Revenge Ritual

It was the first Kate had heard of Kidpower, or knew of what appeared to be a developing friendship between her father and this woman, judging by the way he looked at her. He held Elaine Pierce’s gaze long enough to be rewarded with an engaging smile, then turned to his daughter, ‘I’m sorry Kate, I should have introduced you. Elaine is the CEO of Pierce Enterprises, the development company behind the Ladram Heights New Town.’ Her father stopped talking as if he’d noticed Kate’s less than enthusiastic response. ‘You must remember Ladram Heights. It’s where I teach. I took you out there when the community school was being built, the last time you were home.’

That was when it was mainly fields, scaffolding and piles of mud but Kate had heard a lot about it since. The local papers were full of the scandal of building in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and that the promised quota of affordable housing was far too low. Some of the team in the Sidmouth office had suggested Pierce Enterprises had bribed local officials to get away with it.

‘Elaine is making an amazing difference to people’s lives all along the coast. The charity helps young people in trouble with the law to go straight. It’s one of her company’s ways of compensating locals for any disruption during the development.’ Kate didn’t like the way he looked at Elaine for approval before continuing. ‘You could get involved with Kidpower too, while you’re staying here. Working with young offenders, you’ll be ideal.’

‘I’m sure I could Dad,’ Kate was in no mood for volunteering, ‘but I won’t be here after next week – I’m going to America.’ Her words wiped the smile off his face. She hadn’t intended to spring her news on him like that.

She started to explain about her research job in Chicago. What a wonderful opportunity it was: how she’d be working with some of the world’s best criminologists.

But he just stared back at her.

‘Oh, and there was I, hoping you’d stick around a bit longer this time. You’ve only been here three days and now you’re off again. You treat this place like a hotel.’

They sat in an awkward silence broken only by the mewing of a buzzard circling overhead until Dad got up and said he was getting them a drink.

After he’d gone Elaine pulled her chair closer to Kate, ‘That sounds like an amazing opportunity. I can understand that you have to go. I’d do the same in your shoes. Don’t worry about your father, he’ll understand. He’s just disappointed.’ Kate was thinking she might have misjudged her when Elaine added, ‘I don’t think he sees very much of you normally so it shouldn’t make any difference. Of course, your timing’s not great. He’s under a lot of strain at school at the moment. Who’d want to be a headmaster these days? He won’t thank me for telling you but I know he depends on you for support.’ Elaine flicked a fly off the sleeve of her shirt with a red finger nail. ‘Of course you could consider putting off your trip for a while. But I gather you usually put your career before anything else.’

Kate glared back. The woman had a nerve. She was talking as if she and Dad had some special relationship. She should stick to property development and keep her opinions to herself. When Kate arrived at Brathcol, she had everything planned out. She was going to spend some time finding out what her dad had been doing since the weekend then mention the subject of working abroad gradually, in a way that would involve him in her decision to go. Of course he supported her career, hadn’t Elaine Pierce said as much when she arrived. This was supposed to be a special moment between the two of them and this woman was ruining it.

She was about to tell her so when her mobile rang. Kate’s spirits lifted as soon as she saw who was phoning. It was her grandmother. Kate missed her a lot. Nan had practically brought her up after her mother died and she had never understood the reason why her grandmother had left her son and granddaughter to live in Bermuda. Although she loved her father, it hadn’t been the same when there was just the two of them. Maybe that was why she hadn’t been home to visit him as often as he wanted.

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