The doorbell rang. Joan looked surprised. “Who on earth’s that?” she exclaimed.
“Not expecting anyone?” I asked. She shook her head, rising to answer the door, from where an excited voice could be heard, and the low tones of Joan trying to drown it. Michel and I exchanged a puzzled glance. Eventually, Joan returned with a striking thirty-something woman, whom she introduced, somewhat reluctantly.
“This is Miss Roberts, a fellow actress from the theatre.”
“Please, call me Rita. Everyone does.”
She sat on the sofa next to us. Now she was up close and personal, I could see Rita was a good deal older than I’d first thought. Much plastic surgery made her look half the age of her friend, Joan.
I was confident Michel would reach the same conclusion, but I was shocked to see him ogling the woman with undisguised admiration. Once a Frenchman, always a Frenchman, especially as he’d been rather cool with me lately. But I had no time to dwell on my partner’s fickleness, as Rita was speaking.
“I’m so sorry to barge in on your family reunion, Joan, but I really think you should tell Kelly about the poison pen letters.”
There followed what is known as a pregnant silence. Whatever I had been expecting Rita to say, it sure wasn’t this. “Joan, what does...?”
“I’m afraid that’s out of the question, Rita” Joan said, firmly. “My cousin and her partner are here for a vacation, and...”
To everyone’s embarrassment, Rita burst into noisy sobs, hiding her face in her handkerchief.
“I know, I know. It’s the height of bad manners, especially when someone is on holiday.
But at least, being related, you know they’ll be very discreet. And someone has to investigate, or who knows where it’ll all end? My husband was going to divorce me over my letter. Now we know everyone’s had one, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
“You’ve had one, too?” I asked my cousin.
Joan gave me a resigned look. “I didn’t want to tell you, to spoil your holiday.” She got up and went to the sideboard, and brought back a letter which she handed to me. Michel looked over my shoulder as we read it.
It was a particularly nasty poison pen, printed in capitals.
DON’T THINK I DON’T KNOW YOUR DIRTY LITTLE SECRET. YOUR POLICE RECORD CASTS A LONG SHADOW. I THINK YOUR FRIENDS WOULD BE DISGUSTED TO KNOW YOU WERE A COMMON CALL GIRL.