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Title: Third Time Lucky
Series: The Eagle Chronicles.
Word Count 15668
Summary Steven goes to a funeral and rekindles an old relationship.
Notes: The majority of this series was written over 20 years ago and I like to think that my style has improved since then. I've been told that I should probably edit them before I post like this but I can't edit myself. To me it looks fine. If you see a section that needs work, please tell me!





31. Third Time Lucky


March 1963

Steven Taylor flipped through the newspaper listlessly. His son was off on holiday with some school friends and he couldn't think of anything to do to pass the time. He threw down the paper only to have it open to the obituaries. "Oh, great, I'm looking at how I feel: dead." A name caught his eye. Moreland. He knew he had met a Moreland once, sometime. He picked up the paper and read:

Moreland, Charles A. Died Tuesday 12 April of pneumonia. Mr. Moreland was owner of the Moreland Publishing House and its subsidiaries, an estimated worth of in excess of £500,000. He is survived by one son, Andrew, and his wife Alison, née Montclair. Memorial services will be held Saturday, 16 April 1.00pm at the Armitage Funeral Parlor.

He knew he knew a Moreland! He had met him in 1943, a month or so before he had been kidnapped and taken to Germany. It was when he had been seeing Alison again. He had been quite serious about her then. He had only seen her once again before the war ended, then nothing until now. He had to go to the funeral.

*******************************************************

One o'clock found him sitting in the back of the chapel, listening to the service begin. He tried to catch a glimpse of her, but she was too far in front. Afterwards, giving condolences, he'd see her then. The service was short and quiet. A hymn or two were sung and Andrew read one of his father's favorite poems. Not a bad-looking kid. Definitely has his mother's eyes.

When the service was over, Steven hung back, unsure of how to approach her after twenty years. The hell with it. He joined the line. He saw her face and noticed how kind the years had been to her. She looked in his direction and he quickly turned away. He wasn't ready for talking just yet; he didn't know what to say. Finally, he was in front of her, putting forth his right hand to shake hers and offer his condolences. She noticed his signet ring and looked up, startled. "Steven--your Grace, thank you for coming."

"It's still Steven for you. I read about it in the paper and I had to come. Even though the last time I saw him was a little over twenty years ago."

"So much has changed since then." She changed her tone. "Oh, we're holding up the line. Please stand beside me."

"I feel somewhat out of place. I mean, Charles and I were once. . ."

"Rivals? Nonsense. You were always comforting, even when you weren't there." He looked at her questioningly. "Just knowing there was someone like you." He smiled and agreed to stay.

When the service was over, Steven offered to drive her home. "What about Andrew?"

"He's included in the invitation." He smiled. "I don't want you to think of this as anything other than a gesture from an old friend."

"A very generous gesture. I accept." She called to Andrew and told him to dismiss the driver.

"Why, Mother?"

"His Grace has offered us a ride home and I've accepted. You don't mid, do you?"

"No."

"Good." She turned to Steven. "I'll be right back."

"I'll wait out front." He placed his hands in his trouser pockets and walked to the door. "Care to join me?" he asked Andrew.

"I guess." Andrew was unsure of this man who had suddenly shown up in his mother's life. Especially at his father's funeral.

Steven sat on the steps. "I know what you're thinking, my showing up like this. Your mother and I were once very close, I almost proposed but the war caught up with me again. I thought I had lost her for good--until this morning."

Andrew stood on the opposite side of the steps. "She used to talk about you."

"She did?" Steven quickly restrained his curiosity. "Anyway, I'm here just to help an old friend in a time of need."

"Okay." Andrew forced a smile. "Your Grace," he added.

Steven laughed. "When it's just us, you can call me Steven if it'll make you more comfortable."

Alison came back and saw the two of them smiling. "Did I miss something?"

"No, we're just getting acquainted. Are we all set?" Alison and Andrew nodded then followed Steven to his car.

Andrew couldn't believe what he saw. "Is this really your car?"

"You like her?"

"It's beautiful." The youth ran his fingers along the side of the car. "Beautiful."

The car in question was a red 1939 Alvis convertible which had been a gift from Winston Churchill in 1943. It was recognized wherever he went. In spite of seeing action on the homefront--bullets and crashes--the car was in top condition. "You had this the last time we were together," remarked Alison. "I remember clubbing in it."

"Clubbing?" asked Andrew as he climbed into the back seat. "What's that?"

