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Friday, 17 November 2017

Beautiful Strangers: Chapter Sixty-Two and Beyond Midnight - The sequel. First Three Chapters.


It was Christmas morning. Penny lay on her top bunk staring up at the ceiling. The sounds of the prison dorm invading her mind, already some of the inmates were awake and shouting, wishing one another a Merry Christmas. Somebody started singing Oh Come All Ye Faithful and one by one several others joined in. Penny sneered in disgust.
Bloody fools! she thought, satisfied with a few paltry gifts. She was rigid with anger. This was not the Christmas she’d planned. Right now she should be enjoying the Caribbean high life with Felicity. Instead she was banged up in this hellhole. While the other girls had been placed in open prisons to serve their time, as leader of The Amethyst Group, she had been considered too high a risk, too dangerous. Her ten-year prison sentence would be served in a secure unit and it was that back-stabbing bastard Hyacinth’s fault.
But hell, she would still be a young woman when she got out and then she would find H and take her revenge. She had years to work on her perfect plan; a plan fuelled by flames of pure hatred. Not for one second did Penny consider that she’d been instrumental in her own downfall.
Swinging her legs over the side of the bunk, she dropped down and peered in at the sleeping girl who had arrived late last night to share her cell. Well now. She gently traced the outline of the girl’s lips with her forefinger, maybe there is a Santa Claus after all.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Beautiful Strangers: Chapters Fifty-Nine to Sixty-One


Hyacinth headed for the airy shopping mall in Inverness. She was on a mission. Earlier in the day she had received an intriguing text message:

Meet me at the Coffee House in The Arcade Inverness 11am my body awaits you x

She was followed by a police officer who alerted the surveillance team. If she was handling diamonds they would catch her in the act.
Eleven am and she was sitting in the open-plan cafe drinking cappuccino, waiting. She thought about Beth, tomorrow she would send her home. She knew Beth had no real feelings for her. Dorothy had confirmed that. How could she have got it so wrong? She needed a woman with some fire in her belly. Beth had that, but somehow she’d lost the control she’d had over her.
H checked her watch. It was almost noon. Someone was playing her for a fool.
The shopping mall had four entrances. Imagination had not been employed in their naming. North Avenue, South Avenue, East and West Avenue all converged on Central Avenue. And it didn’t take a genius to work out that The Coffee House was located here.
The place was alive, bustling with shoppers keen to take advantage of the seasonal sales. It looked like they’d come in by the busload.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Beautiful Strangers: Chapters Fifty-Five to Fifty-Eight


Beth read and re-read Lindsay’s note:

H struck deal, turned Queen’s evidence. P & others arrested. Help coming. Hang in there.

Sure this whole nightmare scenario would be resolved quickly, Beth tossed the note into the fire that H had so obligingly lit in the large bedroom. Then she climbed into bed, her thoughts briefly bordering on the hysterical, as she wondered if she should have eaten the note in true James Bond style, before falling into an exhausted sleep.
H was downstairs in the snug talking on the phone with her solicitor. He confirmed all members of the Amethyst Group, except Serena, were under arrest; the police were insisting she helped them to flush her out. H was furious; this had not been part of the deal. It was hardly surprising Serena had gone to ground after they’d cocked-up her arrest in America and had to let release her. They can find her themselves, I have more important things to do. It’s a pity Beth didn’t come to me willingly, but, never mind, a little reluctance on her part will spice things up. And I can always give her a potion to help things along.
Beth slept for over twelve hours; thanks to the sedative H had slipped into her drink. When she awoke it was early evening and she could hear voices.
H and Angela were sitting outside enjoying the early September evening. It was their voices that drifted up to Beth’s open bedroom window.
‘Do you really know what you’re doing, H?’ Angela said.
‘Of course I do.’
‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but I am concerned. Remember the rule of three?’
Stony silence as H tossed her head impatiently not prepared to acknowledge Angela’s words.
