The liveried doorman touched the rim of his top hat. Guy ignored him to push on the revolving door. The imposing, white stone and red brick hotel was built in 1812 as a meeting place for the Prince of Wales and his mistress. The corridors were still wide enough to allow two hooped skirts to pass. Now Guy would confront another aristocrat with similar intentions.
His footsteps were crisp and distinct on the marble floor, each black-and-white chequer tile the length of a man’s pace and he kept easily inside them. The receptionist gave Guy a fulsome smile.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m here for Lord Irewood. I have an appointment.” Guy waved his warrant card and offered her his Tough Cop face. “I need to see him personally.”
The receptionist studied him then moved away. Guy slyly admired her behind in her tight, blue skirt. On her return she gave him a coy flutter of eyelashes.
“Royal Suite. Take the lifts on the left. It’s on the button.”
In the elevator he gave himself a check over in the mirror and straightened his tie. Quizzing the aristocracy about their love life was his idea of perfect mischief. It would stand him a few rounds tonight in the Yard’s cop bar. He knocked twice at the Royal Suite. The door was opened by a tall brunette in a tight silk dress. It was unbuttoned to the waist, exposing her lace bra containing two finely uplifted breasts. The brunette asked. “Well? Who are you?”
Guy suppressed a smile. “I’m expected.”
Unimpressed, the brunette pulled the warrant card from Guy’s fingers, glanced at it, then yelled out, “Kenny! It’s the cops,” startling him with the power of her voice.
She returned the card and wandered off into the suite. Guy watched her go until a man replaced her at the door.
“Lord Irewood? I hope you can spare me some time? I’m here about Miss Montague.”
Irewood stood bulldog stiff, eyeing him. He was a short, dapper man with diamond-hard eyes. Guy knew he wouldn’t crack easily.
“What do you want with me? The Commissioner know you’re here?”
He wore a white, towelling robe with the Claridges crest. His hands thrust into the pockets as if it were a leather jacket.
“I’m working on a case for the Commissioner, sir. He doesn’t know I’m here specifically, no.”
Irewood made no attempt to invite him in. “Well, what do you want? I’m busy.”
Guy saw the brunette disappearing into a bedroom. “Lord Irewood, I’m following a lead on the investigation. A claim that Marie Montague had some lovers in London. It’s a list of names. I’m checking out the list.”
Irewood regarded him, staring up into his face. “Why have you come to me? What’s this list all about?”
“I’m here, Lord Irewood, because you’re on it.”
He thought him a repulsive little man with the arrogance of the self-made multi-millionaire. He wondered about the brunette. Irewood’s print empire extended from school books to sleaze. Guy decided the woman wasn’t selling school books.
Kenneth Irewood clenched his jaw. “That true what you said about Sol Coniff on the phone, Detective? Not just a pack of lies?”
Guy scowled. “They weren’t lies, Lord Irewood. I interviewed Mr Coniff. The paparazzo, Miss Fox, was a witness. I have it on tape.”
“Play me this tape. If you can.”
He stood defiant, feet planted apart to block the doorway. Guy fumbled into his side pocket. At the sight of the tiny recorder Lord Irewood started back, as if it were a gun. “You’re not taping me now, are you?”
“No, sir. Why would I do that? I would tell you first.”
Irewood fixed him with a hard stare. “Oh, yes? I’ve heard stories about what you Yard men get up to, buster…”
“Not me, Lord Irewood. Do you want to hear this tape?”
He held Guy’s eyes. “Look, Detective. You haven’t seen me or the young lady you met at the door. All off the record. That’s the bottom line for my help. Take it or leave it.”
The peer clamped his thin lips, turning them white. Guy protested. “I want to know your side of the story. Surely it’s no problem, if it’s the truth.”
Guy raked a hand through his thatch of black hair and his eyes narrowed, creasing his forehead. Irewood pointed a finger up the corridor. “Yes or no, Detective. Your call.”
Guy brokered a peace. “Look, I’ve received information from Hollywood, about you and Marie. Allegations about your personal relations with her and some other names. I’m here to ask you if there’s any truth in it and that’s all.”
Irewood eyed him with suspicion. “What allegations? You attempt to smear me with this I’ll have your badge! I’m well known to the Commissioner.” He paced into the suite. “Play me the tape.”
Guy took it as an invitation. They moved onto the embellished scarlet and gold carpet. Four red velvet armchairs were placed with a three-seat sofa. A Steinway concert piano, its lid open, stood beside a bay window. Guy was trying to read the year on a bottle of Mumm in a silver ice bucket. Two engraved flutes stood empty. The girl’s cloying perfume pervaded the room. He set his recorder running. The Texan drawl of Sol Coniff Jr filled the suite.
‘...I did not believe that she and I were in an exclusive relationship. If she said she was pregnant by me then it was her choice to be a single mother.’
Guy slid the recorder away. Irewood stood silent at the bay window overlooking Brook Street, far below. Guy watched, fascinated by the power this dead blonde still had over so many rich and powerful men. He wondered, could it ever happen to him? He knew some women he liked a lot but this adoration for Marie Montague was something else.
Irewood inhaled deeply. “Before this gets out of hand, Detective, let me say this: Marie Montague was a friend of mine. A close friend.”
Guy said. “She could, of course, have got DNA analysis? To confirm the fatherhood?”
Irewood grimaced. “It would not be like Marie to do anything legal and nasty. I certainly hope it would never have come to that. I feel very uncomfortable talking about it with you. What Sol Coniff said on your tape means there’s no doubt. He was the father. Marie and he…?” He let the question die.
Guy pressed. “But you believe it possible others might have been the father?”
Irewood paused. “Yes, I believe it possible.”
“May I ask if one of them was you, Lord Irewood?”
The proprietor stiffened. “None of your business, Detective. Get on with it!”
Guy showed the list. “This was offered to me by a private eye from Hollywood. It suggests you, among others, were one of her lovers. In fact, it alleges she was seeing five men at the same time as Marcus Barclay. One of the rendezvous mentioned is Claridge’s. Why are you on it?”
Irewood read the papers at the window. He spun to confront Guy, his eyes menacing. “Rubbish! These are her friends. They’re not her lovers. Crombie’s gay. Phillip Loughton. John and Larry Preston and there’s me. It’s all nonsense. Of course she met these people, they’re her circle. Someone’s trying to fool the Yard - and you with it, Royce.”
Guy took back the list, pushing the sheets into a pocket. “I guess that’s why the public pay us, sir. To find these things out. Why is someone trying to blacken her name?”
“A star makes many enemies, Detective. Where would you begin?”
Guy handed him Henri’s soccer match picture. “Do you know this man?”
The proprietor studied Marie and the man in the crowd. He nodded his head.
“Yes, I know him. Why?”
“He was one of the last people to see Marie alone before her murder. We don’t know who he is. We wonder why Marie knew him.”
Across the suite the brunette reappeared, padding barefoot to the ice bucket. She now wore only a man’s shirt, barely buttoned. With a rattle of shifting ice and a coy smile she lifted the Champagne bottle, scooping up the two flutes between her fingers.
“Don’t be long, Kenny. It’s getting warm - and so am I.”
Irewood glanced back at the brunette who stalked back to the bedroom door.
“It’s time you left. His name is Ibrahim Tolman. You’ve got Coniff’s words on tape. What more do you want? You have your man, Detective.”