The Spin Doctor

by Crystal Jones
© 2014 All Rights Reserved 
Story finished on 13th May 2014 – 11807 words

Part 1 • The poison pen letter

Daisy was outside her office having an argument with a young man who was painting the staircase and who apparently couldn’t work unless he had his radio full blast with heavy metal music. She had politely asked him to turn the volume down to which he arrogantly told her to try putting ear plugs in. Daisy didn’t get angry easily but this time she was about to lose her patience when a well-dressed man of about sixty appeared at the bottom of the staircase and called up to ask where a certain Daisy Hamilton’s office was.
“Oh, it’s right up here - I’m Daisy Hamilton! Please come up. Can I help you?”
Once inside her office Daisy asked this well-dressed man with beautiful greeny-blue eyes if he’d like a cup of coffee, which he accepted.
“A mutual friend of ours, Leonard Printill, told me to tell you everything is fine now and that he’s made a complete recovery,” the man explained. “He said I could rely on you entirely - and that’s why I’m here now. My name is Nick Ellamson and I’m a consultant - in fact I’m what the press calls a spin doctor.”
Looking at him Daisy was trying to remember where she had seen him before.
The spin doctor continued, “I would like you to come to my house in the country next weekend where I’ll be having my sixtieth birthday party with my relatives and a few friends.”
“I see, but what is your problem exactly?” asked Daisy, vaguely remembering having seen his picture in the paper along with a cabinet minister.
“Well, I’ve received a poison pen letter,” answered the spin doctor, “and I suspect someone rather near to me may have sent it.” His fingers twitched nervously and he suddenly seemed under a lot of pressure.
“Can I see it?”
“I haven’t brought it along,” replied Mr. Ellamson. “I’m sorry, but I was afraid it might prejudice your judgement. In other words, I would like you to discover for yourself what is really going on.”
Daisy was intrigued but not to the extent of saying yes immediately to a case which had been presented to her in such an unusual way.
“Well, I suppose I could come...” she began to reply.
“So I take it that’s a yes?” asked the spin doctor interrupting her as though the flow of his words could convince Daisy to make a decision on the spot.
The detective reflected for a moment. She thought that a weekend in the country in May might prove pleasant especially as the weather was predicted to be fine. Also, she had nothing on and was quite willing to go away for a change.
“Very well,” said Daisy. “I’ll give you an idea of my fee and we can talk about details.”
“Please Miss Hamilton - I’ve come to you because I know I can trust you. Your fee is not a problem!” exclaimed Mr. Ellamson.
“I see. Oh, another thing. As your friend may have told you, I always insist on having carte blanche,” added Daisy.
The spin doctor hesitated for a few moments but in the end nodded and said, “Er... very well. No holds barred! Oh, something else. Naturally I can’t introduce you as a private detective so I thought of telling everybody that you’re my new personal assistant.”
Daisy wasn’t sure she liked the idea, but decided to comply. “Ok. I suppose I should be using a pseudonym then.”
“Exactly! That would be best, so they wouldn’t be able to check up on you easily. By the way, at my house we all use first names, so please call me Nick.”
Daisy nodded.
“Now we’d better decide on your pseudonym,” said the spin doctor studying Daisy’s face. “I think you look like...”
Daisy was curious to find out what the spin doctor would consider a good name for her.
“And the verdict is... I think you look like an Abbey!” he declared.
Daisy laughed.
“Well, you know what I mean. So, may I call you Abbey... Lyndd?” Daisy smiled, “Yes, that’ll be fine!”

As soon as Nick Ellamson had left, Daisy went online to find out more about him. ‘Considered an extremely effective spin doctor to various political figures in the last fifteen years, married and divorced, two children - a son, Julian, and a daughter, Isabel. Keeps fit playing tennis and golf. Enjoys reading science fiction and biographies.’
“Well, that’s not very helpful!” said Daisy to herself. “I’ll just have to keep my wits about me!”
She then looked at the address Nick had given her and worked out how to get there.

The following Friday Daisy arrived at six-thirty in the evening and was welcomed into Nick’s country house by a young man wearing jeans.
“Hello! I’m Kyle, the butler.”
Daisy had never seen a butler who looked so young and was so informally dressed. She thought he might be about twenty-one or so.
“I suppose you are Ms Abbey Lyndd - Nick’s new PA?” the young man said welcoming Daisy in.
“Yes, pleased to meet you,” Daisy replied putting her weekend bag down.
“I’ll take your bag up to your room. Please follow me. Er... dinner is at seven-thirty and the dining-room is here on the right,” he indicated with a gesture.

At about seven o’clock Daisy heard a tap on her door. It was Kyle.
“Abbey, Nick would like to have a word with you in his study before anybody arrives. Could you pop down now please?”

“Abbey!” said Nick pronouncing her pseudonym as though he was very proud of the fact he had invented it. “I am so glad you’ve come!” he exclaimed. “I thought I’d better tell you something about my family before anybody arrives. Er... Emily should be here soon.”
“Emily?” repeated Daisy.
Now Nick suddenly seemed a little ill at ease, “Er... perhaps I should explain. About three months’ ago... ehm... I discovered that I had a daughter - what some people would call a love child. Apparently, she had only just found out from her mother who her real father was.”
Daisy listened attentively.
“Emily’s mother never let me know about her,” the spin doctor continued. “You see, I was still married with a son and a daughter when I met Emily’s mother and we were together for a couple of months but then we parted and I never heard from her again.”
Nick took a sip of water from a glass on his desk. “I can tell you I was in a bit of a quandary at first, but now I’m so glad she got in touch with me and I hope we can make up for lost time. It’s strange, you know, but now I have met Emily I somehow feel I’ve always known her.”
Daisy looked the spin doctor straight in the eyes. “Nick, I have to know the facts if I’m going to help you. Have you had a DNA test to verify all this?”
“No, but it’s hardly necessary as she has my eyes and looks just like my mother when she was young.”
Daisy’s logical mind wasn’t convinced by this explanation but she decided to say nothing more for the present.
Just then Kyle appeared at the door. “Nick, Emily has arrived!” he announced.
Daisy returned to her room to give the father and daughter a moment of privacy.

At seven-thirty Daisy came downstairs and heard voices in the dining-room. She went in and saw that Nick was talking to a rather slender fair-haired girl of twenty something with striking greeny-blue eyes and an intelligent-looking young man in his mid twenties, probably of African origin. The young woman looked a little shy.
“Hello Abbey!” exclaimed Nick, “Come and meet my daughter Emily and her friend Steve Denzonga.” Then turning towards the two young people, “This is Abbey, my new PA I was telling you about!”
Conversing with Emily and Steve, Daisy could see that Nick’s new-found daughter was gradually coming out of her shell while Steve needed no excuse to show off his brilliant repartee and self-confidence. Daisy soon discovered that Nick’s daughter was a teacher and asked her what her opinions were on teaching young people.
“Well, I love it. If you manage to interest them in something they’ve never known about before, I feel very pleased. Of course, you need to be passionate about your subject,” she remarked.
“And what do you do Steve?” asked Nick who, it seemed, had neither heard of, nor met, Steve before.
“I scrape the bottom of the barrel of existence in a legal office,” Steve replied. “I’m a sort of all-round information guy - one day I’m off to a prison to help a detainee and the next I’m sitting in the office amongst dusty files and, the day after, meeting some journalist with dubious information. However I must say it’s pretty interesting and it’s all good stuff towards becoming a silk one day. I hope!”
Nick nodded and smiled. “Ah, Abbey. I quite forgot to ask you if you are a vegetarian or anything. If you need something different, please tell Kyle - and you too Steve, please don’t be shy. My grandson, Justin, won’t eat meat at all so we always provide lots of nuts and cheese and things.”
Daisy discovered that all meals were served buffet style and everybody helped themselves. The evening passed pleasantly and Daisy felt that she hadn’t struck such a bad deal coming to spend the weekend in that beautiful part of the countryside.

