Home > The Stars Shine Down(5)

The Stars Shine Down(5)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

"Glace Bay?"

"It's a fishing village in the northeast part of Cape Breton, on the Atlantic shore. It was named by early French explorers. It means 'ice bay.' More coffee?"

"No, thanks."

"My grandfather owned a great deal of land in Scotland, and my father acquired more. He was a very wealthy man. We still have our castle there near Loch Morlich. When I was eight years old, I had my own horse, my dresses were bought in London, we lived in an enormous house with a lot of servants. It was a fairy tale life for a little girl."

Her voice was alive with echoes of long-ago memories.

"We would go ice skating in the winter, and watch hockey games, and go swimming at Big Glace Bay Lake in the summer. And there were dances at the Forum and the Venetian Gardens."

The reporter was busily making notes.

"My father put up buildings in Edmonton, and Calgary, and Ontario. Real estate was like a game to him, and he loved it. When I was very young, he taught me the game, and I learned to love it, too."

Her voice was filled with passion. "You must understand something, Mr. Thompson. What I do has nothing to do with the money or the bricks and steel that make a building. It's the people who matter. I'm able to give them a comfortable place to work or to Jive, a place where they can raise families and have decent lives. That's what was important to my father, and it became important to me."

Hugh Thompson looked up. "Do you remember your first real estate venture?"

Lara leaned forward. "Of course. On my eighteenth birthday my father asked me what I would like as a gift. A lot of newcomers were arriving in Glace Bay, and it was getting crowded. I felt the town needed more places for them to live. I told my father I wanted to build a small apartment house. He gave me the money as a present, but two years later I was able to pay him back. Then I borrowed money from a bank to put up a second building. By the time I was twenty-one, I owned three buildings, and they were all successful."

"Your father must have been very proud of you."

There was that warm smile again. "He was. He named me Lara. It's an old Scottish name that comes from the Latin. It means 'well known' or 'famous.' From the time I was a little girl, my father always told me I would be famous one day." Her smile faded. "He died of a heart attack, much too young." She paused. "I go to Scotland to visit his grave every year. I...I found it very difficult to stay on in the house without him. I decided to move to Chicago. I had an idea for small boutique hotels, and I persuaded a banker there to finance me. The hotels were a success." She shrugged. "And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history. I suppose that a psychiatrist would say that I haven't created this empire just for myself. In a way, it's a tribute to my father. James Cameron was the most wonderful man I've ever known."

"You must have loved him a lot."

"I did. And he loved me a lot." A smile touched her lips. "I've heard that on the day I was born, my father bought every man in Glace Bay a drink."

"So, really," Thompson said, "everything started in Glace Bay."

"That's right," Lara said softly, "everything started in Glace Bay. That's where it all began, almost forty years ago..."

Chapter Three

Glace Bay, Nova Scotia September 10, 1952

James Cameron was in a whorehouse, drunk, the night his daughter and son were bom. He was in bed, sandwiched in between the Scandinavian twins, when Kirstie, the madam of the brothel, pounded on the door.

"James!" she called out. She pushed open the door and walked in.

"Och, ye auld hen!" James yelled out indignantly. "Can't a mon have any privacy even here?"

"Sorry to interrupt your pleasure, James. It's about your wife."

"Fuck my wife," Cameron roared.

"You did," Kirstie retorted, "and she's having your baby."

"So? Let her have it. That's what you women are guid for, nae?"

"The doctor just called. He's been trying desperately to find you. Your wife is bad off. You'd better hurry."

James Cameron sat up and slid to the edge of the bed, bleary-eyed, trying to clear his head. "Damned woman. She niver leaves me in peace." He looked up at the madam. "All right, I'll go." He glanced at the naked girls in the bed. "But I'll nae pay for these two."

"Never mind that now. You'd just better get back to the boardinghouse." She turned to the girls. "You two come along with me."

James Cameron was a once-handsome man whose face reflected fulfilled sins. He appeared to be in his early fifties. He was thirty years old and the manager of one of the boardinghouses owned by Sean MacAllister, the town banker. For the past five years James Cameron and his wife, Peggy, had divided the chores: Peggy did the cleaning and cooking for the two dozen boarders, and James did the drinking. Every Friday it was his responsibility to collect the rents from the four other boardinghouses in Glace Bay owned by MacAllister. It was another reason, if he needed one, to go out and get drunk.

James Cameron was a bitter man, who reveled in his bitterness. He was a failure, and he was convinced that everyone else was to blame. Over the years he had come to enjoy his failure. It made him feel like a martyr. When James was a year old, his family had emigrated to Glace Bay from Scotland with nothing but the few possessions they could carry, and they had struggled to survive. His father had put James to work in the coal mines when the boy was fourteen. James had suffered a slight back injury in a mining accident when he was sixteen, and had promptly quit the mine. One year later his parents were killed in a train disaster. So it was that James Cameron had decided that he was not responsible for his adversity - it was the Fates that were against him. But he had two great assets: He was extraordinarily handsome, and when he wished to, he could be charming. One weekend in Sydney, a town near Glace Bay, he met an impressionable young American girl named Peggy Maxwell, who was there on vacation with her family. She was not attractive, but the Maxwells were very wealthy, and James Cameron was very poor. He swept Peggy Maxwell off her feet, and against the advice of her father, she married him.

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