The story so far… Attractive Consuela Rosenheim has tired of Victor, her money-obsessed banker husband, and is determined to build up a stash of valuable assets before she divorces him. She craves a £1 million necklace but knows he won’t pay the full price — so hatches a plan using her most powerful weapon… seduction.
Once she was dry and powdered from her bath, she dabbed a suggestion of a new scent on her neck, then slipped into some of her newly acquired clothes.
She was checking herself once again in the full-length mirror when Victor entered the room. He stopped on the spot, dropping his briefcase on the carpet. Consuela turned to face him.
‘You look stunning,’ he declared, with the same look of desire she had lavished on the Kanemarra heirloom a few hours before.
‘Thank you, darling,’ she replied. ‘And how did your day go?’
‘A triumph. The takeover has been agreed, and at half the price it would have cost me only a year ago.’
Consuela smiled. An unexpected bonus.
Attractive Consuela Rosenheim has tired of Victor, her money-obsessed banker husband, and is determined to build up a stash of valuable assets before she divorces him. She craves a £1 million necklace but knows he won’t pay the full price — so hatches a plan using her most powerful weapon… seduction
‘Those of us who are still in possession of cash need have no fear of the recession,’ Victor added with satisfaction.
Over a quiet supper in the Ritz’s dining room, Victor described to his wife in great detail what had taken place at the bank that day. During the occasional break in this monologue Consuela indulged her husband by remarking ‘How clever of you, Victor,’ ‘How amazing,’ ‘How you managed it I will never understand.’
When he finally ordered a large brandy, lit a cigar and leaned back in his chair, she began to run her elegantly stockinged right foot gently along the inside of his thigh. For the first time that evening, Victor stopped thinking about the takeover.
As they left the dining room and strolled towards the lift, Victor placed an arm around his wife’s slim waist. By the time the lift had reached the sixth floor he had already taken off his jacket, and his hand had slipped a few inches further down. Consuela giggled.
Long before they had reached the door of their suite he had begun tugging off his tie.
When they entered the room, Consuela placed the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the outside doorknob. For the next few minutes Victor was transfixed to the spot as he watched his slim wife slowly remove each garment she had purchased that afternoon.
Forty minutes later, Victor lay exhausted on the bed. After a few moments of sighing, he began to snore. Consuela pulled the sheet over their naked bodies, but her eyes remained wide open. She was already going over the next step in her plan.
Victor awoke the following morning to discover his wife’s hand gently stroking the inside of his leg. He rolled over to face her, the memory of the previous night still vivid in his mind. They made love a second time, something they had not done for as long as he could recall.
Former politician and author Jeffrey Archer at home in his penthouse suite on the Albert Embankment, London
It was not until he stepped out of the shower that Victor remembered it was his wife’s birthday, and that he had promised to spend the morning with her selecting a gift.
He only hoped that her eye had already settled on something she wanted, as he needed to spend most of the day closeted in the City with his lawyers, going over the offer document line by line.
‘Happy birthday, darling,’ he said as he padded back into the bedroom. ‘By the way, did you have any luck finding a present?’ he added as he scanned the front page of the Financial Times, which was already speculating on the possible takeover, describing it as a coup.
A smile of satisfaction appeared on Victor’s face for the second time that morning.
‘Yes, my darling,’ Consuela replied. ‘I did come across one little bauble that I rather liked. I just hope it isn’t too expensive.’
‘And how much is this “little bauble”?’ Victor asked. Consuela turned to face him. She was wearing only two garments, both of them black, and both of them remarkably skimpy.
Victor started to wonder if he still had time, but then he remembered the lawyers, who had been up all night and would be waiting patiently for him at the bank.
‘I didn’t ask the price,’ Consuela replied. ‘You’re so much cleverer than I am at that sort of thing,’ she added, as she slipped into a navy silk blouse.
Victor glanced at his watch. ‘How far away is it?’ he asked.
‘Just across the road, in Bond Street, my darling,’ Consuela replied. ‘I shouldn’t have to delay you for too long.’ She knew exactly what was going through her husband’s mind.
‘Good. Then let’s go and look at this little bauble without delay,’ he said as he did up the buttons on his shirt.
While Victor finished dressing, Consuela, with the help of the Financial Times, skilfully guided the conversation back to his triumph of the previous day. She listened once more to the details of the takeover as they left the hotel and strolled up Bond Street together arm in arm.
