Beauty and the Geek Ch. 02bysteamoil©
"You mustn't use William, you need to be Louis." Recognising her voice he ran into her arms.
"I was so worried about you."
"I'm so glad you're here."
She winced slightly and smiled up at him. He stiffened.
"What have they done to you. Your teeth and your wrists. My god, just let me near them and I'll kill them."
"There's a few ahead of you in the line there, Louis." Carys spoke with suppressed violence. "Unfortunately it's illegal." There was real regret in her voice. But it broke the tension and we laughed.
"It's OK, Louis. It's just make up. The teeth are still there. It's part of my disguise. Angela says my smile is too much of a give away, so we needed something to distract from it." She smiled broadly. "My disguise worked better than yours. I can't believe you didn't recognise me straight away."
Louis looked slightly abashed, glanced over at Angela and requested, "You'll have to help me too, obviously!"
At the same time the man with Louis, whom James had called Rosie, was chatting with James and Julie. "I can't believe it. I haven't seen you two in years. What a lovely surprise. What are you doing here tied up in all of this?"
"It's a long story. Let's go in and eat, and we can share it while we're eating. I know Liz is famished." Julie offered.
So the story was re-told, with the same exasperated reactions and relief that Liz had emerged relatively unharmed. Then Louis looked over at his mate and asked, "Why Rosie?"
Rosie coloured and glanced at James. Julie broke in.
"When we were in infant school together, Tim frequently came to our house to play. Their favourite activity, when they were allowed to watch TV, was videos of Rosie and Jim. I liked the programme, but not to the excess that they did. James was called Jim at school. Jim and Tim were so similar, it was obvious to me that Tim should be Rosie. It stuck."
There was general laughter.
"Dammit, Jim, now all these good people are going to call me Rosie."
Louis laughed. "How much to keep it from the guys at the station?"
Rosie looked wounded. "Sir, you wouldn't?"
I jumped on Rosie. "None of that. A slip like that could put us all in danger. Always Louis, even when we are on our own."
"Why the hell did you choose Louis?" The appellant asked.
"You wanted Arthur?" I grinned.
"Philip would have been best."
"I thought it might give too much of a clue, linking you to your grandfather. Anyway, I liked the alliteration!"
"Wow you really do think ahead." Carys chimed in.
Julie smiled her secret smile at me, and I felt like a million dollars, as I always did at her approbation. I smiled back, and she blushed slightly. I knew then that she could see the desire in my eyes.
Suddenly Julie chipped in again. "I've just remembered the song from Rosie and Jim. Do you remember?" She looked over at Rosie's colleague. "It ends '...and John who drives the boat'. Your name. But Rosie and Jim call him 'Goggins', so I think we should have Rosie, Jim and Goggins."
There was much laughter, and so it was that the two RAF guys became Rosie and Goggins, much to their disgust.
We had a wonderful few days. One of Carys and Rhiannon, and one of Rosie and Goggins was always missing, either sleeping from being on duty at night, or out around the house on watch. There was one scare when a couple of holiday makers got lost and came down the drive, but the plans made by the two protection officers and the two RAF guys worked like a charm. It was very similar in execution to the way Carys had dealt with us when Angela and Jim were on their way down the road.
The chess tournament was engrossing and exciting, believe it or not. Louis and Jim even ended up playing in the rain on one of the days. Out of consideration for Liz, the raft race was left a few days until her bruises had a chance to heal. The race itself was dramatic, with Liz emerging a clear winner, much to the disgust of the RAF guys.
Then Julie got out her instruments and started practicing for the concert at the end of the week. Liz was fascinated by the mixture of jazz and Bach. She ended up playing with Julie on one of her spare instruments. This caused some discussion at dinner that day. Julie started it.
"I need to practice with the chamber group. Originally we were all staying here and were going to practice here. They still think the practice is here, although they're not staying. Also, I'd like to try Liz playing with the whole group."
Liz' head shot up and she gave an incredulous look to Julie. "Surely you can't be serious?"
"Perfectly. And stop calling me Shirley!" We laughed. "I think it would be great. And I think trying out her disguise on the chamber group is a safe option."