Next morning when Daisy went down to the breakfast room she saw Kyle sitting at the table pouring over a book and making notes.
“Oh hello, Kyle. Studying for an exam?” Daisy asked.
“Well, I’m trying to, but it’s very tricky. I haven’t had enough time to prepare it. I’m afraid I might not get full marks this time.”
“Really! What are you studying?”
“Astrophysics,” was the unexpected reply.
Daisy was asked by Kyle if she’d like to have breakfast outside as the sun was shining. She eagerly accepted this offer.
Nick was already there sitting at a table drinking coffee, reading newspapers and consulting his laptop. As he saw Daisy, he beckoned her to come and sit down.
“My daughter Isabel should be arriving soon. She telephoned me half an hour ago,” he announced.
Daisy started munching a piece of homemade cake she had brought with her from the breakfast room.
“You know, I’m very proud of Isabel, she’s a surgeon at a children’s hospital. She’s got a background in hematology but she didn’t enjoy the prospect of working in a laboratory all day long looking at blood samples and went on to cardiothoracic surgery,” said Nick. “Please don’t be surprised at her reactions - Isabel’s rather spiky with me. I’m afraid she suffered a lot when I left my wife, she was only seven. Even so, we seemed to get on quite well, actually, but when she went to medical school everything changed for the worst.”
“Do you have much contact with your wife now?” asked Daisy.
“No. Since we divorced we have hardly met at all. I take all responsibility for the failure of our marriage - anyway, she remarried and it appears her second husband’s a good chap and they get on very well. He’s a film director and she’s a brilliant scriptwriter.”
Daisy was glad that Nick was opening up and explaining a few things. She was just going to ask him something about the poison pen letter when suddenly a dark-haired woman appeared at the French windows leading out of the breakfast room into the garden.

“Isabel!” exclaimed Nick joyfully closing his laptop and jumping up to greet his daughter.
“Hello, hello,” replied Isabel brushing off Nick’s enthusiasm and escaping from his embrace. “I had to get up at five this morning. Aren’t you going to give me a cup of coffee at least?”
“Of course, my dear. I’ll get Kyle to bring us a fresh pot. Ah, come and meet Abbey, my new personal assistant!”
Isabel stared at Daisy and sat down at the table. “So you‘re the new PA. Wonder how long you‘ll last!”
Ignoring the provocation Daisy smiled at the rather brusque Isabel and replied, “Pleased to meet you.”
Nick then returned with a coffee pot in his hand. A few seconds later Emily and Steve came out of the breakfast room hand in hand. When Nick saw them he introduced everybody apprehensively. Emily and Isabel stared at each other and there was an embarassing silence.
“Ah, at last I meet our father’s skeleton in the cupboard!” proclaimed Isabel glaring at Emily, who winced slightly but kept completely calm. Steve touched her hand protectively but said nothing and silently observed what was going on.
Understanding that Nick wouldn’t know how to deal with the situation Daisy broke through the tense atmosphere. “Excuse me Nick, could we go over your plan for Monday afternoon’s meeting?” she improvised.
“Ah, yes,” he replied getting her drift. “I’ve left my appointment book in my room. Emily, would you like to explore the garden with Steve? You can see the apple blossoms which have just come out.”
Steve got up and pulled at Emily’s arm, “Come on, Emily, let’s go.”
Nick seized the opportunity to do a disappearing act. “Excuse me folks, er... Isabel, see you in a bit.”

Daisy remained seated at the table drinking her coffee with a sulky-looking Isabel.
“Your father mentioned you are a surgeon,” said Daisy hoping to open up a conversation with Isabel.
“My father!” Isabel’s expression changed. “I don’t think he knows very much about me at all. Yes, I work in a specialised unit which treats previously untreatable cases.”
“It must be very absorbing work!” commented Daisy with sincere admiration.
“Well, it certainly can be and one is on call most of the time - that is, if you care at all for your patients.”
Isabel seemed to wake up out of her black mood and began showing enthusiasm for something.
Just then Isabel received a telephone call on her mobile. “Hello, yes. No, no, there’s no need to worry, it’s quite normal in the circumstances,” she replied. “He’s bound to have a bit of a temperature after an operation like that. Just give him the same treatment unless anything changes in his condition, in which case call me immediately. Goodbye.”
Isabel turned to Daisy, “Sorry, it was the hospital. Er... how about you, Abbey, have you been a PA for long?”
Daisy disliked lying and always felt a little guilty in similar situations but, luckily, just at that moment Nick returned with his appointment book in his hand. Isabel, wanting to avoid another tense conversation with her father, rushed back into the house without waiting for Daisy’s reply.
“Oh my goodness, that went well!” commented Nick pulling a face. “That terrible scene between my two daughters! Oh, what was I thinking? Isabel was bound to be antagonistic towards Emily!”
Daisy had already realised that Nick had few people skills in his private life. She’d met men like him before, excellent in their work but a disaster in their family relationships. It seemed that he simply hadn’t thought of mentioning to Isabel that Emily would be coming to his birthday celebration, hoping that his three children would all get on well together miraculously.
Nick sighed, “Isabel will never accept any affection from me... but I know that she feels bad about it too. Well, changing the subject. Julian and Cressida, my son and daughter-in-law, have already arrived and are resting in their room with my grandson Justin.”
Nick poured himself out some more coffee and took a couple of headache tablets.
“Does Julian react like his sister?” asked Daisy.
“Well, Julian is rather blasé about things, generally speaking. He’s not as reactive as his sister but he has a way of keeping everything bottled up until he bursts. They are two very different sorts of people but they get on very well and have no secrets from each other. They both admire their mother and always go to the premieres of her films.”
“Excuse me Nick, but have you never remarried - or anything?” asked Daisy.
“No, no, never again. I’ve been around,” he admitted, “but I can’t risk making any more mess-ups.” Then his mobile rang and he looked at who was calling. “Excuse me, Abbey, business before pleasure, this is a future cabinet member!” he said getting up and wandering off into the garden.
Daisy reflected on how Nick behaved with his two daughters. With Emily he was perhaps justifiably hesitant while with Isabel he seemed to try too hard to communicate with her.
Suddenly a small boy appeared outside the French windows. “Hello,” he said in a friendly manner, “you must be grandfather’s new... PA?” clearly not knowing what a PA was. “I’m Justin!”
Daisy thought that it was nice to see someone not caught up in a whirl of anger and guilt feelings for a change.
“Nice to meet you, Justin. I’ve just started working for your grandfather.”
“Have you met Bailey yet?”
“Bailey...?” questioned Daisy.
“Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Buttersfield’s new puppy. You know, the caretaker and his wife. Come with me - I’m going there now! I’ll show you around,” said Justin taking Daisy along to the kitchen entrance at the back of the house.

