STORY 4

SECOND THOUGHTS

Rain coated, collar up, slim as a Panatela, Marissa steps blithely through the rain striped air. Past shop windows glittering for Christmas into the dusty reception area of Solicitors Crombie, Mallen and McKay.

The soft tap of key boards behind doors, the insistent burr of the telephone and the emergence of dark suited James McKay from the office of his partner Mr Crombie. He stops to smile tenderly at golden haired Marissa as he leans on her reception counter.

“Will you be going to Dublin this year?” He asks her jauntily.

“That I shall”, she replies softly.

“You have some one there?”, he asks.

“My family to be sure,” she replies

“I meant a man. A sweetheart perhaps?” he persists.

“No”, she says undoing her rain coat. “There is only my family. There are fifteen of us. I help my mother. It’s terrific in Ireland at Christmas. Good fun and on the boat going across.”

“Rough seas”, murmurs James.
“Sometimes.”

Marissa put her rain coat on a hanger into a small cupboard.

She spread her hands innocent of rings before her. He placed his large hand on hers. She does not withdraw her hand but looks at him seriously with her soft grey eyes.

“Scotland is unforgettable at New Year James said. “Though many forget where they are.” They both laugh. Marissa says “Do you mind if I stay behind to finish typing the Barton contract. You can trust me to lock up.”

“Ye, of course. I have a meeting at the Savoy at five thirty. You may take the keys Marissa… Perhaps we could…” He tails off as Mr Crombie’s door opens. His elderly partner looks at them sharply while buttoning his overcoat.

“We’re due in Court James,” he says with customary impatience.

“We are indeed,” says young McKay straightening his jacket smiling with his dark eyes fixed on Marissa.

As the door closes on the partners, Marissa glances at her wrist watch. She lifts the telephone and dials a number.

“Hello Anthony. It should be OK for tonight. I’ll meet you at the Tower Hotel at six thirty. She hangs up. She spends the day typing the Barton contract.

In the evening, when she is alone in the building, Marissa locks the office door. She takes the completed Barton contract and puts it on James MacKay’s desk. The telephone rings suddenly in reception causing her to jump. She ignores it and goes into Crombie’s office and is soon flicking through folders in a metal filing cabinet. Under ‘S’ she comes across the folder marked Stanhope St Clare. Smiling and with trembling fingers she extracts the file and sits in Crombie’s chair while she peruses it swiftly. There it is! The last will and Testament of John Stanhope St. Clare.

Heart pounding, she takes the document, then replaces the folder back in the filing cabinet. Marissa slips the Will into her briefcase. She locks the office door behind her.

………….

Anthony Stanhope St Clare appraises his reflection in the rosy glow of the bar room mirror. He straightens his back, then pours some tonic into a large vodka. He is of medium build with straight blonde hair. A grey silk suit is tailored to fit him. His maroon tie matches a pocket handkerchief. His shirt is the palest hint of lilac. Attractive? He thinks so, but does Marissa?

She stands hesitating at the entrance then her face brightens to see him. He orders her a gin and lime and guides her to a corner table. There are three other people in the bar seated at a distance.

“Anthony. I have your father’s will,” she murmurs. Her voice betraying excitement.

“Good girl. Let’s have it then.”

Marissa takes the document from her bag and gives it to him. He hands her an envelope.

“This should help you to enjoy Christmas Marissa. Five hundred alright?”

“I should say so.”

Marissa sips her pale green drink between ice cubes, enjoying the shock to her teeth.
“Will we meet again?” she asks

Anthony folds the document and puts it in his pocket. “Not for a while. Not till you find another job. I’ll keep in touch. He downs his drink and rises to his feet. “I must go. I have a meeting. Many thanks Marissa.”

………………….

It is ten days later that the news of the death of John Stanhope St Clare finds its way to the ears of Marissa. She pauses while placing a coffee on Mr Crombie’s desk. He is saying to his partner Peter Mallen.

“Stanhope St Clare was only sixty three years old. He seemed hearty enough. Marissa get me the Stanhope St Clare file please. ” Marissa obliges. As she is leaving the office she hears a rustling of papers then a sharp exclamation. “Where is it? This is strange.” More rummaging. Marissa forced to leave makes her way back to the reception area where she sits biting her nails.

The day passes slowly. Mr Crombie has been on the phone to the Stanhope St Clare household. He has been in and out of the office with James McKay at his back.

At five thirty James pauses at reception. “Would you join me for a Christmas drink Marissa? I could certainly use one.”

She smiles, hesitates, then agrees. They leave the office together. Outside in the illuminated darkness, James puts his arm round her waist as they cross over the traffic filled street.

