Authors: Harold Robbins
The most scandalous, most riveting novel from America’s master storyteller…
“Harold Robbins is a master!”—Playboy
“Robbins’ books are packed with action, sustained by a strong narrative drive and are given vitality by his own colorful life.”—The Wall Street Journal
Robbins is one of the “world’s five bestselling authors… each week, an estimated 280,000 people… purchase a Harold Robbins book.”—Saturday Review
“Robbins grabs the reader and doesn’t let go…”—Publishers Weekly
Goodbye, JanetteCopyright © 2014 by Jann RobbinsCover art, special contents, and electronic edition © 2014 by RosettaBooks LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
Cover design by Alexia GaraventaISBN Mobipocket edition: 9780795341106
Many thanks to the man who wears the hat, Bradley Yonover.
THIS NOVEL IS DEDICATED WITH LOVE TO
WITH GRATITUDE FOR THE FAITH, LOVE AND SUPPORT SHE HAS SO FREELY GIVEN TO ME, BOTH AS A NOVELIST AND AS A HUMAN BEING THROUGHOUT THE YEARS
BOOK ONE: Tanya
BOOK TWO: Janette
BOOK THREE: Lauren
BOOK FOUR: Madame
Harold Robbins, Unguarded
Harold Robbins titles from RosettaBooks
He was nervous. She could see that in the way he paced around the room, occasionally going to the window and lifting the lace curtain to look out at the rain-swept Geneva street. He turned to look at her. “The Frenchman isn’t here yet,” he said in his harsh Bavarian German.
She did not look up from her knitting. “He will come,” she answered.
He walked back to the sideboard and poured himself a schnapps, swallowing it in one gulp. “It wasn’t like this in Paris. Then he would come running whenever I snapped my fingers.”
“That was three years ago,” she said calmly. “The Germans were winning.”
“We were never winning,” he cried. “We only thought we were. The minute America came into it, we all knew in our hearts it was over.” The faint sound of the doorbell came from downstairs. “He’s here now,” he said.
She rose to her feet, laying the knitting on the table next to her chair. “I’ll bring him right up.”
She went down the staircase to the foyer. He was already in the house, the maid taking his coat. He turned, hearing her footsteps, his small white even teeth showing in a smile when he saw her.
He advanced toward her and took her hand, raising it to his lips. She felt his thick moustache prickling the back of her fingers. “Bon soir, Anna,” he said. “You are as beautiful as ever.”
She returned his smile and answered in the same language. “And you are as gallant as ever, Maurice.”
He laughed. “And the little one?”
“Janette is five. You would not know her now, she is so big.”
“And beautiful, like her mother.”
“She will have a beauty all her own,” Anna said.
“Good,” Maurice said. “Then since I cannot have you, I will wait for her.”
Anna laughed. “You might have to wait for a long time.”
He looked at her strangely. “Until then I shall have to content myself with what is available.”
“Wolfgang is waiting in the library,” she said. “Follow me.”
He waited until she had gone up a few steps before following her. And all the way to the top of the stairs he was aware of the sensuous movements of her body delineated by the clinging silk of her dress.
The two men shook hands, Wolfgang clicking his heels, with a nod of his head. Maurice, very French, with a slight bow. They spoke in English, a neutral language that each thought he spoke better than the other, since neither would give the other the advantage of speaking his own language.
“How is Paris?” Wolfgang asked.
“Very American,” Maurice answered. “Chocolate bars, cigarettes, chewing gum. Not the same.”
Wolfgang was silent for a moment. “At least the Russians are not there. Germany is finished.”
Maurice nodded sympathetically without answering.
Anna, who had been watching, turned toward the door. “I’ll get the coffee.”
They waited until the door closed behind her. Wolfgang went to the sideboard. “Schnapps? Cognac?”
Wolfgang poured Courvoisier into a snifter and handed it to him, then took the schnapps for himself. He gestured to a chair and they sat down opposite each other, the small coffee table between them. “You brought the papers?” he asked.
Maurice nodded and opened the small leather briefcase he carried with him. “They’re all here.” He placed the blue paper documents with the officialnotary’sseal in three stacks on the coffee table. “I think you will find everything in order. All the companies have been placed in Anna’s name, as you requested.”
Wolfgang picked up one of the papers and looked at it. It was the usual legal gibberish which rarely made sense, whatever language it was written in.
Maurice looked at him. “Still sure you want to do it? We can burn the papers and it will be as if it was never done.”
Wolfgang drew a deep breath. “I have no choice,” he said. “There is no way the French will allow me to keep those companies, even though I acquired them legitimately during the occupation. The Jews will come back, screaming that I forced them to sell.”
Maurice nodded in agreement. “Ungrateful bastards. It would have been better if you were not so honest. There were others who not only took the companies but sent them to the camps as well. At least you let them get away with their lives.”
They were silent for a moment.
Maurice looked at him. “What are your plans now?”
“South America,” Wolfgang said. “My wife and children are already there. I can’t stay here much longer. It’s only a matter of time before my name comes up, then they’ll want me back for trial in Germany. And the Swiss will suddenly find me persona non grata.”
“Does Anna already know?”
“I told her. She understands. Besides, she is grateful to me for saving her life and the life of the child. When I found her in Poland, she was already on the way to the camps, her husband, the young count, was dead on the battlefield, the rest of her family gone in the blitz.”
He paused, remembering the day he first saw her, almost five years ago.
It was a small house in the fashionable residential area on the outskirts of Warsaw. Small in comparison to the houses that most of the other high-ranking German officers chose to occupy during their stay, but Wolfgang was another breed. He had no reason to display himself or assert his importance, coming as he did from an old, impeccably aristocratic industrial family. His basic concern was not military or political; it was his job to see that local industry was absorbed into the Reich war industry. The job, here in Warsaw, was mainly a cleanup operation, the preliminary studies and work already done. It would be up to him to make the final decision on the disposal and integration of the various companies and industries. He estimated that it would take him between a month and six weeks to complete his assignment, then back to Berlin to await a new assignment. Only thirty-four, he had already been given the temporary rank of General Major to enable him to deal with his Wehrmacht counterparts on an equal level. His personal secretary, Johann Schwebel, was made a sergeant so that he could accompany him.
It was Schwebel who saw her first. He was standing in the doorway of the small house when the truck pulled up in front and the women began to climb down from it. He stood there, marveling at the efficiency of the S.S. It had been just yesterday that they asked procurement to locate a housekeeper for them, one who spoke German as well as Polish so that there would be no language difficulty in running the house; and now six women were getting out of the truck for him to make a choice. They stood nervously in the yard as the guard with a machine pistol on a sling over his shoulder came up to the doorway.
The guard stopped in front of Schwebel. “I’ve got the women here for you to make your pick,” he said flatly.
“Do you have their papers?” Schwebel asked.
The guard nodded and took them from a pouch. “Here they are.” He noticed Schwebel looking over his shoulder and turned.
A seventh girl was getting out of the truck. There was something different about her. Certainly it wasn’t the clothing. They all wore the same drab gray prison dress. But it was something that she did with it. Maybe it was the way she carried herself. Straight and tall. With an air of indifference, of pride. Her hair, long and chestnut brown, brushed neatly, fell just below her shoulders with not a strand out of place. She glanced around coolly, then stood there next to the truck, waiting. She made no move to join the other women, who had begun to chatter nervously among themselves.
“That’s the princess,” the guard said.
“That’s the name they gave her in the camp. She came there ten days ago and I don’t think she’s spoken a word to any of the other girls in the whole time. She keeps to herself. And you know how Polish girls love to fuck. The minute you take it out they start coming and when you stick it to them they go crazy. This one, zero. After fifteen of us fucked her already and it was the same with every one of them. She laid there without a moment until it was over. Then it was as if nothing had happened. She would wipe her cunt without saying a word and go about her business.”
“Which paper is hers?” Schwebel asked. “I’d like to see her first.”
“The one with the red band on the corner and the A in a circle. She’s already scheduled for Auschwitz next week. We don’t need girls like her around.” The guard laughed coarsely. “My advice is not to bother with her. She pisses ice water.”
Schwebel sat at the small table in the foyer which served as his desk, the files in front of him. He opened the folder with the red band.
Tanya Anna Pojarska b. Kosciusko, 7 Nov. ’18, Warsaw. Widow, husband ded. Count Peter Pojarska, Capt. Polish Army in Jan. 1940. One child, daughter, Janette Marie, b. Paris, France, 10 Sept. ’39. Rel. Catholic. Father, Professor of Modern Languages, Univ. Warsaw, ded. All known family, ded. Educ. B.A. Univ. Warsaw, Mod. Lang. ’37, M.A. Sorbonne, Paris, Mod. Lang. ’39. Fluent Pol. Fre. Eng. Ger. Rus. Ita. Spa. All family assets and properties forfeited to State, 12 Oct. ’39. Guilty treason, subversion. Gestapo file Warsaw—72943/029. Sentenced labor camp #12. Perm. gtd. for daughter to accompany.
Schwebel finished leafing through the other folders. He had already come to the conclusion that she was the only one qualified for the job. The others were ordinary. Despite the fact that they had some knowledge of German, they had very little in the way of educational background to offer. When he looked up, she was standing in front of his desk.
“Sit down, Frau Pojarska,” he said in German.
“Danke schön.” She sat down quietly.
He continued in German. “Your duties will consist of running the house and keeping order. You will also be asked to assist in the translation and writing of certain documents. Do you think you’re capable of this?”
“I think so,” she nodded.
“It will be for six weeks only,” he said.
“In these times,” she said, “six weeks can be a lifetime.” She took a deep breath. “Am I permitted to bring my daughter with me?”
“She will not be any trouble,” she said quickly. “She is really a very quiet baby.”
“I can’t make that decision,” he said. “It is up to the general.”
Her eyes met his across the desk. “I will not leave her there,” she said quietly.
He was silent.
“There are still ways I have to show my gratitude,” she said quickly.
He cleared his throat. “I will do what I can. But it will still be the general’s decision.” He rose to his feet. “Wait here.”
She watched him go up the stairs to the general’s room. A moment later he came out on the landing. “Come up here.”
He opened the door for her and she entered before him. The general, who had been standing near the window, looking at her folder, turned to her. Her first thought was one of surprise. He was so young. Maybe thirty-five. Not much older than Peter.
Schwebel’s voice came from behind her. “General Major von Brenner, Frau Pojarska.”
Wolfgang looked at her. He felt a tightness come into his gut. He could sense the woman beneath the drab prison dress. His voice was suddenly hoarse. “Schwebel thinks you can do the job, but there is a complication.”
Her voice was clear. “It does not have to be one.”
He continued to look at her silently.
“I promise,” she said. Her voice suddenly grew strong. “I cannot leave her there to die.”
He thought of his own two children, going to school in Bavaria, far from the war and untouched by it. He turned away, so that she could not see the expression in his eyes. What was it that Schwebel told him she had said? Six weeks could be a lifetime. It was only six weeks. There was no reason why she could not have it. He turned back to her. “You have my permission to bring the child.”
He saw the sudden mist in her eyes but her voice was controlled. “Danke schön, Herr General.”
“Do you have any other clothing?”
She shook her head. “They took everything away when I came to the camp.”
“We’ll have to get some for you,” he said. “It will be up to you to receive guests and make them comfortable. We’ll also need two more women. A cook and a maid for cleaning and laundry. You choose them.”
“Jawohl, Herr General.”
“I’ll have Schwebel write an order approving the child and the others. Then you will go shopping with him. You will buy clothing for yourself and uniforms for the others. You will have everything in order for dinner tonight, which will be at eight o’clock. I will leave the menu up to you.”
He watched the door close behind her, then went back to his desk and sat down. What was it Schwebel had told him? Fifteen men. He couldn’t believe it. None of it showed on her face. No anger, resentment, subservience. It was as if nothing could touch her that she did not want to feel.
Dinner surprised him. Vichyssoise.Gedämpftes kalbfleisch, with a delicate horseradish dressing, boiled potatoes, fresh string beans. A garden salad with cheese. Finally, coffee and cognac.
At the end of the meal she came into the dining room. “Was the dinner to your satisfaction,Herr General?”
She allowed herself a reserved smile. “I am pleased. Thank you. Is there anything else I can get you?”
“That will be all, thank you. Good night.”
“Good night,Herr General.”
It was almost midnight and he still tossed sleeplessly on his bed. Finally, he got out of bed and put on his robe and went out into the hall. The light still shone from under Schwebel’s door. He opened it.
Schwebel jumped to his feet from his bed, the book he was reading still in his hand. “Herr von Brenner,” he stammered. “I mean,Herr General.”
“Her room,” Wolfgang said.
“The first one at the top of the stairs on the next flight up.”
He closed the door behind him and went up the next flight of stairs. No light came from under her door. He hesitated a moment, then opened it and stepped inside.
In the faint moonlight from the window, he saw her sit up suddenly. A moment later a small light from the bed lamp went on. Her hair was long and dark, falling well below her shoulders, her eyes wide. She did not speak.
He saw the makeshift crib next to the bed and went to it and looked down. The infant was sleeping peacefully, her thumb in her mouth. He bent over the crib and gently withdrew the thumb. “It’s bad for her teeth,” he said, straightening up.
She still did not speak.
“What’s her name?”
“It’s a pretty name,” he said. He looked down at the child again. “She’s beautiful.”
“Thank you,Herr General.” She looked up at him. “You have children?”
“Two,” he said.
“It must be difficult being away from them.”
“And your wife?”
“That, too,” he said. Suddenly he felt awkward. He turned back to the door. “Well, good night.”
He had been back in his bed for about ten minutes when she came into his room. He sat up. “Yes?”
“Turn on the light,” she said. “I want you to see me.”
He pressed the switch on the bed lamp. She was wearing a full-length white nightgown, her hair falling around it. “Look at me,” she said softly, beginning to slide the gown off one shoulder.
His breath caught in his throat as one breast appeared, full and strong, the strawberry-like nipple jutting forth from the purple-red areola, then the other breast leaped free as she pushed the gown down to her waist. His eyes followed her hands as she slowly moved them down across her rib cage past her flat, softly muscled belly, pushing the gown suddenly tight across her wide hips until at last it fell to the floor around her, her dark curly pubis pointing like an arrowhead down between the columns of her legs.
She came close to the bed and moved the sheet away from his legs. She pulled at the tie string of his pajamas and his phallus sprang free. She knelt beside the bed, looking into his eyes for a moment, then down at him. Gently she peeled the foreskin back from his throbbing red glans. Her tongue flicked snakelike over it.
Suddenly her hand tightened over his phallus, holding it in a viselike grip. She looked up at him. Her voice was imperious. “Don’t come yet.”
He couldn’t speak. All he could do was nod.
Her face bent back to him. “I’ll tell you when,” she said as she once again took him in her mouth.
Six weeks later when he boarded the train for Paris, she and the child went with him.
Silently, Wolfgang finished signing the last of the documents. He looked up at Maurice. “I think that does it,” he said.
“Technically, yes,” Maurice answered. “But there are other problems.”
Wolfgang looked at him.
“Her French resident’s permit was issued by the Pétain government. It may not be acceptable to the present regime.”
“Why not? It was a permanent permit recognizing her status as a displaced person. She was even graduated from the Sorbonne before the war. Besides, her daughter was born in France before the occupation.”
“There have been many cases where they have withdrawn permits because the holders were considered collaborationists. And there are many in Paris who know of her relationship with you.”
Wolfgang thought for a moment. “What can we do about that?”
“I’ve given it some thought, but I’ve come up with no firm solution. The only thing that could work is if she held a valid French citizenship.”
“Shit.” Wolfgang got to his feet. “What do we do now?” He crossed to the sideboard and poured himself another schnapps.
Maurice turned and looked at Anna, who had been sitting silently while Wolfgang had been signing the papers, the coffee service on the small table in front of her. She raised her head from the needles in her hands and met his eyes. They stared at each other for a long moment, then his eyes fell away and she returned to her knitting.
Wolfgang swallowed his schnapps, refilled his glass, came back to the couch and sat down heavily. “Maybe it’s not worth the effort. Maybe we should just sell the companies and get rid of them.”
“You’d get nothing for them right now,” Maurice said. “The French are bankrupt. Five years from now, when things are normal, they’ll be worth a great deal of money.”
“Five years,” Wolfgang said. “Who the hell knows where we’ll be in five years?”
“If we’re dead it won’t matter,” Maurice said. “But if we’re alive, it will.”
“If they withdraw her permit, we lose it all anyway. They’ll take the companies back.”
“It’s a chance we have to take,” Maurice said.
Anna spoke softly without looking up from her knitting. “If I were married to a Frenchman, I would automatically have citizenship.”
Wolfgang stared at her for a moment, then turned to Maurice. “Is that true?”
“Then find someone we can trust and Anna will marry him.”
Maurice gestured to the papers. “I know of none I can trust with these. Do you?”
Wolfgang looked down at the papers, then up at him. “You’re not married.
Maurice shook his head. “It would be too dangerous. There are still many Gaullists who are suspicious of me. After all I still did not jump across the Channel until the last possible moment.”
“But they bought your story. And the information you brought them as well as the explanation that you stayed undercover in order to help them.”
“True. But that was while the battle was still going on. Now questions are beginning to be asked.”
“I’m sure your uncle could take care of that,” Wolfgang said.
“My uncle is dead. He died four months ago.”
“Then who is the Marquis de la Beauville now?”
“There is none. He died without issue.”
“What happens to his property?”
“It will go to the state. Unless someone comes forward to pay the inheritance taxes on it. Someone in the family, of course.”
“Do you think anyone will?”
Maurice shook his head. “I’m the only one left. If my father, his brother, were alive, he would have succeeded to the title. But now it will all be gone—property, title, everything.”
Wolfgang pursued it. “If you paid the tax, could you claim the title?”
Maurice thought for a moment. “If the government accepted my payment, I suppose I could.”
“How much is involved?”
“A lot of money. Five million francs. Nobody really knows. The government records are hopeless.”
Wolfgang got to his feet. He was excited. “Let me think for a minute.”
They watched him walk back and forth across the room and finally come to a stop in front of Maurice. “If these companies were in the estate would their ownership be valid?”
“Absolutely,” Maurice said. “There is no one who would dare to challenge my uncle’s integrity and loyalty. After all, he was one of the few Frenchmen who dared to remain in France, still defying Pétain’s authority. And even they did not dare touch him, though he remained virtually a prisoner in his country home.”
Wolfgang smiled with satisfaction. “That’s it then. All our problems are solved. You and Anna will be married. I will see to it that you have the money to pay the taxes and claim the title. Then the companies will be transferred into the estate and everything will be in order.” He picked up his schnapps and tossed it down his throat. “I dub thee the Marquis de la Beauville,” he said, tapping Maurice lightly on both shoulders.
Maurice looked past him at Anna. He thought he saw a faint smile on her lips as she continued to look down at the knitting needles flying in her hands. It was the same enigmatic smile that very first time they had met in Paris, in the autumn of 1940.
He walked up the small flight of steps from the street to the door of the small townhouse, sandwiched and almost lost among the large apartment buildings on the avenue d’Iéna, and pressed the doorbell.
A maid in uniform opened the door and looked out at him. “Monsieur?”
He took a card from his pocket and gave it to her. “I have an appointment with General von Brenner.”
She glanced down at the card. “Entrez, M’sieur.”
He followed her into the hallway and waited while she disappeared into another room of the house. He looked around the walls. They were bare and there were still faint discolorations where pictures had once hung. Idly, he wondered what unlucky French family had been summarily evicted from their home to make way for their Prussian conquerors. And the paintings that had once adorned the walls—had the Frenchmen been able to take them or were they now somewhere in the general’s house in Germany?
The sound of a man’s footsteps came from behind him. He turned. The soldier wearing a Wehrmacht sergeant’s uniform raised his hand in a salute. “Heil Hitler.”
Maurice raised his hand. “Heil Hitler.”
“The general will be with you in a few minutes.” Schwebel opened a door. “Would you be kind enough to wait in the drawing room?”
“Avec plaisir.” Maurice went into the room and the door closed behind him. The furniture in this room seemed to be untouched, as were the paintings on the wall. A small fire burned in the fireplace.
He crossed to the fire and warmed his hands in front of it. Even now, in early fall, when Paris was normally warm, there always seemed to be a northern chill in the damp air. The French were sure that it was the Germans who caused it.
He heard the door open and turned back to it, expecting the general. Instead, it was a tall young woman, her long brown hair brushed carefully back in a quiet chignon that accented her high cheekbones and large dark eyes. She was wearing a chic dark afternoon dress that accented her full figure while at the same time playing it down.
“Monsieur de la Beauville?” She spoke in accent-free Parisian.
She came toward him. “I am Madame Pojarska. The general asked me to make you comfortable. He may be detained longer than he thought. May I order coffee or a drink for you?”
“Coffee would be fine.”
“And some pastry perhaps. Ourpâtissieris one of the finest in Paris.”
He smiled. “You have uncovered my weakness, Madame.” It was true. Since the Germans had come to Paris there wasn’t a decent piece of pastry to be had anywhere.
A few moments later, he was seated on the couch, a cup of fragrant real coffee in front of him, his fork crinkling through the flaky leaves of amille-feuille. “This is delicious,” he said.
That faint smile curved the corners of her mouth. “Some things in France will never change.”
He looked at her in surprise. It was not the kind of remark he had expected to hear in the home of a German general. “You lived in France before, Madame?”
“I went to school here,” she answered. “The Sorbonne.” She placed anothermille-feuilleon his plate. “My daughter was born here. Just after the war broke out.”
“Then your daughter is French,” he said.
“Polish. My late husband and I are Polish.”
“Under French law your child has the right to French citizenship unless her parents have notified the authorities differently.”
She thought for a moment. “Then she is French, because my late husband went back to Poland the day war broke out and we never filed any papers at all.”
He raised a questioning eyebrow. “Your late husband?”
She nodded. “He died defending his country.”
“I’m sorry,” he said.
She was thoughtful for a moment. “It was fated,” she said. “I am not the only widow this war had produced, and I will not be the last. Poland was not the only country to fall before the Germans, and France will not be the last.”
He was silent.
“But people survive—even if it means they have to learn to live with a new order,” she continued.
He nodded. “That is true. The circles of power are far beyond us. We must learn to live with them, not them with us.”
There was a knock at the door. The sergeant came into the room. “The general is free now. He asks that you bring Monsieur de la Beauville to his study.”
He followed her through the bare hall to another room. She paused, knocking on the door and then opening it without waiting for a reply.
General von Brenner was a much younger man than he had expected. At most he was no older than Maurice himself, who was thirty-seven. He did not offer the usual salute; instead he held out his hand. “Monsieur de la Beauville. I have been looking forward to meeting with you.” His French was tinged with a heavy German accent.
Maurice replied with his French-tinged German. “It is my honor, General.”
The two men stared at each other; then suddenly the general grinned. “My French is as bad as your German.”
Maurice laughed. “Not quite.”
“Do you speak English?”
“Then suppose we converse in that language. Then neither of us has to feel embarrassed. And if we have any problems in understanding each other, Anna, here, can help us out.”
“Agreed,” Maurice answered in English.
“Now to work,” the general said. “The French Industrial Board has assigned you to work with me so that we may better mobilize industry into the war effort against our mutual enemy. Our first priority of course will be heavy industry that can be used to manufacture weapons and equipment.”
“That, too, was my understanding, and with your permission I have already prepared a number of files which at this very moment are on their way here by special couriers. I am at your disposal to begin work with them immediately.”
But in the course of the three years they were to work together during the occupation, both saw other opportunities begin to develop. Non-war-related businesses that were begging to be taken over, because under the new order there were many owners who were not acceptable. A large, well-known vineyard, a company that bottled natural mineral waters, and another company in the south that manufactured bases for perfumes and cosmetics. All at bargain prices, low cash and liberal exit visas for the former owners, which enabled them to seek freedom elsewhere. Since these companies’ true ownership was always hidden by the laws affecting Frenchsociétésanonymes, there was never an overt record of the real proprietors. Still, when decisions regarding the companies had to be made, the owner had to reveal himself, if only within his companies. To forestall any criticism, Wolfgang placed the management of record in Anna’s name. All were quiet companies, which did little business during the war. It was for the postwar period that Wolfgang had acquired them—for a time when the need for their products and their market would expand.
It was slightly more than two years later on a hot humid day in the summer of 1943 that Wolfgang returned from a meeting at H.Q. West. She saw that he was upset, but kept silent until he was ready to talk. That did not happen until after dinner as they sat in the study and he smoked his cigar and sipped his coffee.
“I’m called back to Berlin,” he said heavily.
She looked at him. “For how long?”
“Permanently,” he said. “My job here is finished. There are production problems in the Fatherland they want me to look into.”
She was silent for a moment. “I’ll begin packing immediately.”
“No.” His voice was abrupt. “You’re not coming with me.”
She looked at him without speaking.
“I can’t bring you to Germany,” he said awkwardly. “My family—”
“I understand,” she said quickly. She took a deep breath then forced a smile. “I have no complaints. At first it was only for six weeks, remember?”
“It is not over,” he said. “I have plans.”
“I don’t want you to endanger yourself,” she said.
“There will be no danger,” he answered. “I have asked Maurice to join us at breakfast tomorrow and I will explain them all to you.”
She was silent for a long moment. “When do you have to leave?”
She looked deep into his eyes. “This is Tuesday,” she said, rising. “Come to bed. We have not much time left.”
Wolfgang waited until the maid had cleared the breakfast dishes and left the room before he spoke. Maurice and Anna sat around the small table. “Germany has lost the war,” he said flatly.
Neither of them spoke. He continued. “War is like business. When you stop going forward, you lose momentum. Then you lose control. The Führer made a critical error. Instead of pressing forward across the Channel to England, he turned toward Russia. At that point it was all over.”
The others were still silent. “Now it’s only a question of time and we must make plans. There will be many opportunities after the war and it will be up to us to take advantage of them.” He looked at Maurice. “We will begin with you. If we want to keep the properties we have acquired here in France you will have to change sides. Cross the Channel and join the Gaullists.”
“Impossible!” Maurice protested. “They will shoot me on sight.”
“Not if you follow my plan. I will make available to you certain information that will be invaluable to the Allies. Information on manufacturing and production facilities that they have not as yet learned about. You will go to your uncle, the marquis, whose reputation is unassailable and explain to him that you have been secretly working with us to gain access to this information. Now that you have it, you need his help to get it across the Channel. I’m sure that he has contacts, and with my help, I can guarantee you safe passage across the Channel within a month.”
Maurice hesitated. “It will be dangerous.”
“It will be more dangerous to remain. When the French return you will be shot as a traitor and collaborationist.”
Maurice was silent.
Wolfgang turned to Anna. “For many years my family has owned a small townhouse in Geneva. I have already secured a Swiss residency visa for you to work there as my housekeeper, and for Janette. You will remain here for about a month after I leave. Then you will move to Switzerland. Schwebel will remain here with you to help organize the necessary files and papers that you are to take with you, then, acting as your chauffer, he will drive you to Geneva. The excuse will be that Janette is ill and the doctors have advised her to recuperate in the Alps. When you are safely in the house there, he will return to Germany to join me.”
Anna looked at him. “And what will you be doing all that time?”
“I will be making plans to get my family out of Germany. Because of my position, we will all be targets for Allied vengeance.”
“Where will they go?”
“There are several countries in South America which offer us shelter. For a fee, of course. But that is only money.”
“And what will happen to you?”
“As soon as I see them safely away, I will join you in Geneva.”
She was silent for a moment. “There is no other way?”
He shook his head. “No other way. The end may come in a year, two years, maybe even three. But it will come, believe me.”
They were all silent for a moment, each, with his own thoughts. “Merde!” Maurice exclaimed suddenly. He looked at Wolfgang. “I had foolish dreams of one day being a rich man.”
Wolfgang smiled. “Do as I say and you still may be a rich man.”
After Maurice had gone. Wolfgang got to his feet. “Come to my study with me.”
She followed him up to the small room, which he used as his private study. He closed the door and locked it behind him. “What I am about to show you, no one else in the world knows, neither Maurice nor Schwebel, not even my family. No one. Just me. And now, you.”
She watched silently while he moved his chair from behind the desk and lifted the rug from the floor beneath it. His hand searched for a wooden slat on the floor, and finding it, pressed it. A small trapdoor, a little more than a foot wide, sprang up. He reached inside and took out what looked like a tin safe-deposit box and placed it on the table. He lifted the latch, opened it, and beckoned to her. “Look.”
She walked to the desk and, standing beside him, looked down. The box was filled with shining gold coins. She was speechless.
His face was serious. “Gold louis. There are forty boxes like this here. One hundred thousand in all.”
Her breath rushed from her. “My God! I had no idea.” She looked at him. “How—?”
“No questions,” he answered. “I have them. That’s all that matters. And you’re going to bring them to Switzerland.”
“How?” she asked. “You know all the luggage is searched when we cross the border.”
“I thought of that,” he smiled. He gestured to her, and she followed him to the window. He pointed to the Mercedes limousine standing in the courtyard. “It looks like just any other car, doesn’t it?”
“It’s not,” he said. “The side panels around the doors and sides are hollow and lined with soundproofing material so that the coins will not rattle and make noise. I had it specially built.”
“What if the men who built it talk?”
“They won’t talk,” he said. “They were Jews. And they are long since gone.”
He didn’t answer. He went back to the desk and placed the box back in the trap, then covered it again with the rug and moved the chair back into place.
He sat down in the chair. “You will have to transfer it alone. I will show you how to gain access to the panels. But no one must see you do it. No one. Your life and your daughter’s will be worth nothing if you are seen. I do not have to explain what people will do for that kind of money.”
She nodded. Murder had been committed for far less.
“You will have to arrange at least one or two hours each night to be alone in the house. It does not all have to be done in one night. You have a month. When it is all in place you will be ready to leave.”
“Will Schwebel be the only one going with me?”
“No. There will be another man with him. An ex-paratrooper. Tough and a trained killer. If there is any real trouble he knows how to handle it.”
“And what do I do with it when I get there?”
“Rent a numbered box at one of the Swiss banks. Then remove the gold in the same way you placed it there. A little at a time. When the car is empty, Schwebel and his assistant will then drive the car to me in Germany.”
She sank into a chair. “For the first time, I am frightened.”
He looked at her steadily. “So am I,” he said heavily. “But we have no choice. There is nothing else we can do if we want to have any life together after this is over.”
Not once in all the time they had been together had he ever told her that he loved her—not even when his passion burst and flooded her with his seed did he ever do more than groan, trembling in the grip of his ecstasy until she feared that the crush of his body would thrust its way deep into her womb. And even now, as they stood in the doorway of the small French house, the gray of morning spilling through the open door, he was still erect and reserved.
Politely he leaned forward and kissed her formally on both cheeks. “Be careful,” he said.
“I will.” She nodded.
Then he turned to Janette, who had been standing next to her mother, her eyes wide, and picked her up in his arms. He kissed the child’s forehead, then her mouth. “Auf Wiedersehen, Liebchen,” he said. “Be a good girl and do as your mother tells you.”
The child nodded. “Yes, Papa General.”
He smiled and gave her to her mother. “I will see you soon,” he said, then turned and marched out the door, getting into the car that was to drive him to the train without looking back.
Anna waited until the car left the driveway before closing the door and turning back into the house. She put the child down.
Anna looked down at her.
“Will Papa General come back?”
Anna was surprised. “What makes you ask that?”
“Nana says that he is going and that Monsieur Maurice is going to be the new papa.”
“Nana is stupid,” Anna said. “She does not know what she is saying.”
“But Nana said that Papa General is going to Germany, and that we can’t go with him. And now, Monsieur Maurice is going to be in charge.”
“Nana is wrong. When Papa General is away I am in charge. No one else. Not Monsieur Maurice, not anyone.”
“Then Papa General is coming back,” Janette said.
Anna hesitated a moment, then nodded. “Yes, he will come back. And you can tell stupid Nana that.”
Two hours later when Schwebel returned from the train station, she called him upstairs into the general’s study and closed the door. She sat in the chair behind the desk. “I think we may have a problem.”
He was silent, waiting for her to speak further.
“The child’s nurse. She talks too much. She has already told the child that the general will not return. If she talks to the child, who knows who else she might be talking with?”
“A word in the wrong place could endanger the general’s plans,” she said.
“I will take care of the matter, Countess,” he said.
She looked up at him in surprise. It was the first time he had ever addressed her by title. Until now it had always been Frau Pojarska.
There was no change in the expression on his face. “Is there anything else, Countess?”
“Nothing else,” she said, shaking her head. “Thank you, Johann.”
He bowed politely and left the room. Two days later the nanny had her day off. She never returned to work.
Maurice’s voice was guarded on the telephone. “I must see you.”
It had been three weeks since Wolfgang had left Paris and this was the first time she had heard from him in all that time. “I am here,” she said simply.
“You don’t understand,” he said. “I may be under surveillance. Now that I have made my overtures I do not dare come to your place.”
“Can’t we discuss it on the telephone?”
“There are certain papers I must turn over to you. Exit visas for yourself and Janette approved by the French authorities and the Germans. Other matters concerning mutual affairs.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “There is no way I can come to see you. Schwebel is under orders to accompany me every time I leave the house.”
“Merde!” He fell silent.
She waited for him to speak.
“There is not much time left,” he said. “The day after tomorrow I will be gone.”