Daisy soon made the acquaintance of the caretaker, his housekeeper wife and the effervescent Bailey. Justin played with the puppy outside while Daisy sat down in the kitchen to a cup of coffee and homemade biscuits chatting to Mrs. Buttersfield.
“Ah, I remember when Isabel used to sneak in here to have some homemade cake or biscuits when she was little,” said the kindly Mrs. Buttersfield. “She used to adore her father - oh - that was a long time ago!”
“I knew you’d be here, you little scamp!” exclaimed Isabel from outside the kitchen window.
“Auntie Isabel,” Justin replied joyfully leaping at her and receiving a big hug in return. “When are you coming to stay with us again? Will you be coming to my eighth birthday party?”
“Oh let’s see. It’s on a Sunday, isn’t it? So, I’ll be there by hook or by crook!” promised Isabel.
“Let’s get Abbey to come out and play with us!” exclaimed Justin grabbing hold of his aunt’s hand. “She’s new here and doesn’t know her way around!”
As Daisy came out onto the lawn where Justin was chasing Bailey and Bailey was chasing Justin, Isabel looked less than pleased at seeing her but continued playing with her nephew. Unfortunately for Isabel, Emily and Steve also appeared on the horizon strolling across the lawn towards Daisy.
“Hello Abbey,” said Steve softly to her. “I see you’re getting settled in here. Lucky you, we’ve just been given a very cold shoulder again!”
Emily placed her hand affectionately on Steve’s. “Don‘t worry, Steve,” she said calmly. “It‘s important to be patient in these circumstances.”
Daisy decided to apply a little human psychology. “Justin,” she called out, “I have to go now. I‘ve got to complete a job for your grandfather but I think Emily and Steve would like to play with Bailey and Auntie Isabel as well.”
Isabel didn‘t seem too enthusiastic about that.
“Oh yes! Auntie Isabel, let’s play with Auntie Emily and Steve!” Justin urged, not understanding the strange behaviour of grown-ups.
There was a lot of noise and laughter as Steve and Emily played a joke on Justin and rolled him over in the grass, and even Isabel managed a smile.
Daisy left the scene with the hope that she might have been instrumental in bringing the two sisters together for the first time after all the negativity.

As Daisy arrived at the front of the house, a car drew up and a man of about Nick’s age and a much younger woman got out.
“Hello my old chap! Many happy returns and all that stuff!” the man said, seeing Nick at the doorway. The two men embraced as old university friends might, and laughed happily.
“Glad to see you, Matt - and Adele! Oh Adele, I hope your better half is behaving himself!” Nick joked.
“We’re late because my husband couldn’t get out of bed, as usual,” explained the overly made-up woman. “He says he’s not a morning man!”
“Sorry and all that!” replied Matt smiling ruefully.
“Adele, how lovely to see you!” exclaimed Nick. “There’s some hot black coffee in the breakfast room.”
“Now, that really is a good idea especially after you spent all night... painting the town pink, Matt!” added Adele reproachfully after a short hesitation.
Daisy thought to herself that that was an odd thing to say.
“Abbey, do come and meet my oldest friend Matt and his wife Adele,” said the spin doctor who seemed very happy to see his friends again. “Abbey is my new personal assistant I told you about on the phone!”
Matt was the typical charmer and smiled at Daisy as he shook her hand.
“If I were a politician, I’d certainly have asked you long before him to become my personal assistant!” he joked taking his sunglasses off.
As Matt said this, Adele gave Daisy a strange look.
Pleased to meet you,” she said eyeing Daisy as though she were an outsider. She then smiled rather insincerely and pointed out that she was just dying for a caffeine shot.
“Well, you know, Nick has always been lucky,” Matt remarked. “He’s got a son who is a recognised artist, a daughter who’s a surgeon and another daughter who’s an inspiring young teacher. By the way, Nick, I’ve got something urgent to show you, so we can discuss it and get it all out of the way before the end of the month.”
“Ah, okay,” replied Nick. “I’ll have a look at it later.”
“Right, we’ll have some breakfast and then we’ll go upstairs to our room,” said Matt. “See you later.”
As soon as Matt and Adele had disappeared, Nick gestured to Daisy to follow him into his studio. “Now the coast is clear, let’s get up to date with explaining who’s who!” he said leading the way.
Once they were sitting down in Nick’s studio, Daisy took the initiative. “Perhaps you could show me the poison pen letter now,” she suggested still wondering why on earth Nick hadn’t shown it to her yet.
“Do you know, I can’t find it?” was his unexpected reply. “I put it in my file of papers I have to look through over the weekend and it’s not there any more... but I imagine it must be on my desk somewhere. So I’ll have a good look for it and I’ll show it to you when I find it.”
“Fine!” said Daisy not completely convinced that Nick was telling her the truth. She started to think that the poison pen letter could have been the brilliant idea of a spin doctor who wanted her to help him solve his family problems!
“Well, let's see,” Nick began, “Matt is my oldest and dearest friend from when we were at university. He read law and business management whilst I struggled with mathematics and economics, and when I began my political career he became my administrator. Adele is his third wife - Matt’s always been one for the ladies and never seemed to really settle down - except for now. In Adele he seems to have found a little more stability at last.”
“And Kyle?” Daisy asked.
Nick laughed, “Ah, I know what you‘re thinking. No, he‘s not another addition to the family! A year ago I had just opened my front door when I discovered someone curled up in a sleeping-bag on the steps. It was Kyle, who was homeless. He had been thrown out by his uncle on his eighteenth birthday - for private reasons, shall we say. What he told me was so distressing that I decided to give him a place to sleep until he could sort himself out. It turned out well and he started studying again - and he’s still with me. Kyle’s a good boy and as he wanted to do something to repay me, he voluntarily answers the door and does a few jobs for me even though, in reality, he’s a guest.”
“Grandfather!” said a voice from behind the door. “I‘ve got something to show you!”
“Hello Justin!” replied Nick getting up from his desk and opening the door. “I’ve just found a baby hedgehog, come and see it!” said Justin excitedly pulling his grandfather towards the stairs.
“Excuse me, Abbey, pleasure before business!” joked Nick disappearing downstairs with Justin.

