Lingering Shadows. Penny Jordan

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Название Lingering Shadows
Автор произведения Penny Jordan
Жанр Короткие любовные романы
Серия Mills & Boon Modern
Издательство Короткие любовные романы
Год выпуска 0
isbn 9781474030656

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      Leo wasn’t so sure. The box wasn’t heavy.

      He turned round abruptly now. The box was still on his desk, where he had deposited it six weeks ago, intending to open it but somehow never being able to find the time.

      Well, he had that time now, he reminded himself.

      He looked at the box. This should have been Wilhelm’s task and not his.

      Just as Hessler’s should have been Wilhelm’s … Just as their father’s love had always been Wilhelm’s. Or, rather, their father’s approval. He doubted if his father had ever loved anyone. He was simply not that kind of man. Why had he left control of Hessler Chemie to him, when for years he had been grooming Wilhelm to take his place? His new will had been dated shortly after their mother’s death.

      Tiredly Leo reminded himself that there was no point in constantly asking himself questions he knew he could not answer.

      He glanced at the deed box and frowned, his brain, freed briefly from the inevitable strain imposed upon it by his responsibility for Hessler’s, suddenly prodding him into a sharp awareness of the incongruity of the box’s shabbiness, of the fact that it had been on the floor alongside his father at the moment of his death.

      Curiosity stirred inside him, curiosity and something else.

      He walked over to his desk and touched the box reluctantly.

      He had the keys. They had been in his father’s hand. He opened his desk drawer and removed them, looking at them with a frown. Like the box itself, they were worn and shabby and of poor workmanship, and hard to equate with the kind of man his father had been.

      Still frowning, he reached for the box, and then hesitated, unwilling to touch it, to unlock it.

      Grimly he reminded himself that he was exhibiting the very qualities his father had most detested in him: emotion, imagination, fear. Fear of what? Not of his father. He had lost that fear at the same time as he had forced himself to accept that, no matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried, nothing he did would ever earn his father’s love and praise.

      There was nothing to be gained by going over the past, he reminded himself firmly. He was thirty-eight years old, an adult now, not a child.

      He inserted the key into the box’s lock and turned it firmly, pushing back the lid.

      The only thing the box contained was an envelope. Leo picked it up, tensing a little as he felt the old, worn, and somehow unpleasant texture of the paper.

      He reached inside the unsealed envelope and removed its contents, placing them on the desk in front of him.

      There was a notebook, and several newspaper cuttings printed in English. As he picked up the notebook he glanced at the headline of the top one. It was an article describing the work of some British servicemen in a German hospital. Glancing at the date, Leo saw that it had been written shortly after the Allies had entered Germany.

      There was a photograph: a gaunt, emaciated man lying in bed, arms outstretched in supplication to the man leaning over him.

      Leo felt his stomach muscles contract at the sight of the gaunt figure. A victim of one of the death camps, quite obviously; beside him in the next bed lay another man, who, according to the writer, had not been so fortunate. He was dead.

      The dead man, the article continued, had confided to Private Carey before he died the names of certain German SS officers and undercover agents who had sanctioned the use of prisoners as guinea-pigs for medical experiments. Acting on this information, the Allies had then rounded up a number of these men and arrested them.

      Grimly Leo looked away and then forced himself to look back again. When he picked up the small bundle of clippings his hand was trembling. He flicked back the first one and read through the others quickly.

      They were all in English and they all related to a small British pharmaceutical company—Carey Chemicals. The name of the private in the first yellowing article, Leo noted absently.

      They charted Carey Chemicals’ meteoric rise just after the war when it had patented the formula of a heart drug which had revolutionised the treatment available for people with heart problems, and they also charted the company’s decline.

      Carey Chemicals … These clippings. What did they have to do with his father? Why had he collected them … kept them?

      Leo frowned and picked up the notebook. His father had started Hessler Chemie after the war. The Allies had been keen to re-establish order in the chaos of post-war Germany, and because his father had had no part in the war or its atrocities—he had left Germany shortly after war had originally broken out, to live in neutral Switzerland—he had been allowed to return and establish his company. That company had produced a new drug, a tranquilliser which had helped to ease the suffering of many victims in the aftermath of the horrors of war.

      Leo picked up the notebook and opened it. He had studied chemistry at university—his father’s choice and not his. He was, after all, a von Hessler, even if he did not look or behave like one, his father had told him sneeringly, and as such he must play his part in the corporation’s continued success.

      Now, as he stared at the faded handwritten chemical equations and notes, Leo recognised immediately what they were.

      What he was reading were the original notes for the tranquillising drug on which Hessler’s had been founded.

      Leo looked closely at them. There were a variety of stories about how the notes had come into his father’s possession. The official version was that his father had been given them by a dying man whom he had visited at the request of the allied soldiers to whom he had been attached as a translator.

      From time to time, far less flattering stories had surfaced, but by then Hessler’s had been too powerful for anyone really to challenge them or their founder.

      As a teenager Leo had heard rumours that his father had secretly been employed as a spy for the SS, based in Switzerland but travelling throughout Germany and the Continent, and that because of this he had had access to the information produced by the laboratories of the notorious death camps.

      Foolishly he had dared to challenge his father with what he had heard. His father had said nothing to him, neither denying nor verifying his challenge, but the next day Leo had discovered his mother in bed, her body so badly beaten that Leo had insisted, against her frantic pleas not to do so, on sending for their doctor.

      He had never raised the subject of the rumours with his father again.

      He turned the pages of the notebook and then tensed.

      There was a second set of equations here, together with notes in the margins and a doctor’s signature—a doctor who, Leo was sure, had been tried for his part in a certain camp’s medical atrocities.

      He read through them once quickly, and then a second time slowly and carefully while his heart turned over inside his chest and his body became heavy and cold with the weight of the knowledge descending on him.

      These further pages showed detailed study and a formula proposed for a heart drug—a heart drug like the one that the British company Carey Chemicals had produced.

      Like a dealer with a pack of cards, Leo slowly and carefully fanned out in front of him the separate newspaper clippings, and then above them he placed the notebook, his eyes bleak.

      Had his father died trying to carry the deed box, or had he tried to reach it only after he had had his first attack, knowing what it contained and what it betrayed, knowing that it must be destroyed? Leo looked at the newspaper cuttings and the references to Private Carey. Was the young man’s rise in the field of pharmacy after the war linked at all to his father’s notes? Why had his father kept them in the first place? Were they a form of insurance against Carey, the medical-orderly-turned-blackmailer who knew the truth about the German’s secret SS dealings and had been paid off with that second formula?

      But the man Carey had died several years before his father.