Friday, 3 February 2017

FAST 24 - Raising Money For Unicef Children

This isn't usually the sort of thing that appears on this blog. However, I am using every social media means at my disposal to raise awareness.

Right now, millions of children are in danger. They face violence, disease, hunger and the chaos of war. Unicef ensures more children get life-saving food, vaccinations, education and protection than anyone else. Today, children in places like Syria, South Sudan and Yemen are caught up in violent conflict, with millions forced to flee their homes. In 2015, Unicef responded to 310 emergencies in 102 countries. Please donate what ever you can to my fundraiser for Unicef UK. With your help, we can build a safer world for children.

If you can donate, please do, and thank you in advance. If you can't afford to, tell someone who you know can. Visit:

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to readers/followers of this blog.

My apologies for not having posted for some time, but the misses Lockhart and Doppler have been away, rooting out treasures from some long forgotten tomb no doubt.
They have left me with little to report and so I have taken to writing short stories, in other genres, for various submissions.

Hopefully the 'ladies' will be back in the not too distant future!


Friday, 11 December 2015

Amazon Stuff

Should you be interested...

books available at:-


Sunday, 9 August 2015

Rope, Red and Rubies

#9 stand –alone story
 The Life and Crimes of Lockhart and Doppler
An Illustrated journal of amusement, adventure and instruction
“Rope, Red and Rubies”
 We had been in town for about two weeks, moving from lodging house to dive, keeping a very low profile amongst the detritus of society since our encounter with Lord Nelson Orange at his mansion, and the theatre afterwards (see #8 ‘A Rotten Borough’). Where Nelson had left with his life, but his pride severely dented (as well as his face). He would never forget and he would never forgive.
So due to his standing in London society and his monetary backing, I had considered it prudent to lie low for some time. He was an enemy not to be taken lightly.
Doppler and I were dressed like down and outs, patched pants and greasy long coats. We maintained some essentials about our persons and in our cracked, leather holdalls. I also had a healthy deposit in the Banque de France made during previous excursions, should we ever require it. We had departed our current digs this grey morning and wandered in an apparently aimless fashion about the city. I know some people think I act in a rash manner at times; reckless or foolhardy. I call it adventurous, but I am not stupid, I did not believe for one minute that Lord Nelson Orange would not be attempting to track us down. (Rule #8: Never let your guard down. Ever). Now it was beginning to rain. That incredibly fine, deceptive drizzle that sits like cobwebs on hoods and hair, until that is, it soaks through then persists on making its way through to your skin. But we were so greasy from our second, nay third hand clothing and lack of washing that the water slicked off us, like a fried egg cooked in cheap fat off a greasy enamel plate.
“Lockhart.” Moaned Doppler, “I’m sick of this. Can’t we stay somewhere decent just for one night?”
“We can’t take the risk.” I replied.
“But it’s been weeks and we have seen nothing. Besides, I think I have fleas. Ugh!” she exclaimed, scratching at her belly through the thick layers.
A group of tipsy labourers were rolling and singing towards us.
“Let’s grab a drink while we think about it.” I suggested.
Doppler looked dubious. We had been thrown out of a number of ale-houses and cafes during our self-imposed exile. We had been insulted, spat at, even had some change lobbed our way. It was a far cry from some of the grand balls I had attended; invited or otherwise!
“Bonsoir madams, un aperitif?” grinned one of the moist eyed friends of everyone.
We shuffled past them, I smiled in a perfunctory manner. Doppler kept her head down. The spokesman turned, causing the shoulder linked group to swing around in the street. The man on the end moving at some speed so that he staggered and fell.
“Rejoignez-nous.” He slurred amiably.
“Thank you, but no.” I replied firmly. “Have a good night.” I added.
“You too.” Replied the spokesman.
I paused. He paused.                                                                                                                                                     
 I looked him straight in the eye and saw him straightening up, his companions crumpling to the floor like dropped toys.
“Look sharp!” I barked to Doppler.
She didn’t need telling a second time. We both dived in opposite directions as the fake drunk pulled a lumpen pistol from his back waistband. A shot rang out. The real drunks were rolling or scrambling about on the damp cobbles, attempting to crawl out of the immediate danger. A couple of cries went up and folk on the street dashed for cover. As I pulled a knife from my boot, I saw Doppler whip out her wicked stiletto come dagger. Flicking her wrist, Doppler could cause the blade to extend to eighteen inches. (See#1Penny Dreadful: The Stone of the Sons of Horus). I threw my knife which stuck in our attackers shoulder –I didn’t want to kill him (not yet anyway), I wanted to question him.         
  I strongly suspected Nelson had hired him. He growled and grimaced in pain, he aimed at me and pulled the trigger. I moved, but not quickly enough, these damn greasy rags were slowing me down. My left arm sang out in a sharp, bright agony. I sloughed off the heavy overcoat. As he made a dash at Doppler, perhaps to grab her as a hostage or human shield, she struck out with her silver bright stiletto. He practically ran into it. The sweeping motion of the blade scored a red line from his left eye to lower right cheek, where it pierced through, exiting at his jawline. He came to a shrieking halt. Doppler easily pulled the slender point free, wiped it clean and retracted it. I arrived barely a second later, piling into him and barrelling him to the ground. He fell heavily, his head bouncing on the hard cold street. I made it bounce some more.
“Who sent you?!”
Bounce, bash.
“Are there others?!”
Bounce, pummel.
Doppler sauntered up, tucking her wicked steel away,
“We’ll never know if you carry on like that.” She calmly said.
I paused my interrogation. There was blood everywhere, streaming from the slash across his face and the holes pierced by Doppler. He wasn’t even struggling anymore, he’d gone all floppy and weepy. Between us, Doppler and I dragged him to a sitting position against a barrel of nails outside an ironmongers. We crouched either side of him. His drinking buddies had scarpered. I suspect he had befriended them simply for cover. I asked him if he knew us and how long he had been following us.
“Ye, I knows you. Saw you ‘bout three days ago, thought I’d best keep an eye open as to what you were about.” He sniffed. He had an East London accent.
“You won’t have an eye to open if you don’t talk.” Threatened Doppler.
“You’re a bit of a way from home.” I said. “Know someone called Orange by any chance? Lord Orange.”
He shrugged. I stood and took a handful of nails from the barrel and crouched back down. They were horseshoe nails, flat sided, short, vicious.
“Got a name?” I asked.
