Minerva Ch. 02 of 10byDenham_Forrest©
By Denham Forrest, The Wanderer
Minerva chapter 02
I was twenty-one that summer, and I was making one of my twice yearly obligatory visits to my only surviving relatives. Uncle Ernie – my father's brother – and aunt Gertrude his matriarchal wife - and latterly my surrogate mother - at their rather grand hotel on the south coast.
To say my Uncle and Aunt were old fogies would be putting it mildly, but they had always been very good to me. Their hotel, set high on the cliffs overlooking a beautiful bay and its beaches, had been built back in Victorian times and nowt much had been changed since. That is if you disregard the installation of electricity and the indoor pool constructed inside what once had been, one of two large cast iron conservatories. Yeah all right, and all of the rooms and suites had had en-suite facilities added somewhere along the line as well. But the Hotel itself still had a staid Victorian atmosphere about it
I can't say the clientele had been much to my liking either; shades of the Raj and all that, when I was younger. With the Colonel, Brigadier or Major seeming to be the most common names bandied about. Okay, most of those old buggers had died off some years since, but almost all of the clientele still had that air of aloofness about them.
The really odd thing was - somewhat surprisingly to me – The Cliff Head always appeared to be pretty crowded, almost all the year round. I suppose it was the sort of place the rich went to when they wanted some peace and quiet. No, and I don't mean some hanky-panky; that wasn't the Cliff Head's scene at all. Although I suppose... Bugger let's not bother going there.
Mind, most afternoons and evenings the tranquillity was somewhat disturbed by the appearance of a string quartet and/or a sort of geriatric combo in the Palm Court Lounge. The multi-purpose function room that served as tea dance venue during the afternoons and ballroom come lounge in the evenings. Some days there was usually some old bugger togged up in a dinner suite, bashing out tunes on the full-size grand. Not really what you could call my cup of tea; but it might give you some idea of the kind of place I'm talking about.
Yeah, you might gather that - as a young man - the Cliff Head Hotel had never been my favourite place in the world. Well, as Slim Dusty so eloquently put it "there's nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear, than to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer". Just replace the "pub with no beer" bit, for the "Cliff Head Hotel" and that about sums the place up.
Anyway, on this particular day I was climbing up the stairs cut into the cliff face, after taking my morning dip in the sea. Yeah well, I had to find a reason to get out of bed in the before noon when I was at the Cliff Head. They are steep and narrow, so it was fairly hard going making the climb, after swimming out to the headland and back.
I had my head down just concentrating on the next very worn stone step, when suddenly a pair of naked legs with oddly expensive looking sandals on their feet, came into my field of vision. And, when I say legs here, I mean the sort of legs that no one in their right mind would have expected to find attached to a guest at the Cliff Head Hotel.
What's more they didn't belong to any of the female staff either, I'd studied all of them long and hard since my arrival. Shit, can I help it, if I'm a legman?
I of course stopped abruptly, or I would have charged into the body attached to those legs. Mind, as I raised my head to see whom actually was attached to them, I began to wish I had done just that.
Those legs led all the way up to a small pair of bikini briefs, we are talking brief briefs here, by the way. They were further attached to a lithe waist; just bellow a perfect – in my opinion – pair of breasts – possibly on the smallish side for your average tit man, but that ain't me – encased in a tiny bra that matched the briefs. Above which - supported on an elegant neck - was positioned a bright smile fixed onto the most enchanting face I'd ever seen. All nicely surrounded by slightly tussled looking and very long mop of jet-black hair.
"Sorry!" I said moving to the side of the stairs so that the vision could pass me.
"I can see you are." She smiled back at me, "Did I pass inspection?"
"Oh, I'm really sorry, but you're not... Well, what I mean to say is, that you're young... Oh damn it, this is the Cliff Head!"
She smiled again. "Yeah, I know what you mean; you're pretty young to be on the guest list here yourself. Or are you a member of the hotel staff?"
"No, I'm Gilroy Jameson, at your service; my uncle owns this morgue. I'm just visiting for a few days. Nearly everyone calls me Gil, but my friends usually call me JG.
"How do you do, Gil or JG; but shouldn't that be GJ?