She still did not speak.
“After midnight tonight,” he said, “be at the back door of your house. If I am not there by half-past the hour, do not wait for me.”
At ten minutes past midnight she heard a light tapping on the service door. Quickly, she got to her feet and opened it. He stepped inside and shut the door quickly.
“Is everyone asleep?” he whispered.
“Since the general left, he spends the night in the small apartment over the coach house.”
“I need a drink,” he said abruptly.
“Come,” she said. She led him through the darkened house to the small study on the second floor. She opened the cabinet and took out a bottle of cognac and a snifter. Quickly she filled it almost to the brim and handed it to him.
He drank half of it almost at one gulp and let out a deep sigh. Slowly he seemed to relax. “It’s been like walking a tightrope,” he said. “Questions. Always questions. Traps in every corner.”
She didn’t speak.
He took another sip of the cognac. “Have you heard from Wolfgang?”
“No. Should I have?’
He looked up at her. “I suppose not. Still, I thought he might have gotten word to you somehow.”
She changed the subject. “You said you had some papers for me.”
“Yes.” He opened his jacket and took out an envelope. “The exit visas for you and Janette all countersigned and approved by the French and Swiss authorities.”
She opened the envelope and looked at the papers. They were in order. She put them down on the desk. “You said there were other matters.”
“They were not things that could be committed to paper,” he said.
“I don’t understand.”
“The gold,” he said.
“Gold?” She hoped the puzzled sound in her voice was convincing. “What gold?”
“I have heard rumors at different times that Wolfgang had been buying up gold louis.”
“That’s the first time I heard of it,” she said. “And I thought I knew everything that was going on.”
“He never said anything to you?”
She shook her head.
“Strange,” he said. “The information came from usually reliable sources.”
“You’d better check them again,” she said. She paused, then as if she had a sudden idea. “Could it be that it is another form of trap they are setting for you? To discover how close you really were to the general?”
“I never thought of that. It is possible.” He looked at her with open admiration. “I am beginning now to understand why I have been attracted to you from the very beginning.”
She smiled, keeping the relief from showing in her eyes. “You’re being very French. And very gallant.”
“Not true,” he said, reaching for her hand. “I’m sure you know how I felt about you.”
She allowed her hand to rest in his. She did not want to seem too abrupt. After a moment, she spoke. “It is getting late. It might be dangerous for you to remain too long.”
“No,” he said. A flush surged into his face. “This time may not come again. I want you to know how I feel.”
“Maurice—” She tried to keep her voice light as she withdrew her hand. “We’re not children. This is neither the time nor the place.”
His voice was challenging. “I am not a one-meter-eighty Boche general but I have a power that none of them have, a strength that all of them envy.” His hand moved quickly, unbuttoning his fly. “Look!” he commanded.
She stared down at him, unable to keep the look of surprise from her face. It was as if whatever growth had not gone into his slight frame and height had all gone into his phallus. It seemed almost as thick as his wrist and half the length of his thigh.
“Touch it!” he ordered. “You will need more than two hands to hold all of it.”
“I can’t,” she said, shaking her head but unable to take her eyes from it.
“Why?” he demanded.
She forced her eyes up to his face. “Because I have my period. And if I touched it I am afraid I would not be able to stop.”
He searched her eyes. “You’re not lying to me?”
“I’m not lying.” She forced a smile. “Who could lie with a monster like that threatening me?”
He took a deep breath, then turned away for a moment. When he turned back to her his clothing was rearranged. “There will come a time,” he said. “You will not be able to forget this.”
One week later she drove across the border into Switzerland, Schwebel and the ex-paratrooper in the front seat, she and Janette, wrapped in blankets, in the back. The border guards waved them through without even a cursory inspection of her luggage.
And now, more than a year later, as she listened to Wolfgang arrange her strange betrothal, she remembered the words Maurice had spoken that last night in Paris. It was at that moment she first realized that he had been right. She had not been able to forget. As much as she tried to concentrate on the knitting needles in her hands, all she could see was that monstrous phallus, the swollen red glans glistening moistly at her.
Wolfgang snapped the valise shut and straightened up. He turned toward her. “That does it.”
They were standing on opposite sides of the bed. “It will be a long time,” he said. “Perhaps years.”
He forced a wry smile. “I won’t even be here for your wedding.”
She didn’t speak.
He made no move to come around the bed to her. “I never told you that I love you, did I?”
She shook her head. “No, never.”
“But you know that I do, don’t you?”
“Maybe not the same way that other people love each other. But in my own fashion.”
“I know,” she said. “As I love you. In my own fashion.”
He glanced at his watch. “I guess it’s time.”
She opened the door and signaled to Schwebel, who was waiting. He picked up the valise and they followed him downstairs. At the halfway landing, she placed a hand on Wolfgang’s arm, stopping him. She waited until Schwebel had gone outside before she spoke. “The gold? What do you want me to do with it?”
“Leave it where it is,” he said. “As soon as I get settled I will write you and let you know.”
She still held on to his arm. “I wish you were going directly to South America from here, not back to Germany.”
“There are still things I must do there,” he said. “But do not worry, I will be safe. I will remain in the French zone, where Maurice has everything arranged for me.”
“I still don’t trust him,” she said.
He tried to joke. “Fine way for a woman to talk about her future husband.”
She didn’t smile. “That makes no difference.”
“He’s greedy,” he said. “He wants the title and the money. And he knows there’s no way he can get either except through us. Nothing will happen, believe me.”
She looked into his eyes. “I don’t want anything to happen to you. You have been too good to me.”
He cleared his throat of a sudden tightness. “You have been good to me also.”
“Be careful anyway.”
He thought for a moment. “You be careful too. Remember what I told you. No matter how much he insists, after you are married do not transfer the companies into his name. Just have him appointed the managing director of them. If he asks why you won’t do it, tell him that I did not leave the transfer papers with you.”
“That should keep him in line,” he said. “He wouldn’t dare try anything unless it’s all in his hands.”
“I understand,” she said.
This time he kissed her on the mouth. There was a faint saltiness to her lips. He drew back and looked at her. “No tears.”
She shook her head. “No tears.”
“Strange things happen during a war,” he said. “But you made some of it beautiful.” He kissed her again. “That’s for the little one. Tell her that I was sorry I could not wait for her to return from kindergarten.”
“I’ll tell her.”
They went down to the front door. Once again, he kissed her. Gently this time. “Auf Wiedersehen, mein Liebchen.”
Maurice’s voice crackled with pleased excitement through the telephone lines from Paris. “The De Gaulle government accepted my proposal. You are now talking to the Marquis de la Beauville.”
“M’sieur le Marquis,” she said. “May I offer my congratulations?”
“Madame la Marquise,” he said. “That is not all I expect you to offer.”
She laughed. “That is good news.”
“There is even more,” he said. “I managed to have your old papers disappear from the files and have a whole new set for you.”
“How did you manage that?”
“Don’t ask how. It was expensive but it was worth it. Now there is no one who can point a finger at you. The new papers are in the mail to you. Now all you need are new photographs to attach to them, then go to the French Consul and sign them and it’s all over.”
“But there are still some people in Paris who might recognize me.”
“I thought of that too. Dye your hair blond and change the style. Shoulder length with waves is the latest thing in Paris right now and it would be perfect for you. Plucked eyebrows are also in fashion, as are dark eye makeup and blush-accented high cheekbones. Do that before you have the photos taken. And one more thing. You will notice your residency permit is made out in the name of Countess Tanya Pojarska. I’ve dropped the Anna for a reason. Just as Wolfgang had you drop Tanya because it was not a German name, I want you to go back to it, just in case anyone does try to put two and two together.”
“I’ll go to the beauty parlor first thing in the morning,” she said. A thought flashed through her mind. “You seem to know a great deal about the latest fashion.”
He laughed. “We own a perfume factory in Grasse, remember? It would be a simple step to jump from there into cosmetics. I’ve been studying the market. After all the drabness of the war years, it’s ready for a tremendous expansion—women are just bored with being plain.”
“I think you’re right,” she said.
“I know I’m right,” he said. “And I’m making all the contacts I can in that field.”
“I hate to bring it up,” she said, “but there’s one thing you seem to have forgotten.”
There was a moment’s silence. “I thought we’d be married when you came to Paris.”
“No,” she said. “I know the French. There will be too many papers to fill out and too many questions to answer. They will want to check everything and that will take forever. Besides, who knows what they might discover? Then all our plans will be for nothing. We’ll get married up here as soon as I have the papers completed. It will be much simpler.” She laughed. “Besides I like the idea of coming back to France as the wife of the Marquis de la Beauville.”
She could almost see him preening over the telephone. “Of course, my dear,” he said quickly. “Anything you want.”
“By the way,” she asked, “have you heard anything from your friends in Berlin about Wolfgang?”
“Not a word,” he said.
“I’m worried about him,” she said. “It’s been more than two months.”
“I’m sure that he’s all right. If anything had gone wrong, I would have heard. By now he’s probably out of the country.”
“I hope so,” she said.
“Call me as soon as you have the papers in order,” he said.
“I will,” she said, putting down the telephone.
The door opened and Janette came into the room. She was waving a paper in her hand. “Maman!” she exclaimed in French. “Look at this drawing of a bird that I made. The professor gave me anA. He said he has never seen a bird like it.”
She took the paper from the child’s hand. The professor was right. There never was a bird like it. Except maybe in nightmares. It was a cross between a pterodactyl, an eagle and a bat, all in bold vivid frightening colors.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Janette exclaimed.
Tanya nodded. “Very.” She gave it back to the child. “You’d better put it in a safe place so that you don’t lose it.”
“I would like to put it in a frame and hang it on the wall over my bed.”
Tanya forced a smile. “All right.”
“You were speaking in French on the telephone,” Janette said. “Who were you talking to?”
Tanya picked the child up. Now was as good a time as any to tell her. “Mama is getting married.”
Janette’s face broke into a happy smile. “Papa General is coming back?”
“No,” Tanya said. “We’re going back to Paris to live. I’m marrying Maurice.”
A startled expression crossed Janette’s face then suddenly she began to cry. “No,Maman, no! I don’t like him. He’s a bad man.”
“He’s not a bad man,” Tanya said patiently. “He’s very nice. You’ll see. He likes you very much.”
“He does not!” Janette cried. “He hates me. He always pinches me when you’re not looking and he hurts me.”
“He doesn’t mean to hurt you,” Tanya explained. “It’s just his way of showing that he likes you.”
“No, it’s not!” Janette said emphatically. “I can tell from his face that he wants to hurt me, and when I don’t cry out he pinches even harder.” She began to cry again. “I don’t want you to marry him. I want you to marry Papa General.”
“I’m sorry, Janette,” Tanya said firmly, putting her down. “There are some things you know nothing about. I am going to marry him, and that’s the last word I’ll have on the subject. Now you go up to your room and calm down.”
Still sobbing, the child went to the door. At the door, she turned back, wiping her nose and face with her forearm. “I don’t care,” she said defiantly. “Even if you marry him, I still won’t like him.”
They were married three weeks later, and despite the fact that Tanya had bought Janette a new white dress for the wedding, she refused to go to the registrar’s office with them.
She stared at herself in the mirror. She still was not used to seeing herself with blond hair. In a strange fashion she almost felt as if she had become someone else. Before she had felt her sexuality as subtle and quiet. Now it was overt and strong, almost as if it had a force of its own—a force she could not control.
Slowly she brushed her hair, feeling the soft sensuality of each silken strand. She paused, looking in the mirror. Something wasn’t just right. Then she knew. The white silk gown she had chosen for her wedding night was all wrong.
She turned to the small valise she had packed to take to the hotel. Quickly she went through it. A moment later she had changed gowns. Now when she looked in the mirror she understood the impulse that had made her place the black lace gown in the valise. Now she was different. Now she was someone else. The thought jumped through her mind. Lilith.
Again she looked at herself. Now she was ready. Suddenly she felt her legs begin to tremble and placed both hands on the sink to steady herself. In the mirror she saw the nipples of her breasts jutting suddenly forward, almost forcing their way through the filmy lace.
She shook her head violently to clear it. What was wrong with her? It wasn’t as if he was the first man for her. She closed her eyes for a moment. The knowledge came to her. The monster phallus danced before her closed lids. The ultimate symbol of man’s power. The man himself was nothing. It was Priapus with all the worship he inspired. She felt the wetness flooding into her loins.
She waited until she felt she could control the trembling of her legs, then turned off the bathroom light and opened the door to the bedroom. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim light.
He was standing, naked, next to the bed, his back toward her. Without moving from the bed, he turned slowly toward her. At first all she saw was his hard glittering eyes and the lips drawn back tightly across his small white teeth; then her eyes fell, drawn inexorably to his phallus. She felt the trembling begin again in her legs, her mouth suddenly dry with the breath catching in her throat.
Without speaking, he gestured with one hand for her to come to him, the other hand concealed behind his back.
Silently she moved toward him, feeling as if she might fall with every step she took. At last she was before him, her eyes still cast down. She felt as if she were hypnotized by his manhood.
Suddenly he moved and with one hand tore the black gown down the front of her body until it lay on the floor around her feet and she was naked in front of him. Still he didn’t speak.
She felt her wetness running down the inside of her thighs. But there was no way she could move. It was as if his phallus had taken over all the strength in her body. She did not see his other hand come from behind his back. It took a moment for the shock wave of pain to travel from her body to her brain. Then the agony was so intense that a scream involuntarily tore its way from her throat.
For the first time she saw the cat-o’-nine-tails in his other hand, the small metal tips at the end of each thong gleaming in the light. She looked down at herself. The lash marks were already rising across her breasts, her belly and thighs, and blood was beginning to seep through the skin where the metal had torn into her flesh.
Before she could speak, his harsh voice tore at her. “Whore of the Boche! Do you think I will be like the others? Slave to your cunt?”
She could only shake her head. There was no way she could speak. Her voice had gone with shock.
Again the lash. Again the pain. Then his hand was in her hair, cruelly forcing her to the floor before him. She tried to cover her face with her hands but he forced her head back so that she could look at him. His phallus, fully erect now, hung over her face like a giant snake.
His voice was harsh and cruel. “You are the slave and he is your master. Look at him and know that you are nothing but his whore.”
She tried to turn her head away but his hand gripping her by the hair would not let her move. Then the cat fell again. This time across her back. Twice. The pain engulfed her and she screamed, her voice almost raw with hoarseness.
It was as if her scream of pain triggered him off. His phallus began to leap like an angry cobra as his semen came spurting over her. Angrily he lashed at her again and the pain and the semen seemed to be flowing all together over her body.
Then it was over and he thrust her violently to the floor. She sprawled, sobbing, at his feet, unable to move. He stood silently for a moment, breathing heavily, looking down at her. Then he prodded her with his foot until she rolled over on her back, her face staring up at him.
His voice was normal now. “Go to the bathroom, whore, and clean yourself.”
She didn’t move.
Again the lash. Her body jumped with the pain. “Do as I say!”
Slowly she rolled to her hands and knees and began to crawl to the bathroom door. She heard his voice from behind her. “Wait!” She stopped. She saw his feet walk around her and stop in front of her. She didn’t raise her head.
“Look at me!” he commanded.
She looked up. He was holding his penis in one hand. Suddenly the urine gushed forth from him, its hot burning saltiness bringing a new dimension to the raw bleeding pain of her wounds. “No!” she screamed, trying to move away. But the lash fell again and the pain beat her to the ground, sprawling at his feet.
Then he was finished and he laughed. “Now you can go.”
Somewhere inside she found the strength to look up at him. Her voice sounded like an animal’s, deep and husky in her throat. “I’ll kill you for this!”
He laughed again. “No, you won’t,” he said contemptuously. “Because if you do, both you and your child will die. You must think I am a fool. I’m not. All your records are in a safe place, and if anything should happen to me, they will be turned over to the authorities.”
Slowly he went back to the bed and sat down on it. His voice was relaxed, almost gentle now. “After you clean yourself and this mess, come to bed. I’ll be waiting for you.” Then he stretched out and pulled the sheet over him. “You don’t have to rush. I think I’ll sleep for awhile.”
She pulled herself to her feet by the doorknob. She leaned against it for a moment then opened the door. It was daylight before she came out and he seemed to be still asleep. She moved quietly to a closet door to get a dress.
His voice came from behind her. “Come here.”
She made no move toward him.
He sat up in the bed, holding the cat in his hand. “I said, come here.”
Slowly she moved toward him.
“Lie down and spread your legs.”
“No.” The cat tore at her. Silently she got into the bed.
He threw the sheet from him. He was already erect. He poised himself over her and tried to enter her. But she was dry and closed to him. He spit into his hand and rubbed it on himself then with one violent motion thrust himself deep inside her.
She screamed again in pain as the immenseness of him tore its way through her. He began to move and she continued screaming at the growing intenseness of his mounting passion. It was an agony she never dreamed she could ever feel. Finally, he exploded inside her.
For a moment, he lay gasping on her breasts, then raising himself on his arms, looked down at her. He was smiling. “Isn’t that what you really wanted? A cock like a horse’s?”
She stared into his eyes with hatred. Her voice was cold. “I’ve seen horses’ cocks bigger than yours, but I’ve never wanted to fuck them.”
His hand flashed across her face. She could feel the white finger marks begin to flush with pain. Her voice was still cold. “Are you finished?”
“Then get off me,” she said. “I want to wash you out of me.”
He watched her walk to the bathroom door. “Tanya.”
She turned to look back at him.
He seemed genuinely puzzled. “I don’t understand you. What is it that you want?”
She took a deep breath. “A man,” she said, then closed the bathroom door behind her.
The chauffeur opened the door and Maurice got out first, turning to give her his hand to help her down. She avoided his hand, steadying herself by his wrist, and waited until Janette was beside her before she turned to look at the house. “It’s a big house,” she said.
“It was a steal,” he said. “The owners wanted to sell quickly.”
She felt Janette clutching her hand. It was a large gray stone house, more than twenty meters wide, set back behind a wrought-iron fence in a tiny garden facing the street. Behind the giant center grates was a small walk, leading up to the entrance of stained-glass doors protected by a wrought-iron grille into which already had been set the Beauville coat of arms.
She followed him to the door as the chauffeur began to unload their baggage from the car. The door was opened by a butler in full livery before Maurice had a chance to ring the doorbell.
“Shall I carry the bride over the threshold?” Maurice asked sarcastically.
She didn’t bother to answer and went into the house. As was the custom, the household staff was lined up in the reception hall to meet the new mistress. There were six of them, all in household uniform. Henri, the butler, his wife, Marguerite, who was the cook, and four young girls, maids who would take care of the cleaning and other services. René, the chauffeur, was still outside.
She shook hands with them one by one, acknowledging their curtsies with a slight nod of her head. “Madame la Marquise,” they murmured respectfully.
Just as the introductions were completed, a young man came from one of the closed doors leading to the hall, carrying some papers in his hand. He stopped when he saw them. “Excuse me,” he said in English. “I didn’t realize you were already here.”
Tanya didn’t have to hear his accent to know that he was American, she could tell from the cut of his suit. She glanced from him to Maurice.
“My dear,” Maurice said. “May I present my executive assistant and secretary, Jerry Johnson? Jerry, Madame la Marquise and her daughter, Janette.”
Awkwardly, the American bowed. “It’s a pleasure, Madame la Marquise.”
Tanya didn’t offer her hand. “Mr. Johnson.”
“Would you like to see the house, my dear?” Maurice asked.
Tanya shook her head. “I’m a bit tired from the journey. I would like to rest and freshen up a bit first.”
Maurice nodded. “Very well.” He turned to the butler. “Will you take Madame la Marquise to our suite and see to her comfort.” He turned back to Tanya. “I have some papers to go over with Jerry. I’ll join you in a little while.”
Tanya glanced at the young American. Suddenly many things began to come together in her head. She nodded slowly, no sign of her thoughts showing on her face, then, taking Janette by the hand, began to follow the butler up the stairs.
Slowly Tanya got out of the tub and reached for the giant terry bathrobe and wrapped herself in it. She dried herself quickly, then dropping it on the floor, stood in front of the mirror. The welts and cuts of her wedding night had gone from her body but not from her mind. She slipped into a silk robe and went into the bedroom. She pressed the button for the maid and sat down at the dressing table. There was a discreet knock at the door. “Entrez.”
The maid came in and curtsied. “Madame.”
Tanya looked at her. She was a young girl with dark curly hair and large brown eyes. “What is your name, child?”
“Louise, would you bring me some tea, please?”
“With pleasure, Madame.” The maid curtsied again and left the room.
Tanya turned back to the mirror. Idly she touched her hair. The trouble with being a blonde was that it needed touching up every few weeks. She hated the ugly look of dark roots, though many women didn’t seem to mind it. Again there was a knock at the door. Thinking it was the maid returning with the tea, she called out, “Entrez.”
In the mirror she saw the door open. Quickly she pulled the robe closed around her breasts, as Jerry came into the room, a file of papers in his hand. She looked at him questioningly. “Yes?”
“The marquis would like you to sign these papers,” he said.
She nodded. “Put them on the table over there and I’ll get to them.”
He stood there, hesitating.
“Anything wrong?” she asked.
“The marquis said it was important that you sign these right away.”
She rose to her feet and faced him. “Tell the marquis that I will sign nothing until after I have read them.” She held out her hand. “You can leave them with me.”
Automatically he placed them in her hand and turned toward the door. Her voice stopped him.
“By the way,” she asked in a casual voice, “how did you happen to meet the marquis?”
“Several years ago in England,” he said. “I was attached to GHQ as a liaison officer with the Free French forces. When the war was over and I decided to remain in Europe, the marquis was kind enough to offer me this job.”
“I see.” She nodded thoughtfully then smiled. “That must have been a very good thing for the both of you.”
“It was,” he said, feeling more at ease now and smiling. He turned once again, reaching for the doorknob.
He looked back at her, his hand still on the doorknob. “Yes, ma’am?”
Her voice was artless. “How long have you and Maurice been lovers?”
She saw the flush creep up into his face and his normally blue-gray eyes grow green with hatred. Then his lips tightened against his reply and he left the room abruptly, the door almost slamming shut behind him.
She was seated at the small breakfast table near the window, sipping tea and reading the file when Maurice came into the room. She glanced up at him. “You could knock,” she said casually. “It’s the polite thing to do.”
His face was flushed and angry. “Jerry told me that you said you wouldn’t sign the papers.”
“Not until after I’d read them,” she said, her voice still casual. She glanced down at the file in her hand. “Now that I have, I won’t sign them at all.”
“Everything was supposed to be transferred into the estate after we were married,” he said. “That was what Wolfgang said we were going to do.”
“That’s what he said,” she agreed pleasantly.
“Then do it,” he said.
She shook her head. “No.”
“You have to,” he said. “I have assumed many financial obligations based on that agreement.”
“That’s unfortunate,” she said.
“Even this house was bought on that assumption,” he said.
“I notice that,” she said. “In your own name personally, but to be paid for out of Wolfgang’s companies with his moneys. I don’t think his intention was to enrich you at his own expense.”
“Then you intend to keep it all,” he said balefully.
“Until I hear from Wolfgang to the contrary.”
“What if you never hear from him?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“Under French law you’re liable for the money in any case,” he said.
“I know that,” she said calmly. “But tomorrow I will get in touch with thenotaire, and when he makes the necessary changes in the papers, I will make the payment.”
“And what am I supposed to do?”
“Just what we agreed on. You will be the director general of the companies. Manage them well and there’s no reason why you too cannot be rich.”
“You won’t get away with it,” he said balefully. “You can be deported.”
“And where will you be if you open that can of beans?” she asked with a faint smile. “Especially when I tell them of the circumstances that led to our marriage.”
He stared at her without speaking.
“You can go now,” she said calmly, dismissing him. “And on your way downstairs inform the butler that I will be ready to look at the rest of the house in a few minutes.”
“Is there anything else Madame la Marquise wants me to do?” he asked sarcastically.
“Yes,” she said. “Tell your boyfriend to get his things out of the house before dinner. You know how servants love to gossip. I don’t think it would be an especially nice thing to have them spreading the word all over Paris that Monsieur le Marquis is a pederast.”
She waited until the door closed behind him, then went into the bathroom and opened her cosmetic case. She lifted the top shelf out and placed it on the marble countertop next to the sink. Quickly she emptied the jars of cream and lotion from the bottom of the case until the leather case resting on the bottom was revealed. Then she took the leather case and held it in her hand.
The gold-tooled lettering shone at her.W v B Schweringen.
She snapped open the case. The silver-steel razors gleamed. Seven of them. One for each day of the week. Labeled in black on the ivory handles. Monday through Sunday. She had found them in the bathroom of the Geneva house and on an impulse had packed them in her case. Now she knew it wasn’t an impulse at all. Suddenly the thought flashed through her mind that Wolfgang hadn’t forgotten them at all. That he had deliberately left them where she could find them.
Quickly she went back into the bedroom and stood in the center of the room. A moment later she had made up her mind. One on either side of the mattress and the headboard. Then one under the mattress on each side at the foot of the bed. One under the cushion of the small couch in front of the coffee table, one more under the cushion of the chaise lounge and the last behind the curtain on the window near the breakfast table.
She took one last look around then returned the leather case to the bathroom just as the butler’s knock sounded on the door.
It took more than two hours for the butler to show the house, and when at last they returned to her room, she complimented him. “You have done very well, Henri. I am pleased.”
He bowed. “Thank you, Madame. Is Madame ready to proceed with the unpacking of her luggage?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“I will inform Louise to come and assist you. She should be finished in your daughter’s room by now.” He hesitated a moment. “And what time would Madame like dinner?”
“In the dining room?”
She looked at him questioningly. “Why do you ask?”
He was uncomfortable. “Monsieur le Marquis informed me that he would not be taking dinner at home tonight.”
She was silent.
“Perhaps you and the child would be more comfortable in the breakfast room. It’s very cozy in there and looks out on the garden.”
She nodded. “A good idea, Henri. Thank you.”
“Thank you, Madame.” He bowed again and started for the door.
He stopped. “Yes, Madame.”
“You’ve shown me all the rooms except my husband’s. I would like to see that now.”
“Excuse me, Madame,” he said uncomfortably. “I thought—”
“No. I haven’t seen it. I don’t even know where it is.”
He gestured to a narrow door on the far wall of her room. “If Madame will follow me.”
She looked at the door. Narrower than normal, until now she had thought it was a closet. The door opened into a narrow corridor, slightly less than a meter wide and a little more than a meter long, at the end of which was another narrow door.
He opened the second door and she walked into Maurice’s room. She stood there for a moment. She should have known it. Maurice had taken the best room for himself. All four windows facing the front of the house overlooking the park across the street. And newly decorated in a fashion that was somehow even more feminine than her own room. She walked into the bathroom. Even that was more than twice the size of her bathroom.
She came out of the bathroom to find the butler standing in the center of the room watching her. “Very nice, Henri.”
His voice was guarded. “Yes, Madame.”
“I’ve changed my mind. You do not have to send Louise to unpack me today. Tomorrow will be soon enough.”
“We will also be changing rooms tomorrow,” she said. “I will occupy this suite, my daughter will move into mine and you will move the marquis’ things into my daughter’s suite.”
“But, Madame—” His voice was shocked.
“Yes, Henri?” Her voice was cool.
“Monsieur le Marquis.Le patron.” He was stammering. “He would not like it.”
She met his gaze steadily. “If I am correct, Henri,le patronis your employer, the person who pays your wages.N’est-ce pas?”
“That is correct, Madame.”
“Then you have nothing to concern yourself about,” she said, her voice still cool. “Since I am the person who is paying your wages, not Monsieur le Marquis, I amla patronne. And the only person you have to please.”
His eyes fell before her gaze. He bowed. “Yes, Madame.”
“One more thing, Henry,” she added. “Tomorrow when you change the rooms you will also have a locksmith change the door locks.”
“Yes, Madame. Will there be anything else, Madame?”
She started back through the narrow corridor. “Let me know as soon as Mr. Johnson has removed his things.”
“He has already left the house, Madame. About an hour ago while we were upstairs on the fourth floor.”
“Good,” she said. She had made her point and knew that he didn’t miss it. “Thank you, Henri.”
“Isn’t Monsieur Maurice having dinner with us?”
Tanya looked across the small table at her daughter. “No, darling. He went out.”
Janette’s voice was curious. “With that girl?”
Tanya was puzzled. “What girl?”
“You know.” Janette’s voice was guileless. “That one. The one that dresses in men’s clothing.”
Tanya stared at her daughter. “He’s not a girl. He’s a man.”
“If she’s a man, why did you send her out of the house?” Janette asked pointedly.
Tanya was surprised. The child saw more than she thought she did. “We need the room for someone else,” she explained, sensing the lameness of her words.
Janette was silent as she finished her soup. She looked up again after Henri had removed her plate. “I still think she’s a girl.”
“What makes you think that?”
“I was downstairs in the kitchen when Monsieur Maurice came down and told her that you ordered her to leave.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s a girl.”
“Then when I was going back up the stairs, I passed her room. She was crying and Monsieur Maurice was kissing her and telling her that everything would be all right. He acted just like she was a girl.”
Tanya was silent. “Maybe he just felt bad,” she finally said.
Janette shook her head. “She was taking dresses out of her closet and putting them in the valise. When they saw me standing there, Monsieur Maurice kicked the door shut with his foot. But they couldn’t fool me.”
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Tanya said with finality. “Either way, he is gone and will not be back in the house.”
They were silent until after the entree had been served. Janette cutinto her meat. “This is good, isn’t it? French cooking is better than Swiss.”
Tanya smiled. “Yes, darling.”
Janette took another mouthful of food. “I really like it.” Then without changing the tone of her voice, “Does it hurt when Monsieur Maurice puts his big thing in you?”
“Janette!” Tanya was shocked. “Where did you ever learn such things?”
“In school,” Janette answered casually. “All the kids talk about it. Some of them have even seen their mothers and fathers doing it. Do you think sometime you can let me watch when Monsieur Maurice does it to you?”
“No,” Tanya said sharply. “And that’s not a nice thing to talk about. Nice girls never talk about it.”
“I came into your room one night when you and Papa General were doing it. But you didn’t see me, and I went out.” She took another forkful of the meat. “But Monsieur Maurice’s thing is twice as big as Papa General’s. That’s why I thought it might hurt.”
“How do you know such things?”
“Monsieur Maurice always left his bathroom door open when he took a pee. I couldn’t help seeing it. He even knew that I saw him and he used to smile.”
Tanya didn’t know what to say. Maurice had only stayed in Geneva for a week after they were married and then had gone back to Paris to put the house in order, and until he met them at the train today she hadn’t seen him. “Well, that won’t happen anymore,” she finally said. “Tomorrow you’re changing rooms to the room next to mine.”
“Where will Monsieur Maurice be staying?”
“He’ll be moving into your room.”
“Then he won’t be making a baby in you with his thing?” Janette asked.
“No,” Tanya said definitely.
Tanya looked at her daughter. Her voice grew gentle. “Because you’re the only child I want. I don’t want any other baby but you.”
A smile suddenly broke over Janette’s face. She left her chair and ran to her mother, throwing her arms around her. “Really?” she exclaimed.
Tanya hugged her. “Really. You’re all the babies I need.”
“I’m glad,Maman,” Janette said. “I don’t want you to have any other baby except me.”
It was almost midnight when she turned the bed lamp off. Her eyelids felt as if they were lead-weighted. It had been a long day, starting before six o’clock in the morning in Geneva. The nine-hour train ride hadn’t been that restful either with its many stops and starts. She had wanted to be awake when Maurice returned but there was no use. She had to get some sleep.
The faint sound of voices and laughter filtered through her sleep. She stirred restlessly, trying to block out the sound, but it was persistent. Finally she opened her eyes and stared at the radium numbers glowing on the alarm-clock dial. It was ten minutes to three. She rolled over on her back, listening to the noise.
It seemed to come through the narrow corridor connecting their rooms. Someone was in there with Maurice, but the sound was too blurred for her to tell whether there was one person or more. She lay quietly in the dark. After a while the sounds seemed to die down and her eyes closed and she drifted off.
She didn’t know how much later it was that the sharp click of the light switch and the sudden flooding of light into the room woke her up. She sat up in bed, her eyes blinking against the blinking lights. Quickly her eyes adjusted.
The connecting door was partly open and Maurice was standing behind it, looking at her.
“Get out!” she said coldly.
Instead he threw the door wide and stepped into the room. He was completely naked and the cat-o’-nine-tails trailed along the floor as it fell from his right hand. He stopped in the center of the room, staring at her, and with his left hand began to stroke his penis into an erection.
She glanced up at him, then up into his face. “It won’t work this time,” she said, her voice still cold. “Get out.”
He laughed suddenly, then turned and called. “Come in, Jerry darling. Let me show you how to treat a German whore.”
Jerry appeared in the doorway. He, too, was naked and holding a bottle of cognac. He stared at her and giggled drunkenly.
The cat snaked across the bed at her. She threw up her hands, catching most of the lashes across her arms, shielding her face. The cat snaked again, falling across her breasts, still covered by the bed sheet.
“Get out of bed, whore cunt!” Maurice snarled.
Silently she got out of bed, her white cotton nightgown touching the floor. She stood erect, facing him.
“Jerry, tear off her gown,” Maurice commanded.
Still giggling, Jerry minced toward her. “Like a drink, darling?” he asked, waving the bottle of cognac.
