Episode Seven: Cover stories
Updated: Jun 9
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Monday 8th June
Although Chez Delphine had amazing views of the harbour and its reputation as a foodie heaven was unsurpassed in the region, Amelia really didn’t want to go there tonight. Pierre Laurent was not the type of man she would like to be enjoying a beautiful meal with, especially when she knew he was going to ask her to do something that was potentially dodgy.
“You want me to drop you here?” asked Michael, the taxi driver.
“Here is fine. Thanks.”
“I can take you to the door if you like?”
“No, I fancy a stroll first.”
The car door made a low thudding sound as she closed it behind her. Amelia had never been entirely comfortable around Michael; she had a feeling that he didn’t like her for some reason. However, she would have much preferred an evening with him rather than Pierre tonight; she would have loved to just ask Michael to drive out to the country and see where the road led them.
The sky was turning a wonderful shade of pink as the sun began to disappear behind the masts of the boats in the harbour. A warm breeze caught Amelia off-guard and drew her from her memories. This bench was where she came to talk to her parents – to ask for their advice, for their approval, for their forgiveness.
A peel of laughter rang through the air and Amelia looked around. A few benches from where she was sitting there was a couple; the woman was laughing whilst the man held her face. The woman moved closer to him; their lips met and lingered in a long kiss.
A pang of jealousy shot through Amelia, ‘why can’t I find someone who loves me like that?’, she thought to herself. The couple ended their kiss and the woman turned her face towards Amelia. When she saw Amelia there was an instant flash of panic in her eyes.
“Amelia! Lovey to see you! Taking in the view? Isn’t it a lovely evening?”
“Yes, lovely,” replied Amelia.
Lady Marcia Barkwythe was a regular guest at Les Liens; her husband, Lord Barkwythe, had been instructed by his doctor to ‘take in as much sun as possible’, and so they often flew out to Marseille and used the club as a home away from home.
“This is a friend of mine, Amelia. This is …”
“Yes, I know who this is. Bonsoir, Monsieur Brassard.”
“Bonsoir, Mademoiselle Marshall,” replied the mayor, “we were just enjoying the sunset. That is all.”
“Of course. I’ll leave you to carry on … enjoying the sunset.”
Amelia looked at her watch – she didn’t want to keep Pierre waiting – and continued her journey to Chez Delphine.
“Do you think I should speak to her, Victor? Explain things? If ever Arthur found out…”
“No, she will not say anything. She knows better than to mess with me.”
He took Marcia’s hand in his, slid the other around her waist and moved in for another kiss.
She had decided that a taxi would be the best option to get back to Les Liens tonight rather than risk anyone else seeing her with Victor.
“Did you have a good evening, Lady Marcia?” asked Michael.
“Yes, thanks you. It was wonderful.”
“Lord Barkwythe didn’t come out with you tonight?”
“No, no. He’s not feeling too good. Too much sun on his head on the course today. I tell him to where a hat but, you know.”
It was always refreshing to talk to Michael. He never seemed to make any judgement; she could happily chat to him all day. She had faced enough to judgement and criticism when she married Arthur three years ago to last a lifetime.
“We should all wear hats, Lady Marcia,” continued the taxi driver, “they’re good places for keeping secrets!”
“True, true. But surely you don’t have secrets, Michael.”
“Of course not”, he laughed.
Tuesday 9th June
“Lady Marcia, do you think you will ever tell him?”
“I really don’t think I can, Doctor. I don’t think he would cope with it, and I couldn’t do that to the old fool.”
Marcia’s grip on the cushion she was holding grew tighter; she may no longer be in love with Arthur, but she couldn’t see how she could ever tell him that she had been seeing someone else. Victor had been a pleasant relief from the demands of her husband over the last few years; that unexpected meeting in the market had rekindled their old affection for each other. He had been nothing like the man he is today back then - no one would ever have considered that the sweet, happy-go-lucky young man would one day become such a powerful figure. This mix of what he was and what he is now only increased her desire for him.
“You have to do what is right for you, Lady Marcia. Lord, I would be a real hypocrite if I said otherwise!”
Marcia breathed in the idea of leaving her husband and the freedom she tasted felt good.
“And how is it going with ‘you-know-who’?”
“Good. Good, thanks. He’s a sweetheart really, underneath that hard shell there is a real softy!”
Marcia found that hard to believe, but then, many would think the same of Victor.
Wednesday 10th June
Marcia was relieved that she had not had to tell him herself. Somehow he had realised for himself that she had rekindled her romance with Victor. Or someone had told him.
She had expected there to be tears, and she was surprised when there were none. Arthur had, much to her annoyance, behaved like a perfect gent. She had thrown things at him – nothing valuable, of course, just a few soft furnishings – but he had just stood there.
Naturally, Marcia had denied everything; ‘don’t be ridiculous, of course I’m not seeing Brassard! Whoever gave you that idea. you old fool?’ she had screamed, but he just remained motionless and emotionless.
“How can you even think this, Arthur? After everything I have given up for you! And you throw this at me? That’s it. I can’t be with a man who doesn’t trust me. I’m leaving you, Arthur. It’s over between us. You need to be gone when I get back!”
