Over the last few weeks I have shared excerpts from my novels about Thomas Radwinter who traces his family history, and then later investigates other people’s stories, and not just genealogical ones, but mysteries in their everyday lives. I’m now sharing excerpts from my other novels. This excerpt is from ‘The Double Act’ with the subtitle: “Don’t think ‘The Double Act’ is a romance, this may be a love story… but the other side of love is dark love.”
This chapter from later in the book is not a spoiler; on the first page the first scene describes how, unexpectedly and completely out of character Genet McCauley has a romantic encounter with the new tenant of the bungalow she and her husband are renting out. She loves her husband, has never ever been unfaithful before, nor even thought about it; Dr Herrick, the new tenant lives with his disabled wife and has asked Genet’s cousin Lyndsey if she might be a companion for her.
The Double Act
Lance and Genet
Although Genet had so much to do in case some casual visitors responded to the ‘Vacancies’ sign in the window, she stayed with Gawain after breakfast, pouring coffee for the guests before they left, and taking money for her biscuits and cakes. She wrapped Viennese shortcake, golden oaties, a couple of cakes and a couple of jars of jam and marmalade. Pauline had gone home and Lance had mysteriously disappeared so Genet helped carry the cases and put them in the minibus.
Gawain drove his writers away to the station and Genet was alone and able to collapse on the settee. She was utterly drained; she would sit for five minutes before hoovering the guests’ lounge, changing the bedrooms. The sheets, pillowcases and towels would soon be flapping on the line, drying in the bright March sunshine.
The bell rang… it might be guests. It might be Herrick.
The bell rang again. It was Lyndsey.
“Why ring the bell? Why not come in the back, for heaven’s sake,” snapped Genet, sick with the ebbing tide of emotions which had flooded as she’d rushed to the door.
“Oh… er… I’ll go away if you’re busy, Gen, I thought your people would be gone,” Lyndsey grinned, flushing and bright-eyed with embarrassment.
She was wearing one of her more luminous shell suits under a camel duffel coat and the fluorescent pink seemed to reflect off her broad face. Her dark curly hair was wild as if she had forgotten to brush it, tufts and wisps standing up at odd angles.
Genet’s mother had died shortly after giving birth to her only child, her father was unknown and a kindly aunt had brought her up with her cousin Lyndsey; no-one knew anything of Lyndsey’s parents, and no-one had ever liked to ask the big, good-hearted, bumbling woman about it.
“I’m sorry, Lyndsey, come in. You can make me a cup of tea, I’m absolutely shattered, and then you can help me do the rooms.”
Lyndsey stuttered as she followed Genet into the kitchen. “I say, Gen, Chrissie has been talking to me…”
“Oh, about Pamela? Money for old rope if you ask me,” Genet had automatically put the kettle on and found the tea bags.
She tried to keep her mind on Lyndsey and what she was saying. Concentration was a problem for her all the time now, her mind would wander away and when she returned to reality she had no idea where she’d been, only who she’d been with.
“So will you, Gen?” pleaded Lyndsey, as if repeating herself. “Will you speak to Dr Herrick for me?”
“Oh, Lyndsey, you’re hopeless!” she was exasperated. “It’s nothing to do with me. Look, they’re only at the end of the garden, why don’t you go and see if they’re at home?”
“Oh, I couldn’t, I might be interrupting something, oh, I couldn’t. Please, Gen, couldn’t you…” Lyndsey was so keen but as usual, had no confidence.
After much encouragement, she agreed to go and see the Herricks, if Genet rang them first. In the end it was easier, and kinder. Perhaps Herrick wouldn’t be at home. She dialed the number, surprised she knew it and he answered on the second ring, giving his name.
She had convinced herself Pamela would answer and was taken aback at the sound of his voice.
“Mrs. McCauley. Good morning,” his voice smiled.
She began to explain that Lyndsey would come down and see him and Pamela but stopped as Lyndsey gesticulated violently. “Excuse me a minute. What’s the matter, Lyndsey?” she hissed.
“No, no, I don’t want to talk to him!” Lyndsey looked alarmed.
Genet raised her eyes to heaven. ‘Don’t be stupid,’ she mouthed.
She apologized to Herrick, and flushed with a strange sensation as she said his name. He and Pamela would be pleased to see them, he said, the smile still there.
“If it’s convenient, but otherwise we could arrange another time.”
“Really,” and he laughed as he had done when Chrissie was flirting with him and rang off without another word
Genet leant against the table, on the verge of fainting and murmured to Lyndsey that they’d go in a minute.
“Oh, no, Gen, no. I don’t like him, I thought I’d see Pamela, really, I’m sorry, ring him and tell him I’ve changed my mind,” Lyndsey looked close to tears.
“Lyndsey, don’t be such an idiot!” Genet was more than irritated; this was ridiculous. “Pamela will be there, and anyway, he’s perfectly pleasant.”
