Minerva Ch. 08 of 10byDenham_Forrest©
Clarification:- Ginormous = extremely large.
As I lay resting, I realised that it wasn't only the money that I was there for. There was Kylie to add into the equation. No, not the Minerva who'd coldly greeted me at lunch that day. The Kylie I'd walked on the cliffs, swam in the sea and lain on those rocks with out by the headland of the bay below the Cliff Head Hotel. The young woman I'd found myself falling in love with, in such a short time.
You see that was the question that had forever been going around in my head. Who was she, was she Kylie I'd met, or was she Lady Minerva who I had sat and ate opposite earlier that day?
The Lady Minerva who showed no sign of embarrassment when she'd seen me enter the room. Not even the slightest flush... considering what we'd done together by those rocks on the beach. Not that we'd seriously over stepped the mark, but we had... yeah well, those private moments are for Kylie and me to know about, not all and sundry.
But I really couldn't understand the look in Kylie's eyes. Come on we'd gazed into each others eyes and I'd seen how they looked from across the Palm Court at the Cliff Head... Something was wrong!
Suddenly I found that I was sitting bolt upright, and Bernie was staring back at me with curiosity in his eyes.
"Bernie, I need to speak to her alone... in private!"
"Who?" he asked.
"Kylie... Lady Minerva! I need to get her alone somewhere, where we can talk. I have to know why she vanished on me."
"Sorry?" Bernie asked.
Although he was aware that Lady Minerva and I had met in the past. Bernie had no intimate knowledge of the circumstances of our previous meeting; well I didn't think he had at the time. I briefly filled him in.
"And, she married that slimy Fabian character?" He said as I finished. It wasn't so much a question, as a comment.
"Yeah, you can say that again!"
"Yeah bugger, alright... and I have to find out why. What was she doing, playing with my emotions or..."
"Bugger... I'm sorry mate; but aren't we jumping the gun a bit. You know, she could be in on this attempted murder lark, with her uncle."
"That's something else I have to find out Bernie. Is she a pawn in this game, or is she one of the players?"
"Shouldn't we talk to John about it first?"
It was comforting to hear Bernie saying 'we' instead of 'you'. It appeared that he and I had bonded a little in the short time I'd known him.
"Probably I should, but I don't think he will go for the idea. Bernie, I'm not really here for financial gain you know. I think I'm here to find out..."
"You don't have to say it lad; it is written all over your face whenever someone mentions the lady. Hey, I ain't the dumb thick cluck, everyone takes me for most of the time!"
"Bernie, a tough looking bugger, you might be, but you definitely aren't dumb. Christ mate, you're one of the best actors I've ever met in my life; you should be on the telly.
"And my kids would never live it down at school. Besides I don't think actors get paid the kind of dough I get my hands on.
"Lets leave that side of your life out of it for now, Bernie. Now we've got to work-out how I can get Kylie alone somewhere."
"I'll do some reconnoitring Gil. You keep this door locked while I'm gone." Bernie said, and then he was gone.
I spent the next twenty minutes or so, going over Kylie's and my lunchtime meeting again in my mind; if you could call it a meeting? We'd barely said two words to each other, but there was something wrong about it; exactly what, I couldn't get my head around. Or maybe bring to the fore of my mind.
"Well, guess who's shown up again..." Bernie said when he reappeared, "William Burgess. It looks like this Clay Shooting party this afternoon, is all his idea."
"What a surprise!" I commented.
"Yeah, but he's delaying things, the staff are out there with all the gear set up. Maybe he's waiting for you to show, you know... the main attraction. So's he can invite you along."
"Going to be disappointed then ain't 'e! I've never handled a shotgun in my life, and I ain't about to start now. Who else is..."
"Well, it looks like Fabian's going. He's all dressed-up for the part, anyway."
"No I don't think so. She's in the drawing room, chatting with a couple of old biddies... or rather attempting not too; she doesn't look too enamoured with the conversation anyway.
Whatever, I don't think those heels she's wearing, are suitable for a walk in the grounds, if you understand me? Or, that short dress, come to that. Mind you it shows those legs of hers off, quite nicely. But not the sort of thing for going shooting in; it's still quite cold and wet out there on the grass."
