Copyright© 2010 by Denham Forrest
As you might imagine, being two reporters short on a small local weekly rag, we were all a bit pushed. Although it did mean the rest of us grunts moved up a notch or two. I found myself spending nearly every morning either in the local magistrate's court and most afternoons on obituaries, or if I was really lucky in the county court.
Most of the rest of the time, I was trying to track down Minerva or her uncle. Besides the heartbreak of having lost contact with her, it didn't do my self-esteem (as a reporter) much good to realise that I couldn't find her.
For the life of me I couldn't understand how -- after being with her for several days -- I had left her having no idea where she lived. I had not the slightest idea of her address. I didn't even have a mobile telephone number for her, not that I'd ever seen her with one anyway. But then folks don't usually take mobile phones with them when they go swimming; well, they didn't back then.
Eventually there was little left for me to do, but to wait until the new university year started. Kylie had mentioned Oxford or Cambridge and I kinda had it figured that she was too young to have actually graduated yet. I thought I could spend some time prowling around up there, in the hope of spotting her. I'd tried asking for help from some local reporters, they had access to contacts that I didn't have in the colleges, but they had come up with nothing. One guy suggested that Kylie could be studying under an alias.
For a while I was in a kind of limbo. I was asking a lot of people questions about Kylie, but getting nothing in the form if information back.
I suppose six or eight weeks had gone had gone by when it happened. I'd been assigned to do a story on the wedding of one of the local bigwigs daughter. By chance, I vaguely knew the girl and the mug she'd caught, so I was invited to spend the evening at the reception.
No, I didn't get to enjoy the wedding supper.
Things eventually broke up about one in the morning and I can remember climbing into my car for the journey home. Look, I don't drink and drive, especially when I was theoretically working. Well, I didn't back then! The only alcohol that had passed my lips that day had been a small glass of Champagne to toast the happy couple, and a half of lager. The rest of the evening I'd been drinking that awful non-alcoholic crap beer.
Anyway one minute I'm getting into my car. The next thing I know, I'm waking up in a hospital bed, nearly two weeks later.
I can remember absolutely nothing after getting into my car that evening, not even starting the engine.
I was informed that some little shit joy-rider had run into the rear of my car at high speed in a stolen four-by-four. The driver of the stolen jeep or whatever it was couldn't have been injured; the bugger had set the thing on fire before he legged it.
The police reckoned that was standard procedure nowadays for twockers, so they don't leave any forensics behind.
Anyway the driver had been long gone before the cops turned up and apparently there were no witnesses.
I was in a bit of a mess and spent another two months in hospital, then a further six months down at the Cliff Head convalescing. It was during those six months that Jack discovered Kylie had married the Fabian guy abroad somewhere. South America I believe. Argentina or somewhere like that.
Well that's about it. That's all that I know about Lady Minerva Wisdom or whatever her name is now. I figured the bitch was just having a bit of fun and taking the piss out of me.
I'd come to the point where I had no more to say about Minerva or Kylie or whatever she wanted to call herself.
It surprised me some, that Sandra and Harcourt had sat there and just listened to my diatribe for so long, although Sandra had kept us supplied with numerous cups of tea and coffee. But then I remembered an old reporter telling me once, if people are talking, don't interrupt the buggers; they might say something they never intended to.
We sat in silence whilst Sandra made yet another cup of coffee for everyone, then she asked.
"And you've never heard from Kylie again?"
"Nope, not a bleeding word. And Lord William stuffed-arse has never showed up at the Cliff Head Hotel again, either. Jack and Grace would let me know if he ever turned up there."
"Tell me, how did Jack Blake find out that Kylie had married this Fabian?" Harcourt asked.
"I'm not exactly sure; I think he said that he ran into one of the drivers who'd been chauffeuring the party around when they stayed at the Cliff Head. Either that or it was one of the security guys he recognised. Anyway Jack told me that he and a pal of his cornered the bugger outside the Ritz in London one evening. That's why I think it must have been a chauffeur, probably dropping someone off there or something. Anyway, Jack asked him about Kylie and he told them that he'd heard tell of the wedding.
"I got it figured that she had been intending to marry the bugger all along. Lady Minerva is just some sick little spoilt bitch, who was having a little fun, playing with a stupid idiot's emotions."
"You think? Are you sure JG? Because if Kylie was, playing with your emotions, then why would Tanya Simpson leave all of her money to you?" Sandra asked.
"How the hell would I know?" I replied, for some reason annoyed at Sandra's question.
"Well how about; what your friends told you might happen, actually did?" she suggested, "What if -- after you'd rushed off back up here that day -- Lord William what's-is-name, had told Kylie that he'd paid you off?"