Daisy went back to her room to have a moment to herself. As soon as she sat down, somebody knocked at the door. It was Isabel.
“Can I come in?” she asked.
“Yes, of course,” said Daisy. “I was just going to check my emails.”
“Look, Abbey, you can pull the wool over some people’s eyes but not mine,” Isabel stated bluntly. “You are not my father’s PA. You’re either his new girlfriend or something else. And I don’t think you’re his girlfriend judging by your body language. So, what’s going on exactly?”
Daisy was astounded by this unexpected confrontation.
“I can only tell you this,” she replied calmly, “I’d never seen your father before last Monday but I think you have something to tell me.”
Isabel was taken aback by Daisy’s retort and was visibly trying to decide what strategy to follow. Then she asked, “Do you know anything about a certain letter?”
Daisy froze inside. “What letter are you talking about?”
“This one,” replied Isabel, pulling out a letter from her jeans pocket and giving it to the detective.
Daisy read it. The letter said, “I know something about that little gold-digger which you don’t.”
Daisy’s heart missed a beat, “It’s the the poison pen letter Nick told me about, which I was beginning to think, perhaps, didn’t exist,” she said to herself. The letter had been written on a computer with the words ”little gold-digger” in capital letters.
Daisy put on a front of complete composure, “I can see that you want us to lay all our cards on the table, Isabel. But before we do so, I want you to tell me how you came to know about this letter and why it is in your possession.”
Isabel accepted Daisy’s challenge, “Well, ten days ago my father telephoned me to ask me if I knew anything about it. I sent him to hell, of course. Then he said he couldn’t let it slide and had to do something about it.”
“When I saw my father today,” Isabel continued, “I asked him to show me the letter but he refused saying that he had already sorted the matter out and would let me know about it. But I noticed that during our conversation he kept looking at a green folder which was on his desk, so I imagined that the letter was in it. When he was called out of the room for a moment, I looked inside the folder and found the letter! I picked it up to read it, but my father came back into the room at that very instant so I didn’t have time to put it back inside the folder and walked out of the room with it. When I realised that you were probably part of the already sorted the matter out, I knew that you would be able to illuminate me. After all, it is about my so-called half-sister,” she said with a mock grin.
“Why do you think that the term ‘little gold-digger’ refers to Emily?” asked Daisy.
“It’s obvious, she’s the new entry into the family and my father is a wealthy man.”
“And what secret could Emily possibly be hiding?” Daisy added.
Isabel raised her eyebrows as if to say she had no idea.
“That’s my father’s problem,” she scoffed. “He’s always got an answer for everything and knows nothing!”
“Why are you always so belligerent with him?” asked the detective.
“Oh, I haven’t got time for this!” said Isabel suddenly getting up to go.
“Wait a minute, Isabel,” urged Daisy gently. “Sit down again. I’m not your enemy, you know.”
Isabel looked Daisy straight in the eyes and sat down again. The two women spent the next half an hour discussing about what had really happened between Isabel and her father and had soured their relationship.
At the end of their conversation Isabel was almost tearful.
“Isabel, I think by now you have understood which side I’m on, so will you give me the letter please,” Daisy asked.
Isabel pulled herself together and gave Daisy the poison pen letter without another word. She then walked out of the room.
Daisy concluded that notwithstanding the conversation she had had with Isabel it was too early to decide whether she could trust her completely.

Now Daisy went downstairs to see what was happening. Nick was in the breakfast room talking to his son and daughter-in-law.
“Oh, Abbey,” he exclaimed, “come and meet Julian and Cressida, Justin’s parents!”
Daisy shook hands with a rather lean and intelligent-looking man with long dark hair and a pleasant fair-haired woman with a tired expression on her face.
“Er... happy birthday father,” Julian said a little awkwardly. “You know, we left early, but there was a lot of traffic. Mind if we have a bite to eat?”
Daisy had the impression that Julian didn’t seem completely at his ease and wasn’t overenthusiastic at seeing his father.
During the brief meal that followed, Daisy asked Julian if he was in politics too.
“Heavens no! Not on your life! I’ve got a progressive theatre to run in the East End. You know - forbidden subjects and all new playwrights pushing their talents for the first, and not always the first, time.”
“How very interesting. I’d like to see some of the performances,” Daisy commented.
“Well, you’ll have to wait a few weeks because the council has decided to give us the money to renovate the building - which needed it, I assure you, so that things don’t fall down and kill the actors too often!” said Julian theatrically.
Daisy smiled at his joke and observed that Cressida was a pleasant enough woman of about thirty who had little chance of getting a word in edgeways with her rather loquacious husband.
“Ah, I can see Isabel arriving with Justin,” said Nick looking out of the French windows, “and Emily and Steve are heading this way too.”
Cressida stiffened and looked anxiously at her husband’s reaction.
Daisy wondered if there was going to be another unpleasant scene.
“Emily and Steve - meet my son Julian and his wife Cressida,” said Nick as his newly-found daughter arrived, hand-in-hand with Steve.
Julian managed to overcome his uneasiness by answering in a rather off-hand manner. “Emily - that’s a nice name for an actress, do you do any acting by chance?”
“No, I help - or try to help disadvantaged children in the basics,” replied Emily just as Isabel was walking through the French windows.
“Julian and Cress!” exclaimed Isabel visibly pleased. “Lovely to see you at last. We haven’t met up since Christmas!”
“Don’t forget, folks,” announced Nick, “at six-thirty Mr. Buttersfield will be starting up the barbecue in the garden!”
“Will there be a birthday cake, grandfather?” asked Justin.
“Of course! And you are going to help me blow the candles out!” he replied.
Isabel sat down to a sandwich next to Cressida. “Sorry I couldn’t take your call last night,” she said. “Was it about Justin’s birthday party?”
Daisy noted that instead of answering, Cressida made a sign to Isabel with her eyes and, very soon, they walked quietly out of the room one after the other. Was this secretive behaviour connected to the poison pen letter affair?
Looking at Julian and Isabel Daisy noticed there was a resemblance between the two siblings but that Emily looked nothing like either of them.
Daisy began to wonder whether she should give Nick the letter back now or wait a little longer. Yes, he had been busy talking to members of his family, but he didn’t really seem keen on tackling the main issue as if he were scared of finding out who had written the letter. She came to the conclusion that it was best to keep it, at least for the time being.
Now she felt she needed a breath of fresh air and decided to explore the grounds around the house.

It was pleasantly warm, the birds were singing and the flowers were showing off their brilliant colours. Daisy was feeling a little more relaxed and revitalised when suddenly she heard the voice of an angry woman coming from the drawing-room as she walked past.
“But why on earth are you saying I’ve done a stupid thing? It was the only thing to do in the circumstances. You ruined everything asking him to lend you the money!”
While this was happening, Bailey appeared from around the corner barking furiously at a rabbit who was sprinting over the lawn into the bushes and made it impossible for Daisy to detect who was actually speaking.
Then someone banged the window shut and Daisy could hear no more. She rushed back into the house to see who was in the drawing-room but, when she arrived, there was no-one there.
Daisy had had enough of all the stress and decided to go upstairs and have a relaxing shower. She then surfed the internet for a while and spent the rest of the afternoon reading her book on zen philosophy.


