Smoke and Broken Mirrors is a menacing, unsettling, and gripping thriller.
It is the first novel by Elaine Frost.
Here is a brief synopsis, followed by the prologue of the story.
(All content is copyright of Elaine Frost).
One day you’re the must-have designer. The next day you’re dead.
Welcome to London Fashion Week, where nothing is as it seems.
All hell breaks loose when Alice Butler walks into the Wilder’s fashion brand. Not just another employee, Alice has a score to settle.
The beautiful and the fashionable have their superficial masks stripped away, revealing them to be who they truly are – drug addicts, alcoholics, liars, sociopaths, or even worse, the same as everyone else….
But revenge is bittersweet.
Smoke and Broken Mirrors
‘Where there is beauty there is always the opposite, where there is horror there is always the opposite. The two cannot exist without each other.’
-Raf Simons, Sept 2017
‘There is something about fashion that can make people really nervous.’
‘It’s good to know where you come from. It makes you what you are today. It’s DNA, it’s in your blood.’
Rain fell from a sky the colour of steel. White lilies lay against two identical, ebony coffins carried by matching hearses. Escorted by police motorcycles, they were followed by two black limousines as they travelled through London at a respectable pace, their windscreen wipers moving faster than their wheels. A red, double-decker bus stopped and let the funeral procession go by, blank faces staring out of the windows at the vehicles below.
Crowds shuffled their way along the wet pavement, under the forest of bobbing umbrellas, some irritated at others who’d stopped mid-stream to bow their heads in respect, or to look out of idle curiosity. Those caught out by the unpredictable British spring weather hunched their shoulders up to their ears, the mixture of rain and snow soaking into anything it touched, darkening suits and coats from the top down, and the hem up.
Spring in England can be trickier than winter. Just as the days start to lengthen, and the sun offers some warmth, on the whim of the wind it can hit you with snow, hail, or a burst of rain. March winds and April showers, bring May flowers. Every year it’s the same, yet still takes everyone by surprise.
The grass in Hyde Park was littered with clumps of yellow and splashes of purple, as the daffodils and crocuses bravely signalled the change of season. Dainty green leaf buds, and paper thin blossom on the trees shivered in the wind, shocked into stillness as snowflakes, desperate for one last show of winter, began to blanket them. But just as they settled, out came the sun, instantly turning the little show-offs back into water.
A helicopter above carried a TV crew, following the funeral procession as it meandered through London, turning on to The Mall. A reporter sitting in the back of the helicopter transmitted her coverage back to the studio, relaying back and forth between the newscaster, and another colleague on the ground, in a tightly belted Macintosh, surrounded by onlookers each vying to be in reach of the camera’s lens.
The reporter in the helicopter spoke into the microphone attached to the sound reducing headphones over her ears, as she was bumped and buffeted by the wind.
“The cars are just passing Buckingham Palace. Behind the motorcade, we believe the first hearse is carrying the coffin of Sir Harrison Wilder, and the second, his daughter, the designer, Elizabeth Wilder.”
In the studio, the newsreader asked a question in reply: “And who are in the limos behind the two hearses?”
“We believe that the first one is carrying Elizabeth’s children, Harrison’s grandchildren, twins Annabelle and Alexandre Wilder, and inside the car behind that one is Evelyn Wilder, Harrison’s second wife and now widow.”
“Annabelle Wilder is forming part of the official proceedings? Isn’t that a bit unusual, that the person accused of one of the deceased’s murder is part of the cortège?”
“Yes Mark it is, but Annabelle Wilder has protested her innocence from the very beginning. She has become a martyr to the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Let’s also remember Alex Wilder has been charged with perverting the course of justice. One can only presume that is why Evelyn is in a separate car.”
“These are such tragic circumstances, that the Wilder family should lose not just one, but two members, two generations, in such quick succession. A sad, and tragic story, one which continues to unfold. We’ll be back in just a moment with Judy on the ground, after the headlines at the top of the hour.”
Inside the limo, Annabelle switched her phone onto silent, and put it back in her bag. She reapplied her lipstick, checking her teeth were clear of any stray specks. Squinting, she reached for her large, black sunglasses, covered her face with the veil from her hat, and straightened the security tag she’d been made to wear around her ankle.
Her brother, Alexandre, sat stony faced, as they approached Westminster Cathedral. ‘We’re here,’ he said, and put on his Ray Bans, covering his swollen, puffy eyes.
As the cortège pulled up outside the cathedral, the reporter on the ground waited for her cue, until finally, a message in her ear piece said, “You’re on.”
She immediately started to speak into the camera. “As you can see behind me, the funeral cars have just arrived at the cathedral. Most of the guests are already inside, a veritable host of ‘Who’s Who’, in the fashion and business world. A collection of actors, musicians and business royalty.”
The camera cut to a close-up of the limo, as one of the undertakers reached and opened the door. “And here we have coming out of the limo first, model and socialite Annabelle Wilder, who has been charged with the murder of Harrison Wilder, and behind her, we have her brother Alexandre. They are of course Elizabeth Wilder’s children, and Harrison Wilder’s grandchildren. It looks as though Alexandre is escorting his sister up the steps to the cathedral – those shoes of hers look quite difficult to walk in, and the police will be pleased to see she’s wearing her security tag. And, yes, Alex has returned to the hearses, where he will be a pallbearer to one of the coffins. He has walked to the shorter of the two, which presumably is that of his mother. A hard task for anyone to do, but at such a young age of twenty-five, we can only extend our heartfelt sympathies to this young man.”
The reporter held her hand up to her ear, pressing against her earpiece, “We have reports that actress Victoria Stork is just arriving. Here she is now, looking resplendent even in her mourning black. Also arriving now is Donna Collins, Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue, and, hold on just a moment…. yes, that is Tricia Riley, Elizabeth’s best friend and fashion rival with new face on the block, Nash Bronson, looking as handsome as ever…”
The news reporter continued, and the paparazzi clicked away as the celebrities and VIP’s entered the cathedral, onlookers trying to take pictures of them with their mobile phones. Annabelle continued to walk up the aisle to the front of the church, clasping a lace edged handkerchief, and stopping every few feet to air kiss anyone who approached her.
Alex walked to the car behind him, and helped Evelyn out of the car, softly kissing her on the cheek. He then took his place amongst the pallbearers, and rested the front right corner of his mother’s small coffin on his broad shoulder, desperately fighting the tears that would come out of nowhere, since he’d found his mother dead. The pallbearers slowly continued down the aisle, and placed the coffins side by side in front of the altar. Evelyn took her place on the first pew on the right-hand side, and Annabelle on the left. On each coffin a small easel carrying a picture of each of the deceased was placed on top, amongst the lilies. Photographs of a father and daughter looking healthy and well-groomed.
As the huge doors to the cathedral were being eased shut, and Alex took his seat next to his sister, a lone figure rushed up the cathedral steps, the paparazzi outside furiously clicking their cameras, as the TV reporter tried to keep up with the action. The muscle in Annabelle’s jaw flickered. ‘Oh for God’s sake, doesn’t Alice realise that nobody wants her here?’
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