Minerva Ch. 07 of 10byDenham_Forrest©
I suppose one might think that I was taking all that had happened within the previous twenty-four hours or so, a little blithely. Let me assure you, I wasn't!
Although I must admit that the several million pounds or so, from the late Lady Tanya's estate, that Harcourt, etcetera, had mentioned, had gone some way to allaying my fears concerning the danger they'd implied. Yeah well, I had never imagined myself as the mercenary type either, but the thought of enough cash, that I'd never to have to work again... Maybe that blurred my principles a little.
Mind you, the pure fact that I was sitting in that drawing room talking to the woman, kind of put the kibosh on the swimming in money idea, and might have dulled that enthusiasm some; to accept the inferred danger anymore, that is.
After all, Lady Tanya was sitting there, alive and well and talking to me. Don't matter what way you look at it, that made it obvious to me that there weren't no legacy coming my direction from her, in a bloody hurry.
But aside from that side of things, I was very curious to find out what Kylie would have to say for herself, when we met-up again. As we surely would do, at this spurious will reading fiasco Harcourt and Lady Tanya had referred to. There's nothing as satisfying as putting someone on the spot, is there?
You should have worked out by now, that I had fallen for Kylie, hook, line and bleeding sinker, when I'd met her at the Cliff Head.
Her sudden vanishing act had caused me great emotional hurt. And then the news -- some time later -- that Minerva had married Fabian flash-pants... Well, that had gone a long way to convincing me that Lady Minerva had been... Yeah, all right, she was a selfish little stuck-up bitch, who'd had herself a little fun playing with a gullible fool's emotions.
Actually she had changed my perception of all females, and ever since, I'd kept them all at arms length; as far as my heart was concerned, anyway. Being bluntly honest, since my encounter with the lady Minerva... well, I'd turned into a right 'little shit' myself, as far as the female of the species went anyway.
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Lady Tanya eventually ran out of steam. But then, before I'd had the opportunity to get my act together and deluge her with the obvious questions, that I should have asked. The Carpenter's and Ronald Mackintosh came back into the room.
I wasn't sure of by what means, but I got the impression that Lady Tanya had somehow summoned them.
Without much more to-do, John Carpenter launched into the details of their plan. The only trouble was, the longer he talked the more... Well, the more I began to fear that it sounded like one of "Baldrick's cunning plans" to me.
If you're unaware of who 'Baldrick' was/is, by the way; then I'm sorry, but there's not much I can add. You could try Google, of course!
Anyway I had resigned to go with the flow, as far as prudent for my own safety that is; someone had been trying to kill the old girl, after all. And it was my civic duty to help as much as practical, albeit being somewhat apprehensive. By the way "as far as practical" -- in my book -- doesn't include getting my head blown off, or anything stupid like that. So I resolved to be prepared to think on my feet, leg it, or come up with my own plan as circumstance dictated.
Hey look, it had been inferred that I might well be the target of an assassination attempt. If push came to shove, and things got... exciting, I would damn sure be ready to run as far, and fast, as my legs would carry me.
Anyway the premise of their plan went something like this.
Naturally all of lady Tanya's extended family had been informed of her demise, and they had also been acquainted with 'certain peculiarities' of her last will and testament. i.e. being a "No show" at the reading of the will -- and Lady Tanya's interment in the family vault, that would immediately precede that reading -- then even if they are mentioned in the document, they would not receive one pound from her estate.
However they would receive 99 pence, to be precise. Don't ask, I couldn't follow that bit of legal mumbo-jumbo either.
Anyway, John informed me, that the date for Lady Tanya's interment -- and will reading -- had been set for the following Thursday.
I should mention that that word 'interment' had brought a definite reaction from Lady Tanya for some reason; more like a stifled guffaw than anything. Most out-of-character for the lady, I thought.
Personally I found mention of her actually burial, in her presence, a little... I'm not sure, tasteless I think. Lady Tanya appeared to think it was a big joke.
I was also informed that members of her ladyship's family who lived abroad had begun arriving in the country already, and most were being accommodated at the family seat, Tarrent Hall. Obviously I realised, not the mansion we were gathered in at the time.
