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Chapter 19

THE CAR TO TAKE ME to the television studios arrives promptly at seven-thirty the next morning. When the doorbell rings, Mum, Dad, and I all jump, even though we’ve been waiting in a tense silence for ten minutes.

“Well,” says Dad gruffly, glancing at his watch. “They’re here, anyway.”

Ever since I told him about the arrangements, Dad’s been predicting that the car won’t turn up and that he’ll have to drive me to the studios himself. He even worked out a route last night, and phoned up Uncle Malcolm as a standby. (To be honest, I think he was quite looking forward to it.)

“Oh, Becky,” says Mum in a trembling voice. “Good luck, darling.” She looks at me, then shakes her head. “Our little Becky, on television. I can’t believe it.”

I start to get up, but Dad puts out a restraining arm.

“Now, before you answer the door, Becky,” he says. “You are sure, aren’t you? About the risk you’re taking.” He glances at Mum, who bites her lip.

“I’ll be fine!” I say, trying to sound as soothing as possible. “Honestly, Dad, we’ve been over it all.”

Last night, it suddenly occurred to Dad that if I went on the telly, my stalker would know where I was. At first he was adamant I’d have to call the whole thing off—and it took an awful lot of persuasion to convince him and Mum I’d be perfectly safe in the TV studios. They were even talking about hiring a body-guard, can you believe it? I mean, what on earth would I look like, turning up with a bodyguard?

Actually I’d look pretty cool and mysterious, wouldn’t I? That might have been quite a good idea.

The doorbell rings again and I leap to my feet.

“Well,” says Dad. “You just be careful.”

“I will, don’t worry!” I say, picking up my bag. I walk to the door calmly, trying not to give away how excited I feel. Inside I feel as light as a bubble.

I just can’t believe how well everything’s going. Not only am I going to be on the telly, but everyone’s being so nice to me! Yesterday I had several phone conversations with an assistant producer ofMorning Coffee, who’s a really sweet girl called Zelda. We went over exactly what I was going to say on the program, then she arranged for a car to come and pick me up—and when I told her I was at my parents’ house with none of my clothes handy, she thought for a bit—then said I could choose something to wear from the wardrobe. I mean, how cool is that? Choosing any outfit I like from the wardrobe! Maybe they’ll let me keep it afterward, too.

As I open the front door, my stomach gives an excited leap. There, waiting in the drive, is a portly, middle-aged man in a blue blazer and cap, standing next to a shiny black car. My own private chauffeur! This just gets better and better.

“Miss Bloomwood?” says the driver.

“Yes,” I say, unable to stop myself from grinning in delight. I’m about to reach for the door handle—but he gets there before me, opens the car door with a flourish, and stands to attention, waiting for me to get in. God, this is like being a film star or something!

I glance back toward the house and see Mum and Dad stand-ing on the front step, both looking utterly gobsmacked.

“Well—bye then!” I say, trying to sound casual, as though I always ride around in a chauffeur-driven car. “See you later!”

“Becky, is that you?” comes a voice from next door, and Janice appears on the other side of the hedge in her dressing gown. Her eyes grow large as they take in the car and she glances at Mum, who raises her shoulders, as though to say “I know, isn’t it unbelievable?”

“Morning, Janice,” says Dad.

“Morning, Graham,” says Janice dazedly. “Oh, Becky! I’ve never seen anything like it. In all the years . . . If Tom could only see you . . .” She breaks off and looks at Mum. “Have you taken any photographs?”

“We haven’t!” says Mum in dismay. “It didn’t even occur to us. Graham, quick—go and get the camera.”

“No, wait, I’ll get our camcorder!” says Janice. “It won’t take me two ticks. We could have the car arriving in the drive, and Becky walking out of the front door . . . and maybe we could useThe Four Seasons as the soundtrack, and then cut straight to . . .”

“No!” I say hastily, seeing a flicker of amusement pass across the face of the driver. And I was doing so well at looking noncha-lant and professional. “We haven’t got time for any pictures. I have to get to the studios!”

“Yes,” says Janice, suddenly looking anxious. “Yes, you don’t want to be late.” She glances fearfully at her watch, as though afraid the program might already have started. “It’s on at eleven, isn’t it?”

