by Trevor Hopkins

In the months that followed Alva Vale's arrest, her arraignment and her eventual conviction, the grand house that she had once shared with Merton Vale came on the market. I guess Alva needed the money for her legal defence and her father had stood firm in his threat not to pay a cent to help her. The asking price was surprisingly low, almost too low to believe. Perhaps the realtor believed that nobody would be interested in a house with such a background, associated with such notoriety.

To everyone's surprise - even mine, I'll freely admit - the property was snapped up within hours. The buyer was Clunie Ford, a fact which came to the attention of the newspaper reporters and thence to the public at large, one which refuelled the speculations in the papers and the bars.

I followed the progress of Clunie Ford arriving at Vale's mansion at third hand, like everyone else, reading snippets here and column-inches there in the inside pages of the evening newspaper over my dinner in David's diner. It seemed that she installed herself in the house with efficiency equal to her annexing of the Starfield Club, even keeping the same housekeeper and most of the house and garden staff.

Clunie also kept much of the furniture and fitments unmodified. Her major change was associated with the master bedroom. In a fit of extravagance, she hired a famous interior designer and had her suite of private rooms extensively remodelled and redecorated, so much so that it was much later featured in one of those glossy magazines with an exclamation mark in the title.

Her other change was in her practice of opening up the grand rooms on the ground floor once a month or so, for a society soiree. Very soon, a certain amount of fashionable cachet became to be attached to these events, especially amongst those glittering types who appreciated the frisson of being associated with a dark mystery, a person enshrouded in so much gossip and so few facts.

Needless to say, I never got an invitation to any of her parties.

Part 105 Part 107