The wine bar is in a side turning, down some stairs. Blue checked table cloths, dried flowers, candles and pine chairs. They drink red wine quickly and nervously. They are both worried. Finally Marissa asks,
“What was the commotion about John Stanhope St Clare?
Is he dead?

“Yes. The trouble is his Will is missing. It was in Crombie’s files. I was responsible for drawing it up. We’ve been in touch with his next of kin. There’s no copy at their home. It’s five years ago the Will was changed. St. Clare originally left most of his property and assets to his only son Anthony, but he changed his Will in favour of a charitable trust. I can’t think which one and we don’t have correspondence appertaining to it as we did the transaction face to face. His brother was the Executor, but he died six months ago. I can’t understand where the Will has got to. I feel as though I have lost it personally. Crombie is behaving as if I’ve been negligent.”

James takes a gulp of wine and looks mournfully at Marissa who has become pale. “It will blow over,” She says sadly, “Is his wife living?”

“Yes, but they divorced years ago. There is only their son Anthony. You see if no Will is found, everything will go to him.

“Yes, but his father would have wished that surely,” consoles Marissa.

“No, he loathed his son.”

“That was five years ago. People change”, remonstrates Marissa softly.

“Crombie was asking me if there was a Will in the first place. Does he think I’m a fool or what? I see it as my duty to find this Will. Tomorrow I want us to sort through every file in the cabinet”. James looks grim.

Marissa says “Yes, of course I’ll help you search for it. I have just remembered somewhere I need to be. I must leave now.”

The candle light softens her features. There are gold gleams in her hair. She drains her glass.

“I love you”, James says in a low voice.

“I know you do I must go. I’ll see you tomorrow. We’ll find that Will you’ll see. Try not to worry.”
Marissa walks back to Oxford Street. It is snowing. She wonders why she has involved herself in the schemes of Anthony. True she had not expected his father to die for years. She had planned to be far away from Crombie, Mallen and McKay, but ah…. McKay. She had not expected to fall in love with him. Feeling close to tears, she vows to retrieve the Will and return the money. The uncomfortable idea that Anthony might have destroyed the Will causes her stomach to plunge.

She enters a phone box and dials Anthony’s mobile.
“Anthony. This is Marissa. I’m sorry about your father. How did he die? Heart attack? How dreadful! Do you still have those papers I gave you? It is urgent I return them. There is pandemonium at the office. I am in a difficult position. Well I’m sorry Anthony, but I must insist that you return it. You can have your money back. No of course the phone isn’t bugged I’m in a call box. Anthony if you hang up I’ll go to the police. If you don’t meet me at the Tower Hotel in one hour with the Will, I’ll go to the police. I mean it. No, I’m not mad. I am in love. No not with you! Be there!”

…………..

Anthony enters the hotel bar with less confidence than on his previous visit. He is pale with fury. As he draws near,
Marissa’s heart leaps in fear. A hovering waiter takes his order for a large Vodka and tonic. Marissa already sips her pale green drink.

Anthony sits opposite Marissa, but leans forward menacingly. “What are you playing at? Why have you changed your mind?” She notices shadows beneath his blue eyes and the knowledge that he has suffered because of his father’s death softens her tone.

“A young man at the office will be blamed for the Will being lost and perhaps later, I will be implicated. Then her panic rises. “Holy Mother! You didn’t kill your father? Tell me you didn’t Anthony!”

“Of course not. It was a shock. It happened too soon before you had time to change your job. But that needn’t be a problem. If it’s more money you want to stick to it till the fuss dies down. I’ll happily pay. What about a thousand. Think what you could do with it.”

“Anthony. I don’t want the money. Not any amount of money. Give me the Will or I’ll phone the police from here.” She thrusts the envelope containing five hundred pounds at him.

“Well, you’re a fool. It’s lucky for us both that I still have it.” He draws the Will from his pocket and hands it to her.

“Thank you! Thank you!” breathes Marissa “Merry Christmas Anthony.”
Swirling from her seat, she is gone. The bar dims in the wake of her beauty. The young man looks suddenly bleak.

The next morning as Marissa is placing the Will into a file two sections away from the correct file, James enters the office.

“Hello James. I came in early for the search. I’ll take these files to reception and go through them. She speaks quickly. Her heart thuds. He nearly caught her. He looks especially handsome. It crosses her mind that she could have lost him.

“It’s very good of you,” he says, “But I don’t hold out much hope.”

As she takes the files to reception Marissa smiles. She allows five minutes to elapse before exclaiming “James!”
She takes the last Will & Testament of John Stanhope St Clare into James’ office.

“I’ve found it!”

“You have! How amazing! Marissa, You Angel How wonderful!” She falls into his arms. They whirl round the dusty office. Even Mr Crombie, standing in the doorway manages a smile.

……..
END

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