“Eleven o’clock the program starts,” says Dad. “Set the video for five to, that’s what I’ve been telling people.”

“That’s what we’ll do,” says Janice. “Just in case.” She gives a little sigh. “I shan’t dare to go to the loo all morning, just in case I miss it!”

There’s an awed silence as I get into the car. The driver closesthe door smartly, then walks around to the driver’s door. I press the button to lower my window and grin out at Mum and Dad.

“Becky, darling, what will you do afterward?” says Mum. “Come back here or go back to the flat?”

Immediately I feel my smile falter, and look down, pretend-ing to fiddle with the window controls. I don’t want to think about afterward.

In fact, I can’t even visualize afterward. I’m going to be on the telly . . . and that’s as far as it goes. The rest of my life is shut securely away in a box at the back of my head and I don’t even want to remember it’s there.

“I . . . I’m not sure,” I say. “I’ll see what happens.”

“They’ll probably take you out to lunch afterward,” says Dad knowledgeably “These showbiz types are always having lunch with each other.”

“Liquid lunches,” puts in Janice, and gives a little laugh.

“At The Ivy,” says Mum. “That’s where all the actors meet up, isn’t it?”

“The Ivy’s old hat!” retorts Dad. “They’ll take her to the Groucho Club.”

“The Groucho Club!” says Janice, clasping her hands. “Isn’t that where Kate Moss goes?”

This is getting ridiculous.

“We’d better go,” I say, and the driver nods.

“Good luck, sweetheart,” calls Dad. I close the window and lean back, and the car purrs out of the drive.



For a while, we drive in silence. I keep casually glancing out of the window to see if anyone’s looking at me in my chauffeur-driven car and wondering who I am (that new girl onEastEnders , perhaps). Although we’re whizzing along the highway so fast, I probably look like a blur.

“So,” says the driver after a while. “You’re appearing onMorning Coffee, are you?”

“Yes, I am,” I say, and immediately feel a joyful smile plaster itself over my face. God, I muststop this. I bet Jeremy Paxman doesn’t start grinning inanely every time someone asks him if he’s appearing onUniversity Challenge.

“So what’re you on for?” says the driver, interrupting my thoughts.

I’m about to reply “To be famous and maybe get some free clothes,” when I realizewhat he means.

“A financial story,” I say coolly. “I wrote a piece inThe Daily World, and the producers read it and wanted me on the show.”

“Been on television before?”

“No,” I admit reluctantly. “No, I haven’t.”

We pull up at some lights and the driver turns round in his seat to survey me.

“You’ll be fine,” he says. “Just don’t let the nerves get to you.”

“Nerves?” I say, and give a little laugh. “I’m not nervous! I’m just. . . looking forward to it.”

“Glad to hear it,” says the driver, turning back. “You’ll be OK, then. Some people, they get onto that sofa, thinking they’re fine, relaxed, happy as a clam . . . then they see that red light, and it hits them that 2.5 million people around the country are all watching them. Makes some people start to panic.”

“Oh,” I say after a slight pause. “Well . . . I’m nothing like them! Ill be fine!”

“Good,” says the driver.

“Good,” I echo, a little less certainly, and look out of the window.

I’ll be fine. Of course I will. I’ve never been nervous in my life before, and I’m certainly not going to start . . .

Two point five million people.

Gosh. When you think about it—that is quite a lot, isn’t it? Two point five million people, all sitting at home, staring at the screen. Staring at my face. Waiting for what I’m going to say next.

OK, don’t think about it. The important thing is just to keep remembering how well prepared I am. I rehearsed for ages infront of the mirror last night and I know what I’m going to say practically by heart.

It all has to be very basic and simple, Zelda said—because apparently 76 percent of theMorning Coffee audience are house-wives looking after toddlers, who have very short attention spans. She kept apologizing for what she called the “dumbing-down effect” and saying a financial expert like myself must feel really frustrated by it—and of course, I agreed with her.

But to be honest, I’m quite relieved. In fact, the more dumbed down the better, as far as I’m concerned. I mean, writing aDaily World article with all my notes to hand was one thing, but answering tricky questions on live TV is quite another.

