Everything seemed so much easier now that he could actually feel his legs. He still couldn’t move them, however hard he tried. Carrie said he was trying too hard! But at least he didn’t have to just rely on his powerful arms to transfer himself from the bed to the wheelchair. If he put his feet on the floor, manually, he could almost stand to slide himself into the chair.
After breakfast, when the twins and Jessica had left for school with Luke and Ian, Carrie went into the playroom with Sarah to wait for Grace and Lucien. Brad sat for some minutes in front of his study door. He had not ventured inside that room since he had been in the wheelchair, and he had no idea why he was nervous of entering now. He wished Carrie would come back. He told himself that her very presence could calm any fears he had. Although, why he was afraid of being in his own private study was anyone’s guess.
Nanny came through to the lounge after seeing Max off to the clinic. She frowned when she saw Brad staring at his closed study door.
“Is something wrong? The staff have already been in there to clean this morning. None of your private stuff has been touched, I can assure you.”
He gave a faint smile. “I know Nanny. I’m just - a bit uneasy. I have to go in there to phone the lawyer about - about something. I - I ought to get some work done on the laptop, but - I haven’t written for weeks and - and I don’t know if I actually want to, or even can anymore!”
She smiled, and went to open the study door. “Now-now, don’t be silly! Of course, you can still write! It’s just been a few bad weeks, but yesterday you turned the corner. Max said you need to get back into routine. Didn’t you start a new book just before Jim did the surgery on you?”
He sighed as she pushed him determinedly into the study, and she moved the office chair out from behind the desk so that she could position the wheelchair in its place [email protected]!
“I don’t need to work at all, you know,” he said, glowering at the unopened laptop on the desk. “I could just laze around for the rest of my life.”
“And would you be happy with that? Come on, Brad. You know that you love writing! Don’t you dare fall back into that despair again! You sat staring out of the window at nothing and we couldn’t even talk to you. Even if you’d been grumpy, it would have been better than that hopeless misery!”
He gave a little smile. “Yeah, I believe I was pretty gloomy.” A pause, then, “I think it was that fright I got when I took the wrong pills that finally brought me to my senses. Carrie thought I’d taken them on purpose! That shocked the life out of me! I really thought I was going to lose her. And, my head was filled with all sorts of weird stuff.” He looked up at her. “I’m getting better, but I still have moments when I feel - despondent. I - I don’t know if I want to write today, Nanny!”
“Then don’t. You said you needed to phone the lawyer. Do that - and then go and play with the children, or let Carrie take you outside. It’s cold, but it isn’t going to rain. Or play the piano. Do something fun!”
“My writing used to be fun, sort of! Well, I used to enjoy it! Now I think I’m just being damn lazy!” He shrugged. “Carrie says we’re going into the gym later. She said, if it didn’t rain, she was taking me outside first. So, I better not be lazy. You know I can feel my legs again, don’t you?”
Nanny smiled at him. “Yes. Max told me. He says he has no idea why you couldn’t feel them before. He says it was something going on in your head.”
He grinned. “Yeah. All these weird memories. Carrie’s helping me put them in perspective. She’s not just gorgeous to look at. She’s brilliant too! And she assures me she’s never going to go off with any other guy, however well he can walk.”
“There was never any question about that, my dear boy. She’s as obsessed with you as you are with her. And I promise you, no man on this estate would ever dare make a play for her! They all know how good you are with your fists!”
“Wow. What a reputation to have! I’ve never actually hit anyone, have I? - Except Roy, but that’s when we were kids.” He grinned again. “Oh, and that drunken idiot in the restaurant a couple of years ago. He deserved it!”
She raised her eyebrows, and shook her head in mock displeasure. “You could have broken his nose!”
“Pity I didn’t!” He laughed. “But I hope it taught him to keep his hands off other men’s wives, - or girlfriends! Do you think I’m a violent man, Nanny?”
“No dear, not at all. But I do know that you would defend Carrie with your life.”
“I hope he never has to do that again!” Carrie said as she walked into the study. She smiled, eyeing the unopened laptop. “Are you going to write?”
His eyes lit up as he saw her, but he shook his head. “I don’t want to write. I have to speak to Andrew, find out what’s going on. He knows I’ve been - out of sorts! But I need to find out if he’s heard anything more from the investigation unit in New York.” He smiled. “Not that I’m worried about it! No one will get onto this estate without my men knowing about it! Why do you think Paddy and his merry men were there in the park that day those kids from Soho came to cause havoc here? Strangers are watched carefully, especially if they come to this house”
Nanny laughed. “This estate is one of the safest places in the country to live. I’ve heard it referred to as ‘heaven on earth’!”
