The Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks
if not beautiful, at least attractive. And her training meant that she did know how to make the best of the face she had been born with. Her hair was good: thick, auburn, naturally curly and hanging loosely to her shoulders. Was that style a little too young now? Should she consider a more mature cut? Something to think about. Her brow and eyebrows were good, too, though the eyes were not as large or as deep as she would like - but eyes were something that you really could improve with make-up and false lashes. Her nose was on the large size, but at least straight; the mouth a trifle wide, but only a trifle, the jaw firm - but too square? No, on consideration, not really. She smiled mirthlessly at herself. Her teeth weren't absolutely straight and could do with a little cosmetic work, only she was such a coward when it came to dentists. And they were, at least, very white.
    Yes, generally speaking, she would pass.
    She got up from the dressing-table and looked at herself in a full-length mirror. She was wearing the smart black suit, which, together with a black straw hat, she had bought especially for the funeral. She was pleased with the cut and style. There was no reason why a funeral outfit had to be unfashionable. And, she, of all people, had to put on a good show: Florrie would have appreciated that.
    She started to take the outfit off, thinking deeply as she did so. She wished she had known Florrie better. How many times had she seen her since arriving from America? Six? Seven? She certainly couldn't have hoped for a warmer welcome. Florrie had been genuinely delighted to see her. And her own stories about New York, the fashion scene there, and the Broadway shows had been a real hit with the old girl.
    Everything Florrie had told her about the other relations had been useful, too, as they were, really, strangers to her. How would they receive her? The Earl and Countess and Geraldine sounded nice. She doubted there'd be any problems there. Clara, though, unless Florrie was exaggerating, which was possible, seemed to be a real witch.
    She hung the suit in the closet. Now, who else would there be? Well, Jean Mackenzie, of course; she knew her quite well. And then the other relations. The second cousins: Gregory, the politician, and Timothy, the attorney. Timothy's daughter. And Tommy. Would he recognise her, she wondered? He was the only comparatively close relative among them and in his early teens had had, she fancied, quite an intense admiration for his older first cousin.
    Anyway, this was a great chance to get to know them all. She had no close relatives, and kin were important, particularly to someone in her situation. After so many years in New York, she was making a fresh life for herself. Apart from a few colleagues on the magazine, she did not yet know many people in London. So it was going to be vital to create a good impression at Alderley. For some of these were important people and could be very useful to her, especially if she was to fulfil her ambition and break out from the fashion world into a wider sphere of journalism.
    In fact, it suddenly occurred to her, this funeral might in itself be a way to start. There had been the usual formal obituaries of Florrie in the more serious papers, but no human interest stuff at all. After all, the old biddy had had quite a life. And her funeral was taking place within a mile or two of a house now famous or notorious for a series of lurid murders. The host and hostess on that occasion would be among the principal mourners. There must be a chance that some magazine or paper would be interested in a short piece. And Florrie herself would surely have approved of her taking advantage of their relationship, if it gave her a leg up.
    The most important thing, though, was really to get to know these VIP relations.
    'Nepotism for ever,' Stella said out loud.
    Of course, it all depended on nobody in this country ever learning the real reason she had had to leave New York so

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