"That doesn't make much sense Sandra. Kylie and I talked on the telephone maybe a dozen times later that week; surely she would have challenged me about it."
"No, not right away. What if he'd let slip to her later, after they flew off to St Moritz or wherever they went. That would explain why she didn't call you when she got there. If that's actually where they went in the first place; with the kind of money you say that lord William guy had, he could have changed their destination at the drop of a hat."
"That would be wishful thinking Sandra. No, come on, think about it; I never was no Adonis, now was I? And Lady Minerva is a real looker. I kind a got it figured that she is so used to being admired that she got the 'ump that I didn't notice, and fawn all over her when she first arrived at the Cliff Head.
"I've come to the conclusion that she was so upset that I wasn't drooling over her good looks, that she took some kind of sick revenge on me."
"That doesn't quite tie in with her aunt naming you as her heir though, does it?" Harcourt suggested.
"I'm buggered if I can understand it. Perhaps there's a hidden catch somewhere and the old girl is as nutty as her niece. Hey yeah, what about death duties and all that crap? I've heard that these titled families can finish up in serious debt when they inherit. Perhaps the old witch had it in for me as well?"
"How could she Gil, you said yourself that you've never met the woman and wouldn't have known her from Adam?" Harcourt pointed out
"I don't know maybe Kylie whined to the old girl or something. Shit, how am I supposed to know what goes on in women's minds."
"No, you've never been very good at understanding women, Gil. I know that from personal experience."
I wondered what I missed all those years ago; Sandra was beginning to sound a little emotional. Luckily Harcourt interrupted us before things got out of hand.
"Now, quieten down you two. This is no time to introduce personal animosities into the conversation. It's pretty obvious to me that you two were a little more than just friends at one time."
"Who says we're friends now?" I fired back at him. "Five bloody parking tickets and one hell of a lot of aggravation Sandra here, has given me over the years."
"That's not fair Gil, I'm only doing my job and you will keep asking for favours."
"Just a little inside information now and again, Sandra, that's all. Christ, I am supposed to be a bloody reporter after all, and a court reporter at that."
"Now, now children. This isn't getting us anywhere. Gil I want to know more about this accident of yours." Harcourt said, bringing the subject back on track.
"Nothing I can tell you actually. Sandra probably knows more than I do."
Harcourt looked across at her.
"Well we didn't get far with that one. As Gil said, a stolen four by four rammed his car off the road. If I remember correctly it was a Jeep Cherokee. The driver obviously wasn't hurt, because he'd set the thing alight and disappeared well before anyone else came on the scene.
"We'd had a whole spate of burnt out four by fours' dumped on our patch in the preceding few months. I think the investigating officers thought that the accident with Gil had probably scared the kids who were nicking them and they stopped stealing anymore. Well, big vehicles at least." Sandra explained.
"What do you think of that scenario Gil?" Harcourt asked.
"Buggered if I know; I'm a reporter, not a bleeding detective. I know the paper ran a few big stories on the accident when I was still in hospital and convalescing down in Devon. My editor hoped that someone would grass the driver up. I think a few tips came in, but only the usual crowd of little shits who had already been turned over."
"Yeah, no one who wasn't already on the radar." Sandra took over, "The type of vehicle was wrong for our usual joy-riders. They want something that they can dash around in pretending that they're racing drivers. Those four-by-fours didn't fit with the usual lads' modus operandi. Why, are you suggesting that Gil's accident was something else?"
"I have no idea Sandra, but in my many years on the force, I learnt to believe that anything is a possibility. I think I'll ask your Inspector to dig out the file so I can take a look at it anyway. You said that there was a spate of stolen four-by-fours dumped around that time. Does that imply that they weren't stolen locally?"
"A few were local vehicles, but most weren't. They were all stolen from within fifty miles or so though, I think. I wasn't on the case, but because Gill was involved in it, I took an interest."
"And they all turned up local to here, and burnt out. How about the return journey?" Harcourt asked.
"Oh come on Sandra; you know the scenario. They steal a car from A and dump it at B, then you can bet your bottom dollar they steal another car from near B somewhere, to get back to A again. Or somewhere else where they nick a third one." Harcourt explained.
"No, don't think that there were any obvious trails of stolen vehicles. Not that I can remember anyway."
"So, one has to ask how did the perpetrator get back to where he or they started. Unless of course, they were being shadowed by a perfectly legal vehicle, which would pick the driver up when he was finished with the four-by-four."
"I'm not with you, where are you going here Mr Harcourt." I asked.