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“Are you leaving us already?” asked Anna. Lady Marcia handed her room key back to Anna and pulled up the handle on her luggage. “Yes, but I’ll be back before you know it,” she replied. The door behind the reception desk opened and Amelia appeared.
“Going somewhere? Is Lord Barkwythe remaining with us?” asked Amelia.
“Not that it is any of your business, Miss Marshall, but yes, he is. He has a flight booked for Friday morning.”
“Very well. We’ll keep an eye on him for you.”
“You can do what you like with him, the silly old man.”
She grabbed the handle of her suitcase, turned on her heels and headed through the dark double doors into the lavender scented air and freedom beyond.
Thursday 11th June
“So, you're staying for a couple of weeks?” asked Michael.
“But you live in Marseille?”
“Yes. I do."
Shirley Grampian had always fancied a stay at Les Liens, and when she discovered that she could claim it as business expenses she made a booking without hesitation.
“Yes, I’m writing a murder mystery story - I’m visiting the club as part of my research. But enough about me. What about you, Michael? What are you doing driving a taxi in the south of France? I know you are not really French, so what brings you here?”
If anyone knew how to deflect a question with another question it was Shirley. It was just a skill that she had absorbed in her former life as a Member of Parliament.
“It’s not that interesting, really. My parents bought a business out here when I was kid.”
“A taxi business? Doesn’t really seem to be something you’d choose to do in Provence? No offence.”
“None taken. No, it was a boat business. Leisure trips out of the harbour.”
“So why are you in a taxi?”
“We closed down a few years back.”
“I mean, I’m not nosy, but I am intrigued. Was there too much competition? Financial reasons?”
“Something like that.”
Michael entered the security number in the pin pad, the gates swung open and he headed up the drive to the chateau.
Friday 12th June
She had been trying to be discreet, but he had spotted her peering out from the bushes.
“Can I help you?” called Kyle Rockfort.
“Oh, don’t mind me. I was just, erm, looking for something.”
“What? A story?”
“Well, as it happens, …”
Shirley scampered over to the TV star, her heels sinking into the carefully maintained grass. Sid Potter’s hair rose on his arm as he sensed the disruption from several holes away.
“Well, I’m not giving one, so you needn’t bother trying.” As she came closer, her face became familiar.
“Shirley Grampian? Are you that disgraced MP?”
She hated being referred to in that manner, but refused to rise to the insult, or at least tried not to rise.
“Kyle Rockfort? The disgraced star of High Octane?” she called back. “Your girlfriend is lovely, by the way. We had a nice long chat in the sauna yesterday,” continued Shirley.
As much as Kyle had wanted to be rid of this woman with her continual questions, the golf course was not the easiest place to lose her. However, a few hours later he was glad to have allowed her to follow him around as the story she was writing could be the perfect vehicle for his return to the screen.
Amelia wished she could shrink into the ground at moments like this, but it was part of her job and she had to dig deep to find the courage. “Is that her?” she asked Anna. Anna nodded.
Her footsteps echoed around reception as she walked over to the woman in the seating area.
“Miss Grampian? Can I have a word?”
Shirley finished what she was writing, carefully placed her notepad in her bag and looked up.
“Yes? Can I help?”
“I have been asked to speak with. People are concerned that you are bothering guests with questions.”
“Have any guests complained?”
“Well, no, but …”
“So, what is the problem, young lady?”
Amelia bristled: she held a highly responsible job at a fairly young age because of her hard work and commitment. She bit her lip and continued.
“Miss Grampian, if you continue to bother my guests, I am going to have to ask you to leave Les Liens.”
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Saturday 13th June
Shirley had spent a leisurely day enjoying the spa and getting to know several of the club’s clients. She had spent the last hour talking with Bonnie Clyde out on the terrace, but now the sun was directly facing them, so she decided to move inside to her other preferred vantage point.
Anna placed the tray down on the coffee table, lifted the teapot and poured Shirley’s tea. “Will that be everything, Mademoiselle? asked the receptionist. “For now, yes. Thank you,” replied Shirley before getting out her notepad and continuing her writing.
The shiny, dark wooden doors slid open and the heat flooded the room. Lady Marcia picked her wheeled suitcase up over the lip of the door, put it back down and wheeled it to the reception desk.
“Welcome back, Madame. Your usual room is waiting for you, would you like assistance with your luggage?” asked Anna, the receptionist.
“No, thank you. I can manage. Has he left?”
“Yes, Madame. He has left.”
The club's General Manager, Amelia Marshall, the appeared at the door behind reception.
“Good afternoon, Madame. Nice to see you again so soon. Has Anna arranged everything for you?”, she asked.
“Yes, thank you. Can you reserve my usual table for 8 o’clock, please? It will just be for one,” said Lady Marcia and she turned and headed to her room.
Shirley looked up from her notepad, recognised an opportunity for a spot of 'research' and followed Lady Marcia out of reception.
Now moved on to : 'The Interviews: Marcia and Shirley.
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