Novel Name : Masters & Lovers Box Set Three

Chapter 49

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Klempner - Twenty-Six Years Ago

She’s gone.

What now?

I stare out of the window of the apartment I bought for her, overlooking the harbour with its yachts and
pleasure boats, ice-cream kiosks and artsy-craftsy shops. Sunshine glints outside on the water, gleams
on fresh paint, blue and white, and on polished timber decks, then spills into the room. But there’s no
warmth in it. Tugging my jacket around me, I hiss as pain stabs through my hand. Gashed flesh
swollen and heated, seeps blood.

I should dress it…


I thought I had it.

I thought I had her.

I really did.

It’s so cold.

Walking through to the kitchen, I limp a little where my ankle twisted as I fell…

Would he really have run me down?

… then clumsily, working with one hand, I make coffee, splashing in a hefty measure of whiskey, then
more until the cup teeters on overflowing.

You had me fooled, Larry. You really had me going. When you left, I was coming to see you… and then
I saw them…

Returning with the drink to stand in the scant heat of the sunshine, I watch holidaymakers and tourists
going about their moronic activities. Hot alcohol and caffeine sear a trail down my throat but still, there’s
no warmth inside me.

She was coming to see me…

Coming to say she’d be with me…

Shivering, I drain the dregs.

Bitter as bile, churning and toxic, regret wells up inside me…

Enfolds me in its harsh embrace…

Overwhelms me…

There’s not enough air. Pain draws a band around my chest, tighter; ever tighter.

Dropping to my knees, I cover my face.

Hide from the world…

Is this all there is?

Hide from myself…

She ran to him…

From me and to him…


Inside, something flickers; a flame fanning up to burn hot and bright and toxic…

… Lighting the darkness.

The pain eases and I can breathe again. Inhaling, I draw one deep lungful after another, sucking at the
air until my head clears and I'm able to stand. Using the window ledge to support myself, I pull myself
upright again, plunging hands white with cold into my pockets…

…where something brushes against them; small, cold and metallic.


Fingers stiff and swollen, I pull out the strange object. A butterfly dangles from its chain, twinkling silver
as it spins in the sunlight.




My fingers grazing her skin… snagging on something which strains and pops to dangle from my

… blood streaming from sliced fingers and palm. Digging into a pocket…

She was wearing it.

His gift…

Rage boils inside me. Fists clenching, the pain lances through me, waking me, making me feel alive




David leaves. Michael considers the slip of paper in his hand. Richard and Beth sit in silence, listening

“So… what do we tell Charlotte?” I say.

“Nothing.” Michael stuffs the paper into a pocket. “I’m going to drive across there tomorrow and see
what the area looks like. I don’t want a repeat of last time; going all the way there to find nothing but a
car park and a supermarket. It would break her heart.”

“You’re not planning on knocking on the door?”

“No, that wouldn’t be right. But I want to check at least that there’s a door to knock on.”

“Fair enough.”



A classic city edge…

I check the address. Written in a careful hand, printed capitals, it is quite clear. This is the house.

And it looks occupied. No lights are on and there is no sign of movement, but paintwork is fresh and
clean; floral curtains drape inside, the door-knocker is of brightly polished brass.

Yes, I can bring her here.



My Master and Michael get out of the car with me. Michael leans back against the vehicle, arms folded,
legs crossed at the ankle. My Master paces up and down a little, then settles, watching as I approach
the door.

There’s a light on at a downstairs window; movement inside, shapes silhouetted against lights.

Suddenly timid, I can’t summon up the will to move. My feet drag. My heart flutters and my lungs are

Enough already…

Taking the knocker in one hand, I rap smartly on the door. It rat-tats, echoing through the space

What if she answers?

Will I recognise her?

Will she know who I am?

There’s a shuffle, the click of a turning lock, the clunk of a bolt being drawn back, then the door

… to a man’s face. A young man, perhaps thirty. He’s good-looking in an unremarkable way, but quite

“Um, I was looking for Michelle? Is she in?”

“Sorry, no Michelle here. You’ve got the wrong place.” He turns, closing the door as he does so.

I move quickly, shoving my foot in, my hand on the timber. “Er, sorry to be a nuisance, but I was given
this address. Can I ask how long you’ve lived here? Perhaps the people before you?”

“Only been here six months. And I don’t think there was a Michelle in the last lot. They’re rentals most
of these…” He thumbs up and down the street… “People come and go, y’know…”

“Oh, right. Thank you.”

He nods and closes the door…




Her head hangs…


As one, Michael and I stride across. Arms outstretched, Michael is speaking before we reach her…

… when a voice interrupts. “Shelley? Long time. No see. How lovely to run into you.”

Charlotte whirls so fast her hair swings around her, settling in a cloud over her shoulders. “Shelley?”

The speaker is an old woman, stooped at the shoulders, dressed in purple that doesn’t suit her,
pottering along towards us with an ancient shopping trolley. The bag is saggy, and one wheel is
uneven, so it rises and falls as she pushes. Nonetheless, it looks to be keeping her standing.
“Shelley…Oh, you do look well. Have you been on holiday?”

Then as she gets closer, she peers up into Charlotte’s face. “Oh, I am sorry, sweetheart. I thought you
were someone else. But y’know, you’re the spit ‘n image…”

“Shelley?” repeats Charlotte. “Shelley? Michelle Conners? You know her?”

“Michelle, yes. I know her, though I dunno about ‘Conners’.”


Charlotte’s voice is rising by the moment. Michael lays a hand on her arm, giving it a gentle squeeze.

Michael is naturally charming. It’s one of his strengths and is part of the reason he’s almost universally
liked. But it’s not often I see him deliberately turning up the appeal.

As I watch, a smile blooms over already handsome features. He drops a hand to her shoulder and
turns on the full beam of his charisma. Blue eyes, white teeth and blond hair swing dazzling onto an old
lass who’s probably not seen the like of it focussed her way for fifty years.

In that moment, I see not only the old lady she is now, and the young woman she once was, but also,
the girl, that in her head, she still is.

“Perhaps you can help us,” he says. “My wife here is trying to find Michelle. You know her you say?”

The wrinkled old face, rheumy-eyed, red-threaded, beams up at Michael as though Redford had ridden
in from Hollywood on a white stallion.

“Yes, I know her. We wuz good friends. But I’ve not seen her for a while. She moved from here…” She
waves at the closed door…. “Ooohhh…. ages ago, maybe three or four years back…”

Charlotte’s face crumples….

“…Yes… She moved to Cosby Street, three blocks down.”

Charlotte’s head jerks up.

“And she lives there now?”

“That’s right. Number thirty-seven.”


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