Murder in 1975

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Chapter One 

Richard Philips' latest book had just sold a million copies and he was celebrating in style. The room was warm, drinks were circulating and the atmosphere was one of general hilarity. A young man in jeans and a white jumper was playing the piano flamboyantly, with a wealth of flourishes and trills. A short balding man in a black dinner suit beamed as he listened to a girl in an orange caftan - the publisher and one of his assistants. Two women in cocktail dresses hovered over a table covered in delicious savouries. "I just love smoked oysters," one told the other. "And that's not all that looks tasty," she added throwing a glance over her shoulder to a tall man several feet away. 

"Him?" queried the other woman. "He's a cop would you believe; one of Richard's closest friends. He's okay, but aloof if you know what I mean. You'd probably have more luck with Richard, although he's rather hard to get at, too. He'll give everyone a kiss and a cuddle, but he doesn't do one night stands, at least, I suppose, as far as I know! We get on well. How did you meet him?" 

"I'm with the publishing company. There was a general invitation and I leapt at the opportunity." Their talk drifted on to work. A young hotel waiter stood inconspicuously by the table, checking that everything was running smoothly, but looking wistfully at the prettier of the two women ... as if he wished he were part of the celebrations. 

Chief Inspector William Harper of the Sydney Police Department looked through the laughing, chattering crowd to the man who was threading his way across the room, a glass in either hand. At six feet he was an inch shorter than the detective, with thick unruly brown hair, intelligent blue eyes and a perfectly straight nose. His soft, chocolate coloured shirt and black trousers accentuated his broad shoulders and the athletic grace of his figure. He was one of the two best looking men in the room, Harper being the other. He paused to give one glass to the man at the piano, who acknowledged it with a quick nod. Then he came across to the detective. He handed him the other glass.  

"Here you are Bill, Peter Dawson with ice." 

"Thanks, darling," the detective replied, fluttering his eyes dramatically amidst delighted squeals from the women. 

For an instant Philips was taken aback. What long lashes Bill has he thought inconsequentially. He grinned and retorted, "Any time, love." Two could play at that game! 

The women broke into excited laughter and Philips felt suddenly embarrassed. He nodded to them and moved away, feeling an odd tingle as Harper's eyes followed him boldly. I'll get him back for that, he resolved, I won't let him live it down in a hurry. 

The party swirled on gaily until midnight when Munro, Philips publisher, stood on a chair and proposed a toast. Champagne corks popped, and glasses were filled. Someone handed a large one to Philips. 

"To another million copies!" cried Munro. 

There was a ragged echo, and people raised their glasses and drank. Philips grimaced at the size of his drink but managed to empty it. What the hell! An occasion like this didn't come every week, or even every year. Munro called for another toast. By two o'clock, Philips realised vaguely that he had never been so drunk in his life. He caught Harper's arm as he passed and grinned. 

"I thin' I betta go home...before I pass out."  

Harper laughed. "Okay Richard, I'll come with you. Hang on while I get a taxi, will you?" 

He left Philips standing unsteadily in the middle of the room and went over to speak to the waiter. He was back in a minute. "Come on, there's one out the front now." He put his arm around the other man's shoulders, and they made their way to the door. Goodbyes echoed around them. 

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