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Home > Mistress of the Game(5)

Mistress of the Game(5)
Author: Sidney Sheldon

Do you take this woman?

I do.

I do! I’m here, Alex! I’m here, my darling.

The doctor’s voice: “For Christ’s sake, someone get him out of here.”

Peter was being pushed, and he pushed back, and something fell to the floor with a crash. Then suddenly the sounds were gone, and everything was color. First white: white coats, white lights, so strong Peter was almost blinded. Then red, the red of Alex’s blood, blood everywhere, rivers and rivers of blood so livid and ketchup-bright it looked fake, like a prop from a movie set. And finally black, as the movie screen faded, and Peter was falling into a well, down, down, deep into the darkness, pictures of his darling Alex flickering briefly in front of him like ghosts as he fell:

Flash!

The day they first met, in Peter’s psychiatrist’s office, back when Alexandra was still married to that psychopath George Mellis.

Flash!

Her smile, lit from within as she walked up the aisle to marry him, an angel in white.

Flash!

Robert’s first birthday. Alex beaming, with chocolate cake smeared all over her face.

Flash!

This morning in the car.

We’re finally going to meet her!

Dr. Templeton? Dr. Templeton, can you hear me?

We’re losing him. He’s blacking out.

Quick! Someone catch him!

No more flashes. Only silence and darkness.

The ghosts had gone.

Reality did not return until he heard his baby cry.

He’d been awake for almost half an hour, listening to the doctor and the hospital staff, even signing forms. But none of that was real.

“You must understand, the level of hemorrhaging, Dr. Templeton…”

“The speed of the blood loss…”

“Highly unusual…perhaps her family history?”

“After a certain point, heart failure cannot be prevented.”

“Deeply sorry for your loss.”

And Peter had nodded, yes, yes, he understood, of course, they’d done all they could. He’d watched them wheel Alex away, her ashen face covered with a bloodstained hospital sheet. He stood there, breathing in and out. But of course it wasn’t real. How could it be? His Alex wasn’t dead. The whole thing was preposterous. Women didn’t die in childbirth, for God’s sake, not in this day and age. This was 1984. This was New York City.

The shrill, plaintive cry seemed to come out of nowhere. Even in his profound state of shock, some primal instinct would not allow Peter to ignore it. Suddenly someone was handing him a tiny swaddled bundle, and the next thing Peter knew, he was gazing into his daughter’s eyes. In an instant, every last brick of the protective wall he’d been building around his heart crumbled to dust. For one blissful moment, his heart swelled with pure love.

Then it shattered.

Wrenching the baby out of his arms, Nurse Matthews thrust her at an orderly.

“Take her to the nursery. And get a psych up here, right now. He’s losing it.”

Nurse Matthews was good in a crisis. But inside she was riddled with guilt. She should never have let him hold the child. What was she thinking? After what that poor man had just been through? He might have killed her.

In her defense, though, Peter had seemed so stable. Fifteen minutes ago he was signing forms and talking to Dr. Farrar and…

Peter’s screams grew louder. Outside in the corridor, visitors exchanged worried glances and craned their necks to get a better view through the glass window of the delivery room.

Hands were on him again. Peter felt the sharp prick of a needle in his arm. As he lost consciousness, he knew that the peaceful blackness of the well would never return to him.

This wasn’t a nightmare. It was real.

His beloved Alex was gone.

The press had a field day.

ALEXANDRA BLACKWELL DIES IN CHILDBIRTH!

To the public she would always be Alexandra Blackwell, just as Eve was forever known by her maiden name. “Templeton” and “Webster” simply didn’t have the same cachet.

KRUGER-BRENT HEIRESS DEAD AT 34

AMERICA’S FIRST FAMILY STRUGGLES TO COPE WITH LOSS

The national fascination with the Blackwells was well into its fifth decade, but not since Eve Blackwell’s surgical “mishap” had the papers been thrown such a juicy bone. Rumors were rife.

There was no baby: Alexandra had died of AIDS.

Her handsome husband, Peter Templeton, was having an affair and had somehow contrived to end his wife’s life.

It was a government plot, designed to bring down Kruger-Brent’s share price and limit the company’s enormous power on the world stage.

Like Peter Templeton, no one could quite believe that a healthy, wealthy young woman could be admitted into New York’s finest maternity hospital in the summer of 1984 and wind up twenty-four hours later on a slab in the morgue.

The rumors were fueled by a stony silence from both the family and the Kruger-Brent public-relations office. Brad Rogers, acting chairman since Kate Blackwell’s death, had appeared just once in front of the cameras. Looking even older than his eighty-eight years, a white-haired apparition, his papery hands trembled as he read a terse statement:

“Alexandra Templeton’s tragic and untimely death is entirely a private matter. Mrs. Templeton held no official role within Kruger-Brent, Ltd., and her passing is not pertinent to the management or future of this great company in any way. We ask that her family’s request for privacy be respected at this difficult time. Thank you.”

Refusing to take questions, he scurried back into the maze of the Kruger-Brent headquarters like a distressed beetle searching for the safety of its nest. Nothing had been heard from him since.

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