‘What you give out will come back three fold, you reap what you sow. Need I go on?’
‘I know what you’re saying, but I can’t help myself. You don’t really expect me to go to prison, do you?’ H flicked her hair back from her face.
‘How can I answer that? It’s not diamonds I’m talking about, it’s Beth. You are taking away her free will. We can’t do that. You know that it’s against everything we believe in.’
‘I have to have her, Angela.’
‘No, you don’t. If you are meant to be together, Beth will come to you willingly, not like this. I really don’t agree with it. In fact I’m appalled at what you’ve done. It’s disgraceful Hyacinth, how could you?’
This was the closest anyone had come to criticizing her for years and she didn’t like it, yet the element of truth struck its mark. She snatched her glass off the table and stormed into the house. Angela followed, not prepared to give up. The conversation continued inside, so Beth was unable to hear any more.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Beth realized she could have an ally in Angela. Better tread carefully though. Can I manage to play along until Lindsay’s help arrives? I have no choice until I get proof positive that Lou is out of danger.
Showered, and dressed in denims and a white cotton shirt, Beth went downstairs into the drawing room. Hyacinth and Angela were discussing the weather now and the forthcoming autumn solstice.
H jumped up when she saw Beth, ‘Darling, are you rested? You must be starving, come with me.’ She spun Beth around and pushed her towards the kitchen. ‘We have lots of food ready.’ Looking over her shoulder at Angela, she said, ‘Come along, darling. We’ll all eat together.’ For once she did not want to be alone with Beth; she couldn’t say why she felt unsettled, but blamed police harassment and Angela’s criticism for it. Whatever it was she didn’t like this feeling, it was alien to her.
To Beth’s surprise the meal and next couple of hours passed without incident mainly because of how well she got on with Angela. The television was switched on in time for the late news. Beth watched as the newscaster reported how the members of an all-female diamond smuggling gang, known as The Amethyst Group, had been arrested. The gang had been under police surveillance for some time, they had operated worldwide and the successful arrests had been made due to the co-operation of an unnamed insider.
‘British aristocracy will be stunned to learn Lady Penelope Corday, wife of Lord Albert Corday, whose shipping empire is on the brink of bankruptcy, headed the operation assisted by Lady Davinia Macfarline, better known to many as Davinia’s Catering. Her illegitimate daughter, Felicity, a successful event rider, was also arrested along with Alison Hogan, owner of the growing chain of Hogan’s Health and Leisure Centres, and Montanna Gilby from San Diego. Several other women are being held for further questioning at various police stations throughout the UK, including a jewellery designer from Cumbria, a corporate lawyer from the north-east of England, and a Swedish Au Pair.’
Beth hung on to every word, horrified at the mention of the corporate lawyer. How can Constance possibly be under arrest? Unable to trust herself to speak she left Hyacinth and Angela and went to her room. She needed to think.
A little while later H breezed in. ‘You see, darling, we’ll be fine. The police can’t touch us and we can live happily ever after.’
‘I doubt that very much, Hyacinth. There are practicalities even you can’t sort out.’
‘Believe me, Beth, there is nothing I can’t sort out,’ H replied darkly. ‘Now, are you going to promise to stay in your room or do I have to lock you in?’
Beth turned her back and walked over to the window. Frustrated Beth hadn’t fallen gratefully into her arms, H left her, and locked the door between their adjoining rooms. I’m sure Beth will see sense tomorrow.
Following a night of careful deliberation, Beth started to formulate her plan. Angela could be constructive in that. Not knowing how long it might be before she could have contact with Lindsay, she decided the only way to go was to lull H into a false sense of security. Knowing how H relished a challenge, she would delight in taking that pleasure away from her by becoming the demure, subservient type — a mouse. I’ll make Angela’s job easy and she just might relax her guard duties enough to give me the opportunity to contact Lindsay.