Certain other members of her (non-immediate) family were apparently by then, already in residence at a near-by hotel. The schedule of my arrival at the estate was a little in the air at that time, because it was to be timed for effect.
I kind-a got the impression that I was supposed to arrive at Tarrent Hall when someone in particular, who would obviously not to be in residence at the big house, was there visiting, specifically so that they would witness my arrival.
With some amazement, I discovered that I'd correctly figured that person was going to turn out to William Burgess. Although none of the three would confirm, or deny, the fact at that time. I'm not sure why, perhaps they thought I might try to punch the bugger on the nose.
Obvious really. Besides Lady Minerva, Burgess was probably the only member of Lady Tanya's extended family who would have any idea of who I was. Minerva, I was sure would be resident at the big house -- once she had arrived in the country -- so that removed her from the equation.
By the way, I was informed that Kylie was still en route from somewhere in South America at that time.
Whatever, my arrival at the big house, would be in plain sight, but steeped in enough mystery that it was hoped other members of the family would start asking questions. Then, it would be leaked that I was the main beneficiary of Lady Tanya's estate, and then... as John Carpenter put it.
"The bloody balloon will go up! They'll have very limited time to take... Well, try to put you right out of the ballgame Gilroy. The terms of the will are very specific. If you aren't present at the interment and when the will is read, then you will not inherit. We figure our man will attempt to ensure that you are a 'no show' for the funeral."
"But what will that achieve? You know, who theoretically gets everything if I don't show up?" I asked.
"Well, Minerva if she's present. Well, that's what the leak is going to imply anyway." Ronny replied.
"And if she isn't? Present, I mean."
"Why wouldn't she be? At the moment she thinks she's going to inherit everything anyway."
"But what happens if she isn't there either?"
"I'm not sure..." John replied, looking at Ronny for the answer to that question.
"Well, I think the will would be null and void." He replied with a thoughtful expression on his face. "But Lady Tanya is not dead, so we really don't have to worry about that now, do we?"
"Oh, but we do!" I insisted, "Look, according to you there's enough wealth involved here for some bugger... Sorry milady, to attempt to murder Lady Tanya to get their hands on it. You even suspect that they are going to rush to dispose of me as well. So what if they... or someone else in the family decides to take Lady Minerva out of the equation as well?"
"Oh my god, we never thought of that!" Lady Tanya exclaimed.
"Well, yes we did, but we don't believe that that anyone else in the family would so inclined, or brazen enough to take the risk, Lady Tanya." Mackintosh replied. "Murdering you for your estate is one thing. An outsider like Gilroy here... Well, I'm sorry to have to say this my friend, but most of them will be wondering who you are anyway and wouldn't exactly care two hoots if you came to an untimely end. But the sudden death of Lady Minerva... No, that just isn't cricket, old boy."
"Yeah, I get where you're coming from." I replied.
"Well I don't!" Lady Tanya interjected.
"Tanya, please Gilroy?"
"If you insist. But only if you'll call me JG?"
"It's what my friends always call me. And, you are claming to be my friend."
"Not exactly young man. Your benefactor, and I hope one day your..."
Lady Tanya stopped speaking in mid-sentence, but then saw the curiosity on my face.
"Sorry Gilroy... JG, I'll explain my thinking there in the future. Although at present I'm hoping events will still the need." Lady Tanya effectively averted any further questions I had by immediately directing at Carpenter, "Now John, you were saying?"
"Well that's it really, we suspect that the instant our main suspect finds that you're on the scene Gil, he will instruct his accomplices to remove you from the equation post-haste. We'll be watching and waiting, and the moment he does..."
"But only his accomplices John, remember. I'm looking forward to my big scene."
"Yes, all going to plan, we will just remove the accomplices; but if our suspect learns they've been arrested, Lady Tanya..."
"Yes, I understand, you and your people will act as needs must." Lady Tanya replied, then added, "But do your best to humour me, please John." before turning her attention to me again.
"Never mind JG. I'm sure you'll enjoy the fun when it... goes down. That is the right term isn't it? I'm sure that was how Bernard phrased it the other day. Oh, do you know that Bernard is going to masquerade as your valet, don't you Gilroy."