She stared at him without answering.
“Give her shit!” Maurice snapped. “Tear off her gown. I’ve got what she wants.”
She said nothing as Jerry tried to rip the gown from her. But the cotton was too strong and wouldn’t give. Finally he pulled it down over her shoulders and it fell to the floor. He stared at her, then reached out and touched her breasts. “She has big tits,” he said almost enviously.
Angrily she slapped his hands away from her.
He giggled. “Don’t worry, darling. Another year and they’ll begin to fall down to your belly. Bit tits always do. Then you won’t be so proud of them.”
The cat slashed across her. She bit her lips against the pain. “Come over here,” Maurice commanded.
Silently she moved toward him, stopping directly in front of him, her eyes fixed on his face. He gripped her by the hair, forcing her to look down at him. “Look at your master, slave bitch!”
She tried to turn her head away from him but the cat slashed across her shoulders as he angrily forced her to her knees before him. He pulled her head back against her neck, forcing her mouth open. “Suck it!”
She tried to close her mouth. This time the cat fell across her back and she gasped in pain. “Now. Will you do as I tell you?”
Slowly she reached for his phallus with one hand as she inched closer to the small couch next to where he was standing. She closed one hand around it, drawing it toward her mouth, as with the other hand she searched between the cushions and found the razor.
Maurice laughed triumphantly. “I told you I knew what she wanted.”
Jerry giggled. “She’ll never get it in her mouth. That’s the biggest cock in Paris.”
Now the razor was in her hand. The silver blade flashed briefly in the light. A line of blood suddenly appeared on Maurice’s body reaching from his bellybutton down into the hair over his pubis.
Maurice screamed in sudden pain. He stared down at himself. “What have you done to me, you bitch?” Then he saw the blood. “You’ve killed me!” he screamed and fell to the floor in a faint.
She got to her feet, staring down at him, the razor still bloody in her hand, then she turned to look at Jerry.
He was suddenly sober, his face white, as if he were going to be sick. He stared at the razor in her hand and tried to speak, but no words would come to his lips. Then his eyes fixed on her with horror.
“I could have killed him but I didn’t,” she said calmly. She stepped across Maurice and started for the bathroom. At the door she turned back to Jerry. “You’d better call a doctor. He’ll need some stitches or he could bleed to death.”
“What are you going to do?” he asked hoarsely.
“I’m going to my daughter’s room to sleep,” she said. “After all, I’m not responsible for what you to do to each other when you get drunk.”
It was about ten o’clock the next morning and she was seated at the breakfast table having a cup of coffee after dropping Janette off at her new school when he came into the room. She glanced up at him. “You’d better sit down,” she said calmly, as if nothing had happened the night before. “You don’t look too well.”
He dropped into a chair. “The doctor says I might have the scar the rest of my life.”
“Too bad,” she said noncommittally.
He reached for the coffee and filled his cup. He took a sip and looked at her. “Now what do we do?”
She met his eyes. “We stop playing games and go to work. Isn’t that the reason for this whole arrangement?”
He nodded morosely into his coffee cup.
“You’re a good businessman,” she said. “Wolfgang said that a long time ago. I respect that and I respect your abilities. I haven’t changed in that regard.”
He raised his eyes. There was a growing respect in his voice. “You’re a strange woman, Tanya.”
“Maybe,” she said. “But there is one thing you and I have in common.”
“We’re both survivors,” she said slowly. “We’ve come this far together and there’s no reason to let a moment’s stupidity fuck us up and keep us from going a long way further.”
He took a tentative sip of his coffee. It was already cold. He put it down. “And you’re not angry over what has happened?”
“Should I be?” she asked. “As far as I’m concerned it’s over. Are you hungry?”
He thought for a moment. “Yes. And no. But you are right. It’s over.”
“We can still make it the good life, Monsieur la Marquis.” She smiled. “For both of us.”
He raised his head and looked at her intently. Then he nodded his head slowly. “Madame la Marquise, I’m beginning to believe you are right.”
“Of course, I’m right, Maurice.” She smiled. She picked up the service bell. “Now, let me call Henri and get you some hot coffee and breakfast.
The voice came through the telephone, echoing through a corridor ten years long. “This is Johann Schwebel.”
Maurice felt the knot tighten in his stomach. Even after ten years, fear gripped him. He couldn’t speak.
“Remember me?” The German accent was faint. “It’s been a long time.”
“Yes,” Maurice answered. “It’s been a long time.”
“I called Madame la Marquise but she was not in. They transferred me to you.”
“Yes. She had a luncheon appointment.”
“We should arrange a meeting,” Johann said.
“Of course,” Maurice answered. “Where are you?”
“I’m in Paris.”
“Let me check with Tanya and I’ll get back to you,” Maurice said.
“No, I’ll be moving around too much. Let me call you tomorrow morning about eleven o’clock.”
“That will be fine,” Maurice said. The telephone went dead in his hand. He stared at it for a moment, then slowly returned it to the desk. He took a cigarette and tried to light it. It wasn’t easy. His hands were shaking.
The doctor was silent as he helped her remove her legs from the stirrups on the examination table. He stepped back as she swung around sitting up, her white cotton examination gown falling shapelessly around her.
“Get dressed,” he said as the nurse moved to help her. “I will see you in my private office in ten minutes.”
He left the room before she could ask him a question. The nurse opened the small closet in which her clothing had been hung and moved around behind her to untie the strings that held the gown fastened behind her back.
She was seated in the comfortable leather chair in front of his desk as he came into the small office. Carefully he closed the door behind him and sat down behind the desk, facing her.
“You look very serious, Doctor Pierre,” she said.
He nodded. “You’re pregnant.”
She smiled. “That’s all? I was worried for a moment. We can take care of that.”
He shook his head. “Not this time.”
Her voice was shocked. “Why not? We’ve done it before.”
“You’ve waited too long. The fetus is fully developed. It’s about fifteen weeks old.”
“Damn,” she said.
“Why didn’t you come earlier? As you did before? Four, five, six weeks, and there’s no problem.”
“I was busy,” she said. “Besides I didn’t pay any attention. I skipped several periods many times and it came around.”
“You were wrong,” he said.
“I’ve heard of abortions when the fetus was this old,” she said.
“Yes. But it is very dangerous. Besides, you have several factors militating against it. One, you have had three abortions in the last seven years that I have known you and they haven’t done you any good. Two, you’re not a kid anymore. Thirty-eight, and physiologically speaking, your body is not that strong, neither do your womb and ovaries have the elasticity to withstand a violent shock like that. You could very well rupture and bleed to death before we could even find out what it is we have to repair.”
She took a deep breath. “Could I have a cigarette?”
He pushed a pack across the desk and lit it for her. He waited a moment. “The marquis should be pleased.”
She laughed shortly. “You know better than that, Doctor Pierre. The whole world knows better. They all know what he is. It will be the biggest joke in Paris.”
“You don’t have any choice,” he said. “Unless you prefer dying.”
She shook her head slowly.
“You could go away for awhile,” he said. “Have the child and no one would know.”
“For how long would I be gone?” she asked.
He looked at her critically. “You’re not showing yet. With diet you can stay small, and with the right clothes no one would know. Maybe only the last three months.”
She shook her head violently. “Impossible. I have too much to do. I can’t be away from the business that long. There would be too many problems.”
“Then I suggest that you have a talk with the marquis and see what you can work out. I’m sure that the two of you can get together on a story that would pass public muster.”
She laughed. “Maybe the public. But not the world in which we live.”
“Your life is more important than what people think.”
She nodded. “That’s the truth.”
“Do you know the father?”
She looked at him. “Why do you ask?”
“It would be helpful if we could get a blood type from him. Just for the RH factor. After all it’s been almost seventeen years since your daughter was born and there could have been many changes in your system.”
She thought for a moment. She had been with two men that month. But logically it had to be the American. She had been with him steadily the last three weeks of the month she had missed her first period. “Yes,” she answered.
“Would he give you his blood type?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Who knows? He’s back in America now with his wife and children. I couldn’t write him, it might be embarrassing. I would have to call.”
“It would be worth the call,” Doctor Pierre said.
She nodded slowly and started to her feet. “I’ll do it.”
He rose from his chair. “The nurse will give you a printed diet on the way out. Follow it carefully and you will keep your weight down. You will also get a supplementary list of vitamins and minerals to take every day to maintain your strength and energy. I would like to see you again in about a month.”
She looked at him. “Are you sure we can’t do an abortion?”
“It can be done but I don’t advise it,” he said. He met her gaze. “And don’t do anything foolish, because there are nine chances out of ten that you might die.”
“I won’t do anything foolish, Doctor Pierre,” she said. “I promise.”
“Good.” He smiled. “And send me the blood type if you get it.” He came around the desk and kissed her on the cheek. “And don’t worry, Tanya. We’ve all been through worse things.”
She nodded. During the war he had been in a concentration camp. He still bore the numbered tattoo on his arms. Only the fact that he had been a doctor saved him from the gas chambers. Impulsively she kissed his cheek. “That’s true, Doctor Pierre,” she said. “Thank you.”
Janette folded the blouse carefully and placed it in the valise, then stepped back. That was the last of the packing. She looked around her room carefully. Satisfied that nothing had been forgotten, she closed the valise and locked it, then placed it on the floor next to the other valise. Tomorrow morning at seven thirty she would be on the train to Switzerland and school.
She walked back to her desk near the window and called her friend Marie-Thérése. The telephone rang a few times before Marie-Thérése picked it up. As usual, she sounded breathless. “Hello.”
“I’m finished packing,” Janette said.
“Oh, God,” Marie-Thérése exclaimed. “I haven’t even started yet.”
“Would you like me to come over and help you?” Janette asked.
“I sure would.” Marie-Thérése giggled. “But then we’d never get finished. Like last night.”
Janette remembered. In the afternoon they had gone to an American movie on the Champs-Elysées.Rebel Without a Cause, featuring a new American star, James Dean. It was the fourth time each of them had seen the movie and it was about American kids just like them. Their parents didn’t understand them either. And there was something about James Dean that reached inside them. All either of them had to do was to close her eyes and she was Natalie Wood being held roughly in James Dean’s arms.
This time on the way out of the theater, Marie-Thérése had bought a poster of James Dean. He was standing there in tight, worn jeans, skinny hips, and legs slightly bent, his face surly and angry, eyes peering defiantly out at them under a shock of brown-blond hair falling over his eyes. She wanted it for the wall over her bed in school.
When they got home, Marie-Thérése took a valise from her closet and placed it on the bed. She opened it and placed the poster, still folded inside. “Might as well begin packing,” she had said.
Janette nodded. “I’ve already started. One bag is finished and I just have one more to do.”
Marie-Thérése looked at her. “I wish I could be like you. You’re so organized. I always wind up rushing at the last minute.”
Janette laughed. “But you always manage to get it done.”
Marie-Thérése giggled. “Yes. But I don’t know how.” She opened a bureau drawer and took out an armful of underwear and dumped it on the bed next to the valise. She began to separate it into stacks—brassieres, panties, slips. She stared down at them with distaste. “Aren’t they ugly?”
Janette shrugged her shoulders. White and beige cotton. “It’s regulation,” she said. “The school wants it. We don’t have any choice.”
“I hate them,” Marie-Thérése said. “I don’t think Jimmy Dean would like these, do you?”
Janette laughed. “I don’t know what he would like.”
Marie-Thérése giggled suddenly. “Let’s show them to him and see what he thinks.” She took the poster, opened it up and stuck it against the wall with two thumbtacks. He stared down at the two girls with an angry look. Marie-Thérése picked up a brassiere and panties and held them across her over the front of her dress. “Do you like these, Jimmy?” she asked.
After a moment she turned to Janette. “See? I told you he would not like them. You take a pair, see if it’s any better.”
Janette picked up a set and did the same thing that Marie-Thérése had done. Marie-Thérése looked at her, then at the poster, and shook her head. “No better.” She threw the garments back onto the bed. “Stupid school.”
Janette folded her things neatly and placed them back on the stack from which they had come, then turned to take the poster down from the wall.
“No,” Marie-Thérése said quickly. “Maybe the reason he does not like it is because we have it on outside our clothes.” Quickly she pulled her dress over her head and stood there in brassiere and slip; a moment later the slip joined her dress on the floor. She stood in front of the poster, her full breasts straining against the beige cotton brassiere. “Is this better, Jimmy?”
She turned to Janette. “Take off your dress.”
Janette felt the warmth of her body rush into her face. “That’s silly.”
“No, it’s not,” Marie-Thérése insisted. “How else can he make a fair judgment? Besides I haven’t seen you since school closed. I want to see if you’ve gotten any bigger.”
Janette looked at her. Marie-Thérése had gotten bigger. Her breasts were at least a full size larger. Staring at her friend she felt the warmth inside her growing more intense. Slowly she took off her dress.
Marie-Thérése voice was surprised. “Silk! Black silk! You sneaky thing, you never told me! Take off your slip, I want to see your panties.”
Silently Janette let the slip fall to the floor and stood there facing the poster, not looking at her friend. The warmth inside her was going into her groin and legs now.
“Black silk panties too!” Marie-Thérése exclaimed. “Where did you ever get those things? They’re so beautiful and sexy.”
Janette still did not look at her. “My stepfather gave them to me. He said he hated the cotton things I wore.”
“When did he ever see you?”
“In the summer it’s so hot I leave my door open for some air. He saw me when he walked by. One day he came in and threw a box of lingerie down on my desk. ‘From now on, you wear these when you’re home. The other things are ugly.’ Then he walked out.”
“My God!” Marie-Thérése breathed. “Did he ever do anything else?”
Janette was still looking up at the poster. She felt the warmth turning to wetness inside her. “After that, he would come to my room sometimes when my mother wasn’t home and sit down in the chair and make me walk up and down the room in these things in front of him. Then after a while he would make me take them off and give them to him and he would make me watch him while he took his thing out and jerked off into them. When he was finished he’d give them back to me, slap me hard across the face and say, “Slut! Wash these filthy rags! And walk out of the room.” She turned to Marie-Thérése. Her friend’s mouth was open, her eyes wide and round. One thing she couldn’t tell her. The intensity of the orgasms that swept through her when Maurice slapped her face left her so weak and drained that she would sink to the floor until her legs regained the strength to carry her.
“That’s all he did?” Marie-Thérése asked. “Nothing else?”
Janette laughed. “You know better than that. He’s the most famous queer in Paris.”
“Still?” Marie-Thérése wondered. Her voice was hushed. “Is it true what I heard? About the size of his thing. I mean?”
Janette nodded. “It’s big all right.”
“Bigger than Donald the flasher?”
Donald the flasher was an English boy at the school across the lake in Switzerland whom they met at the weekly dances. He was always getting the girls to go outside with him so that he could show it to them and tell them how big he was. Janette laughed again. “It made his look like a toy.”
“My God!” Marie-Thérése breathed. She began to rub herself. “I think I’m going to come. Let’s get on the bed and do it to each other.”
They moved toward the bed and began to masturbate each other to a climax. It wasn’t the first time they had done it. But this time somehow it seemed even more exciting with the poster of James Dean scowling down at them from the wall.
“Finish packing then,” Janette said into the telephone. “And I’ll come over after dinner and we’ll go to a movie.”
“No chance,” Marie-Thérése said. “The night before I leave for school I always have to stay home with my parents.”
“Okay, then,” Janette said. “I’ll meet you at the train seven thirty tomorrow morning.”
She put down the telephone and turned to find Maurice standing in the open doorway to her room. She glanced at her watch. Five o’clock. He was home early. Usually he never got home before seven.
“Who were you talking to?” he asked suspiciously, coming into the room.
Her eyes fell and she looked down at the floor. “Marie-Thérése.”
“How can you find so much to talk about with such a stupid girl?” he asked.
She didn’t answer, her eyes still cast downward.
“Where’s your mother?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
“Hasn’t she come home yet?”
She shrugged her shoulders.”
“Why don’t you look at me?” he demanded.
She raised her eyes, feeling the flush creep into her face.
“Has she called?”
“I haven’t spoken to her.”
His lips tightened in an angry narrow line. “The slut’s probably fucking away the afternoon with one of her gigolo friends,” he snapped. “She’s never around when something important comes up.”
Her eyes fell again. She didn’t answer.
“If she calls and you should speak to her, tell her it’s important that I see her.”
“Important. You understand. I must speak to her.”
She nodded again without looking at him.
Angrily, he slapped her across the face. “Look at me when you answer me!”
She looked at him, feeling the trembling in her legs.
He slapped her again. “It’s important. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” she whispered, her voice tight in her chest. “I understand.”
He stared at her balefully. “Someday you’ll all have to pay for what that whore has done to me.” He turned and went out of the room, slamming the door angrily behind him.
She sank trembling into the chair, the beginning shudder of her orgasm sending the wetness down her shivering legs.
Jacques Charelle saw her as she came through the doors of the Relais Plaza. The room was crowded at cocktail hour, the hum of conversation filling the room as if a swarm of bees were passing. He got to his feet, gesturing.
Tanya made her way to his table, nodding to several acquaintances as she moved through the room. Jacques kissed her hand politely, held the table so that she could sit on the banquette, her back to the window, facing the room while he sat down opposite her.
“You look absolutely radiant, my dear,” he said. “You grow more beautiful every day.”
She smiled inwardly at that. What was it they said, women never looked more beautiful than in the early days of their pregnancy? “Merci, Monsieur,” she said. “It does not get easier as one grows older.”
He laughed. “Some women never grow old. You’re one of them. And how was your day?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Comme ci comme ça.” She looked up at the waiter. “A martini, please.” She turned back to Jacques. “And what did you find out?”
He made a subtle gesture at the table next to them. She looked and saw one of the directors of Balmain’s salon seated with three other people. “Not here,” he half whispered.
She nodded. She could understand his caution. Overtly Jacques was a fashion reporter for one of the news syndicates, but his real money came from his private occupation as a sort of fashion spy. Somehow he managed to know before anyone else what each designer would come up with for the next showing and who would make it that season or not. He had been on her payroll for the last three years and the information he had supplied had been invaluable. “We’ll have a quiet dinner,” she said.
“Tonight at my apartment,” he said. “I have a beautifulcôte d’agneauI can do for you, withherbes de ProvenceI just received this morning from my mother in the south.”
She almost agreed, then remembered. Tonight was Janette’s last night before leaving for school. “I can’t tonight,” she said. The waiter placed the martini before her. “How about tomorrow night?”
“My editor is in town tomorrow,” he said apologetically.
She took a sip of the martini, then remembered the doctor’s instructions. No alcohol. She put down the glass. “Damn!”
He was sympathetically silent.
“I guess it will have to be tonight then,” she said. She looked at him. “But I can’t say late. My daughter’s leaving for school tomorrow and I want to spend some time with her.”
“You’ll be home by ten o’clock,” he promised.
The waiter came to the table and placed a calling card in front of her. She glanced down at the German gothic print on the card, then up at the waiter. “The gentlemen who gave you this card,” she asked, her heart suddenly beating rapidly. “Where is he?”
Still holding the card in her hand, she got out of her seat and almost ran out the door. A taxi was just pulling away from the curb but she could not see who was in it and the street was almost empty. No one she knew was there. She looked down at the card again.JOHANN SCHWEBELFINANZEN DIREKTORVON BRENNER GmbHMontevideoMunichUruguayF.W.G.
She turned the card over. Johann’s precise handwriting never changed. “I will be at this number at 0900 tomorrow. Please call me. J.”
Slowly she walked back into the Relais Plaza. Jacques was standing. “Is there anything wrong?” he asked in a concerned voice.
“No,” she answered, taking her seat. “Nothing’s wrong. It’s just someone I hadn’t seen for a long time and I would have liked to see him again.”
“An old lover?” Jacques smiled.
She shook her head. “Not really.”
“Take my advice, my dear,” he said with typical French sagacity. “Never chase an old love. They are never like what you remember when you catch them.”
She looked at him. Suddenly the information she sought from him wasn’t that important anymore. “Look,” she said. “I’ve thought it over. Let’s skip tonight. I think it’s really more important that I spend the evening with my daughter.”
It was slightly after seven o’clock when she arrived home. Henri opened the door. “Bon soir, Madame.”
“Bon soir, Henry,” she said. “Any messages?”
“No, Madame,” he said. “But Monsieur le Marquis is already at home.”
She nodded. “And Janette?”
“She is in her room, Madame.” he paused for a moment. “What time would Madame like dinner?”
“Eight thirty,” she said, starting up the staircase. She walked down the corridor and stopped in front of Janette’s room. Quietly she knocked on the door.
Janette opened it. She smiled. “Maman!”
Tanya leaned forward and kissed her daughter, then followed her into the room. Quickly her eyes took in the closed valises standing near the door. “You’re all packed?”
“Ready to go,” Janette said. “Seven o’clock in the morning.”
Tanya smiled. “Anxious to get back to school?”
“In a way,” Janette answered. “Truth is, I’m getting tired of vacation. There’s nothing really much to do around Paris in the summer. Most of the girls were away.”
“Maybe next summer I won’t be so tied up. Then we can go away too.”
“Maybe,” Janette said. “By the way, I forgot to tell you. Maurice came home early. He was looking for you. He told me to tell you it was very important that you speak to him right away.”
“Okay,” Tanya said. “I told Henri to have dinner ready at eight thirty. Is that all right?”
“It is with me,” Janette said. She looked at her mother. “Just the two of us? Or is Maurice eating with us too?”
“Just the two of us if that’s what you want,” Tanya said.
“I’d like that.”
“Just the two of us then,” Tanya said. She stared from the room. “I’ll call you when it’s time.”
She walked down to the other side of the hallway and stopped in front of Maurice’s door. She knocked, and at the muffled sound of his voice coming through the closed door, went into the room.
Maurice was sitting in a lounge chair, a half-empty cognac snifter in his hand. He stared up at her balefully without getting up. “Where the hell have you been all afternoon?”
She ignored his question. “You wanted to see me?”
“Whose prick were you sucking this afternoon?” His words were slurred.
“If I were,” she answered, “it wouldn’t matter to you anyway. It would be someone who definitely wasn’t your type. Now, you either have something important to tell me or you haven’t. If not, let me go and take my bath.”
His voice was angry. “You’ll never guess who called today.”
Suddenly she knew. Even without his telling. She was silent.
“Johann Schwebel,” he snapped. He studied her face. It was expressionless. “Aren’t you surprised?”
“Should I be?” she asked ingenuously.
“Maybe that’s the wrong word,” he said. “Concerned should be more like it.”
“I see no reason for that either,” she said. “We’ve kept the books honestly. Wolfgang’s share is intact.”
“You’re stupid,” he snarled. “What if they want to take over? Take everything back? Then where will we be?”
“Did he say that?” she asked.
“No. He merely wanted to arrange an appointment with the two of us. I told him to call back tomorrow at eleven o’clock.”
She looked at him. His face was flushed with liquor and she knew that he never drank that much in the daytime unless he was upset. “You could have called him back and made an appointment.”
“He said he would be moving around too much and would call us.”
She nodded. “That’s possible. After all, we don’t know what other business he has in Paris.” Johann had to have a reason for what he did. He knew about the call at eleven, yet he had asked her to call him at nine. She started from the room. “At any rate we’ll know more tomorrow.”
He rose to his feet. “I was only waiting to give you the news. I’m going out to dinner. Will you be using the car?”
“No. Take it,” she said. “I’m having dinner in tonight with Janette.”
Johann came out of the Georges Cinqu and waited for a taxi. Paris. It never changed. Not even in all the years since the war. Like the French themselves. Selfish, expedient, demanding, egotistical. Standing there saying, Look at me. Am I not beautiful? The most beautiful in the world? And the trouble was that it was the truth. The truth, if you had the price to pay for it.
The doorman opened the door of the taxi, managing to pocket the five-franc coin and tip his hat all at the same time. Johann gave the driver the address, then settled back into the seat and took a folder out of his briefcase and opened it.
Inside were credit reports gathered for him by his bank on the French companies. He glanced at the top sheet.
Eau de la Vie Minérale S.A. Mng. Dir. Marquis de la Beauville. Product, bottled mineral water sold in 1 liter bottles, principally to small hotels and restaurants, very few retail outlets. Mgnt. pursues noncompetitive policy, no advt., depending on price (30% to 40% less than Evian, Vittel, etc.) for sales. Est. avg. gross 3 yrs. F. 10M; net, F. 1,5M. Est. value, property and plants, equipment and inventory, F. 45M. No record or est. available on acct’s rec. or debt. Est. C.O.H. on deposit F. 40M. All bills pd. pmpty, 10 to 30 days. Credit rating, AAAA to F. 25M.
He slipped the top sheet under the others and began to read the second report.
Domaine Marquis de la Beauville S.A. Mng. Dir. Marquis de la Beauville. Product, mid-range quality wines, champagne, cognac sold in quantity (bbls) to other vineyards and bottlers. No retail sales or labels established. Est. avg. gross 3 yrs. F. 125M; net, F. 25M. Est. value, property and plants, equipment and inventory, F. 400M. No record or est. available on acct’s rec. or debt. Est. C.O.H. on deposit F. 250M to F. 325M. All bills pd. pmpty, 10 to 30 days. Credit rating, AAAA to F. 200M.
He reached for a cigarette, lit it and turned to the last report.
Parfum Tanya S.A. Mng. Dir. Marquis de la Beauville. Product, perfumes, colognes, perfume bases, scents, sold in bulk to various companies for bottling and incorporation into cosmetics under their own label. No retail sales or labels established. Est. value, property and plants, equipment and inventory, F. 110M. Est. avg. gross sales, F. 100M, net, F. 45M. No record or est. available on acct’s rec. or debt. Est. C.O.H. on deposit F. 350M to F. 400M. All bills pd. pmpty, 10 to 30 days. Credit rating, AAAA to F. 100M.
He closed the folder and stared thoughtfully out the window at the passing traffic. In many ways none of the companies were operated in the typically French manner. For one thing, no French company, large or small, ever paid its bills on time. And no French company ever maintained a cash balance so far in excess of its annual needs. It had to be Tanya. Maurice would never do it. He did some rapid mental calculation. Of course, it was Tanya. The money was there because she was holding it for von Brenner. In that balance was his 50 percent share of the profits.
The taxi pulled to the curb and he got out. He looked at his watch. Five minutes to nine. He paid the driver and hurried upstairs to the lawyer’s office. His hunch had been right. He was glad that he had asked her to call him there. He had a feeling he should see her before he met with Maurice.
He opened the door in answer to the soft knock, then stepped aside to let her walk into the living room of the hotel suite. Slowly he closed the door behind him and turned to look at her. For a long moment they looked silently at each other; then he cleared his throat. “Old friends should not meet each other in restaurants or in attorneys’ offices.”
She nodded without speaking. He could see the tears welling into her eyes and felt a choking in his own throat. He held out his hand. She ignored it. Her voice was husky. “Old friends do not merely shake hands.”
He threw open his arms and she came into them. He kissed her cheek, tasting the salt of her tears. She rested her head against his chest. “Dear Johann,” she murmured. “Dear kind good friend.”
He raised her chin to look into her eyes. “Anna—” He hesitated. “Tanya.”
“Tanya.” She smiled.
“I am glad to see you,” he said, nodding his head.
“It’s been too long,” she said. “Ten years and no word. I thought we’d be in touch long before this.”
He looked at her, strangely puzzled. He really didn’t understand why she had thought that. “Come,” he said. “Let me get you something to drink.”
She followed him to the couch and sat down. “I really don’t want anything, thank you.”
“I’ll order some coffee,” he said, pressing the signal for the room-service waiter. A few minutes later, a cup of coffee in his hand, he nodded, pleased. “Now, tell me about Janette. She must be a big girl now.”
Tanya smiled. “Sixteen. And she just left for school in Switzerland this morning.”
“I’m sorry I missed her,” he said. “I would have liked to see her. If she takes after her mother, she has to be beautiful.”
“She is,” Tanya said. “But in her own fashion, not in mine.”
“I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here?” Johann asked.
“Only why it took you so long,” she said. “You’ll find the books in order. And the money in a separate account.”
“What for? There’s no money owed to the von BrennerGesellschaft.” Then it all came together in his head. He stared at her with suddenly dawning comprehension. “Wolfgang—” he began, but his voice failed him.
“That’s it,” she smiled. “I put half the profits in a special account for Wolfgang just as I promised him.”
His voice was strained and strangely tortured. “You didn’t know?”
“Know what?” Something in the expression in his eyes reached into her heart with a cold chill. Then she knew. Her clenched fist went to her mouth so that she wouldn’t cry. “Wolfgang is dead. When?”
He put down the coffee cup with shaking hands. “Ten years. I thought you knew.”
“I didn’t know.” Her voice reached for control. “How did it happen?”
“He was killed by the Russians when they came to arrest him. He always said that he would not allow himself to be taken alive and tried as a war criminal. He was never a member of the Nazi party.”
“He was supposed to be safe in the French sector. How did the Russians get him?”
“Nobody really knows,” he said. “Apparently he went to a meeting in the Soviet zone.”
She was silent for a moment. “Maurice knew,” she said. “He knew it all along.”
“I don’t know,” he said.
She met his eyes. “I do. He knew that if I learned Wolfgang was dead I wouldn’t stay married to him.”
“It’s over. I’ll divorce him.”
“But the companies? Aren’t they in the Beauville estate?”
She shook her head. “No. I kept them in my name. I had the feeling that if I ever did transfer them, Wolfgang would be the first to be cheated.”
“That was lucky,” he said. He smiled suddenly. “You’re a rich woman now. Everything. It all belongs to you. You don’t owe anything to anybody. And I think that was what Wolfgang really wanted.”
“Yes.” She remembered the gold louis in the vault in Switzerland. Even after they had lived there together, he had never asked her to give them to him. Or even place his name on the vault card. He had meant for her to have it all along. She felt the moisture in her eyes. Poor Wolfgang.
“Are you all right?” Johann asked anxiously.
She held up her hand. “I’m fine now.” No wonder Maurice was upset at Johann’s call. It was as if the day of reckoning had come. “You started to tell me why you wanted to see me.”
He nodded. “I know of a company that is interested in buying the wine company for a lot of money. They want to take the company into retail sales.”
“Should I sell it to them?” she asked.
“Of course, it’s up to you. But I wouldn’t.”
“What would you do then?”
“What they plan to do. And make ten times as much money as the company is making now.”
“But we deliberately stayed out of the public eye. We thought that the less attention we called to ourselves the better.”
“That was ten years ago. But now nobody gives a damn.”
She met his eyes. “I’m pregnant. In March, I’m going to have a baby.”
Surprise echoed in his voice. “Then you can’t divorce until afterwards.”
Her voice was strong. “I’m divorcing now. I won’t let a child of mine bear his name. After the divorce I’m going to America to have the baby. The father is American.”
“Will you marry him?”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “But I won’t be able to run the businesses myself. I still need a man in there.”
He was silent.
“What about you, Johann?” she asked. “That’s what you did for Wolfgang. And it would not be just a job, you would be a partner.”
“I don’t know,” he said doubtfully. “I might not be the right man for you. Basically I’m an accountant. You need someone more than that.”
“We can hire anyone else we might need,” she said. “But you can’t buy trust. That only comes with time.”
“No!” Maurice’s voice was shrill. He was near hysteria. “I won’t give you a divorce! I worked just as hard to make those companies as you did. You’re not just going to pay me off and throw me out! Just because you know you can keep it all for yourself.”
“You make me sick,” she said, her voice cold with contempt. She rose from her chair. “Divorce or not, you’re out of the companies.”
He stared up at her from behind his desk. His voice was quieter now. “It won’t be that easy for you. Under French law a wife’s property automatically comes under her husband’s control. I’ll hang you in court for twenty years. By that time the companies will be worth nothing.”
“The hell with them! I don’t need them.”
“You have a lifestyle you’ve become used to,” he said shrewdly. “You won’t be able to afford it anymore. And you’re not as young as you used to be. There are younger, fresher girls around. You’ll still be able to find a man to fuck with you, but you won’t find a man to keep you. When it comes to that, Tanya, you’re over the hill.”
She looked down at him. “What are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying we can approach this reasonably, calmly. Like two sensible adults, without flying off the handle and destroying ourselves in the process.”
“And what’s your idea of working this out reasonably?” He took a deep breath. “First, no divorce. We stay married. There’s nothing wrong in that. It works for both of us. Money alone won’t keep you in the world in which you live if you relinquish the title. Tanya, Marquise de la Beauville goes a lot further than Tanya Pojarska, even if you should decide to use your former husband’s title, which at the moment is being used by at least three other people. Polish titles aren’t worth a sou for a dozen in Paris. Do you think that school in Switzerland would have even accepted Janette if it weren’t for the Beauville name?”
She was silent. He pressed on. “You were prepared to give me twenty-five percent of the total net worth of all the companies in cash. That has to be somewhere between one hundred and one hundred twenty-five million francs. Instead of cash, you quit-claim one company to me; in exchange I will quit-claim the other two to you. That way our property rights will be clear and incontestable. And to show you that I am not greedy, I’ll accept the smallest company of them all. The mineral-water company. Its net worth is far less than the amount you would give me in cash.”
She stared at him. “What makes you so generous?” she asked skeptically.
“I’m not generous. Just practical. I need something to work at and something to save face. And I can live comfortably on the company’s earnings. Once that is done, we separate. I go my way, you go yours. And it becomes what it always has been. A marriage of convenience.”
