The Emerald CrossChapter 8

Jason was pleasantly surprised when he arrived outside Emily's flat and she got into his black Mercedes. With her red hair worn up and complimented by a simple oyster silk cocktail dress, she was a picture of understated elegance. Not that she was a match for Belle, no one could be in his opinion, but his lover would certainly have a good reason for jealousy. He was in a cheerful mood as they drove to Belle's home, a big old house just outside the city.

"That's where we're going," said Jason as the house came into view.

"That huge house with the tower? Is that your friend's place? I'm impressed!"

"Wait till you see the inside!"

They were shown into a large room filled with obviously wealthy people. As they walked through the room, Jason's eyes searched the crowd for a sight of Belle. At last he saw her, looking dazzling in gold brocade, and he wished for a moment that he had never thought of bringing Emily to the party. Then he realised that the man talking to her but with his back to Jason was Paul Robinson. As he watched, Paul put his arm around Belle's bare shoulders. Careful not to show his anger with the older man, Jason took Emily to where they were standing.

"This is my good friend Belle Mahoney, this house is hers," he said, "Belle, this is Emily Gallagher. Emily goes to my Kendo club. And this is Paul Robinson, he's a lecturer at Trinity College."

"How lovely to meet you, Emily. Jason, you didn't tell me you were bringing someone! But you're very welcome, Emily, after all, it's one of the pleasures of a party, seeing a few new faces! Jason, get Emily a glass of champagne."

As Jason walked to the long bar that had been set up at one end of the room, Belle continued, "What lovely hair you have, Emily! Doesn't she look sweet, Paul? Now, Emily, I must go and mingle with my guests, but I'll leave Paul here to entertain you. Paul, darling, take care of her. See you later!"

"What made you take up Kendo, Emily?" Paul asked her with a smile, "isn't it an unusual sport for a young woman?"

"Ah, but maybe I'm an unusual young woman!" Emily replied. She was enjoying this. She now had confirmation that Jason knew both Belle Mahoney and Paul Robinson, and that they all had some connection with Antwerp where the emerald cross had last been seen. No doubt she could learn a lot more by the end of the party when their tongues had been loosened by champagne. Talking of champagne, where was Jason with her drink? She turned to look at the bar and saw that Belle and Jason were standing very close to each other, whispering fiercely as if they were having a private argument. Jason had a glass of champagne in each hand; she must have stopped him on the way back.

Jason saw Emily turning to look for him and, after delivering a final whispered riposte, started back across the room with the drinks. "Sorry that took so long, Emily," he said, handing her a glass of champagne, "shall I take you around and introduce you to a few more people?" Anything to get away from Paul Robinson, he thought.

"Yes please, that would be nice."

Jason took Emily round the party, introducing her to Belle's friends. He drank his glass of champagne quickly. He knew Belle was annoyed with him, but that was her fault for insisting on going out with Paul. Whatever Belle's feelings, the last thing she would do was make a jealous scene in front of her guests. He looked round to see what Paul was doing but couldn't see him; he must have left the room for a moment. Had Belle gone with him? No, there she was near the bar talking to a couple of old friends.

Paul soon came back into the room and at once walked straight up to Jason. "Come with me, Jason, I must speak to you at once; it's urgent."

Jason was surprised. He would have preferred not to speak to Paul for the rest of the evening and he had thought Paul would feel the same about him. Paul seemed more perturbed than Jason had ever seen him. He hoped this wasn't the prelude to a fight. Not that there was any chance he would lose, he was confident of his ability to beat the academic at any sort of combat, but Belle would make a terrible fuss if her party was disturbed. "I'm sorry, Emily, I'd better see what this is about," he said and followed Paul out of the room.

Paul led the way to a quiet little room on the ground floor, half sitting room and half study. Belle's computer was on a small desk at one side of the room. "Why the hell did you have to bring her here, Jason?"

"Do you mean Emily?"

"Of course, you idiot! Don't you know who she is?"

"What on earth do you mean, Paul?"

"I just googled your new girlfriend and it turns out she's a Garda officer! Look here at this article I found in an online newspaper. Kidnappers Foiled by Garda Girl! That's the headline. And look at that photo!"

It was unmistakably Emily.

The anger that Jason had struggled to control all evening now burst out. "I'll kill that stupid bitch! How dare she try to make a fool of me! She won't get away with this, I tell you. I'll go and find her now and make her sorry she ever met me!"

"Maybe I should handle this, Jason," Paul suggested.

"No way! You can stay out of this, Paul. I brought her here and it's up to me to sort it out. When I've finished with her, she won't be going to any more parties." Jason stalked back into the big room and glared around for Emily. He became even more angry when he realised she was nowhere to be seen.

Emily had decided to take advantage of Jason's absence to take a look around the rest of the house to see what she could find out about Belle Mahoney. If anyone stopped her she could pretend she was looking for the bathroom. Curious to see what was at the top of the tower, she headed up the stairs. She passed a large room lavishly furnished in rose pink that was obviously Belle's bedroom. It wouldn't do to be caught snooping around in there! At the top of the second flight of stairs was the entrance to a library, a room with windows on three sides, the walls lined with bookcases. In the middle of the room was a large old-fashioned wooden desk. Emily went straight to it. Here was the most likely place to find out what Belle and her associates in the Secret IRB were planning.

Putting down her evening bag, she started to search the desk. She pulled at the handles of the drawers; one was locked but the others opened easily. As she was riffling through some letters in one of the drawers she was interrupted by the entrance of Jason. He closed the big solid door and leaned against it. Gone was the charming demeanour of the man she knew from Kendo. He looked at her with narrowed eyes.

"So this is where you're hiding! You know, Emily, you never told me what you do for work."

"Nothing exciting; I work in an office."

"Yes, I expect you do, most of the time. Do you think I'm stupid? I know what you are, Garda Girl, I've been reading about you in the news. Quite a heroine, aren't you? Isn't it a shame your heroic days are over? Because I'm going to make sure of that."

Emily reached for her bag. If she could get a call through to Danny or to Garda headquarters, at least they would know she was in trouble. But Jason saw her move and guessed what she was after.

"No you don't! Give me that bag." Taking two steps towards her he grabbed at the delicate evening bag and pulled it from her hands. His fist moved so fast she hardly saw it coming. It hit her in the face, knocking her head backwards. She took a step back and covered her face with her hands in shock and pain. He moved forward and hit her again, this time in the stomach. "That's only the start, Emily. Believe me, I've got a lot more of that lined up for you, after the party's over. No one will hear you calling for help, up here at the top of the Tower. I'm going to tell Belle and Paul what I've done with you, and I might have a drink or two, to put me in the mood. Then I'll be back to teach you a lesson! No one can make me look a fool and get away with it, Emily. You're going to find that out the hard way."

Jason then took a bunch of keys from a small Chinese vase on the mantelpiece. He went out and closed the door, taking Emily's bag with him. She heard the key turning in the lock.

Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin