Excerpt of The English Assassin by Daniel Silva
(Page 2 of 8)
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"And put on some proper clothing! Ten o'clock in the morning and you're still wearing only a housecoat."
"Papa, I must-"
"It can wait until I've finished."
"No, it can't, Papa!"
She screamed this so loudly the man in sunglasses flinched.
"I apologize, Otto, but I'm afraid my daughter's manners have suffered from spending too many hours alone with her instrument. Will you excuse me? I won't be but a moment."
Anna Rolfe's father handled important documents with care, and the note he removed from the grave was no exception. When he finished reading it, he looked up sharply, his gaze flickering from side to side, as if he feared someone was reading over his shoulder. This Anna saw from her bedroom window.
As he turned and started back toward the villa, he glanced up at the window and his eyes met Anna's. He paused, holding her gaze for a moment. It was not a gaze of sympathy. Or remorse. It was a gaze of suspicion.
She turned from the window. The Stradivarius lay where she had dropped it. She picked it up. Downstairs she heard her father calmly telling his guest of his wife's suicide. She lifted the violin to her neck, laid the bow upon the strings, closed her eyes. G minor. Various patterns of ascent and descent. Arpeggios. Broken thirds.
"How can she play at a time like this?"
"I'm afraid she knows little else."
Late afternoon. The two men alone in the study again. The police had completed their initial investigation, and the body had been removed. The note lay on the drop-leaf table between them.
"A doctor could give her a sedative."
"She doesn't want a doctor. I'm afraid she has her mother's temper and her mother's stubborn nature."
"Did the police ask whether there was a note?"
"I see no need to involve the police in the personal matters of this family, especially when it concerns the suicide of my wife."
"And your daughter?"
"What about my daughter?"
"She was watching you from the window."
"My daughter is my business. I'll deal with her as I see fit."
"I certainly hope so. But do me one small favor."
"What's that, Otto?"
His pale hand patted the top of the table until it came to rest on the note.
"Burn this damned thing, along with everything else. Make sure no one else stumbles on any unpleasant reminders of the past. This is Switzerland. There is no past."
London * Zurich
The sometimes-solvent firm of Isherwood Fine Arts had once occupied a piece of fine commercial property on stylish New Bond Street in Mayfair. Then came London's retail renaissance, and New Bond Street--or New Bondstrasse, as it was derisively known in the trade--was overrun by the likes of Tiffany and Gucci and Versace and Mikimoto. Julian Isherwood and other dealers specializing in museum-quality Old Masters were driven into St. Jamesian exile--the Bond Street Diaspora, as Isherwood was fond of calling it. He eventually settled in a sagging Victorian warehouse in a quiet quadrangle known as Mason's Yard, next to the London offices of a minor Greek shipping company and a pub that catered to pretty office girls who rode motor scooters.
Among the incestuous, backbiting villagers of St. James's, Isherwood Fine Arts was considered rather good theater. Isherwood Fine Arts had drama and tension, comedy and tragedy, stunning highs and seemingly bottomless lows. This was, in large measure, a consequence of its owner's personality. He was cursed with a near-fatal flaw for an art dealer: He liked to possess art more than to sell it. Each time a painting left the wall of his exquisite exposition room, Isherwood fell into a raging blue funk. As a result of this affliction he was now burdened by an apocalyptic inventory of what is affectionately known in the trade as dead stock-paintings for which no buyer would ever pay a fair price. Unsellable paintings. Burned, as they liked to say in Duke Street. Toast. If Isherwood had been asked to explain this seemingly inexplicable failure of business acumen, he might have raised the issue of his father, though he made a point of never--And I mean never, petal--talking about his father.
Reprinted from The English Assassin by Daniel Silva by permission of The Putnam Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © March 2002, Daniel Silva. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.