"Could be, but for some unknown reason its always been JG; I kinda picked it up back at school. I suppose it slips off the tongue more easily."
"I see. Hello JG. If we were being formal, I'm Lady Minerva Wisdom, but we're not, so I'm Kylie!"
"Yes, Minerva... Minogue... Kylie; my girlfriends at school came up with it years ago. Minerva's too much of a mouthful, so all of my friends call me Kylie now." She appeared to lay extra emphasis on words 'my friends'. "I don't really look like a Minerva, do I?"
"I can't say I've ever met another Minerva. But how would you prefer I address you?
"Kylie, if you'd like to be a friend?"
That sounded like a stupid question from my perspective, but I made no comment about it to Minerva
"Kylie it is then. Are you going for a swim?"
Suddenly spending a little more time in the water sounded like really a good idea to me.
"Oh no, I'm sorry I'm meeting... a friend for morning coffee on that yacht."
Kylie's eyes had moved from me to something in the bay behind me. The smile was still on her face; but later on later reflection, I thought I had perceived a slight change in her expression.
I looked in the direction she had gestured, only to find that the QE2 had anchored in the bay. It must have arrived as I was swimming back from the headland; I was surprised that I hadn't noticed the damn great thing.
"Yacht! It looks more like a bloody cruise liner to me."
"Yes, it is rather ostentatious isn't it? But that's what they are like. I'm sorry, I'd invite you to join us, but... well, Fabian can be a little possessive on these occasions. And besides, he has his family with him. Perhaps, we will see each other later... at dinner this evening, maybe?"
"I'll be there for dinner this evening Kylie."
She gave me that enchanting smile, yet again.
"Good. I hope I get the chance to join you; but I afraid, I can't promise. Now, I must get moving they are waiting. Bye JG!"
Then she skipped off down the precarious steps towards the waiting launch, that had obviously come from the yacht to collect her.
I stood watching as Kylie crossed the beach, placing a sarong she'd produced from somewhere around her waist as she went. Then she turned and gave me a little wave as the two smartly dressed crewmembers helped her aboard the launch. Which very smartly reversed away from the shore and then glided over the almost still water out to the anchored yacht.
"Jesus H Christ, what kind of money must that thing have cost?" I was thinking to myself as I watched Kylie climb aboard the yacht.
At that distance I could just make out, that Kylie looked in my direction again and only just perceivably raised her hand, to show she seen that I was still watching. Actually, that wave might have been wishful thinking. I was still standing on the stairs where we'd encountered each other.
Once Kylie had disappeared inside the yacht, I continued on up the staircase, thinking to myself, that this particular visit to the Cliff Head, might not be as bad -- or as boring -- as they usually were.
At the top of the stairs, I encountered a man. I kind-a got the feeling he'd been watching me coming up the cliff stairs; although, he appeared to be studying the yacht in the bay. I wasn't sure at the time, but I did get the feeling that he'd been watching Kylie as well, and had possibly witnessed our encounter.
I gave him a cheeky cheery "Good morning!" and received the same in reply. But maybe not loaded with the same enthusiasm that I'd injected into mine. But then, he hadn't just bumped into one of the most beautiful and charming young ladies in the world.
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I was somewhat disappointed that I didn't see Kylie in the dining room that evening. As far as I could ascertain, she didn't show for an evening meal at all. I thought that possibly, she was still on the yacht anchored in the bay.
When I got the chance, I did ask aunt Gertrude about Kylie, and very strangely at first, she denied knowing whom I was talking about. But then, I remembered to call her Lady Minerva. Immediately my aunt's attitude changed and she warned me to stay well away from her at all costs.
"His lordship brings Lady Minerva down here specifically to keep her away from the hoi palloi JG. Regretfully the likes of us, aren't considered good enough for his lordship."
"Who the f... hell is his lordship?" I asked.
"Watch your tongue young man! Your mother wouldn't like to have heard you using language like that!"
"Aunt G, please don't change the subject, who is his lordship?" I demanded.
But still Gertrude didn't let on in detail. She just surreptitiously gestured toward a group of people sitting in the Palm Court Lounge; one of whom, was the guy I'd seen watching Kylie from the cliff top earlier in the day. At the time I assumed that he was this so-called lord.
