Authors: Carl Leckey
You see Adam I want this to be a joint family decision depending on what we all decide and if they are all agreeable I will then consult Gunter. You are in no hurry to leave the hotel are you?” I shake my head and reply. “Billy is coming anyway so I believe. That’s fair enough with me and I’m sure Denise will agree Louise, but if Yvette is not here will you be happy to leave her out?” A little mischievously I add “Or put it another way, will she be happy to be left out?”
Louise looks crestfallen until I suggest. “I know Paul and Yvette have a wedding arranged for Saturday afternoon. There is no reason why they shouldn’t drive down after and stay overnight One of the lads from the depot with look after the horses for them. I’ll telephone and see if I am able to arrange it if you like? But may I make a suggestion? Show the birth certificate to Gunter just to confirm you are the legitimate heir before we have our meeting.
I am sure he will explain the legal position.” Without hesitation Louise agrees. I send a page to Gunter’s room requesting his presence in the lounge. Within ten minutes he arrives I introduce him to Louise and roughly outline the position. Louise is soon in deep conversation with him. I notice them retiring to an anti room as Daisy arrives.
She excitedly grasps my hand and leads me to the billiard room where she now wants me to teach her how to play. After a couple of attempts at reaching the table Daisy finally has to agree, billiards is not a little girl’s game. One of the French lads I know from the cafe comes to my aid. He opens a set of small doors located on a far wall. He reveals what was left behind by the previous occupants the British Army Officers. A dart board, just the job! I’m pretty good at darts even though I say so myself. I explain the rules to Daisy. To be fair I move the oche line a little closer to give her a better chance. I explain I will demonstrate with three throws the art of darts. I select high number targets. All of my throws are pathetic I don’t hit one of the indicated spots. Daisy dances up and down with excitement until I hand her the darts. She takes careful aim at the board. Her first dart hits the bull. The second shot lands in triple twenty. Third shot another triple twenty. The waiter applauds. She turns to me and asks with an innocent look on her face. “Is that what you mean Uncle Adam?” I am totally humiliated. Couldn’t you just strangle smart kids some times?
Fortunately Alec comes to my rescue saving me from further embarrassment. We leave Daisy and the waiter lining up for another game of stupid darts. Alec is keen to show me a discovery one of his staff has found in the hotel cellars. Alec informs me before we arrive at the door leading to the cellar. “You know that building company OSCADA has taken over?” I reply vaguely. “ Yes.” He explains. “You know the ones working on your house by the lake?”
Intrigued I reply “Oh. Yes.” Alec explains. “One of the lads brought their old truck into the depot for repairs. I got talking to him. We were still thinking about buying the hotel at that time, I was telling him about it. He told me his Dad worked on here during the war for the British. He reckons his Dad got pissed one night and disclosed secrets about the place.”
“What secrets?” I enquire.
Alec reveals in a conspiratorial manner. “Secrets he had sworn to keep bloomin secret of course. Anyway as far as his Old Fella was concerned the war was over so what did it matter?” Impatiently I urge him. “Bloody Hell Alec get on with it, this is like getting blood out of a stone.” Alec looks a little hurt when he replies. “I was just getting to the good bit.
To cut a long story short when Marcel was refurbishing the place he used that very company. Low and behold one of the workmen was the very same fellow I spoke to at the depot. He and I had a mooch about down below and he found what I am about to show you
Thanks to the generosity of the British taxpayer the hotel is supplied with electricity even as far as the underground cellars.”
We pass into a well stocked wine cellar, innocent enough looking until Alec touches a concealed button. A portion of the wine racks swings open to reveal a short corridor also well illuminated by electric lights. Leading off the corridor are three doors. Alec opens the first one. This room is rigged with eight camp cots. The sheets and blankets adorning the cots are made up into perfect bed packs similar to a training camp billet ready for inspection. Other ranks abode definitely.
In one corner is a screened toilet and wash area. On a table at the other end are a couple of primus stoves, pans, enamel plates and cups and cutlery Alec leads the way to door two. This room is definitely an officer’s room, evident by the superior furnishings. The third door leads to what is obviously an office. Although there are tables and chairs remaining, there are signs that other electronic equipment has been removed. Severed wires hang out of conduits, a number of empty brackets adorn the walls. At the far end of the room is a steel locker Alec says. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
He opens the door with a flourish. I am expecting something dramatic. Disappointingly he reveals an empty storage locker. Alec sees my face, grinning, he goes over to the light switch he says the magic words. “Abracadabra.” He flicks the switch on and off three times. With a swish the locker swings into the room disclosing yet another tunnel Alec says. “We won’t bother going along it Adam. The Ladies will wonder where we are. I have already followed it to the end, it’s quite long. Would you believe it emerges in the crypt of that church across the other side of the coast road? Well Adam what do you reckon on this lot then?”
Passing my opinion I thoughtfully reply. “I think it was either some kind of secret communication centre, or the buggers made this place in case the Boche captured all of France. It’s almost a certainty the Boche senior staff would have taken this place over for themselves if they got this far just like our Brass hat lot did. A nice comfortable head quarters to get their fat arses in. Think of this Alec old mate, if they had occupied this place the British would have a readymade spy post in the heart of the enemy.” Alec laughs. “You’ve got a good imagination Scouse no doubt about that. Ha-ha. Who ever heard of such a thing, the Boche capturing France? There was no chance of that happening in a million years you daft bugger ha, ha. Who ever heard of such a thing, the Boche beating us and the Frogs, no chance my old mate.”
We return to the Ladies in the lounge. Saturday morning we all gather together in the dining room. Alec had arranged two tables in a boardroom manner. I take my place at the head of the table. I have to admit to myself I am very apprehensive. This is the part of the business I do not like. I am totally dependent on the experts I have surrounded myself with. I will be relieved to hand over the technicalities of running the ever expanding company to them. Sometimes I have this dream of just owning Pompey Lill and doing what I intended doing initially when I was demobbed. Just to be responsible for myself and Denise and taking tours around the war time battle grounds. But it is too late now. I have a responsibility not only for myself and my family but an ever growing number of people, but I keep these dreams to myself. Thank goodness ever efficient Harry had formulated an agenda with my approval and placed a copy in front of all those in attendance. All the proposed board members are present except of course Denise who has declined to serve on the board of OSCADA. Bob Hawkins is at sea but has already agreed and signed contracts with the company for his new position in the maritime part of the company. Harry will represent the shipping interests at this meeting.
All the business is conducted in a remarkably short time thanks to the work carried out by Harry, Gunter and Bob prior to the meeting. Louise agrees to keep minutes until Harry appoints a company secretary. Harry informs us this is already in hand the last applicant he interviewed was successful and begins work next week.
Finance and profits are discussed and agreed. We are evidently making a great deal of profit even after purchasing the ten new Renault trucks and buying out two of our transport competitors and the construction company. The coffers of OSCADA are loaded to over flowing. Remuneration for board members and salaries for managers and other personnel are discussed and agreed. All the legalities have been drawn up by Gunter and these are agreed by the board. It is only when I see how much paperwork is involved I realise how haphazardly we have been running the business up to now. We move on to discuss
Individual sections of the business.
Already well established and managed by Harry. There is nothing much to discuss except to congratulate Harry and Alec for the success of the company. Alec is completely involved with the hotel from now on. At his request he is only available for consultation, emergencies and board meetings.
This is completely Marcel’s baby. He enthusiastically embraces the responsibility for developing the construction business.
Of course I insist my personal contract on the lakeside house be completed before he takes on any other major construction jobs.
At Gunter’s suggestion we also establish.
To be developed by Gunter and Estelle. To be funded jointly by the peace movement and OSCADA. The initial base is to be located on the wartime airstrip adjourning the absorbed Caspar depot if it is available. Marcel informs the meeting he is investigating the possibility shortly. Suzanne Caspar the previous owner has agreed to stay on as manager of the transport depot after OSCADA bought her Brothers out. After very intense negotiations with myself and Harry she still retains a third share in the depot. Both Harry and I agree she will be a great asset to the expanded company. Gunter has already sounded Marcel out regarding the design of airstrip buildings. We are now considering how we can utilise the rail spur line.
Initially to be developed by Captain Bob Hawkins and Harry. A warehouse, a dock quay and office to be leased within the dock complex. Three new ships are to be delivered from the German builders over the next three months. These are to be registered in France and manned by French crews. The next three ships we have optionally ordered in a year’s time will be registered in a UK port and manned by British seamen. This will make the company multinational and give us the opportunity to develop road transport in Britain in conjunction with our shipping.
The meeting continues. There at two other companies associated to OSCADA that is Paul and Yvette’s funeral and wedding service and Louise and Billy’s long distance haulage company. They will be self managed and financed. I realise that Louise and Billy have big decisions to make regarding the inheritance. Louise reports it was their intention to go ahead with their plans regarding the trucks and a garage located in the village but she needs to consult with Billy because of further developments we are aware of.
Where does this leave me after all the important roles have been allocated? Apart from being chairman I have a watching brief on all aspects of the company.
I insist on driving whenever I feel the need, much to everyone’s amusement.
As I have planned to travel to England to sort out personal family matters. It is a relief to hand the day to day responsibility for the running of the company to my able board members.
All OSCADA business is settled by one o’clock and we break up for lunch. Billy arrives during lunch, after a subtle hint from Alec he moves the truck and trailer from the front car park to the delivery point behind the hotel. He rejoins us for a while then disappears into the billiard room with Louise after she whispers in his ear. Marcel departs to his various projects. Gunter leaves to use the hotel telephone after assuring me he will be available if required. Father Peter agrees to stay close but not attend unless requested. This leaves members of what I consider my family to conduct our own business but not until Yvette and Paul have arrived. Daisy entertains us during the afternoon until we are having afternoon tea when Yvette and Paul enter the hotel. After settling them in dispensing with small talk we get down to the family business. As the tables are still set out in the lounge we used for the board meeting we gather in there. Louise and Billy sit opposite, Billy has a kind of dazed look on his face. Yvette and Paul sit beside each other. Yvette appears impatient. I open the meeting by explaining Louise has something very important to announce to the family. With that I sit down and turn the meeting over to her.
Without hesitation she informs us of the death of Raymonde the Marque mostly for the benefit of Yvette and Paul as the rest of us are aware of the situation.
Yvette interrupts Louise impatiently complaining. “Surely you could have told us this news on the telephone instead of summoning us all the way to here. We have had to rush about and we haven’t had a minute to ourselves. We have a business to run and can’t drop everything at a minute’s notice to visit the seaside unlike the rest of you.”
Denise impatiently intercedes. “Oh do be quiet Yvette and for goodness sake stop moaning. Listen to what our Sister has to say.” Yvette slumps into her chair with a sulky look on her face.
Louise continues. “There is no easy way to reveal this Yvette but I am Raymond’s heir. Everything, the chateau the entire estate in fact as the English say lock stock and barrel has been left to me.” She adds. “This includes the dreaded title of Marques’s.” “But, why did he leave it to you?” Yvette exclaims petulantly. “You left the chateau and Denise and I ages ago. You never gave us a reason for abandoning us and we all know you hated him.” Louise explains. “There is a good reason I left you at the chateau. I suppose I should have told you this before but to be honest I was too ashamed. This is not how I planned to reveal why I left you, but here goes. I will explain why I am the sole beneficiary of his legacy. Before I begin I believe Raymond did not do this out of the goodness of his heart, as usual he would take great delight in causing problems for me. Even as he lay on his deathbed it would have given him some kind of satisfaction.” Louise then described her seduction, her attempted suicide, and the loss of her child to an almost silent audience. Almost silent because Denise and Yvette gasp when Louise reveals how she had been treated by Raymond. Then the tears and sobs came as both of her Sisters leapt from their chairs rushed around the table to Louise and hugged her close.