Over breakfast, Beth put her plan into action. Finishing up the plateful of scrambled eggs on toast, although they had nearly choked her, she spoke as if she didn’t have a care in the world. ‘I was thinking we could have a run into Inverness today.’
H almost spat her coffee across the table. ‘What? Inverness did you say?’
‘Yes, please, if you don’t mind. There are one or two things I need. We could go shopping together.’ Playing it cool Beth sat back in her chair.
‘We can certainly go into Inverness tomorrow, darling.’ H attempted to weigh up the situation before she continued, ‘We can’t go today. I have some business to attend to.’
‘Tomorrow’s fine.’ Beth picked up her cup and went to look out of the window. After surveying the sun shining on the Cairngorms, she looked over her shoulder, almost smiling at H and said, ‘It’s going to be a warm day.’
Beth’s calm attitude confused the hell out of Hyacinth. ‘Angela will be here soon to keep you company until I get back.’
‘How nice,’ Beth’s expression was tranquil. ‘I hope she doesn’t have far to travel. She should have stayed over.’
‘She’s just along the road.’
‘I think she’s arrived.’
‘Don’t give her any trouble.’ Frowning, H picked up her shoulder bag and hurried outside.
She spoke briefly to Angela, climbed into the old Land Rover that Angela had left with the engine running, then sped down the drive, scattering gravel as she went.


H did not return so the trip to Inverness never happened.
Angela stayed over. There were no telephones in the house. All the paper and pens were locked away. Hyacinth had searched Beth’s luggage to remove all of the diamonds, and confiscated anything she thought fit, including Beth’s mobile phone.
Oblivious to the day-time television programmes that Angela was watching, Beth stood for most of the day gazing moodily out of the windows watching the ever-changing light on the Cairngorm mountains. Angela felt desperately sorry for her, but was powerless to help.
The word meditation kept flashing into Beth’s mind. Okay, okay, I’ll meditate, she said to herself. I’ve got sod all else to do and at least I can pretend to be somewhere else.
‘Angela, I’m going to my room. I’m so bored I’m going to sleep for a while so please don’t disturb me.’
‘That’s fine, Beth.’ Angela continued to read her book while watching television.
Up in her room Beth lit a candle. She placed it on the floor in front of her as she took up the Lotus position at the bottom of the bed. She cleared her mind with surprising ease.
Focusing on the flame of the candle, her mind went off on its own and a vision of Lou in LA took shape drifting into her subconscious. Lou stood silently before her looking happy and radiant in her red silk dress. As that image faded it was replaced by another showing Lou working on set acting out one of the final scenes of her film. Finally she was home in her kitchen, dressed for riding, leaning against the Aga holding a mug of hot coffee as she often did. Beth could see it all so clearly, she was even able to identify the steam rising into the air from the hot drink. The aroma of strong coffee filled her nostrils and the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as she heard Lou’s voice, and felt her warm breath caress her cheek. A gentle whisper, more like a sigh. ‘My brave Beth. Don’t worry. You are not alone. We’re all here. Waiting. Help is coming and we’ll be together soon. I love you.’
Her meditation over, the tears cascaded down her cheeks as she gave in to the despair she’d been holding at bay since Hyacinth met her at the airport. Sobs racked her body as she climbed into bed and cried herself to sleep.
When Angela eventually came up to check on her, she was still sleeping. Reluctant to wake her and feeling guilty about her role as watchdog, she was determined to make Beth’s stay as pleasant as she could. After all, not even Hyacinth could keep the girl here indefinitely.


H slammed the sticky gears of the Land Rover as she skidded to a halt at the end of the drive. Bloody Angela always lets her estate vehicles go to rot. The brakes took hold just in time to stop her from ploughing into a line of traffic speeding north along the A9. Rackety old thing, it just about bounced my tits off coming down that drive. Suddenly laughing at herself she pulled out, crossing the now clear road, turning right heading towards Perth. Already wishing she’d brought the Mercedes because it would take her at least two hours to reach Dorothy’s in this old banger, but knowing it would kill the car’s suspension going up the long rutted track, she put her foot down and got on with it.