“Let me think about it,” she said.
“What is there to think about?” He was more confident now. “At this moment, you’re angry. About many things. Wolfgang. Allowing yourself to become stupidly pregnant.”
Surprise was in her voice. “How do you know about that?”
“There are no secrets older than twenty-four hours in Paris,” he said. “So you’re angry and lashing out at the only one available to you. Me. What you don’t see is that in the process you are also hurting your own children. Janette and the unborn baby.”
Again she was silent. He got to his feet. “Tanya,” he said quietly, “wouldn’t it make more sense for your child to be born de la Beauville than a fatherless bastard?”
She was still silent. He managed a faint smile and a Gallic shrug of his shoulders. “Who knows? If you have a son, he automatically becomes the next Marquis de la Beauville.”
For the first time since Janette had begun going away to school, her mother was not at the train station to greet her when she returned to Paris. René, the chauffeur, was waiting for her on the platform, his coat collar turned up against the Christmas-holiday cold.
“Where’s Mother?” she asked as she came down the steps from the train.
He reached for her valise. “She’s not feeling well, Mademoiselle Janette,” he said. “She is waiting for you at home.”
“What’s the matter with her?” she asked, falling into step with him.
He shot her a curious glance. “It’s nothing serious,” he said evasively. She followed him through the station outside to where the black Rolls-Royce limousine was parked in a No Parking zone confident that no mere mortal gendarme would dare disgrace it with a contravention. He opened the door for her. She got into the car and he placed the valise in the front seat beside him and pulled the car away from the curb.
It was rush hour and the streets were busy with people going home from work, and as usual traffic was backed up at every corner. He glanced into the rearview mirror and saw her sitting forward in her seat, looking at the shop windows as they moved past. “The Christmas shopping rush is on,” he said.
“Yes,” she answered.
“Themétéosays we might have snow.”
“It’s been snowing in Switzerland since the last week in October.”
“Have you been skiing?” he asked.
“Of course,” she said. “There’s not much else to do.”
Then he ran out of conversation and they were silent until he stopped the car in front of the house. Before he had a chance to open the door for her she was out of the car and up the steps, pressing the doorbell. Henri opened the door and she ran past him with a quick “Bon jour,” up the steps to her mother’s room. Outside the closed door, she stopped and knocked.
Her mother’s voice answered. “Entrez.”
She opened the door and ran into the room. “Maman!” she exclaimed. Then stopped suddenly, her mouth partly open in amazement.
Tanya saw the expression on her face. She tried to treat it lightly. “I’m really not that big yet. Only six months.”
There was a shocked note in Janette’s voice. “But you never said anything to me.”
“What was there to say?” Tanya asked. “These things do happen.”
Janette’s voice was suddenly angry. “I’m not a child. You could have told me.”
Tanya was silent, surprised at Janette’s anger.
Janette searched her mother’s eyes. “He raped you. That’s why you didn’t tell me. You were ashamed.”
“No, Janette,” Tanya said. “It wasn’t like that at all.”
A note of repulsion came into Janette’s voice. “You mean you let him do that to you?”
Tanya was silent. For the first time she really didn’t know what to say to her daughter. She found her voice. “Maybe you’d better go to your room and have a quiet relaxing bath. We’ll talk afterwards.”
Janette’s lips tightened. “Once you told me you didn’t want any other children.”
Tanya’s voice grew firm. “Do as I say, Janette. Go to your room. We’ll talk later when you’ve calmed down.”
Janette turned and started for the corridor connecting their two rooms.
Tanya stopped her. “Not there. Maurice’s suite has been redecorated for you.”
“And who’s in my room?” Janette asked angrily. “Maurice?”
“No,” Tanya said. “He doesn’t live with us anymore. The room is being fixed up as a nursery for the baby.”
Janette stared at her, tears beginning to well into her eyes. “Merry Christmas, Mother!” she cried bitterly, turned and ran sobbing from the room.
Tanya stared at the closed door. She heard Janette’s footsteps running down the hall. For a moment she thought of following her but then sank wearily into a chair. Janette would get over it. Later when she had calmed down they would talk, and Tanya would explain to her what had happened.
But Tanya was wrong. Janette wasn’t waiting for an explanation. Instead of going to her room, she ran out of the house, took a taxi to the train station and made the night train back to her school in Lugano.
“It will take two years,” Johann said. “Next year is impossible. Our entire production is already committed to our regular customers.”
She glanced at the report in front of her and nodded. “Maybe it’s just as well. It will give us more time to develop the label and publicize it.”
“I have several interesting possibilities,” he said. “There are two bottling plants on the market right now. I think we can get them for a price.”
“Get into it,” she said. “And let me know.”
“Another thing,” he added. “I think we should forget about the domestic market. We’d have to fight our way through the established wineries, and you know the French. Snobbery and tradition, they don’t like to change. My feeling is that we should aim at America. The wine market there is just beginning to open up and we can compete pricewise in their medium range. A French label there is instant status.”
“That makes sense.”
“There are several large American distributors already interested. Schieffelin, Bronfman, even Twenty-One Brands. They’re talking big money and big promotion. I feel we can even get a large enough advance from them to finance the acquisition of the bottling plant.”
“We don’t need their money,” she said.
“True,” he agreed. “But it always is better to work with someone else’s capital than your own. Besides that would free more of our own money to acquire amaison de coutureand also to operate it. I don’t know of one that makes money, they’re constant losers. Even Chanel.”
“But she makes it all back on the perfume. Plus. We know that. After all, we can’t even supply her with all the essences she needs for the base. Sooner or later all the couturiers will be into it. I want to be there first.”
“I’m worried about that,” he said. “Operating losses on one of those houses could be a disastrous drain. And everyone I spoke to wants an arm and a leg for nothing, just their name.”
“I have one company in mind that I think we can get at the right figure,” she said. “Shiki.”
His eyes opened wide. “The Japanese? His shows were the biggest hit of the last season.VogueandL’Officielare filled with nothing but him. Even the papers say that he is the rage.”
She laughed. “That’s the press. His things are outrageous and they love it. But there’s no way anyone can wear his clothes. They’re just not practical and not really selling. Jacques Charelle says his ass is out and he’s in debt up to his ears.”
“If that’s the case, why do you want him?”
She smiled. “The name. If he gets the space, we can find a way to make him work. Tone him down just a little. And, don’t forget where the money is. Coco Chanel doesn’t. The perfume. If we do twenty-five percent of Chanel Number Five we make nothing but money. And after that, who knows? Maybe an entire line of cosmetics.” She took a deep breath and looked at him. “What a stupid thing it is to be a woman. There is so much to do, and here I am, pregnant.”
He nodded sympathetically. “Only two more months.”
“Seems like eternity.”
“It will pass quickly enough,” he said.
She fell silent, thinking. Finally she took a deep breath. “I’m worried.”
“There’s nothing to worry about,” he said quickly. “You’re just fine.”
“One never knows,” she said. “I’m not as young as I was when Janette was born. There could be problems.”
He was silent.
“I’ve never made a will,” she said. “If anything should go wrong, what happens to Janette? Or the new baby? I’m still married to Maurice. He might get everything.”
“Under French law,” Johann said, “the children have specific inheritance rights.”
“They would still need a guardian or trustee until they are of age,” she said. “And Maurice adopted Janette and will be legally the father of the other. Automatically it would make sense that he would control not only his share but their share too. I don’t want that.”
He was silent.
“You’re the only one I can trust to protect the children,” she said. “Would you be willing to be my executor if I should die?”
“Of course,” he said. “But we both know nothing will happen to you.”
“There’s too much at stake,” she said. “I don’t want to take any chances. Arrange for the lawyer to come here in the morning. I want my house to be in order.”
“I’ll take care of it,” he said. He looked at her. “Just one thing puzzles me. What happened to your idea about taking that young man at Christian Dior’s and starting a new house with him?”
“You mean Yves St. Laurent?”
“That’s the one.”
“I gave that up for two reasons. First, Dior and Boussac won’t let him go. Second, he hasn’t established his own name yet and it could take a fortune to get him known as widely as we need him to be. I spoke to Jacques about it. Despite the boy’s talent, nothing will happen until Dior lets him come out from under his shadow. Good or bad, at least Shiki’s name is on everybody’s lips.”
“Okay,” he said doubtfully. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
She smiled at him. “I do too. I’ve spent years cultivating Charelle and learning from him. He may be greedy, but season after season, he’s picked the winners.”
“What’s he going to get out of this?”
“Director of Public Relations. At five times the money he makes and can steal from the crummy news syndicate he works for.”
Johann laughed. “You’ve thought it all out.”
“That was easy,” she said. A troubled look came to her face. “I wish it were as easy to understand Janette.”
“You haven’t spoken to her yet?”
She shook her head. “She won’t even answer my telephone calls.”
“She’ll get over it when the baby comes. You’ll see.”
“I don’t know,” she said thoughtfully. “Janette’s a strange child. There’s something about the way she keeps to herself. I have the feeling I don’t know her at all.”
The little Japanese was both stoned and drunk at the same time. He held a glass of wine in one hand and a hashish cigarette in the other. “Schiaparelli, Balmain, Maggy Rouff, they’ve all had it. They’re still designing ball gowns for yesterday’s dowagers, who are growing too old to even wear shrouds. Even Dior knows when he’s had it, he admits that Yves did more than half of his last collection. Today’s women want more excitement in their clothes. There’s a whole new world coming and they want to be there first.”
The host, Juan Delgado, was in full drag. His long Schiaparelli gown trailed the floor behind him. “And I suppose you’re going to be the one who leads them there?” he asked sarcastically.
“Damn right I am,” Shiki retorted.
“Horseshit!” Juan snapped. “You haven’t even got enough money to pay your fare on the Métro.”
“That’s how much you know,” Shiki retorted with a superior air. “Just this morning I signed the papers which will make me independent for life.”
“Now, I’ll tell one,” Juan said.
“I’ll prove it,” Shiki said, looking around the room. He saw Maurice and Jerry Johnson standing near the bar. “Come with me.”
Juan followed him across the room. Shiki stopped in front of Maurice. “Juanita doesn’t believe that we made a deal. Tell him.
Maurice was puzzled. “What deal?”
Delgado chortled. “I told you you were full of shit. He doesn’t even know what you’re talking about. You have to be stoned out of your head.”
“I’m never that stoned,” Shiki said, standing on his dignity as much as his four feet nine inches would allow. He turned back to Maurice. “I signed the papers this morning with your man, Schwebel. It’s with one of your companies. Tanya Parfums or something like that.”
“That’s one of my wife’s companies,” Maurice said. “I have nothing to do with that. It’s all her affair.” He looked at Shiki curiously. “You say Schwebel signed the papers? Where was Tanya?”
Shiki was surprised. “I thought you knew. She went to the clinic last night to have your baby.”
“Last night?” Maurice was incredulous. “She wasn’t expecting for another two weeks yet.”
Delgado broke up. He turned to the room, announcing in a loud voice, “Our good friend, the marquis, is about to have a baby and his wife hasn’t even bothered to inform him.” He paused for a moment. “But, then, why should she? She never even bothered telling him that she was making a baby when she was off fucking that American.”
“You son of a bitch!” Maurice said angrily. “Why don’t you just suck my cock?”
Juan fell to his knees on the floor before him. He held up his hand in mock prayer. “Thank you, God,” he said, rolling his eyes heavenward. “You’ve just made my dreams come true.”
Maurice shoved him and he rolled backward on the floor, laughing, while Maurice, followed by Jerry, stalked angrily from the party.
It was two o’clock in the morning when they got out of the car in front of the small private clinic. They crossed the deserted sidewalk and pressed the night bell. Maurice tried the door impatiently. It was locked. He put his finger on the bell and kept it there.
A few moments later a sleepy concierge opened the door. “Monsieur, Monsieur,” he protested. “Patience. There are sick people in here.” He looked around behind them. “Where is she?”
“She?” Maurice asked. “Who?”
“The patient,” the concierge answered. “This is a maternity clinic. Only expectant fathers ring the bell like that at night.”
“My wife is already here,” Maurice snapped. “I want to see her.”
The concierge began to close the door. “Impossible, Monsieur. Visiting hours are finished at ten o’clock. Come back in the morning.”
Maurice put his foot in the door, blocking it. “I want to see her now. I insist. I am the Marquis de la Beauville.”
“I don’t care if you’re Charles De Gaulle,” the concierge said. “You come back in the morning.”
A banknote appeared in Maurice’s hand. “If you would be kind enough to speak to the head nurse,” he said in a more reasonable voice, “I would appreciate it.”
The banknote disappeared in the concierge’s pocket as quickly as it had appeared. “If Monsieur would be kind enough to wait. I will return in a moment.”
The door closed, and Maurice and Jerry stood there. “Maybe we should come back in the morning,” Jerry said.
“No. We’ll see her tonight.” Maurice’s voice was tight.
The door opened again. This time a gray-haired nurse in a heavily starched uniform stood next to the concierge. “I am sorry, Monsieur,” she began to explain. “But the rules—”
Maurice interrupted her. “I know the rules, Sister. But please take mercy on a poor man who just at this moment arrived back in Paris and longs only for a moment’s glimpse of his wife and child.”
The second banknote in Maurice’s hand disappeared into the pocket of the starched uniform. “Very well, Monsieur,” she said, admitting them into the hallway. “But we must be very quiet.
They followed her down the long hospital-smelling corridor and stopped outside a room. She turned to look at them. “Madame la Marquise had a very difficult labor. We have given her very heavy sedation and she is sleeping. You can look in from the doorway but please do not enter.”
Maurice nodded. The nurse opened the door. There was a very dim light in the room. He peered past her. Tanya was lying in the bed, her eyes closed. Even in the small light, Maurice could see her face was pale and drawn. He stepped back and turned to the nurse. “And the baby?” he whispered.
“The nurse closed the door softly. “Follow me, Monsieur.”
They walked down to the end of the corridor and turned right. They stopped in front of a large double-paned window. Looking through the window they could see about seven or eight tiny cribs on small wheels, a baby in each.
Maurice looked at the nurse. “Which one is mine?”
“Just a moment, Monsieur,” the nurse said. “I will go into the room and hold her up so that you can see her.”
“Her?” Maurice’s voice was incredulous. “You mean it’s a girl?”
The nurse smiled. “Yes, Monsieur, the most beautiful girl you ever saw. Golden ringlets of hair the color of the sun, the bluest eyes that sparkle like aquamarines and will be blue all through her life. Wait just a moment, you will see for yourself.”
She left them to enter the nursery. But when she came to the window with the child in her arms, they were already gone.
Maurice drove wildly through the deserted streets. “The bitch!” he swore angrily. “The bitch! She couldn’t even do that right!”
“Take it easy,” Jerry said. “Or you’ll get us both killed.”
“The least she could have done was have a boy.” Maurice was still angry. “Someone to carry on the name. But no, another fucking cunt! Blond and blue-eyed on top of it all. Paris will break up with laughter. There has never been a blue-eyed blonde in the seven-hundred-year history of my family.”
“What difference does it make?” Jerry asked. “Everyone knows it’s not your child anyway.”
“That makes it even worse,” Maurice said. “They all know the only reason I stayed with her was to get a son.”
He raced across the small bridge over the Seine to the Ile Saint-Louis and down the narrow streets to a stop in front of their apartment. He got out of the car and slammed the door angrily. “The bitch!” he swore again. “I’ll make her pay for this. You’ll see.”
Dr. Pierre came into the room. He stopped at the side of the bed and looked down at her. “How are you feeling?” He smiled.
“Tired,” she said.
He shrugged. “That’s normal.” Quickly he checked her heart, pulse and blood pressure. “You’re okay.”
“And the baby?” she asked.
“Perfect,” he answered. “One couldn’t ask for anymore. You fed her this morning?”
“Good. We’ll put her on a formula for lunch. She’ll have that every other feeding time for a few days, then when she’s adjusted to it, we’ll take her off the breast completely.”
“How long will that take?” she asked.
“Three, four days.
“I don’t want my breasts to get too large,” she said.
“Don’t worry about it,” he smiled. “I’ll give you a series of shots that will stop the lactation and bring your breasts back to normal in no time.”
“How long do I have to stay in here?”
“About a week. Then you’ll be able to go home.”
“I have a lot to do,” she said.
“It will wait. Your health is more important. But you can begin walking around a little this afternoon. Just don’t overtire yourself.” He snapped his small medical bag closed. “I’ll be back this evening before you go to sleep.”
“Thanks, Doctor Pierre.”
The chief night nurse came into the room just as he left. “Bon jour, Madame la Marquise.” She smiled.
“Bon jour, Soeur.”
“I just came by to see how you were.”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
“By the way,” the nurse said, “did anyone tell you that your husband was here?”
Tanya was surprised. “No. No one mentioned it. When?”
“Two nights ago,” she said. “It was about two in the morning. The reason I didn’t say anything was because yesterday was my day off.”
“Did he see the baby?”
“No. Funny, because when I went to show her to him, he had already gone.”
Tanya was silent.
“Don’t worry about it,” the nurse said in what she thought was a comforting manner. “I’ve seen that happen many times with husbands. Frenchmen are always upset when they get a daughter instead of a son. But he’ll come around, you’ll see.”
Tanya forced a smile and nodded.
The nurse looked at her watch. “I’ve got to go now and get some sleep. I’ll see you tonight.”
The door closed again. Tanya looked across the room. The flowers on the dresser were from Johann. Another vase filled with roses had come from Jacques. So Maurice had been here. Strange that there had been no word from him. Not that she expected him to send flowers. There was another knock on the door. “Entrez.”
Johann came into the room followed by Jacques. Both were carrying more flowers. They smiled as they approached the bed. “You look marvelous,” Jacques said.
“Don’t tell me,” she said. “I look awful and I know it.”
“No, really,” Johann said. “You look wonderful.”
“You’re both prejudiced.” She laughed. She looked up at them. “What brings you both here this early in the morning?”
“We have two problems,” Johann said. “We need your decision before we can do anything.”
“Bien,” she said. “What’s the first?”
Jacques spoke. “We have to make a public announcement about our deal with Shiki. He wants to do it immediately. I want to wait at least a month for several reasons. One, because you’ll be in shape to appear with him at the press conference. I think it’s very important that we establish immediately your presence in the concern. Two, because it will bring us that much closer to the showings for the fall season and will spark a great deal of interest and publicity to see exactly what we come up with.”
Tanya’s voice was definite. “I’ll go with your plan. Tell Shiki we’ll make the announcement later. Now, what’s the second problem?”
They glanced at each other a moment, then Johann spoke. “It’s Maurice again. Jacques tells me that he’s going all over Paris saying that he’s filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery.”
She looked at Jacques.
He nodded. “That’s what I’ve heard. Not just once, but many times.”
She thought for a moment. ‘I don’t see where it matters,” she said. “Originally I wanted a divorce anyway. If he files, let him have it.”
“It could get complicated,” Johann said. “He’s also claiming that you fraudulently misstated the assets of the companies in making him accept the mineral-water corporation.”
“Did you talk to the lawyers?” she asked.
Johann nodded. “He can’t make it stick but it can create problems. Just from a public-relations point of view.”
She turned to Jacques. “Do you think you can contain it?”
“I won’t be able to keep it out of the papers,” Jacques said. “But I think I can get you a fair amount of space to counter his stories. After all, he’s not exactly a closet queen. If we let him know that we plan to open the door wide, maybe he’ll have second thoughts.”
She nodded. “Okay. Make sure that he hears we’re going to do that. Meanwhile ask my lawyers to file a countersuit for divorce, charging him with pederasty, and have it ready to serve the moment he files against me.”
Johann looked at her. “You don’t need this. You have enough to do.”
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” she said. “It’s one of the facts of life.”
“I suppose so,” he answered. “Have you spoken to Janette yet?”
She shook her head. “She still won’t take my calls. I told her friend Marie-Thérése to tell her that she has a sister.”
“Have you decided on a name for the baby yet?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “I’m going to call her—Lauren.”
“Lauren? That’s a strange name.”
“It’s after my grandmother. My father’s mother. She was American and I always loved her name. When I was little I used to pretend that it was mine.”
Marie-Thérése came into their room “The headmistress wants to see you.”
Janette looked up from her book. “What for?”
“She didn’t say. Just come down right away.”
Janette closed the book and put it down. “I’ll see what the old biddy wants and be right back.”
Janette knocked at the office door and then went in. The headmistress was seated behind her desk. A man, his back toward the door, was seated opposite her. As the door opened, he rose to his feet, turning to face Janette.
“Bon jour, Janette,” Maurice said.
Janette stared at him for a moment, then she curtsied as school protocol demanded. “Bon jour, Papa.”
The headmistress smiled. She was fluttery as usual when parents were around. “Your father has come to take you down to Paris to see your mother and your new baby sister. Isn’t that nice?”
Janette looked from one to the other. “I won’t go. I have too much studying to do.”
“But your mother wants to see you,” Maurice said. “She’s still in the clinic.”
“I don’t want to see her,” Janette said defiantly.
“That’s no way to talk to your father,” the headmistress said sharply.
“I won’t go,” Janette repeated stubbornly.
Maurice’s hand moved quickly, the slap stinging her cheek sharply. She met his eyes for a moment, then her gaze fell to the floor. She felt the flush creeping into her cheek, its warmth radiating through her. She stood there absolutely motionless.
“Now go upstairs and pack a few things and be down here in ten minutes,” Maurice said with authority.
She did not raise her head, her eyes still cast downward. “Yes,” she murmured, then turned and left the room.
Maurice turned back to the headmistress. He smiled apologetically. “I regret the display, Madame, but children today need a firm hand. They’re not like we were when we were young.”
“I understand, Monsieur le Marquis,” the headmistress gushed. “You wouldn’t believe some of the things we have to go through with them.”
The conductor examined their tickets, then handed them back to Maurice. “Everything is in order, Monsieur le Marquis,” he said. “The dining car will be open for dinner at six o’clock. If there is anything I can do to make your journey more comfortable, please call on me.”
“Merci, Monsieur,” Maurice said, giving him a banknote.
Deftly the conductor palmed it and left the private compartment, closing the door carefully behind him. They sat on opposite banquettes next to the window. Maurice picked up a newspaper and looked over at her. “Might as well make yourself comfortable,” he said. “We’re not due to arrive in Paris until midnight.”
Janette looked out the window. The train was beginning to wend its way through the mountains. Though it was three o’clock in the afternoon, there wasn’t much light. The day had been overcast with clouds and occasional showers. She reached for a book, opened it and began to read. But her eyes skimmed the pages and the words did not make much sense. After a while she just gave up and pretended to be reading.
They had been traveling almost an hour in silence. Finally Maurice put down his paper and stood up. He went to the small toilet compartment and opened the door. He didn’t bother closing it as he lifted the toilet seat and stood there relieving himself.
Janette looked up from her book. The inside of the toilet door was a full-length mirror and the angle of the door was such that she could see the water gushing from him as if from a giant garden hose. At the same moment, he turned his head and caught her eyes in the mirror. She dropped her gaze immediately, feeling the flush creeping up into her cheeks. She kept her eyes steadfastly on the pages of the book as he came back and sat down opposite her.
Silently he took a cigarette from his gold case, lit it and sat there studying her. She was still wearing the school uniform—white middy blouse and blue skirt. Knee-length white socks and black shoes completed the picture. But here in the dim light of the compartment it seemed incongruous. Already she had the full figure of a woman, and it seemed as if she were trying to hide the fact in child’s clothing.
“Janette.” His voice was sharp. “Are you wearing the underwear I gave you?”
She didn’t look at him. “No.”
“Why not?” he asked. “Didn’t I tell you to always wear it when I’m around?”
“It’s against school regulations.”
“You’re not in school now,” he said. “You should have put them on.”
She looked at him. “You didn’t give me time. I had to be ready in ten minutes.”
“Do you have them with you?”
She nodded. “Yes. In the valise.”
“Put them on.”
“Now?” she asked.
“Now,” he said.
She stood up and took the valise down from the overhead rack and opened it. Quickly she took out the black lingerie and started for the toilet compartment.
He stopped her. “No. I want you to put it on here in front of me.”
She glanced at him silently, then at the open window of the compartment.
He read her glance. “You can pull down the shades. And lock the door.”
She didn’t move.
He raised a threatening hand. Quickly she pulled down the shades and locked the door. She turned back to him. “Now,” he said.
Slowly she undid the buttons of her middy blouse and shrugged it from her shoulders, then the side buttons of her skirt, and let it fall to the floor. She stepped over it. She picked her clothes from the floor and folded them neatly, placing them in the open valise. With her back to him, she began to undo the brassiere.
“Turn around and look at me!” he snapped.
She met his gaze for a moment, then her eyes fell, and still looking down, she undid her brassiere and stepped out of the panties. Silently she put on the black lace brassiere and sheer silk panties. She turned to pick up the middy blouse.
“You’re not finished yet,” he said. “Where are the garter belt and silk stockings?”
Without answering, she took them from the valise. She snapped the belt closed around her hips, then sat down to put on the stockings. A moment later she stood up again to fasten the clips to the stocking tops. Again she reached for the middy blouse.
“No,” he said. “Go back to your seat.”
“Like this?” she asked.
“Like that,” he said shortly. “I’ll tell you when to get dressed.”
“But it’s cold,” she said.
“You’ll get used to it,” he said.
Silently she sank back on the banquette opposite him. He sucked on the cigarette, letting the smoke drift idly from his nose as he looked at her. “Your tits have grown too big for your brassiere already,” he said almost conversationally. “You’ve got a whore’s body, just like your mother.”
She didn’t answer.
“Spread your legs!” he snapped.
Automatically she opened her knees. She felt the pull of the thin silk moving to one side and put a hand down to cover herself.
He slapped her hand away. “I didn’t tell you you could do that.” He laughed suddenly. “You’ve got a big bushy whore’s cunt too. Just like your mother.”
She felt the tears coming to her eyes. She kept her mouth tightly shut as they began to roll down her cheeks.
“Tears?” he asked sarcastically.
She didn’t answer.
He leaned forward and unexpectedly thrust his hand between her legs. Startled, she almost jumped, then the hot wave of an instant orgasm left her weak and trembling while the wetness of her flooded down on his probing fingers.
He leaned back on his banquette, laughing. “You are like your mother, Janette. Wet eyes and wet cunt.”
The sound of the first call for dinner came from the corridor outside. He got to his feet and went into the tiny toilet where he began to wash his hands meticulously.
He looked over his shoulder at her reflected in the mirror. “You can get dressed now, Janette,” he said casually. “I’m hungry and I find it’s always best to eat early on these damn trains. If you wait too long, you’ll find the best dishes are always gone.”
The train arrived in Paris an hour and a half late due to the pouring rain. Jerry was on the platform waiting for them and it was two o’clock in the morning when he stopped the small car in front of the apartment on the Ile Saint-Louis.
“I have some cold cuts if you’re hungry,” he said in the small elevator as they made their way up to the fifth floor.
“I’m not hungry,” Janette said. She looked at Maurice. “Why didn’t you take me home?”
Maurice’s hand flashed across her face. “Nobody spoke to you,” he said. “You speak when I tell you to.”
She stared at him silently as the elevator stopped, then followed them out onto the landing. Jerry fumbled with his keys and opened the door. She was surprised at the lavishness of the apartment. From the outside of the building it seemed like nothing, but inside there was everything. The finest of furnishings, carpets, even new American heating-air-conditioning units in the walls.
Maurice led the way through the living room and the dining room, then through his bedroom to a small room located in a corridor between his room and Jerry’s. There was no door on the room and the only furniture was a small bed, a chair and a washstand in the corner of the room. It was obviously a servant’s room. “Put your things in here,” Maurice said.
“When am I going to see my mother?” she asked.
He looked at her. “I’ll let you know when.” He turned to Jerry. “I’m hungry.”
“I’ll get the food out of the refrigerator,” Jerry said.
“No,” Maurice said. “You show her where it is. She’ll do it.”
“I’m tired,” Janette said. “I want to sleep.”
Maurice slapped her. She half fell across the bed. “That will wake you up,” he said. “Now, get out of that stupid school outfit and come and set the table.”
“But I didn’t bring anything else to wear,” she cried.
“You’ll wear what you wore on the train,” he said. “You won’t need anything else.” He turned to Jerry. “Wait here for her. Then show her what to do. I’m going to have a shower and get out of these clothes. They stink from the train.”
After Maurice left the room, she got up from the bed. Jerry stood there, watching her. “Turn around,” she said.
“What for?” Jerry grinned. “I’m going to see you anyway.”
She stood there without moving.
“Maurice wouldn’t like it if I have to call him back,” he said.
Quickly she undressed, her back toward him. When she finally turned around, he let out a low whistle. “Maurice was right. You are built like your mother.”
She stared at him. “You saw my mother too?”
“Yes,” he said. He was silent for a moment, then turned. “Come.”
She followed him into the kitchen. They had just finished setting the table when Maurice came into the dining room, wearing a black silk robe and velvet slippers.
He looked down at the table. “Where are the candles?”
“I forgot them,” Jerry said quickly. “I’ll get them.” He went to the sideboard. A moment later the candles were glowing on the table. He turned off the electric lights.
Maurice reached for the bottle of wine. “We’ll have a glass of wine while you change,” he said to Jerry. He filled two glasses and held one toward her as Jerry left the room. “Here.”
She shook her head. “I don’t want any wine.”
“I didn’t ask you,” Maurice said. “Drink it.”
She took the glass and held it to her lips and sipped slowly, then began to put it down.
“All of it,” Maurice snapped.
She picked up the glass again and drained it, feeling the warmth of the dark red wine seeping into her. She put the glass down.
Maurice refilled it. “That’s better,” he said. “Just do as I tell you and we won’t have any problems.” He began to fill his plate with cold ham, tongue, pâté and cheese. Breaking off a piece of bread, he began to eat hungrily. “This is good,” he said. “Why don’t you have some?”
“I’m not hungry,” she said. “Just tired.”
“Food will make you feel better,” he said as Jerry returned.
Janette stared at him. Jerry was in drag, wearing a sheer paneled chiffon dress with nothing underneath that exposed his privates with every motion. He had made up his face—lipstick, mascaraed lashes, shadowed eyes, rouged cheeks.
Maurice saw the expression on her face and laughed. “What’s the matter? Don’t you think he makes a pretty girl?”
She didn’t answer. Jerry laughed, a thin falsetto laugh, and sank into a chair, his legs akimbo. The panels of the dress fell open away from his hips, revealing the pale length of his penis.
Maurice smiled, still eating. “Don’t you think he has a pretty prick?” he asked. “Not as large as mine, of course, but quite graceful.
She took a deep breath. “Maurice,” she said.
He shook a gently chiding finger. “Papa.”
She met his eyes. “Papa.”
“That’s better, Janette. Now, what is it you want to say?”
“Why?” she asked. “I don’t understand. Why?”
“There’s nothing to understand, Janette,” he said. “Your mother is a whore. And when you leave here, you’ll be even a bigger whore than she is.”
“You can’t keep me here!” she cried, starting to run from the room.
With one leap, he caught her arm before she reached the door. He dragged her back into the room. “It seems to me, Janette, that you’re acting like a baby. And you know what they do to babies when they don’t behave? They get spanked!”
He sat down on a chair and pulled her across his lap face down. His hand rose and fell with an even rhythm. At first there was pain, then she felt a warmth spreading through her buttocks into her loins. Her cries began to turn to a soft moan.
Maurice laughed. “Do you want to be spanked?”
She shook her head violently.
He laughed again and suddenly thrust his hand between her legs underneath her and began to massage her vulva at the same time continuing the rhythmic slapping on her buttocks. She began to gasp for breath, unable to control her spastic reactions.
“Look what you’ve done, you naughty girl,” Maurice said. “You’ve gotten Jerry all excited and jealous. He’s got a big hard on.”
Suddenly she was aware that Jerry was standing in front of her, masturbating his penis violently. She shook her head to turn away from him.
“Stick it in her mouth, Jerry!” Maurice almost shouted. “Choke her with it!”
Jerry grabbed her by the hair, pulling her head back, forcing her to open her mouth. He pushed his penis into her mouth just as he began to come.
She began to choke and gasp trying to cry out when suddenly she felt herself in the grip of an orgasm so violent, so strong, that she had never imagined anything could have ever created such spasms of agony, pleasure and pain.
Suddenly, Maurice stood up, spilling her from his lap to the floor. She lay there, gasping and crying, unable to move. He smiled down at her. “That’s lesson number one, dear child,” he said. “There will be many more. And you will learn to love all of them in time. You’ll see.”
He turned to Jerry. “Get her into her bed.”
Jerry picked her up and carried her into the bedroom and threw her down. Maurice came from behind him and picked up her arm. She heard a click. Then stared at her arm. A handcuff fastened her to the brass bedpost. She turned to look up at Maurice.
“That’s just so that you don’t get any funny ideas in the night,” he said. “Like trying to run away.”
Then he turned and left the room, followed by Jerry. The light suddenly went out, leaving her sobbing alone in the night.
She never knew whether it was day or night. When they came to take her from the bed, the drapes were always closed; even the bathroom windows were covered. The meals seemed to be always the same. Never a breakfast, lunch or dinner. A variety of cold cuts on the table. Bread. Wine. Strange things were happening in her head. Now the only thing she resented was lying alone, handcuffed to the bed in the dark. She began to await the times they would come for her. Even to look forward to the pain, because always with it came the exquisite agony of release.