So anyway, I’m going to start off by saying “If you were offered a choice between a carriage clock and £20,000, which would you choose?” Rory or Emma will reply, “Twenty thousand pounds, of course!” and I’ll say, “Exactly. Twenty thousand pounds.” I’ll pause briefly, to let that figure sink into the audience’s mind, and then I’ll say, “Unfortunately, when Flagstaff Life offered their customers a carriage clock to transfer their savings, they didn’t tell them that if they did so, they wouldlose a £20,000 windfall!”

That sounds quite good, don’t you think? Rory and Emma will ask a few very easy questions like “What can people do to protect themselves?” and I’ll give nice simple answers. And right at the end, just to keep it light, we’re going to talk about all the different things you could buy with £20,000.

Actually, that’s the bit I’m looking forward to most of all. I’ve already thought of loads of things. Did you know, with £20,000 you could buy forty Gucci watches,and have enough left over for a bag?



TheMorning Coffee studios are in Maida Vale, and as we draw near to the gates, familiar from the opening credits of the show, I feel a dart of excitement. I’m actually going to be on tele-vision!

The doorman waves us through the barrier, we pull up outside a pair of huge double doors, and the driver opens the door for me. As I get out, my legs are shaking slightly, but I force myself to walk confidently up the steps, into the reception hall, and up to the desk.

“I’m here forMorning Coffee,” I say, and give a little laugh as I realize what I’ve just said. “I mean . . .”

“I know what you mean,” says the receptionist, kindly but wearily. She looks up my name on a list, jabs a number into her phone, and says, “Jane? Rebecca Bloomwood’s here.” Then she gestures to a row of squashy chairs and says, “Someone will be with you shortly.”

I walk over to the seating area and sit down opposite a middle-aged woman with lots of wild dark hair and a big amber necklace round her neck. She’s lighting up a cigarette, and even though I don’t really smoke anymore, I suddenly feel as though I could do with one myself.

Not that I’m nervous or anything. I just fancy a cigarette.

“Excuse me,” calls the receptionist. “This is a no-smoking area.”

“Damn,” says the woman in a raspy voice. She takes a long drag, then stubs the cigarette out on a saucer and smiles at me conspiratorially “Are you a guest on the show?” she says.

“Yes,” I say. “Are you?”

The woman nods. “Promoting my new novel,Blood Red Sunset .” She lowers her voice to a thrilling throb. “A searing tale of love, greed, and murder, set in the ruthless world of South American money launderers.”

“Gosh,” I say. “That sounds really—”

“Let me give you a copy,” interrupts the woman. She reaches into a Mulberry holdall by her side and pulls out a vividly colored hardback book. “Remind me of your name?”

Remind her?

“It’s Rebecca,” I say. “Rebecca Bloomwood.”

“To Becca,” the woman says aloud, as she scrawls inside the front page. “With love and great affection.” She signs with a flour-ish and hands the book to me.

“Thanks very much . . .” Quickly I look at the cover. “Elisabeth.”

Elisabeth Plover. To be honest, I’ve never heard of her.

“I expect you’re wondering how I came to know such a lot about such a violent, dangerous world,” says Elisabeth. She leans forward and gazes at me with huge green eyes. “The truth is, I lived with a money launderer for three long months. I loved him; I learned from him . . . and then I betrayed him.” Her voice dies to a trembling whisper. “I still remember the look he gave me as the police dragged him away. He knew what I’d done. He knew I was his Judas Iscariot. And yet, in a strange kind of way, I think he loved me for it.”

“Wow,” I say, impressed in spite of myself. “Did all this happen in South America?”

“Brighton,” she says after a slight pause. “But money launder-ers are the same the world over.”

“Rebecca?” says a voice, before I can think of a reply to this, and we both look up to see a girl with smooth dark hair, in jeans and a black polo neck, walking swiftly toward us. “I’m Zelda. We spoke yesterday?”

“Zelda!” exclaims Elisabeth, getting to her feet. “How have you been, my darling?” She holds out her arms, and Zelda stares at her.

“I’m sorry,” she says, &ldquo............

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