An hour later her mobile beeped. She had a text message. Pulling over into the next lay-by H stared at the words.
You think you are clever. I’m watching you.
She had no idea who had sent it. She didn’t recognize the number and wasn’t sure if she should ignore it or reply demanding an explanation. She decided to ignore it, someone had obviously keyed in the wrong number.
Crashing the gears again, the Land Rover shuddered down the road. If she ever reached her destination in this rust bucket, it would be a miracle. She decided she didn’t have to put up with it. On the outskirts of Perth she pulled into the Mercedes garage and thirty minutes later drove out in a top-of-the-range, four-wheel drive.
Within a short time she had bounced, comfortably this time, along the rough track to Dorothy’s isolated home. As the vehicle skidded to a halt her mobile beeped again.
Changing your car won’t stop me, the message told her.
H was astounded. She looked around, but there was absolutely no-one in sight. If there had been she would have been able to see them from up here.
Who the fuck is messing with me? What the hell do they want? It’ll be something to do with Penny Corday. I’ll make that bitch pay.
H locked the vehicle and went inside to be mobbed by Dorothy’s dogs. She had always found them a nuisance, but today was glad of their large, solid, Rottweiller bodies, sharp hearing and deep menacing barks. Barks like theirs should be enough to warn anyone off.
Dorothy greeted H like a long lost daughter, wrapping her in a great bear hug before leading her into the over furnished living room. In front of the blazing fire Dorothy had set a tray in readiness. She had baked bread and cakes. She loved to spoil her. The dogs were going crazy all clamouring for attention and were in danger of upsetting the tray.
H fussed them, ‘Well, Dot, it may have been a while but they haven’t forgotten me, have they?’
‘No, they haven’t, but then again, who could?’ Dorothy smiled fondly at the younger woman. She could still see H as the little lost soul who had stood before her on her first day at boarding school. Lost, but brimming with rebellion. As Matron, Dorothy had taken all of the girls under her wing, but Hyacinth had been special and Dorothy had been able to mould her and channelled her rebellion into productive energy. All H had needed was someone to love her and to care for her. Dorothy, in her role as surrogate mother, had done just that. And H had done her proud becoming a model student and Head Girl.
Dorothy had known about the affairs with the other girls. She had turned a blind eye. Love is love and it doesn’t matter where it comes from had always been her motto. Yet it had never come her way. Instead she had her dogs and she loved all three of them passionately.
And in her way Hyacinth loved Dorothy. She was the mother she’d never had and the one person H genuinely respected and trusted. No matter where her travels had taken her she had always kept in touch, sending letters and cards right up until Dorothy had been due to retire five years ago. Then Hyacinth had bought her this house and sent her the deeds and keys. Dorothy had been wise enough not to look a gift horse in the mouth and her home had become Hyacinth’s safe haven.
Bored, the dogs went to lie in the kitchen, and Dorothy fussed over H settling her into one of the fireside chairs. Then she sat down, poured two cups of Earl Grey tea and handed one to Hyacinth.
‘You must eat some of this food, dear. I’ve made it especially for you. I think you are looking a tad too thin. I know it’s hardly surprising with what you have gone through, but you must keep your strength up.’
‘Don’t worry about me Dorothy, I’ll be fine. I will have some cake though. It looks delicious.’
‘How can I not worry about you? You’re like my own.’
They both ate a slice of chocolate cake, and then sat in companionable silence until Hyacinth said, ‘It’s not going to work with Beth.’
‘I know dear, and it’s a shame for you. She looked beautiful in the photographs you sent me. The tarot cards told me that she’s not the one for you.’ Dorothy patted H’s hand in a comforting gesture. ‘But I knew you wouldn’t listen if I’d tried to tell you. You had to find out for yourself. You can’t force love, dear girl. You should know that.’
