Minerva Ch. 10 of 10byDenham_Forrest©
Our brief meal over, I thought that it really was about time I broached a subject with Lady Tanya -- that had been bugging me for the previous few days -- before we returned to Kylie's bedside.
Helen Carpenter must have realised that I was building up to something, because she made some inane excuse and left the two of us alone at the table.
"Lady Simpson..." I ventured. Hoping my formality would... well I'm not sure what I was trying to achieve really.
"Tanya, Gilroy! Is something bothering you? Minerva will be quite safe at Tarrent Hall, you know.
"Oh, I'm sure she will be... Tanya, but... well, you seem to... well, it's like this..." I really didn't know how to say, what I wanted to say, and found myself scrabbling around for some form of words to use.
"That I've jumped to the conclusion that you and Minerva will get married as soon as she recovers."
Lady Tanya obviously knew what was on my mind.
"Yes, well, we only knew each other very briefly, Tanya... But for some reason you appear to have assumed that it was a great romance."
"Oh but it was, Gilroy. Well it was very important to Minerva anyway. And your frustrated searched for her... and obvious disappointment... even your clearly discernable emotional hurt when you could no longer find her, that all of your friends were aware of. Well... that told me that your brief romance was very important to you, as well.
"I'm sorry, but when Minerva called to tell me that she'd found the man she intended to marry. I very quickly had you thoroughly investigated... and watched for a while, Gilroy. Watched very closely to be truthful. But regretfully, not for long enough, as it was to turn out."
"She told you that we were going to get married. But we hardly knew each other... When did...."
"The morning after they had arrived at the Cliff Head hotel, you hadn't met each other at the time to be truthful. But Minerva called me at Tarrent Hall that morning, and informed me that she thought she'd found that special person for her. The one I'd always told her she would find, one day. Funny really, she said that you hadn't even noticed her at dinner the evening before; but she assured me that she was going to find a way to... attract your attention.
"You must understand JG, that William Burgess... well, when he talked to Minerva; he talked about family duty, and all that silly rubbish. When it came to romance, Minerva had always turned to me for advice. And I had told her many times, that when she met the right man for her; she would know him the instant she laid eyes on him... It had always worked for me anyway... and I was extremely happy with all of my husbands. Regretfully I've outlived every one of them though."
More than likely worn the buggers out, was the thought that crossed my mind. There was something about Lady Tanya that kind of told me that she had been a 'real girl' in her younger days. If you don't understand what I'm inferring by that; then I'm afraid you have lived a much too sheltered life.
"Minerva saw you at dinner that evening and enquired of the staff whether you were... well 'spoken for', later. When they assured her that you weren't, to their knowledge... I understand there were a couple of young ladies working at the hotel with all the right attributes to catch a handsome young man's eye... well, do I have to clarify?"
"No I get where you are going Tanya. Some of the younger female staff at the Cliff Head, were very attractive. But my Uncle and Aunt owned the establishment."
"And you weren't silly enough to mess on your own doorstep. See, I understand you more than you'll ever know Gilroy. And so did Minerva. Whatever, after assuring herself that you were a free agent, she set about catching your attention. Very successfully, from what I understand.
"Unfortunately its now apparent that William Burgess had other plans for Minerva. Or, more than likely, Minerva's financial holdings. I really should have seen that coming, but I had no idea he'd pull a stunt like he did. Who could envisage anyone doing something like that to a young girl like Minerva? His own niece as well!
"Minerva called me later that week, and informed me that she had to leave with William's entourage for France or Switzerland for some reason. But she assured me that... Well Gilroy, she thought she had you well and truly hooked, and said that she was quite definitely going to marry you, eventually. But she admitted to me that she hadn't informed you of that fact at the time. Minerva said that she was sure you were hooked well enough, that you'd wait until she returned to University in the autumn. But then... well nothing.
"That wasn't unusual by the way; for me not to hear from her for a while, that is. I have to admit that I really don't know everything that went on in that household, or whatever you like to call it. Minerva would call me on the telephone frequently when she was in the UK, but very rarely when she was out of the country. I think... No, I know, that William Burgess disapproved of the influence I brought to bear on Minerva.
