Copyright© 2010 by Denham Forrest
It was a Sunday morning and I just weren't expecting anyone to call, especially at the unearthly hour of eight o'clock anyway. Maybe one of the guys would surface around eleven or so and we'd grab something to eat together before going to church. For church, read the "Nags Head" or even the "Queen Of Hearts."
As a crowd, we'd hit the dog-track Friday evening, and have a great time, I think? Then we'd spent the better part of Saturday, either yelling encouragement at, or later bemoaning the failings of, the bunch of effing comedians who call themselves a football team, in the "White Lion."
Yeah, we do like to spread our business around a bit; the licensing trade ain't what it used to be, what with the breathalyser and these new no smoking in the bar laws.
Anyway God alone knows what hour I hit the sack on the Saturday evening, or more likely, Sunday morning. Anyways, I certainly weren't expecting any bugger to be banging on my door, at that time on the Sunday morning.
Staring through the little spy hole thingy, I saw an officious looking bugger, dressed in a smart suit and well over six feet tall, standing outside the door. But beside him, was the delectable figure of Sandy Knowles, all five-foot-four of her.
At one time seeing Sandy outside your door would have been enough to raise anyone's spirits. But regretfully, in later years, dear Sandy, had become known, to most everyone, as Sergeant Knowles. Detective Sergeant Sandra Knowles to be precise.
With more than a little difficulty, I ran my mind back over the previous day's events, as best I could remember them. Nope, I couldn't think of anything I, or any of the other guys, had done the previous day that could possibly warrant a visit by Sandy and her oppo at that unearthly hour.
Oh, I suppose I should explain at this point, that Sandy and I had been at school together and ... well, lets leave it that we kind-a got to know each other very well. Too well actually, considering her later choice of profession. But at one time I'm pretty sure that Sandy had me in the frame for, or was at least possibly considering whether I was husband material. Lets put it this way, Sandy had sampled the goods on offer, and I had done likewise.
Maybe I didn't cut the cake well enough for Sandy, because it didn't last very long after she went off to Police College. Mind you, I was bumming-it around the south coast a lot in those days, surfing and the like, with no real goal in mind. Sandy and me, well we kind-a drifted apart, and away from each other eventually.
Regretfully we hadn't always seen eye to eye, since I'd moved back to town either. But that's another story and has more to do with her chosen profession than anything else.
"Yeah?" I believe was the best I could offer, when I'd opened the door a little.
"Mr Jameson, my name is Harcourt, I believe you know my companion. Would you mind if we came in and had a word with you?"
"At this time on a Sunday. What about?" I asked.
"JG, will you stop pissing about, and open the bloody door? You don't want the whole damned street knowing your business." Sandra demanded.
I'll give it to her, Sandra was perfectly correct about that; she also knew that I had been pulling Harcourt's chain. Mind you, I was just a little curious that the bugger had not introduced himself properly. He had to be a copper, because he was with Sandy. But the bugger had not mentioned either rank or constabulary. He definitely weren't local law; as a hack and sometimes court reporter for the local rag, I figured I knew all of them.
I stepped back, allowing the door to open fully, so they could enter.
"Put the bloody kettle on then Sandy while I get decent." I said indicating the way to the kitchen, before I headed to my room to get dressed.
Sandy and Harcourt were sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee before I resurfaced. I sat at the chair obviously chosen for me by Sandy because she'd placed my coffee by it.
"Well?" I asked.
"Mr Jameson, would you mind explaining to me what your relationship was with Lady Tanya Simpson." Harcourt asked.
"Sorry. Exactly who are you Mr Harcourt, and why would you want to know?" I replied.
"I'd better explain, I'm not here in any official capacity Mr Jameson. I am, or I was a Detective Chief Superintendent, until I retired a few years ago. Now I'm here to ask you a few questions on behalf of a friend."
I looked across at Sandy, and her facial expression confirmed what Harcourt had said. Harcourt saw my glance at her and went on.
"Sergeant Knowles is not on duty, she's here as a personal favour to myself."
"Lady Tanya Simpson aye? Well, I'm sorry folks, but I've never heard of the woman. What makes you think I would know her?
"I find that hard to believe Mr Jameson, are you completely sure that you don't know her?"
"Why should it be hard to believe, the name don't ring any bells with me. Look, titled folk don't usually frequent the sort of dives I hang around in, as Sandy has no doubt already told you. I suppose that there is a possibility that we could have crossed paths at my uncle's Hotel a few years ago; there were some really hoity-toity buggers who stay there. But if we did meet there, I certainly don't recall her. I can't say I mixed with many of the guests there though; you know, it was a class thing. But if I'm not mistaken you asked, what "was" my relationship the woman? Are we talking a long time ago, or is the good Lady no longer with us?"