Maurice’s words kept turning over and over in her mind. “Remember, Janette, without pain there is no pleasure. The two go together, heighten each other, each contributing to the ultimate bliss.”
It always began with a spanking. Once she had heard Jerry ask, “Why don’t you use the cat?”
“There must be no marks,” Maurice had answered.
That had been the first time they had taken her to Maurice’s bed, her hands tied with long silken ropes to the wooden bedposts. “You take her first,” Maurice said. “Get her ready for me.”
He held her legs apart while Jerry knelt on his knees before her. Quickly he masturbated, trying to make himself erect, then suddenly pushed himself into her. She cried out with the sharp quick pain but then Jerry went suddenly limp and fell out of her. He turned to Maurice. “I told you I can’t make it with a woman!”
With an angry gesture, Maurice pushed him away. He dropped his robe and got on the bed, positioning himself between her legs. He was already erect.
Janette stared up at him, unable to take her eyes from his phallus. “I’m afraid,” she cried.
Maurice put his hand down between her legs, then brought it up and looked at it. His fingers glistened with moisture and a faint tinge of pale blood. “Your big wet whore’s cunt belies your words,” he said.
“You’ll hurt me!”
He smiled, “Remember, Janette, without pain there is no pleasure.” He put his hands under her buttocks and raised her toward him.
She stared down with wide eyes as he slowly moved himself into her. She could not believe that she could open wide enough to receive him. He seemed to pause for a moment as he came to an obstruction. He looked into her eyes, then, without warning, gave a violent shove.
The pain tore through her and she screamed. He put a hand over her mouth, holding her motionless against him with the other hand. After a moment, she opened her eyes, staring up into his face, then slowly lowered her gaze. He felt her lungs fill with air as she came to the realization that he was completely buried inside her. Her eyes slowly moved back up to him, beginning to fill with a strange kind of wonder. He stared at her for a moment, then took his hand away from her mouth and pulled the cords that bound her to the bedposts, freeing her hand.
She stared at him for a moment more, then, suddenly, threw her arms around him clinging to him tightly. She began slow tentative movements, then as she grew more frenetic, she squeezed her eyes tightly shut so that the tears forced their way through her closed lids. Her voice was a whisper turning to a screaming shout in her ears. “Papa! Papa! Papa!”
Her eyes opened staring up at him. “Slap my face!”
His open hand cracked across her cheek.
This time there were white handprints on her cheek. She smiled up at him. “You do love me, don’t you, Papa?” she asked.
He laughed aloud. “You’re Papa’s little whore!” he said.
“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes. You knew it all the time. That’s what I always wanted to be.”
After that she never went back to the bed in the small room. She slept in Maurice’s big bed with the two of them. One morning she woke up and there was daylight flooding into the room. She blinked her eyes.
Maurice was standing next to the bed, already dressed. “Your mother came home from the clinic last night,” he said. “I’ll have Jerry drop you off at the house.”
“I don’t want to see her,” she said.
“Then you’ll have to go back to school,” he said.
“Can’t I stay here?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No. If you don’t go back to school there will be too many questions.”
“But I want to stay with you,” she said.
“You can’t,” he said. He put his hands in his pocket and came out with a key ring. “But I had a set of keys made for you. Next month when you have the Easter holidays you can come down here, and if we’re not home you can let yourself in.”
That afternoon she boarded the train back to school.
The late April sunshine was fading from the windows when Jacques sank exhausted into a chair in the large flower-filled living room. He looked up at Tanya and Johann. “I’m dead. I’m glad it’s over.”
Johann nodded. “I thought the press conference went very well.”
“The best idea I had was holding it here in your house,” Jacques said to Tanya. “I think everyone appreciated the personal touch. They’re so bored with salons and hotel conference rooms.”
“Do you think they liked the advance preview of some of Shiki’s designs?” Tanya asked.
“From what I heard,” Jacques answered, “they all loved them. Now they’ll all turn out for the showing at collection time. They know you’re serious.”
“Did Shiki leave already?” she asked.
“Yes,” Jacques answered. “He was gone as soon as the last reporter disappeared.” He got to his feet. “And that’s what I’d better be doing. Let you get some rest. It will be a hectic day at the office tomorrow.”
“I’ll be leaving too,” Johann said. “Congratulations.”
Tanya smiled. “It’s too soon for that. We’d better wait until after the showings.”
“I’m not worried anymore,” Johann said. “It will be all right.”
She saw them to the door, they kissed her cheek goodbye, then she turned and started for the staircase. Henri came toward her. “Madame,” he said hesitantly.
“Mademoiselle Janette is in her room,” he said.
“Janette! Here?” The surprise echoed in her voice. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“She arrived in the midst of the conference, Madame, and asked me not to disturb you.”
Without another word she ran up the stairs. The door to Janette’s room was closed. She knocked politely, then entered. Janette was standing at the window, looking out. “Janette!” Tanya exclaimed.
Janette turned toward her mother. Her eyes were expressionless. “Hello, Mother,” she said in a dull voice.
Tanya stared at her. The girl’s face was thin and drawn and there were deep blue circles under her eyes. “Janette,” she cried. “What’s the matter with you?”
Janette made no move to come toward her. She met her mother’s eyes defiantly. “I’m pregnant,” she said.
“No,” Tanya said. “No.”
“Yes, Mother,” Janette said.
Tanya moved toward her. “My poor baby.”
Janette avoided her arms. “I’m not your poor baby, Mother. Not anymore.”
“Why didn’t you call me? At least answer my calls?” Tanya asked.
“What difference would it have made?” Janette shrugged. “You would have had the baby anyway.”
“You have a sister, Janette.”
“And my sister will have a sister,” Janette said.
Tanya stared into her daughter’s eyes. “I don’t understand.”
“Don’t be stupid, Mother,” Janette said. “The same man that made you pregnant made me pregnant.”
“That’s impossible!” Tanya said.
“Is it, Mother? That week you were in the clinic, Maurice came up to the school and brought me to Paris to see you. But he never took me to the clinic. Instead I spent the week in his apartment and on the day you came home, I went back to school.”
“Maurice?” There was a note of incredulity in Tanya’s voice. “I can’t believe even he would do that.”
“No, Mother?” Janette opened her small purse and took out a set of keys. She threw them down on the table next to her. “He even gave me a set of keys to the apartment so that I could come back there at Easter.”
Tanya stared down at the keys, then up at her daughter. The tears began to flood into her eyes. “Why didn’t you let me talk to you? Why? I was going to tell you. Maurice is not Lauren’s father. I’ve never let him come near me since the day we were married.”
“You’re lying, Mother,” Janette said.
“I’m not lying,” Tanya said. “One look at your sister and you would know that. Blond and blue-eyed. Why do you think Maurice is suing me for divorce charging adultery? There’s never been a blond blue-eyed child in his family for generations.”
Janette stared at her. “I didn’t know that, Mother. No one ever told me.”
Tanya took a deep breath. She felt as if her insides had turned to stone. “It doesn’t matter now,” she said. “It’s done and can’t be undone. We must make plans for tomorrow. The first thing to do is to see Doctor Pierre.”
Suddenly the tears sprang into Janette’s eyes. “Oh, Mother,” she cried. “I’m sorry.”
Then they were in each other’s arms, their tears running down each other’s cheeks. For a long while they stood there, clinging together without words until the daylight had faded from the windows.
Two days later, Tanya waited in the small office of Dr. Pierre until he came from the operating room of his clinic. She rose to her feet as he entered. “How is she, Doctor Pierre?”
“She’ll be all right,” he said. “It’s all taken care of. She’s resting now.”
“Thank God,” she said.
“Yes, thank God,” he said solemnly. “If she had had the baby she would have died.”
Tanya stared at him.
Dr. Pierre shook his head. “I don’t know what kind of an animal she was with but she was all torn apart inside. He must have used a battering ram on her. Not only were the vagina and tubes torn apart but her anus and part of her bowel were ripped. I couldn’t believe it.” He looked into Tanya’s eyes. “I repaired her as best I could. At least she won’t have any problems from it.” He paused, letting out a deep breath.
“There’s something else you’re not telling me,” she said in a tense voice.
He hesitated a moment. “Janette will never be able to have a child,” he said. “I had to remove all but a part of one ovary.”
It was two o’clock in the morning, exactly ten days later, the day after Janette had returned to school, that Tanya parked the small car in the street in front of the apartment building on the Ile Saint-Louis. The street was deserted as she got out of the car. Automatically she locked it, putting the car keys in her purse, at the same time taking out the keys to the apartment. She looked up at the building. All the windows were dark. Slowly she made her way to the outside door.
It was the big key, always the big key for the street door. It turned easily, sliding back the bolt, and she stepped into the dark hallway. She had to stop herself from reaching for the hallway lights automatically. One thing she didn’t want was to call attention to herself. She waited a moment until her eyes became used to the darkness, then moved toward the elevator.
The noise the old creaking elevator made as it ascended seemed loud enough in her ears to wake up all Paris. She held her breath until finally it came to a stop. Then, with a feeling of relief, she stepped out. There were two apartments to a floor. She hesitated a moment, then struck a match. There it was. A small brass plate over the doorbell. Le Marquis de la Beauville.
She closed her eyes for a moment and thought. Was there anything she had forgotten? Her will had been properly signed and executed. The instructions to the Swiss bank regarding the vault in which the gold was kept had been received and acknowledged. If something should happen to her, Joann would take care of everything. The children would be protected.
The first key made no sound as she turned it slowly. She heard the faint click of the bolt. Good. Now for the second key. It squeaked faintly. She stopped. There was no other sound. She turned the key the rest of the way slowly. It clicked and the door swung open slowly.
She took a tentative step into the apartment, then stopped, listening. There was no sound. Quietly she shut the door behind her. Now she waited, while she got her bearings.
She tried to remember what Janette had told her about the apartment. Straight ahead through the big archway would be the living room. To the right, a small door led to the service entrance and the kitchen. Beyond the living room through another smaller arch would be the dining room. Maurice’s bedroom was through a door on the far end of the dining room.
Carefully she moved through the rooms, moving slowly so that she would not stumble against an unseen piece of furniture. Now she was in front of the door to the bedroom. She opened her purse again and took out the razor. It was only right that it should be Wolfgang’s razor. There was no doubt in her mind now that it had been Maurice who betrayed him to the Russians.
She opened the razor so that the cutting edge faced outward away from her hand and turned the doorknob softly. The door swung open and she stepped into the room, moving softly on the carpeted floor. She didn’t bother to close the door behind her.
She could see the bed in the faint luminescence that filtered through the draperies from the streetlights outside. She walked toward the bed. She sensed, rather than saw, the huddled mass beneath the blanket. She paused over him, looking down, trying to see him. The heavy sound of breathing came to her eyes but she did not know whether it was his or her own. “Maurice!” she said softly.
He turned, starting to sit up. Then she struck. With all her strength, she ripped the razor down his body. A strangled scream rose in his throat and he rolled frantically away from her, his hand pulling something from the table at the other side of the bed. Angrily she kept on slashing as he tried to turn. She saw the glint of something hard and metallic in his hand but kept on slashing and striking.
A roar exploded in her ears and blue fire seared her eyes at the same time that a sledgehammer blow seemed to strike her in the chest, almost throwing her backward, but still she pressed on, the razor rising and falling. At last he collapsed inertly on the sheets.
She stood there breathing heavily, then put her hand down to touch him. Her fingers seemed to sink into a morass of blood-sodden sheets. She pulled her hand back quickly, the razor falling from her fingers. The pain in her chest was growing more intense now. She pressed her hand against her breast and felt the warm blood seeping through her dress onto her fingers. For the first time, she realized she had been shot.
Slowly she turned and made her way back through the apartment, the pain growing more agonizing with every step. It seemed to take forever for her to reach the apartment door. Now the pain was rolling in waves through her body and she felt dizzy and wavering, as if consciousness were draining from her through the blood running down her fingers.
She reached for the door. Suddenly the light in the hallway outside flooded on and the door sprang open in her hands. He stood there in open-mouth shock, the light spilling from behind him across her face.
She stared at him in wide-eyed horror. “Oh, no, Maurice!” she screamed. “You’re dead! I just killed you!” Then she began falling as consciousness left her, never to return.
Shiki stood in front of the easel studying the design critically. He heard the door close behind him and the girl’s footsteps approaching. “Take off all your clothes,” he said without turning around. “Let me know when you’re naked.”
A moment later he heard the low voice. “I’m naked.”
He penciled in a small adjustment to the drawing and turned around. “Merde,” he said, his jaw dropping.
Janette laughed at his consternation.
“Why didn’t you tell me who you were?” he asked.
“I thought if you were switching,” she smiled, “I would like to be the first.”
He reached for a robe on the chair next to him. “Put this on,” he said uncomfortably.
She didn’t take it. “Come on, Shiki. Wouldn’t you like to eat my pussy? You might even like it.”
“Cut it out,” he said, annoyed. “I’m working.”
“I won’t tell anyone,” she replied.
“I thought you were the model I sent for to try on a new design,” he said.
“You can try it on me.”
He shook his head. “It won’t work.”
He looked at her critically. “You’re too much of a woman. Your tits are too big, your ass is too big and yourmons venerissticks out further than most men’s cock and balls. You’re just not the model type, that’s all.”
“What type am I?” she asked.
“You’re like your mother,” he said. “Big and strong. An earth type. Pure animal sex. You walk out on a runway and automatically every other woman in the place would hate you, which means no matter what you wore they wouldn’t buy it. You’re too much of what each of them would like to be.”
“That’s a backhanded compliment if ever I heard one,” she said, reaching for her jeans, which she had thrown over a chair, and getting into them. She slipped into a large man-tailored shirt and tied it around her waist.
“What are you doing down here?” he asked.
“I had an appointment with Johann,” she said. “But he was in a meeting so I thought I would drop in on you.”
“It’s always good to see you,” he said.
She smiled. “Even if I’m not the model type?”
He laughed. “Even so.”
“Maybe you ought to change your models,” she said. “There are more girls like me than there are like them.”
“Most girls like you can’t afford the kind of clothes we make,” he said.
“That could be what’s wrong with our business,” she said. “Too manyhaute couturedesigners fighting for too small a market.”
“We’re doing all right,” he said half defensively.
“I’m sure we are,” she said quickly. “I was just thinking out loud.”
The telephone on his desk rang. He picked it up, then looked at her. “Johann’s meeting is over. You can see them now.”
“Thank you.” She blew him a kiss and left the room.
He stared at the closed door for a moment, then locked it and went back to his desk. He sat down behind it, took a joint from the neat cigarette case and lit it. He leaned back in his chair and let the smoke drift thoughtfully from his nose.
Like mother, like daughter. Like mother, like mother, like mother. But even more, like daughter.
“Two years at theUniversitéis enough,” she said. “I’m not going back.”
Johann’s face was expressionless. He looked at her across his desk. In a way he wasn’t surprised. She was nineteen now and there was very little of the child left in her. More and more each day, she reminded him of her mother. Tanya had been about the same age when they first met, the same reddish-brown hair, long and falling down her face, partly concealing her high cheekbones and dark eyes in the fashion of the day. “What would you prefer doing?” he asked carefully.
“I think it’s time I became involved in the business,” she said. “After all, in two more years I will be responsible for the whole thing. I think it’s about time I learned something about it, don’t you?”
She was like her mother. Johann nodded. “I agree with you. Now the question is, where would you like to begin?”
“Maurice says that more than sixty-five percent of our gross income comes from the United States,” she said. “Yet I’ve never been there.”
“That’s true,” he said.
“He’s planning to go there next month and has offered to take me with him and show me around.”
Johann didn’t let surprise show in his face. It was the first time he had learned that she had even been talking to Maurice. “That’s kind of him,” he said cautiously. “How do you expect that to help you? After all, he’s not involved in any of our companies. His own is quite separate.”
“That’s true,” she said. “But he does know everybody.”
He was silent for a moment. “I don’t object to it,” he said. “And you certainly don’t need my permission to go on a trip. But don’t you think it might be a better idea to come into the office for a few months first and get some grounding? Then when you go you’ll be better equipped to relate.”
“I’d like to go,” she said. “I think I would go out of my mind sitting in the office. It reminds me too much of being in a classroom back at theUniversité.”
“Sooner or later, you’re going to have to do your homework,” he said. “Running a business isn’t all fun and games.”
“I know that,” she said. “But isn’t that what you do? I would like to become more involved with the creative and marketing side of it. Here in France we still do things in the same old-fashioned way. America is way ahead of us in many ways. I have a feeling we can learn many things from them.”
“I would still like it if you could spend some time in the office before you go,” he said.
“Maurice isn’t planning to leave before the end of next month,” she said. “That gives me six weeks. Is that enough for you?”
“It’s better than nothing,” he said. “I just hope it’s enough for you.”
“I’m a quick study. I’ll make it enough,” she said seriously. She got to her feet. “What time would you like me to come in tomorrow?”
“Nine o’clock,” he said. “I think the best place for you to start is with the controller.”
“I’ll be here.” She smiled. “Thank you, Johann.”
He came out from behind the desk. In a curious sort of way he felt good about her wanting to come into the company. Something had been missing ever since Tanya’s death. Now, perhaps, it would be whole again. “How is your sister?” he asked.
She looked at him. “Fine. Growing. I haven’t seen much of her since I came down from school. Her nanny hovers over her like a blanket.”
“It might be a good idea if you could spend some time with her,” he suggested. “So that at least she feels she has a family.”
“I’m afraid I haven’t much of a mother instinct,” she said. “To me, she seems like every other child.”
“Too bad,” he said.
“Yes,” she said. “The poor can offer their children for adoption when they’re not equipped to bring them up, no matter what the reason may be. But what do the rich do?”
He was silent for a moment. “What we’re doing, I suppose. Hire nannies and hope they provide a love substitute.”
“Maurice said something about maybe we could work out an agreement and he would move back into the house. That would provide a more normal family life for her. After all, legally heisstill her father.”
“And yours too,” he said.
“That’s right,” she said. “But in two more years, I’ll be legally of age, and free of him. Lauren still has a long way to go.”
He was silent.
“If something should happen to us—you and me—who would get her?” she asked.
“Maurice, I imagine,” he said. “There’s no one else.”
“Merde,” she cried. She thought for a moment. “I wonder what he has on his mind. Why do you think he’s being so nice to us all of a sudden?”
“I’m sure I don’t known,” he answered.
“I don’t trust him,” she said. “But then I never did.”
“In time we’ll find out,” he said. “Until then, be careful. Just don’t sign any papers, that’s all.”
She laughed. “Don’t worry. I know that much.” She started toward the door, then stopped and turned back to him. “Johann, you’re a nice man, why is it you never married?”
He looked at her without answering.
Suddenly she understood. “Mother. You were in love with her, weren’t you?”
He still didn’t answer.
“She’s dead now,” she said. “That’s over. Find yourself a good woman and marry her. Then you could give Lauren the kind of home she needs.”
He smiled suddenly. “I might surprise you.”
Impulsively she went to him and kissed his cheek. “It would be a lovely surprise,” she said, then went out the door with a wave of her hand. “Tomorrow morning. Nine o’clock sharp.”
He went back to his desk and sat down heavily. After a moment he reached for the telephone and dialed a number. A woman’s voice answered. He spoke in German. “Heidi? Eight o’clock all right for dinner? I’ll pick you up.”
“He’s too conservative,” Jacques said, placing the chilled glass of kir on the cocktail table in front of her. He sat down beside her, taking a small vial from his pocket. She sipped her drink, watching him as he skillfully spilled some of the white powder from the vial on the glass tabletop, then separated it carefully into four thin lines. Expertly he rolled a hundred-franc note into a straw, then sniffed one line of cocaine into each nostril. He held the bill toward her. “It’s good coke,” he said. “A friend of mine just brought it in from the States.”
Quickly she did the two lines and handed the bill back to him. She felt her pulse quicken as the coke exploded in her head. “It is good.”
“It’s not the crap they sell here in Paris,” he said, picking up his drink. “Cheers.”
“Cheers.” They sipped at their drink.
“When your mother was there it was different,” he said. “She had ideas, there was a feeling of excitement. We were doing things. Now all that is gone. All Johann wants to do is keep steady, just hold on to what we have. Expansion costs money and he won’t take any chances.”
“But we’ve been making money, haven’t we?” she asked.
“Of course,” he said. “But we should be making a lot more. Compared to some of the other companies we’ve been standing still.” He looked at her. “Are you really serious about coming to work here?”
He smiled. “Then maybe there’s a chance for us yet. With you around Johann might be more venturesome.”
She looked at him. “I didn’t come up here to talk business.”
He pulled at the knot that tied her shirt closed. It fell open revealing the nipples already distended with excitement. “Jesus!” he said, leaning forward to take one in his mouth.
She turned his face up to her. “Shiki said my breasts were too big.”
“What the hell does he know?” he asked, burying his face between them, pressing them against his cheek with either hand. “They’re beautiful.”
“I asked him to eat my pussy,” she said. “But he wouldn’t.”
“You don’t have to ask me. Just get out of those damn jeans.”
She rose to her feet in front of him. She pulled the snap and then the zipper and pushed the jeans down over her hips. “He said my ass was too big too,” she said, turning away from him and bending slightly forward so that her buttocks were practically thrust into his face.
He was silent.
“Slap my ass,” she said.
He hit her playfully.
“Harder,” she said. “Like you mean it.”
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said.
“You won’t hurt me,” she said. “Do what I tell you. Hit me hard.”
His open hand cracked across her buttock. He could see the white handprint on it. He hesitated.
“More,” she said fiercely. “Don’t stop.”
His hand began to rise and fall rapidly. He could see the white handprints turning red on her buttocks and suddenly he realized that she was grinding her hips and moaning, masturbating herself at the same time. Excitement began to rise in him and suddenly he was angry. The bitch was just using him to get off. Now he really began to hit her.
“I’m coming,” she cried. “I can’t stop coming!”
Angrily he spun her around to face him. There was a strange inner look on her face. She didn’t even seem to see him. Without thinking, he slapped her face. “What about me, you bitch?”
She stared at him, suddenly silent, then her eyes fell before his gaze. She sank to her knees before him, her fingers quickly opening his trousers. She thrust her hand into his trousers, freeing him, and then further underneath him until a finger found his anus. “I want you to come in my mouth,” she said, covering him with her lips.
A moment later he felt his testes explode and the semen bursting forth. The orgasm wracked his body and began to subside, but still she didn’t stop. With one hand she held him still rigid and kept drawing on his glans until he could no longer bear the agony, his penis feeling like nothing but raw nerve ends. He sank his hand in her hair and pulled her away from him.
Her cheeks and chin were covered with semen that had escaped her mouth. For a long moment he stared at her until he caught his breath. “You’re crazy,” he said.
Her eyes suddenly turned cold. “I’m not like my mother,” she said angrily. “Don’t ever say that to me again.”
She started to get to her feet. His hands on her shoulders kept her down. “I didn’t mean that kind of crazy,” he said quickly. “I meant crazy great.”
He felt the tension leave her. “You fucked with my mother, didn’t you?”
“Was she good?”
He looked at her. “Yes. But not like you. You’re fantastic.”
“She wasn’t really crazy,” she said. “She had a nervous breakdown.She was working too hard and there were too many things on her mind.”
“I know that,” he said.
She rose to her feet. “Christ, I’m soaking wet. I must have come a thousand times.” She wiped herself with her fingers then raised them to her mouth and sucked them. Again she pressed her fingers into herself. This time she held them out to him. “Taste me.”
Slowly he licked her fingers.
“Good?” she asked.
“As good as my mother?”
“Better,” he said.
She laughed aloud and pulled his face toward her. “Then eat me,” she said.
Johann parked the car in front of her apartment house. He sat there a moment with the motor running, then reached across to open the door for her.
“It’s early yet. Why don’t you come in for a nightcap?” she asked.
He smiled to himself as he always did when she spoke German. The faint American accent gave the language a strange musical sound, a softness it did not ordinarily have. He answered in English. “Thank you,” as he switched off the motor.
The light scent of her perfume and the warmth of her body seemed to permeate him as they stood in the tiny elevator barely large enough for the two of them as it took them up to her apartment on the third floor. He felt a slight sense of relief when it finally stopped and he could hold the door to let her out. He followed her to her apartment and waited while she opened the door with her key, then followed her inside.
It was a small apartment, what the French called a “studio,” which consisted of a fair-sized room with a bed that doubled as a couch during the day, a kitchen in a double-doored closet, and a separate bathroom. A lamp was glowing in the far corner of the room, and that, more than anything else, showed that she was basically American. No Frenchman or other European would leave a light on while he was not at home.
She gestured toward an armchair. “I have whiskey, gin, vodka and cognac.”
“Cognac, please.” He watched while she opened the small kitchen doors and took down the bottle and two glasses from the closet over the sink. She poured the golden liquor into the glasses, then came back to him. He took one from her hand. “Thank you,” he said.
She smiled. “Are you always so formal when you come to a lady’s apartment?” she asked, speaking in English now.
“Habit,” he answered. He held up his glass. “Santé.”
They clinked glasses and sipped. “You can sit down now,” she said, crossing to the couch and sitting opposite him.
He sat down carefully as the chair was fragile and might break under him. It was deceptively comfortable and he sank into it. He swirled the cognac in his glass and sipped at it again.
“Dinner was lovely,” she said. “I really enjoyed it.”
“You didn’t eat much.”
She laughed. “I have to watch my diet.”
“Why? You look perfect to me.”
She laughed again. “That’s why I have to watch it. Every ounce I swallow turns into a pound on me.”
He was silent for a moment. “Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“I did, really.” Then she too was silent.
He sipped at his cognac again. “I suppose I’d better finish my drink and go,” he said. “I have to be at work early tomorrow.”
“Johann,” she said. “I’ll be going back to the States next week.”
He nodded slowly. “I thought you might be. When do you plan your next trip back here?”
She met his eyes. “I don’t think I’ll be coming back. At least not for a long time.”
He felt a sinking feeling in his chest. “I’m sorry, Heidi. I’ve come to look forward to your visits.”
“I am too,” she said. “But only because I’ll miss you.”
He was silent again, swirling the amber liquid in his glass.
“I’ve been coming to Paris every third month for two years now, Johann,” she said. “And each time we see each other. Lunch, dinners. I can’t count how many times. I know how you feel about me, yet you never say anything. Never. Why, Johann? I don’t understand, why?”
He took a deep breath, meeting the hurt look in her blue eyes. “I’m forty-six years old, Heidi. Seventeen years older than you.”
“Sixteen,” she said quickly. “I’ll be thirty next month.”
He didn’t smile. “I’m a serious man, a respectful man. I’m not a playboy who would have a casual affair with you. I like you too much.”
“I’m not a child, Johann. I’m a woman. And a divorced woman at that. Don’t you think that I have feelings too? And desires?” She shook her head. “But you never said anything. And you still haven’t told me why.”
“I have responsibilities, heavy responsibilities,” he said.
“I know about that,” she said. “Janette and Lauren. I haven’t been deaf and you’ve certainly talked enough about it. But does that mean that you cannot have a life of your own? Or a family of your own if you should want it?”
“They have no one but me to protect them. I made a promise. First to von Brenner. Then to Tanya. I can’t go back on my word.”
“I’m not saying you should go back on your word,” she said. “I’m only saying that you’re entitled to have a life of your own, that’s all.”
“Heidi,” he said.
She heard the pain in his voice and rose from the couch. She sank to her knees in front of him and looked up into his face. “I love you, Johann, Do you love me?”
“Yes.” The words tumbled from his lips. “Yes, I love you.”
“Then, for God’s sake, kiss me,” she cried. “You know in all of two years, you never even once kissed me.”
He leaned down toward her as her arms went up around his neck, his mouth searching her soft lips and tasting the salt of her tears.
She found a place to park, jumped her car onto the sidewalk and got out and locked it. She smiled, pleased with herself. That was one of the advantages of a mini—it could be parked anywhere.
It was a little after eleven o’clock at night but in La Coupole it was high noon. The theaters were just beginning to empty and already the brasserie was jammed with people. She pushed her way through the crowds waiting for a table and went to the back of the restaurant. There was a table in the far corner that had everything but their names on it. From seven in the evening on, one or the other of their crowd was always sitting there. They had an unspoken rule that until two o’clock in the morning whoever was at the table could not leave until someone came in to take it over. If it was empty for even one minute, it would be gone, and then they would have to stand in line like the rest of the crowd.
Marie-Thérése and Françoise were sitting at the table, Coca-Colas in front of them, staring at Jean, whose head was resting on his folded arms on the table, his untouched pastis next to his elbow. She bent over and kissed both girls on the cheek, then straightened up. “What’s the matter with him?” she asked.
“He’s out of it,” Françoise said in a disgusted voice. Jean was her boyfriend. “Some Moroccan laid a cube of black hash on him. I took two hits and was a high as a kite but he wouldn’t quit until it was almost all gone. I don’t know how he even made it to the table.”
“Asshole,” she said, sitting down next to him.
The waiter appeared as if by magic. “Bon soir, Janette,” he smiled. “What’ll it be tonight?”
“Bon soir, Sami,” she smiled back up at him. “I’m hungry tonight. I’ll have a hamburgerau cheval, fritesand a beer.”
“Right away,” Sami said, disappearing as magically as he had come.
She looked around the restaurant. “Anybody around?”
“Nobody.” Marie-Thérése shrugged her shoulders. She looked across the table at Janette. “Where have you been? Your eyes look funny.”
Janette laughed. “It’s just the light in here. It always takes me a few minutes to get used to it.”
“Don’t give me that shit,” Marie-Thérése said. “I know you. You’re on something.”
Janette felt good, strong and full of energy. She laughed again, patting the shirt pocket over her breast. “Coke,” she said, lowering her voice to a whisper. “And I’ve got enough here for all of us.”
Sami came back to the table and put her hamburger and beer down in front of her. She began to eat voraciously. “I’m starved,” she said between mouthfuls.
“I don’t get it,” Françoise said. “I heard coke was supposed to kill your appetite.”
“Nobody told me,” Janette said, picking up some of thefriteswith her fingers and dipping them into the mustard before placing them in her mouth. “As soon as I finish we’ll get out of here and go over to my place.”
“What about Jean?” Françoise asked.
“The hell with him,” she answered. “Let him sleep. They’ll throw him out in the morning.”
“I couldn’t do that,” Françoise said hesitantly. “He’d never talk to me again.”
“You wouldn’t be missing anything,” Janette said. “I’ve never heard him say anything that made sense.”
Françoise was beginning to get angry. “You don’t like him because he won’t jump when you snap your fingers.”
Janette stared at her. “I don’t like him because he’s stupid,” she said flatly. “And I have no patience with stupid people.” She wiped the last of the egg yolk from her plate with twofritesand pushed the empty plate away from her. She held up her hand for the waiter. “I’m getting a coffee and then I’m going. Either of you like anything?”
“No, thanks,” Françoise answered. She glanced at Jean. “I’m getting worried. I can’t sit here all night with him.”
Sami did his magic act. Janette wiped her fingers with her napkin and handed it to him. “Two double espressos and another napkin, please.”
“Right away,” he said, clearing the plates away from in front of her. He was back in a moment with the coffee. He put one down in front of her and looked around the table questioningly.
“It’s for him.” Janette gestured at Jean.
Sami looked, then shrugged his shoulders and put the coffee down. He began to turn away but Janette stopped him.
Sami flipped open his little order pad, made a note with his pencil, then tore out the sheet and gave it to her. “Thirty-eight francs,” he said.
She gave him a fifty-franc note. “Keep the change.”
Sami smiled. “Merci, Janette.” Then he was gone.
Janette gulped her coffee and put the empty cup down.
“How are you going to get him to drink the coffee?” Françoise asked.
“Easy,” Janette answered. Casually she picked up the pitcher of water from the center of the table and poured it over Jean’s head.
He came up sputtering, knocking his books from the table. He shook his head groggily. “Merde,” he muttered.
Janette gave him the napkin and pushed the coffee toward him. “Dry yourself and drink your coffee, sleeping beauty.”
He rubbed at his face with the napkin. “What did you do that for?”
Janette laughed. “Your girlfriend was worried that you might sleep here all night.” She got to her feet. Marie-Thérése got out of her chair. Janette looked down at Françoise. “He’s awake now. You can come if you like.”
Françoise looked at Jean, then up at her. “I think I’d better stay.”
“Suit yourself.” She turned away. “Let’s go, Marie-Thérése.”
They left so quickly that they pushed right past a young man who was coming toward the table. He stopped at the table, looked after them, then sank into a chair. “What’s with Janette?” he asked. “She almost knocks me down and then doesn’t even say hello.”
“I think the dike bitch is in heat,” Françoise said snidely. “She couldn’t get Marie-Thérése away from the table fast enough.”
“Just my luck,” the young man said. “Do you think if I went after them, they’d let me watch? I’d love to see them get it on.”
“Me, too, Michel,” Jean said, suddenly awake. “Let’s all go after them.”
“You sit there and drink your coffee,” Françoise said angrily.
“Where have you been all night?” Marie-Thérése complained as Janette backed the car onto the road. “You told me you would be there at nine o’clock.”
