AND MANY HAPPY RETURNS
When Cassandra gives Ryan a present for
his 40th birthday, she prophesizes that by midnight, he will get his
heart’s desire but before midnight Ryan is forced to walk out of his own party
to investigate a murder.
Ryan’s investigations into the drowning
of a butler reveal the victim’s true identity as a ruthless blackmailer who only
preyed on the rich and famous. While Ryan’s team unravel the secret loves and
lives of the wealthy suspects, a chance discovery takes Ryan to a small NSW town
where he meets a Catholic priest, whom he adds to his list of suspects, an old
woman who is unaware that the key to the whole mystery is in her possession and
secrets about the dean man which raise more questions about his true identity.
As all the clues start to point to one
suspect, Ryan is under pressure by the department to make an arrest while
Cassandra’s psychic visions advise him against this. When even his best friend
and colleague Alan, starts to question Ryan’s motives in not making the arrest,
Ryan begins to wonder if he has listened to Cassandra one time too many…
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By the same author:
The Indignity of Death
|Author: Helen Denkha
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2008
was born in Iran and is of Assyrian descent. She moved to Australia with her
family in 1973. Although most of her education was completed in Australia she
still speaks fluent Assyrian and Farsi.
Happy Returns is her third book featuring Ryan
Gregorian and the psychic Cassandra.
Read a sample:
“I thought you’d give me my present
at the party tonight Cassandra.”
“Are you disappointed or relieved
that I won’t be coming to your party Ryan?”
“Disappointed of course,” replied
“Well, go on, open it.”
Ryan untied the blue and silver
ribbon around the package. He was sure it was a book. It felt and looked like a
book. He took the present out. He was right; it was a book, without a title.
He turned to the first page. There
was a message on the top left hand corner in Cassandra’s neat, almost
Ryan, happy fortieth birthday. Many happy returns to all of you.
“To all of us?” asked Ryan puzzled.
“Well, I imagine you are not the
only person born on Valentine’s Day.”
“I’m sure I’m not Cassandra.” Ryan
thought maybe it was a new trend that he was unaware of. Spread the good wishes,
why limit the happy returns to the person you know; let the rest of the world
“Turn over to February the
fourteenth,” said Cassandra.
Ryan obediently turned to that
page. It appeared to be some sort of a calendar. It listed the major events that
had taken place on a particular day going back several years. It also contained
names of famous people born on that day.
“See, you’re amongst very good
Ryan read the names of several
famous people that had made their mark in history, including John Kennedy.
“I didn’t know the American
president was born on this day,” he said.
“Oh, that’s not John F. Kennedy.
That’s just plain John Kennedy, the Banker.”
“Why is he in the book?”
“I added him in.”
“Why?” asked Ryan.
“Because this will be a birthday
you will both remember for a long time.”
“Is something going to happen
tonight Cassandra?” Ryan asked anxiously.
“Nothing bad will happen at your
party Ryan. Go and enjoy yourself. Rosemary has gone to a lot of trouble to
arrange the party for you.”
Ryan replaced the book in the
wrapping paper, albeit untidily and stood up.
“Why don’t I trust you Cassandra?
Tell me what’s going to happen?”
“Your party will be a big hit. John
Kennedy’s party will also be a big hit. You two have a lot in common apart from
your date of birth.”
“You’re both in love with a
redhead. You’re both successful in your chosen field and you’ll both get your
heart’s desire very shortly.”
Cassandra got up and left the room,
leaving Ryan standing on his own. He knew there was no point in following her.
After a few minutes he left.
He started walking back to his
apartment. Her last words were meant to set his mind at ease but they had done
the exact opposite. Why did she keep harping on about this guy John Kennedy and
what was Ryan’s heart’s desire?
He was blissfully happy right now
with his life and himself. The last eight months with Rosemary had been like a
dream. It was difficult to imagine that at one time he had been terrified of
asking her to move in with him. It was the single brilliant decision he had made
in his entire life. Even the thought of turning forty did not bother him. Well,
it bothered him a little but he didn’t mind growing old as much now as long as
he had Rosemary to grow old with him.