He swallowed looking at the nails in my palm. I took one and twirled it betwixt thumb and forefinger. He pulled his head away. I aimed the tip at the entrance wound in his cheek.
“Closset!” he chattered, “Name’s Closset!”
“Just Closset?” I pressed the point, (the question point, not the nail point, you get my drift)
“Walter” he added somewhat sheepishly.
Doppler and I exchanged a look, she stood so he wouldn’t see the grin spreading across her face. Maintaining my serious expression I continued.
“W.C? Well Walter. I’m sure you weren’t just out for a bevvy with the lads and decided to take a pot shot at a couple of sacs a merde that we are supposed to be. Spill.”
Walter Closset explained that he had indeed been paid by Lord Nelson Orange to exterminate (Nelsons word, not Walters), Doppler and I. Orange had a number of people in his pay, all like Walter, from amongst the worker types. Orange was yet to make the contacts his father had in the underworld I supposed. One day though. Walter was by trade a Waterman on the Thames, like his father. But Nelson had a hold over him; Nelson had accused Walter Closset senior of murder, a crime of which he was innocent. The victim had been a business ‘associate’ of Nelsons and although Nelson cared not a fig for anyone but himself, he found he could use the man’s death as a device for blackmailing the Closset family (and others too I theorised) who were guild members and would lose their position should the accusation be made public. It would be a Lords word against a tradesman’s. Walter and his father knew who would lose.  Even if not found guilty, quite possibly they would be thrown out of the guild and never work the river again. It would destroy his mother, she was not in the best of health and so when Nelson had approached him to carry out this dirty deed, or face his father being ‘exposed’ as a murderer, Walter felt he had no choice. Walter had never fired a gun before, it was a lucky shot, not so lucky for me, but it could have been worse. The noise had frightened him he admitted.
“I need a doctor, please, let me go.” Walter begged.
“We both need stitches.” I said, “But we need cleaning up first. Listen, Walter. If we can get your father free of the blackmail threat, what say you to doing us a little favour?”
Walter’s eyes shone, “You’d do that? For me?”
“Course we would. Now let’s get clean and I’ll tell you me plan.”
I was going to attempt to get Walter senior free of the accusations, however, you know me, can’t have chaps wandering around with lingering grudges, got to make ‘em work for you and I had an idea to not only get Walter on our side, but that would annoy the hell out of Nelson Orange too.
We took Walter to one of our earlier lodging houses, in which we had stored our regular clothing and some locked boxes of ‘necessities’. I had paid the concierge a decent fee to keep a room for us, where we all had baths after sending out for a number of clothing items. Doppler stitched my arm where the bullet had scraped through (not for the first time!) and Walter’s face. The landlady had one of those new-fangled machines that does away with rubbish, a De-Fabricator they call it. In went all our old stinking clothes. Walter was delighted and grateful for his new clothes, simple though they were; a double-breasted, blue, moleskin jacket as worn by French factory workers and a pair of blue pantaloons de Nimes. An ankle length periwinkle blue, two piece suit for myself with same length, darker blue top coat with high collar, deep cuffs and inside pockets. And for Doppler a sky blue, cotton day dress and matching jacket, navy influenced.
However, Doppler and I did not don our new outfits just yet, we had business to do. We left Walter to recover from his facial wounds in our room and headed out into the grim drinking dens of the port. There are a number of insalubrious holes down there, I was looking for a particular one. One that was home to English quaffers. ‘Mother Hubbard’s Dog’ was such a place. A gin house filled with sailors, down at heel poets and criminals. Parfait! We entered and ordered drinks – Doppler maintained her sobriety, her young self not being accustomed to alcohol. However, I myself can consume large quantities of gin with little impression. I once had a drinking contest with some artist chappie, Landseer I think his name was, couldn’t hold his liquor; cried like a baby when I insulted one of his paintings.                  
Anyhow, we listened into a few conversations as we moved about the rooms. Tobacco smoke practically obscuring ones view beyond half a dozen feet. A small group of pitch eyed miscreants were playing some drinking game, a small scattering of coins between them, so I asked if I could join in. Initially they were disinclined, until I gently dropped a small pouch of coins on their table. I could almost see their ears prick up like dogs at the sound of the food bowl going down.
“Why, of course ye can missus” pipes up an elderly rogue, “Sit yerself ere, next to me.” He shuffled along a narrow bench to make room.
“Played before?” sniffed a poxy fellow on my other side.
“I don’t believe I have.” I replied innocently.
A look passed between him and another fellow with surly features. His shoulders settled back into a more relaxed posture. As we played, I kept a covert eye on pertinent things like; physique, possible weapons and how much alcohol they were consuming. Doppler stood to one side keeping quiet. The game was crude, the rules simple; pick a subject, everyone begins tapping the edge of their finger on the table together in seconds, the first person says something related to the subject and on each tap, the next person around must say a related word. So if the subject is clothing, it might go; tap – shoe, tap – stocking, tap – breeches and so on. But should a person go straight to an item not related to the previous, like glove or collar, they drink down their gin. The speed must be maintained, if you miss a beat, you drink your gin, if you say a wrong word, you drink your gin. Simple. However, after a number of gins, it becomes harder to keep the rhythm and find words with speed. The fun bit is that a subject can swerve off into a new one should a word be able to connect. Hull may be part of a ship, but it is also a place in England, so the subject of sailing ships may move to places in England. The old fellow, Connors was his name, was able to hold quite vast quantities of gin, just as well, because he was rubbish. The other two, Hobbs and Joyce, were more capable, especially Hobbs who took a vicious delight in relieving old Connors of his wages. I had my mark.
It was dark when we left the gin house. Doppler had left just prior to us and waited outside in the shadows. I saw her in a doorway opposite as I pretended to stagger and sway, supported by Hobbs. We had struck up a kind of desultory friendship. I whispered in his ear. He drunkenly shooed Joyce and Connors away. Old Connors patted him on the back in a congratulatory manner whilst Joyce called out vulgar suggestions. We wobbled off down the street, arms linked, singing. He had a terrible voice, he had appalling manners and made lewd proposals with nary an iota of creativity in them. Gods help any woman he ever encountered in the rummaging department. Except women were about to be safe from Hobbs’ future fumbling’s. Old Connors would never lose his wages to the nasty piece again. Doppler walked ahead a few yards and I followed with Hobbs. She began to slow as we came beneath a railway bridge over a narrow canal. Hobbs called out.