Janette flashed the headlights, then cut out into traffic, ignoring the squeal of brakes and the blaring horns behind her. She gunned the car into the center lane, then turned left at the corner past the restaurant without signaling in order to beat the traffic light, which was just beginning to change. She double-shifted into third and settled into the wide boulevard at a steady sixty kilometers.
“You are high,” Marie-Thérése said. “You’re driving like an Italian.”
Janette didn’t answer. She switched on the radio and the music of Europe I flooded into the small car.
“You know how Sami hustles,” Marie-Thérése said. “I drank so many Cokes I’ll be pissing mud for a week.” She took out a package of cigarettes and lit two, passing one over to Janette. “You still didn’t tell me where you were.”
“I told you I was going up to the office to see Johann,” Janette said.
“The office closes at six o’clock. You didn’t get to the restaurant until after eleven.”
“You’re worse than a cop,” Janette said. She stopped for a traffic light and looked across at her friend. There was a hurt look on Marie-Thérése’s face. She dragged on the cigarette and put the car into gear as the light turned green. “If you must know the truth, I ran into Jacques Charelle on the elevator leaving the office and we wound up at his place.”
Marie-Thérése’s voice was shocked. “How could you, Janette? Wasn’t he your mother’s—?” She didn’t finish the sentence.
“Lover?” Janette laughed. “Of course he was. But he wasn’t the only one. She had others. So what difference does it make?”
“You’re too much,” Marie-Thérése said. “He gave you the coke?”
“How is it?” Marie-Thérése asked. “I never had any coke.”
“Neither did I until tonight,” Janette said. “But it’s great. It really gets you up there.”
“Did he know that you never had any?”
“Of course not. And I wasn’t about to tell him either. I just acted as if I had it all the time. I watched how he did it and then copied him. As a matter of fact, I think that the only reason he gave me some coke to take with me was to get rid of me. Otherwise he was afraid I’d be there all night.” She glanced over at Marie-Thérése. The tears were rolling down her friend’s cheeks. “Now, what the hell is the matter?”
“I don’t understand you, Janette,” Marie-Thérése sniffed. “I love you and I can’t make love with anyone but you. You say you love me but you can make love with anybody.”
“How many times do I have to tell you it’s not the same thing?” Janette said in an annoyed voice. “Making love and fucking are two separate things.”
“Not for me,” Marie-Thérése said.
“I don’t get it,” Janette said. “We’ve made love with others many times together.”
“That’s just it,” Marie-Thérése said. “We were together. Sharing each other’s pleasures. But the idea of you coming to me second just to finish off the night because you didn’t get enough and you’re still horny doesn’t appeal to me.”
Janette was angry. “If that’s the case, why don’t I just drop you off at your place?”
“I think maybe that’s the best thing to do,” Marie-Thérése said lightly.
They didn’t exchange another word until Janette pulled the car to a stop in front of Marie-Thérése’s house. Marie-Thérése sat for a moment, then turned to Janette. “I love you,” she said. “But you always find new ways to hurt me.”
Janette didn’t look at her, just kept staring through the windshield. “I have nothing to do with it,” she answered. “You invent ways to hurt yourself. Next time, if you don’t want to hear the truth, don’t ask questions.”
Marie-Thérése got out of the car. She looked in at Janette. “I’ll feel better tomorrow by the time I see you at theUniversité.”
“You won’t see me there tomorrow,” Janette said shortly.
“Because I’ve quit the damn place. I’m going to work in the office tomorrow morning.”
“Oh, no, Janette.” Marie-Thérése’s voice was almost a wail. “What will I do if I can’t see you every day?”
“Get used to it. We all have to grow up sometime,” she said flatly. She reached across the seat and pulled the door shut, then pulled the car away from the curb leaving Marie-Thérése still standing there.
“Stupid cunt,” she muttered angrily. For a moment she thought of going back to La Coupole. She could always find someone there. But then she changed her mind. She had had enough of a man’s hardness for one night. What she wanted was the softness and sensitivity of a woman. Abruptly she slammed on the brake, then threw the car in reverse and shot back to where Marie-Thérése was still standing in the street, crying.
She stopped the car and pushed open the door. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Get in.”
“A hundred million francs a year,” Maurice said. “That’s what’s in it for us if we get that fucking Nazi out of there.”
Jacques stared up at him. His head was still fuzzy with sleep. It was after two o’clock in the morning when Maurice woke him up with a telephone call. And he had been too punchy to tell him he would see him in the morning. Besides, it probably wouldn’t have done any good because Maurice was calling from the lobby downstairs. “Excuse me a minute,” he said, getting up from the couch. “I’m going to splash some cold water on my face. For a hundred million francs a year I want to be awake.”
He padded in his bare feet into the bathroom, turned on the light and closed the door. He put his hands on the sink and leaned on it, staring at himself in the mirror. He looked awful. Like death warmed over. That bitch never wanted to stop. He couldn’t remember when the last time it was that he had four climaxes in almost as many hours. And for the fifth time, he was happy that he could just manage to achieve an erection. By then it didn’t seem to matter to her whether he had an orgasm or not. He doubted that she even knew the difference, she was so into her own.
He turned on the cold water and splashed his face and neck. It helped a little but not that much. Slowly he dried his face. The demanding bitch. She wasn’t at all what he had expected when he saw her in the elevator at the office. He had grown used to mature women, to more considerate and gentler affairs.
Still, there was that scent of sexuality about her that reminded him strongly of her mother, and that was what had led him to ask her home for a drink. It would be amusing, he had thought, having made lover to the mother, now to make love with the daughter. It wasn’t until later that he realized she had had the same thought.
She had her car outside and she drove them to his apartment. It was when he asked her what she had been doing at the office that she had told him she was going to work there beginning tomorrow morning. And all the while, as they talked about what she planned to do in the office, when she shifted gears her hand managed to brush lightly along the side of his leg. He shifted uncomfortably as his erection began to press against his trousers.
She noticed it and laughed. “If you take it out,” she said, “I’ll shift both gears at the same time.”
He smiled. “You won’t have to, we’re there already.”
On the way up in the elevator, she looked at him. “My mother liked you. I heard her speak of you often.”
“I liked her too,” he said.
She nodded as the elevator doors opened and silently followed him to his door.
He stared into the mirror. He still felt awful. Thank God for the cocaine. At first he had hesitated about using it. The French were about twenty years behind the times. When it came tola droguethey were horrified, no matter what other excesses they were into. But apparently she had done it before. Quite a bit from the way she had him putting down lines for her.
A little now wouldn’t hurt, might bring him up so that at least he would know what the hell Maurice was talking about. Fortunately he always kept a spare vial in the medicine cabinet. There was no way he would put down a line in front of Maurice. He was too French.
He took the vial and tapped two good snorts onto the back of his hand then quickly did one in each nostril. He felt it go right up to his head. He looked in the mirror as he returned the vial to the cabinet. He looked better already. His eyes were brighter.
He walked back into the living room. Maurice was standing at the window, looking out. He turned as he heard Jacques enter.
“At least I’m awake now,” Jacques smiled. “Forgive me, I didn’t ask if you would like a drink?”
“If you have a whiskey?”
“Of course,” Jacques said. “With ice?”
“No, thank you. I developed a taste for it in England during the war. They drink it neat.”
“Of course,” Jacques said, despite the fact that he preferred it with ice, American fashion. “It’s the only civilized way.”
He poured a whiskey for Maurice and a cognac for himself. They sat down. “Santé.” They both sipped, and he waited for Maurice to lower his glass. “Now what was it you were saying about a hundred million francs a year?”
Maurice smiled to himself. What was the saying the Canadians had? The Mounties always get their man. Money did it faster. “Janette was here from six ten this evening until eleven oh five. I assume that you didn’t spend all that time in conversation.”
Jacques stared at him. “How do you know that?”
“Since I’m the one who has been urging her to leave school and go to work in the company, I make it my business to know exactly what she’s doing. All the time.”
“You’re having her followed?”
“I don’t quite see what that has to do with all that money,” Jacques said.
“You will when I explain it to you,” Maurice said. “She needs education, to be made aware of the potential of the business that is not being taken advantage of. In my own way, I have begun. You can add a lot more to that because you know more than I do about many aspects. Maybe when she learns enough she will take some action against the Boche.”
“Even if she did, it might not work,” Jacques said. “She doesn’t reach her majority until she is twenty-one, and then Johann has all the years after that until Lauren reaches her majority. So that’s at least two more years until Janette can even question his decisions.”
“It doesn’t have to be two more years,” Maurice said, looking at him. “Under French law, control of her estate automatically goes to her husband the moment she marries.”
There was a knock at the door. Johann looked up from his desk. “Come in.”
She came into his office, the tweed skirt falling straight across her hips, the man-tailored silk shirt and tweed jacket fighting a losing battle to restrain her full breasts. She came to a stop in front of his desk and looked down at him, smiling. “The six weeks are up.”
“Yes,” he nodded.
“Things are not as simple as I thought they would be.”
He smiled. “They seldom are.” He picked up a pencil from his desk. “But you’ve done well. I’ve had nothing but good reports on your work. You’ve managed to ask all the right questions.”
“I still have a great deal to learn,” she said.
He looked up at her for a long moment. “Then you’ve also come up with the right answer.” He put the pencil back on the desk. “But don’t feel too disappointed. All of us have a great deal to learn.”
“I’ve changed my mind. I’m not going to America with Maurice next week.”
For the first time surprise came into his voice. “What caused that?”
“I’ve learned enough to know that I’m not ready for that yet. When I do go I want to be able to project the kind of image the Americans expect from someone in our business.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” he confessed.
It was her turn to smile. “May I sit down?”
“Of course,” he said, suddenly flustered. “I’m sorry. I just didn’t think.” He watched her sink into the chair opposite him.
It was almost as if she were picking up his thoughts. “Do I remind you of my mother?”
“Yes,” he said. “Very much. Especially seeing you sit there.”
She smiled. “I thought so. Many people have said that. I know they meant that as a compliment, but that’s one of the reasons I’m not going to the States just now. My mother never had to look French for what she did, but if I go to the States, I’d better look the way Americans expect a Frenchwoman to look or I’ll never be able to convince them that I represent the fashionable things of French life. Beautiful clothing, high fashion and good wines. I’m just not the type physically.”
“What makes you think that?” he asked.
“I’ve been going to the fashion shows with Jacques,” she said. “And I’ve seen what the American buyers look for and expect. And I’m not the type. I’m just too big. In every way, Shiki was right.”
“There’s not much you can do about that,” he said.
“To start with I can lose some weight,” she said. “Sixty-six kilos is too much, fifty-five is maximum for my height if I want to look right.”
“You can also wind up very sick,” he said.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “There’s a clinic in Switzerland not far from where I went to school. They do some wonderful things and it’s all under medical supervision. Ten kilos less, and I can wear anything Shiki can throw on me.”
“It’s not that important,” he said.
“I think it is,” she said seriously. “If I’m going to be in this business, the main thing I have to do is look like I belong in it.”
He was silent for a moment. “Have you told Maurice yet?”
She shook her head. “I’ve told no one. Not even Jacques. You’re the first one to know.”
“Jacques will be more disappointed than anyone,” he said. “He was planning to meet you in New York about a month after you got there.”
“I know,” she said, smiling suddenly. She rose to her feet, the smile disappearing as suddenly as it had come. Her voice turned almost cold. “He had some stupid idea about taking me to Las Vegas and getting married. He said I wouldn’t need anyone’s consent there, being over eighteen.”
He looked up at her silently.
“He’s a fool, a fortune hunter,” she said.
Johann still did not speak.
“I’ll be gone for two months,” she said. “That’s how long the doctors at the clinic say it will take to get me in shape without damage to my health. No one will know where I am except you. I want you to get rid of him while I’m away.”
“But I thought you—” He tried to keep the surprise from his voice. There were no secrets. By now the whole office knew about the affair she had been having with Jacques.
Her voice was almost clinical. “He was using me just as he used my mother. I’m sure that she tolerated him for good reason. And so did I. But I have no further use for him. I have learned all he has to teach me.”
“But he does an important job,” Johann said. “He will not be easy to replace.”
“It will be very easy,” she said confidently.
“I’m not that sure,” he said hesitantly. “Do you have someone in mind?”
“Of course I do. Do you think I would ask you to do something like that if I didn’t?”
“Who?” he asked.
She looked down at him and for the first time he saw the impenetrable hardness in the coal black of her eyes. There was a complete lack of expression in her voice. “Me.”
He went deep inside himself for the strength he knew he would have to have. “I’ll take your suggestion under advisement,” he said. “I’m not convinced yet that you can handle the job.”
For the first time there was surprise in her voice. “How can you put up with him? Do you know what he calls you behind your back? A Nazi, a Hun, a Boche?”
He smiled slowly. “That’s not a valid reason. If it were, there wouldn’t be a single person in the office left to work for us. I’m German. I don’t expect them to love me—just to do their jobs.”
She thought for a moment. “What would it take to convince you that I can do the job?”
“When you come back, you can go to work as his assistant.”
She took a deep breath. “He’ll expect me to go on fucking with him.”
“That’s your problem, not mine,” he said.
She was angry suddenly. “I could say the hell with it and marry him!”
Surprisingly, he laughed. “I can’t stop you,” he said. “But then you’d never get rid of him.”
She was silent for a moment, then she too laughed. “Now I know why Mother chose you as she did,” she said. “We’ll do it your way, Johann.”
“There’s no other way,” he said.
“I still don’t want anyone to know where I am,” she said.
“No one will know,” he said.
He watched the door close behind her and sat there a long moment, then reached for the telephone and placed a long-distance call to the United States. While he was waiting for the call to go through he kept remembering the coal-black wall in her eyes. Someday it would be his turn. He knew that now. In a way, he had always known it.
But there was no way he could turn away from it. Even when Janette reached her majority, there would still be Lauren to protect. If there were only a way to take Lauren out of it without sacrificing the child’s equity, he would feel free. It seemed, somehow, that all his life he had been paying debts to the dead. Maybe, now, it was time that he made an investment in his own life.
She came out of the shower and wrapped the oversized bath sheet around her, then turned toward the mirror as she shook her hair free of the shower cap. It fell damply to her shoulders and she reached for another towel to rub it dry. In the mirror she saw the bathroom door behind her open. She turned around.
Lauren was standing there looking up at her. The child’s blue eyes were dark and somber in her face framed by the golden ringlets of hair. She was silent, just staring up at Janette.
Rubbing her hair with the towel, she asked, “What is it,chérie?”
“Monsieur le Marquis is in the library. He would like to see you.”
“Okay. I’ll be down in a minute,” she said, turning back to the mirror. In the mirror she could see that Lauren still waited there. Then tears welled up into the child’s eyes. Janette turned quickly and knelt beside the child. “What’s wrong,chérie?”
“What is a half a sister?” Lauren asked, holding back a sob.
“Half a sister?” Janette echoed. “I don’t know what that means.”
“That’s what Monsieur le Marquis said you were. He said, Go tell your half sister that I’m waiting for her. He also said it was not polite to call him Monsieur le Marquis, I should call him Papa. I said that you don’t call him Papa and he said that was because he was not your father as he is mine, and that’s why you’re my half sister.” Lauren was really crying now.
“Merde,” Janette said, taking the child and hugging her close. “Don’t you pay any attention to him, darling. I’m your big sister and that’s all there is to it. And you don’t have to call him Papa, because he’s not your father any more than he is mine.”
“Then why does he say he is?” Lauren asked with a child’s directness.
“Because that is what he would like to be. But he isn’t.”
“Then who is my Papa?” Lauren asked.
“Your Papa went away, just as my Papa did.”
“Did you know my Papa?” Lauren asked.
“No,” Janette replied. “But then I didn’t know my Papa either.”
“Then why are we sisters? How do we know that?”
“Because we have the same mother,” Janette said.
“Did you know her?”
“Yes, darling,” Janette said.
“Why didn’t I know her?” Lauren asked.
“She had an accident when you were still a baby,” Janette answered.
“She’s dead, isn’t she?” the child asked. “Like our Papas?”
“Yes,” Janette said gently. She kissed Lauren’s cheek. “But that’s nothing to worry about. We have each other.”
Lauren pulled back and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. “Was our mother a nice lady?”
“Was she beautiful?”
“She was one of the most beautiful ladies in Paris,” Janette said. “She loved you very much.”
“Did she love you too?”
Janette nodded slowly. “Yes.”
Lauren thought for a moment. “I’m sorry I didn’t know her. Someday I would like to have a Mama.”
Janette was silent.
The child looked up into Janette’s eyes. “Do you think you could be my Mama?”
“How could I be? I can’t be your sister and your mother all at the same time.”
“I don’t mean for real, Janette,” the child said quickly. “I mean play mother. Just sometimes when the two of us are alone. We won’t tell anybody. Even if it’s just pretend it would be nice to have a Mama.”
Janette thought for a moment, then nodded. “Okay. But it’s just pretend, remember?”
A radiant smile broke across Lauren’s face and she threw her arms around Janette, kissing her cheek. “Thank you,” she said.
Janette hugged her tightly for a moment, then let her go. “Okay, baby,” she said. “Now off to bed with you.”
Lauren kissed her again. “Good night, Mama,” she said and ran from the room.
She turned back to the mirror and finished drying her hair, then brushed it and dressed slowly. It wasn’t until she was on the staircase that she suddenly realized that she had automatically put on the black brassiere and panties that Maurice always wanted her to wear.
He was standing behind the library door when she opened it and did not see him until she closed the door. Before she had a chance to speak, he slapped her viciously on the cheek, knocking her backward to the floor, her skirt flying up over her hips.
He stood over her for a moment, staring down at her, then abruptly thrust his hand between her legs. The black panties were soaked with moisture. He squeezed her pubis in a viselike grip, watching the pain contort her face as more moisture flooded into his hand. “Whore!” he said, a note of satisfaction in his voice. He straightened up and prodded her with the tip of his pointed shoe. “Whore!”
She stared up at him silently as he walked away and sat down on a couch facing her. She took a deep breath and got to her feet. She could feel her legs still trembling.
“Bitch!” he said in a normal tone of voice. “What kind of games are you playing with me?”
Her voice was almost dull. “I’m not playing any games.”
“I’ve made all the arrangements for America,” he said. “And now I hear you’re not going.”
“I’ve changed my mind,” she said.
“You’ve changed your mind?” he echoed mockingly. “I thought you wanted to learn something more about your business.”
“I’m bored with it,” she said. “Why should I work? It does all right. I have enough money.”
“And you’re willing to let that Nazi continue to bleed you?”
She didn’t answer. Instead she turned and walked to the sideboard near the fireplace. She poured some pastis into a glass and added the water, shaking it gently until a milky-white cloud filed the glass. She sipped it slowly, turning back to him, feeling her strength return. “I’m just not interested that’s all,” she said.
He moved quickly, the glass went flying from her hand almost before she realized he was upon her. She turned her face, trying to avoid being hit again, but not quickly enough. She crashed to the floor in front of the fireplace. Through pain-filled eyes she saw him approaching.
She rolled over and grabbed a small iron poker from the stand. Gripping it with both hands, she rolled away from him to her feet. Wildly, she swung at him.
He spring out of the way just in time and the poker flailed through the empty air. He stared at her, almost in shock at the raw nature of her violence.
She spat the words at him. “You touch me again and I’ll finish what my mother started!”
“You’re crazy!” he said. “Just like she was!”
“Get out!” she screamed, moving toward him. “Get out!”
He fled toward the door and turned, looking back at her, his hand on the doorknob. “Listen to me,” he said. “I was only trying to keep you from losing everything.”
“I’ll take care of myself,” she said. “Just keep away from me, this house, and my sister or I’ll kill you! Now, get out!”
“Someday you’ll be on your knees begging for my help,” he said, slamming the door behind him.
She stared at the closed door for a moment, then her legs gave way and she slumped onto the couch, the poker falling to the floor from her hand. She closed her eyes, giving into the pulsing waves of heat surging from her loins. Almost automatically she slipped her hand inside her panties. An orgasm swept through her almost as soon as her fingers touched her moist, swollen clitoris. “Oh, God!” she exclaimed, then turning face down on the couch and burying her head in the arms, began to cry.
Heidi saw him standing just beyond the railing as she approached the police at immigration. She waved to him as she pushed her passport through the narrow window. He smiled and waved back. It wasn’t until then that she noticed the small bouquet of flowers he held in his other hand. The policeman pounded her passport with his stamp and pushed it back to her. She took it and almost ran as she came through the railing.
For a moment they paused awkwardly, looking at each other, then he proffered the bouquet almost shyly. She took it, then looked up into his face and went into his arms.
His voice was husky as he whispered into her ear. “Until this moment I was afraid you would not come.”
Her voice trembled between laughter and tears. “Until you called, I was afraid you’d never ask me.”
They drew apart. She looked down at the bouquet. “The flowers are beautiful. You didn’t have to.”
He laughed as he reached for the small valise she was carrying. “Come, let’s get the rest of your baggage.”
Traffic moved slowly on theautorouteleading from Orly into Paris. “It’s still the morning rush hour,” he explained.
“I don’t mind,” she said.
“Did you sleep on the plane?”
“A little,” she said.
“You’ll have a bath once we get home. Then a little rest and you’ll feel better.”
“I feel fine,” she said quickly. “Just excited.”
He laughed. “I hope you weren’t too excited to bring all your papers.”
“I brought them all,” she said.
“Good,” he answered. “I have a friend in themairie. He said he would rush everything through for us. It shouldn’t take more than ten days.”
“That long?” Her voice echoed her dismay. “In the States it would only take overnight.”
He laughed again. “This is France. Remember?”
She nodded and reached for his arm. “I don’t care. Even if it takes forever. As long as I can be with you.”
“You’ll be with me,” he said. He glanced at her again. “I had the apartment cleaned and painted, but if it’s not right, you can change anything you want.”
“I’m sure it will be okay,” she said. “After all, it will only be for two years.”
He was silent.
“You meant what you said?” she asked quickly.
He nodded. “I meant it. I think by the time Janette is twenty-one she’ll be only too glad to have me step out.”
She studied his face as he drove. “You’re not upset over it, are you?”
“Not really,” he said. “The only thing that disturbs me is the little one. Lauren. I will have to find a way to see that she is protected.”
“You have two years to work that out,” she said. “And I’m sure youwill.” She paused for a moment. “I’m looking forward to meeting Janette.”
He laughed. “You’ll have to wait another month. Right now she’s in Switzerland at a clinic.”
“Is there anything the matter with her?”
“Nothing,” he said. “She thinks it’s time she looked more like a fashion model.”
“Is she heavy?”
“Not at all,” he said. “But she’s like her mother. She’s a big girl.”
“Children get all sorts of strange ideas,” she said.
He glanced at her. His voice was thoughtful. “Janette is not a child. I don’t think she ever was.”
“Johann is getting married this week,” Jacques said.
“I don’t believe it,” Maurice said, signaling the waiter for another drink. “Anyone I know?”
Jacques shook his head. “None of us know her. She’s American. Her father is supposed to be very rich.”
“Is she young?”
“About thirty, I think. She was in the office the other day. Very attractive. I think her parents are German.”
“What kind of business are they in?” Maurice asked.
Jacques shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know.”
“It might be a good idea to find out,” Maurice said. “Johann is not stupid. There might be some connection to his future plans with the companies.”
“I’ll see what I can learn,” Jacques said. “Have you had any luck discovering where Janette is?”
“Zero,” Maurice said. “She just seems to have dropped out of sight. I wonder if anyone knows.”
“Johann knows,” Jacques said confidently. “He’s the only one who isn’t curious. But he’s not saying anything.”
“It may all tie together,” Maurice said. “We’d better keep our eyes open or we may discover the whole thing has gotten away from us.”
“Do you really think we still have a chance?” Jacques asked.
“Maybe more now than before, with Johann getting married. Janette might not like the idea that he has other interests than her own. If she gets the feeling that his concerns lie elsewhere she might turn our way.”
Janette stepped down from the scale and turned to the doctor. “Only four kilos,” she said. “That’s not much.”
Dr. Schindler smiled. “I’m satisfied. That’s a little more than one kilo per week. If we try to do more, we can lose skin tone too rapidly and everything begins to sag.”
“My breasts are sagging already,” she said.
“Are you doing the exercises I gave you?” He clasped his hands in front of his chest and tightened the muscles across his chest so that she could see them moving under his shirt.
“I walk around all day doing them like an idiot,” she said. “I don’t think it’s working.”
“Everything takes time.” He smiled. “We must have patience.” He made some notes on a card. “We have to be very careful so that we don’t build up muscle that would become impossible to take away.”
“Merde.” She fell into the chair opposite his desk. “Another thing. I’m nervous all the time. Edgy.”
He made another note on his card. “I’ll cut down on the injections. From now on only twice a week instead of every other day. You’re not feeling hungry anymore are you?”
She shook her head. “Not at all.”
“That’s good,” he nodded. “I’ll book you for two massages a day, and you increase your swimming from a half hour each session to one hour.”
“It’s all getting very boring,” she said.
He smiled. “We never claimed to be an amusement park, Janette. This is serious business. You come to us for help with a problem and we’re working to solve it as best as we can.”
“It wouldn’t hurt if you provided some amusements in the evening so that people could relax a little.”
“Films. Music. Something. I don’t know what. Just to take our minds off the dullness of the routine.”
He nodded. “That’s a good thought. We’ll look into it.”
“Patients wouldn’t feel as if they’re in a kind of prison then. After all, how many diet-and-exercise fitness lectures can anyone listen to?”
He laughed. “You’re right. I just never thought of it that way.”
“You would do more business too,” she said. “Especially if you made it seem like fun.”
He nodded and made some more notes on his card. “How do you sleep?”
“Not too well,” she said. “As I told you, I’m edgy.”
“I can give you a pill,” he said. “But one of the possible side effects is that you might retain water, and that would be self-defeating.”
“I’ll manage,” she said, smiling. “Masturbation is the best natural tranquilizer.”
He laughed. “It’s great to be young.” He got to his feet. “You’re doing all right. Just stick with it. It’s only five more weeks.” He walked to his office door with her. “I guarantee that you’ll be pleased.”
“I’ll be happy if my breasts don’t wind up falling down to my belly,” she said.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It won’t happen. But even if it should, we have a cure for that too.”
“It’s a matter of routine, Herr Schwebel,” the banker said to Johann, his voice crackling slightly over the long-distance lines from Switzerland. “Madame la Marquise left instructions with us that if we did not hear from her for three years in sequence, we were to contact you for instructions in regard to the property she has placed in our safekeeping.”
Johann was silent for a moment. Not once in all the years had Tanya ever mentioned that she had property or anything at all in a Swiss bank. “Do you have any idea of the nature of the property?” he asked, circumspect with his use of language over the telephone, even though they were speaking in German, because one could never be sure who was listening in to the line.
“Not of the contents,” the banker replied. “As far as we are concerned it consists solely of six large safe-deposit boxes leased by the marquise in 1944 for a period of twenty years. The rental fees were paid in advance.”
“I see,” Johann said thoughtfully. 1944. That was the year they moved to Switzerland. “So there is no urgent problem at the moment?”
“None,” the banker said. “As I said, this is purely routine. We are only following instructions.”
“Do you have a duplicate key?” Johann asked.
“No,” the banker answered. “Madame had the only key.”
“You know, of course, that Madame is dead?”
“Yes,” the banker said. “But again following orders, we did not contact you until the time requested.”
“Of course,” Johann said. Bankers were all alike. The routine was more important than the fact. “Let me go through Madame’s papers again and see if she left any specific instructions regarding this matter and I will get back to you.”
“Thank you, Herr von Schwebel,” the banker said.
Johann smiled to himself. Now that the banker was sure that he was in charge, he had been elevated from plain Herr Schwebel to Herr von Schwebel. Money and authority were an irrefutable combination. “I plan to be in Switzerland in a few weeks,” he said. “Perhaps we could meet then to further discuss the matter.”
“I am at your disposal, Herr von Schwebel,” the banker said. “Meanwhile if I could impose on you to write us a letter acknowledging that we have contacted you in accordance with our instructions it would keep our records in order.”
“I will dispatch the letter immediately,” Johann said. They exchanged polite goodbyes and Johann returned the telephone to its cradle. He stared down at the notes he had made on his scratch pad. All the information was there. The bank, the banker’s name. Everything. Abruptly he tore the page from his pad and tucked it carefully into his wallet. Then he tore the five pages of the scratch pad beneath the one he had written on and crumpled them into the wastebasket. He started to call for his secretary to dictate the letter to the banker, then changed his mind. He would write the letter himself and mail it from home. He would also request that the banker contact him at home after this. There was no point in leaving any hints about this anywhere near the office.
He glanced at his watch. Heidi should have returned to the apartment by now. Like any prospective bride, she had been out shopping for her wedding dress. A dress, she had emphasized carefully, not a gown. She answered the telephone.
“Did you find anything?” he asked.
Her voice was excited. “Yes. It’s beautiful.”
“Maggy Rouff,” she said. “And I got a twenty percent discount for the trade, because I mentioned your name.”
He laughed. “Marvelous. When can I see it?”
“Not before the wedding,” she said. “It’s bad luck for a groom to see the bride in her wedding dress before that.”
“Okay. I’ll wait then,” he said. “Have you heard from your father?”
“Just a few minutes ago,” she said. “He’ll be here for the wedding.”
“Good. I’m looking forward to meeting him.”
“And he is also,” she said.
“Have you ever been to Switzerland?” he asked.
“No,” she said.
“I know of a lovely small hotel in the mountains not far from Geneva,” he said. “Would you like to go there for our honeymoon? It’s very small and very quiet. And chances are we’ll be the only ones there.”
“I can’t wait,” she said.
“I’ll make the reservations then,” he said. “Where would you like to go for dinner?”
“I thought it would be nice if we ate in tonight,” she said. “After all, you don’t even know if I can cook.”
“True,” he said. “But then, that never even entered my mind. I was more interested in other things.”
She laughed. “Well, I can cook too. You’ll see.”
He put down the telephone. Six large safe-deposit boxes. Since 1944. He closed his eyes trying to remember everything that happened that year but there was nothing he could think of that could lead to their contents. But still, there they were.
And they had to be valuable enough, and important enough for Tanya to provide for their safekeeping for twenty years. And perhaps the only thing she had never spoken to anyone about, not even to him.
He took a deep breath. Tomorrow he would go to his bank and take out all her papers again and go through them. Somewhere in them there had to be a clue to what it was all about. And, somewhere, also, there had to be a safe-deposit key.
“He owns a brewery,” Jacques said.
“Who?” Maurice was puzzled.
“Johann’s bride’s father,” Jacques said. “He’s very rich. Mayer’s Breweries in Minneapolis.”
Maurice was impressed. “Johann did all right by himself. I know of the beer. Twin Cities Beer, it’s called. One of the most popular in the States. I wonder how he came to meet her.”
“She was married before and divorced. Then she worked for several years as a fashion buyer for one of the Midwest department stores and came here four times a year. His secretary told my secretary that they met at one of Shiki’s fashion shows.”
“Did he ever do any business with her?”
Jacques shook his head. “Not that I know of. Shiki does not do well in mid-America.”
“Well,” Maurice said, “wonders will never cease. Stodgy, dull, boring Johann comes up with an heiress worth more than twenty million dollars.”
“You’re joking!” Jacques’ voice was incredulous.
“No, I’m not,” Maurice said.
“I wonder if Johann knew that when he met her,” Jacques asked.
Maurice laughed. “It doesn’t matter now.” He took a sip of his drink. “Johann,” he said, shaking his head in wonder.
“I also heard her father is coming over for the wedding next week,” Jacques said. “Apparently she is his only child, and this will be his first trip to Europe in more than thirty years. Johann reserved a large suite for him at the Georges Cinq.”
“It’s getting better and better,” Maurice said.
“I don’t understand,” Jacques said.
Maurice looked at him. “Johann may be making his own plans. Two more years and Janette is of age. She comes into the business as an owner while he is still only a part trustee and employee. He’s going to do something. I feel it in my bones.” He took another sip of his drink. “I wonder if Janette knows about it.”
“I don’t know,” Jacques said. “Nobody still knows where she is. I even went over to La Coupole the other night, where her friends hang out. Even Marie-Thérése doesn’t know. And they’ve been inseparable since they were kids at school.”
“I know about Marie-Thérése,” Maurice said. “And if she doesn’t know, no one does. Still, I would like to know how Janette feels about it.”
“We’ll just have to wait until she returns,” Jacques said.
“I suppose so,” Maurice said thoughtfully. “I’m leaving for New York at the end of the week. I’ll be at the Pierre. Keep me informed as to what is happening.”
Jacques smiled. “Of course. If it’s anything interesting, you’ll be the first to know.”
The doctor peered over her shoulder at the scale. “Seven kilos,” he said, satisfaction in his voice. “We’re getting there.” He went back to his desk and sat on the edge of it, facing her. “How do you feel?”
“I don’t like the way I look,” she said.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Even with all the exercise my breasts are sagging even more, and now my buttocks are beginning to droop. And with my face thinner my nose seems to be longer.”
“It’s only five weeks,” he said. “Your body is still adjusting. Once we get down to the desired weight, we’ll begin working on the other things.”
“How long will that take?” she asked.
He picked up his chart and studied it for a moment, then picked up a tape measure. “Take off your bathing suit.”