H nodded her head in acknowledgement. She couldn’t argue with Dorothy’s statement because it was true, and if Dorothy had seen it in the cards it only served to confirm it. Dorothy was a much wiser witch than she would ever be and had taught H all she knew about the subject. Dorothy’s white medicine was the most powerful stuff H had ever come across.
‘Someone is sending me strange text messages. Look . . . ‘ she handed her phone to Dorothy.
‘Any idea whom it could be?’
H shook her head. ‘No, but whoever it is, is close enough to know I’d changed vehicles on the way here.’
‘Why did you do that? Did you know someone was following you?’
H laughed harshly. ‘I started to drive down in one of Angela’s dreadful old Land Rovers.’
‘Say no more! Wouldn’t you think she would look after them better? At least upgrade occasionally.’
‘She has, or at least I’ve done it for her. There was no way I was taking that bloody old bone-shaker back.’ H wanted to discuss the text messages. ‘Do you think it might be something to do with Penny — with the arrests? I can’t believe what she’s done. Trying to set-up a diamond run when I told her it was finished.’
‘Did you tell her about The Syndicate and that your life was in danger.’
‘No. I tried to protect her, and she double-crossed me.’ H reached for another slice of chocolate cake, but held it mid-air, looking upset. ‘Why the hell did she not come to me and tell me that stupid Bertie was going bust? I would have helped her. Not him. Not this time. I would have made sure that she was all right.’ She bit into the cake, and sank back into the chair, ‘Wonderful comfort food, Dorothy,’ she said.
‘I’m sorry about Penny. You’ve been close friends for such a long time, but you have to move on,’ Dorothy said, ‘and that means you have to let Beth go, too.’
‘I intend to get my revenge with Penny. It might take years, but I will see my day.’
‘I know you will, and that worries me. But for now, my dear girl, down to business. Do you want to leave the diamonds here with me, or take them to a bank? I presume that’s what you’ve come for?’
‘No, it’s a social visit. But I think it would be too dangerous to move them, especially now someone seems to be watching me. And the police will be as well, watching me, that is, you know, hoping I’ll make a mistake and drop myself in it.’ She laughed mercilessly. ‘Are they still in the well — the diamonds?’
‘Yes, safe as houses.’
‘Good. We’ll leave them there. Thank God I took your advice and didn’t put everything into deposit boxes. If I had done the police would have all of them, and I’d be like Penny.’
‘I’m the best deposit box you could have.’
‘Do you need any cash or anything?’
‘No thanks dear, I’m fine.’ Dorothy reached over and patted Hyacinth’s hand again, touched by her concern.
‘Can I stay the night?’
‘Of course. You don’t need to ask. Your room is always ready for you.’
‘Tomorrow I’ll give them all the run-around. The police, and whoever else is playing silly beggars with me!’


Lindsay’s patience was running out. What the hell is taking Constance so long to answer the phone? Drumming her fingers on the dressing table she looked out of the hotel window across the main road that ran through Aviemore. Where the hell is she? Finally, the connection picked up.
‘Lindsay? Hi, how’s tricks?’
‘Why aren’t you with Beth getting her away from that moron?’
‘Hey, slow down. You know why. I haven’t been authorized to go in yet. As soon as I get the word you know I’ll be right in there. Are you here, in Aviemore?’
‘I’m at The Seasons Hotel. I booked in an hour ago.’
‘We’d better get together tonight then. I’ll come for dinner, book us a table.’
Over dinner, Constance brought Lindsay up to speed. There wasn’t a great deal to report. Beth had not left The Manse, and Angela was with her. Hyacinth had gone down to Perthshire early that morning, and Constance was awaiting information on her destination, and instructions on what to do next.

Hyacinth returned to The Manse later the following day.
‘Does Angela have a burgundy four-wheel drive?’ Beth said as she stood idly gazing out the kitchen window.
‘No.’ In her haste to get to the window, Hyacinth knocked her chair flying. ‘Good God!’ Pulling open the kitchen door she ran outside.
