely.” The housekeeper put a reassuring hand on her boss’s arm. Lydia liked working for Mrs. Meyer. “Try to relax. The dinner’s going to be just perfect.”

Lucy Meyer hoped so. She liked things to be perfect, from her dinner parties, to the just-so caramel highlights in her hair, to the updated-every-season soft furnishings of her Martha’s Vineyard summer home. During her childhood, Lucy’s family summered on nearby Nantucket. She remembered her mother’s picnics from those vacations as things of exquisite beauty, from the colorful salads and fresh seafood to the chicly mismatched French chinaware and the crisp white linen cloths thrown over the picnic blankets. As for evening dinners, those were nothing short of spectacular. Lucy remembered long, antique tables, sparkling with cut crystal and the finest silverware. Back then the men all wore tuxes to dinner and the ladies dazzled in chiffon and sequin and silk and lace and jewels. Lucy and her little brother would watch the preparations in awe, before being hustled upstairs to the nursery by their nanny.

Of course, things had changed since the sixties. As an adult, Lucy preferred Martha’s Vineyard over Nantucket, partly because it had more life to it and felt less starched. Everything on the Vineyard was about cookouts and pool parties and sustainable, locally caught seafood. But that didn’t mean an effort shouldn’t be made, especially for Alexia and Teddy’s welcome-back dinner.

Wandering into her huge, vaulted drawing room, Lucy replumped the already perfect cushions on her Ralph Lauren couches and tried to take her housekeeper’s advice.

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon