Dead Man's Dinner - Una Gordon

Dead Man's Dinner


Una Gordon

Chapter One

Despite the fact that all the invitations bore a first class stamp, the vagaries of the British postal system precluded their all arriving by the same post.

The first person to open his envelope was Lord Gresham Erdington. He viewed the envelope for some time, as people often do, as if the contents would reveal themselves without his slitting the envelope. At his large mahogany desk where he always dealt with his private correspondence, he picked up the long, elegant, sharp letter opener, holding it above the letter for a second with an air of hesitation as if he had a premonition that there would be something unpleasant inside. Lord Erdington, like his letter opener, was sharp and elegant. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, his student days had been peppered with wild escapades with girls and fast cars. He had been no stranger to the ski slopes and his apres ski adventures had given him a reputation at the time which had been the envy of many young men.

With regret he had had to leave his wild oat days behind after he was injured in a serious car crash for which he was in no way to blame. Sport of any kind was now out of the question. He now walked with a stiffness reminiscent of a guardsman, but his erect carriage was the result of serious back injury, not army training.

All his talent was now consumed by the intricacies of the Stock and Property Markets and while, when his father died and he inherited the title, he had been by no means poor, he was now a man of considerable fortune. He had, however, little time for ostentation and his extravagances were few. There were occasions, however, when he found the power that money brought rather useful and on these occasions he could be completely ruthless. To be fair to Lord Gresham he behaved in this way only when he felt someone was taking an unfair advantage of a situation. His sense of fair play had been learned on the playing fields of England and remained with him still. This, allied to his strong conscience, made him seem at times like a man of two parts – that which had such a sense of what was right as to be almost Puritanical and the other which thought power, influence and money were there to be used.

His slitting of the envelope and the removal of the paper within all seemed to merge into one deft movement. There was no gasp as he read what was written; simply the slight raising of one eyebrow.

“Mr Derwent Mollosey,” he read, “will be pleased if Lord Erdington will dine at his house in Salisbury Square on the evening of Thursday, 22nd October, 1987 at 8pm. RSVP

Scrawled at the foot in an unknown hand was, “Please tell no one – not even your wife.”

The invitation, apart from the last injunction, seemed very ordinary except for the fact that Derwent Mollosey had died on the 10th of September. Quickly Gresham checked his calendar – the 22nd was exactly six weeks after Derwent's death.

No audible groan escaped Gresham's lips, but it was there nevertheless. Not another of Derwent's jokes! Derwent had been an extremely wealthy man, unmarried and with few friends – in fact it was doubtful whether he had any true friends. Gresham had attended his funeral, but had heard nothing of the will. If he had thought of it at all, he presumed that Derwent had left his money to some obscure cause because if he had any relatives, he was as likely to ignore them in death as he had done in life. Derwent's forte had not been personal relationships. In fact he had a distinct tendency to rub people up the wrong way.

What would this dinner entail, Gresham wondered? A rerun of “The Cat and the Canary” where the invited guests would sit watching a video of Derwent as he had been in life, issuing his instructions about what he wanted them all to do? Well, if he was expected to get up to some escapade in order to inherit some money, no chance. He already had plenty and elaborate parlour games were not his style. Derwent had loved to manipulate people – that was why he had no close friends! He had imagined he was good at handling people and he often held the trump card. For a moment Gresham's blood ran cold, then he gave a shrug. What could