Part 2 • The birthday barbecue

At about six-thirty Daisy went down to the garden for the birthday party barbecue. A table had been set up with dishes of vegetables, jacket potatoes, macaroni cheese, salad, scotch eggs, a platter of cheeses, various drinks and a microwave oven.
“This is just like old times, Nick,” exclaimed Matt as he and Mr. Buttersfield got to work grilling meat on the barbecue. “Do you remember old Barton furious with us for holding all-night parties in our rooms and cooking on a stove?”
Nick laughed, “Well, you must admit it was dangerous but the reason why he actually threw you out was because you held all night poker games!”
“That was the time when you won, that’s why you remember it so well!” joked Matt.
He put some oil on the grill and smiled at Emily who had just appeared with Steve. “We haven’t been introduced, but I’m Matt and I’m married to Adele, that gorgeous lady over there,” he said. “Emily, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” she replied, “and this is Steve.”
“Pleased to meet you both. Well, Emily and Steve, what do you fancy?” asked Matt. “The sausages are delicious and the steaks are highly recommended. They have been marinated as per my instructions!”
Matt was clearly enjoying himself. “Adele, get me a glass of wine please. This is thirsty work!”
“I’d like a jacket potato, please, with butter,” said Justin to his mother.
“Yes dear. Shall I bring you some cheese too?” asked an anxious Cressida.
“I want a chop and a sausage, please, Matt. Well-cooked!” requested Isabel. “Emily, you didn’t tell me you taught disadvantaged children. You know, I’ve got a little heart patient who still can’t read at all...”
Daisy noticed that the previously angry and intolerant Isabel was now talking to Emily.
The guests were wearing jackets and scarves as it wasn’t so warm now and sat down on chairs which had been laid out around the barbecue.
“How is your mother, Julian?” asked Nick.
“She’s in India with Rakesh researching for a film they are going to make with a backdrop on Christian Anglo-Indian communities around the country,” Julian replied.
“Matt, aren’t you going to stop for a moment to eat something yourself?” suggested Adele.
Daisy sensed there was a less tense atmosphere in general. Emily was rather quiet, which was not surprising in the circumstances, and waited to be spoken to first.
“You’ve never told us why you prefer being called Matt,” said Isabel to the barbecue expert.
“Well, I’ve always hated the name Theodore - it makes me sound like an American president,” joked Matt. “Just think, Theodore Matthew Constable-Smith! I know it’s unique, but it’s a bit too much, so everybody calls me Matt.”
Now Daisy could see Steve was whispering something to Emily, who looked at him in surprise. After a few seconds they both got up and walked over to the table ostensibly to get some more bread and wine while continuing their intense conversation.
Intrigued, Daisy also got up. “I’m feeling a bit cold, I’ll go and put a warmer jumper on,” she said to Kyle who was sitting near her.
As Daisy walked past the table, she heard Steve uttering an unpleasant expression several times and was rather taken aback by it.
As she returned, Matt exclaimed, “Okay everybody, let’s bring on the cake!”
Kyle went into the breakfast room to get the cake and placed it onto the table outside.
“Oh, that’s lovely, Kyle. By the way, why didn’t you bring your girlfriend for the weekend?” asked Nick.
“I did ask Astrid to come along,” replied Kyle, “but she’s studying for the exam on Observational Astrophysics we’ve got on Tuesday.”
“Well, I hope you both get stellar results!” quipped Nick.
“Grandfather, come on, we’ve got to blow out all the candles,” said Justin.
“Ah, I can see you both need some help,” joked Matt also blowing out the candles with his friend.
“Come off it, Matt, you’ll be sending him love letters soon,” said Adele who had had a bit too much too drink and was a little under the weather.
“Oh, do shut up, my dear,” replied Matt glaring at his wife for an instant.
“Look, there’s Bailey,” said Justin. “He’s come for his slice of cake too!”
Soon Justin began to yawn and look sleepy. Isabel beckoned to him to come and sit next to her and encouraged the boy to put his head on her lap where he soon went off to sleep.
The party broke up an hour or so later when Mr. and Mrs. Buttersfield came to clear up and see to it that the barbecue had been safely put out.

Daisy tried reading when she went to bed, but she felt uneasy. “I’ve got a lot of clues but I still can’t work out how to put all the bits of the puzzle together,” she thought to herself. “This case is proving really elusive. Nick doesn’t seem that keen to find out who wrote the letter and it’s as though he’s forgotten all about it. Next he’ll be saying that he doesn’t need my services any longer!”
To make matters worse, a storm broke out and lightning flashed violently. Eventually Daisy fell asleep and dreamed that she was in the middle of a circle of quarrelling people pointing their fingers at her.

The next morning Daisy felt a wreck. When she opened her bedroom door she saw Isabel in the corridor speaking on her mobile, “Yes I know the name of the disease he had,” said Isabel. “But what are his symptoms now? I see, well, I think I’d better come in and check for myself. I’ll be there as soon as possible.”
Isabel went back to her room without even noticing Daisy.
The detective was thinking about two words she had just heard, symptom and disease. She kept repeating them to herself, almost saying them out loud.
“That’s it!” she suddenly exclaimed, “Symptom and disease! I’ve been concentrating on the symptom, the poison pen letter, not the disease... and I think I know what the disease is now!”
Daisy now heard somebody coming up the stairs. It was Kyle.
“Oh, Abbey, are you okay?” he said noticing that Daisy was red in the face and agitated.
“Er... I was just coming down...” replied the detective.
“Nick has asked me to tell you he’s in his studio,” said Kyle, “and wants to talk to you when you’ve had your breakfast. Oh, by the way, Isabel had to leave early and asked me to give you her card with her mobile number on it. She said she’d like you to come and see her at the hospital one afternoon!”

Nick was sitting at his desk looking over some papers when Daisy knocked at the door and went into his studio.
“Hello... er... Daisy! Please shut the door and come and sit down,” he said ominously.
“I’m all ears,” replied the private investigator who had not failed to notice that he now addressed her as Daisy.
Nick began, “You know, Daisy, in my line of business I get used to having all sorts of threats and I usually dismiss them. The world of politics is pretty violent sometimes and I do get offensive letters. It happens! Usually I throw them away but in this case I didn’t, and came to you for help. Probably I shouldn’t have.”
Daisy interrupted Nick, “Things haven’t worked out quite the way you expected but...”
“Daisy, don’t get me wrong,” insisted the spin doctor. “I do appreciate all the work you’ve put in so far, but I realise that I’m not really interested in finding out who wrote this poison pen letter any more. My children are too important to me and as far as I’m concerned, that’s as far as I want to go.”
Daisy shook her head. “I understand your misgivings but I have something to tell you which has nothing to do with the poison pen letter as such, but is of paramount importance all the same. Actually, it doesn’t really matter so much who wrote the letter at this stage but what’s behind it all. Remember what you promised me? Carte blanche, no holds barred! As far as the letter is concerned, I’ve nailed it down to two people...”
Now Nick looked scared. “Then tell me who they are,” he said like a man sentenced to life deportation.
Daisy went on unperturbed, “I’ll come back to that later. Now, however, I want to invite Emily and Steve to come in here and have a little chat with us,”
Nick gasped, “You think... they sent the letter?”
“They could have... if they were wicked, which they certainly aren’t!” remarked Daisy calmly.
Nick nearly choked. “Er... very well - I’ll get Kyle to find them,” he replied dialling his mobile.
While they were waiting, Daisy took the poison pen letter out of her pocket and showed it to Nick.
You’ve got it, Daisy? How come?” Nick was was now both flabbergasted and worried.
“Well, I’ll explain how I came by it shortly,” answered the detective confidently.