But Lyndsey was terrified. She was five foot ten, as broad as a door and as timorous and shy as a mouse. Whenever Genet thought of herself as timid or gauche she only had to think of her cousin to know she wasn’t. They had grown up together and Lyndsey had always been like this, so, reluctantly, Genet agreed to walk down with her.
“You knock at the door, Gen,” she whispered as they approached.
Herrick was at the front of the bungalow with the boot of his car open, unloading large ceramic pots and a huge bale of compost. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but even so informal, his jeans were immaculately pressed, the t-shirt spotless, his trainers as clean as if he was wearing them for the first time.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. McCauley,” he was as courteously as usual. “Hello, Lyndsey. Pamela is in the sunroom with the doors open, having a breath of fresh air, she’s all wrapped up and enjoying the sun. Why don’t you go round?”
Lyndsey squeaked a nervous greeting.
“I don’t know where it is, Gen,” she whispered.
“I’ll say hello to Pamela, if that’s alright,” Genet was looking at the pots and not at him.
“Pamela wants me to plant some things for the patio,” he lifted the compost easily.
Genet stared at his arms, mesmerized by the contrast between his tanned skin and the white sleeve. This is stupid, get a grip for heaven’s sake.
“Do you want a hand?” she asked briskly, and mentally giving herself a shake, she picked up a large square container, Prussian blue with Chinese characters etched into the glaze.
Pamela was sitting in the warm spring sunshine, a fine lacy shawl round her shoulders over the sheepskin coat and a soft pale blue blanket across her knees. Her long blond hair was loose and rippled over the back of her chair.
She greeted them with delight, glad to have company. Genet put down the blue pot and replied with a mix of emotions, guilt, and pity. The more she liked Pamela the worse she felt and the greater was her intention to be a good friend to her, if that was what Pamela wanted.
“I’m sorry, Pamela, I really can’t stay, I have so much to do,” and she promised to come another time.
“Poor Genet, always so busy, not a lady of leisure like little me,” Pamela’s laugh tinkled. “But I think I will relax on the lounger, this perambulator is comfortable enough but no good for enjoying the sun! Darling,” she called to her husband who was on the patio. “Genet has to dash but I will take advantage of the lounger. If you could…” and she held her arms up to him.She glanced at Genet as her husband came to her, smiling sweetly as if mocking her own predicament. He squatted to take her feet from the footplates and fold and twist the rests out the way. He took Pamela’s hands and pulled her upright from the chair. She wound her arms around his neck embracing him as he lifted her, her beautiful hair shimmering like a silken sheaf hanging over his brown forearm.
“Thank you, my darling,” her voice was small and apologetic.
He said nothing but carried her to the lounger and laid her gently down. She thanked him again looking appealingly up at him but he turned and left the sunroom, disappearing round the side of the bungalow.
“My poor husband,” she whispered. “It’s so unfair on him; he hates any kind of sickness. God’s will. You see, it’s something I’ve done, or something he’s done and he suffers for it,” she spoke regretfully.
“So unfair on him? It’s so unfair on you!” exclaimed Lyndsey, her voice unusually strong and forceful with indignation. “He isn’t suffering! He’s a doctor; he should be used to helping people!”
Genet winced at her blunt words, but Pamela wasn’t offended.
“He’s not that sort of doctor, but that’s so sweet of you, Lyndsey, it’s so nice to hear sympathetic words,” she didn’t add ‘for once’ but it was there.
Genet suddenly didn’t like her as much.
“Well, God is loving and kind, Jesus helped the sick; if he’s so religious he should try and emulate our Lord,” Lyndsey was still indignant.
“I’m afraid my husband is more of an Old Testament man, Lyndsey; Gentle Jesus sweet and mild isn’t his cup of tea. Come and sit by me, Lyndsey dear, and talk. My husband will make us a drink, come, sit down.”
Genet was effectively dismissed; she was going anyway, slightly nauseous, whether at Pamela’s words or the sight of her held tightly in her husband’s embrace. She turned and bumped into Herrick.
She had no desire to stay; she’d come to a sudden conclusion that she didn’t like either of the Herricks, neither was what they seemed.
And he’d lied to her; something had happened between him and Monique. Genet was hot and embarrassed for all her silly thoughts. She never wanted to see him again. He’d taken a craft knife from his pocket, slid out the blade and squatting, cut into the bale of compost.
“Oh Genet, Genet,” Pamela called her back “I think I left my reticule in your sitting room when I was there the other day.”
“A little bag, I think I left it in your sitting room, it’s not important…”
“I’ll have a look for it, Pamela, if I find it I’ll bring it back.”
“My husband will come with you and see if he can find it. Darling, go with Genet, won’t you?”
Herrick was frowning blackly at his wife.
“Please, darling, it has some of my things, you know… Please?” Pamela pleaded.
Herrick closed the knife and slipped it into his pocket, brushing the compost from his hands. Genet wanted to protest, she didn’t want to be manipulated by Pamela, but it was such a little thing to make a fuss about; so accompanied by Herrick she walked back to the hotel.
You can find ‘The Double Act’ here:
… and here is a link to my other e-books: