PAPERBACK BOOKS
AND MANY HAPPY RETURNS

When Cassandra gives Ryan a present for his 40th birthday, she prophesizes that by midnight, he will get his heart’s desire but before midnight Ryan is forced to walk out of his own party to investigate a murder. 

Ryan’s investigations into the drowning of a butler reveal the victim’s true identity as a ruthless blackmailer who only preyed on the rich and famous.  While Ryan’s team unravel the secret loves and lives of the wealthy suspects, a chance discovery takes Ryan to a small NSW town where he meets a Catholic priest, whom he adds to his list of suspects, an old woman who is unaware that the key to the whole mystery is in her possession and secrets about the dean man which raise more questions about his true identity. 

As all the clues start to point to one suspect, Ryan is under pressure by the department to make an arrest while Cassandra’s psychic visions advise him against this.  When even his best friend and colleague Alan, starts to question Ryan’s motives in not making the arrest, Ryan begins to wonder if he has listened to Cassandra one time too many…

In Store Price: $AU26.95 
Online Price:   $AU25.95

ISBN:  978-1-921240-83-6
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 235
Genre:  Fiction/Crime
 

By the same author:
The Indignity of Death
Private Purgatory


Author: Helen Denkha
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2008
Language: English

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Author Profile  

Helen Denkha was born in Iran and is of Assyrian descent. She moved to Australia with her family in 1973.  Although most of her education was completed in Australia she still speaks fluent Assyrian and Farsi. 

And Many Happy Returns is her third book featuring Ryan Gregorian and the psychic Cassandra.

Read a sample:

The Dreamer

 

“I thought you’d give me my present at the party tonight Cassandra.” 

“Are you disappointed or relieved that I won’t be coming to your party Ryan?”

“Disappointed of course,” replied Ryan tactfully.

“Well, go on, open it.”

Ryan untied the blue and silver ribbon around the package. He was sure it was a book. It felt and looked like a book. He took the present out. He was right; it was a book, without a title.

He turned to the first page. There was a message on the top left hand corner in Cassandra’s neat, almost calligraphic handwriting:

To Ryan, happy fortieth birthday. Many happy returns to all of you.

“To all of us?” asked Ryan puzzled.

“Well, I imagine you are not the only person born on Valentine’s Day.”

“I’m sure I’m not Cassandra.” Ryan thought maybe it was a new trend that he was unaware of. Spread the good wishes, why limit the happy returns to the person you know; let the rest of the world join in.

“Turn over to February the fourteenth,” said Cassandra.

Ryan obediently turned to that page. It appeared to be some sort of a calendar. It listed the major events that had taken place on a particular day going back several years. It also contained names of famous people born on that day.

“See, you’re amongst very good company Ryan.”

Ryan read the names of several famous people that had made their mark in history, including John Kennedy.

“I didn’t know the American president was born on this day,” he said.

“Oh, that’s not John F. Kennedy. That’s just plain John Kennedy, the Banker.”

“Why is he in the book?”

“I added him in.”

“Why?” asked Ryan.

“Because this will be a birthday you will both remember for a long time.”

“Is something going to happen tonight Cassandra?” Ryan asked anxiously.

“Nothing bad will happen at your party Ryan. Go and enjoy yourself. Rosemary has gone to a lot of trouble to arrange the party for you.”

Ryan replaced the book in the wrapping paper, albeit untidily and stood up.

“Why don’t I trust you Cassandra? Tell me what’s going to happen?”

“Your party will be a big hit. John Kennedy’s party will also be a big hit. You two have a lot in common apart from your date of birth.”

“Like what?”

“You’re both in love with a redhead. You’re both successful in your chosen field and you’ll both get your heart’s desire very shortly.”

Cassandra got up and left the room, leaving Ryan standing on his own. He knew there was no point in following her. After a few minutes he left.

He started walking back to his apartment. Her last words were meant to set his mind at ease but they had done the exact opposite. Why did she keep harping on about this guy John Kennedy and what was Ryan’s heart’s desire?