He’d agreed to the birthday party
tonight just for her sake. She had talked about nothing else since Christmas.
His mother used to have birthday parties for him until the age of ten. She used
to make a big deal of it too, he was the only child and the only son, nothing
but the best would do. After that, their life changed drastically and there had
been no reason to celebrate anything.
This would be his first party in
probably thirty years. He felt a little silly at the thought of dressing up and
blowing out the candles, just like a kid but it was only for a few hours and
then it would be over. He would play along and make sure he had a good time, for
Rosemary’s sake, even if it killed him.
Cassandra saw Ryan leave from her
bedroom window. She had left him in order to avoid answering any further
questions. She did not know all the answers, but she knew there would be a death
tonight, a violent death. Her only consolation was that in her vision she had
seen Ryan in his official capacity, very much alive and that’s all that
mattered. He would come to no harm, she was sure of that.
There was another man in her life
who would be celebrating his birthday tonight. Her father was turning
sixty-eight tonight. She knew there would be the customary birthday dinner
tonight at her old home, with most of the relatives and a few carefully selected
friends and of course the more important church dignitaries. Afterwards there
would be the opening of the gifts, always expensive gifts. No one who knew her
father would dare bring him anything that cost less than their weekly income.
For a man of God, he had very expensive taste and he loved his worldly
possessions. It was only one of the many contradictions about the man. The gifts
would be presented and the gift-bearer would then kiss her father’s ring. In all
her years, Cassandra did not remember once kissing her father on the cheek or
She could picture them all sitting
down to dinner tonight, in the large formal dining room with the heavy
chandeliers that almost reached down and touched the centre of the table. As the
youngest child of five and the youngest daughter her place at the table had been
towards the middle on the left-hand side.
She wondered who occupied that seat
now and whether her name was ever mentioned in that house. She was almost
certain that her parents would have pretended she was dead, probably going to
the extent of enforcing the façade and mourning the anniversary of her death
She reminded herself that it did
not bother her at all; she had no regrets about leaving her parents’ home. She
could not have lived with the hypocrisy for much longer.
If only her child had lived, that
would have made a world of difference. She could never have another child. The
doctors had told her after the miscarriage that she could not bear any more
children. They had been surprised, she was physically healthy, and there was no
reason why the pregnancy should have been terminated. They had shaken their
heads and looked puzzled; it was just one of those things that science could not
She knew why she had lost the
child, her father had cursed her. His final words to her as she left the house
had been, “May every day for the rest of your life be as dark as the night.”
Kind, reassuring words from a man of God.
If only the child had lived, if
only – maybe it wasn’t too late after all. She had forgotten all about the other
vision. Yes, there was a possibility. It was so very fitting.
There would be a child and she
would name him – Alexander.
“Alan, I’m so happy that it’s
scary. I feel something really bad is going to happen to spoil it all,” said
“Don’t be silly. You have every
right to be happy and nothing bad will happen, unless we run out of ice or
napkins and that’s not exactly a disaster is it?” said Alan.
“I don’t mean just about tonight, I
mean all the time. I still can’t believe that I’m living here with Ryan. I keep
thinking one day I’ll wake up and find out it was just a dream and then I’ll
just die, because I don’t want it to be a dream.”
Alan went over and pinched her as
hard as he could on her arm. She screamed in pain.
“Did you feel that?” he asked.
“God that hurt. Why did you do
“If it hurt, then it’s not a dream.
Stop being paranoid and give me a hand with these decorations, people are going
to start walking in soon.”
Rosemary went over and embraced him
in a tight bear hug and gave him a smacking kiss on his cheek.
“What was that for?”
“For bringing me back down to
earth. Please promise me you’ll pinch me every time I get paranoid.”
“I promise. Can I pinch you on the
butt next time?”
Christian looked at his watch for
the tenth time. It was two minutes past the last time he had looked. What the
hell was she doing? Why was she going to so much trouble to beautify herself?
Ryan was already spoken for.