"What kind of education have you given this boy?" Steven questioned as he helped Alison into the car. "He doesn't even know what clubbing is." He smiled as he sat behind the wheel. "Clubbing is when you go from nightclub to nightclub, spending about an hour or so in each."

"We must have set a record for the number of clubs visited in less than a week," remarked Alison.

"A week? You only had a week together?" Andrew couldn't believe it.

"We only went clubbing for a week. After that, a little murder pulled us apart," said Steven.

"We had met on the way to South Africa," his mother explained. "He got on the wrong ocean liner."

"The wrong liner? How did you manage that?"

"I had to get out of London in a hurry. A slight disagreement with the authorities."

"Anyway, he helped your grandfather and I sell a worthless mine, providing the money for us to move to London."

"Three years later we met by accident and she wanted nothing to do with me. That is, until I confessed."

"Then the war interrupted."

Alison broke in to give Steven directions to their home. During the drive, Steven pulled Andrew out of his shell. He learned that the boy was born in May 1946 and that he had plans for Cambridge. "I'll have to introduce you to Jamie. He's only a little over a year older than you." He pulled into the drive. "Cute little cottage you have here."

"It can't compare to an ancestral castle, but it's home."

The "cottage" in question was a manor house three stories high with two mock-Doric columns on either side of the front steps. Alison and Andrew both thanked Steven for the ride and Alison asked him to tea the following day. "I'd ask you in, but I'd rather be alone right now."

"That's quite all right, I understand." His wife of one day had been shot by someone trying to kill him. That tragedy led to his abdication.

"Oh, Steven I forgot. You really do understand." She started to cry.

He gave her a quick hug. "You just go in and get some rest. I won't say 'sleep' 'cos that might be near impossible. I'll be here at 4:00 tomorrow." He turned to Andrew. "You take good care of your mother." Andrew nodded and Steven left.

Driving home, Steven thought back to London twenty years ago. Alison had hardly changed at all. She was a mother now, for one thing. He, himself, was a father, even though it was through adoption. More responsibility had accumulated in that time. He wondered what would have happened if he hadn't been dragged to Berlin, if he hadn't met Victoria. Victoria. Everything went back to her. He would never be rid of the painful memory of holding her in the cold, Swiss air; of her final words: I love you. Jamie gave him a sense of family.

*****************************************************

The following afternoon, Steven arrived for tea. The butler announced him. "His Grace, the duke of Edinburgh."

Alison had to suppress a smile when she saw the face Steven made. "Thank you very much, Dawson. We'll take tea in the drawing room."

After the butler left, Steven gave her an affectionate kiss. "How are you holding up?" For an answer, she began to laugh. "Did I miss something funny?"

"The look on your face when Dawson announced you."

"I hate all that title stuff, especially for a private tea."

"Dawson can now say he's introduced the most-wanted bachelor in England."

"I haven't been on a most-wanted list in decades."

Over tea and sandwiches, the two reminisced about old times. In the back of his mind, Steven knew there was some other reason for his invitation. This doubts were proved correct when Dawson discreetly entered. "Mr. Cramer is here, ma'am."

"Very good, Dawson. Please show him in then ask Andrew to join us." Dawson left.

A middle-aged man entered the room.. He carried himself well and held a leather briefcase. "Ah, Mrs. Moreland. I hope you are handling the situation well?" He then saw Steven. "I didn't know you had company. Your Grace." Steven nodded.

"His Grace is here as a favor to me, Mr. Cramer. We are old friends. I knew him before I met Charles."

"No explanations are necessary. When your son arrives, I will read you the will."

Steven whispered, "I had a feeling you had an ulterior motive, but if you wanted me to hear the reading of the will, why didn't you just ask?"

"Inviting you to tea sounded much better than inviting you to a will-reading."

Andrew entered the room and greeted both Steven and the solicitor before sitting on the sofa next to his mother. Mr. Cramer cleared his throat. "Now that you are both here, we can proceed." He looked down at the will and read the document aloud.

I, Charles Moreland, being of sound mind and body do hereby declare, in front of the undersigned witness, that this is my last will and testament. To my wife Alison, I leave my controlling shares of Moreland Publishing, of which, my son Andrew, upon his twenty-first birthday, will receive half. To my second cousin, Jonathan Butler, I leave my estate and £500,000. The remainder shall be divided according to the following stipulations.

He continued to read the unimportant bits, then looked up to see Alison's surprised face.

"That can't be Charles' will. It can't be. He can't leave us without the house."