Beth watched as H wrenched the driver’s door open and her jaw dropped as Constance fell out of the vehicle into H’s arms. Now what’s going on?
Angela arrived and the women came into the kitchen together.
Well, it looks like our little party’s complete. Bursting to know the latest news while feigning disinterest, Beth walked over to the kettle. ‘I suppose you’ll want a cup of tea.’
It was as though all three had just remembered Beth was in the room. Gathering her wits, H replied, ‘Thank you, darling; thoughtful as always. Constance and I have a little catching up to do, so why don’t you bring a tray through to the drawing room for us. You will excuse us Angela.’
Beth loaded the tray with a pot of tea, and pastries. She carried it through and set it down on a low table beside Constance.
‘The police couldn’t get me for anything H, but what a grilling I got. They’re such conniving bastards.’ Constance’s voice was shaky. ‘Honestly, I almost admitted to something just to get some peace.’
‘Poor darling.’ Hyacinth said.
‘I heard a rumour they’ve got someone working undercover.’
H jumped up, nearly knocking the tray off the table as she started to pace the floor. That would explain the text messages — some smart arse copper thinking they would put the wind up her. No chance.
While H’s back was turned, Constance managed to give a thumbs up sign to Beth. That was all the reassurance Beth needed. She slipped out of the room and returned to the kitchen where Angela was waiting. ‘Shall we go for a walk? I could use some fresh air.’
‘Why not? Come on, we’ll walk around the Loch.’
Constance was alone in the house when they returned and because Angela trusted Beth with her, she was happy to leave them together. After all, she had a thousand and one things to do. ‘Tell H I’ll catch up with her later.’
‘She’ll be safe with me.’ Constance nodded towards Beth. ‘Bye for now.’ She just about shunted Angela out of the door.
They watched Angela’s vehicle disappear down the drive before Constance spoke. ‘I was willing you to get back before Hyacinth. We’ve got to get you out of here.’
‘I can’t go.’
‘Don’t be stupid. Go and get your things together. Better still, leave them. I told you not to get mixed up with her.’
‘Constance, you don’t understand. H framed me. She put diamonds in all of my luggage and I’ve been carrying them around the world for her. But that’s nothing compared to what she’s done to Lou.’ Tears welled up in Beth’s eyes.
‘Go on,’ Constance encouraged when Beth’s voice faltered. ‘Tell me.’
‘Somehow, and I have no idea how she did it, she planted diamonds in the lining of Lou’s handbag. That’s why I’m here. She’s threatening to say Lou’s involved if I don’t stay with her.’
‘Where are the diamonds, still in Lou’s handbag?’
‘No, I got them out and brought them with me. Hyacinth has them along with the ones she planted in my bags. I can’t trust her. She’s a devious cow. She could have planted anything in Lou’s bags. What if I missed something?’ Tears of frustration ran down Beth’s cheeks. ‘I don’t know how the hell she does it.’
Constance knew. She had poured over the suspects’ information long enough, from the so-called ring leader to the numerous minions willingly doing whatever Hyacinth wanted them to. ‘Probably a stupid statement Beth, so forgive me for saying what might seem obvious but, you do realize I’m still undercover?’
Beth managed a smile. ‘Yes, I haven’t completely lost my mind, although I want H to think I have.’
‘Good girl. Now listen to what I’m going to tell you.’
They sat side-by-side at the kitchen table so they could watch the drive for Hyacinth returning, while Constance talked.
‘Does the name Vanessa mean anything to you?’
‘She’s one of the minions we’ve arrested and she’s confessed to planting diamonds in Lou’s bag. Lou is in the clear. You have absolutely nothing to worry about.’
Beth heaved a massive sigh of relief.
Constance continued. ‘Serena’s arrest was the result of a tip off, but she wasn’t carrying diamonds. Someone just wanted her out of the way. Now she’s missing. We’re hoping she’ll contact H.’