He was blissfully happy right now with his life and himself. The last eight months with Rosemary had been like a dream. It was difficult to imagine that at one time he had been terrified of asking her to move in with him. It was the single brilliant decision he had made in his entire life. Even the thought of turning forty did not bother him. Well, it bothered him a little but he didn’t mind growing old as much now as long as he had Rosemary to grow old with him.

He’d agreed to the birthday party tonight just for her sake. She had talked about nothing else since Christmas. His mother used to have birthday parties for him until the age of ten. She used to make a big deal of it too, he was the only child and the only son, nothing but the best would do. After that, their life changed drastically and there had been no reason to celebrate anything.

This would be his first party in probably thirty years. He felt a little silly at the thought of dressing up and blowing out the candles, just like a kid but it was only for a few hours and then it would be over. He would play along and make sure he had a good time, for Rosemary’s sake, even if it killed him.  

 

Cassandra saw Ryan leave from her bedroom window. She had left him in order to avoid answering any further questions. She did not know all the answers, but she knew there would be a death tonight, a violent death. Her only consolation was that in her vision she had seen Ryan in his official capacity, very much alive and that’s all that mattered. He would come to no harm, she was sure of that.

There was another man in her life who would be celebrating his birthday tonight. Her father was turning sixty-eight tonight. She knew there would be the customary birthday dinner tonight at her old home, with most of the relatives and a few carefully selected friends and of course the more important church dignitaries. Afterwards there would be the opening of the gifts, always expensive gifts. No one who knew her father would dare bring him anything that cost less than their weekly income. For a man of God, he had very expensive taste and he loved his worldly possessions. It was only one of the many contradictions about the man. The gifts would be presented and the gift-bearer would then kiss her father’s ring. In all her years, Cassandra did not remember once kissing her father on the cheek or vice-versa.

She could picture them all sitting down to dinner tonight, in the large formal dining room with the heavy chandeliers that almost reached down and touched the centre of the table. As the youngest child of five and the youngest daughter her place at the table had been towards the middle on the left-hand side.

She wondered who occupied that seat now and whether her name was ever mentioned in that house. She was almost certain that her parents would have pretended she was dead, probably going to the extent of enforcing the façade and mourning the anniversary of her death every year.

She reminded herself that it did not bother her at all; she had no regrets about leaving her parents’ home. She could not have lived with the hypocrisy for much longer.

If only her child had lived, that would have made a world of difference. She could never have another child. The doctors had told her after the miscarriage that she could not bear any more children. They had been surprised, she was physically healthy, and there was no reason why the pregnancy should have been terminated. They had shaken their heads and looked puzzled; it was just one of those things that science could not explain.

She knew why she had lost the child, her father had cursed her. His final words to her as she left the house had been, “May every day for the rest of your life be as dark as the night.” Kind, reassuring words from a man of God.

If only the child had lived, if only – maybe it wasn’t too late after all. She had forgotten all about the other vision. Yes, there was a possibility. It was so very fitting.

There would be a child and she would name him – Alexander.

 

“Alan, I’m so happy that it’s scary. I feel something really bad is going to happen to spoil it all,” said Rosemary.

“Don’t be silly. You have every right to be happy and nothing bad will happen, unless we run out of ice or napkins and that’s not exactly a disaster is it?” said Alan.

“I don’t mean just about tonight, I mean all the time. I still can’t believe that I’m living here with Ryan. I keep thinking one day I’ll wake up and find out it was just a dream and then I’ll just die, because I don’t want it to be a dream.”

Alan went over and pinched her as hard as he could on her arm. She screamed in pain.

“Did you feel that?” he asked.

“God that hurt. Why did you do that?”

“If it hurt, then it’s not a dream. Stop being paranoid and give me a hand with these decorations, people are going to start walking in soon.”

Rosemary went over and embraced him in a tight bear hug and gave him a smacking kiss on his cheek.

“What was that for?”

“For bringing me back down to earth. Please promise me you’ll pinch me every time I get paranoid.”

“I promise. Can I pinch you on the butt next time?”

 

Christian looked at his watch for the tenth time. It was two minutes past the last time he had looked. What the hell was she doing? Why was she going to so much trouble to beautify herself? Ryan was already spoken for.