"You could always sell some of the stock."

"Then it wouldn't really be Moreland Publishing, would it?"

"No, I guess not." Steven walked to Mr. Cramer and spoke with him out of Alison's hearing. "Are you sure this is the will?"

"Yes, your Grace. I witnessed it personally. It is perfectly legal."

"I'll be stopping by your offices tomorrow to talk further on this. Right now, I think you should leave. No offense, but you just might be an upsetting presence."

Mr. Cramer handed Steven his card. "I'll see you tomorrow, then, your Grace." He left.

Steven went back to Alison. "Do you want to talk about it? This whole thing doesn't sound right."

Alison wiped her eyes. "You mean you're going to help us?"

"Of course." He gave her a comforting hug. "I'm not going to let you be cheated out of your inheritance."

"Are you sure we've been cheated?" asked Andrew.

"Have you ever seen or heard of this Jonathan Butler?" They both shook their heads. "I thought so. I think your husband was conned into writing a second will. All we have to do is prove it."

"How do you plan to do that?"

"That, Andrew, my boy, is simple. We just locate then 'get the goods' on him." He smirked. "Which is easier said than done in some cases."

****************************************************************

The next afternoon, Steven visited Cramer and his associates at the Middle Temple. "You remember that I said I would stop by?"

"Yes, your Grace," the solicitor said, rising from his desk. "Please, do sit down. Would you care for some refreshment? Tea, perhaps?"

"No, thank you, Mr. Cramer. I'll be meeting my sister lasted this afternoon for tea. I'm here on Mrs. Moreland's behalf. She wishes to protest the will."

"As I said, your Grace, the will os perfectly legal."

"Yes, but is it legitimate?"

"Are you accusing this firm of witnessing a fraudulent will?" Cramer was indignant.

"Mr. Moreland left the estate and a sizable amount of money to a cousin that Mrs. Moreland had never heard him mention. I'm only questioning the legitimacy of his claim."

"Mrs. Moreland didn't know about Mr. Butler? In all confidence, your Grace, I must admit I was surprised when he came in asking to draw up a second will."

"When did this happen?"

"Two months before he died."

"Do you have Mr. Butler's address?"

"It's against our policy. . ."

"This man could ruin your firm's reputation, Mr. Cramer."

"Yes, your Grace. This news could be harmful." he gave Steven a slip of paper with a Chelsea address. "I haven't been able to reach him since Mr. Moreland's demise, so he may be out of town."

"I'll keep that in mind."

Thirty minutes later, Steven pulled up in front of the house where the elusive Mr. Butler lived. The house looked as if it had been recently painted. There was also a small lawn with roses along the path. "Quite the little homemaker." He glanced upstairs and thought he saw a shadow. "So he is home. Must have arrived today." He looked both ways down the street before he picked the lock on the front door. Directly inside the foyer was a narrow stairway. Steven walked up using the lesser-worn sides of the steps themselves. The door at the top was closed but light shone through the cracks. He pushed it open and found himself in a small, open flat. In the kitchen area in found a newspaper with an article circled; an article about the Moreland funeral with his name mentioned. He then noticed there was a mug of coffee which was still steaming. Freshly poured. That meant that he didn't imagine someone in the window.

He walked over to the window in question and looked out. From this vantage point he could see most of the road in both directions. Butler would have had enough time to leave, so why did he wait until I entered the house? He heard the click of a door latch followed by the squeak of a floorboard. He turned to find the door to the stairs closed when he had left it open. He had been in the flat the whole time! He ran to the door and began to use his shoulder as a battering ram to force it open. It finally gave away and Steven found himself staring into an inferno. Butler certainly burned his bridges behind him. There was no other way out. Or was there? He ran back to the window and realized he could survive the jump with no injuries, provided he landed properly. He opened the window, gauged the distance, and jumped. Upon landing, he tucked his shoulder and rolled across the lawn. He then walked over to a neighbor's house and casually phoned the fire department.

Upon returning home to his St. James townhouse after tea, Steven mused over what had happened. Butler was a fake. If he has nothing to hide, why would he try to burn me to a crisp? He paused in his thoughts--someone was in the kitchen. He crept to his desk and took a knife out of the top drawer. He turned towards the kitchen door to see it slowly open. He raised the knife.

The person backed out and turned around. "Hi, Dad. You can put the knife down, it's only me."

Steven lowered the knife and glared at his adopted son. "Jamie, don't you ever do that again."