At that instant there was a rap of the door. After glancing from the door back to me again, Bernie straightened his tie, checked his jacket -- he was really taking the gentleman's gentleman thing seriously -- then he went over and opened the door, very formally.
"Gilroy, my boy. They told me you were here; how nice to see you again." William Burgess said as he came charging into the room.
"Good afternoon, Mr Burgess..." was as much as I got out, before he went on.
"William, please Gilroy. I had no idea that you and Tanya were acquainted the last time we met. Had you known her long?"
"Long enough... William. Only I think I would say that Tanya knew me, far better than I ever knew her."
I could see that that answer confused Burgess a little, but he very quickly recovered his poise and went on.
"We are going to have a little fun shooting some clays this afternoon, Gilroy, and I was wondering whether you'd like to join us. You know... get to know some more of the family. It seems that none of them have met you before."
"No, Lady Simpson and my relationship was... well, a sort of business relationship really; not so much a social one. This is the first time I've ever visited the Hall."
Once again, just for an instant, Burgess looked confused. But it was only for a fleeting moment.
"Well happily there's plenty to do here, to keep one occupied until the...
"Mr Burgess, I'm here to attend Lady Simpson's funeral, not enjoy myself. I don't find anything to be happy about, in her demise. I definitely will not be shooting today or any other day; I've never handled a shotgun in my life. And, I doubt that I'll be doing much else than, bemoaning the loss of very good friend, and a very fine lady."
"Oh Tanya, wouldn't mind Gilroy, she always was a fun loving woman. A little bohemian for some peoples tastes sometimes, I'll grant you; but she knew how to have a good time, you know!"
"Well that's not me, Mr Burgess; I take her departure from this world very seriously. I nearly lost my life a few years back in a motoring accident... that was a bit of a wake-up call for me."
There was just the hint of a flinch in Burgess's expression, when I referred to my accident. Not much, but maybe just enough, to confirm to me that it really hadn't been an accident... and that Burgess could well have been behind it.
"So I can't talk you into joining us, then?"
"No thank you, William! But, I do thank-you for inviting me. Will we see you at dinner this evening?"
"Yes, I think so."
"And your niece."
"Oh yes, Minerva and Fabian will be there; they are in residence here at the Hall."
"But you aren't?" I asked as casually as I could manage. I was wondering what excuse he'd give for not being in residence.
"No, when I visited Tanya, I've always stayed at a nearby hotel; it has far better communications for my business interests. Besides, I always have a little group of dedicated staff from some my companies with me, as you will no-doubt remember. I need to be available to them all the time, well most of the day, anyway. There's far too many of them for them to all stay here."
I somehow doubted that, because Tarrent Hall looked bleeding ginormous to me. But it was possible that all of the rooms weren't in a habitable condition anymore. So many of those great family houses aren't what they should be, if you understand me.
As quickly as he'd come Burgess was gone again and that left Bernie and I staring at each other. We didn't speak, we didn't have too, Burgess's arrival at my room and his invitation to join the shooting party, confirmed everything we'd suspected.
Bernie made another foray to ascertain that the clay pigeon party had left the house, and to locate Kylie again. She hadn't moved far, and from Spooner, Bernie had learnt that she seemed to be.... Well, as Spooner put it to Bernie.
"She looks like she's trying to be seen, but not heard. I think the death of her aunt has upset her more than anyone; I think she just wants to be left alone."
"That doesn't make much sense. Why not hide in her room, if she wants to be alone?" I asked. Not that Bernie knew the answer to that question; but he did agree with me.
We sneaked back downstairs again and I once again took up residence in the library. The one or two relatives in there, vacating the room very smartly, after cursorily passing the time of day with me.
Not everyone's favourite house guest, am I?" I commented to Bernie once they'd gone.
"Are you surprised?" He winked back at me.
Then he headed off in search of Lady Minerva. Somewhat surprising me, a couple of minutes later Spooner appeared and showed Lady Minerva into the room. To say she looked a little bewildered, would be putting it mildly.
"Oh I'm sorry, Mr Spooner told me that Mr Mackintosh was in here and he needed to speak to me." She explained.
"He probably does, Kylie... But I wish to speak to you, in private myself."
There it was, what I had been looking for, I think. An instant of... I'm not sure what to call it... nonplussment, I wonder if that's even a word. But there it was, at the mention of name Kylie, Lady Minerva had looked flummoxed, maybe confused, just for an instant.