“Oi! Darlin’, cm’ere. Show ush ye…”
“Leave it out Hobbs, she’s jusht a kid.” I slurred back.
“Stuck up prinshesh more like.”
The moon was low tonight, it glimmered and wavered on the surface of the water just beyond the shade of the bridge. Doppler turned on her heel and at some speed came up close to Hobbs and I. Took him by surprise. He staggered back a little as I freed myself.
“It’s you who is stuck up mister Hobbs. Or at least you will be, soon.”
“Wha? Whatchyoonabout? Eh? Slag!” he grinned, baring his brown teeth and turned to look where I stood, arms folded, watching.
Hobbs rocked back and forth on his heels, befuddled, but he could still put up a fight. I reached inside my duster and pulled out a length of slim rope. Hobbs squinted at it. I began tying a slipknot. Hobbs squinted some more.
“What’cha doin’? Eh? Slag, I’m talkin’ t’you.”
“Well now mister Hobbs. Seems like this is the end of our acquaintanceship.” I spoke as I tightened the knot. “If you would just be so kind as to slip this over your head, there’s a good chap.” I held out the looped rope.
Hobbs gawped from me to the rope. A faint, derisory snort and then he realised he was in trouble. He straightened up with effort, reached into a back pocket and pulled out a flick knife. He waved it back and forth before my face, leering.
“Bitch, thought you’d get one over on old Hobbshy eh?” Hic. “Well, I’ve got news for you. Takes more gin than you’ve got.”
“Really mister Hobbs? Do you see me unbalanced? I think not.”
“I’m gonna cut you like a pig, I’m gonna slice you up, I’m gonna…arg!”
Doppler had moved quickly in and injected him in the neck with one of her syringes she habitually carried about. As Hobbs slapped his free hand to the place, he spun around to threaten her with the knife, she easily stepped away. He pulled his hand free to look at his palm.
“I’m bleedin’, you cut me!”
“She didn’t cut you mister Hobbs.” I said dropping the looped rope over his head, “She merely injected you.” I quickly pulled it tight before he could turn around again. “And now you will feel a little sleepy.”
Hobbs tried to turn as I held onto the rope close to the knot. He slashed wildly with the knife, I grabbed his knife hand and pressed down hard on the little finger, compressing it tightly. Hobbs yelped in pain. The knife dropped. Now he began to claw at the rope about his neck. It is quite amazing how much strength a person can muster when they feel they are about to die, even full of alcohol and sleeping draught. I held on with both hands and yanked him sideways so he toppled, then placing my boot between his shoulder blades, pulled hard. That was the easy part. When Hobbs was dead, we contrived to string him up under the bridge, it took some manoeuvring between us, but eventually experience and physics won out. Into his pocket we placed two items, one being a tattered, scrawled note, which basically admitted to the murder of Mr. John Seabank and vaguely implemented Nelson Orange. Couldn’t live with the guilt, blah, blah, blah.
A ships horn sounded. Two bells rang out from another.
“One of the clock.” I said. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, mister Hobbs. It tolls for thee.”
And so we left him. Swinging like a coal sack under the wonderful wrought iron rails.
The following afternoon, in our new attire, Doppler and I made our way to the nearest police station. I explained that my niece here, had on the previous day been accosted by a man in labourers clothing and that he had stolen an item of hers. A small, gold hair comb. Quite unusual, and rather expensive. We gave him false names, we had just arrived on the passenger ship Pelican the previous day when this dreadful event occurred. The gendarme was sympathetic, if a little inept. I described the features and clothing of the man and he seemed to cock his head.
“Un moment s’il vous plait, madam.”
He hurried to speak to another officer. We repeated our story. We described the golden hair adornment and to our astonishment and delight (!) he produced said item from his desk drawer. Yes! This was it. How marvellous, he was marvellous. How did he find it? He made modest gestures and humble noises as we told him how magnifique he was. He lapped it up. He even told us that no matter how precious the comb was to us, he, Inspector Raymond Le Terne had discovered something far more important; a murderer that the British police would decorate him for. The dead man had obviously fled England after killing this gentleman and could not live with the guilt, so hanged himself. How awful, we gasped. He, Le Terne, would be honoured by the greatest force in the world. It was but a short telegraph message away. We left him to his self-aggrandisement.
Next, we visited a questionable photographic studio, where we convinced the leery proprietor to take a photograph of us as if dead. He quite enjoyed the macabre theme, even attempting to persuade us to “Open a button or two”. He received short shrift for that one. Doppler and I contained our giggles as we lay on fake cobbles as he exposed the glass plate for a full minute. We hung about the studio while he went off to print the image. Unfortunately, whilst he was in his darkroom, ‘someone’ pulled the dark-room curtain open a tad, thus causing the image to develop patches of darkness. The finished photograph showed two women lying askew on the cobbled street of Calais, the image was not very clear, but if you knew who they were, you could identify the bodies. It was all we needed. We took this picture to Walter Closset with instructions to return to Lord Nelson Orange, and to tell him that the Missus Lockhart and Doppler were dead. The shared blame laid at Nelsons door for the murder, would not stick, I knew that. But it would irk.
Now can we start living decently?” Doppler said.
“Where would you like to go?” I asked
“I wish we had the Professor Selwyn.” She griped. The Professor Selwyn was our own vessel a hot air balloon with habitable sphere suspended beneath.
“Well we haven’t. We can take the steam train. You like the new railways.”
“I do.” She mused, “Alright, the south, warm and sunny, with beaches. Cannes maybe.” She glanced at me sideways.
“Beaches?” I was surprised. Doppler had never expressed an interest in the delights of sunshine and beaches before. She usually preferred the dark confines of her laboratory or a library. Her pale face testament to unhealthy habits and unsociable hours. She came up and grasped my hand in hers.
“The rich go there Lockhart! Aristocrats, the moneyed!”
“Isn’t it aristocrats we came here to be rid of?” I queried.
“Only the one.” She said, “Besides, where there are aristocrats, there’s bound to be jewels. Just think Lockhart, all those fat Ladies with diamonds in their rooms!”
“We’re not thieves Doppler.” I said, “At least, not common thieves. Too easy. We don’t steal from peoples rooms. Just peoples tombs.”
“Stealing from someone’s room is what got us here in the first place. Remember?!”
“Alright, alright.” I acquiesced. “It’ll take some time. We could do our own Grand Tour en route – of the vineyards!”
Doppler rolled her eyes. But she was getting her wish – a trip to the beach!