Beth listened, but her heart was singing knowing her beautiful Lou was no longer in danger.
‘The lovely Hyacinth has turned in all of her precious girlfriends and Penny is to blame. It seems Penny is in financial ruin -- thanks to Bertie’s gambling — unknown to H she arranged a diamond run herself to save them from going under.’
‘A friend of Penny’s told me they were struggling when we were at Ascot. You were there too, but obviously not when that was said. I told H, but she changed the subject.’ Beth said.
‘Penny’s consignment went wrong, both the courier and the diamonds disappeared without trace. She lost her financial lifeline. She tried to set-up another deal, but wasn’t as clever as she thought.’
‘Go on.’
‘H trusted her implicitly and because she had no wish to worry her, or any of her women, she didn’t think it was necessary to tell them about The Syndicate; to explain why they had to stop smuggling in the first place. She expected them to accept her decision without question.’ Constance paused to take a drink of her now cold tea. ‘Penny hates H with a passion, but at the same time loves her so desperately she can’t think straight. Penny told the Group they were doing the runs on H’s instructions, but they weren’t.’
‘Because H had really stopped to keep them all safe. Right?’
‘Right. But H’s solicitor struck a deal, it’s surprising what can be arranged, and in return H sang like a bird. We’ve even got Enzo.’
‘He’s the man she introduced me to in Cannes.’
‘Yes, I know. I was in Cannes at the time. I spoke to you.’ Beth gawped as Constance continued, ‘I was the gypsy.’
‘Talk about a master of disguise!’
‘I’m an expert in that department. I’ve done my damnedest to keep you safe.’
‘I should thank you. I owe you one.’
‘Back to H. She needed to keep a low profile because she’d drawn attention to herself and her operation was getting too big. She was scared and under pressure. Penny Corday could have got her killed, organizing scams behind her back. The Syndicate had approached H.’
‘So, who are The Syndicate, exactly?’
‘You don’t need to know, but they wanted the Amethyst Group to either start working for them, or close down. They believed H had arranged a diamond run after she had promised to stop. They had no idea it was Penny. To them H was rubbing their noses in it. They would have killed her.’
‘I can’t believe it. This is so dangerous. Does Hyacinth need money?’
‘No, not at all. She has more money than Tetley have tea-leaves. She does it for the thrill, for the excitement. She needs the buzz.’
‘Penny has a lot to answer for.’ Beth said.
‘She tried to sort things out in the only way she knew. In a way I feel sorry for her. She’s lost everything. Somehow, and we still don’t know how, H found out what she was up to. I think Penny is lucky to be alive. A few years in prison and she’ll be out, able to start again as good as new, but Hyacinth won’t forget, or forgive, what Penny’s done. She’ll be waiting and planning some terrible pay back.’ Constance refilled her cup. ‘The sad thing is, if Penny had only told H about the predicament she and Bertie were in, then H would have probably bailed them out and none of this would have happened.’ Constance stood up and walked round the table to stretch her legs. ‘She still can’t let things lie. The silly bitch has got her immunity, and she’s in danger of blowing it. We have reason to believe she’s out there now trying to move diamonds.’
‘She’s going to end up in serious trouble, or dead. We’ve been tailing her. She’s been to Perth, and stayed over. Do you know who the woman is that she went to visit?’
Beth shook her head.
‘Her old school Matron. Has she ever mentioned her?’ Constance said.
‘Has she heard anything from Serena?’
‘Not as far as I know.’
‘We figure sooner or later she’ll make contact with H.’
‘Well, she hasn’t yet, at least I know she hasn’t been here. I want H to suffer for what she’s done to Lou and I.’ The strength and determination in Beth’s voice surprised Constance.
Constance gave Beth a potted history of Hyacinth’s life. Bringing a diamond into the country had started out as a game invented by her grandfather whenever she returned to school from South Africa. All she had to do was deliver it to his friend in London. As she grew up H changed the game to suit herself and the Amethyst Group was born.’