Just long enough for me to believe that she was not used to being referred to as Kylie, or maybe she was not sure how she was supposed to react. But she did recover quite quickly.
"Kylie, oh my Mr ja... Gilroy, I haven't been known as Kylie, since I was at school."
"You were Kylie to me, Kylie... but can you recall what you called me?"
She seemed to hesitate just for a moment too long, before she replied.
"Of course! You like to be known by your initials GJ." She grinned.
"You are sure about that, Kylie?" I enquired.
"Oh yes GJ, you were adamant about it when we met at the Cliff Head Hotel."
"Good, now that only leaves me with one more question?"
"GJ, I'm sorry, but think that... Well maybe you read a little more into our brief encounter at the Cliff Head than I had intended. I'm so terribly sorry, if you got the wrong idea."
"Oh no, Lady Minerva, I'm sure that I didn't get the wrong idea. I think I understand perfectly well now... actually. Too well, I fear!"
"That's a relief, I have not been looking forward to this encounter. It's so easy for people to get..." but that was as far as I let her get.
"No, I'm sure you weren't, and I really can understand your... reticence to run into me." I was choosing my words carefully. "Why do you think that is young lady? Were you worried that your briefing had not been good enough?"
"Look young woman, I don't know who you are. But there's one thing I do know for bloody sure, and that is that you are not Kylie!"
"What are you talking about? Of course I'm her!"
"Ah now, mistake number three... or maybe it was number four. God, your act's been so bad that I haven't been able to keep track half the time. But one thing that I'll stake my life on, girl... is that you are not Lady Minerva. Well not, the Lady Minerva who I met and fell in love with a couple of years ago down at the Cliff Head Hotel, you aren't. And by the way, the Lady Minerva who I now know for sure, fell in love with me."
A bit of a bluff, I know; but we were both playing a bluffing game, by that point.
"Where is Kylie; what have you bastards done with her? She'd better be alive, or I'll see that you never get out of prison alive, young woman!"
I must have been shouting by then, because Bernie, Spooner and Marco came rushing into the room.
The woman looked a little confused for a few seconds, and then for some inexplicable reason tried to make a run for the door. But that was a futile gesture, Bernie and Marco must have sussed something serious was up, and had stationed themselves to obstruct her path.
They didn't actually lay hands on her; they didn't have too. They just positioned themselves strategically, and had the right air about them. One look at those two buggers when they put that act on, and no bugger tries their luck; not even a woman.
I went on, hardly taking a moment to reassess the situation, now that I had back up.
"Look, whoever you are, someone has had several attempts at murdering Lady Tanya Simpson in the last year or so. Now, you turn up here purporting to be Minerva and I know for sure, that you are not her."
I could see expressions of understanding come on Bernie, Marco and Spooner's faces. Well at least I think they realised what I was making such a fuss about.
"Well you aren't my Kylie anyway, and a DNA test will very quickly prove that... Now, whether you realise it or not young woman, you are mixed up some very nasty business here. Several murder attempts at least... and when the perpetrators go down... then you will go down with them! Either, for aiding and abetting attempted murder or conspiracy; one or the other anyway." I was pausing for effect as best I knew how, as I ranted on. "Whatever, it's life for murder you know girl... and that's a very long time to spend in Holloway. And, I'm pretty sure that I've got enough contacts on the inside, to make sure that your stay there, will even more uncomfortable than it need be."
The young woman hadn't been quiet, but I'd ignored her denials. To start with, she had been trying to refute what I was saying, but the more I ranted on -- and the other three guys nodded their heads in agreement -- the less sure of herself the woman appeared to grow.
Then, very suddenly, her resolve vanished and she began crying.
"I knew it wouldn't work, I told them!"
"Who?" I demanded.
"Fabian and his father... and Mr Burgess. I know nothing about Minerva really. Well, not enough to impersonate her in front of her family. Even more so, an ex-boyfriend! All I had to go on were a few old home videos and a description of her that William Burgess supplied."
"So they paid you to impersonate her?"
"Yes, a few years ago I was in real trouble financially, and some guy who works for Mr Burgess offered me a lot of money; I couldn't say no."
"But how did they find you, you could be Kylie's twin."