He realised almost immediately that Ryan was not the man she was out to impress. Christian had noticed a distinct chill in their relationship in the last few months. It had been awkward at times, Ryan had become a good friend and Christian found himself continually apologising for his sister’s rudeness. Christian was surprised that Angela had agreed to come to the birthday party tonight; he wished even at this late stage that she would change her mind. He had a dreadful feeling that something terrible would happen tonight.

He wondered what would be the earliest possible time they could leave without seeming rude. Shortly after dinner? A few minutes after the cake was cut? Or were they supposed to remain until the gifts were opened?

He looked up as Angela came running down the stairs, in a black dress that she was almost wearing, carrying a pair of sequined black shoes in her hand.

“Where is the rest of your dress Angela?”

“Christian. Honestly!”

“Come on sis. I want to have a good time tonight. I don’t want to spend half the time punching men in the face, because they’re making a pass at you.”

“Maybe I want them to make a pass at me.”

“Well, that dress does sort of say come and get me.”

“Christian, you’re becoming more and more like Dad every day.”

Christian raised his hands in surrender. He opened the door and waited for her to go out first after she had put on her shoes.

As he opened the car door for her, he couldn’t resist a last shot:

“I suggest you don’t try and sit down at all tonight, unless you’ve got a tablecloth for cover.”

 

“No, you can’t pinch her on the butt or anywhere else for that matter,” Ryan told Alan in mock anger.

He had walked through the door in time to hear Alan and Rosemary’s tail end of the conversation.

Rosemary ran over to Ryan and started unbuttoning his shirt, talking nineteen to the dozen.

“Ryan, you have to get dressed quickly. The guests will be arriving soon. What was Cassandra’s present to you? Why couldn’t she make it tonight? I hope there’s enough food. Rosita thinks there are not enough chicken wings to go around.”

“Rosita always thinks we’re short of food. As for the other hundred questions, well, I can’t even remember what you asked Rosemary.”

“Doesn’t matter, we’ll talk later.” She pushed him through the bedroom door. She herself couldn’t remember what she’d asked him.

 

Tony, Rosita’s son, and his girlfriend Shannon were the first to arrive, followed by Christian and Angela. Alan, Christian and Ryan went out to the balcony. As the guests started coming in, the men all ended up on the balcony, until Rosemary went outside and made Ryan come in and mingle with the other guests. Rosemary had invited several girls from the travel agency and a few of their neighbours. Ryan was meeting some of his neighbours for the first time since he had moved into the complex. Alan had invited several of the detectives that he and Ryan worked with including David Madison.

“Are you having a good time Ryan?” asked Rosemary anxiously.

“Of course I am. Any party that you organise is bound to be a success.”

“I had a lot of help from Alan you know.”

“If you say so.”

“I just love parties. I wish New Year’s Eve was next week. I don’t want to have to wait another ten months,” said Rosemary.

“You won’t have to wait another ten months for another party. There are other occasions one can celebrate you know.”

“Like what?”

“Use your endless imagination, woman,” said Ryan. He kissed her quickly and moved away to speak to one of her co-workers.

 

Alicia Kennedy took a last look at the dinner table arrangement. She moved over and adjusted the candle holders and a set of cutlery that was placed incorrectly. She caught sight of her own reflection in the glass buffet that housed all the crystal. She smiled ironically, why was she bothering with the table settings?

Purely out of habit, old habits die hard.

She resisted the temptation to walk around the room and check the flower arrangements minutely as she would have done any other time, but this was not any other time.

Tonight she was going to be the lady of the manor for the very last time. As of next Monday, she could not even call herself Kennedy, but of course she had every intention of keeping her married name.

She had not used her maiden name for over twenty-five years, she wasn’t about to start now. It was a name that would have taken her places back then, but it didn’t matter any more. She had arrived using her own resourcefulness.

