The Elephant Girl: Prequel III – Henriette Gyland

In the last prequel to “The Elephant Girl” we see yet another reaction to events, this time from…

THE BUSINESSMAN

The screaming headline reporting the murder of Mimi Stephanov left nothing to the imagination. Derek Moody had retreated to the dining room to finish his late morning coffee and read the newspaper undisturbed. It was his son Jason’s ninth birthday, and the boy’s excited chatter echoed from across the hallway as he played with his presents.

wrapped-presents-resized-201He smiled to himself. Business was going well, and he’d lavished presents on his son, including a bike with 21 gears. That plus paying this terms’ school fees and for the holiday to the Bahamas they were taking at Christmas had hardly made a dent in his savings. Life was good.

Well, maybe not that good. One of his wife’s empty-headed Pekingese dogs had left her side and was now standing beside Derek’s chair, peering up at him through raisin-coloured eyes, its lower jaw protruding and making it look every bit as dumb as it was.

‘Get out,’ he snarled.

Whimpering, the dog turned tail and clattered back across the hall, sweeping the floor tiles with its thick belly fur. Derek shook his head. What his wife saw in those mutts he’d never been able to figure out.

He glanced back at the paper, and at the photo of the smiling Mimi Stephanov, taken at a glitzy charity dinner two months ago. She looked every inch the successful business woman and socialite. Pity she’d been such a difficult person.

Carefully he folded it in half and dropped it in the log basket next to the marble fireplace he’d had installed recently, at great expense. Just then Jason entered the dining room followed by his mother and the infernal Pekes.

‘Thanks for the bike, Dad.’

‘You’re welcome, Son. The man in the bike shop said it was the best model on the market.’

‘Yeah, it’s cool. Dad,’ Jason asked hesitantly, ‘is it okay if I cycle down to Tom’s and we can go on our bikes together? I promise we’ll only go on the pavement.’

‘Tom? Do we know a Tom?’ Derek turned to his wife.

She nodded. ‘Tom’s father did our conservatory last year.’

‘So, he’s a builder?’

‘He runs a construction firm, yes.’

Derek looked from his wife to his son, saw the cautious look in their eyes. Well, they should know better.

‘Son, we don’t mix with people like that. Now, let me call Percy’s parents, and we can arrange something.’

‘Aww, no, not Percy,’ Jason protested.

‘Why? What’s wrong with him?’

‘He’s a wimp, Dad! He cries like a baby when he falls over.’

‘Now, now. You just have to be a little tolerant of him.’

Ignoring further protests from his son, Derek left the dining room to telephone from the hall. As he dialled the number for Percy’s parents, he thought of another child altogether. Mimi Stephanov’s daughter, who’d been in the car with her mother.

How much had she seen? He needed to know.


The Elephant Girl: Prequel II – Henriette Gyland

It’s time for the second prequel to “The Elephant Girl”, and this time we’re seeing  the action through the eyes of…

THE RUSSIAN

It was Vitali who informed him, in those clipped tones of his, so devoid of any feeling – or so it seemed to the listener – that police had found the body of Dmitri’s wife. Beautiful, desirable Mimi had met her inescapable end on a deserted London park lane, in the early hours of a chilly autumn day.

Drawing a deep breath, Arseni tied the dressing gown tighter around him and peered down at the tree-lined street. It had rained in the night, and the pavement was littered with glistening russet leaves, creating hazardous conditions for joggers and early morning dog walkers.

Behind him, in the large four-poster bed, his current girlfriend Irina was stirring, drowsily stretching her perfectly sculpted arms above her head. An elegant foot with red-painted toenails poked out from under the covers.vodka-and-caviar-resized

‘Seni?’

‘Go back to sleep,’ he replied in Russian. Irina gave a contented little sigh and rolled over to sleep on her stomach.

Arseni turned away and continued to stare out of the window. Irina was tall and slim with a glorious head of thick chestnut hair. She had a sweet nature too, but boy, did she irritate him with her habit of sleeping on her front, taking up more than half the bed so whichever position he lay in, he would always brush against her half-naked body.

A lot of men envied him, he knew, but despite his endless supply of pretty girlfriends, something was missing.

His thoughts returned to Mimi. Beautiful, desirable Mimi. Suddenly tears welled up in his eyes, and he allowed himself a moment of grief that it had all gone so horribly wrong. If only she hadn’t rejected him. Hadn’t teased him with her knowledge of his inner-most desires.

‘Pull yourself together,’ he muttered in his adopted English and wiped his eyes. He took a sip from his tea glass, then pulled a face. How many times did he have to tell that useless maid he preferred coffee in the mornings?

