"Well, looking at this, my father and your father were rather more than business partners during their association." Richart Mannix glanced down at the other person in the room where he had her gagged and tied to a chair with her hands behind her. “I don’t think our mothers need to find out about this from us, if they don’t already know about it, but the photos are quite charming in their way.”
Phanessa Strang spluttered something at him while she struggled against the cords that held her to the chair.
“I’m sure your mother knew what she was doing when she told you to go through your father’s office and destroy particular documents.” He flicked through the rest of the documents in his hand, sorting them into piles on the desk in front of him as he did so. “As it happens, however, I’ve recently become aware that something they obtained in the course of their joint business would now be worth rather a lot of money to us. You, my dear, aren’t tied up so I can take it for myself but so you can’t destroy it before I identify it. The gag is just to stop you attracting unwanted company before you’ve considered our position.”
Phanessa stopped struggling.
“Personally,” Richart went on conversationally, “I’ll be very disappointed in our sires if what I think is a business opportunity just turns out to be blackmail material.” In a response to a questioning noise from behind the gag he added, “There are a number of intimate photos of attractive men who aren’t either of our fathers in here. I recognise some of the faces.” He put down the last of the documents in his hand in the appropriate piles on the desk. “This will go faster if both of us are looking. If I let you go do you promise not to destroy anything?”
She nodded vigorously.
He went behind her and bent down to free her hands. “Good. Much as I enjoy the sight of your heaving bosom, pretty butterfly, I don’t want you to hurt yourself trying to get free.”
Once her hands were free she untied the tie he’d used to gag her while he undid the cord fastening her legs to the chair. “You know what my name means – most people think it’s an odd spelling of Vanessa.” She was about a decade younger than him, which tied into when their parents had married.
“My father kept track of yours, even if your father didn’t keep track of him.” He was rubbing her calves with his hands, “Now you’ve got circulation down here, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” she agreed.
“So, what did your mother send you down here to destroy?”
“Intimate photos of her.” Phanessa blushed. “ Her brother, my Uncle Brian, is coming down here to sort through the office for Mum tomorrow. She’s sure Dad had them here and she doesn’t want Uncle Brian to see them.”
“This would be Brian Kidd?” He sat back on his heels.
“The Brian Kidd who had a mortgage with your father for fifty thousand dollars?” Looking at her expression he added, “Middle pile, financial documents.” He stood and fetched it for her. While she read he added, “I would suggest that Brian Kidd is the last person you should allow to search this office.”
After she finished reading, Phanessa said, “He’s already got keys. I’ll need to get a locksmith over here now won’t I? After I call Mum.”
“It might be wise,” Richart agreed solemnly. “You might also want to have a solicitor here when your uncle is due to arrive, particularly if your mother has given him any form of written authority.”
“Yes, of course.” Phanessa went to the office phone and made a call. Richart, listening while he continued to sort documents, was amused and intrigued to hear that she didn’t mention his presence at all. He could also tell that she was hearing things she hadn’t expected. When the call was done she put the phone down carefully. “The police are at our house and they’re coming here.”
“They haven’t been to see you before now?” That did interest him.
“No. Why?” Her turn to look surprised and even confused.
“I assumed that your father, like mine, was murdered.”