The Tides of Memory by Sidney Sheldon

Password. The screen blinked at her demandingly.

Stupid of me. Of course, the computer’s password protected.

She typed in Michael’s pin number: his zodiac sign and date of birth. Obvious, but you never know. No joy. Next she tried various permutations of his family members’ names, adding her own name on a whim, but again, nothing. Oh well. I’ll have to get a professional to hack into it later. Unless maybe Tommy or Roxie knows.

Pushing the laptop to one side, Summer began to leaf through the nearest pile of papers. Not knowing what she was looking for, and with nothing better to do, she began to sort them methodically into piles. Invoices to the right, receipts to the left. She divided everything into business, personal, or junk, running to the kitchen for a trash bag to use for envelopes, flyers, and other rubbish. The work was consuming. By the time she looked up, it was already six P.M. and the sun was beginning its long, slow descent into the horizon, casting orange beams through the shutters and onto the study floor.

Summer stood up and stretched like a cat. She was just about to fix herself a drink when a box in the corner of the room caught her eye. Everything else in Michael’s home office was messy to the point of being deranged, but this box—crate really—had been carefully divided into color-coded sections, with newspaper and magazine clippings as well as photocopied letters stacked sensibly together. It had also been wedged between the bookcase and a large fire extinguisher, not hidden exactly, but definitely moved to a safe place, out of plain sight and where it wouldn’t be contaminated by the general mayhem.

Carefully, Summer pulled out the box and carried it into the kitchen. The clippings were organized by date. Almost all of them related to cases affected by Alexia’s sentencing reform laws.

Some of the stories were genuinely harrowing.

Daya Ginescu, a Romanian immigrant originally given four years for shoplifting but who’d seen her sentence increased to seven years, had not been allowed to be at her son’s bedside when he died of leukemia.

Others were cheap sob stories, whipped up to tragic proportions by the press. Summer found it hard to feel much compassion for Darren Niles, for example, a career burglar whose fiancée had jilted him at the prospect of a further eighteen-month wait for their wedding date.

But the overwhelming bulk of the coverage related to one man, Sanjay Patel. Convicted for drug trafficking on what his supporters clearly believed to be trumped-up evidence, Patel had hanged himself in prison in despair over a lengthening of his sentence.

Summer traced her fingers over the pictures of Patel’s face. There was something sweet about him, sweet and gentle and sad. If Sanjay Patel had smuggled heroin, she could see why the cartels chose him. He had the perfect face for a drug mule, utterly guileless, his dark eyes shining with innocence and integrity even from beyond the grave.

His so-called friends, however, were far from innocent. Next to the Patel clippings, Michael had kept photocopies of three threatening letters sent to his mother. Two of them were handwritten, if you could call it writing—the spelling and grammar would have made a five-year-old blush—and were clearly from the same individual. A man, judging by his liberal use of the C-word and other explicitly sexist, borderline gynecological slurs. But it wasn’t the language in the letter that shocked Summer so much as the hatred resonating from each line. The writer wanted to slash Alexia’s “throte” until she screamed like a “squeeling fucking pig.” He looked forward to “slicing” her tits off, making her pay “for what you done, you stinking c—t.” The third letter was much more erudite, liberally quoting scripture and invoking the wrath of a vengeful God, in punishment for Alexia’s “sins.” Summer didn’t know which of the letters chilled her more. She was no fan of Alexia’s, especially not at the moment. But the letters made even her blood run cold.

She wondered how Michael had gotten hold of them and why he kept them. Were they connected to this secret, whatever it was, this “bad thing” that someone close to him had done? Or was he merely concerned about his mother’s safety generally, or her security at the Kingsmere party in particular?

Possibly. But that didn’t really add up either. As home secretary, Alexia had plenty of police and secret-service protection at her disposal 24/7. She wouldn’t have needed Michael’s amateurish efforts. Something wasn’t right.

