Authors: Carl Leckey
Billy abruptly stood up, his chair crashed backward onto the floor. Ignoring it he left the room at speed leaving me in a dilemma. Should I also comfort Louise or should I follow Billy. As I stand up and hesitate Louise waves me towards the door making the decision for me. I find Billy outside the room leaning against the wall puffing furiously on a cigarette. He looks extremely enraged as I approach him. “Are you all right Bill?” I hesitantly enquire knowing full well he is upset. “Take no notice of me Scouse. I knew what Louise was going to tell them but I get so mad when I hear what that swine Raymond did to her.” Putting my hand on his shoulder I suggest as tactfully as possible. “I think Louise needs you inside Bill. It’s got to be hard on you, but she hasn’t told them she is Raymond’s Sister yet.”
He agrees and we re-enter the room Billy moves his chair alongside Louise gives her a hug and holds her hand. Everyone returns to their respective seats and Louise stands, she appears about to speak pauses for a moment looking at each of us in turn before she continues disclosing the family secrets in a hushed voice. “Raymond was my half brother.” Yvette stares at her wide eyed her hands pressed against her mouth unable to comprehend the enormity of the disclosure. It goes through my mind this is the first time I have seen Yvette speechless.
Louise adds. “The Marques his Father was also my Father.” A stunned silence follows her announcement. The first one to react is Paul. He leaps to his feet rushes to Louise kisses her and says. “Congratulations dear Louise you have the opportunity to right the many wrongs that evil man did to our family friends and neighbours. I couldn’t think of a better person to fill this post.” He moves to Billy shakes his hand and says “I couldn’t think of a better person than you to join her in her endeavour Bill.”
Red faced Billy responds with a mumble of thanks. Louise discloses something she and Billy have evidently discussed earlier.
“Well if Raymond believed he has caused me more grief by dropping this burden onto me he has made a big mistake by making me his heir. Billy and I have already decided I won’t be taking the title. We have had talks with OSCADA’s legal advisor Gunter. He has confirmed the legality of my inheritance and has also given us some excellent advice. It will take a great deal of planning and a little time to initiate but basically here is an idea we shall be considering for the future.”
She adds hurriedly. “Of course this is subject to discussion with the people involved. We intend offering to sell the farms and businesses to the tenants. The cash received from the sales will be used to convert the chateau into a grand hotel with a golf course. For those guests that like angling an excellent river runs through the estate. Using an idea Adam had when he acquired our beloved bus Pompey Lill. We are close to the military grave sites for those families that wish to visit the last resting place of their loved ones. There is a railway station about three kilometres away from the chateau.
Gunter has suggested we also have a landing field for aeroplanes.”
She laughs and explains. “He is convinced flying is the transport of the future. I am not sure about that but we shall follow his advice. In our opinion these projects will create employment and prosperity in the area for the farmers and villagers. Gunter has agreed to arrange finance if they are interested in purchasing their property.”
I exclaim. “Well Louise and Bill what a brilliant plan you have conceived in such a short time I congratulate you. I bet Raymond would turn in his grave if he knew what you propose. Don’t forget if you need a good architect to design the hotel and supply builders Marcel is your man and the OSCADA Construction Company is at your disposal.”
I add hastily. “But not until after he has completed my rebuild on the house by the lake.”
Louise informs me with a smile. “We have already decided on that, we should keep it in the family.” Yvette breaks her silence. “Well I take it he was only your Father and he was not Denise’s and my Father?”
Louise confirms this fact and explains. “It was evidently before Mother met your Father they had their liaison. The Marquise did want to marry Mother but his Wife would not divorce him.” Yvette considered this information for a moment before declaring angrily. “That’s you and Billy. Denise and Adam sitting pretty, what about Paul and me, has anyone given any thoughts about us in your grand plans?” Louise replies. “As a matter of fact we have. Billy is to continue concentrating on his garage and transport business.
I shall be handling the chateau business, with help of experts of course.
You know the Chateau has a large stable complex for the horses and coaches? If all goes to plan I thought you and Paul would consider running that as your own business. Of course I would sign it all over to you it will also include that lovely house where we lived as a family.”
Yvette is none committal she still appears hesitant. It is evident Paul is about to agree when Yvette enquires. “What about the coach business we are building up in Le Havre?”