Carys was thoughtful. "Do you know, I think you might be right. And if it works on the chamber group, I'm sure Liz wouldn't be recognised as a player rather than an audience member."
Louis was shocked. "You can't mean play in the concert in public, surely."
"I do. And don't call me Shirley either!" Carys laughed.
After a lot of discussion, it was agreed that the practice could go ahead, and we'd all re-evaluate after. The practice took place the next afternoon just as the chamber group were expecting. Liz was introduced as a musical friend of Julie's, and although her playing wasn't up to professional standard, they agreed she was good enough to play in the concert if she was free. Liz smiled from ear to ear. She obviously had not expected to be asked.
Not only did none of the group recognise her, they also missed Louis' identity. It was a real testament to Angela's thoughtfulness and expertise.
Discussion at dinner that night ranged in two camps; 'why not', and 'too dangerous'. In reality none of us was sure about our points of view. In the end it was Liz who sealed it:
"I would like to try it. I'm fed up with the media circus. If it works, this could give us a way to be a part of life on occasion without being recognised."
Carys gave us an update on the search for the kidnappers, and said that the Super had decided to move the decoys (three police officers that looked like Liz, Julie and me) to Liz and Louis' house. They gave permission straight away, as they wanted it all settled.
The four protection officers, Carys, Rhiannon, Rosie and Goggins, were all heavily involved in planning what would happen should there be any kidnap attempts, and also what we would all do if either Louis or Liz were recognised. This covered both the travelling to and from the concert and the concert itself. Angela and I were asked to be either side of Liz at all times, and Jim was to be with Louis. We were to act as stage hands, moving music stands and copies, so that we could stay near while the concert was on.
It was a breeze. There wasn't even a hint of recognition. Although the need for watchfulness took the edge off my enjoyment, we all had a ball. There was some evaluation and enjoyment of the experience over hot drinks before bed, but we were exhausted, and it wasn't long before we all retired for the night. As we snuggled before dropping off, Julie murmured to me sleepily:
"Angela's a genius with clothes. And everything else. They were both so relaxed this evening and really enjoyed themselves."
"Brilliant, wasn't it. The playing was excellent too." Julie's response was a slight wriggle and a hum of approval.
We were late up the next morning, and by the time we were round the breakfast table, Rhiannon had news for us. She bowed to Louis:
"Your Royal Highness," she turned to face Liz and bowed again, "Your Royal Highness, we've got them. They jumped the decoys on the way out of the house this morning."
There were smiles and expressions of thankfulness, both physical and verbal. Louis then turned to Rhiannon:
"Stick to calling us Louis and Liz, please, at least while we're here."
"I can't, Sir. I might forget, then I'd be taken off the job." Her eyes filled up. "I couldn't bear it if that happened." She looked over to Liz, "I'm sorry Ma'am."
Liz came round and gave her a hug, then one of her brilliant smiles. "Thank you." There was a wealth of meaning in those words. Thanks for the compliment, the loyalty, the dedication to duty, the respect, the friendship. Finally Rhiannon continued:
"We don't yet know if they were working alone, so we're not out of the woods. But with them off the scene, the Super says it would be safe to go back to normal, as it would take a bit of time for them to re-group, and in that time he should find out whether there's more. The intelligence boys don't think so, because they had no word of anything." Then she beamed round the table. "By the way, they didn't like being arrested, and got a bit roughed up during the arrest."
The whole party erupted into cheers. "Not very kind of us, but by golly they deserved it." I commented.
We realised that Louis and Liz only had disguise clothes, so Rhiannon organised for a car to collect some of their things. It would be better if they did not show off their disguises going home. So it was a subdued party that whiled away the morning waiting for the inevitable break up of a group welded together by adversity.
When they were changed, we said tearful goodbyes. There were thanks all round, and real hugs and kisses for all four of us from Liz, and for Angela and Julie from Louis as well. I think Jim and I were both overcome by the warmth of the goodbye from such a beauty. Both Liz and Louis specially thanked Angela for the disguises and told her they would be using them again to get some privacy. I could see from her face that she was thrilled to have been of longer term use to them.