"Sure." He put down his tray of food. "Where were you? I thought you'd be home."

"Her Most Royal Majesty invited me to tea."

Jamie looked at him and smiled. "Okay, who is she?"

"Your aunt."

"No. Whenever you start calling Aunt Sarah 'Her Royal Majesty', you've got something--or someone--on your mind. Who is she?"

"What makes you think there's a woman involved?"

Jamie walked to the coffee table and handed Steven the newspaper. "This." It was his picture with Alison at the funeral. "So?"

"An old friend. Haven't seen her for close to twenty years. I wanted to offer my condolences. Anyway, she discovered that her husband left the majority of his estate to a man claiming to be a cousin. I did some investigating and learned that he wrote the new will two months before he died."

"Is it just me, or do you smell smoke?" Jamie sniffed the air.

"You can still smell it? This suit's for the cleaners. To answer your question, I tracked down Butler only to be burned out of his house."

"You've had a full day."

"What are you doing here anyway? I thought you and your friends were planning to go off on holiday."

"We planned, but that's as far as we got. Kevin, Nigel, and Ian got called home for family reasons, so I decided to come home as well. Good thing I did, too. You could probably use the help."

Steven smiled at this. "She does have a son . . ."

"Oh, no. I'm not gonna baby-sit while you go out on a date."

"It's not a date. If it were, you and Andrew wouldn't be coming along."

"How old is he?"

"Sixteen, possibly seventeen. I'm not sure."

"You want me to associate with a seventeen-year-old?"

"Don't make me laugh. You just turned eighteen."

"Don't remind me."

**************************************************

That evening at dinner, the four got along famously. They weren't disturbed by public or press and were able to enjoy their meal in peace. Steven wasn't sure how Jamie would handle Andrew, being such opposites, but Jamie actually drew him out of his shell. Watching the other boy's face, Steven could see that he was impressed with Jamie's ability to create conversation.

When the final course was completed, Jamie leaned over and whispered in Andrew's ear. The latter nodded vigorously. "Um, Dad?"

"Yes?"

"Would it be okay if Andrew and I went to this club? This fab new group from the North is playing there."

"I don't know," Steven hesitated.

"C'mon, Dad. We'll even take public transport." Jamie refused to give up. No way was he going to miss the hottest new band in England.

"Where are they from?"

"Liverpool. You know, that band everyone's talking about."

"Okay. Take care. Keep an eye on each other. I don't want any bad reports."

"Sure, Dad." The two boys left.

"Here we are," Steven said.

"Yes." Alison sipped her coffee. "I think Jamie seems a very trustworthy young man."

"Don't let that fool you. He's not always like that. Sometimes he gets forgetful and irresponsible."

"At that age, they're in-between being children and adults." Steven rolled his eyes. "I remember a young man near that age who knew his way about the world--except when under pressure. He's the only one I know who mistook Capetown for New York."

"Touché." He tipped an imaginary hat to her. "No. Jamie really is a good kid and is stubborn concerning things he feels strongly about." He sat back and stared at the table for a short time. "Are you done?"

Alison could see he was becoming restless. "Yes, I'm done."

Steven waved the waiter over and paid for dinner. "I feel like a drive. How about you?"

"A drive would be lovely."

Steven placed her wrap about her shoulders. "Anywhere in particular you feel like going?"

"No. Let's just drive and see where we end up."

"Good idea." They stood outside and the valet brought his car around. Steven tipped him generously. "Put it to good use."

"Thank you, your Grace."

Steven held the door open for her then walked around to his door. "That was a very good dinner," he said as he pulled onto the road.

"Yes, it was. I enjoyed myself very much." She watched as Steven relaxed behind the wheel. "This is like old times." Steven laughed. "Let's go dancing."

"Dancing? I don't think we'll find any clubs that still play our music."

"Who said anything about a club? We can always pull off somewhere and put on the radio."

"I think I know the ideal place." Steven smiled and Alison knew he had something up his sleeve. He turned his car off the road and parked along the Victoria Embankment. "How's this?"

"Steven, it's perfect." She stepped out of the car and into the garden. "The sky is positively gorgeous."

"Let's just find the right music." He turned on the radio.

". . .That was the latest song by that hot new group from Liverpool. . ."

"I don't think so." He changed the station and found some big band music. "That's more like it." He walked to Alison. "May I have this dance?"

"You may," she replied in mock seriousness.