“You wanted to see us?” asked Steve, hand-in-hand with Emily at the door. “Or maybe you’d prefer to speak to Emily alone. I’ll wait outside if you like!”
“No, no,” replied Nick, “come in! Abbey and I wanted a quiet word with you both.”
Steve frowned at the word ‘Abbey’ but said nothing.
“Shall I begin, Nick?” asked Daisy, taking command. “First of all, I’m not Nick’s Personal Assistant. My name is Daisy Hamilton and I’m really a private detective.”
“I told you so, remember?” Steve murmured to Emily.
“Nick asked me to come here to investigate a poison pen letter he had received concerning a member of his family,” revealed Daisy.
“A poison pen letter, phew, I knew something was going on!” Steve commented.
Daisy continued, “Emily, you have recently discovered you’ve got another family and it can’t have been easy for you. Steve, you’ve seen this new family come together for the first time and I noticed that you have taken everything to heart to the point of being very perturbed by something you saw or heard at the barbecue party, and that you were discussing it with Emily. Could you tell us what it was all about?”
“No, I really don’t want to interfere or anything...” replied Steve slightly embarrassed. For once he looked a little at a loss for words and his naturally big brown eyes seemed to stand out more than usual.
Just then somebody knocked on the door. It was Matt.
“Look, old chap,” Matt said. “The weather is worsening, so we’re going to push off now before the rain sets in. Adele says thank you for everything. Oh, before I forget, can I have the papers I gave you? Have you signed them?”
“Sorry Matt,” answered Nick. “I’ve only just picked them up. I’ll bring them over to you tomorrow afternoon if you don’t mind!”
“Ah, don’t worry,” Matt replied. “Thanks for a lovely time. Goodbye Abbey, Emily and Steve - see you!”

Once Matt had closed the door, Daisy turned again to Steve.
“Steve, we were discussing what upset you at the barbecue. I heard you repeating the words he’s a swindler three times when you were talking to Emily!”
Steve was very embarrassed by now. “I work in a law firm and I can’t gossip about people and get them into trouble,” he protested.
Daisy decided to change tactics to force his hand. She pulled the poison pen letter out of her pocket and handed it to him. “Perhaps this will help you change your mind,” she said.
Steve took the letter and read it. “What on earth is this?” he exclaimed getting up angrily out of his chair, his hand shaking.
“It’s the poison pen letter I was telling you about,” said Daisy.
“It’s disgusting. Who the hell wrote this?” he shouted.
Daisy took it from his hands and gave it to Emily to read.
“My goodness!” she said, “What does it mean, Steve? Do they
mean... me?”
“All right, I give in. I’ll explain,” Steve said breathing heavily. “Abbey... er... Daisy, you asked me what I was saying to Emily. Well, we were talking about... ehm... Matt.”
Nick stared aghast at Steve, “What?”
Daisy intervened, “Nick, listen to what he’s got to say.”
Steve continued, “I’d never met Matt before, but when he mentioned his real name, Theodore Matthew Constable-Smith, my brain began buzzing and then I remembered that somebody with this very name is well-known in my law firm and that we actually had a client who had been the victim of a scam by a ‘Theodore Constable-Smith’. It’s an uncommon name, so I thought it was probably the same person. I then took a photograph of Matt with my mobile and sent it to the colleague at my law firm who had handled the case. He confirmed what I had feared: it was the same person.”
“No, no, no! There must be a mistake somewhere,” Nick protested, “I’ve known Matt for forty years or so, we were at university together and I trust him completely. It’s thanks to him that I have been able to almost double the money I invest every single year. Now, for example, I’ve got to sign this document here to renew the investment.”
“Can you show it to me, please?” asked Daisy.
“It’s the same kind of document I signed last year and the year before that, etcetera etcetera,” said an exasperated Nick. “I can't see why you're making such a fuss about it!”
Daisy insisted, “I'm sorry, Nick, but it's essential.”
“All right, if you must,” said Nick reluctantly opening the folder which contained the document and giving it to her.
“Steve, do you mind?” said Daisy handing him the papers.
Nick looked extremely annoyed but then remembered that there was an agreement between them of no holds barred and said nothing.
“Steve, read this please!” urged Daisy.
At least ten minutes went by while Steve examined all the five pages handed to him. “I’m not a financial expert but if you really want my opinion I wouldn’t sign it for any reason whatsoever!”
“But why, for heaven’s sake?” objected the spin doctor.
“Er...,” Steve explained, “I’m afraid this is what is called in the trade The Donkey and the Carrot scam. It all starts as a normal investment with a guaranteed high yield rate, let’s say 20%. The swindler has already opened a special account for the purpose of the scam and the donkey is persuaded to put his money into it. The scam works thanks to the mutual trust relationship already existing between the two parties. Now, the next step is that after a year the donkey is told that for every hundred pounds he invested, there has been a 50% gain instead of the 20% promised.”
Nick gasped involuntarily.
Steve continued, “To demonstrate this, the donkey is shown a heavily manipulated balance sheet. This is the carrot which encourages the donkey to invest even more money in the scheme the next time round and so on, and so forth.”
By now Nick was beginning to look extremely tense.
Steve went on, “It’s a very well-known scam and the one which led to a lot of trouble for Theodore Constable-Smith, who was very lucky in the end as the matter was settled out of court some months ago.”
“But why should he do all this?” Nick’s question was almost inaudible.
“To feed his gambling habit,” replied Steve. “Chambers is a place where all the gossip flows from morning til night and especially from night til morning. However, as you know, we solicitors have a code of conduct to follow, but as there are extenuating circumstances here I’m forced to tell you that Matt is a notorious card gambler!”
“He’s always played poker every since we were at university,” Nick attempted to defend his friend, “but it’s just a sort of relief from tension.” “Not really - he has huge debts and is always looking for ways to pay them,” Steve let out at last.
There was a moment of chilling silence while Nick took in what had been said. The spin doctor looked crushed.
“And you’re telling me in no uncertain terms that this document shows there is a sort of scam going on?” he managed to utter.
“Yes, Nick, and you’re not the first to be involved. At least you haven’t signed anything yet this time! Oh, by the way, I’d better give you this thing back!” Steve said handing Daisy the poison pen letter. Daisy took the letter and placed it on Nick’s desk.
The spin doctor was terribly upset and asked to be left alone for a while. Daisy thought it was neither the time nor the place to reveal who had written the poison pen letter and left things as they were.

Daisy, Emily and Steve went down to the breakfast room where Kyle was laying out food for lunch.
“Maybe we’d better go back to London and leave Nick in peace,” said Steve.
“I think he’ll want you to stay a bit,” advised Daisy. “You know, he was very fond of Matt. He needs his family at a moment like this.”
After a while Nick came down and sat at the table. He’d clearly been crying.
“Steve,” he said trying to pull himself together. “I was shocked by what you told us and I’d like you to organise an independent audit on all my business dealings with Matt.”
Steve nodded, “I’ll telephone you first thing tomorrow morning, okay?”
“All right,” replied Nick. “Please don’t say anything to Julian and Cressida. I will explain everything to Julian when I get back to London.”
“Nick, I don’t think you need my services here any more,” said Daisy.
Nick nodded, “Look Daisy, thanks for everything. I’ll ring you when I’ve got the results of the audit and we can meet up at my house in London.”
“Please say goodbye to Julian and Cressida and especially Justin. Emily and Steve, please keep well. Hope to see you some time,” said Daisy and set off into the rain back home.