After they'd all gone, the four of us sat and dissected the week. We concluded that it was a once in a lifetime experience. Of course we would never see the six of them again, other than on television. But what memories. Of a stunning, intelligent, athletic, courageous Princess and her equally endearing Prince. Of a week of fun and laughter. Of an impromptu job well done. Angela summed it all up:
"You and your lame duchesses." We all laughed.
Our second week was a bit flat. Julie played the other two concerts, and the chamber group asked after Liz. We told them she'd had to go home. As we did at the end of the week.
It was a month or two later that I got a call at work from Angela. She was so excited I couldn't make out what she was trying to say. Eventually I cottoned on. She'd had an invitation. She read it out to me:
"I am commanded by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to invite Angela and James to an informal cocktail reception at Highgrove..." with dates.
Then I realised that she was saying two invitations, not one. The second read:
"I am commanded by their Royal Highness the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to invite Angela and James to a private dinner at Highgrove after the cocktail reception."
When Angela had calmed down a bit, we shared out amazement that we were remembered. And Angela started worrying about what to wear.
"You know how good Liz, I mean Catherine, looks. How can I ever dress well enough? Anyway, what is informal cocktail wear in royal circles?"
"I have no idea. I think it's a lounge suit for me and a short, as in not floor length, dress for you. Tell you what, why don't you ring the private secretary who sent the invitation and ask. They must be used to it and know how to advise. They may even know what colour Liz is intending to wear so that you don't clash!"
Angela snorted at me. "Don't be ridiculous. Good idea to ring about what it means though."
I got home just after Julie, and she was sitting in an armchair looking completely stunned. I thought she was tired out after her day. Wordlessly she lifted up two squares of pasteboard embossed with two different royal crests, and I realised we had been invited too.
"Oh my God! They remembered us too!" I was excited.
"What do you mean 'too'?" Julie gave me a quizzical look.
"Angela rang me at work. She was almost incoherent with excitement. They've been invited as well. We had a brief chat about what to wear, and I suggested she ring the private secretary. They'll give advice." I handed her the phone.
"What's this for?"
"To ring Angela." She smiled and hit the speed dial.
After a long involved conversation, Julie told me she was going to Angela's shop for a trying on session after closing time the following weekend.
The girls looked fabulous as we got into the car. Jim and I had suits on. It wasn't far from our hotel to Highgrove. We were all nervous about meeting the Prince of Wales, and, although we were longing to talk to Louis and Liz again, we were nervous of meeting their public personas, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. With others around we wouldn't have that same camaraderie that had been possible in our hidey hole in Cemaes Bay.
When we arrived at Highgrove, we were shown into a formal drawing room where the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were all waiting for us. There didn't appear to be any other guests. Angela and Julie dropped into the most elegant curtsies, and Jim and I bowed low.
"Your Royal Highness." We all spoke the words, and I grinned as I realised that encompassed all of them.
Prince Charles came forward and lifted both girls out of their curtsies. "I wanted to thank you formally for the service you did for my daughter in law. I should be bowing to all four of you. When I think of what might have happened but for your quick thinking and courageous action, I go cold all over. Had anything happened to Catherine, I would have been devastated, as she has become very dear to me; the daughter I never had. Not to mention how my son would feel."
We could clearly see the emotion in his eyes. Camilla was openly wiping her eyes with her handkerchief. He continued. Very serious.
"Please accept my heartfelt thanks. The four of us have talked about this. We know that you are aware of the importance of keeping this secret. We have a small gift for each of you that will show our appreciation, but some of that will come later. We very much hope that we have judged correctly in our choices and that you find the gifts appropriate."
We were all overcome with this demonstration of Louis' father's concern for his daughter in law and his thankfulness to us. Jim spoke for us all when he said,
"Sir, I hope we only did what any human would do for any other regardless of rank or station. In fact, I'm certain that these two did not even know who Her Royal Highness was until after they had rescued her. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be of service." He bowed.
"Thank you. Your attitude only confirms that we may have made the right choice of gifts. Now, I want to hear the story from your point of view. Let's sit."