Steven took her in his arms and danced her about the Embankment. It seemed as if they were both young again with virtually no worries or responsibilities. They were so enraptured with each other that they didn't notice the change in the weather until it began to rain.

They laughed until Steven realized something important. "I left the top down on the car!"

*******************************************************

Steven arrived home dripping wet, and was greeted by the two boys. "What happened to you?" asked Jamie.

"Forgot to put the top up." He took his jacket off. "How was your band?"

"Really fab. Got their autographs, too."

"I bet they were flattered."

"No, I didn't tell them who I was." He followed his father into his room. "Andrew was kinda tired after the show so I said he could stay here."

"You'd better call his mother."

"We left a message with the butler and he promised to let her know as soon as she came in."

Steven changed into some dry clothes. "Could you put the kettle on? I think I need a hot cup of tea."

"Sure."

Despite the uncalled-for shower, Steven was still in a good mood--a little damp, but that was beside the point. On the way home from Alison's house, he had done some scheming and decided on a plan to catch Butler "in the act". He joined the boys in the kitchen and fixed his tea. "I think I have a little job for you two to do tomorrow."

Jamie knew the look in his father's eyes, but Andrew didn't. "What sort of job?"

"One that will get your inheritance back. I have a very strong reason to believe that this Butler character is a fake." He told them of what happened that afternoon.

"So what do you want us to do?" asked Jamie.

"Won't he be suspicious of anything involving Jamie--or myself?" remarked Andrew.

"You forget, Andrew, that I am a master of the fine art of subterfuge."

"What?"

"He simply means," interpreted Jamie, "that we con him ourselves."

"Right. You are going to be brothers whose rich--but senile--grandfather is dying, only he plans to leave his money to some sort of shelter for cats, or something of a similar nature. Anyway, you've heard of Butler through connections and you want him to fix the will."

"What if he won't? What if he denies everything?"

"Offer him a percentage. Haggle a bit. Should work, he's greedy enough. Arrange for him to meet you at the home where Gramps is living out his last days. I'll set up the room and have a recorder to catch the conversation. How's that sound?"

"I'm not sure."

"Don't worry, Andrew. Jamie will do most of the talking. You just have to back up what he says. Nothing'll go wrong."

"Okay."

"All we have to do is think of new names. How about Sebastian and Nigel?"

Andrew wrinkled his nose. "Nigel's okay, but Sebastian? You might as well call yourself Bertram!"

"You're right," said Jamie, laughing at his father's discomfort regarding his former alias. "Is Jeremy any better?"

"Much."

"It's settled then. The two of you are Jeremy and Nigel. Tomorrow we begin."

***********************************************************

The next morning Andrew woke to the aroma of bacon and eggs. "Delicious. Simply delicious." He put on a borrowed robe over his borrowed pajamas and walked over to Jamie. "Breakfast," he said.

"Hunh?" Jamie mumbled. He propped himself up, opened one eye, saw what time it was, then rolled over with a groan.

Andrew shrugged and walked downstairs.

Steven saw him as he entered the kitchen. "Good morning, Andrew. Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, thank you." He sat at the table.

"I hope you're hungry," Steven said as he served the boy. "Sometimes I make too much."

"Will there be enough for Jamie?"

"You can never find enough for him," Steven said, filling his own plate, "but he won't go without. I assume you tried to wake him. I should have told you it was a lost cause."

"It was not a lost cause," Jamie remarked grumpily as he shuffled into the kitchen. "Not all of us can wake up at the sound of a pin dropping."

Steven smiled. "I apologize."

"Accepted," Jamie said after his first mouthful.

"Are you two ready for a bit of play-acting today?"

Andrew quickly swallowed. "Today?"

"The sooner the better. I'll go over your story with you so everything will run smoothly. Don't worry. You'll be fine, 'Nigel.' So will you, 'Jeremy'."

Later that morning, close to noon, the boys were dressed for their parts. Jamie wore a brown suit with a dark brown tie, while Andrew's was navy with a red tie. Steven looked them over. "You look snooty enough, but something's missing." He carefully examined them. "Got it!" He went into his room and came back out with something red fluttering in his hand. "This should brighten things," he said, placing the handkerchief in Andrew's pocket. Jamie looked at his own pocket. "You have your own wardrobe. Andrew is borrowing. However, you are both getting tie clips from my collection. On loan, of course."

"Of course," Jamie agreed.

"Good. Now tell me what you're going to do."

"We're going to go into his place and convince him we're in need of his services."

"How are you going to do that?"