He realised almost immediately that
Ryan was not the man she was out to impress. Christian had noticed a distinct
chill in their relationship in the last few months. It had been awkward at
times, Ryan had become a good friend and Christian found himself continually
apologising for his sister’s rudeness. Christian was surprised that Angela had
agreed to come to the birthday party tonight; he wished even at this late stage
that she would change her mind. He had a dreadful feeling that something
terrible would happen tonight.
He wondered what would be the
earliest possible time they could leave without seeming rude. Shortly after
dinner? A few minutes after the cake was cut? Or were they supposed to remain
until the gifts were opened?
He looked up as Angela came running
down the stairs, in a black dress that she was almost wearing, carrying a pair
of sequined black shoes in her hand.
“Where is the rest of your dress
“Come on sis. I want to have a good
time tonight. I don’t want to spend half the time punching men in the face,
because they’re making a pass at you.”
“Maybe I want them to make a pass
“Well, that dress does sort of say
come and get me.”
“Christian, you’re becoming more
and more like Dad every day.”
Christian raised his hands in
surrender. He opened the door and waited for her to go out first after she had
put on her shoes.
As he opened the car door for her,
he couldn’t resist a last shot:
“I suggest you don’t try and sit
down at all tonight, unless you’ve got a tablecloth for cover.”
“No, you can’t pinch her on the
butt or anywhere else for that matter,” Ryan told Alan in mock anger.
He had walked through the door in
time to hear Alan and Rosemary’s tail end of the conversation.
Rosemary ran over to Ryan and
started unbuttoning his shirt, talking nineteen to the dozen.
“Ryan, you have to get dressed
quickly. The guests will be arriving soon. What was Cassandra’s present to you?
Why couldn’t she make it tonight? I hope there’s enough food. Rosita thinks
there are not enough chicken wings to go around.”
“Rosita always thinks we’re short
of food. As for the other hundred questions, well, I can’t even remember what
you asked Rosemary.”
“Doesn’t matter, we’ll talk later.”
She pushed him through the bedroom door. She herself couldn’t remember what
she’d asked him.
Tony, Rosita’s son, and his
girlfriend Shannon were the first to arrive, followed by Christian and Angela.
Alan, Christian and Ryan went out to the balcony. As the guests started coming
in, the men all ended up on the balcony, until Rosemary went outside and made
Ryan come in and mingle with the other guests. Rosemary had invited several
girls from the travel agency and a few of their neighbours. Ryan was meeting
some of his neighbours for the first time since he had moved into the complex.
Alan had invited several of the detectives that he and Ryan worked with
including David Madison.
“Are you having a good time Ryan?”
asked Rosemary anxiously.
“Of course I am. Any party that you
organise is bound to be a success.”
“I had a lot of help from Alan you
“If you say so.”
“I just love parties. I wish New
Year’s Eve was next week. I don’t want to have to wait another ten months,” said
“You won’t have to wait another ten
months for another party. There are other occasions one can celebrate you know.”
“Use your endless imagination,
woman,” said Ryan. He kissed her quickly and moved away to speak to one of her
Alicia Kennedy took a last look at
the dinner table arrangement. She moved over and adjusted the candle holders and
a set of cutlery that was placed incorrectly. She caught sight of her own
reflection in the glass buffet that housed all the crystal. She smiled
ironically, why was she bothering with the table settings?
Purely out of habit, old habits die
She resisted the temptation to walk
around the room and check the flower arrangements minutely as she would have
done any other time, but this was not any other time.
Tonight she was going to be the
lady of the manor for the very last time. As of next Monday, she could not even
call herself Kennedy, but of course she had every intention of keeping her
She had not used her maiden name
for over twenty-five years, she wasn’t about to start now. It was a name that
would have taken her places back then, but it didn’t matter any more. She had
arrived using her own resourcefulness.
As she was about to walk out of the
room it occurred to her that she had no regrets at all about divorcing John. She
would of course ensure she took all the Persian rugs and the mosaics and other
art works. They had all been purchased by her. John Kennedy was a
multi-millionaire, but that did not make him any less a philistine. The only
pleasure he got out of these treasures was the knowledge that they appreciated
rather than depreciated in price.