Part 3 • Business as unusual

Ten days later Nick made an appointment with Daisy for her to come to his home, in Kensington, to settle up everything.
Daisy was just going to ring the bell at the spin doctor’s home when the door opened revealing a good-looking man in his early thirties saying goodbye to him.
Once the young man got into a taxi, Nick said to Daisy, “So glad to see you! Incidentally, that’s the future health minister if the opposition gets in at the next elections, and a doctor to boot!”
Nick welcomed Daisy in and showed her into his studio. A few minutes later both of them were chatting over a cup of coffee.
“Well, first of all something nice,” he said. “You remember I told you Kyle was thrown out of his house by his uncle when he was eighteen? His uncle had shown him a document saying that he had bought the house from Kyle’s father. Turns out he was arrested by the police last week on charges of receiving and forging documents! He confessed to having forged the property deed and destroying the last will and testament of Kyle’s father which left everything to his son.
So Kyle will be moving into his house shortly. I’ll miss him of course but I’m happy that he’ll have his own place at last!”
Even though Nick was obviously pleased for Kyle, Daisy could see that something was weighing on his mind.
“How did Kyle get on with his exam?” asked Daisy trying to ease the tension.
“Full marks, as usual, he’s clearly going to have a brilliant future,” Nick replied. Then a worried look came over his face, “You know, Daisy, I’m very sorry that all that horrible stuff surfaced at the weekend when you were there.”
“All in the line of duty, as they say,” she replied.
“You went far beyond the line of duty, Daisy,” Nick observed affectionately. “I heard about how you got my two daughters talking to each other and I’m still in awe about how you managed to get Steve to tell us what he knew about Matt. What had made you suspicious of him?”
“Your own words,” answered Daisy calmly.
“My own words? What do you mean?” exclaimed Nick.
“Well, you painted the picture of a man who wasn’t very stable from the time he was at university when he gambled and joked around, a man who’d married three times and needed to settle down. Then, of course, Adele told us he’d been doing something all night long, which could have meant anything from robbing a bank, playing around with another woman or... gambling! And if you remember, at a certain point, Adele was about to say something but hesitated, probably realising she was going to let the cat out of the bag, and quickly changed the phrase into painting the town pink. Then, when I heard Steve talking to Emily and repeat the words he’s a swindler three times I was pretty sure who he was speaking about because the other male people in the party were yourself, your son and Kyle. I eliminated all of you and the only man left was Matt!”
“Whew! Now I’d like to tell you what’s been happening this last week,” said Nick trying to shake off his gloomy mood, “Steve got on to sending a colleague who deals in financial affairs to audit everything and found out that our fears were completely justified. It’s true, my best and oldest friend has been squirreling away my money for some time - probably, as Steve suggested, to pay his gambling debts.”
“Well,” Daisy took a breath, “now I imagine Steve will try and get some of your money back?”
“I hope so!” answered Nick. “At the beginning I could never have imagined that the poison pen letter would lead to all this.”
“I’m sure you must have guessed by now that the two matters are linked,” remarked Daisy.
“Linked? What do you mean?”
“Did Matt ask you to lend him some money recently?” she asked unexpectedly.
“Yes, he did, a couple of months or so back,” said Nick, “just after I discovered I had another daughter! I told him I was going to make out a new will to take into account the fact that I now had three children and needed to be fair to all of them. So before lending him any money, I wanted to have an assessment made of all my financial assets and properties.”
“Was Matt very disappointed?” asked Daisy.
Nick shook his head, “No, he replied that it didn’t matter about the loan, he would manage anyway and would get on with preparing the assessment. But how come you know all this?”
Daisy told Nick about the conversation she had overheard in the garden.
“I’m now sure the woman’s voice was Adele’s,” said the detective. “She was replying to her husband’s remark that she had done a very stupid thing, which was, probably, sending you the poison pen letter.”
“But what on earth did Adele think she would achieve by doing such a nasty thing?” asked Nick still unable to come to grips with everything.
Daisy reflected for a moment, “She was desperate to find a solution and probably thought that suggesting that Emily was a gold digger, and worse, could have planted a serious doubt in your mind about her. After all, badnaming her was the only way to achieve what they wanted. If you started thinking of Emily as a little gold digger who didn’t deserve your trust, maybe you wouldn’t have gone ahead with the assessment, which was what they were really afraid of.”
“Yes, I think you’re right. But why do you think Matt asked me for a loan at that particular moment? He was already stealing money from me!”
“For two reasons,” explained Daisy, “first because he unexpectedly had to settle out of court with another victim of his scams to avoid a possible prison sentence, and secondly because all the money in The Donkey and the Carrot scam was tied up in his account and couldn’t be freed at will.”
Nick nodded sadly. “I feel like a complete idiot, Daisy. How can a friend do that sort of thing? I’m used to dirty dealings in politics but this beats everything. Matt used to mind all my financial affairs... and I never suspected anything! And they call me... a spin doctor!”
“I know it hurts,” remarked Daisy, “but we need to understand that he did what he did because he has an illness we call an addiction, and that he must have his high or buzz to be able to live.”
“I get your point,” interrupted Nick, “but Matt always pretended to be fond of me and have my best interests at heart. How insincere he was!”
“You know, I watched him, as I did everybody,” Daisy pointed out. “He always had a nice expression when he looked at you. He was fond of you but his gambling addiction was stronger than anything else. We could say he was your unwilling enemy.”
“Thank you Daisy, I suppose you‘re right,” he acknowledged.
“So what do you plan to do now?” Daisy asked.
“Steve has advised me to keep it all as low-key as possible for my own good. He says that things get expensive involving solicitors and court cases and I know money could be a bit tight for me for a while. Anyway, as far as Julian and Isabel are concerned, I put two of my properties in their names some years ago and I’ll do my best towards Emily as soon as I can. I still don’t know the full extent of this financial disaster but even in a worst-case scenario I’ve still got my job and a lot of requests coming in, so it shouldn’t be a terrible problem to get myself back on my feet again.”
“Well, I‘m a great believer in getting on with things in life and not worrying about the past,” said Daisy philosophically.
“I agree, still, what should I do about Adele and the poison pen letter?”
“Short of telling the police about it,” replied Daisy, “and having it analysed for fingerprints or DNA, which probably wouldn’t be of much use anyway because a lot of people have handled the letter, I’d suggest you forget the matter entirely. After all, Adele has been going through hell because of Matt and she’s also a victim in this story.”
“Yes, you’re right. And I’m always against vengeance for vengeance sake getting the upper hand,” Nick declared.
Suddenly he picked up his mobile from his desk and looked to see who was calling him. “Julian! How are you? Really? Oh, that’s marvellous! Look, I’m busy just now but I’ll ring you as soon as I can. Wonderful! Bye.”
Nick switched off his mobile. “Daisy, you’ll never guess...”
“You’re going to be a grandfather again.”
“You’re clairvoyant, Daisy! How did you know?” exclaimed the spin doctor in admiration.
“Well, I didn’t, but I worked it out. I saw that when we were all together last weekend Cressida was looking a bit pale and tired. Then I noticed that whilst talking to Isabel she made a sign to her that she wanted to speak to her privately. It could have been for many different reasons but seeing that you are so excited about what Julian told you, I put two and two together!”
Nick nodded, “Of course you did!”
“So there’ll be a new addition to your family,” commented Daisy, “and it’s nice to see a smile on your face at last!”
“Yes, but I’d be happier if my relationships with Julian and Isabel weren’t always so complicated. When you say my family - well, there isn’t much affection on their part, as you’ve seen.”
“Nick, as you’ve brought the subject up, I’ll have to be frank with you. I haven’t told you how the poison pen letter came into my possession.Well, it was Isabel who gave it to me, she had found it lying somewhere.”
“I am a bit forgetful sometimes,” admitted Nick.
“We also had a conversation about why she was so aggressive towards you,” Daisy revealed.
“Did anything good come of it?” Nick asked skeptically.
“Maybe, but only you can be the judge of it. I realise it’s not politically correct, but I’d like to tell you what she said, if you agree.”
“No holds barred, as usual,” Nick nodded.
“Well, Isabel told me about the freak accident you had on a golf course in Scotland when she was at medical school in York and Julian was abroad,” said Daisy.
Nick showed signs of feeling uneasy. “Yes, but that was a long time ago.”
“You finished up in hospital bleeding profusely,” the detective continued. “There they discovered you had a rather rare blood group and were afraid there might not be enough supplies in the blood bank. The hospital telephoned Isabel as your next of kin and she offered to go up to Edinburgh to the hospital immediately to see if she could donate blood but you vehemently refused to let her.”
Nick’s hands started twitching. “I remember all that. I really don‘t know why we‘re discussing it,” he protested.
“There is a reason, please bear with me,” said a determined Daisy. “Isabel was very perturbed by your blunt refusal and told her mother all about it. Instead of being supportive, she seemed to want to sidetrack Isabel, who became suspicious and begged her mother to clarify what was going on. After a lot of insistence on the part of Isabel, she finally gave in and told her the truth.”
Now Nick was really upset. “She told her?” he gasped. “We’d made a pact never to tell anybody that I wasn’t her biological father. In fact, when I had the accident and was bleeding, I was terrified Isabel might find out that our blood groups weren’t compatible and that I wasn’t her father, so I told her not to come.”
“Well, scientifically speaking, you could still have been her father...” observed Daisy.
“Yes,” admitted Nick, “but I wasn’t thinking clearly, as you can imagine, and I panicked. I had no idea it would provoke such a reaction in Isabel!”
Nick sat up in his chair obviously attempting to work out the
consequences of this unforeseen turn of events. All of a sudden he let out a sound of dismay, “Oh no! Now I realise why Isabel has been so antagonistic towards me ever since I had that accident. She feels betrayed both by her mother and by me. What a terrible mess!”
Daisy attempted to defuse Nick’s despair.
“Look, Nick,” she said, “I know Isabel used to adore you when she was a little girl. When you had that accident, she was clearly traumatised by what happened. After knowing the truth, she may have thought that you couldn’t possibly love her because she wasn’t your biological daughter and converted her sense of insecurity into aggressiveness.”
“Yes, but why didn't Isabel come and tell me about all this afterwards when I got back from Edinburgh?” asked Nick who couldn‘t make sense of it all yet.
“Well, we can’t know at this point,” replied Daisy. “Maybe her mother made her promise not to say anything. Or perhaps Isabel was afraid to tell you she knew the truth. But that was some years ago, surely we can change all that now! Isabel may seem rather hostile outwardly but the Dr. Isabel who operates and looks after her children in the hospital has a lot of love to give.”
“You know, Daisy, I’ve tried to reach out to her many times but it has always proved useless,” explained Nick.
“Have you ever been to see her in the hospital, where she feels safe?” Daisy suggested.
“No, I know her, she’d only tell me to go away!” replied the spin doctor.
“So you try again... and again and again, until she realises you’re seriously interested in her work... that is, if you are,” observed Daisy deliberately challenging him.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to bridge the gap between us,” Nick declared resolutely.
The detective felt satisfied, “Well, now that everything is out into the open at last...”
“Daisy,” Nick interrupted, “everything is not out into the open yet!”
Daisy stared at him.
“I’ve got to tell you all the truth.” The spin doctor got up and started pacing around the room nervously. “Julian isn’t my son either, and what’s more, Julian and Isabel are only half-brother and sister.”
Daisy was truly taken aback, “You mean...”
“Yes, I do.” Nick almost whispered. “Julian and Isabel had different fathers!”
Nick paused for a moment, almost relieved. He then continued, “My ex-wife had two separate relationships. I won’t go into further details but it was when Isabel was born that I decided I’d had enough and that was the end of our marriage even though we continued to live together for the next seven years or so. Then, of course, I moved away.”
Nick sat down again. “It's all my fault, I know,” he added.
“I don’t think so,” Daisy protested. “When we were having breakfast at your country home you told me that you took full responsibility for the failure of your marriage, but I think there is surely some responsibility on the part of your ex-wife too!”
“I suppose you’re right,” replied Nick, “but I was always busy, Daisy, and, quite frankly, I neglected her. No wonder she turned to someone else for love and affection. When our marriage fell apart, I felt that I had to protect Julian and Isabel no matter what. I wanted them to be able to trust their mother as I sincerely believe that the mother is more important than the father in a family. So I decided that nothing should ever taint her image. And if they thought negatively of me, it was the lesser evil.”