"He had complained frequently when she was younger, that Minerva would become too strong-willed... for his liking... after she'd visited Tarrent Hall for a few days.
"I do believe, that Minerva liked to keep most of her contact with me, secret from Burgess and Cruella de Vil..."
"Oh, that Beverly Masters woman, who was supposed to be Minerva's companion and tutor or something, when she was younger. Actually I think she was one of William's mistresses; but what even he could have seen in her, I'll never now. Very hard and austere looking woman... whenever I saw her; she was dressed in black all the time!"
"Ah yes, I do think I remember having a kind of mental confrontation with someone like that on the stairs at the Cliff Head. I'd just waved to Kylie I think and she... let us just say, that the look she gave me, might have turned a lesser man to stone."
"Yes that sounds like Masters alright. Minerva always referred to her as Cruella de Vil... out of her earshot, of course.
"From what I understand Minerva and her came to blows eventually, and that's when William employed Ben Johnson, to keep close tabs on her. I always thought it odd that he didn't fire the Masters woman; perhaps that's where I got the idea that she was around for some other purpose as well.
Like you, I lost track of Minerva myself once they'd gone onto the continent. To be fully open and honest with you Gilroy, that was when I first set the dogs onto you in a serious way. But the Carpenters people soon discovered that you were desperately trying to ascertain Minerva's whereabouts."
"I'm afraid that by the time you had your accident, I'd had John Carpenter's people switch their attention to trying to track down Minerva's exact whereabouts. I'd received a rather odd letter from her that... well it didn't tally with the facts, as I knew them. More curiously from what I'd learned, is that it accused someone of toying with her emotions."
"Well yes and no! But there was something very strange about that letter anyway. It was written by Minerva, I'm fairly sure of that; I had it checked by several writing experts, or rather John Carpenter had it checked for me. Most of them agreed that it was Minerva's handwriting. But in that letter she mentioned a young man who she referred to by his initials... GJ to be precise! At the time I thought it was a simple mistake Minerva had made. Although, the rest of the letter didn't... gel very well, with what I knew anyway. Regretfully I didn't place as much importance on that apparently simple little error, as I should have done; I could kick myself now. That was really driven home to me when Minerva woke up earlier.
"Minerva had called you GJ in that letter, on purpose. I'm sure it was supposed to tell me that something wasn't right. She'd giggled on the telephone, when she told me that for some reason you reversed your initials."
"I didn't Tanya, the lads at school did; I've never understood why."
"Well I'm sure now that Minerva put them the other way around on purpose. She'd been very specific in everything she told me about you, Gilroy. I'm sure that I would have recognised you in the street, even before I'd seen a photograph of you. No, I'm furious with myself that I didn't spot her warning, or plea for help, for what it was. I should have known that something was wrong, when that letter arrived.
"Especially as she said in that letter that you'd broken it off with her, but I knew that you were calling your press contacts all over France and Switzerland trying to trace where she could possibly be. I didn't know where she was either, by the way. There was no return address on that letter."
"Then a few weeks later Minerva didn't show up for her next term at Cambridge. That's when I really got worried and called the Carpenter's off of you and set them to searching for William and Minerva. I was getting nowhere trying to contact William through the usual channels."
"Eventually, several months later, Beverly Masters telephoned and informed me that they were all living in South America and that Minerva had married Fabian.
"A few weeks later, I received some rather cryptic telephone calls, on very bad lines, from someone in South America purporting to be Minerva. Looking back now, I'm sure it wasn't my niece. It sounded very much like her, of course. But... I can't say for sure now Gilroy, at the time I though it was Minerva. But a Minerva who had changed somehow.
"Maybe a little more headstrong, than even myself, or her own mother when we were the same age; different than I'd ever known Minerva to be before, anyway. But people do change as the get older and wiser don't they?"
"But now I'm sure that it was an impostor who called me. I don't think it was the Jessup girl. But whoever she was, she has called me several times over the last few years. Always very brief, how are you keeping type, conversations.
"I've also received a letter about every six months or so. Also brief, and rather formal sometimes. I'm sure now, that all of those letters I received, except for that first one, were forgeries. And I believe that that Minerva wrote that first letter under duress. That was really what all those inconsistencies, your reversed initials for instance, were about; the poor girl was trying to tell me that something serious was going on."