‘Probably saved myself several million,’ he told her yet again. Consuela smiled as she led him to the door of the House of Graff.
‘Several million?’ she gasped. ‘How clever you are, Victor.’
The security guard quickly opened the door, and this time Consuela found that Mr Graff was already standing by the table waiting for her. He bowed low, then turned to Victor. ‘May I offer my congratulations on your brilliant coup, Mr Rosenheim.’ Victor smiled. ‘How may I help you?’
‘My husband would like to see the Kanemarra heirloom,’ said Consuela, before Victor had a chance to reply.
Victor glanced at his watch. ‘How far away is it?’ he asked. ‘Just across the road, in Bond Street, my darling,’ Consuela replied
‘Of course, madam,’ said the proprietor. He stepped behind the table and spread out the black velvet cloth. Once again the assistant removed the magnificent necklace from its stand in the third window, and carefully laid it out on the centre of the velvet cloth to show the jewels to their best advantage.
Mr Graff was about to embark on the piece’s history, when Victor simply said: ‘How much is it?’
Mr Graff raised his head. ‘This is no ordinary piece of jewellery. I feel . . .’
‘How much?’ repeated Victor.
‘Its provenance alone warrants . . .’
‘The sheer beauty, not to mention the craftsmanship involved . . .’
‘How much?’ asked Victor, his voice now rising.
‘ . . .the word unique would not be inappropriate.’
‘You may be right, but I still need to know how much it’s going to cost me,’ said Victor, who was beginning to sound exasperated.
‘One million pounds, sir,’ Graff said in an even tone, aware that he could not risk another superlative.
‘I’ll settle at half a million, no more,’ came the immediate reply.
‘I am sorry to say, sir,’ said Graff, ‘that with this particular piece, there is no room for bargaining.’
‘There’s always room for bargaining, whatever one is selling,’ said Victor. ‘I repeat my offer. Half a million.’
‘I fear that in this case, sir . . .’
‘I feel confident you’ll see things my way, given time,’ said Victor. ‘But I don’t have that much time to spare this morning, so I’ll write out a cheque for half a million, and leave you to decide whether you wish to cash it or not.’
‘I fear you are wasting your time, sir,’ said Graff. ‘I cannot let the Kanemarra heirloom go for less than one million.’
Over a quiet supper in the Ritz’s dining room (above), Victor described to his wife in great detail what had taken place at the bank that day
Victor took out a chequebook from his inside pocket, unscrewed the top of his fountain pen, and wrote out ‘Five Hundred Thousand Pounds Only’ below the name of the bank that bore his name.
His wife took a discreet pace backwards.
Graff was about to repeat his previous comment, when he glanced up, and observed Mrs Rosenheim silently pleading with him to accept the cheque.
A look of curiosity came over his face as Consuela continued her urgent mime.
Victor tore out the cheque and left it on the table.
‘I’ll give you 24 hours to decide,’ he said. ‘We return to New York tomorrow morning — with or without the Kanemarra heirloom. It’s your decision.’
Graff left the cheque on the table as he accompanied Mr and Mrs Rosenheim to the front door and bowed them out onto Bond Street.
‘You were brilliant, my darling,’ said Consuela as the chauffeur opened the car door for his master.
‘The bank,’ Rosenheim instructed as he fell into the back seat. ‘You’ll have your little bauble, Consuela. He’ll cash the cheque before the 24 hours are up, of that I’m sure.’
The chauffeur closed the back door, and the window purred down as Victor added with a smile: ‘Happy birthday, darling.’
Consuela returned his smile, and blew him a kiss as the car pulled out into the traffic and edged its way towards Piccadilly.
The morning had not turned out quite as she had planned, because she felt unable to agree with her husband’s judgment — but then, she still had 24 hours to play with.
Consuela returned to the suite at the Ritz, undressed, took a shower, opened another bottle of perfume, and slowly began to change into the second outfit she had purchased the previous day.
I didn’t ask the price. You’re so much cleverer than I am at that sort of thing.
Before she left the room she turned to the commodities section of the Financial Times, and checked the price of green coffee.
She emerged from the Arlington Street entrance of the Ritz wearing a double-breasted navy blue Yves Saint Laurent suit and a wide-brimmed red and white hat.