Denise intercedes. “For goodness sake Yvette, you can get a manager in to run that business for you. I’m sure Paul is capable of overseeing both businesses. You would be his Lady with the lifestyle you crave. Just think Yvette you could afford to employ servants to cook and housekeep for you.”
Denise suggests with a wicked smile on her lips. “Yvette I see why you can’t agree. You are worried about being an idle Lady of leisure, I have an excellent idea. If you are looking for something to occupy your time while the servants do your housework. I am sure Louise will find a role for you when the hotel is up and running. You could be a kind of hostess welcoming the rich guests. Of course you would have to be dressed up like a May horse in very fashionable expensive clothes. Hmm! On second thoughts I wouldn’t mind that job myself Louise, I am the senior Sister after all.” The irony of her suggestion is lost on her Sister. Louise feigns a cough and conceals her face behind a lace handkerchief. I hide a smile and mentally give Denise ten points.
It is evident Paul is about to agree
Paul informs us excitedly. “I love the idea. As soon as you mentioned it Jacque came to mind, he is a good friend of ours. He was brought up on a farm with horses he already helps us out when we are busy. As a matter of fact he volunteered to look after things while we are away. He is getting married soon. I’m sure he would jump at the chance of running it and having somewhere to live as well. He told me he would be living with his in laws when he married Lucille. This is not a prospect he relishes.”
Paul grasps Yvette’s hand looks into her eyes and declares. “Please agree Yvette this is the chance of a lifetime. This is a dream come true as far as I am concerned.” Billy chuckles as he informs him. “Aren’t we the luckiest of chap’s meeting these women of ours?
Just think Paul you will have risen from a mere stable boy to managing owner and a man of property in such a short time. Me I shall evolve from a lowly truck driver to a man of business.” Paul beams. Yvette nods her head and reveals. “Yes we should consider it, but I want no loose ends mind you I want it all legally done.”
Paul hugs and kisses her with delight revealing his undying love for her. Yvette complains about his open show of affection. “Oh do be careful you silly thing Paul, in case you hadn’t noticed I am pregnant you know?” Everything appears to be settled, we send the page for Alec and his Wife. Father Peter. Gunter and his Wife also join us. The toast is our family’s good fortune and a poke in the eye for the evil Marques. We have an excellent evening meal followed by entertainment laid on by the staff. It’s just like the great times we had in the cafe in Le Havre but in far more salubrious surroundings. Next morning, Denise is still asleep when I sneak quietly out of our room. I arrive down stairs early to have a walk on the beach before breakfast. I enter the dining room for a quick cup of coffee to find Billy and Father Peter just finishing their breakfast. “Hi there you two, I’m glad I caught you before you leave.
It slipped my mind yesterday but I have to know. What’s all this about you being a truck driver Peter? Surely there is no threat to your position as village Priest now Louise is in charge?”
He smiles and explains. “It’s only a one off Adam.
Billy has to pick Oscars truck up at the German border.
I have made arrangements to meet my German friend there before bringing the truck back. He is arranging a load for the two of us on a trial basis. If Billy can find a cargo for him on a regular basis he has established cross border transport.”
Billy informs me proudly. “We have a full load of Scotch Whisky in the truck, seed potatoes in the trailer to be dropped off at the village. This is a deal I did with our Captain Bob it’s a joint venture of ours. It appears Scotch whisky, is very much in demand in Germany at this time. I reckon the poor Boche has been deprived during the war due to the blockade.”
Knowing Billy from old I feel the need to express caution. “What about customs and taxes Billy, I hope everything is legal?”
Billy laughs. “Trust you Scouse, always the worrier, believe me it’s all taken care of, seed spuds, booze what’s the difference. This is a bit of supply and demand? Isn’t that what you taught me about business my old mate? They demand I supply.” I evidently still look dubious when he reassures me by saying. “Would I take a Priest along on a dodgy deal?” Father Peter adds. “I have checked everything Adam it’s ok believe me. I think our friend Billy is as you English say, taking the pee.” I concede defeat with one last comment. “A truck load of Whisky parked overnight in the open, are you sure it will be safe Bill?” He assures me. “Go look in the truck yourself Scouse all you will see is spuds. I’m not that daft you know, this is a big investment for me it will help pay for the setting up of the garage.” Tactfully changing the subject Peter explains further. “Of course Billy will have to find a regular driver if this deal works out. I have some other personal business to discuss with Henrik. That is why I volunteered to go on the trip. Ha! The truth is I like driving and jumped at the opportunity to be master of the open road without a care in the world.” He adds with a smile. “Or so you professional drivers lead me to believe.”