During this interchange, Prince William of Wales and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge had been standing quietly in the background. They came forward and gave us all hugs. One or other of them whispered to each of us during the hug,
I think I realised then that this wasn't just a thank you. It might be the start of a longer relationship.
As we rehearsed again the things that had happened on that fateful Saturday in Yns Mon, it brought it all back. The fear. The camaraderie. The sadness when it was all over. William and Catherine joined in giving their parts of the story, and when it was all said, the Prince summed up,
"Well, it was just as I expected. Courageous, quick and effective." He looked over at his son and daughter in law, and grinned. "I'd like to see the disguises!" Then he chuckled, and looked at Angela, "I don't suppose you could do the same for me?"
We all laughed.
"I don't think I could do as effective a job, Sir. You are uniquely identifiable." Angela was slightly embarrassed.
The Prince laughed. "I think you're correct, and quite right to say so too. I can't bear boot lickers! I'm sure that's why William and Catherine spoke so highly of you all."
"Sir, you shouldn't underestimate the part Carys, Rhiannon, Rosie and Goggins played." I added. There was a disguised snort of laughter from Catherine and William which made me realise I had used Tim and John's nicknames.
The Prince clarified. "They were doing their duty, and are rewarded as part of that duty, as you will see in due course." He turned to James. "I would very much like the benefit of your opinion on the centrepiece for my restored garden. Would you come out into the garden and advise me?"
"Of course, Sir."
The Prince and James went out. Catherine came over to Angela.
"Angela, could I visit your shop. I'd like your advice on clothes, and I wondered if it could be without too much of an audience."
"Of course, Ma'am. When would be convenient?"
"I know it's a bit short notice, but could you do it on Monday evening?" Catherine asked.
"Actually, Ma'am, we don't open on Monday, so anytime that day would be convenient."
"Ah, let's do it in the morning then. Say eleven o'clock?"
"Yes, Ma'am. I look forward to it." Angela's surprise was evident, but mostly hidden.
Then William spoke to Julie. "Catherine and I are proposing hosting a charity dinner to raise money for our charities. Would you be prepared to bring your chamber group and do some of the Bach and jazz comparison programme?"
I could tell that Julie was as surprised as Angela had been. "I'm sure we would be honoured, Sir, and I'll check with the group. But I'm afraid Liz will not be part of the group that evening, as she will be in front of the cameras."
We all burst out laughing.
Jim came back in looking slightly bemused, and Prince Charles and Camilla said their goodbyes, wishing us a pleasant dinner together. Catherine and William showed us through to the dining room. As we walked through the door, there were four astonished faces. Standing waiting for us were Carys, Rhiannon, Tim and John.
It was a convivial evening with much laughter, and we were specifically requested to use Liz and Louis again. We couldn't believe, after the more formal cocktails, how relaxed we all were. In the car on the way home we discussed the gifts. We concluded that Angela's was the visit to the shop, Julie's was the Chamber Group dinner engagement, and Jim's was the commission of a sculpture for the Highgrove garden restoration. We couldn't work out what mine was, but then we were only partly right about the others.
Catherine came to the shop dressed as herself, which was a surprise for Angela. She had thought "Liz" would appear so as not to attract any unintentional attention. She bought several outfits suitable for the Duchess of Cambridge, and also one or two suitable for "Liz".
Julie's engagement with the Chamber Group was a stunning success, and resulted in enquiries for further paid work from some of the influential guests, including a request for them to play at the children's educational concerts in the Royal Albert Hall.
Jim was working hard on his sculpture for Highgrove, but it would not be ready until January. There was to be a grand unveiling shortly after the start of the year.
December was the month in which all our assumptions were turned on their head, and when I finally knew what my gift was. We each received a letter, and met up to talk shortly afterwards.
"Well, we thought the charity dinner for the Chamber Group was it. How wrong could we have been." Julie enthused. "The Chamber Group has been appointed official chamber ensemble to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. I think we need no longer worry about the group's finances. That will set us up and give us a regular income. It is such a generous gift, yet done in such a way that no one would suspect that it arose from the Cemaes Bay experience!"
"We were totally right about mine, though. A prestigious and valuable commission for a sculpture! I've already had enquiries, after the design was published in the Royal Society journal." Jim said.