Installment 55: pages 230 - 232 [Elliot, confronting his callous ex Marina, reflects on a few home truths.]
Perhaps, I thought, she's awlays been like this, I just didn't see it at the then.
We'd all grown up since uni, shed a few skins, but thinking back - it was there. I'd always been drawn to smart, gregarious Marina. She was the one who was always on the student law society, the one who ran for president, ran the mooting competition, was an assistant editor on the Federal Law Review. She was always the one smiling at the centre of a crowded room, moving lightly through a dozen different social groups and always making a friend of everyone.
Friends, or contacts?
Had everything been done with half an eye to her future? I'd been to intoxicated by the simple fact of being in this luminary's orbit, being the boyfriend of someone so clearly out of my league that I'd been blind to her careerism. I'd treated her achievements not as something she'd sweated over, but things that accumulated naturally to someone of her looks and talent, as being no more than her due. If I was honest, there had also been a certain attraction to a boy raised by his grandfather to basking in the reflected glory of the successful Carmichael family. However much I'd taken issue with David Carmichael from time to time, he'd always been the father in the law I'd never had. Callow didn't begin to cover it.
She's never heard of Jeremy Ryder.
I was astonished. I had always, always thought of Marina as smarter than me, as the better lawyer. She'd always pipped me in the exams. I'd simply assumed anything I could have worked out, she would have as well. It had never occurred to me that I was the better researcher.
Perhaps I'd even been the better lawyer. Marina had always praised my exam revision notes and summaries as being better than hers. We'd always had copies of each other's notes and summaries for open book exams. Had she just been better at exam technique than me? Had my notes even pulled her grades up?
This whole time, I thought, I've been underestimating myself because I was over-estimating Marina. But if Marina had no idea about the connection between Ryder and the Minister ...
“I bet even Jenny didn’t know, Ryder just freaked out because he thought she might, sent someone round to scare her and it went wrong … but maybe it was just about Sarah. Maybe no-one knew before me …” I was murmuring mostly to myself.
“What’s he going on about?” asked Stephen.
Eva drew a sharp breath. “As I understand it, the Minister has a half-brother Jeremy Ryder. He’s a brothel owner. Marina’s flatmate Sarah worked at one of his places. Jenny was seeing Sarah on the quiet, but got jealous and started hanging around. Ryder tried to scare her off, but she wound up getting killed. Ryder probably bankrolled the Minister’s early election campaigns, and someone in the Minister’s office – possibly the Minister, tipped him off about the raids. Oh, Ryder is also a partner with your Dad in the Tall Trees development, is deeply pissed off and someone who works for him followed us down here. Did I miss anything, or will someone finally phone the police?”
“Police?” asked Marina, shocked. “Is this man dangerous?”
“Ryder had Jenny roughed up, maybe killed,” repeated Eva.
“Not Ryder, the one who followed you!”
“Marina,” I said. “I think he’s the one who killed Jenny. He followed us to Jervis, God knows why, but we lost him at the pub. He drove off and we walked here. We’re fine. Your father and the Minister seemed pretty keen to keep the police out of this – which makes sense if they knew you weren’t actually missing – but that was why I thought I should give you a chance to work out who you spoke to, and when.”
I took a breath: "I think having worked to keep the police out of it looks now like it was a pretty bad idea."
There was a silence, then a sudden creaking sound. The flyscreen door. Danielle looked stricken.
Danielle closed the blinds, I thought, but did anyone think to lock the door?
There was no knock, just the sound of the handle turning. Everyone reacted too late. Several rose from the chairs towards the door, but it was already standing open. He was inside. Despite the cold, he was dressed as I'd last seen him in jeans and a black t-shirt. A huge grinning rock-face of a man. The Slab. Jenny's killer.
"Why doesn't everyone just sit back down and take it easy?" he said, in a surprisingly soft voice. "I think we should all keep still and quiet and wait for Jeremy."