I didn't get a chance to react to that piece of information straight away because John Carpenter replied, that "go down" was the accepted expression, and then he went on to suggest that I returned to my hotel to prepare for my choreographed arrival at Lady Tanya's real home.
I kind-a lost track of things for a little while after that, because Lady Tanya -- taking me completely by surprise by her informality -- insisted on giving all three of us a hug before she escorted us out to the main entrance. There we found -- what I discovered was to be -- all the members of my personal security contingent. Lady Tanya greeted every one of them by name and hugged each one as well, before requesting that they kept me safe.
I really couldn't help laughing out loud when Bernie visibly cringed at being greeted as 'Bernard' by Lady Tanya.
On the return journey I queried whether I actually needed a valet. Helen Carpenter informed me that Bernie undertaking the roll of my gentleman's gentleman, would allow him to stay close to me without people realising that he was acting as a close bodyguard. Well hopefully they wouldn't. At the time I wondered how that was gong to work, for Bernie -- as I understood him at the time -- was... Well, a muscle man.
But I must add that, although I had thought Bernie was going to be out of his depth playing my valet; when it came to it, his performance outshone any portrayal of Jeeves that I've ever seen in my life. An almost perfect caricature of Steven Fry playing the part, as I saw it.
I very quickly learnt that both Bernie and Marco were multi-skilled and consummate actors when it came down to it. I'd first met two hard musclemen characters, who'd morphed into a couple of family men and proud fathers, who enjoyed a good joke, that same evening. Bernie went on to play an excellent and efficient valet, and Marcos -- when we finally got to Lady Tanya's estate -- played a damned good assistant to her butler, who been brought in to help because of all the guests who were in residence. But that is all incidental, it just tells you how the two guys managed to stay close to me most of the time, without looking out of place.
Back at the hotel I packed and made ready, then we all sat around waiting for the go signal that didn't come. By nine o'clock that night Bernie, Marco and I were propping the bar up again. Bernie, keeping Marco and me, -- and most of the other guys -- amused with his take-off of Stephen Fry's interpretation of Jeeves. It kept my mind off what the next few days held for me anyway.
We got the go signal, just after we eaten breakfast the following morning. It came in the form of Lady Tanya's Rolls arriving to collect Bernie and myself. Marco had done a vanishing act very early that morning and I didn't see him until I was introduced to him in the guise of Frobisher, assistant butler, at Terrant Hall.
The place was vast, with a very impressive front entrance. I was acutely aware that numerous pairs of eyes were peering at me, out of almost closed doors, around corners and down from the upper landings of the great staircase.
Spooner -- Lady Tanya's real butler -- took me by surprise and acted like we'd met before, although always very formally referring to me as Mr Gilroy and often adding my surname Jameson, for good luck. What's more, always rather loudly.
It took me a moment or two to realise, that Spooner was ensuring that everyone in the house knew that I had arrived, and what my name was. Even if, at that time, they were completely unaware that I was named as the main beneficiary of Lady Tanya's will. That information was going to be leaked, after enough curiosity had been created, about who the hell, this stranger was.
Several of Lady Tanya's relatives approached me and said hello; I won't say they welcomed me because they didn't. Somewhat reminiscent of some of the old-farts who frequented the Cliff Head; I figured that I could... well handle them without too much trouble. I was used to 'putting it on' if you understand me. If you don't... oh well, it's a little difficult to explain.
But the buggers think that their wealth (and implied social standing) makes them important; which if you crave wealth yourself, probably does.
Yeah, I like the idea of having a good few bob tucked away in the bank, but, providing I can pay my bills, I ain't in love with the stuff, or in awe of people who have too much of it. Wealth -- more so, excessive wealth -- brings with it more than a few problems; I deduced that very early in my life. This is no place for that kind of a lecture, so I will go no further with the subject.
I won't bother to say much about most of the members of Lady Tanya's extended family who were in temporary residence, because they played little or no part in what happened later. Except to say that those I spoke to were polite, but all were almost insanely curious about who I was, and where I'd appeared from.