"It could be because I set the Carpenters looking for them after I received that letter that they switched to forged letters. Someone as powerful as William Burgess, surely soon got word that someone else, as well as you, was enquiring about Minerva's whereabouts."
"Anyway that's unimportant now really; we have her back, don't we..."
"Tanya, I don't like to be the one who has to point this out to you, but we have someone back. But... after all that's happened to her, will she turn out to be the niece you... lost four years ago? Or even the young woman I met at the Cliff Head hotel."
"Gilroy, we can't afford to think that way; for Minerva's sake. We... you and I, have got to... well, I'm not sure, but we have to 'be there', for Minerva now. We have got to assure her that we're ready to support her whatever it takes."
"Although I can understand that you are a young man... but well, please, give her a few months; see how it goes?"
"Tanya, I can assure you that I'm in for the long haul, if that is what Kylie... Minerva, wants. I will happily visit you both at Tarrent Hall as often as she, or you wish."
"Nonsense Gilroy, you will live at the Hall, for the time being at least. I'm sorry, I should say, please will you take up residence in the Hall until Minerva recovers."
"I have a job and a flat that I have to pay the rent on, Tanya. I can't really..."
"Your job, should you wish to go back to it, is ring-fenced Gilroy. Some time ago I made it my business to acquire a large proportion of the shares in your newspaper's parent company. Your flat, well, I'll happily clear the mortgage on that for you, if you wish. You were told that you were going to inherit my entire... well, whatever had happened in the last few days, I had never intended that you would walk away empty handed, in the first place. Besides, you'll need a good financial footing of your own, or people will say that you married Minerva for her money!"
"Christ, you don't give up easily, do you Tanya?"
"Gilroy... Yes I am persistent, and I've got every husband that I ever set my sights on, if you understand me?" She smiled at me.
Lady Tanya, why don't I find that at all surprising?" I asked, smiling back at her.
---- ---- ---- ----
The doctor was right. Kylie did keep... well not so much waking up, I'm sure that she was awake quit a lot of the time. But most of the time she was very obviously on a different planet.
I think the nearest comparison I can make that folks might understand is with someone who is very inebriated; 'drunk as a skunk', as they say. When she did speak, Kylie was slurring her words. As she had done when she first woke up.
Most of the time she appeared to be on planet nine. Other times she'd half open her eyes and squint at people in the room with what I can only describe as a confused expression on her face. Then she mumbled some inane and often unintelligible comment, before closing her eyes again and returning to cloud nine, I assume.
However we, Tanya and I, could pick out that she'd mentioned both of our names, when her eyes happened see either of us sitting beside the bed. We were taking turns in that duty.
It was a very long day, longer than the previous night had seemed to be. But as the afternoon went on Minerva's periods, well I can't call it consciousness, because I'm sure she wasn't fully compos mentis, as they say. I can't even call it alertness; because she wasn't alert by any interpretation you like to put on it. Whatever those periods of confused staring around the room began to get longer, and she managed a few quizzical half-smiles.
Sometime during the afternoon Bernie turned up with a change of clothes for me, bringing with him one of Tanya's female staff with the same for her. The empty room next door, with it's en suite facilities being made available by the hospital authorities for us to shower and change in.
We ate in shifts; myself with Tanya's maid, -- or whatever she is supposed to be, in the ensuing years I've discovered that Catherine is more of a companion to Tanya than anything else -- and Lady Tanya with Ber-nard. How Tanya seemed to enjoy winding Bernie up sometimes, by emphasising the syllables of his full name, when he tries to get 'all-formal' with her.
That night Tanya and I took turns sleeping in that next-door room as well. Well, I think sleeping isn't the right description, we both took short naps on the bed in there. However I had Bernie with me and Catherine would accompany Tanya. There was still a police presence in the corridor, but I'm not sure how the guys kept track of the comings and goings. Later I discovered that some of the Carpenter guy's were kicking around that hospital as well. William Burgess had still not been apprehended.