She pushed the tight-fitting one-piece suit down over her legs and stepped out of it. He indicated a small platform in the corner of the room and she stepped up on it. Quickly, impersonally, he began to take her measurements, beginning with her neck. Her upper chest under her arms, her breasts at her nipples, each upper arm, her waist, the hip at the top of the pelvic bone, then around the center of her buttocks, her upper and lower thighs, finally her calves and ankles. After each measurement he made a note on his chart. Finally he put the tape and the chart on his desk. Standing directly in front of her, he eyed her critically. “Stretch your arms over your head as far as you can reach, placing your palms together and standing on your toes.”
Silently she did as he asked. Slowly he walked around her and stopped once again in front of her. She detected nothing in his face except professional judgment. “Now put your arms at your side and stand normally,” he said.
Again he walked slowly around her. “With your permission I would like to check for muscle tone.”
She nodded silently.
His face still impassive, he placed a hand under each armpit, his thumb reaching around to the top of her chest over each breast. Slowly he moved his thumb, raising and lowering her breasts.
She felt her nipples begin to harden and swell and she laughed nervously.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” he said quickly. “It’s quite normal.”
She laughed. “I don’t mind. It’s the most fun I’ve had since I’ve come here.”
He laughed too, placing an open palm against her stomach. “Try to tighten your muscle as much as you can and press against my hand.” After a moment, he spoke again. “That’s fine. Now do the same thing with each buttock as I place my hand on it.”
He walked behind her and she felt the palm of his hand against her and tightened the muscle. Then she felt his finger under her buttock against her thigh; slowly he raised the buttock upward. After a moment he repeated the process with the other buttock. Then he was finished and went back behind his desk and sat down. “You can put on your bathing suit again.”
She slipped into her suit and approached the desk. “What do you think, Doctor?”
He finished making some notes on the chart and looked up at her. “Sit down,” he said.
“Anything wrong?” she asked quickly as she sat down.
“Nothing’s wrong,” he said reassuringly. “We’re accomplishing everything that we started to do. It’s just that at this stage of the game we have to explore some options that are open to us.”
“I don’t understand,” she said.
He leaned back in his chair, his voice almost professional. “What we are attempting here is almost a complete restructuring of your body. By nature you are one way and we are changing that into a more satisfactory mode. Much of the success we can achieve depends on the ability of your body to adjust to the new demands we make upon it. We train certain muscles to do more and compensate for others. Sometimes this does not happen as quickly as we would like, sometimes it does not happen at all, the muscles themselves are not capable of the demands we make on the. We are now at a point where we have to decide how far we want to go.”
“Are you telling me that I can’t compensate for the loss of weight?” she asked.
“I’m not saying that,” he said. “I’m sure that your muscles can. But it will take time. The muscles will have to be developed over a period of several years before we can achieve the optimum results you desire.” He glanced down at his chart. “At this point in time you have achieved seventy percent of the weight loss targeted and your measurements vary from eight to fourteen percent less on various portions of you anatomy than when you came in here. All of this is most satisfactory and I feel at this time that we should not try to go further in either weight loss or size reduction. I am, however, concerned about compensating appearance factors. Despite the exercises and treatments, the muscles are not responding as rapidly as we would like to the demands made. So I think we should consider other options available to us.”
“What options?” she asked.
“Minor corrective surgery,” he said. “It would save years of work on your part and would accomplish what you desire immediately.”
“But there would be scars,” she said quickly.
“Tiny ones,” he said. “And they would be invisible unless someone searched for them. We do the work in natural folds and creases of the body so that they are completely concealed.”
“Are there any side effects or chances that it would not work?”
“We have techniques developed during the war. So far, in more than a thousand patients we have treated, there have been no problems.”
“How much time does the whole thing take?” she asked.
“The surgery itself is minimal. The recovery time is two weeks before you can resume normal activities. The scars themselves will become normal, that is, blended into your skin, in approximately three months. But since all of them are generally covered by clothing, that’s no real problem.”
“And if I decide to have my nose done?”
“At the most two weeks, and all the swelling and other sings will be gone, leaving no evidence at all.”
She sat there quietly for a moment.
“Why don’t you think about it?” he suggested. “There’s no rush to make a decision.”
She looked at him. “Yes there is,” she said in a firm voice. “I’ve already made up my mind. We’ll do the surgery.”
He stared at her. “You’re sure?”
She nodded. “When can it be done?”
“I’ll get in touch with the surgeon,” he said. “He’ll have to examine you himself first. After that, we’ll try to schedule you as soon as possible.”
He stared at the door after she left his office and then reached for the telephone to call the surgeon. While he waited for him to come to the telephone he found himself thinking about her. There was a drive and sense of power in the girl. She was only nineteen and he felt it was not vanity that had pushed her into this procedure as it was with his other patients. They were generally older and wanted to be younger. Her motivation went deeper than just that. She was creating a new image with a purpose in mind. What the purpose was he did not know. But whatever it was, it was strong enough to make her want to change her whole life.
Henri opened the door. “Monsieur Schwebel,” he bowed. “Please come in.”
Johann let Heidi precede him, then followed her through the door. “My dear, this is Henri,” he said, introducing them. “Henri, my fiancée, Mademoiselle Mayer.”
Henri bowed. “Enchanté, Mademoiselle.Félicitations.”
“Thank you, Henri,” Heidi said.
The butler turned to Johann. “I have all the boxes in the library. We brought them up from the basement. I also had the desk cleared for you.”
“Thank you,” Johann said. Perhaps what he sought would be here. There was nothing in the company records that had been kept in the bank vaults.
They had begun to follow Henri to the library when the small voice came from the staircase. “Uncle Johann!”
“Mein Schatzi!” There was genuine pleasure in Johann’s voice as he turned and the child flew across the room, leaping into his arms. “I thought you would be in bed already,” he said, kissing her cheeks.
“Nanny told me you were coming, so I waited up,” Lauren said. She turned to look at Heidi. “Is she going to be my new aunt?”
Johann laughed. “Yes.”
“She’s very pretty,” Lauren said seriously. “What’s her name?”
The child looked at her. “May I call you Aunt Heidi?”
Heidi smiled, holding out her arms for the child. “Of course, darling.” She took the child from Johann and held her tightly. “You’re very pretty too, Lauren.”
“You smell nice,” Lauren said. “Will you come to visit me?”
“If you like,” Heidi answered.
Heidi laughed. “Whenever you want.”
“That’s good,” the child said. “It’s very lonely here now that Janette has gone away to school again.” She turned in Heidi’s arms, looking at Johann. “When is Janette coming back?”
“In a few weeks.”
“How long is that? More than two days?”
“More than two days, darling,” Johann said.
“Oh.” The disappointment was evident. She turned back to Heidi. “Janette is my big sister. Sometimes we play that she’s my mother. Just pretend. We have no mother.”
Heidi was silent. She had all she could to do keep tears from welling into her eyes. She hugged the child closer while looking at Johann. “Perhaps I can come and play with you until your sister returns.”
“That would be nice,” the child said. She looked at Johann. “Would it be all right if I showed Aunt Heidi my room and my toys?”
“I’m sure it would,” Johann said.
Lauren slipped out of Heidi’s arms and, taking her by the hand, led her to the stairway. Johann stood there watching them go up the steps, then turned and went into the library.
It was over an hour later that Johann rose wearily from the floor where he had been kneeling as he meticulously went through each of the packing cases spread before him. Nothing. They were all personal articles. Mostly clothing. Several sets of toilet articles, brushes, combs, some valueless costume jewelry. Shoes. No papers, no notebooks, no diaries. Nothing to indicate that Tanya had kept any records other than those that he had already obtained from the company’s bank vaults. He pressed the call button for the servant.
Henri came through the door. “Oui, Monsieur?”
“I’m finished with them.” Johann indicated the boxes. “You can sent them back downstairs.”
Henri nodded. “Would Monsieur care for a drink?”
“A good idea,” Johann said. “Cognac, please. Is my fiancée still with the child?”
Henri smiled. “Yes, sir. I went by her room a moment ago. Lauren has all her toys all over the floor and they are sitting together looking at each one of them.” He went to the sideboard and returned with a cognac. “C’est triste, Monsieur,” he said. “The child needs someone. And she has no one.”
Johann sipped at the cognac. “What about Janette?”
Henri shook his head. “It’s not the same thing. A mother is a mother. That’s what the child needs. That’s what she really wants.”
Johann nodded heavily. “I suppose so.”
“Perhaps when the little one is old enough to go away to school, it will be better for her,” the butler said.
“Perhaps.” The servant left the room and Johann sank into a chair thoughtfully. He sipped the cognac. Suddenly a picture leaped before his eyes. The two of them standing there. Lauren in Heidi’s arms. How much alike they looked. Both blond, both fair, both blue-eyed. They could almost be mother and daughter. He shook his head. It really wasn’t fair. Life never organized itself in a reasonable fashion. Everything was always fucked up.
He finished his drink and went up the stairs to the child’s room. The two of them were still sitting on the floor surrounded by the toys and stuffed animals. “What’s happening?” he smiled.
Heidi looked up at him. “Lauren has been introducing me to her menagerie. The lions are her favorites.”
“Why is that?” he asked the child.
“Because it was my mommy’s favorite too,” Lauren answered, holding up a small scruffy lion obviously many years old. “This was my mommy’s. Janette told me that she gave it to me.”
“Yes,” the child said, holding it out to him. “Touch it. It’s very soft.”
He took it politely and stroked it. “It is very soft.”
“I told Lauren that we would take her to lunch on Sunday and then spend the afternoon at the zoo and she could see real lions,” Heidi said.
“That would be wonderful,” the child said happily.
“Yes,” Johann said, still stroking the stuffed animal. Suddenly he stopped and looked down at it. He thought he had felt something inside. He squeezed it. Therewassomething inside. Slowly he turned the toy over in his hands. Underneath the soft matted hair covering its belly there was a series of cross-stitches where it had been opened and then resewed.
“Would you excuse me a minute?” He went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Quickly he took out his pocketknife and cut a few stitched lose, then probed inside with his fingers. A moment later he held it in his hand. A small safe-deposit key, wrapped in a piece of parchment paper. There were several numbers in tiny letters written on the paper on one side. On the other just four words. Swiss Credit Bank, Geneva.
He let out his breath. Tanya. In her own way she was still here. Slowly he put the key in his pocket and went back into the bedroom. He put the little stuffed lion on the bed. “I think it’s time you were to sleep,” he said.
Lauren got to her feet and came toward him. “You won’t forget about Sunday like Aunt Heidi promised?”
“No, darling,” he said, bending to kiss her. “We won’t forget.”
She turned back to Heidi. “Would you tuck me in, Aunt Heidi? Like my Mama would if she were here.”
Heidi looked at Johann. He nodded imperceptibly. “Of course, darling,” she said.
Johann bent to kiss Lauren’s cheek. He straightened up. “I’ll wait downstairs.” He turned and looked back before he closed the door behind him.
Lauren was already in bed, the covers pulled over her chest. She raised her arms toward Heidi. “Would you tell me a story, Aunt Heidi?”
He closed the door gently and went down the staircase. In the library he poured himself another cognac and sipped it slowly. For the first time in days he thought about Janette. He hadn’t heard a word from her since she had gone to the clinic. Suddenly he realized that she knew nothing about his coming marriage. He took a deep breath. Tomorrow he would call her.
The surgeon came into her room and looked down at her. “How do you feel?” he asked.
She looked up at him. “Lousy.”
He smiled. “I would be worried if you felt any different. After all, it’s only three days. Come, get out of bed. I want to have a look at you.”
He held out his hand as she sat up and stepped out of bed. He led her across the room to a full-length mirror. “I’m going to remove the bandages from your bust and hips. I don’t want you to get upset when you see the stitches and the bruises. They’re completely normal and will disappear a few days after the stitches are removed.”
“My eyes are still black and blue and my nose is still swollen,” she said.
“That’s normal too,” he said. “Just keep on with the ice packs every two hours. They’ll be gone in two or three more days. The swelling should go down in another week.
“Take off your gown,” he said, at the same time signaling to the nurse. The nurse came forward holding a tray of instruments. He took a small scissors from the tray as her gown dropped to the floor. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “I won’t hurt you.”
“I’m not afraid,” she said, looking at herself in the mirror. “I’m just curious to see what I look like.”
“I don’t know how much you’ll be able to tell,” he said. “It’s still very soon. All I want to do is check the stitches and see that everything is all right.” He snipped the bandage just under her left arm and then slowly, gently, began to unwind it.
She watched the mirror as her breasts appeared. He took the last of the bandages off. Her breath caught in her throat. Her breasts looked ugly, covered with black-and-blue marks and dried blood. “Don’t be upset,” he said quickly. “They’ll look better as soon as I clean them up.”
He worked rapidly with cotton and alcohol. In a few seconds the dried blood and scabs were gone and all that remained were the tiny cross-marks of the stitches. He stepped back and looked at her. “Beautiful,” he said. “You’re healing better than I had hoped for.”
“Beautiful?” Her voice was angry. “You didn’t tell me there would be stitches around my nipples.”
“Areolae,” he said. “When your breasts were reduced in size we saw that your nipples were too much toward the sides of your breasts. It wouldn’t have looked natural so we just lifted them and moved them to their proper location. But there won’t be any scars, they will become lost in the natural folds of the areolae.”
She was silent, studying her breasts. “Can I touch my breasts?”
“Yes,” he said. “But gently.”
Lightly she cupped them in her hands. They felt smaller, lighter. “What size am I?”
“Thirty-four B,” he said. “You were thirty-eight C.”
“And the scars beneath them and under my armpits?”
“They’ll heal and disappear too in the natural folds of your body.”
“How long will that take?”
“Several months,” he said. “But after a few weeks you will hardly see them, and if you don’t like the way they look until then, you can always cover them with a little makeup.”
She let her hands fall to her sides and turned so that she could look at herself sideways in the mirror. She nodded slowly. The look was right. She looked slimmer, more graceful.
“Okay?” he asked.
“Okay,” she answered.
Taking the scissors again, he snipped at the bandages around her upper thighs and buttocks. This time she was prepared for the bruises and dried blood and said nothing until he had finished cleaning her skin. She turned and looked over her shoulder in the mirror. She ignored the thin line of stitches that ran in the fold of her flesh between each buttock and thigh. Again she nodded. Her buttocks looked smaller and also higher and firmer.
“What size?” she asked.
“Thirty-five,” he said. “And you’re still swollen. You may go down to thirty-four. You were almost thirty-nine.”
She turned to him. “It’s like a miracle.”
He smiled. “It’s not a miracle. It’s modern surgery. But we did have one advantage.”
“What’s that?” she asked.
“You’re young,” he said. “Generally when we do these things, our patients are much older and their bodies don’t have the resiliency to heal and mend the way you do.”
She looked at herself in the mirror. “And the scars will all disappear?”
“They won’t disappear,” he said. “But they will conceal themselves and in a few months, you’ll need a magnifying glass to find them.”
“I’m glad I did it,” she said.
“I’m happy that you’re pleased,” he said. “I’m going to replace the bandages once again just to make sure that you don’t do any damage to yourself while you’re asleep. I think in another three or four days we’ll be able to remove the stitches. And you don’t have to remain in bed, you can move around as you like. Just remember not to bend, stretch, or lift anything heavy.” He gestured to the nurse, who came forward with another hospital gown. He helped her into it, then walked back to the bed with her. “I’ll see you at the end of the week.”
The telephone began to ring as he walked to the door. She picked it up. “Hello.”
“Janette?” She recognized Johann’s voice.
“Johann!” she exclaimed. It was the first call she had received since she had been at the clinic. “Where are you calling from?”
“Geneva,” he said.
“What are you doing there?”
He laughed. “I’m on my honeymoon.”
“I don’t believe it,” she said.
“It’s true,” he said. “Remember what you told me in the office? I decided to take your advice.”
“How wonderful,” she said. “Do I know the bride?”
“No,” he said. “But I’m anxious for you to meet her. I thought we might take a drive out to see you.”
“Oh, no,” she said quickly. “I’m not going to have anyone meet me for the first time out here. I’m right in the middle of my treatments.”
“Are you all right?” he asked. “Your voice sounds strange.”
“My nose is stuffed,” she said. “But I’m fine, really I am. Tell me about your wife.”
“She’s American. She’s beautiful. I know you’ll like each other. What more can I tell you.”
“Have you known her a long time?”
“Three years,” he said.
“Johann, I’m very happy for you,” she said. “Congratulations, and I can’t wait to meet her. I really mean it and I will as soon as I come home.”
“When will that be?” he asked.
“I’ll be here a little longer than I thought,” she said. “About another month.”
He was silent for a moment. “Too bad. Lauren misses you. She’s very lonely in that big house.”
“It can’t be helped,” she said. “But even when I’m home we don’t see that much of each other. She’s usually in bed by the time I get in.”
“Heidi and I took her out to the zoo last Sunday,” he said. “Heidi adores her. Maybe we’ll try to keep her a little company until you get back.”
“That will be lovely,” she said. “Please thank your wife for me.”
“It’s nothing,” he said. “I’m anxious to see you, to see what you look like.”
She laughed. “I think you’re going to be surprised. But it all can wait. After all, you’re on your honeymoon.”
He laughed. “That’s right.”
“A big kiss to you and your wife,” she said. “And I look forward to see you both in Paris.”
Slowly she put down the telephone. Johann married. Strangely, she found it hard to believe.
Jacques was at his usual table in a corner against the wall at the front of the Relais Plaza at lunchtime. Usually he sat there sipping his white wine, casually watching everyone as they entered or left the restaurant, but today he had theInternational Herald TribuneandVogueopen on the table before him and was studying them carefully. The showings were over and the verdict was in. Yves St. Laurent. As far as the press was concerned there was no one else. Even the photographs of the young American Presidential candidate and his wife standing in front of the Elysée did not attract as much attention.
It had been just a little more than four years ago that Michel de Brunhof, the editor of FrenchVogue, had spoken to him about finding a place with Shiki for the young boy who was living with him and attending the Académie de Couture. But even after seeing the boy’s drawings and sketches, Shiki wouldn’t have him. He had no time to waste on amateurs and dreamers and it would take too long to teach him the practical side of the business.
Even after that, he had taken the designs to Johann and urged him to overrule Shiki or, if not to overrule him, start another small salon to reflect a newer, younger approach to couture. Johann studied them but shook his head. They were losing enough money in the couture division without beginning another operation that would increase their losses. Reluctantly he had taken the drawings back to de Brunhof. A month later the young man was at Dior. Almost immediately the boy’s name began to appear in numerous stories and articles inVogue, and the rest was history. Dior had his heart attack and Marcel Boussac appointed the young man as designer for the House of Dior.
Jacques stared down at the magazine. If only de Brunhof had come to him one year earlier when Tanya was still alive. She would have snapped him up. Even gotten rid of Shiki if that was the only way. Always the bigif. But she was gone, and Johann’s approach to the business was oriented to the balance sheet rather than the concept.
But perhaps it wasn’t too late. This was St. Laurent’s last showing before he began his compulsory military service in the French Army. Two years. Boussac was not going to mark time with the House of Dior just because of that. He couldn’t afford to lose the momentum that had been created. There were a number of names that were being bruited about as St. Laurent’s possible successor but he already knew who it would be. The designer who ran their house in London—Marc Bohan. He wasn’t St. Laurent, but as talented and individual in his own way, and very strong. By the time St. Laurent came out of the army, Bohan would be so entrenched at Dior that it would take a nuclear bomb to get him out of there. Then St. Laurent would be forced to look for a new home. This time, Jacques was not about to let him get away. Not even if it meant that he had to go out himself and find the money to found a new house of couture.
He sipped at his kir slowly and idly kept turning the pages of the magazine. His, as usual, was an advance copy; it would not be on the newsstands for sale to the general public until next week. He always made it a point to go through the magazine thoroughly, reading the advertisements as well as the articles. In a way, the ads were even more important because they offered clues as to the directions that the various houses were taking. Almost halfway through the magazine he came to a sudden halt. He stared down at it in a sort of shock, his brain refusing to believe his eyes.
Spread across the two pages was a color photograph of a beautiful nude girl lying on her side, facing the camera, looking down at her hand, on the engagement finger of which was a large heart-shaped diamond ring. In bold type across the two pages were the words, “A simple diamond is all any beautiful woman needs to wear.” Then, in small letters, in the corner of the second page beneath the photograph: “janette marie de la Beauville for harry winston.”
“Merde!” His lips moved silently. He was angry. More with himself than with the photograph. With all his contacts, he should have known about it before it even happened. But somehow she had managed to see that it was kept from him. Then the humor of it got to him and he began to smile. He studied the photograph. She had never looked more beautiful. He signaled the waiter.
“Another kir, Monsieur?”
“No,” he said. “I’ll have a whiskey. With lots of ice.” He closed the magazine. To hell with Yves St. Laurent for the moment. This photograph was going to be the talk of Paris for the coming season. The waiter put the whiskey in front of him and he took a deep drink. Already his mind was working on how to capitalize on it.
Johann looked down at the magazine, then leaned back in his chair. “Quite startling,” he said. “Why do you think she did it?”
Jacques laughed. “Because she’s smarter than both of us. That’s why. There’s more of her mother in her than either of us realized.”
“I still don’t understand,” Johann said.
“Image,” Jacques said. “With one photograph she created an image. Something Shiki has not been able to do for us in five years. The day after this magazine is on the street she will be the new queen of the young Parisianhaut monde. They’ll fall all over themselves trying to be like her. Anything she does, anything she says will be law.”
“How is that going to help us?” Johann asked.
“It’s a whole new market. And we’ll be there first,” Jacques answered. “We won’t be struggling, as we have with Shiki, trying to penetrate a market in which all we wind up with are the crumbs that fall from the tables of the other designers. We’ll have to begin a brand-new line with a brand-new concept.”
“And what about our investment in Shiki?”
“Finished,” Jacques said. “Over. We never made any money with it so why continue flogging a dead horse?”
“But Tanya thought—”
Jacques interrupted him. “Tanya is dead. Janette is now. If Tanya were alive, she would be the first one to agree with me.”
Johann was silent for a moment. “Have you spoken to Janette?”
“Not yet. I wanted to speak to you first.”
“It means writing off fifty million francs,” Johann said. “That’s half her money now, which means the decision should be half hers. I am only responsible for Lauren’s share, and as trustee I can’t bring myself to accept such a loss for my ward.”
“Eventually it will all be lost. Shiki will never make it. We’ve given him every chance he could ask for.”
“I don’t know,” Johann said. “I don’t feel comfortable in this part of the business. I never quite understood it. Nothing makes sense. Nobody seems to know what will sell and what will not. The wine business is something else. You produce so much, you sell so much, you always know what is going to happen. Even the fragrance company has a steady market. Not very big, but you can also figure on what will happen.Couture,zero. You spend a fortune designing a line, showing it, advertising it. Two days later it’s all down the sewer and you can’t even give the samples away. I’m sorry we ever went into it, but Tanya wouldn’t listen to me. She had her own ideas.”
“Why don’t you talk to Janette?” Jacques said. “Maybe she has some ideas too.”
Johann looked at him. “Do you really think so?”
Jacques nodded. “I’m beginning to know that lady. She never does anything without a purpose.”
Johann stared down at the magazine on his desk after Jacques had left the office. The Janette looking seductively up at him from the photograph was a very different girl from the one who had told him three years before that she was going to change the way she looked. But it was more than her appearance that was changed. Something else had happened.
There had still been something of the child about the other Janette, a sophisticated naiveté. The naiveté was gone. This was a woman, aware of herself, of her body, her needs, her drives, her ambitions. But the calculation was hidden in her total look. What had emerged was the totality of her femaleness; yet, from the cut of her dark-auburn highlighted hair to the almost metallic rose-colored toenails, she was the epitome of the fashionably accepted figure, the individual flaws lost in that total look.
She had been away almost five months before she returned to the office. And then no one had recognized her; even Johann’s secretary, who had known her for many years, had asked her name before she marched into his office, the shock evident in the secretary’s voice over the telephone when she announced her.
He remembered looking up from his desk and just staring. She stood very still for a moment, then turned around slowly in full circle, then looked down at him with a smile. “Well, Johann, what do you think?”
He was silent, then rose from his desk and kissed her on both cheeks. “You’re absolutely beautiful,” he said sincerely. “But do I know you?”
“I don’t know,” she said with a half smile. “But then, I don’t know if I know myself. I’m going to have to find out.”
He went back behind the desk and sat down. “When are you planning to come back to work?”
“I’m not,” she said. “I still have much to discover. About myself. And about our business. And I think I will learn more working somewhere else for a while.”
He thought about the hundred thousand gold louis in the bank in Switzerland and the note of caution that Tanya had left in one of the safe-deposit boxes.
One third is yours because you loved Wolfgang as I did. The remainder I place in your trust for Janette and Lauren, to be used only in case of need. I love you and trust you and apologize for placing this additional burden on your shoulders. Be good to them, my friend, because in the end, my children, like myself, have no one else.
He looked up at Janette still standing in front of his desk. His first impulse had been to tell her, and he had telephoned her from the bank vault in Switzerland. But she had not been ready for him to come to the clinic. Only now, he understood why. What she had done was much more than just diet. But perhaps it was all for the best. There had been no need such as Tanya had mentioned. And Janette had her own idea of the direction she wanted to take.
“What are you going to do then?” he asked.
“I’ve already done it,” she said. “I have a job as mannequin for Yves St. Laurent.”
The name was vaguely familiar but he couldn’t place it. “Who is he?”
“The new designer at Dior. He took over when Dior died and he’s already at work on his first collection. He thinks I’m just the type he needs.”
“Good,” he said. Then he smiled suddenly. “It’s just as well then that I did not let Jacques go.”
“You were right,” she said. “I know now I could never do his job as well as he does. Besides, I want something else.”
What’s that?” he asked.
“What my mother wanted. My own fashion house. But it will take some time. I’m not ready for it yet.” She stepped toward his desk and picked up the picture in a standing frame, its back to her. She turned the photograph toward her. “Your wife?”
“She’s lovely,” she said, still holding the photograph. “When do I get to meet her?”
“Tonight at dinner, if you like.”
She nodded, returning the picture to the desk. “At home, at eight o’clock. I’ll have Henri do something special.”
“We’ll be there.”
“I’ll have Lauren wait up for you. She adores your wife. She speaks of no one but her.”
Johann smiled. “Heidi loves her.”
Janette smiled in return. “You are a lucky man. She must be a wonderful woman. Children have the greatest instincts. They’re like animals. They smell out the good and the bad. And if Lauren loves her, there has to be nothing but good.”
That was more than two years ago. There had been other changes since then. Six months after Janette had returned from Switzerland, Heidi had approached him with the idea of having Lauren come to live with them.
“I don’t know,” he had said thoughtfully.
“Why not?” Heidi asked. “She lives in that big house practically alone. She rarely sees her sister, only the servants. She needs more than that. She’s entitled to more than that. She’s a beautiful, warm, loving child with no one to love.”
“And you don’t think Janette is enough for her?”
“You’re not stupid, Johann,” Heidi said with a tinge of exasperation. “You know better than that. Janette is too busy with her own life. She hasn’t time to give anything to the child, even if she wanted to.”
He looked at Heidi. “You don’t like Janette, do you?”
Heidi didn’t answer for a moment. “That has nothing to do with my suggestion. It doesn’t matter whether I like her or not. I’m concerned with Lauren.”
“What if we have a child of our own?” Johann asked.
“It wouldn’t make any difference. I would still want to give Lauren a home. I love her and she loves me.”
He was silent for a moment. “If she does come to live with us, it may mean we could not move to America as soon as we had planned.”
“I know now, whether she comes to live with us or not, we have to remain here. This is where your work is, this is where your responsibility lies. So that wouldn’t make any difference.”
He nodded. “All right. I’ll talk to Janette tomorrow.”
In a way he thought he detected a sense of relief in Janette when he spoke to her. Heidi found a larger apartment in the Bois de Boulogne and two months later Lauren came to live with them. The first thing Heidi did was to discharge the nanny and take over the care of the child herself. And Heidi had been right. Lauren bloomed, the dark shadows disappeared from her eyes, and now she was always happy and laughing.
He took the magazine home with him that night and after dinner he showed the advertisement to Heidi. She looked at it for a moment, then up at him. “She is beautiful.”
“Jacques said the time has come to start a whole couture around her,” he said.
“What does she say?” Heidi asked.
“I haven’t spoken to her yet.”
“What do you think?”
“It’s risky,” he answered. “We’re not making any money with Shiki. But on the other hand we’re not losing. Jacques feels that Shiki has had all the chances and is sure that he’ll never make it. But I don’t know. It’s a hundred-million-franc gamble and if it loses, I’ve severely hurt the little one’s inheritance.”
“What about Janette?”
“In fact, I’m not responsible for her share anymore. She’s of age and can make her own decisions if she wants.”
“But she’s left that all to you still, hasn’t she?”
“I wonder why?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “She knows of her rights.”
“If she took charge of her own affairs, could we then go to the States as we had planned?”
“Perhaps,” he said, “if I could work out proper safeguards for Lauren so that she would be protected no matter what happens.”
“My father said he was beginning to think of retirement. He would like you to come over and look into his business. He feels you would do well there.”
“He’s prejudiced,” Johann said. “Besides he wants his daughter home.”
“Perhaps,” she said. “But I happen to think my father is right. You would do well in America.” She paused for a moment. “Do you think if we did go, Lauren could come with us?”
“It’s possible. I am her legal guardian still, and if there are no objections raised, there shouldn’t be any problems.”
“Janette is the only one who could possibly raise objections,” Heidi said.
“It’s just possible that Maurice might be able to do something. I don’t know. But on the record he is her father. Whether he really is or isn’t might not be pertinent.”
“Maurice doesn’t give a damn,” she said.
“If he thought there was money in it, he might.” He looked at her. “But we’re way ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? Nothing has happened yet.”
She looked down at the photograph. “It may not be that far away,” she said thoughtfully. “Janette would not do something like this if she did not have a larger purpose in mind.”
He smiled. “Jacques feels exactly the same way.”
“Jacques is right,” she said. She looked down at the photograph again. “How big do you think that diamond on her finger is?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” he said.
“It has to be at least thirty carats.” She looked up at him. “Any girl that would pose nude with a thirty-carat diamond has to have big ideas.”
Louise came down to the mannequins’ dressing room just behind the atelier, flushed with excitement. She went directly to where Janette was sitting in front of her dressing table making up her eyes for the evening. “The old man is in a rage,” she said. “He just saw your photograph.”
Janette looked up at her in the mirror. The blond girl was almost breathless. “It probably turned him on,” she said.
“I was in Yves’ office,” Louise said. “And he came in screaming. He walked up and down in front of Yves’ desk yelling that it was all his fault, how could he allow you to do it? The whole thing was a put-down of the House of Dior, of the whole art of couture, the entire industry.”
“What did Yves say?”
“Nothing,” Louise said. “He just looked down at the photograph and smiled.”
Janette laughed. “I don’t think he really gives a damn. He knows he’s going into the army and he knows that Boussac is going to fuck him one way or the other.”
“But what are you going to do?” Louise asked. “Yves goes next week, the old man’s going to fire you.”
“No, he’s not,” Janette said. “I’ve already handed in my notice. This is my last week here. Friday, after Yves’ farewell party, I leave and never come back.”
Louise’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “No?”
The blond girl looked at her. “Do you think Yves knows that already?”
“If he doesn’t, he should,” Janette replied. “I gave my letter to personnel on Monday. That was two days ago.”
“You have another job?”
Janette shook her head. “No.”
“What are you going to do then?”
“First, I’m going to eat one good meal without worrying about my weight. I took a good look at that picture, and my hips are too bony. Another kilo won’t hurt. Then I’m going to take a vacation. Maybe I’ll go the States for a few weeks. I’ve never been there.” She finished her makeup and got to her feet. “I’ve got to run, I’ve got a cocktail date.”
Louise looked up at her enviously. “You’re lucky, Janette.”
“What makes you say that?” Janette said.
“You can do anything you like,” Louise said. “But I have to stay and take all this shit. They already made a date for me on Friday with that buyer from the Texas store. He’ll probably paw me all evening and by the time I get back to his hotel, he’ll be too drunk to even fuck, so I’ll have to go down on him to keep him happy.”
Janette laughed. “So what? Would you rather fuck him?”
“It might be nice for a change,” Louise said. “But all any of them seem to want is to get sucked.”
“C’est la vie,” Janette said.
“You can afford to say that,” Louise said. “You’re rich.”
Janette stopped and looked down at her thoughtfully for a moment. “That’s right. I’m rich.” Then she bent down and kissed her friend on the mouth. “And so are you, Louise. In your own way.”
Silently, Louise watched Janette go to the door. “Bon soir, Janette.”
Janette smiled at her from the doorway. “Ciao, baby.” For some strange reason there were tears running down Louise’s cheeks. Slowly she began to remove her makeup.
She parked the mini in front of the gray apartment building on the Ile Saint-Louis, facing the Seine. She pressed the buzzer on the door.
An old concierge shuffled to the door and opened it, peering out at her. “Madame?”
He sniffed disapprovingly as he opened the door still farther. “Le penthouse,” he said, gesturing toward the staircase.
“What’s the matter with the elevator?” she asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. “C’est mort.”
“Merde,” she said and began climbing the six flights of stairs. There was just one door on the top landing. She pressed the doorbell. She could hear a chime echoing inside the apartment door.