As Daisy climbed into a taxi outside Nick’s house, she thought that this was a man to respect. He had accepted Julian and Isabel as his children and brought them up as his own, which was the right thing to do in the circumstances but, of course, a difficult thing to do.

A week later Daisy received a letter from Nick saying,

Dear Daisy,

Just to let you know that I’ve cleared up everything with Isabel and Julian. I learnt that their mother had revealed everything to Isabel during that discussion and later to Julian, after he came back from abroad. I have also told them about Matt and my financial situation.

Julian has asked me to give you these two tickets, which I have enclosed, for the reopening of his theatre and the party afterwards. We really hope you will be coming.


P.S. I’ve arranged for you to be taken home again after the party by car.


It was a few weeks later on a warm summer’s day when Daisy and her friend Pam caught a train to London to go to the re-opening of Julian’s experimental theatre in the East End.
“Pam, I’m so glad you managed to park your two children with your sister,” said the detective, “so you can enjoy yourself for a change!”
“I only wish we could do this every week!” exclaimed Pam. “The last time I went to see a play was before the children were born!”

When Daisy and Pam arrived at the theatre they were shown to their seats in the front row. After the lights dimmed, a spotlight shone on four people also sitting in the front row next to each other. They began commenting loudly on a play which they had seen the evening before and criticising it harshly. “The producer should be shot!” one of the two men shouted. “Shot is too good for him. He should be hanged and in front of his theatre too!” said the other man.
“I didn’t think the script was so bad...” interrupted one of the women.
“Oh, do shut up, dear, you don’t know anything about experimental theatre!” said the woman next to her.
This lively discussion went on for a few minutes accompanied by the sound of a drum roll which became louder and louder until suddenly the piercing sound of a trumpet broke through. Then the four actors got up and bowed to the rest of the audience. The spotlight was switched off and the four seats left by the actors were quickly filled in by four people who were waiting nearby. Daisy recognised them immediately. They were Julian, Isabel, Emily and Nick!