"Tell him about our very rich--and senile--grandfather who plans to leave his money to a home for stray cats."

"For the sake of practice, I'll be Butler and you can work on the story."

"Okay."

They ran through the story until Steven felt it was convincing. "How are we going to get there? He'll recognize your car and we can't take the bus, that would ruin everything," Andrew remarked.

"I know." There was a knock on the door. "Our solution."

He opened the door. "I brought around that car you asked for, Steven, though I don't know why."

"Thanks, John. It's very much appreciated." Steven motioned him inside. "Your timing is impeccable."

"Aim to please. What's this all about?"

"Note the detecting mind, gentlemen. Always questioning. What's going on, Mr. Superintendent, is that there is someone out there swindling widows out of their inheritances."

Superintendent John Dolittle shook his head. "So it's come to this, has it? The Eagle lowered to fishing out third-rate con-men?"

"This is not a third-rate job. Besides, what better way to catch one?"

"How did you get involved?"

"Let's just say it's hit close to hime." Steven decided yo tell John about Alison. "And this is her son, Andrew. He's going to help us in this little escapade."

"I wish you luck with it. Here are the keys. I'll be back to pick it up."

"Keys?" asked Jamie. "What kind is it?"

"Aston-Martin." John said as he headed out the door.

Jamie's eyes glowed. "An Aston-Martin."

"Just like James Bond," said Andrew.

"Except that ours is on loan from the police."

*******************************************************

Jamie pulled up in front of the address Steven had given him. "This car drives like a dream. Too bad it's not for keeps."

"Well, we have to act like it is," Andrew reminded him.

"Right. Shall we go in, Nigel?"

"After you, Jeremy."

Jamie knocked on the door and waited. It was answered by a man of medium height with dark brown hair, brown eyes, and a face that was almost in a permanent scowl. He also had a scar along his right cheekbone. "Can I help you?"

"If you are Mr. Butler," said Jamie.

"And if I am?"

"We have need of your services," Andrew told him.

"Come in. We can't talk business in the street." Butler led them inside. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"No, thank you," Jamie said. "We have heard through friends that you 'doctor' certain documents."

"And we knew you could help us."

Butler took this into account. "Why me?"

"We have never made such dealings before. Your name was referred to us."

"What's the problem?"

"Our grandfather and cats."

Butler looked at Jamie. "What my brother Nigel means to say is that our grandfather plans to leave all his money to a home for cats."

"Over £1 million," added Andrew.

"We are his only surviving relatives, Mr. Butler. It is only fair that we should inherit."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Talk to the old fool and persuade him to write a new will leaving the money to us."

"What would I get out of this?"

"A fair percentage of the total, Mr. Butler, to be decided after the will is signed and legal. No second will, no pay."

"When do you want me to meet him?"

"Tonight at the Kennsington Nursing Home. Room 20. 7:00."

"What's the old man's name? They might ask me."

"Neville Bennett," said Jamie off the top of his head.

"Okay. 7:00 tonight, gentlemen."

"Thank you, Mr. Butler. Until tonight." Jamie and Andrew left the house. Once inside the car, they each let out a sigh.

"Thank goodness that's over," said Andrew.

"That's only Phase One. The rest will happen tonight. Until then we've nothing to do. How about picking up the new Beatles' album?"

"Shouldn't we tell your dad about what happened?"

"We can phone him. He won't mind."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"Okay." He looked at Jamie. "That would be fab."

II


The old man coughed as he tried to prop himself up in his bed. His wrinkled face showed pain, but he refused help from the youth standing beside the bed. His blue eyes showed a tenacity that belied his frail form.

"Here, Grandfather, have a glass of water."

"I'd rather a whiskey," he said in a dry voice. "You've no need to pretend, boy. I know you don't care thing one about me. You and your brother both."

There was a polite knock on the door before it opened. "Good evening, Grandfather," said a second youth.

"Don't you even bother to wait for an answer, Jeremy? What manners you ever had as a boy are certainly gone now."

"I did warn you, Mr. Butler. He is very crotchety," he whispered to the man beside him.

"That you did, Mr. Bennett. This might take some time." He walked to the old man. "Mr. Neville Bennett? My name is Jonathan Butler and I represent the South London Feline Home. Our board is feeling a little guilty, taking your money from your only living relatives. We are grateful for the donation, but maybe a smaller one is in order."

"Those two boys put you up to this, didn't they? they'll do anything to get their grubby little hands on my money."