But there was a problem that we had not foreseen. France, wonderful as it is, did not have a rail system to match England (where did?). It did not have an iron industry on the same scale and few towns were connected up. So we took the steam train from Calais to Amiens and from there we took the Trans-France Micro Passenger Blimp to the Champagne-Ardennes region. Doppler stared out of the windows the whole time, pointing out the tiny farm houses and other airships. This section of the sky over France was not particularly busy. The French eschewed much modern transportation for the traditional horses, horse-drawn vehicles and walking, except when travelling huge distances.
In a roadside inn we lounged for a day or two drinking, what else but champagne. In Burgundy we stayed in a delightful pension where they served baguettes and rich-smelling Epoisses cheese, along with a delightfully light white wine.
“Salut Theodora.”
“Bottoms up!”
We purchased two cases of Pinot Noir to see us through the rest of the journey, although Doppler was less inclined to partake whilst we were in transit. I had a case sent home to England for future indulgence. Each time we made a stop, I personally oversaw the removal of our belongings, keeping an eye on our ruby red bottles with their waxy red seals, just in case anyone felt inclined to refresh themselves at our expense.
Despite what people say about Champagne, I have to say I was more impressed with the fayre of the Rhône-Alpes region. The landscape is a stunning variation from valleys and vineyards to aromatic lavender fields and mountains. The air is sharp, crisp and clear; just like some of their wines in fact. I had a saucy little Beaujolais with my Lyon sausage, whilst Theodora acquired a taste for Chartreuse liqueur. We were introduced to a strange dish called fondue. From Switzerland originally, it is a thing that one could easily take an instant dislike to as you have a long handled fork onto which you spear a small piece of bread, then proceed to dip it into a heated pot of melted cheese! We watched a couple of locals eating the stuff and I have to say, it looked like stringy vomit to me. However; we were persuaded to give it a try – mainly by dint of the fact it has wine in it. Soon I was dipping bread, bits of chopped sausage and even chunks of cheese into this fondue.
Let me tell you something about foreign food. When you travel abroad quite a bit as I do, you can become quite complacent about dietary care. I have eaten stuff in foreign parts that would curl your toes, stuff I would never consider back home in Blighty. What is it that gets into us English when abroad, I cannot tell. I have eaten alligator, roast bat, snake, some stinking fungi and numerous victuals that I didn’t have a clue what I was shoving down my gullet. I like to think I have developed a pretty hardy constitution. But this fondue business was something else. All through that night, after consuming what possibly amounted to a months’ worth of cheeses, I had the most horrendous hollow-like burning in my chest. I felt like the whole days’ worth of food had balled itself in a cheesy mass in my lower gullet. No amount of cheeky Pinot was getting rid of that. I thumped my sternum, attempted to belch the pressure away until Theo, turning in irritation in the bed next to me, suggested I go and “walk it off”.                                                             
  So I pulled on my boots and trews, and headed out the door. I made my way quietly along the short landing and down the two flights of uncarpeted stairs to the front parlour. I imagined the hotel to be locked up for the night. All was silent and dark. My way shown by the moon lit sky, casting its silver across the floor and furniture. The main door was in fact open, I suppose it’s a habit of country folk. Ensuring I did not disturb anyone, I softly closed the door behind me and took my curmudgeonly digestion for a brisk promenade.
I had a pretty fair idea of the land surrounding the hotel, despite what an onlooker might have perceived as a drunken disregard for the scenery, I had been paying attention. (Rule #17. Know your way out) A short trot along a pale, stony path that curved around the back of the hotel and it’s garden, then a diversion that led me away from the nearby town and up a narrow track heading onto a wooded rise. It was nowhere near being a mountain, rather a big hill, but I found myself getting breathless uncommonly quickly. It was most certainly my overzealous cheese eating rather than lack of fitness on my part. I had after all climbed mountains in Peru, fought men twice my size and held my own stamina wise, and had to run for great distances to escape various persons whom I had relieved of their wealth, status or dignity; sometimes all three.
I stopped at a suitable spot and breathed deep, surveying the scene beyond. From here, I was looking down onto the rear of the hotel. The night lay across Grenoble like a blue-black silken kerchief. It was past midnight, all the locals would be tucked up in their little beds, not a light to be seen.  Except, as I stared into the darkness, I detected the faintest of glimmers. It drew my eye because it was moving; like a firefly bobbing along quite low. Someone was approaching the hotel in the dead of night. Someone was keeping a tiny lamp low. Now as far as I’m aware, a person only carries a light for two reasons; one, to see by and two, as a signal. As the night sky was actually clear enough to create a clear path, I could only presume it was to let someone know they were approaching. A lovers triste perhaps?
I edged my way back down as carefully and quietly as I could. Somewhere off to my right, a hunting owl screeched. A sleepy bird rustled and chipped in its sleep. I could hear low voices now. To the very rear of the hotel garden I spied the tiny, hand held light. It sat on the ground now between two figures. They were having a very covert meeting thought I, and being a naturally suspicious and nosy person, I made it my job to find out more.
“Quelle heur?”
“Dix heures.”
“Le Fanny Voler. L'aérodrome Grenoble. Il les a dans un cas brune.” The Flying Fanny, Grenoble airfield. He has them in a brown case.
“Il ne se soucie pas comment vous les obtenez, il suffit de ne pas se faire prendre.” He does not care how you get them, just do not get caught.
Another grunt of acknowledgement.
“Ici. Prends ça.” Here. Take this.
Then the little light was lifted, I caught the briefest glimpse of a face. I did not recognise it. Then the two men parted. I sat still and low for some moments pondering what I had overheard. One fellow was apparently to go and retrieve something from the brown case of a man, who would be travelling at ten of the clock on The Flying Fanny from Grenoble air field. Then something had been handed over. In my experience the only people who meet up at odd hours, in the dark and exchange information are either criminals or politicians; sometimes one and the same.                         
 I was just about to rise and head back to my bed, when a third figure detached itself from the shadows of the hotel. Someone else had been listening in on the clandestine conversation. This individual was extremely adept at moving silently and remaining hidden, despite his evident bulk. This man was solid muscle, though he could move at speed. He was patient, polite and subservient, but a mean fighter. I knew him; a man named Hotchkiss, Rene de Cavelliers’ butler. The last time we had met, I had hit him with a valuable stone artefact. (See The Stone of the Sons of Horus. Part 2) I did not relish encountering him again. He was obviously here for his employer, and if he was listening in to this meeting then it could only mean one thing – there was something definitely worth having in the brown case. I watched him until he had headed, like the shadow of a cat, along the turning pathway leading into town, until I could see him no more. Then I made my way, cautiously, back inside the hotel.