“Wow, really? No wonder Tom told me he has a list of potential tenants as long as his arm!” He frowned suddenly. “I think there are a few that we haven’t had over for a meal yet. Have to remedy that as soon as I can get out of this blasted wheelchair!”
Carrie shrugged. “Which won’t be too long in coming! Finish your call to Andrew and then we’ll go outside for half an hour, before we try those bars in the gym.”
Brad grimaced, but his eyes were bright, so it was obvious that he wasn’t too perturbed.
She gave a short laugh. “I won’t make you work too hard for our first session.”
They left him to make his call to his lawyer. Andrew Henshaw was rather surprised to hear from Brad, but his information from the New York police was extremely interesting, - and confusing. They had determined that the man claiming to be Sarah’s biological father was, in fact, the brother of a man they had in custody in a security prison, charged with the murder of several women of ill repute. Whether or not this was the same man who had strangled Barbara was still being investigated, and they were not prepared to divulge any other information on the case. Andrew believed that they knew a lot more than they would admit, but they had assured him that the police in London were watching the brother closely, and would never allow him access to the Conway Estate.
“He’d never make it onto my property anyway,” Brad told the lawyer. “I have my own security guys, as you know. Do you think he has any claims on Sarah? You told me last time we talked, that it was a scam.”
“Last time we spoke you seemed a bit - offish!” Andrew said. “I understood of course, and I didn’t want add to your worries. I actually didn’t think you’d remember our conversation. Yes, it’s a scam. This guy is a con-artist, according to the police, but you have no worries about Sarah. She is legally your child!” He paused. “You will let me know if your security guys get wind of this guy trying to gain access to your estate, won’t you? Or even if he tries to contact you?”
“I will, or maybe the police will get him first. Or maybe I’ll allow him to come here so I can kill him in person.” He laughed. “I’ll make it self-defence, so you won’t have such a hard time defending me in court!”
“The police are just waiting for him to make a move in some way. I’ve been assured that he won’t dare go after Sarah, but he might try to extort money from you, or even from her grandfather.”
“He approached Edmund on Saturday evening at the theatre. Asked him how to get here, but didn’t exactly ask for any certain sum of money.”
“Interesting! I wonder how much he thinks you’ll pay him for her.”
“My thoughts exactly. Even if he does turn out to be her biological father, he won’t get a penny! I won’t be blackmailed like that!”
“Not exactly blackmail,” Andrew said. “Definitely extortion. But quite honestly, I don’t think he fathered Sarah. The New York Police Department are a bit cagey with English lawyers, but I have a feeling that they know more about this Everson, Bancroft, Martins, - or whatever other name he goes by, - than they’ll tell me. I’m surprised they haven’t arrested him and flung him in jail with his brother.”
They exchanged another few words, then ended the conversation. Brad opened his laptop, then thought better of it, sighed, and closed it again. He really didn’t want to write, and hoped that there were no emails that needed his attention. On impulse he opened the top drawer of his desk, and pulled out the envelope with the copy he had made of Sarah’s birth certificate. The original was inside the puzzle-box in the walk-in wardrobe in their room, where it would stay. On the copy, he had scratched out Barbara’s name where it said MOTHER and filled in Carrie’s name. His darling Carrie. She would never be able to give him a child, and he had thanked God that none of his own horrible allergies could be passed on.
Sarah had been a blessing that they hadn’t expected. He remembered how angry he had been that Barbara had actually had the audacity to name him as the father on the birth certificate. He shuddered now as he remembered flying through the air when his horse had baulked, as he had stupidly tried to make her jump that hedge! What on earth had he been thinking? He could have killed both himself and the horse! There had been at least a six-foot drop on the other side of that hedge! Never mind the ditch of stagnant muddy water!
It all seemed so long ago now, indeed it was. He touched the scar on his forehead, and closed his eyes for a moment, shuddering again. How many times would Carrie have to see him weak and vulnerable? And usually because of his own stupidity!
He sighed, pushing the envelope back into the drawer, and turned the wheelchair away from the desk, glancing out of the study window as he heard a car pull up in the driveway. His heart lurched as he saw the police car, and he swallowed hard when he saw Patrick Frazer, the police inspector, slide out from behind the wheel. What now?