"Just coincidence I think, I didn't look all that much like her at the time. I resembled her, or so they told me, but most of what you see is plastic surgery; done in California a couple of years ago."
"They couldn't do anything much about your height though, could they?"
"Is that how you..."
"Partly. Those ruddy great heels, and blocked soles, they just don't look right to start with. Oh come, they must be crippling you?"
"Not far off." she said, with -- surprisingly -- a slight smile on her face, she kicked the shoes off and sighed with relief.
"Those heels and a few other things." I said, feeling relaxed a little myself by then, because she had caved.
"You were in love with her weren't you?" She asked.
"Yes! I think so."
"Then I never stood a chance, did I? I don't think Fabian and Mr Burgess realised that you two had fallen in love. Either that, or they just don't understand..."
"Most probably the latter, young lady. Now, exactly who are you, and what can you tell us about Kylie, Lady Minerva. Where is she, do you know?"
"Gil!" Bernie said, attempting to interrupt us, but I put my hand up to silence him. I had a very strong suspicion that I knew what he was going to suggest and my mind didn't want to go that way.
"I don't wish to even contemplate that possibility yet, Bernie. Let us let the young lady speak."
But the young woman had also guessed what Bernie was going to infer.
"I really do not know, Mr Jameson. She might be... but I don't think so... Well, not two months ago, anyway. I heard Mr Burgess saying something to Fabian's father about a clinic somewhere. Look, they led me to believe that Minerva had had a serious mental breakdown and that someone... I assume now, the late Lady Simpson, would somehow be able to take control of Minerva's fortune, if she found out. They told me that all I had to do was live in luxury in Argentina, pretending that I was married to Fabian, while impersonating Lady Minerva.
"I was stupid, but I needed the money at the time..."
"Drugs or gambling?" I asked, interrupting.
"Daft I might be Mr Jameson, but I'm not that stupid. No I invested money that I didn't have in a get rich quick scheme that turned out to be a con. Unfortunately I borrowed the money I invested from the wrong sort of people. They were threatening to cut me up.
"Although probably you are right really. I took a gamble by investing everything on a sure thing that turned out to be nothing of the kind.
"Then that guy popped out of the woodwork and made me an offer that I really couldn't afford to refuse. But I really wasn't expecting that Fabian would...
"Well, he insisted that we had to share a bedroom, with all that that implies. For appearances sake according to him, do I have to say more? It made me nothing more than an prostitute."
I assume I was not the only one, to shake my head. To be honest with you, I was feeling quite sorry for the girl by then. Yeah well, I know Fabian's type; there are too many men like him out there.
"I didn't like the man very much in the first place; too full of himself." She went on.
I nodded in agreement again.
"But once I had agreed to impersonate Minerva, I was in too deep to get out. Besides, after all that surgery... and I was stuck out the middle of nowhere, in the back of beyond of Argentina... and I couldn't understand a word of the language in the beginning.
"It had all sounded so simple to start with; just pretend I'm someone else for a year or so. But it hasn't been a year, it's been... I don't know, it must be nearly four years now, and for the first four or five months of that, I was stuck in a hospital in America. Jesus, that plastic surgery was more painful than I was led to believe it was going to be."
At this time we were disturbed when the Carpenter's and Ronny Mackintosh entered the room. I suppose either the room had been bugged -- or alternatively Bernie or Marco were wearing hidden radios, because they all appeared to be fully aware of what had just taken place.
Helen Carpenter -- who suddenly appeared to be in charge -- did all the talking.
"You have managed to get yourself into some very serious trouble young lady. But if you cooperate fully with us and the authorities, I'm sure we can minimise any legal ramifications that come your way."
"I know, but I couldn't..." The girl replied nervously, but Helen didn't let her finish.
"We understand, you assist us and we'll do all that we can to help you. Just don't waste our time by telling us any silly lies, you're a sideshow here."
Then Helen turned to me.
"Gilroy, we need to get this young woman out of here before they arrive back from their little shooting excursion and all-hell breaks loose. Marco, you'd better stay here and... I don't know. Try to bluff it out if they ask where Lady Minerva is." Then she directed at Spooner. "I suppose you can tell them that she's gone off somewhere with Gilroy. That should certainly put the wind-up the buggers."