"No, Mr. Bennett. I met your grandson in the hall and he brought me here. All I'd like to do is settle on a sum agreeable to both parties."

"What I planned is agreeable to me and the Home. Now get out of here and take those poor excuses for grandsons with you!" He began to wheeze.

"Certainly, Grandfather. Don't over-tax yourself on our account," said the first youth.

"None of your sweet talk, Nigel! I knew what I was doing when I left you out of the will!" his voice followed them into the hall.

Nigel and Jeremy walked with Butler to his car where he agreed to help them. "Shouldn't take more than a week."

"Thank you for your time. We'll see you in a week."

They watched as the man drove away then rushed inside to Room 20. "How are you feeling, 'Grandfather'?"

"I could still use that whisky," Steven said, climbing out of the bed. "How did it go? Did you get everything?"

Jamie took the small tape recorder out of his pocket. "Every word."

"Great." Steven walked to the sink in the adjoining bathroom and began to wipe off his makeup. "Let's get back to the house and have something of a nightcap, shall we?" He stuck his head back into the room. The boys began to laugh. "What's so funny?"

"You are with white hair," answered Jamie between laughs.

Steven looked in the mirror and had to admit that he did look funny. "That can wait until we're back home." He fished the keys to the Aston-Martin out of his pocket. "We'd better get going. Dolittle will be coming for the car."

"Does it have to go back?" asked Andrew.

"You mean you prefer that to my car?"

"Yours is more an antique, a classic, compared with this," said Jamie, saving Andrew from embarrassment. "It's unfair to compare them."

"Quick thinking," Steven told them.

Once they returned to St. James Square, Steven put the boys in charge of getting dinner together while he washed the white dye out of his hair. He couldn't believe how smoothly it had gone. He put the tape Jamie had given him in the medicine cabinet; not a place someone would look for a cassette tape. He heard the boys making noise in the kitchen, playing the new album Jamie had bought that afternoon. Yeah, I'll tell you something, I hope you understand, When I say that something, I want to hold your hand. . . What lyrics. No wonder they were taking the country by storm.

Suddenly, the music stopped. The record just cut off in the middle of a song. Jamie would never do that. Maybe they're just going to start it over. He continued to rinse his hair. He thought about Butler. There's something about him that reminds me of someone else. I just can't place it.

"Dad, could you come here a minute?" asked Jamie with a note of warning in his voice.

Steven towel-dried his hair as he walked into the living room. That slight note of panic was all Steven needed to remember what was bothering him. "Hello, Bannister," he said nonchalant. "How nice of you to visit from beyond the grave."

Bannister held a gun tightly in his hand and smiled. "You've played dead before, so I thought I'd give it a try." He turned to Jamie. "I almost didn't recognize you, boy. You put on quite a performance." He looked around Steven's new home. "A beautiful place, your Grace. A definite step up from your flat in Picadilly."

"How did you escape the crash?" Steven asked, referring to their last encounter five years ago when Bannister had kidnapped Jamie to get to him.

"I was thrown out of the car before it hit the Thames. Not without damage, however," he said, gently touching his cheek. "I was fished out by a man who happened to be an actor. He took me to a clinic where I recovered."

"And since the police thought Jonathan Bannister dead, you created a new identity," put in Jamie.

"You haven't learned to curb your tongue yet?" Bannister said with a glare in his direction.

"I'll curb my tongue once you change your ways," he replied.

Steven looked at him and told him to be quiet. "So, what do you want now?"

"To finish what I started: kill you and the boy."

Andrew was confused. This man had conned his father under the name of Butler and it now seemed that Jamie and Steven knew him under the name of Bannister. "Are you Butler or not?"

Bannister laughed. "Who's this, Taylor? Are you recruiting out of school?"

"You should know," said Jamie. "After all, you cheated his father."

"Ah, the Moreland boy. Well, these things can't be helped."

"Come now. You're really pushing it, Dear Heart. I made an appointment for tonight, and if I'm not there, they'll know something's wrong."

"Don't fool with me, Taylor. That's one of the oldest jokes in the book. Now, sit down over there." He motioned him to a seat with the gun and Steven complied.

"Why did you take advantage of my father?" Andrew asked, wanting desperately to know the answer.

"The man was rich and twice as gullible." He turned to Steven. "How did you get involved with this? Interested in the widow?"

"I knew her before she met Charles. She asked me to the reading of the will and I volunteered to find you." He glanced covertly at Jamie, who nodded. "What are you going to do with us?"