There were other things in the box that Summer found curious. In the middle of the file, diligently tagged with dated yellow stickers, was a stack of documents relating to the prime minister. Some were letters that Henry Whitman had written to Alexia around the time of her appointment as home secretary. Others were copies of replies that Alexia had sent him. Still others bore no obvious relation to Alexia at all. There were articles about Whitman opening a hospital, about his wife, Charlotte, attending a charity event. Innocuous pieces about the prime minister’s commitment to renewable energy projects, each one carefully cut out, dated, and filed. Michael—or someone—must have thought them significant.


The telephone rang, scaring her half to death. Who on earth would be calling here? As far as she knew, no one used Michael’s landline number as a contact number for her. Except the hospital. For emergencies. Oh God, no.

“Hello?” The panic in her voice was audible.

“You sound terrible, my dear. Is everything all right?”

“Teddy!” She let out a long breath. Thank God. “I’m fine. I thought it might be the hospital calling.”

“No, no. Only me. Now listen. Your ma rang earlier and asked me to keep an eye on you while you’re in Oxford. I’m to make sure you’re not wasting away in that gloomy flat or starving to death on hospital food.”

Summer laughed. “You can tell my mother I’ve been cooking for myself for some time now. Years, actually.”

“Be that as it may, I was hoping you might want to join us at Kingsmere for dinner.”

Join “us.” Did that mean Alexia too?

As if reading her mind, Teddy said, “Alexia’s away in London, so Roxanne and I are rattling around here on our own like two lost pebbles. You’d be doing an old man a favor.”

Suddenly Summer wanted to see Teddy and Roxie, kind, familiar faces of people who loved Michael as much as she did. They too were infrequent visitors at the hospital, but somehow Summer could tell that their absence at Michael’s bedside was born of heartache, not callousness, like his mother’s.

“All right. That would be lovely, thanks. What time would you like me to arrive?”

“Now, my dear. My driver should be with you at any minute.”

“Now? But I haven’t changed or showered or—”

“Never mind that. Just pack an overnight bag and hop in the car.”

An overnight bag? Summer considered protesting but changed her mind. Why not get away for a while? As long as she was back in Oxford by tomorrow night, in time for her daily visit to Michael.

Throwing some clothes into a bag, she waited for the doorbell to ring. How thoughtful of Teddy to send a driver. He really was the kindest man in the world.

Chapter Twenty-six

Gravel crunched satisfyingly beneath Summer’s feet as she pushed Roxie De Vere’s wheelchair down the long drive at Kingsmere.

“It’s so beautiful here. You must wake up every morning and pinch yourself.”

Roxie smiled. “Not exactly. But it is lovely. I’m not sure I could live anywhere else.”

After a hearty breakfast of kedgeree and strong black coffee, the girls were out for a morning walk. Whether it was the cloud-soft, goose-feather bed in the guest room, last night’s wonderful food and wine, or the simple pleasure of being in the company of old friends, Summer didn’t know, but she felt revived and refreshed this morning in a way she hadn’t felt in a long time. The blue sky, and slight crispness to the air, somehow brought a sense of hope, and the rooks cawing in the treetops seemed to be heralding a new start.

The two girls reached the end of the drive. A winding country lane snaked in front of them, bordered by tall hedgerows and overhung with ancient oaks, giving it the feel of a tunnel.

“Left or right?” asked Roxie.

“What’s the difference?”

“Left is the village, right is the farm.”

“Left then,” said Summer. “Your father said he wanted a newspaper, and I’ve never seen the bright lights of downtown Kingsmere.”

Roxie was pleased Summer had agreed to spend the night. The two girls had been close as children, although, of course, they had both changed so much since those innocent, carefree days. The Summer that Roxie remembered from holidays on Martha’s Vineyard had been fat and withdrawn and painfully, agonizingly shy. Back then she, Roxie, had been the confident one, not to mention the great beauty. But now it was Summer Meyer who had the world at her feet. How strange life was.

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon