Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing
The second of the Gemma Lincoln PI novels finds Gemma investigating the role of the widow of a philanthropist billionaire Benjamin Glass
who perished in an arson attack on his luxurious mansion while at the same time trying to track down a killer who has been targeting sex workers, including Gemma’s old friend Shelley.
The trail leads to a dangerous woman who works at a sex clinic as a surrogate, assisting men with erectile problems, but the only lead Gemma has is a photograph of a blonde woman, naked except for black lace gloves. Meanwhile, Gemma’s boyfriend, undercover operative Steve Branigan, is working on a sting operation with a career criminal’s widow. But has his involvement with the beautiful, ruthless widow gone too far?
Then there’s runaway Hugo, who unexpectedly lands on her doorstep and whom she calls the Ratbag. Gemma finds the Ratbag a formidable ally and assistant when Gemma herself is first courted, then targeted by the killer, one terrifying night as he stalks and hunts her.....
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Gemma picked up the large envelope. “I’m much more concerned about these photographs.” She paused, proffering the envelope to the dead man’s wife. “What can you tell me about these?”
Slowly, Minkie put her hand out to take the envelope. She opened the flap and pulled out the three photographs. Gemma heard the shocked inhalation of breast as she saw the first one. Then the pallor and the sudden redness of Minkie’s face as she stared at each photo in turn.“I don’t believe it,” she said finally, throwing the photos down onto the marble table. “I can’t believe you found this… this… trash” – she paused, distressed – “in my husband’s safe.”
“I can assure you I did,” said Gemma. “And we need to talk about it.” The saintly philanthropist image was well and truly underdone now.
“If you did, so what?” Minckie was rallying fast. She jabbed contemptuous finger at the three photos. “A lot of men use pornography. I just didn’t think Benjamin was like that.” She sniffed.
“I don’t perceive these photographs as pornography, Minkie,” Gemma said carefully. “To my mind, these suggest the sorts of shots a man takes of his girlfriend. If you look at this one, I think you’ll see for yourself that your husband took them.”
Minkie suddenly started sobbing, flinging herself around, away from the stream photographs. Is this an act, Gemma asked herself, or is it real shock and anger? It was very convincing.
“I’m sorry to have to be the one who shows you this, but if we’re going to work together, you’ve got to tell me anything you know about this woman.” Gemma picked one of the photos up. Kneeling in the middle of an unmade bed, in a room dominated by a huge nude portrait of herself, a good-looking blonde woman, wearing nothing except a smouldering half-smile and black lace gloves, stared straight into the camera. Her hair, like the bed, was tousled. She was gorgeous. About my age, Gemma thought ruefully, but with a hell of a lot more of everything.
Minkie blew her nose. “Why do you say he knew her?” she cried. “Maybe he just liked these sorts of photographs. Maybe she’s a professional model.”
It was, Gemma thought, a variation on the usual denials she heard when she showed people a truth they found unpalatable. Gemma studied the first picture again. Beside the woman on the bed was a cupboard with its door angled open and inside the door was a long mirror. In the mirror, Gemma could see the grainy outline of the portly, naked photographer holding the camera. She pointed a finger at the figure.
“There’s the photographer,” she said. “Do you know that man?”
Minckie snatched the photo from her and stared at it a long moment. ‘The bastard,” she said. “The filthy stinking two-faced bastard!”
“Is it your husband?” Gemma persisted.
Minckie flung the photograph away from her, stamping away to the window. “My husband!” She said “My late husband. My bastard of a husband. My fucking dead bastard of a husband!”
Gemma watched the drama. If this was how Minkie reacted to a mere photo, what would she have done if she’d stumbled upon the lovers? But if she already knew about them, would she behave like this if she’d had time to rehearse it? Surely she’d be composed and not let me see what looks like completely spontaneous naked fury and humiliation.
“Oh!” Minkie wailed, “I’m just so angry! If he wasn’t already dead, I could kill him!” She shot a look at Gemma. “Does that shock you? What am I supposed to say?’ she challenged. “Right this moment, I’m glad he’s dead.”
True love, Gemma thought. Ain’t it grand? The minute he plays hide the sausage with someone else, love flies out the window and we want his heart in a box. What would she feel like if she found out Steve had been sleeping with another woman?
“Minkie,” she said to the woman who was still sitting hunched with rage, “you’re going to have to accept that your husband had two big secrets. And either of them could provide a motive for murder. Taken together, it doesn’t look good. So I have to ask you this: did you know your husband had a girlfriend?”
She saw something move across Minkie’s face, but instead of answering the question, there was another, noisier outburst.
“God,” Minkie said, jumping up. “It’s only going to make things worse for me.” She swung around like a caged panther. “Shit!” She screamed, “I don’t know what I’m going to do!’
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