In the morning, having explained to Doppler what I had seen and heard during my late night, or early morning depending on how you live your life, wanderings, we arranged to have a recce of the airfield.  There was Le Fanny Voler, one of the Trans-France Micro Passenger Blimps, amidst a number of other, almost identical dirigibles. There were a number of official buildings along the western edge of the field and a series of hangars beyond them. After some pernickety passenger acting, we discovered that The Flying Fanny and her sister ship Mutine would both be heading for Marseille this very day. Now I had to decide whether to stay with the ship the mark would be on, and risk being discovered by de Cavelliers bludger butler. Or, should we ride the sister ship in the hope he wasn’t doing the same thing? In the end we bought tickets for both airships. We did not have much time before passengers would begin arriving from their various hotels, pensions and inns, so we set too. We bid the ticket salesman au revoir and apparently left the airfield.                                                                                                                  
 Instead, we circumvented the buildings and discovered an easily accessible room, currently unoccupied, that had exactly what we were after – uniforms. They were in various states of cleanliness, however we needed something from low down the pecking order, waiters or suchlike, the kind of position that might be filled at the last minute by a newcomer and not raise suspicion. Having found a likely livery, Doppler changed. Luckily there was a hat to go with the uniform; a tight fitting beret in navy blue. Evidently the Trans-France Micro Passenger Blimp Company had aspirations to join the French Navy. Doppler’s hair fit into the slouch section that fell over to one side. With her slender physique and no make-up, she could pass for an adolescent male, if no-one looked too closely. I rummaged in my belongings and pulled out a little silver tube. Using the brush cautiously, I applied a fine amount of mascara to the downy, blonde hairs on Doppler’s upper lip, then filled in her eyebrow hairs further.
“My, you are handsome monsieur Doppler.” I curtsied.
Next, I began my transformation into a middle-aged, overweight spinster dressed from head to toe in black. It’s simply a matter of wearing most of the clothing from one’s travelling trunk, using too much powder and screwing up the face like a lemon licker. We kept ourselves out of sight until there were a number of passengers waiting to board and tickets were being collected. We scrutinised the travellers. There were about fifty or sixty individuals waiting to board the two vessels; these were not the massive airships we saw in Great Britain and America. Doppler stayed with the crew waiting to see where she would be sent. I watched, keeping a lookout for a man with a brown case and Cavelliers butler.
Hotchkiss did not bother to hide. He simply turned up, small amount of luggage in tow, showed his ticket and waited in the queue reading his newspaper. At the last minute, a carriage pulled up and a dowdy, nervous looking fellow got out. Looked like a trainee accountant to me, he had a brown leather attaché style case. He was directed straight to the open field where the dirigible waited rather than queueing and I saw him board Le Fanny Voler. Now they allowed everyone else to board. Doppler slid in amongst the staff. I would have to trust she could pull off the disguise alone now. I kept myself behind Hotchkiss’ line of sight and watched him, where he was looking would lead me to the first man watching the mark.
Finally on board, I settled at a window seat with table. The cabin was divided into sections, presumably to keep the riff-raff apart from the nobs. I pulled out my copy of Le Monde and holding it in my black lacework gloves, peered at it through circular spectacles. A waiter came to take my order of tea and gin, a rather young fellow with the beginnings of a sparse moustache grazing his lip. A large French couple sat opposite me, ruddy of cheek and wary of eye, I believe it was their first flight. We began one of those intermittent conversations that people have when thrown together for a short period of time.                                                                                                     
The young waiter returned with our drinks, and a snack selection for the large couple - I hoped the Flying Fanny would be able to take off. My gin glass rested on a circular, paper coaster. Putting it in my lap without anyone noticing I read the reverse; Fr.Pt. Neither Hotchkiss nor the drab mark were in my compartment, so I guessed Hotchkiss had a place up front too. And if Hotchkiss was there, then so was the man I had eavesdropped in the garden.                                                       
Halfway through the flight, many passengers took themselves for a stroll to stretch their legs, some went to the little smoking lounge to the very rear. I pootled off. In the front cabin, portside, I found my man, or should I say, men. There was the mark sat in a window seat, looking for all the world like he was carrying a bomb; he sweated, his right cheek twitched below his eye and he clung onto his case tightly. How anyone was to get it off him I didn’t know. In the centre sat Hotchkiss, calm as you like, sipping tea and doing a crossword puzzle. I was pretty sure he would not remember my face, he’d seen me briefly about two years ago, and only then by the light of a lantern at best. I headed into the cabin, walked past him and made my way to the observation area. From here, not only did I have a lovely view of the south of France spread before us, but I could turn around and see the whole cabin, from front to rear. The compartments were not completely separated or enclosed individually, just partial dividers and open entranceways. A steward made his way along, stopping for passengers who had questions or requests. When he entered the front compartment, he went almost directly to the attaché case man. Bent slightly in a subservient manner, as if taking the man’s order. But the dun man had not turned until spoken to. This was the fellow from the garden. I scrutinised him thoroughly, as did Hotchkiss. I knew what I was up against with Hotchkiss, to a degree, but I needed to get a feel for this fellow.        
He stood around five foot eleven, his uniform was a poor fit and he needed a shave. All in all, not very prepared for the role. Sloppy. The blue, uniform pants were high waisted, the white jacket short, my keen eye detected a slight bulge in the line of his clothing. I seriously hoped the man wasn’t dumb enough to fire off a weapon whilst in the air, we’d all go up like a firework! He went away, then came back a moment later with a glass of brown liquor, placed it on the small table, bowed with his head and departed. I watched him watching over his shoulder. Hotchkiss didn’t make any indication that he was interested at all. The mark picked up the glass in trembling fingers and knocked it back in one, screwing his eyes up in distaste. Either, he had a fear of flying or he carried something of import. I could almost feel my fingertips itching.