Harcourt didn't reply for a rather long time. Obviously collecting his thoughts, he very cleverly filled the void in the conversation by sipping some more of his coffee.
"This Hotel, where is it, what's it called?"
"The Cliff Head it's down on the south coast in Devon. Real old-fashioned place, not really to my liking, but my Aunt and Uncle own it. I have to make the obligatory visit once or twice a year."
But you have become acquainted with some of the guests in the past?" I must have nodded in affirmation. "Anyone who you particularly remember?"
"Well only Grace and Jack Blake. He's ex-forces, Major or Colonel or something, I've even heard some people refer to him as General. Grace has a title; she's Lady Leavie I think. But she doesn't use it by choice, well not with me, and Jack anyway. The rest of them are too up their own arses for my liking."
"Lady Grace Leavie and Major General Jack Blake?" Harcourt said, his eyes suddenly getting three times as large as they had been.
Harcourt had been friendly enough, for a policeman, but suddenly his whole demeanour had changed.
"You know Jack?" I asked.
"No, not personally. But I know of him and Lady Leavie."
"Yeah well they are only two guests at the Cliff Head that I ever got to know. And probably only because they are permanent residents, and have been living there for years. Most everyone else comes and goes. What with me only visiting there for a few days a couple of times a year myself, well most of the other guests are like ships in the night to me. I've met a few when Jack or Grace has roped me in to make-up the numbers on a bridge game or something."
Sandy gave me a strange look at this time, I suspect that she had no idea I could play bridge.
"But the rest of the time, I usually avoid the other guests. Most are much too into themselves for my liking. Anyway, I can't recall anyone called Tanya or Lady Simpson. Most of them who do have titles, insist on us lower mortals using them."
"Well I'm sure I'd recall a Tanya, it's not a very common name. And a Lady Simpson, I'm bloody sure that my mind would immediately picture Marge Simpson with blue hair stretching up to the sky. No, I think I would recall her, if I had met her. What made you think I would know her anyway?"
Harcourt sat back in his seat and went into thinking mode, all the time staring at me intensely. From being quite relaxed about his presence I began to feel concerned again.
Mr Jameson. Gilroy, may I call you Gilroy?"
"If you insist, but I prefer Gil."
"Okay Gil. You are right I was talking in the past tense, Lady Tanya Simpson passed away, following an accident a few weeks back."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"Yes well, there are some unexplained circumstances concerning that accident. Her death hasn't been classed as suspicious; although apparently one or two people are convinced that it is. Not that there is much in the way of evidence to support that theory. However, when there's an estate of several million pounds involved, just about anything is a possibility."
"Jesus, a few million quid, I'd suggest you take a bleeding close look at her next of kin then, or who's going to inherit that little lot!"
"Oh, the executers are, or rather I am, on their behalf. The odd thing about Lady Tanya's will is, that she leaves nothing to her nearest relative. Actually she has left nothing at all, worth talking about to any of her relatives. All of her estate has for some years been bequeathed, in an "iron clad" will by the way, to one person. Someone who is not related to her in any way, and apparently has never even heard of Lady Tanya Simpson either."
"Jesus, some bugger's in for a shock then when you tell them."
Harcourt didn't reply he just remained sitting there staring at me.
"You really do have no idea, do you JG?" Sandra suddenly said breaking the silence.
"I told you I've never heard of the..."
Something about the expression on Sandy's face stopped me from going any further. And I began to run through the words Harcourt had used in my mind again.
"Jesus shit, are you trying to tell me... ?"
"Yes I am, that's why I'm here. But what no one can figure out is why she's left everything to you. Someone, who it is extremely doubtful Lady Tanya has ever met."
"There must be some mistake, you must have the wrong Gilroy Jameson."
"No, there is no mistake Gil; there is no other Gilroy Earnest Jameson, and if there were, Lady Tanya went to extreme lengths to ensure that there would be no mistake. She has identified you very carefully, even down to your national insurance, passport and driving licence numbers.
"If someone else should appear with the same name. Well then, the executors were to contact, Lady Grace Leavie and/or Major General Jack Blake ret. for a final positive identification."
"Jesus wept, I can't believe this. What did Grace and Jack have to say about it?"
"I don't know, we're only allowed to get in touch with them as a last resort, if there were any doubt about your identity."
"Oh Christ, how much cash are we talking about here?"