I have no idea what Spooner actually told everyone; by all accounts it was he who did all the leaking, butlers know everything. But I'd kinda gathered that I'd suddenly become a longstanding and very close friend of the late Lady Tanya Simpson. Hey, maybe some of them thought I was her toy boy or something, anyway you can guess the sort of atmosphere that pervaded once even vague details of the will were spread around. From where I stood, it looked like all of them wanted me dead.
Bernie and I were shown up to my room by Marco, and left to get on with it, i.e. unpack. No Bernie was only playing the part; he didn't wet nurse me when we were in private together.
We chatted for a while about what I was expected to do -- to fill the time -- and came to the conclusion that neither of us had any idea. We'd just figured that Bernie would take me on a brief tour -- he obviously had been to Terrant Hall before.
When Marco returned. He informed us that William Burgess had witnessed my arrival and had hurriedly left the Hall almost the instant we'd gone up the stairs.
Apparently he'd gone no further than the main gate at the end of the drive, where he had parked and waited for Lady Tanya's Rolls to come along. Jimmy, Lady Tanya's chauffer (I'm still not aware of his formal name) had been detailed to go to the airport to pick up Lady Minerva and Fabian.
Apparently Burgess had flagged the Rolls down, got in and it was assumed to be going to the airport with Jimmy.
"John thinks to warn Lady Minerva that you are here and prepare her for any kind of confrontation." Marco informed us.
Bernie and I took our quick tour of the house and immediate grounds. When we were outside, Bernie amazed me by pointing out the areas of the garden where... well, places that an assassin with a gun, might hide; to bushwhack me, as the Americans say.
Mind you, he assured me they were pretty well covered by my close protection squad; who I saw no sign of, by the way. I was hoping and praying that they bloody-well were. Jesus, it was bad enough worrying about being poisoned, no bugger had mentioned firearms.
The rest of the morning I spent mostly in the Hall's library, mulling over the thousands of books in there. I'm not sure why, but it might have been the presence of several large heavy looking wooden desks come reading tables. Plenty, of nice hardwood furniture and big wingback chairs to hide behind and amongst, if things got... intense.
My presence in the room seemed to discourage many of the other... guests from spending more than a couple of minutes in there. Although some of them attempted to make polite conversation. But nearly always trying to... well, discover exactly who I was, and what my relationship with Lady Tanya had been to start with. Later to look daggers at me.
I have no idea what time Minerva and Fabian arrived at the Hall, but they were there at luncheon. Sitting at the far end of the table, neither of them showed any surprise in my presence; Fabian did no more than nod to acknowledge me. Minerva said, "Good afternoon, Mr Jameson."
Those words drew more than slightly interested expressions from all the other guests. One has to assume that Minerva had let herself in for some interrogation after the meal was over.
There was no sign of William Burgess at lunch, I could only assume he'd returned to his hotel to eat.
After the meal I headed to my room for a rest. Being alert for danger all the time, I found rather tiring. Bernie of course followed me up and I assume hung around near my room while I lay down for a while.
But it wasn't long before I received a visit from John Carpenter. I'm not quite sure what position in the household he was supposed to be playing, but I never noticed any of the other guests questioning whom he was.
Anyway, John informed me that Burgess had made contact with the would-be assassins who were now being closely watched by the police and probably would be arrested before the day was out.
"They won't get anywhere near the Hall anyway. But it's suggested that you stay within the Hall's immediate grounds until they have been detained."
"I thought the plan was that you'd nick him the moment he got in contact with them." I blustered.
Hey, it might sound interesting when they suggest that you could well be a potential target for an assassination attempt. But once they confirm that you really are, and then they don't grab the bugger who's been hired to top you, straight away.... Yeah well, the old anus tends to start quivering a little. Mine did anyway. I ain't no bleeding Hollywood hero, I was getting more than a little concerned.
"Hold on Gil, don't go getting excited... or worried."
"That's all right for you to say; it ain't you they're trying to bump off."
"No, but a recording of a telephone conversation isn't much to hang a conspiracy to murder charge on. We've had a good idea of whom for a long time, but we never had the smoking gun. Look they... or most likely we think it's just he really. Anyway they've made several attempts on Lady Tanya's life, but we've never had the proof. They... he simply contaminated the food that was being prepared in the kitchens here...."