Ignoring her chauffeur, she hailed a taxi, instructing the driver to take her to a small, discreet hotel in Knightsbridge.
Fifteen minutes later she entered the foyer with her head bowed, and after giving the name of her host to the manager, was accompanied to a suite on the fourth floor.
Her luncheon companion stood as she entered the room, walked forward, kissed her on both cheeks and wished her a happy birthday.
After an intimate lunch, and an even more intimate hour spent in the adjoining room, Consuela’s companion listened to her request and, having first checked his watch, agreed to accompany her to Mayfair.
He didn’t mention to her that he would have to be back in his office by four o’clock to take an important call from South America. Since the downfall of the Brazilian president, coffee prices had gone through the roof.
As the car travelled down Brompton Road, Consuela’s companion telephoned to check the latest spot price of green coffee in New York (only her skill in bed had managed to stop him from calling earlier).
He was pleased to learn that it was up another two cents, but not as pleased as she was. Eleven minutes later, the car deposited them outside the House of Graff.
When they entered the shop together arm in arm, Mr Graff didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow.
‘Good afternoon, Mr Carvalho,’ he said. ‘I do hope that your estates yielded an abundant crop this year.’
Mr Carvalho smiled and replied: ‘I cannot complain.’
‘And how may I assist you?’ inquired the proprietor.
‘We would like to see the diamond necklace in the third window,’ said Consuela, without a moment’s hesitation.
‘Of course, madam,’ said Graff, as if he were addressing a complete stranger.
Once again the black velvet cloth was laid out on the table, and once again the assistant placed the Kanemarra heirloom in its centre.
‘We would like to see the diamond necklace in the third window,’ said Consuela, without a moment’s hesitation. Pictured: Multicoloured and white pearshape, round and cushion yellow diamond flower necklace, which was stolen from Graff Jewellers in London’s West End in a robbery worth almost £40 million in August 2009
This time Mr Graff was allowed to relate its history, before Carvalho politely inquired after the price.
‘One million pounds,’ said Graff.
After a moment’s hesitation, Carvalho said, ‘I’m willing to pay half a million.’
‘This is no ordinary piece of jewellery,’ replied the proprietor. ‘I feel . . .’
‘Possibly not, but half a million is my best offer,’ said Carvalho.
‘The sheer beauty, not to mention the craftsmanship involved . . .’
‘Nevertheless, I am not willing to go above half a million.’
‘ . . .the word unique would not be inappropriate.’
‘Half a million, and no more,’ insisted Carvalho.
‘I am sorry to say, sir,’ said Graff, ‘that with this particular piece there is no room for bargaining.’
‘There’s always room for bargaining, whatever one is selling,’ the coffee grower insisted.
‘I fear that is not true in this case, sir. You see . . .’
‘I suspect you will come to your senses in time,’ said Carvalho. ‘But, regrettably, I do not have any time to spare this afternoon.
‘I will write out a cheque for half a million pounds, and leave you to decide whether you wish to cash it.’
Carvalho took a chequebook from his inside pocket, unscrewed the top of his fountain pen, and wrote out the words ‘Five Hundred Thousand Pounds Only’. Consuela looked silently on.
Carvalho tore out the cheque, and left it on the counter.
‘I’ll give you 24 hours to decide. I leave for Chicago on the early evening flight tomorrow. If the cheque has not been presented by the time I reach my office . . .’
Graff bowed his head slightly, and left the cheque on the table. He accompanied them to the door, and bowed again when they stepped out onto the pavement.
‘You were brilliant, my darling,’ said Consuela as the chauffeur opened the car door for his employer.
‘The Exchange,’ said Carvalho. Turning back to face his mistress, he added: ‘You’ll have your necklace before the day is out, of that I’m certain, my darling.’
Consuela smiled and waved as the car disappeared in the direction of Piccadilly, and on this occasion she felt able to agree with her lover’s judgment.
Once the car had turned the corner, she slipped back into the House of Graff.
The proprietor smiled, and handed over the smartly wrapped gift. He bowed low and simply said: ‘Happy birthday, Mrs Rosenheim.’
- Cheap At Half The Price is taken from the collection of short stories Twelve Red Herrings by Jeffrey Archer published by Pan £8.99 © Jeffrey Archer 2011.