Guessing that no-one would make their move until we were coming into land, or passengers were disembarking, I headed back to my seat. The French couple looked rounder than when I’d left them – if possible. Everyone was disembarking at Marseilles, there was no airfield at Cannes; God forbid anything should mar the paradise playground of the rich.                                                                                       
People bustled in disorderly fashion, claiming hand luggage, grabbing a last free drink, hurrying to be first on sunny soil. Some took their time; smoking a last cigarette in the smoking lounge. I loitered around and saw the man who had been dressed as a steward, now in civilian clothing, sitting opposite the mark, apparently making conversation. There was no indication that the dun chappie was listening. Then peering around furtively, the ex-steward pried the case from the unresisting hands, stood up and nonchalantly exited the cabin. Hotchkiss was trailing him, assisting a young lady with her baggage. Disembarking was a slow process, but eventually I had my feet on terra-firma. A tap on my shoulder,
“Can I help you with your luggage madam?”
I turned to see Doppler, still in uniform, her mascara moustache looking a little sweaty and smudged. We followed the queue through Arrivals, Doppler with a bag tucked under each arm and a case in either hand.
“Blimey!” she puffed, “How do they do this?” the cases were slipping and she struggled with the weight.
I had to get her out of the disguise toute suite, or it would be a disguise no longer. I could see Hotchkiss about twenty people ahead of me, which meant he had the new mark in sight. Finally we were free of the sweating cluster. Doppler went to the public convenience to change, whilst I sat outside on one of my cases, watching were people were going. The fake steward didn’t take one of the carriages laid on for Cannes. Instead he made his way into the town of Marseilles on foot. It was only a ten minute walk. Hotchkiss hailed a small dos-a-dos, a two person dog-cart and headed along the same road. Having all our luggage and the crates of wine, we did the same. As we travelled, I kept my eyes on Hotchkiss, whilst Doppler kept the mark in sight. She stood outside the hotel with the bags whilst I booked us a room. A bellboy came to collect our things and I followed him in the elevator. As it rose, he looked me up and down from the corner of his eye.
“English?” he asked.
“Yes. That obvious?”
He shrugged, “Your style of attire madam, is, how shall I say – unusual. Not French.”
Cheeky blighter, I thought. I was not aware that leather boots, khaki pants and duster were unusual.
“You have English riding boots madam. And the way you wear your cravat, is fastened in the English style.”
“How do you know so much about clothing?”
He gave that Gallic shrug again. “When you spend as long as I do watching people, you begin to learn things.”
I looked him up and down. “How old are you?”
“Twenty madam.” Hmm, I thought. Too young.
“Listen.” I said when he had deposited the luggage. “How would you like to earn some extra francs?”
He pulled at his jacket, straightened himself, licked a finger and drew it along a brow. Raising said eyebrow, he strutted closer grinning. “And what would madam fancy?”
“Not that!” I exclaimed. He had reached out to touch my arm. His hand fell to his side. I looked him over again, considering. No, no, no, I couldn’t. “No, what I want is for you to keep a lookout for me.” I described the mark and Hotchkiss to the bellboy. He had no qualms about acting as my informant. And maybe afterwards I could... What was I thinking?! He was fourteen years younger than me!
“They’re both in the café across the…Lockhart!” Doppler was stood in the doorway.
“I wasn’t doing anything!” I protested. She was giving me the look. “Honestly, I was making arrangements with him.” She cocked an eyebrow. “To be lookout!” her expression said she didn’t believe me. I looked to the bellboy, who stood familiarly close. “Tell her.” I demanded.
“It is true mademoiselle. However, should you be interested –“
“Out!” said Doppler, stepping aside and pointing. He left.
After a speedy change of clothing. Doppler and I headed over to the café. I loitered outside whilst Doppler did a quick recce.
“I can’t see Hotchkiss, but the mark is still there.” She said as she exited.
This worried me just a little. Hotchkiss would be around somewhere, I didn’t like the thought of him possibly watching us. I would feel more comfortable knowing where he was. The door to the café suddenly swung open and out strode the mark. Doppler and I turned to chat face to face. He had the brown case tucked under his arm as he made his way, quickly along the avenue between trams and pedestrians and carriages.
“Keep a lookout for the butler.” I said to Doppler. She didn’t really need to be warned.
He was moving pretty quickly. We had no need to hide as the man was clearly oblivious to the fact he was being followed. I didn’t know the town of Marseilles, so made note of various points of interest or landmarks as we moved. He stopped on a corner, pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket, looked about then continued. It seems he did not know the area either. Eventually he stopped before a rather smart hotel on the sea front, D’hôtel Napoleon. The lobby was all shining marble and gleaming bronze, potted ferns and pillars. The mark was not its usual clientele. We sauntered in. Doppler hung about the ferns whilst I approached the reception and stood behind the mark, listening. I got his room number; that he did not want to be disturbed unless a certain Monsieur Charlot called. As he had no luggage, he went directly to his room.
“Bonjoir madam, welcome to D’hôtel Napoleon.”
“Hi.” I smiled. “I would like a room for a couple of nights, if that is alright. A double, for myself and my niece.” Doppler had come to stand beside me. “Our luggage will be arriving shortly.” I explained.
Room booked, we made our way up and then found the room that the mark occupied. At this point, we still had no idea what we were going to find in the attaché case, it would be like a Lucky Dip. Quite exciting. It would have to be tonight. We decided to spend the day in the hotel, keeping an eye on things. Doppler hung about the corridors nearby the marks room. I sat in the lounge come foyer, sipping tea and leafing through newspapers.
“You are losing your touch Miss Lucy.” A suave voice said. Oh crap. I thought. I fixed my face and turned.
“Rene! How delightful to see you.” I smiled my respectable smile. I indicated the seat opposite. He sat. Rene de Cavellier smoothed his cream linen pants, adjusted his moustaches and smiled at me. He was practically grinning.
“So, what brings you here?” I said. I chided myself inwardly.
“Oh, you know, the usual.” He continued smiling. God he was handsome. And irritating. But terribly alluring. I attempted to pull my mind into focus.
“It’s my first time. In Marseilles I mean. It is quite lovely isn’t it?” I smiled back. I was going for innocent, but I knew that he knew I wasn’t. Ever.
He leant forwards suddenly, “Lucy, ma cher.” I leant closer too. I couldn’t help myself. He took both my hands in his. “It has been too long.” I tried to remember when we had last, met. Lady Celia Fox’s, after the Vatican incident. “You look lovely as ever.” He purred. His delightful French accent went straight to my libido. He kissed the backs of both my hands. “I have missed you. Why do we not find a room and…” he let the question trail off and hang in the air.
“Oh Rene, any other time and you know I wouldn’t refuse.” I replied. Dammit!