As she was about to walk out of the room it occurred to her that she had no regrets at all about divorcing John. She would of course ensure she took all the Persian rugs and the mosaics and other art works. They had all been purchased by her. John Kennedy was a multi-millionaire, but that did not make him any less a philistine. The only pleasure he got out of these treasures was the knowledge that they appreciated rather than depreciated in price.

She left the room shaking her head in wonder.

It was odd that she did not have some misgivings, some feeling of despair. After all twenty-five years was a long time.

She looked at her watch again. Everyone should be down for the formal dinner in the next twenty minutes. Most people would have considered dinner at six p.m. and a late buffet supper around nine p.m. a little over the top, but she was determined to stick to her routine. John had given in to her without much argument, knowing it was the last time she would ask him for anything.

She wondered what her guests were doing right now, what they thought about this comical situation. It is not often one is invited to a party knowing the lady of the house has been given her marching orders, and the man of the house has invited his young mistress to stay over for the weekend. It would be interesting to know what they were thinking.

It was just as well that she didn’t know, in one of the bedrooms above her, someone was calmly and carefully planning how to take another’s life.

 

Benjamin Dunne carried the remaining bottles out to the back garden and threw them in the recycling bin. There were five bottles that about two hours earlier had contained wine and spirits. They were all empty now. These people certainly knew how to drink. They knew how to drink and steal and lie and commit all sorts of unforgivable acts. He knew all about them, they couldn’t fool him with their fancy clothes and cultured voices and flashing jewellery.

He had spent a life time studying them. If they were stripped of their money and fine clothes and the fake front they presented to the world, they were just a bunch of depraved people.

All except one … she was different. She wasn’t here by choice.

It would be different after tonight, he would see to that. They belonged together.

It would be awkward at first, after all he was only a butler and she was a … lady. But he had planned things carefully. They would move away from here and go somewhere where neither of them was known, and class distinctions were not important, maybe even overseas.

He retuned to the dining room and started to remove the plates. It really wasn’t his job but he preferred to be in here than out by the poolside serving them with more drinks. They were detestable. It made him sick to the stomach having to wait on them hand and foot knowing what he knew about all of them, they should be serving him.

Well they would be serving him soon; he would have his revenge before the night was over.

Let them enjoy themselves tonight for tomorrow their lives would be turned upside down. He had already set the wheels in motion.

He would just sit back and watch now.

 

John Kennedy was enjoying his birthday party. The day had started off well and looked like it would end on a great note. The guests were having a good time, as good a time as possible given their various troubles. John Kennedy knew all about their troubles. Gerald Greenberg was trying hard to drown his sorrows. He could be bankrupt in about a month from now. His wife Amanda was downing vodka as if it was water, but then to her, vodka had been just like water for several years.

Mildred Ludlow had been sitting in the same deckchair since seven o’clock. She hadn’t moved, partly because if she got up, it would be very difficult to sit back down again. She looked like a bleached blonde hippopotamus. The other reason she would not move was due to the convenience of the food table being close by. She reached out and filled her plate continually. Anytime she fancied something that was too far, she would simply bark at her husband and he would jump to do her bidding.

That snake Dubois was pawing Alicia right in front of his eyes. Occasionally he would look up and glance around quickly to see if anyone was watching. Kennedy looked away. It didn’t bother him at all. It suited his plans for his wife to have a lover. It wouldn’t be for much longer anyway.

Kennedy’s expression softened as he looked at the last guest. Miriam (Minnie) Montgomery. She was sitting at the far end of the pool all by herself. It pained him to see her sitting alone, looking like little orphan Annie. Well, that wouldn’t be for much longer either. These cretins would have no choice but to accept her among them soon or this would be the last time they set foot in his house.

He was interrupted by the butler coming up to him at that moment. For such a big man he moved as soundlessly as a cat. Kennedy thought that must be part of their training.

“Cocktail Mr Kennedy?”

“No thank you Dunne. But you can bring me another vodka straight?”

“Yes sir.”

“Oh and Dunne. Go and find out if Miss Montgomery needs anything, anything at all.”

“Yes sir.”

Kennedy thought it was time he moved from his observation post and mingled with the guests. He might go and park himself next to his wife and Dubois. That should annoy them no end.

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