“Oh by the way Billy where is our Louise?” I enquire. Billy looks a little concerned when he explains. “We have already said our goodbyes. She has gone for a walk with Daisy. Tell you what Scouse, go and have a word with her will you? We have been up half the night talking things through. I know she is worried to death about all this commitment she is making to the chateau and the villagers. We already had our future lives planned out until we had this lot dropped on us.”
I give Billy assurances. “I will certainly have a talk with Louise when I catch up with her I realise it’s a big commitment sprung on her and you Bill. But believe me she won’t be alone. We shall get the best experts in to assist her. You can take my word for that. We can’t have our Louise worried can we? I’ll make it my business to reassure her.” Billy looks relieved grasps my hand and thanks me profusely.
Time for them to leave I walk them out to the vehicles and see them off on their journey and I continue my stroll.
I eventually find Louise and Daisy on the beach. Daisy is playing a complicated game with a stick drawing pictures in the sand. Louise is sitting on a rock skimming stones across the water.
I approach and sit beside her and put my arm around her shoulder she leans against me. Daisy waves to me and carries on scratching in the sand. “Well Louise my dear Sister, a penny for your thoughts.” She smiles turns to me and says. “I haven’t heard that expression since I was a little girl. It was one of Mothers favourite sayings.” I explain. “I’ve just seen Billy and Peter off. Billy is very worried about you Louise you have had a great burden dropped on you, what can I do to help is there any advice I can give you?” “Oh It’s just me worrying take no notice. You have enough on your plate without adding my problems.” I admonish her. “Louise we are family your problem is my problem. Look you don’t have to take on all the responsibility you know.
Sell the bloody lot and you and Billy enjoy life with the proceeds.
Travel the world see places you can only have dreamed of. You know I am handing over the running of OSCADA to my friends and colleagues and concentrating on my personal issues.” Louise replies. “In some ways I would welcome the opportunity to do that Adam but there are snags. I didn’t mention this at the meeting yesterday but according to Gunter I can dispose of some of the surrounding property but the chateau and immediate estate are in some kind of trust to be handed down to my children. If Billy and I die childless then Denise and your children would inherit. We know Denise can’t have children so Yvette’s children would be next in line.” “Heaven forbid Louise, Yvette as a Marquise. Ha, ha. I am sorry to laugh at such a serious matter but could you imagine Yvette as top cat lording it over all and sundry. It’s poor Paul I would feel sorry for if it did happen.” Louis smiles despite her situation she informs me. “Gunter and Estelle have agreed to travel back to the village with me. I will make the final decision when we have considered every aspect. They are a nice couple I’m so glad they were here when this was sprung on me I trust them completely. She adds thoughtfully. “We are so lucky to have them as friends, especially at a time like this with this unexpected inheritance.” “Well Louise that was entirely due to my friend Oscar he introduced Gunter and Estelle into my life.” While saying this I am thinking to myself. Not forgetting my guardian Angel. Denise arrives and sits alongside us, snuggles close when I put my other arm around her shoulders. She asks. “What are you two discussing so seriously on this lovely morning, as if I didn’t know?” Louise and I brief her on what we have been discussing. Daisy wanders over kisses Denise and sits on her lap. Daisy enquires, “Aunt Denise may I come back to your place with you when Louise goes back to the village. I miss Pegasus and Grand Father and of course you Uncle Adam.” She adds hastily when she doesn’t mention me and sees my assumed disappointment. Denise looks to Louise for guidance before replying. Louise nods approval but stipulates. “You must not miss schooling Daisy if you stay with your Aunt and Uncle.” Daisy replies excitedly. “I promise Auntie Louise. Aunt Denise will make sure I go to school won’t you Aunty?” Denise agrees with a smile. Daisy continues planning her visit. “We can visit the park and feed the ducks and I will be able to see lots of my friends. I will make sure lazy Pegasus gets up of a morning.” She snuggles closer to Denise who couldn’t be happier with the idea. Louise whispers to me as we make our way back to the hotel. “I am glad Daisy has decided to stay with you I will be having a busy time when we get back to the chateau. I hope I haven’t inconvenienced you by springing this on you. It won’t be too much for Denise will it?”