“Ah, there are always other times ma cher, of course. But I must advise you against what you are planning. Yes, I know that you and your little accomplice have followed the attaché here. This is mine Lucy and I do not want anyone, and I mean, anyone, getting in my way. Adorable as you are with your green eyes and your vivacity, your joie de vivre, I cannot allow you to interfere – not again.”
I had been staring into his handsome eyes. Me and my foolish desires. As I went to sit back, I discovered my left hand immobilized. Rene sat back smiling. He had somehow handcuffed me to the arm of my chair.
“Cavellier!” I hissed. “What are you doing?” I rattled the cuffs.
De Cavellier stood. “My insurance madam. No doubt you will get free quickly, but for now.” He made a slight bow. “I bid you adieu.”
“Cavellier!” I called as he walked away. “Rene! You bastard!”
 There were sharp intakes of breath around me. Waiters stopped waiting, receptionists stopped receiving. I fiddled in my hair and pulled a pin loose. By the time I had freed myself, Rene de Cavellier was long gone. I ran for the stairs, the elevator being up on the fourth floor, and began to race for the second floor. I snuck out onto the corridor, peering around corners. No-one there. No sign of Doppler. I slunk along the walls, listening for any unusual sounds. At the door of the mark with the attaché case, I listened. Someone was moving around. I ran on tip-toe to my room, retrieved my pistol and returned. The door was not locked and the scene inside startled me. Two figures were tied back to back, mouths gagged. They were shuffling around trying to loose the cords. In the process, chairs had been knocked over, rugs rucked and so forth. I ran over and pulled one of the gags away.
“Lockhart!” snarled Doppler. “Where were you? Cavellier and his butler came.”
I looked at the mark whom she was tied to.
“Untie me!” Doppler shouted.
“Unfortunately, if I untie you, I untie him too.” They both glared at me. I wasn’t sure who was the glariest!
“Lockhart! They’re getting away! He had the rubies for a Monsieur Charlot. Supposed to be meeting him here today. Lockhart!” The mark snarled as Doppler gave away his employers name.
“Sorry old bean.” I said to the man. His eyes widened as he saw the gun. I turned it round and struck him sharply with the handle. He slumped. After freeing Doppler, I retied the fellow who had so recently been relieved of his goods. Doppler and I raced to the reception.
“I say, could you tell me if a Monsieur Charlot has arrived. It’s terribly important.”
The receptionist looked at me a little dubiously. He ran a finger along the lists of names in the huge book before him.
“Is Monsieur a guest?”
I didn’t know. He could simply be arriving to meet with the chap upstairs. I decided that as he had not found the name in his ledger, then in all likelihood, he was not.
“Just visiting.” I said. “Could you put a call out for him?”
The receptionist called over a man stood by the elevators. Gave him the name and then sent him off around the lobby.
“What are you doing Lockhart?” hissed Doppler.
“I don’t know. I’m making it up as I go along.”
We stood watching as the valet assistant walked about calling out the name. No-one responded openly, but a small chap in the far corner did peek over his paper looking furtive.
“There is no-one here of that name madam.” Said the valet on returning. I thanked him and tipped him.
Doppler followed me to where the small chap sat. “Bonjoir Monsieur Charlot.” I said, flopping into the gilt chair next to him.
Charlot stiffened. His faced pinked. “Excuse me madam, I do not know this Monsieur Charlot that you mention. I think you have made a mistake.” He shook his newspaper and held it up before his face. He looked like a clerk.
“He hasn’t got the goods anymore Charlie.” I said.
The paper slowly lowered. I smiled broadly. “You should have met him sooner.” I said.
“What…what do you know of my affairs? Who are you?” He had regained some dignity. “And how dare you –“
“Listen Charlie. If you want your goods back we need to act quickly. We can help.” He looked dubious, “For a fee of course.”
Monsieur Charlot said the attaché case contained rubies. Whose rubies and where they came from, he would not say. He agreed to our assistance, for a fee, and therefore supplied us with a carriage and driver. Monsieur Heureux (Happy) looked anything but. He had a face like a love sick mule. I asked the doorman if he had noticed two gentlemen of such and such description. He had and he was able to tell us that they had taken a Berlin style carriage. For a few francs he told us it was quite distinctive; cream and black in colour, with a cream leather and silk interior. I was impressed, for another few francs pressed into his palm he was able to remember that the gentlemen had mentioned Saint Tropez.                                                                                                   
  After hastily packing our belongings from our first hotel, we headed off with Monsieur Charlot’s driver. I’m sure this carriage wasn’t half as fine as de Cavellier’s, but it was quick. Heureux, understanding that his employer would generously reward him if he could stop the thieves, had the horses moving at a brisk pace. Doppler and I were rocked and rolled about amongst our luggage.
I knew that de Cavellier had about twenty or so minutes on us, we had to close that distance before he made other plans, or took an alternate route. Heureux seemed to be enjoying our discomfiture, for every time we took a bend and yelled at being squashed by a trunk, he seemed to spur the horses more.
“Blimey Lockhart!” yelled Doppler over the grinding wheels, the horses hooves and Heureux’s excited bellows.
“Hang on, shouldn’t be much longer. Got your equipment ready?” I rocked madly from left to right buttock as I began loading my pistols.
Just as I was beginning to feel a kind of nauseous, sea-sick sensation, Heureux called out excitedly, “Je les vois! Je les vois!” I see them.
I stuck my head out of the window. Up ahead was the lovely cream and black Berliner. Hotchkiss was driving, so, unless de Cavellier had brought along some thugs, it would be two against two. Hotchkiss evidently knew we were on his tail, I could see the driving whip lashing back and forth, they sped up.
“Can you pass them?” I shouted to Heureux.
“Impossible!” he shouted back.
“Can you get closer then?”
I was thrust back into my seat as Heureux gave the horses a series of quick, short strikes. I looked at Doppler, she was grinning.
“What?” I asked.
“I’ve never been in a cab chase before.” She said, “It’s exciting isn’t it?”
“So long as you can keep you balance, you’ll be fine.”
She wiggled her fingers at me. She was wearing her ‘spider gloves’. Able to climb pretty much any surface, I wasn’t sure about their grip on a moving vehicle. I looked out of the window again, we were so very close now. De Cavelliers face appeared, he was pointing a weapon at us. A shot rang out, Heureux shrieked, ducking. Missed! He was aiming for our wheels, de Cavellier wouldn’t shoot the horses, would he? I didn’t know. I knew de Cavellier was a horseman – but I also knew the French ate horsemeat and so didn’t have a proper caring attitude towards the beasts, not like the British.