"Kill you, of course. The only question is how."

Andrew became nervous. "You can't just kill us."

Bannister turned around and looked at him, gun in hand. "Why not?"

"It's. . .it's. . .unethical!" Bannister started to laugh. "What's going on? Why is he laughing?"

"Never try to talk ethics with a crook, especially one so demented," said Jamie.

There was a knock on the door and Steven moved to answer it, but Bannister motioned with the gun. "Don't trust you." He looked at Andrew. "You go, but don't try anything."

Andrew hesitated but Jamie and Steven encouraged him. He opened the front door. "May I help you?"

"Yes. I'm here to see his Grace. If he's not here, I'll come back later," said Dolittle as he signaled Andrew to play along.

"He won't be long if you'd care to wait."

"No, thanks. I've a few errands to run so I'll stop by later." He smiled at Andrew and left.

Andrew returned to the others in the living room. "Well?" asked Bannister.

"It was someone looking for Steven. Said he'd be back later."

Jamie started coughing violently. When he got his breath back he asked for a glass of water. "Please, or I'll start coughing again." Bannister hesitated. "Please!" He started to gag.

"You," he said pointing to Andrew, "get him the water."

Andrew went into the kitchen to fetch the water and unlocked the back door for Dolittle. This would be the only way out of the situation. Jamie was right, Bannister was demented.

"How long does it take to get a glass of water? Hurry up, boy!" Bannister called.

"Take it easy, Jonathan. Andrew won't go anywhere," Steven said, making himself comfortable in the chair.

Jamie followed his father's example, though still pretending to cough. "You haven't learned your lesson, have you?"

Bannister was not in the mood to be taunted. "Keep it up, kid. It'll give me the excuse I need."

"What you need is a psychiatrist, not an excuse!"

Bannister lunged for Jamie and Steven extended his leg to trip him. The gun went flying out of Bannister's hand. Andrew came into the room to find Steven and Bannister scrambling for the gun while Jamie stayed out of their way. Steven reached the gun and aimed it at Bannister's chest. "Get up, Jonathan. Time you'd paid a visit to the Yard."

"You can't do it, Taylor. Everyone knows you hate guns," he said with a confident smile.

"That doesn't mean don't know how to use it." It was his turn to motion with the gun. Bannister slowly rose. "Jamie, go call Dolittle. Tell him we have the man who cheated Moreland."

"Don't worry, I heard everything," said Dolittle, entering the room followed by two constables.

"Everything?"

"From when Andrew opened the unlocked the back door." He looked at Steven who hadn't taken his eyes off Bannister. "Is this the guy?"

"Yep. You might remember him as the man who decided to get his car washed in the Thames five years ago."

"He's the one who put me in hospital? The one who kidnapped Jamie and tried to kill you?"

"Yes. Could you take over now? My arms are getting tired."

"Sure."

While Steven was lowering the gun and a constable was taking out his handcuffs, Bannister made a run for the door. He ran out into the square and down the street with the constables following.

"What do we do now?" asked Andrew.

"You let the police handle this," said Dolittle. "They weren't my only constables. We'll get him."

"That's what you said last time," remarked Steven. "Don't get me wrong, we'll take your advice. It's time Andrew saw his mother." He looked at the two boys. "Okay?" They both nodded. "Get yourselves together. We'll take my car." Andrew looked at Steven and started laughing. He pointed and Jamie started as well. "What now?"

"Your hair's still grey!"

The ride to Alison's went quickly, and, as Andrew climbed the steps, Steven and Jamie started down the drive. He braked and looked in the rearview mirror and saw Alison walk out the front door. The smile on her face kept coming back to him during the drive home and on into the night.

As he got ready for bed, he sternly told himself to put her out of his mind. "You've no time for silliness," he told his reflection. "You've got speeches to give, receptions to attend, your estates to put in order, all of which are meaningless without someone to share them."

"So why don't you share them with Alison?" came Jamie's voice from behind him.

Steven faced his son. "What do you mean?"

Jamie took a bite of the cookie he was holding and answered around his mouthful, "Well, it's quite obvious you love her, so why don't you ask her to marry you?"

Steven slowly smiled. Ever since he had found Jamie at the age of ten on a beach, the boy had never ceased to amaze him. "You wouldn't mind?"

"No. Why should I?"

Steven walked over and took the cookie from Jamie's hand and finished it. "You know, upon occasion, you do come up with a brilliant idea."

Part Two.

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