Vitali had also told him – and this time there had been a hint of emotion in his smirk, an undercurrent of glee – that Mimi’s five year-old daughter had been in the car at the time. A child so easy to overlook. Many difficult questions surrounded that child, but right now the thought occupying him most was what she might have seen.

He put the tea glass back on the breakfast tray with a clack, and shook Irina awake.

‘Get up and start packing. We’re going back to Moscow.’

Irina sat up, her dark hair artfully tousled. ‘Why you wake me?’ she pouted.

‘What are you, stupid?’ He slapped her on her naked thigh. ‘I said, start packing!’

The Elephant Girl: Prequel I – Henriette Gyland

When you read a book, have you ever wondered how subsidiary characters perceive and react to events in the book? To celebrate the publication of “The Elephant Girl”, over the next couple of weeks I’ll be writing a short piece from the viewpoint of three different characters. Today it’s…

THE GRANDMOTHER

Agnes Ransome accepted a cup of coffee from her secretary, then turned her attention to the papers on her desk. Although the family-owned auction house was now run very efficiently by her youngest daughter Letitia and her step-daughter Mimi, and she herself was officially retired, Agnes still kept her hand in once a week.

Whereas her other daughter Ruth… she glanced at the sleeping form on the leather sofa. After yet another argument with her husband, Ruth had slept in the office.

Agnes despaired at her daughter’s disastrous marriage. At least Letitia had had the good sense to remain unattached. Then there was Mimi whose husband had died far too young. Aside from her own few blissful years with William, the Ransomes had a terribly track record when it came to happy-ever-afters.

Abandoning the paperwork, she poured Ruth some coffee from the Thermos the secretary had left, then woke her up.2013-07-04-1525-resized2

‘It’s 8.30. You might want to freshen up before the 10 o’clock auction.’ She noticed a cut on Ruth’s hand. ‘And get that seen to.’

Ruth shook as she reached for the saucer with both hands. ‘Thanks,’ she mumbled, and Agnes smelled the gin on her breath.

The door opened, and Letitia almost fell into the office, her face as white as a sheet. ‘Mother, it’s Mimi.’

‘What about Mimi, dear?’

‘She’s dead. Murdered!’

Agnes felt the blood leave her face, and she steadied herself against the desk. From the sofa Ruth made a strangled sound and dropped her coffee cup with a clatter. A dark stain spread on the Persian rug.

‘But that’s… how?’ asked Agnes.

‘Stabbed. In her car. The police want to talk to all of us.’

‘And the child? Where’s Helen?’

Letitia wrung her hands. ‘In hospital. Apparently she was on the back seat when it happened.’

‘Oh, my God!’ Ruth covered her mouth with her hand.

A tight feeling grew in the pit of Agnes’ stomach. ‘Was she harmed?’

‘She had a seizure, from shock I imagine, but no, she wasn’t harmed.’ Letitia sent her sister a hard look. ‘Well, that’ll make life easier for you, won’t it, Sis?’

Ruth glared back at her. ‘I won’t pretend to be heart-broken. And it’s not as if you’re going to miss her either, is it?’

‘Girls!’ Agnes snapped, although both in their forties they were hardly that. ‘This isn’t productive.’

Letitia turned to her mother with a brief panicked expression in her eyes. ‘But how will we cope, Mother? Without Mimi? We’re just about to float on the Stock Exchange.’

‘I’ll have to come out of retirement.’

‘But, Mother, your health – ‘ Ruth protested.

‘Don’t talk such nonsense. It’s the only thing that makes sense. Letitia is right, the company won’t succeed otherwise. And then we need to decide what to do about the child.’

The child, she thought. So many issues surrounding that little girl already, and now another: if Helen was on the back seat, how much had she seen?


Henri’s new cover

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Today I’m taking a little break from editing my first novel (don’t worry, dear editor, I’ll be right back!) to share my excitement over the cover for my next romantic thriller ”The Elephant Girl”, scheduled for publication next summer.

I was absolutely stunned when I saw this. It’s totally different from my first cover, so different perhaps that you could be forgiven for thinking this book was written by another person. But, no, it’s still me, and as with the first book, it reflects the setting of the story. This time partly in India and partly in London’s multi-cultural Shepherd’s Bush area.

When it comes to the details, it’s almost as if the cover designer had a direct feed to my brain (mm, a slightly worrying notion now I come to think of it…). The elephant pendant is exactly what I imagined my heroine’s necklace would look like, and putting it on the spine of the cover as well was truly inspired. The pointed paper knife hints at danger, and the colourful fabric used for the background just screams, ”pick me up!”

Hand on heart, would you be able to walk past this in a bookshop and not stop to take a second look? I know I wouldn’t.