"The executors haven't finished counting yet. But don't go jumping the gun here Gil. We're pretty sure that some members of Lady Tanya's family are going to try to challenge the will. At the moment the family are all in the dark, about who inherits. But on the quiet, I should imagine they are probably celebrating the old ladies demise. Lady Tanya tied everything up quite nicely, but I'm sure that the excrement will hit those whirling blades, when the will is made public."
"Oh bugger what happens then?"
"Well we suspect that some of the family at least, will try to challenge the document in court. But Lady Tanya was a canny old stick. She had several copies of the same will made and lodged in different jurisdictions. I'm not quite sure, how she managed to get them all together in the same room at the same time. But the will itself was witnessed by two Lord justices, two American Supreme Court Judges, and two from the Cour de cassation in France. Copies of the will were lodged with members from those three courts and if she changed her mind later, it's stipulated that all three copies had to be changed at the same time.
"Someone coming up with a later version of her will, would not negate the original document in all three jurisdictions at the same time. And because her ladyship's holdings are distributed around all three countries ... Well, I should imagine challenging her wishes is going to be a real headache for anyone who tries."
"Sounds to me like Lady Tanya was expecting that there would be trouble."
"Oh yeah, there's a hell of a lot of money involved here Gil. Her ladyship was well aware that some members of her family ... Well, when that kind of money is involved then some people will resort to anything. Probably that's why no one knew about the will's contents, even you."
"But why me, surely she didn't just pick my name out of a hat. And you say she was an old girl ... Well bugger, I've done some things in my time, as I'm sure Sandy here has informed you. But I've never been a gigolo or anything like that."
"No that's the curious point isn't it? There seems to be no connection between you and Lady Tanya. Except maybe for the two people she stipulated who would recognise you, Lady Leavie and Major General Blake; they must know Lady Tanya as well as you."
My hand had reached out for the telephone almost before Harcourt had finished speaking and a few minutes later I was talking to Jack Blake as he ate his breakfast. Then came the shock, neither Jack nor Grace, who was sharing his table, knew Lady Tanya Simpson personally.
"Sorry lad, I've never heard of the woman. Gracie says she vaguely remembers the old girl from her debutant days; but that was well before you were born. Grace can't remember ever speaking to her socially. Grace says she doesn't think she's laid eyes on Tanya Simpson since the early sixties."
I thanked Jack and hung up the phone.
"Well that kind-a puts the kybosh on that idea!" Sandy commented.
"Just don't make any sense to me at all. Why would some rich old biddy, pick on the likes of me to leave all her money to?" I mused.
Then Sandy made yet more coffee, and the three of us sat around the table talking around in circles for about another twenty minutes or so. Of course Sandy and Harcourt were trying to jog my memory; they were convinced that eventually I'd remember where I'd met Tanya Simpson somewhere.
Harcourt even made a few telephone calls to someone, who reeled off a long list of places the old girl had lived over the last twenty years. They were all over the world, but the only place that we'd both lived, or rather I'd lived and Lady Tanya visited sometimes, was London. And well, London's a bleeding big city and there was no way in hell that we moved in the same circles. Unless the old girl had a penchant for greyhound racing; which we all, somehow doubted.
But then my telephone rang. It was Jack Blake; Grace had had a brain wave.
"Gil, do you recall, a certain young lady who caught your eye down here one summer? An enchanting young lady; who was quite definitely taken with you as well."
"Who Kylie ... Lady Minerva, the bird who lead me around by the nose, to take the piss out of me, and then blew me off."
"Gilroy my boy, I told you at the time, that young lady was not in control of her life. She was really taken with you, you know?"
"So you say Jack, but as far as I'm concerned she played with my emotions. Anyway what has she got to do with Lady Tanya Simpson?"
"Well, our Gracie here has just remembered that Tanya Simpson had a younger sister. And she is quite convinced that, that the sister eventually married one, Malcolm Wisdom. Now that name should mean something to you?"
"Jesus wept, is Grace sure?" I asked
"Totally convinced Gilroy. I'm not senile yet, young man!"
Gracie's voice came down the telephone line, she must have taken the handset from Jack.
"As I remember she died quite young, and then Malcolm Wisdom was killed in an accident a few years later. Don't you remember? We talked about that at the time, when you and Minerva were making eyes at each other."
I'm not sure how much, if any, of the conversation Harcourt and Sandra could hear, actually it was a long time ago now, so I might possibly have been repeating what Grace and Jack were saying as they spoke; I just can't recall now.
However, they got the gist of the conversation anyway.
"So, do you intend to tell us about Minerva?" Sandy asked as I put the telephone down.