Actually Burgess was to stay at large for four years, until he was discovered living in the Philippines somewhere. Not in South America where the general consensus thought he would be hiding out. Burgess was spotted walking down a street, by an Australian tourist -- who was on his way back from a holiday in the UK -- by all accounts.
Anyway, it must have been about four or five o'clock the following morning when I return from taking a little break to find Tanya sitting on Kylies bed and talking to her. It soon became apparent that neither Kylie nor Tanya had heard me enter the room.
"... He did lose heart for a while there Minerva." Tanya was saying, "But after that nasty accident he had, if that's what is was, who could blame him? But he spotted that impostor woman quickly enough. Nice boy, I'm sure I would have gone after him myself in my younger days. And he's still on you hook Minerva, all you got to do is, carefully real him in."
"Ahem." I said to make my presence known.
"Oh Gilroy, you took me by surprise. Minerva is awake and finally with-us, as you say. But she's still very... confused."
"So I gather Tanya, and you were helping her sort her mind out, were you?"
"Minerva's priorities, Gilroy. She's not sure who she can trust at the moment."
"Neither am I, Tanya. Should we let things develop as... god intended?"
"Oh yes, I agree with you there, but I'll just chivvy things along when I can, if need be. You two have lost almost four years you know."
"Lady Tanya, you are incorrigible!"
"Yes, and I'll make sure that my niece gets what she wants in the future. Now why don't Catherine and I go take a little nap, and you can welcome back Minerva into the real world. Come along Catherine... and you Bernie!"
They left and I went over to the bed from where Kylie was gazing up at me and sat where Tanya had been sitting.
"I knew that it wouldn't be anyone else, but you." She said smiling at me properly for the first time
"Who wouldn't?" I asked.
"My rescuer! I dreamed that you came to rescue me so many times, but they were all dreams. Then suddenly someone was carrying me in his arms. I looked and saw your face, but then it was someone else. I thought it was another dream but then I was in a strange place and you were sitting in that chair. I had prayed that you'd come one day."
"Well you see it wasn't really me. Your aunt Tanya..."
"She thinks, I made a very good choice in you."
"Choice about what?"
"Hasn't she told you, surely she has? We're going to get married, JG! I'd made my mind up about that a long time ago."
"We are? Don't you think that you should recover from this ordeal Kylie, before you make those kind of decisions about the future?"
"If you insist, I'll wait; but I'm not liable to change my mind. All I've had to think... and dream about, for the last couple of years, is us... you and me, together."
"Then I'd say that is a very good reason to wait a while, and take stock of everything. Kylie we knew each other for no more than a few days. And during that time we were together for a very few hours."
"Yes, but what a few hours! I've relieved every minute of them over and over again, all the time I've was held in that place."
We went on in a similar vain for some considerable time. Although I did hug Kylie a few times when she asked me to... Okay and I even kissed her on the lips as well; even though that was against my better judgement.
Look, Minerva had been through an ordeal the like of which, few of us can imagine. It was only natural that Kylie was vulnerable, mentally at that time. And I had no intention of taking advantage of that vulnerability. Sorry, that just isn't how I'm made.
A little latter Tanya returned, with all the medical people and informed us that Minerva was to be transported to Tarrent Hall directly after we'd all had some breakfast. Which -- probably under Lady Tanya's influence -- was served up in Kylie's room for all five of us on trays. Then Bernie and I made ourselves scarce, while my Kylie was transformed into Lady Minerva. A surprisingly quick operation, actually. But knowing Tanya like I did by then, probably very efficiently carried out by professionals.
I discovered why, on our way down to the ground floor. Lady Minerva had been located, so the story had finally broken in the press. On the ground floor a large group of John Carpenter's guys were waiting and they closed in around us to escort us out to the cars. Several dozen police officers were lining the steps holding the press and TV people back, so that we could actually make it to the vehicles.
Lady Minerva, refused to be pushed out to the Rolls in the wheelchair the hospital staff had insisted that she used to get down to the ground floor. Resplendent in the large sunglasses, that were hiding her still puffy eyes -- come on, we all know what peoples eyes can look like when they've been on some drugs for to long -- she walked, rather unsteadily, out of the hospital holding -- very tightly -- onto my right arm.