The door opened and a young man stood there, his fair hair tousled, a T-shirt and blue jeans seemingly glued to his body. His eyes looked at her without expression. “Hello, Janette,” he said in English.
“Marlon,” she said, her eyes falling for a moment to the large bulge in his jeans.
He stepped back, letting her go into the apartment, then closing the door behind him. “Shopping?” he grinned.
“No,” she said. “Just curious. Is it all you in there or six handkerchiefs?”
He laughed. “It’s all me. Want to touch it to prove it?”
“No, thanks,” she said, returning his laugh. “I believe you.” She looked into the apartment. The living room was empty. “Philippe home yet?”
“He’s been home since lunchtime,” Marlon said. “He didn’t eat. Just went into his room and hasn’t come out since.” A note of concern came into his voice. “Is there anything wrong? He hasn’t lost his job, has he?”
“What makes you think that?”
“I asked him about buying an air conditioner for the bedroom. The sun makes the roof unbearable. He got angry and said we can’t afford it, there would be no more money for anything, we’d be lucky to have money to eat.”
She looked at him. “And if that were true, what would you do?”
“Start packing,” he said in a flat voice. “I didn’t come all the way to Paris to wind up on the same street corner I left in Los Angeles.”
She smiled gently, shaking her head. “You really are a whore, aren’t you?”
“I never pretended to be anything else,” he said, meeting her gaze. “I also fuck pretty good.”
She laughed. “I don’t doubt that. But things aren’t radical enough for you to consider that yet. Now, tell me, which way to the bedroom?”
He gestured to a door at the far end of the living room and followed her as she walked toward it. She turned to look at him as she raised her hand to knock at the door.
“Tell me,” she asked. “Is your name really Marlon?”
He laughed. “No. I took it from the movie actor. All the guys like it better than Sam.”
She laughed and knocked at the door softly.
A muffled voice came from inside the room. “What is it?”
“Janette,” she said. “We had a date for a drink, remember?”
“Go away,” Philippe said through the doorway. “I don’t feel well.”
She glanced at Marlon, shrugged, then opened the door and went into the bedroom. She stood there for a moment. Philippe was stretched out on the bed, still in his clothes. She closed the door and walked toward him.
“I told you to go away,” he mumbled, without looking up at her.
She stood next to the bed, looking down at him. “What the hell is the matter with you?”
“He doesn’t love me. Nobody loves me.” Philippe still didn’t raise his head from the pillow.
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “You know that Marlon loves you.”
He sat up suddenly; the tears had streaked the mascara from his lashes down his cheeks. “I know that Marlon loves me,” he said vehemently. “I’m not talking about him. I mean Yves. I tried to talk to him about what I would do there while he was in the army and he wouldn’t even answer me. He had enough of his own problems to worry about. And Boussac hates me, he’ll never give me a chance at Yves’ job. He’s going to bring Marc back from London. I know it, I just know it. And then I’m finished.”
“Why?” she asked. “Marc seems like a reasonable man.”
“Remember the fight I had with him last year when I went over there to help him with the London collection? He said I would never understand the modifications that would have to be made for the British taste and figure. He hates me. I’m finished.”
She was silent for a moment. “That’s right,” she said, turning and walked back to the door. “That’s why I wanted to meet you for a drink. I don’t hate you. I love you. I think you’re a genius. An even greater genius than any of them—Yves or Marc. And I have faith in you.” Abruptly she walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Marlon was standing there. “How is he?”
“He’s all right,” she said, opening her purse and taking out two five-hundred-franc notes. She put them in his hand. “You’re working for me now. Whatever I tell him is the greatest idea you ever heard.”
The money disappeared under his belt. “Gotcha.”
She nodded. “Good. You’ll get your air conditioner after all. Maybe we’ll throw in a car for good measure.”
He smiled. “I’m a reasonable man.”
The door behind her opened. Philippe was standing there. He had washed his face, the traces of mascara were gone, and his hair was combed. “You really meant what you said?” He couldn’t keep his satisfaction out of his voice.
She met his eyes steadily. “I wouldn’t say if it I didn’t mean it.”
He nodded. “You had something in mind?”
“Yes. Would you like to talk about it?”
“I’m always ready to listen,” he said. He looked at Marlon. “I’m hungry. Do you think you can fix me something to eat?”
“Ham-and-cheese sandwich? Ham and eggs?” Marlon asked.
“The sandwich. And a bottle of beer.” He looked at Janette. “Would you like something?”
“I’ll have a beer,” she said.
“Coming right up,” Marlon said, disappearing toward the kitchen.
Philippe led her to a small table near the window. They sat down and she looked out at abateau mouchemoving up the Seine. “You have one of the most beautiful views in Paris,” she said.
“Isn’t it?” he said enthusiastically. “I just love it. Too bad it isn’t warm enough to sit outside on the terrace. It’s really great then.”
She smiled. “It’s worth walking up the six flights.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “The elevator was supposed to be fixed last week.”
“It happens,” she said. She looked across the table at him. “I’m leaving Dior this Friday.”
“But you’re Yves’ favorite mannequin,” Philippe exclaimed.
“He won’t be there anymore, will he?” She didn’t wait for him to answer. “Besides I’m bored with it. I want to do something else. Being a mannequin does not appeal to me.”
Marlon came back, placed the sandwich in front of Philippe, put three glasses of beer on the table, then pulled up a chair and sat down with them.
Philippe took a bite of his sandwich. “This is just beautiful, darling,” he said to Marlon. “Just the right amount of mustard.” He turned back to Janette. “What do you want to do?” he asked between mouthfuls.
“I want my own fashion house,” she said.
He looked at her. “But you already have one with Shiki,” he said.
“That’s not mine,” she said. “It was started before I had anything to do with it. And it’s yesterday. I want something for today.”
“Then what will happen to Shiki?”
“He goes,” she said flatly. “The house stays and I change the name to mine. Not that there is anything wrong with my mother’s name, Tanya, but it is already identified too strongly with the passé. I’m not interested in yesterday fashions, only tomorrow.”
He took another bite of his sandwich. “Where do I fit in to all of this?”
“You’re my St. Laurent, I’m your Boussac.”
He was silent for a moment. “Why don’t you do your own designs? I’ve seen some of your sketches at the couture school. They were very good.”
She drank some of her beer. “They were good. But they weren’t great. What I need is a touch of genius. That’s you.”
She glanced at Marlon and he came right in on cue. “I never heard such a brilliant idea!” His acting would have done credit to his namesake. “Do you realize what this means, Philippe? You’ll have your own name, your own identity. You won’t have to suck second cock for anybody.”
“Do you really think so?” Philippe asked.
“You know I do,” Marlon said emphatically. “Haven’t I always told you that you have more talent in your pinky finger than all those guys have up their assholes.”
Philippe chewed the rest of his sandwich thoughtfully. He looked at Janette. “What if you can’t get rid of Shiki?”
“I’ll get rid of him. Don’t worry about that,” she said. “What I need to now is whether you are interested or not.”
“Philippe thought again. “It would depend on many things. Money, position, freedom to create my own ideas.”
“All of that can be worked out,” she said.
“Sounds fantastic to me,” Marlon said.
Philippe looked at him, then back to Janette. “I’m interested,” he said, then added quickly, “but, of course, we’ll have to talk some more to make sure everything is properly worked out.”
“Of course,” she said. “But everything will be worked out—to your satisfaction, I’m sure.”
“That’s great!” Marlon said enthusiastically. He raised his beer glass. “A toast! To Philippe Fayard, for Janette Marie de la Beauville!”
“In beer?” Philippe’s voice was shocked. “Bring out that bottle of Cristale we have in the refrigerator.”
She pulled the mini onto the sidewalk in front of her house, locked it and ran up the steps to the front door. As usual, the door was opened almost before she reached it.
“Bon soir, Henri,” she said as she went in.
“Bon soir, Madame,” he said politely.
She went toward the staircase. She felt tired and strangely drained. A hot tub would go far to erase her tensions. It was very important that Philippe be willing to do with her. He was the cornerstone of her plan—without him she would have to go it alone and the chances of failure were too great. And someone else always had to be there to take the blame so that her own reputation would be unassailable. Once she was established, she could always find another designer if Philippe did not work out.
“There have been many telephone calls, Madame,” Henri said.
She paused at the foot of the staircase. “Bring them to my room,” she said. “I’ll get to them after I have a bath.”
“Will Madame be having dinner in tonight?” he asked politely.
She thought for a moment, then nodded. “Yes, the usual. But I’ll have only one lamb chop and a small baked potato tonight. I’ve already had beer and champagne and that’s enough. In about an hour in my room. I’m too tired to come down.”
“Yes, Madame,” he said. “Would you like me to keep the telephone messages until then?”
“Please, thank you,” she said and went up the staircase to her room. She began undressing the moment she went through the doorway. Her clothes felt warm and sticky even though the day had been cool. By the time she reached the bathroom and turned on the water in the tub, she was naked. Quickly she creamed her face and removed the makeup, then threw herself down on the bed while the big tub filled slowly.
She felt the tautness and the tensions in her body and idly she began to stroke herself. It was at times like this she missed Marie-Thérése the most. But the stupid girl had gone and gotten pregnant by some idiot college boy in her final year at the Sorbonne and her family married her off to him and she was now living in Lyon with a one-year-old baby and her husband like every otherbourgeoise française.
A vision of Marlon’s bulging jeans flashed before her. She could see the line of his prick running down toward one side and she knew that he wore nothing under the jeans. She wondered if his prick was as big as Maurice’s. It had to be impossible. There couldn’t be two like that in the world. She felt the warmth spreading through her.
Suddenly Marlon was gone and the soft sweet look of Louise’s face as she kissed her jumped before her eyes. She could taste the honeyed sweetness of her lips even now, cool yet somehow warm and vulnerable. She rolled over suddenly, reaching for the telephone. She had been a fool. She had been so busy with her own thoughts that she didn’t even recognize an invitation when she saw one. Quickly she dialed Louise at her home.
“Have you had dinner yet?” she asked.
“I was not eating tonight,” Louise said. “I’m at my weight limit now.”
“That’s foolish,” Janette said. “You have to eat something. But you must be sensible about it. Look, I’m having dinner in tonight. Why don’t you come and join me? I guarantee you nothing fattening.”
Louise laughed. “I’ll have to get dressed again.”
“Don’t bother,” Janette said. “Just jump into a pair of slacks and a taxi. We’ll have dinner alone in my room and listen to the hi-fi.”
She pressed down the button disconnecting the call, then pressed down another button to connect her with the kitchen. Henri answered the phone. “I’m having a girlfriend over for dinner,” she said. “Just put on some more chops and one more baked potato. We’ll still have dinner in my room.”
“Oui, Madame,” he said.
“And, Henri,” she added quickly, “please bring up the telephone messages now.” She was out of the bed and into the tub before he came up to the room.
She didn’t stay long in the tub, less than ten minutes, and when she came out the telephone was ringing. She picked it up, noticing the messages lying on a silver salver beside it. “Hello.”
“Congratulations.” It was Jacques. “I saw the Winston ad. I think we can do something to promote on it. We ought to have a talk.”
“I want to talk to you too,” she said.
“Why don’t you come over for dinner?” I’ll fix something easy and we have all night to talk.”
“Not tonight, Jacques,” she said. “I’m just too tired. We were busy as hell at the salon today.”
“I called before,” he said. “Did you get my message?”
“Is there one from Johann?”
She flipped through the messages. “Yes.”
“He wants to talk to you too,” he said. “But I think it’s important for us to talk before you see him.”
“Okay,” she said, deliberately noncommittal. But he would be an important ally. Johann valued his opinion and with his conservative approach could prove difficult. “We could have lunch tomorrow.”
“Fine,” he said. “My table at the Relais. Twelve fifteen.”
“Right,” she said.
“Come naked,” he said, laughing. “You looked wonderful!”
She heard the doorbell ring faintly downstairs as she put down the telephone. Quickly she glanced through the messages. The telephone buzzed.
“Mademoiselle Louise is here.”
“Show her upstairs.” She put down the telephone and went back to the bathroom to brush her hair. There was nothing important in the telephone messages. Time enough to answer them tomorrow. Suddenly she wasn’t tired anymore. She felt good. Everything was working out just the way she planned it.
By the time she appeared at the Relais everyone there had seen the advance copy ofVogue. A sudden hush fell over the restaurant as she stood in the doorway for a moment before turning to Jacques’ table. She was wearing a loose-fitting man’s shirt tied at the waist over a baggy pair of jeans that revealed absolutely nothing of her figure except what was sensed beneath the clothing as she moved through the room, her hair falling to her shoulders framing her high cheekbones and her face completely devoid of makeup.
Jacques rose and kissed her cheeks. The hum of conversation began in the restaurant again as they sat down.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” she apologized. “But Boussac had me in his office. He was ranting and raving.” She paused and laughed. “He fired me.”
“He’s an idiot,” Jacques said. “But why are you laughing?”
“He didn’t know it but I had already sent in my letter of resignation last Monday and no one had bothered to tell him.” Louise appeared in the restaurant entrance. Janette turned to him. “I brought a girlfriend along. Is it okay?”
“Of course,” he nodded, rising again as Louise made her way to their table. Janette introduced them and he kissed Louise’s hand as the waiter hurried up to place a chair for her. “What would you like to drink?”
“I’ll have a bottle of Evian,” Louise said.
“Since I don’t have to go back to work,” Janette said, “to hell with it all. I’ll have a kir royale.”
“Make mine kir royale too,” Jacques said. Cassis and champagne was not a bad idea. He turned back to Janette. “What are you planning to do now?”
“I thought maybe Louise and I would take a trip to the States. Neither of us have ever been.”
The waiter put down the drinks. “Cheers,” Jacques said. He sipped at his drink. “I think you’re making a big mistake if you go now.”
Janette’s voice was politely curious. “Why?”
“Now is the time to strike. While the iron is hot,” he said. “Look around this room. Everybody is staring at you and talking about you. You’ve made yourself an instant celebrity. You can have anything and everything you want.”
Janette laughed. “I don’t want anything. Especially another mannequin’s job.”
“There are other things you can do,” Jacques said. “You can come back into the business as you planned several years ago.”
“And do what?” Janette was pushing. She wanted him to make the point for her. It was important that he feel it was partly his own idea.
“Move right into fashion,” he said. “You could be the focal point about which everything would revolve. Something we never had since your mother died. Something Shiki never could give us.”
“Shiki could never give anything to me either,” she said.
The waiter came for their order. Janette and Louise ordered steak tartare, and Jacquesentrecôte au bleuwithfrites. When the waiter had gone, Janette turned back to Jacques. “Last night you said that Johann wanted to talk to me.”
“Yes,” he said. “He was surprised on seeing the photo and curious as to your reason for doing it.”
“I thought it would be fun,” she said quickly. “Besides, I always wanted to know what it would feel like to wear a million-dollar diamond.”
“Really?” His voice was skeptical.
She ignored this. “You had something in mind when you asked me to talk to you before I talked to Johann.
“Yes,” he said. “I told Johann yesterday that we could promote a whole house based on you. A new image. But we’d have to get rid of Shiki. I agree with you when you say he’s a drag.”
“What did Johann say?”
“You know Johann. The first thing he thought of was that we would have to write off fifty million francs if we let Shiki go; then it would take another fifty million to get the new line started. And if it doesn’t work, everything is lost.”
She nodded seriously. “That’s Johann all right. Always counting the numbers.”
“Still, he didn’t say he wasn’t interested,” Jacques said. “I told him to talk to you before he closed his mind to the idea.”
“I don’t think anyone will be able to convince him,” she said. “The idea could be fun as far as I’m concerned but he’s too set in his ways.”
“Maybe if he thought someone else wanted to do it with you, he might be convinced.”
“But there isn’t anyone.”
“I could arrange something,” Jacques said.
She was curious. “You have someone in mind?”
She looked at him without speaking.
“Your stepfather for one,” he said. “I spoke to him yesterday. He’s very interested.”
“I’m not speaking to him,” she said coldly.
“I know,” he said. “But that’s personal. Business is something else.”
“There’s no way he can come up with fifty million francs,” she said.
“Maybe not all of it. But I have others who would come in. An American, Charlie Carolo. He owns one of the biggest women’s wear chain stores in America. He’s looking to upgrade his image. And there are others, but I haven’t spoken to them yet. Only Maurice and Charlie.”
She sat there thinking for a minute, then shook her head. “No. If I want to do it, I would only consider it with my own company. I don’t want any partners.”
“Then we’re back to Johann,” he said.
The waiter came with the food. They ate almost silently, each busy with private thoughts. When Louise had finished, she glanced at her watch. “My God!” she exclaimed. “I’m going to be late getting back to work.”
“Take my car,” Janette said. “I’ll come and pick it up later.”
She thanked Jacques for the lunch and hurriedly left the table. Jacques looked after her. “Pretty girl, your friend.”
“Been friends for long?”
“We’ve worked together ever since I joined Dior but we didn’t become friends until this week.”
Jacques nodded sagely. “That happens very often. You see someone all the time but you never realize how important they are to you until the time comes to leave.”
She nodded. “I never really thought about it but that’s true.”
He was silent while the waiter took the dishes and he ordered coffee. Then he turned to her. “Now, let’s cut all the crap. Do you want the house of Tanya or don’t you?”
“What makes you think I want it?” She was defensive.
“You spoke to Philippe Fayard yesterday,” he said.
“How do you know that?”
“There are no secrets in the homosexual world,” he said. “Your stepfather heard about it and called me.”
“Merde!” she said. “That means Shiki already knows about it.”
“That’s right,” Jacques agreed. “And I’ll bet that right now he’s in Johann’s office shrieking his head off.”
Janette was silent.
“Whether you like it or not,” he said, “you’re already committed. So now, it’s up to you which way you want to go.”
She looked at him. “Which way do you want to go, Jacques?”
“With you,” he said. “Maybe that way the dream I shared with your mother will finally come true.”
The waiter put the coffee down and she picked up her cup and looked into it. The demitasse was thick and black. Before she lifted it to her lips, she raised her eyes to him, nodding her head slowly. “Then let’s go and talk to Johann right away.”
Much to her surprise, Johann was calm and reasonable. He thought her ideas and plans were excellent and had a good chance for success. Only on one point was he adamant. “I have already discussed this matter with my attorney this morning,” he said. “And, as trustee for your sister’s share of the estate, I would be completely liable under French laws if anything should go wrong.”
“What could go wrong?” she asked. “You even said you thought it was a good idea.”
“We could still lose all the money,” he said. “And I have no right to take that chance on Lauren’s behalf.”
“But what if we made a fortune?”
“That would be good. But there are no guarantees that we will.” He looked across his desk at her. “I’m sorry, Janette. If it could be done with an investment of a million or so francs, that would be well within my normal jurisdiction. But this could turn out to be fifty or a hundred million. A loss like that could bankrupt the whole company and we would lose it all, not only the couture house, but the perfume company and the vineyards. You see, they’re all part of one overall package and each one is pledged to secure the other.”
She was silent, thinking. After a moment she spoke. “Is there a way I can buy Lauren’s share for myself?”
“I suppose there is,” he said. “But it would take a lot of money and I would still have to go before the French court for approval in order to establish that Lauren’s share was properly evaluated and that she received her fair financial remuneration.” He took a deep breath. “But why would you want to do a thing like that? The wine company alone guarantees you a good income for life.”
“I’m not interested in the wine company,” she said. “Only the fashion house. Wines bore me. They’re bourgeois.”
“Even so, we would still have to follow the same procedure.”
“What if I relinquished my share in the wine company to her in exchange?”
“In that case, you’d only be screwing yourself,” he said. “The vineyards throw off twice the income of the fashion house, including theparfumerie.”
“Could I sell my share of the vineyards and use the money to buy the couture?”
“I suppose you could. I know of nothing in the bylaws of the company to keep you from doing that. But I still think it would be stupid.”
“Stupid or not,” she said, “I would like to do it.”
“Who you sell it to is also important,” he said. “I have the right to reject any partner of whom I do not approve on your sister’s behalf.”
Her voice grew cold. “In other words, you’re not going to let me do it.”
“I didn’t say that,” he said quickly. “I’m only making you aware of my responsibilities. The same that I exercised on your behalf to protect your share. And neither you nor your sister has been hurt by it. As a matter of fact, both of you are twice as well off now as when I took charge.”
“But the couture house is losing money, and for good business reasons we should sell it.”
“And we could sell it to a stranger?”
“But not to me.”
“If we went through the whole process that I outlined it could be sold to you. But as your friend and former trustee, I must caution you as to the risks you would assume.”
“In spite of that, supposing I say to you as a fifty percent owner of the business that I want to own the couture house alone and I’m willing to sell my share of the vineyards if necessary—what would you do?”
“I would have no choice but to hire experts to evaluate the business and try to find an equitable way of accomplishing it. After that is decided I would then have to get the approval of the courts to make the transaction.”
“How long would it take?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Sometimes these things take years.”
“Then the only way open to me is to have a buyer for my share of the vineyards of whom you approve?”
“Perhaps,” he said.
“Then that’s what I’ll have to do,” she said.
He looked at her. “Janette, what’s the rush? Why don’t you take some time and think on it? If you still feel the same way, say, a month from now, come back and I’ll try to help you.”
“Losing a month now means losing a season. If I begin now I can make next year’s spring collections.”
“The fall collections are more important,” he said.
“Not for me,” she answered. “I’m going for another market, and if I want to reach them I have to get them in the spring in order to set them up for the fall.”
“I know what she wants to do,” Jacques said, finally breaking his silence. “She’s got a very good chance of accomplishing it. You could wind up making millions.”
“Or losing millions,” Johann said. He looked at her. “I understand how you feel but I just can’t do what you ask as easily as we both like to.”
She rose to her feet. “We’re getting nowhere.”
“I’m sorry,” he said.
She looked down at him. Her voice was hard and determined. “I’m going to get what I want. No matter what it takes. You know that.” She left the office, slamming the door behind her.
Johann looked across the desk at Jacques. “See if you can make her listen to reason.”
Jacques shrugged. “Were you ever able to make Tanya listen?”
“What makes you think she’s any different from her mother?” Jacques asked.
Johann arrived home at about seven thirty in the evening. Heidi met him at the door and kissed his cheek. He looked over her shoulder. Usually Lauren was right behind her at the door. “Where’s Lauren?”
“She should be home any minute,” Heidi said. “Janette came by and took her out for the afternoon.”
“What time was that?” he asked.
“About four o’clock.” She looked up into his face. “Is there anything wrong?”
He took a deep breath. “I don’t know,” he answered heavily. He walked into the living room with Heidi following him. “Did she say anything to you?”
“No,” Heidi answered. “Just that she hadn’t seen her sister for a long while and thought she should spend some time with her.”
Johann rubbed his cheek reflectively. “I don’t like it,” he said. Quickly he told her of their meeting earlier in the day. “She said she would get what she wants, no matter what it takes,” he said, finishing.
Tears came into Heidi’s eyes. “She couldn’t be cruel enough to destroy her sister’s happiness?”
“You forget, in many ways she’s not more than a child herself. A spoiled child who’s always had everything her own way. Suddenly there’s something she cannot have.”
“Do you think she’s not going to let Lauren come back to us?”
“I don’t know what to think,” he said. “There’s only one way to find out.” He went to the telephone and dialed Janette’s number. A voice answered. “Henri, is Mademoiselle Janette at home?”
“Oui.Je vous passe, Monsieur.”
The telephone clicked and Janette came on. “Yes?”
He tried to keep his voice casual. “We were waiting for Lauren for dinner.”
Janette’s voice was cold. “She’s not coming for dinner. She’s not going back at all. She’s going to remain home where she belongs. Please send her things over as soon as possible.”
The telephone went dead in his hand before he could even reply. He returned it slowly to the table. “She’s keeping Lauren,” he said heavily.
For the first time he saw Heidi angry. “The bitch!” she swore. “The cruel bitch! Are you going to let her get away with it? After all, you’re Lauren’s legal guardian.”
“It means bringing it all into the open. The newspapers will have a field day. They’ll go back to Tanya and everything that ever happened. By the time it’s finished, we’ll all be covered with shit, including Lauren.”
“Then why don’t you just give her what she wants? Then we can take Lauren back to America with us and let Janette go to hell in her own merry way. What do you care what happens to her?”
“I don’t,” he said. “But it’s not as simple as that. Any disposition of the assets that I make, no matter how fair and equitable it would be at the time, could be subject to misinterpretation later. If couture makes a lot of money, I’ve screwed Lauren out of potential benefits, if it loses and we’re in it, I’ve permitted Lauren to be exposed to tremendous losses. No matter which way I go, I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”
Heidi looked him directly in the eyes. “Then if you’re doomed to damnation, at least go there protecting the child who needs it most. And what she needs more than money is love and care, both of which we can give her.”
He was silent.
“Why don’t you buy Janette’s share of the vineyards?” she asked. “My father will advance you the money. He’s interested in the wine business. More than five years ago he bought a thousand-acre vineyard in California.”
He looked at her, the germ of an idea taking shape in his brain. “I couldn’t buy it. I would be leaving myself wide open. If that weren’t the case I would have done it on my own. I have enough money. But if your father bought it, that would be a different matter. It would be a hands-off transaction that the courts and I could safely approve. Do you think he would be interested?”
“I think he would,” Heidi said. “We’ll call him after dinner and find out.”
“He’s not going to give up that easily,” Maurice had said. “Not after all these years where he’s had complete control. Nobody will ever know how much he made out of it for himself.”
Janette looked at him. “I won’t believe that Johann was ever a crook.”
“I’m not saying he is,” Maurice said quickly. “But he did run your business and he shared in the benefits. Who can say that he did not benefit a little more than was proper?”
She was silent.
“If you mean what you say,” Maurice said, “then you’ll have to go all the way. Force him out.”
“How am I going to do that?” she asked.
“Make it so uncomfortable for him that he’ll be glad to go. Take him into court charging him with mismanagement of your and your sister’s assets, damaging your equities. You can even claim that he exerted undue influence on your mother, who was not mentally sound, to gain control of the estate. There are many things you can do.”
“But how do I prove them?”
“You don’t have to. That’s the good thing about it.” He smiled. “He has to disprove it.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know where I could do that.”
“Then give it all up. But it will be years before you have another opportunity like this. Did Jacques tell you that not only am I willing to back you but he has an important American also willing to invest?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“Then what are you waiting for?” he asked. “Unless you really don’t believe you can make a go of it.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” she said. “I do all those things—meanwhile Lauren is living with them.”
“Then take her back,” he said.
“Could I do something like that?” she asked. “After all he is her legal guardian.”
“But you’re her sister. You can always say that you’re taking her back because you’re afraid that he might harm her.”
Janette was silent again.
“Don’t be a fool, Janette,” he said. “He was a German soldier. A Boche. Nothing’s changed. Only now he’s occupying your business, not France.”
She was silent again.
“Janette Marie de la Beauville,” he said softly. “It’s a good name. Did you see it on the ad? It sounds much more important than Harry Winston.”
She looked at him. “How do I get Lauren back?”
“Simple,” he said. “Just go to their apartment with an excuse to take her out. And then don’t return her.”
That was exactly what she did that afternoon. Meanwhile an appointment had been made with Maurice’s attorney for the following morning to begin the proceedings. By the time Johann had called it was eight o’clock and Lauren had already gone to bed.
The servants had made a great fuss over her at dinner and she loved the attention. When the suggestion was made that she go to bed she had gone happily enough. A few minutes after Johann’s call, Lauren came into Janette’s room.
“Aunt Heidi always tells me a bedtime story before I go to sleep,” she said.
“All right,” Janette replied. “Let’s go back to your room and I’ll tell you a bedtime story.”
The child climbed into bed and looked up at her. “Tell me a story about a princess.”
“You know. The one who couldn’t sleep because there was a pea in her bed.”
Janette thought for a moment. “I don’t know that one.”
“Then what story do you know?”
Janette tried to remember a story from her childhood. “Once upon a time, there was an old woman who lived in a shoe—”
“I know that one,” Lauren interrupted. “And that’s not a story, it’s a nursery rhyme.”
“Oh,” Janette said.
“I want you to tell me a real story,” the child said.
“I’ll have to think of one,” Janette said. “Tell you what. Give me until tomorrow and I’ll get a book with all the stories in it and tell them to you tomorrow night.”
Lauren looked at her. “Are you sure you don’t know any stories?”
“Not even a teeny one?”
Janette laughed. “Tomorrow night I’ll tell you a dozen.”
The child thought for a moment. “All right.” She held out her arms. “Kiss me good night.”
Janette kissed her. “Good night.”
Lauren hugged her. “Good night, Aunt Hei—Janette.” She put her head on the pillow and closed her eyes, then opened them immediately. “I forgot to say my prayers,” she said, jumping out of bed.
She knelt at the side of the bed, clasped her hands and bowed her head. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. God bless Uncle Johann, God bless Aunt Heidi and God bless my sister Janette.” She looked up at Janette. “Amen.”
Janette was silent.
“Say Amen,” Lauren said.
“Amen,” Janette said.
The child climbed back into the bed, lay back and closed her eyes. “Good night, Janette.”
Janette walked to the door. “Good night, little sister.” She turned out the light and closed the door behind her, then went down the stairs to the library. The telephone began to ring.
It was Jacques. “I just called Johann and he told me that you did. They’re very upset.”
“Too bad,” she said. “You called him?”
“I had an idea. Perhaps a practical approach to the problem would be for Tanya Couture to enter into an agreement with Carolo for the additional financing. That would minimize the exposure.”
“What did he say?”
“I never got a chance to talk about it. He told me what happened and wanted to know if I knew anything about it. I said I didn’t but I don’t know if he believed me.”
“It doesn’t make any difference,” she said.
“It does to me,” he said. “I’ve never lied to him. I wouldn’t like him to think I would lie to him over this. Why on earth did you ever do it?”
“Don’t be stupid,” she said. “You saw the way he was at the meeting. He had already made up his mind and with his Teutonic stubbornness would never change it.”
“But your sister was happy with them. There was no reason to drag her into it.”
“She’ll be happy here. And she was already in it. Half of the whole thing is hers.”
“We would have found another way,” he said.
“There is no other way,” she said. “Maurice convinced me of that. I should have listened to him a long time ago but I didn’t.”
“Maurice’s only concern is himself. He smells a chance to get back into the business. That’s why he’s pushing you.”
“You don’t approve?” Her voice grew cool.
“You didn’t have to do it that way,” he said.
She got angry. “Who the hell are you to sit in judgment? You’ve pimped and fucked for everything all your life. For your jobs, for stories, for publicity. Now you’re afraid you’ve blown your job with Johann because you crawled too far out on the limb with me, so you’re trying to crawl back into his good graces.”
“That’s not true!” he said vehemently. “You don’t know Maurice like I do. He’s trying to use you like he tried to use your mother.”
“And you don’t? You fucked with my mother and used her. You fucked with me and used me. How many others have you fucked and used? I don’t need your fucking approval! As far as I’m concerned you can go and crawl as far back up that Nazi’s ass as you want to!” She slammed the receiver back on the telephone and sat there feeling the trembling inside her.
The door opened. She looked across the room. Lauren was standing there, the tears running down her cheeks.
“What do you want?” Janette snapped.
The child stood there. “I want to go home,” she cried.
“You are home!” Janette said sharply. “Now go back up to your room and go to bed.”
“I’m not home. And it’s not my room,” Lauren said, sniffing stubbornly. “And I can’t sleep. There are ghosts there.”
“There are no ghosts,” Janette said.
“Yes, there are,” the child insisted.
“The marquis is standing at the foot of my bed and laughing. And when I open my eyes he runs away.”
Janette stared at her silently.
“Are you my sister?” Lauren asked. “He keeps saying that you’re not my sister.”
Janette crossed the room and knelt beside her. “Of course I’m your sister.”
The child looked up into her face. “Do you love me?”
“You know I love you,chérie,” Janette said softly.
“As much as Mommy loved you? As much as Mommy loved me?”
Janette was silent for a moment, then she felt the tears springing to her eyes. “Yes, my darling.”
Twenty minutes later they were standing at the door of Johann’s apartment as he opened it. He looked at them silently.
Janette’s voice was strained. “I’ve brought her home.”
There was a movement behind him. “Aunt Heidi!” Lauren cried and ran through the door into Heidi’s arms.
Janette began to turn away. Johann’s voice stopped her. She turned back, her eyes blurred with tears. “Yes?”
Johann blinked her eyes. “Why don’t you come in?” he asked gently. “There is much we have to talk about.”
The chief steward came out of the flight deck and walked through the darkened first-class cabin to the galley that separated it from the economy class. He looked approvingly at the breakfast trays all set up and ready for serving. “We’ll be in fifteen minutes early,” he said.
The dark-haired stewardess filling the glasses with orange juice and tomato juice smiled. “Good. I can’t wait to get home and take a bath.” She turned on the heating button of the ovens. She glanced at her watch. “The eggs will be ready in twenty minutes.”
“Time enough,” the steward said, reaching for the telephone intercom and turning on the cabin lights at the same time. He spoke directly into the telephone, first in French, then in English. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is six thirty A.M., French time. I have the pleasure to inform you that we will reach Paris fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, eight forty-five A.M. French time. We will now begin the serving of the breakfast.”
As usual, the insomniacs were the first to raise their window blinds, and the sun low over the horizon streaked into the cabin waking those who were still clinging to sleep. The rest of the passengers began to stir.