She left the room shaking her head
It was odd that she did not have
some misgivings, some feeling of despair. After all twenty-five years was a long
She looked at her watch again.
Everyone should be down for the formal dinner in the next twenty minutes. Most
people would have considered dinner at six p.m. and a late buffet supper around
nine p.m. a little over the top, but she was determined to stick to her routine.
John had given in to her without much argument, knowing it was the last time she
would ask him for anything.
She wondered what her guests were
doing right now, what they thought about this comical situation. It is not often
one is invited to a party knowing the lady of the house has been given her
marching orders, and the man of the house has invited his young mistress to stay
over for the weekend. It would be interesting to know what they were thinking.
It was just as well that she didn’t
know, in one of the bedrooms above her, someone was calmly and carefully
planning how to take another’s life.
Benjamin Dunne carried the
remaining bottles out to the back garden and threw them in the recycling bin.
There were five bottles that about two hours earlier had contained wine and
spirits. They were all empty now. These people certainly knew how to drink. They
knew how to drink and steal and lie and commit all sorts of unforgivable acts.
He knew all about them, they couldn’t fool him with their fancy clothes and
cultured voices and flashing jewellery.
He had spent a life time studying
them. If they were stripped of their money and fine clothes and the fake front
they presented to the world, they were just a bunch of depraved people.
All except one … she was different.
She wasn’t here by choice.
It would be different after
tonight, he would see to that. They belonged together.
It would be awkward at first, after
all he was only a butler and she was a … lady. But he had planned things
carefully. They would move away from here and go somewhere where neither of them
was known, and class distinctions were not important, maybe even overseas.
He retuned to the dining room and
started to remove the plates. It really wasn’t his job but he preferred to be in
here than out by the poolside serving them with more drinks. They were
detestable. It made him sick to the stomach having to wait on them hand and foot
knowing what he knew about all of them, they should be serving him.
Well they would be serving him
soon; he would have his revenge before the night was over.
Let them enjoy themselves tonight
for tomorrow their lives would be turned upside down. He had already set the
wheels in motion.
He would just sit back and watch
John Kennedy was enjoying his
birthday party. The day had started off well and looked like it would end on a
great note. The guests were having a good time, as good a time as possible given
their various troubles. John Kennedy knew all about their troubles. Gerald
Greenberg was trying hard to drown his sorrows. He could be bankrupt in about a
month from now. His wife Amanda was downing vodka as if it was water, but then
to her, vodka had been just like water for several years.
Mildred Ludlow had been sitting in
the same deckchair since seven o’clock. She hadn’t moved, partly because if she
got up, it would be very difficult to sit back down again. She looked like a
bleached blonde hippopotamus. The other reason she would not move was due to the
convenience of the food table being close by. She reached out and filled her
plate continually. Anytime she fancied something that was too far, she would
simply bark at her husband and he would jump to do her bidding.
That snake Dubois was pawing Alicia
right in front of his eyes. Occasionally he would look up and glance around
quickly to see if anyone was watching. Kennedy looked away. It didn’t bother him
at all. It suited his plans for his wife to have a lover. It wouldn’t be for
much longer anyway.
Kennedy’s expression softened as he
looked at the last guest. Miriam (Minnie) Montgomery. She was sitting at the far
end of the pool all by herself. It pained him to see her sitting alone, looking
like little orphan Annie. Well, that wouldn’t be for much longer either. These
cretins would have no choice but to accept her among them soon or this would be
the last time they set foot in his house.
He was interrupted by the butler
coming up to him at that moment. For such a big man he moved as soundlessly as a
cat. Kennedy thought that must be part of their training.
“Cocktail Mr Kennedy?”
“No thank you Dunne. But you can
bring me another vodka straight?”
“Oh and Dunne. Go and find out if
Miss Montgomery needs anything, anything at all.”
Kennedy thought it was time he
moved from his observation post and mingled with the guests. He might go and
park himself next to his wife and Dubois. That should annoy them no end.
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