I was to discover later that I was wrong in that assumption; his lordship was one of the other people in the party. The guy I'd seen was some kind of a minder who was charged with keeping an eye on Kylie and who she mixed with.
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But I still didn't know that - nor was I aware that Kylie was pretty nifty at giving the bugger the slip, when she wanted too – when very early the following morning she appeared as if from nowhere and joined me at my breakfast table. Although, I did sense a certain tension or nervousness in Kylie's demeanour, whilst we were in the dining room.
"Hi JG, I'm sorry I couldn't make dinner last night. I was trapped on that silly yacht until nearly midnight."
"They didn't hold you prisoner or anything, did they?"
"No of course not, silly. It's just that Fabian's father and my uncle do business together and I have to act like I enjoy their company."
I'm not sure what expression I had on my face, but she went on.
"It's all the politics of business JG; I don't expect you'd understand. God, I don't myself half the time. Anyway we can enjoy a quiet breakfast together, then maybe take a walk and you can tell me all about yourself."
Over breakfast we sat and talked. When Kylie said that I could tell her all about myself, I didn't realise that was exactly what she meant. As I said, we talked all through breakfast, and then went for a walk along the cliff top, all the time still chatting. But looking back, it wasn't so much a conversation, as an interrogation.
By the end of it, I still knew hardly anything about Kylie. Except the name of the very swish public girls' school she'd attended when she was younger, and she had mentioned Oxford... or was it Cambridge? Whatever she was uncommonly vague about which college she had studied at anyway... or exactly what she had read.
Perhaps I should say that when it came to herself, Kylie was pretty adept at talking a lot about nothing, and not actually giving out much in the way of information about anything. Yet at the same time, I'm pretty sure she had managed to get my complete life history out of me.
As we returned from our walk, Kylie suddenly faltered in her step and went uncommonly quiet, considering the amount of questions that had been pouring from her. I looked up to see what had attracted her attention, and saw that the guy from the cliffs the previous day, was standing near the hotel's garden entrance. As we got closer he made a slight gesture with his head before disappearing into the garden.
"I'm sorry JG, but I have to go now; I think they are waiting for me." Kylie exclaimed, then, before I had a chance to say anything in return, she'd run off following the guy.
By the time I got inside the garden and then the hotel, neither Kylie nor the guy were anywhere to be seen.
I was curious, but could do no more than shrug to myself, and then head to my room to change for my morning swim a little later than usual.
Kylie was becoming an enigma to me. She obviously liked me but... yeah, but what?
How do you handle a girl who at first sight appears to be very interested in you, but tells you nothing about herself; and then disappears without much, if any, explanation?
As I arrived at the top of the grand staircase, on my way back down for my swim. Kylie, along with his lordship's entourage, were leaving by the hotel's main entrance. I'm not sure what attracted Kylie's attention to my presence; but for a second she looked up and smiled at me, before they passed through the door. I of course smiled back at her.
But at the same time, I'd noted that one member of the party, a very severe looking woman, had been aware of that brief smile Kylie had thrown my way. Her eyes had followed Kylie's until they met mine.
The woman locked eyes with me then gave me a look that would have chilled the blood of the devil himself, before she followed the rest of the party out of the hotel.
I don't think I could ever recall someone looking at me with that amount of venom in their expression before. It really did make my blood run cold.
However, I had also been aware that the guy from the cliffs had watched the unspoken exchange between the severe woman and myself. I could read nothing in his deadpan expression, other than that he was well aware that a mental confrontation had taken place.
By the time I had made it to the ground floor, the two people carriers and one large limousine had long ago left the hotels grounds.
Surprisingly I hadn't noticed that the massive yacht had been gone from the bay, during my walk with Kylie earlier. Mind you, I'd had other, more important -- and attractive -- things to look at on our walk, than some flash yacht.
Actually, it amazed me that I had so much difficulty in taking my eyes off Kylie. It wasn't like I was unused to seeing beautiful young women around town. Maybe it was because this particular female appeared to be seeking out my company.