“Cover me!” I called to Doppler.
She leant out of her side, straining against the oscillation of the carriage. As she fired and both de Cavellier and the bludger ducked, I scrambled out of the madly flapping door. Clinging onto the frame, stretching across the front quarter and grasping hold of the seat irons, I came up beside Heureux. He briefly glanced sideways at me. Wild-eyed, cheeks flushed, his dour mule face looked like a donkey on amphetamines. I couldn’t tell if he were scared or exultant. I gave him directions, pointing at the Berliner. He seemed shocked, doubtful, but I insisted. He manoeuvred the horses forwards until his right leader was close by the rear, left hand side of de Cavelliers carriage. Meanwhile, I clambered down onto one of the horses. Without stirrups, I was clenching with my thighs for all I was worth, (I take a pride in the strength of my thigh muscles). After a few near misses, I caught hold of the carriage, rose to a standing position on the rear mudguard and caught hold of the rail on the roof.  Hotchkiss glanced over his shoulder, pulled a weapon free and fired. The rail next to my fingers sparked and sang. Doppler fired back. I saw she was crouched on the roof of our cab, one hand flat, presumably her gloves adhering to the surface. She pointed and fired again.
“Watch it!” I shouted.
I wrenched open the door and flung myself inside. Tumbling at de Cavelliers feet in an extremely ungainly fashion. I looked up into the barrel of his gun.
“Good afternoon Lucy.” He smiled. But he kept the gun trained on me.
I got myself straightened out and sat on the seat opposite.
“Hello Rene.” I looked around the plush interior. “Very nice.” I rubbed my hand over the cream leather seat. “Comfortable too.” I looked up through my lashes, going for sultry. He kept smiling. “Look, you’re not going to shoot me Rene. We both know that, so why don’t you put your little gun away,” I patted the leather, “And come and get cosy.” The suspension was amazing, compared to the thing Doppler and I had travelled in, de Cavellier and I gentle bobbed up and down as the carriage continued its crazy dash. He didn’t lower his weapon, so I raised mine. But not at de Cavellier. I pointed it at a careless angle over my shoulder.
“If you’re not going to behave, I shall have to put a bullet in your devoted Hotchkiss. Oh, I agree, I may miss. But consider this; the bullet will certainly pass through your beautiful woodwork and satin. Splinters of wood will strike your bludger in the rear at best. The bullet may even hit home, either way, he will most certainly lose control of the horses and then where will we be? Hurtling off the road? Crashing into a tree? Rolling down a ravine?”
“There are no ravines here.” He said, he was still self-possessed, but he’d lost the smile.
“Whatever. You know it won’t end nicely.”
“And you are prepared to risk that? You will fall too Lucy, you will collide as I collide.”
I smiled happily, keeping him chatting. “Then we shall collide together, ma cher.” I smiled. “Ah, Rene, here we are again. We have had some wonderful times, have we not? That glorious weekend at Lady Celia’s, remember?” The right side of his mouth curved at the memory. “We should team up. Become comrades in the hunt. Imagine it Rene, what a marvellous partnership, you, me, plundering the known world for its treasures.” I leant forwards slightly and breathed his name. He leant forwards too.
“Oh Lucy, if only I could trust you.”
I reached up with my free hand and gently caressed his face. I looked into his eyes. “Kiss me Rene.” I raised my chin to reveal my white neck.
 Rene leant closer, our lips met. I breathed in his cologne and aroma of French masculinity. I sighed as our lips met. Then hit him with the butt of my gun, hard enough, but not too much. De Cavellier fell face first into my lap. I stroked his hair as he lay there. Then pushing him away so he lay across his own seat. I searched the floor of the carriage and found what I was after. The security box. After rummaging in his waistcoat pockets and relieving him of the tiny key. I made a withdrawal from the Banque de Cavellier. As the carriage continued its bouncing course, I pocketed the items. I returned the box and the key then made my retreat. I waved at Doppler and Heureux.                                                                                             
Our carriage began to drop back, to Hotchkiss it would look like they were losing speed. I kept an eye on the fields and hedgerows we passed. At an opportune moment, I flung myself from de Cavelliers carriage, curling myself into a foetal ball. I went crashing into shrubbery, my left thigh hit something hard as I rolled. I scrunched tighter. I seemed to be rolling down a slight incline, my breath being pounded out of me. I hit something else, it went crack and I stopped. I opened my eyes; I was covered in a tangle of greenery. I could hear Doppler calling, getting nearer. Her voice vibrating as she ran.
“Lockhart!” She knelt beside me. “Are you alright? Can you sit up?” She was pulling foliage from me.
As I sat upright, my head spun a little. My leg hurt, my shoulders ached. I had clenched my jaw tight and now massaged it. It felt as though I’d been punched. Then I reached awkwardly into the inner pocket of my coat, triumphantly revealing the soft leather pouch that made a pleasant sound when I shook it. I staggered to my feet to look around. We were in a vineyard.
Now, Heureux was expecting to return us to Marseilles, to his waiting employer, Monsieur Charlot. But I had no intention of returning the cache to Charlie. So we devised another trip for Heureux. Doppler administered one of her home brew compounds. And whilst Doppler drove the carriage on to Cannes, I carefully stored the rubies in half a dozen of the bottles of Pinot Noir; resealing the bottles with melted sealing wax. The stones were the most delicious, deep red; most being the size of the juicy, edible seeds of the pomegranate. Oval cut with a good finish, probably worth in the region of, well, enough. There were twelve of them. All the while I worked on this, Heureux, on the opposite seat gabbled about purple clouds and plucked at the air before him. As night drew on, he swore he could see the dark side of the moon.
Eventually we arrived in Cannes. A telegram was sent to Monsieur Charlot, explaining that, unfortunately, we had been unsuccessful in our task. Heureux recovered, with little memory of the actual events, just a jumble of images of gun fire, galloping horses, a white rabbit and myself dressed as a Joker from a pack of cards. He returned to Charlot empty handed, but with a new and expanded view on life.
We rented an old 18th century villa opposite the sea, Vélès Plage was on a slight rise surrounded by palms and slightly unruly gardens. I was considering buying it. Our residence was ransacked on four occasions during our six week stay. We did not see Rene de Cavellier or his butler around the town – but we knew it was them. They never found a thing.
By the time we returned to our home in Lancashire, the crate of Pinot Noir had been gathering dust in the cellar for quite some time.
The End