Relations between Alexia and Teddy were cordial, even warm. They wrote letters to each other about the weather and the garden and Teddy’s prison routines, never mentioning Andrew Beesley or Billy Hamlin or any other “difficult” subject. There was nothing to say anyway—nothing that would help. Reverting to their old way of being seemed the easiest and safest course of action. Alexia had long since decided that she was going to stand by Teddy. He had kept her secrets faithfully for forty-odd years. Now it was her turn to return the favor. Being away had helped her to detach emotionally, to push thoughts of Billy Hamlin and Andrew Beesley and everything that had happened out of her mind and to focus on the present. She tried not to think about the past or the future, although she knew that Teddy would go to prison for a long, long time and the thought scared her.
From now on, I’ll have to be my own rock. Rebuild my own life. Start afresh. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again.
The hardest part was the children. Michael had now been moved to a specialized critical care unit in London. The doctors had been as kind as they could be to Alexia, but she knew what the move meant: Michael would never get better. There was no more hope. At some point she knew she would have to face reality and turn off the life support machines. But not now. Not yet. She wasn’t ready. And there were also Summer Meyer’s feelings to consider.
Meanwhile a shroud of mental health professionals had descended over Roxie’s life, shutting Alexia out completely. Apparently Roxie was staying at an “assisted living” facility somewhere in the west of England. But Alexia was expressly forbidden to visit or even to know her exact whereabouts, on psychiatrist’s orders.
I gave birth to her! Alexia wanted to scream. I love her. Who the hell are you to tell me I can’t see my own child? But she knew that Roxie was not a child, and that Roxie herself was the one who’d insisted on banishing her. Perhaps a period of separation was best for Roxie’s recovery. But it still hurt, a raw wound that bled and bled and that no amount of distance, or time, would ever fully heal.
Meanwhile the radio silence from the people in Alexia’s old political life was deafening. She hadn’t spoken to Henry Whitman since the day she resigned, and not one of her cabinet colleagues or former constituency staff had called to see how she was doing. Edward, dear Edward, had sent a couple of gossipy e-mails. But that was it. After twenty years of devotion to the Tory Party, such utter abandonment ought to have hurt desperately. But it didn’t. On the contrary, it felt liberating. Walking the deserted, windswept beaches and cranberry bogs of Martha’s Vineyard, sometimes alone, sometimes with Lucy, Alexia could smell her future in the crisp, wintery air.
Perhaps, despite what she’d said to Michael, she really could leave the past behind this time. Reinvent herself and start again, far away.
This time around, the past seemed willing to let her go.
Lucy Meyer watched Alexia as she pored over her computer screen. It was only a few months ago that Lucy thought she’d lost her friend for good. That some crazy taxi driver’s bullet was going to rob her of one of the most important people in her life. But Alexia had survived. She’d recovered and she’d come out here, where Lucy could keep an eye on her. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?” Lucy mumbled through a mouthful of cake crumbs.
“Tell you what?” Alexia didn’t look up.
Lucy had popped over, ostensibly to borrow a hoe for the garden, and ended up staying for coffee and cake. But from the minute she arrived, Alexia had been itching to get back to her MacBook.
“What you’re working on? Beavering away over there, all secret squirrel.”
Alexia grinned. “So what am I, a squirrel or a beaver?”
“You’re a politician, honey: avoiding the question.”
“Not anymore I’m not.”
“So what are you working on? It’s not Teddy’s case, is it? Because I really think you need to put that out of your mind. There’s nothing you can do from here.”
“I have put it out of my mind.” Alexia shut the computer and joined Lucy at the kitchen island. “And it’s not Teddy’s case.”
Lucy had an uneasy feeling. “What then?”
“It’s . . . something else I’ve been working on,” Alexia said evasively. “It’s not important.”
Lucy raised an eyebrow and waited.
“Okay, okay.” Alexia capitulated. “It’s a cold case I’m looking into. You remember I told you about Billy Hamlin, the boy who—”
“I remember,” Lucy cut her off.
“And you know he was killed?”
“Well, so was his daughter. Jennifer. She was murdered last year, in truly horrific circumstances, and no one seems to have any idea why, or who did it, or anything.”
Lucy frowned. “Okay. Well, that’s sad. But what does it have to do with you?”
“When Billy came to England those times, when he tried to see me and I turned him away, he was trying to tell me something about his daughter. I think he was scared something bad was going to happen to her.”
“And then something bad did happen to her.”
“And you feel responsible?”
“Not responsible, exactly. But I feel I owe it to Billy to help now.”
“Because I didn’t help then,” Alexia said simply. “I could have. I should have. But I turned my back on him. Maybe, if I’d listened, Jenny would still be alive today.”
“That’s crazy talk,” Lucy said robustly. “This has nothing to do with you.”
“I started looking into Jenny’s murder last year, back when I was still in office. But there was so much going on then, at home and at Westminster. I didn’t have time to focus on it. Now I have nothing but time.”
Lucy pushed away her half-eaten cake. “I thought you came here to get away from the past. From all the stresses back home.”
“I did,” Alexia admitted. “And I have. Mostly.”
“Then why reopen such an awful can of worms?”
“Because nobody else is going to, Luce. No one cares who killed Jenny Hamlin. The media moved on after a couple of weeks. The police have totally given up. Maybe, if I can uncover the truth, if I can find some justice for Billy’s daughter, I can make amends.”
“Amends to whom?”
“To Billy. To my own children. I don’t know, Luce, I can’t explain it. It just feels right to do something. To at least look into it.”
Lucy shook her head. She knew Alexia well enough to realize that nothing she said was going to change her mind at this point.
“What does that mean, ‘look into it’?” she asked. “If the police couldn’t find anything, what makes you think you’ll be able to, sitting at a computer on Martha’s Vineyard?”
Alexia smiled. “I don’t. That’s why I’m going to New York.”
“New York? When?”
“Soon. Tomorrow, if I can get a flight.”
Lucy cleared away the coffee. “Okay, it’s official. You’ve lost your mind. You’re supposed to be relaxing, switching off, regaining your strength, remember? Not running around the city on some ludicrous wild-goose chase, all for the sake of a girl you never even met. A girl whose father, by the way, was probably trying to ruin you.”
“I don’t believe Billy meant me any harm,” Alexia said. “And I’ve regained my strength. I need to do something, Lucy. I need a purpose. You do understand, don’t you?”
“I guess. Just be careful, Alexia. There are doors that, once opened, can’t easily be closed again. Start digging around in this girl’s life and who knows what you might find.”
Tommy Lyon sat at the American Bar in London’s Savoy Hotel, checking out the businesswomen and sleek yummy mummies as they wandered in. Most wore wedding rings, although the curvaceous brunette at the corner table had a promisingly bare left ring finger, despite sporting a plethora of diamonds everywhere else.
Late thirties? No, early forties with good, subtle Botox. Divorced. Rich. Probably a tigress in the sack.
Tommy prided himself on being a good judge of women, the same way that a betting man might pride himself on a good knowledge of horseflesh. Michael had been the master, of course. Michael De Vere could smell a woman’s likes and dislikes, her desires and weaknesses, from a thousand paces. Tommy Lyon had never quite matched his friend as a ladies’ man. Despite being tall, blond, and athletic, with a strong jaw and soulful brown eyes, every bit as handsome as Michael, somehow Tommy had always ended up playing second fiddle. He lacked the De Vere dazzle, that ineffable charisma that used to draw women to Michael like dust into a vacuum cleaner.