Look, I weren't a bad looking bloke. But then again, I weren't no Brad Pitt or anything, either! "The man" had given me some fairly good natural attributes, but none that I thought made me stand out in the crowd.
I swam out to the headland and back twice that day, taking a short respite in between. Then I found my little corner amongst the rocks to sunbath for a while.
I used the sun itself as a clock. Lying close to a large rock, so that as the sun moved in the sky, its shadow would pass over me. As it did so, I would then know it was time I to go up for lunch.
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The two people carriers and the limousine had returned to their corner of the car park and the three drivers were in the bar by the time I returned from the beach. But there was no sign of Kylie or the rest of the party she was with. The way those drivers were knocking back the hard-stuff; I very much doubted that they would be collecting the party in the cars later in the day.
After lunch I stopped for a chat with Beatrice, the receptionist. Being a member of the family, I'd always had the run of the behind the scenes parts of the hotel. From behind the reception desk, whilst idly chatting with Beatrice, I could absentmindedly peruse the Hotels register at my leisure.
I was hoping that I'd learn something about Kylie; I have no idea what. Just a little more than I did know, and that was sod-all really!
But I was disappointed. All the register told me was, that about ten rooms and suites on the second floor were allocated to Soleburn Industries, which had an address in the City of London somewhere. There were names allocated to every room, but I got the distinct impression that they all had to be fictitious. Far too many Brown's, Smith's and Jones's, and no Lord anything, nor, a Lady Minerva Wisdom.
One had to wonder whether it was illegal to book into a hotel under an assumed name in the UK. But then, well... it can't be can it, this was England and just about every weekend there's always plenty of Mr and Mrs Smith's – or one of the other generic names booking into, "out of the way" hotels all over the country. The police would have their work cut trying to arrest them all.
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I thought maybe a trip to the local public library might be of some assistance, so I headed off down there. The current "Who's Who" made scant mention of 'Lady Minerva Wisdom'. But after searching through some back issues of the book, I discovered that the late, widowed, 'Lord Malcolm Wisdom' had been some kind of an entrepreneur. The bugger had had financial interests all over the globe. He also owned extensive estates in Scotland and Wales; plus, some properties in the well-to-do areas of London. Kylie - or rather Lady Minerva – and a brother were mentioned, but only very briefly.
From further research, conducted with the aid of a friendly, very efficient and remarkably attractive young librarian. I discovered that Lord Malcolm Wisdom - along with his only son - had perished in a flying accident some seven or eight years previous. According to the newspaper reports the librarian dug up for me, Kylie had been on the aircraft along with her father, brother and the pilot, who also perished.
It was reported at the inquest that the helicopter had suffered a gearbox malfunction. The pilot had apparently attempted to make a forced landing on the only level area of land available to him. An outcrop of rock, just bellow the summit of one of the highest mountains on Lord Wisdom's Scottish estate.
Unfortunately the rock outcrop wasn't quite large enough for the machine. It was no sooner on the ground than it began to topple off the ledge. Kylie's elder brother had managed push her from the aircraft onto the relative safety of the ledge. Unfortunately he and everyone else left inside the machine had been unable to escape before it rolled over, and then fallen down the precipitous cliff face.
Oddly, reading those reports, explained to me the certain reluctance I'd sensed in Kylie, to get too close to the cliff edge during our walk that morning. It had been especially noticeable where there had been no protective fencing. She'd held onto my arm rather tightly.
As I left the library, I thought I could draw some simple conclusions from what little I'd managed to discover. Firstly, that Kylie was an orphan, and secondly the Lord geezer, that aunt G had mentioned, was more than likely her legal guardian. A quick check back to Kylie's own brief -- very brief -- Who's Who entry, and some mental math -- not my strong point -- had informed me that Kylie was nineteen years old, give or take a year.
What took me a little longer to workout was... Well, I'll put it this way, at nineteen Kylie was a little on the young side to have graduated from university. With a little lateral thinking, I worked out why, she had been so vague about what she was studying and at which college. Those two pieces of information would have made it very easy for anyone, even a dunce like me, to track her down. Over the following couple of days, I was to discover that security was a major component in Kylie's life. Actually, probably more to the people who surrounded her, than Kylie herself. But old habits, once learnt, are hard to discard.