‘I need a coffee,’ Constance said. She got up and busied about boiling the kettle and looking for mugs in the overhead cupboards. ‘You look deep in thought, have you remembered something? I know you’re psychic and can see stuff. Lindsay told me.’
‘I see things that I don’t always understand.’
‘I don’t suppose you’ve seen anything to do with H in your visions?’
‘Yes, I have, but I don’t know what it means.’
‘Would you like to tell me anyway?’
‘I’ll tell you what I can.’
‘Go on.’
‘I saw H and someone very like Serena standing on a railway platform, they were facing each other. I could feel they had some kind of strong connection. It was one of the briefest visions I’d ever had, flashing in and out so quickly it was impossible to anchor it. The place had an air of decay about it.’
‘You are amazing. I don’t know what your visions mean, but just to be able to do that! Wow.’
‘In the last vision I saw a harbour. Or maybe it was docks,’ Beth tapped her fingers on the wooden table, ‘I can’t say for sure. Anyway, it was awful. I saw a man drowning in a car as it sank into the water. He was trying to get out. It’s hard to explain because this wasn’t exactly a vision. It’s hard to explain, but it’s as if I was seeing it through Hyacinth’s eyes.’
Constance caught hold of Beth’s fingers, ‘Please think. Can you tell me anything else?’
Beth thought hard. ‘It was dark. It wasn’t a holiday type of place. I think that it was probably docks. There were massive shadows, maybe freight containers, but I can’t say for sure.’
‘What can you say for sure?’
‘The man in the car — he’s dead. I saw him take his last breath.’
‘I think you may have unintentionally witnessed the courier’s demise. Can you try to be more specific, to get something more?’
‘I’ll try, I can’t promise though.’
‘If you can identify a landmark, or anything that would give us a location, it would help a lot.’
‘Okay, here goes, but I’ve never tried to do this before.’ Beth closed her eyes and concentrated. ‘I’ve got something. Yes, I’ve got it back. Good. It’s very dark, I can’t get a clear picture. I think I can see the freight containers I mentioned. This is difficult, it’s so dark. There’s a building, or buildings even . . . and I can see a ferry . . . and a wooden platform.’ Beth concentrated. ‘This is bizarre, but I can see shields, you know, the type like King Arthur’s knights had. There’s a royal crest and a set of keys. I think it’s a metaphor. I’m looking across a river, everywhere is lit up on the other side, bright lights shining from buildings.’ She opened her eyes. ‘I think I was looking across at the Royal Quays, North Shields.’
‘Bloody hell, that’s spooky!’ Constance was flabbergasted at the amount of information Beth gave her. ‘I must tell Lindsay, get them to start a search.’ She picked up her phone, and set the wheels in motion. ‘That’s done. I know it’s a lot to ask, but will you stay until the frogmen have completed their search?’
‘If it helps to nail Hyacinth, yes!’
‘Good. There’s something I need to show you.’ Constance took a small brown glass medicine bottle from her pocket. She handed it to Beth. ‘Do you recognize this? Take a sniff.’
Absently Beth took the bottle. What was Constance giving her a medicine bottle for? She unscrewed the cap and sniffed. Her mouth fell open. She sniffed again, to be sure. ‘What is this and where did you get it? More to the point were you there?’
‘Yes, I was there. Tell me what you think happened.’
‘What I think happened? What do you mean? H told me there was an orgy and that she has it all on film.’
‘There was no orgy. You slept like a baby. It was the drug. It’s hallucinogenic. Penny fed you some before H performed one of her magic ceremonies prior to paying the girls in diamonds for what was supposed to be the final time. Afterwards they dumped you into bed and left you there.’
‘Yes, but Petra . . . I woke up with Petra. I think we had sex, but I can’t remember.’
‘Ah yes, well that might be another story. Petra isn’t part of the Group. She’s been released from police custody. She fancies the hell out of you, and hates Hyacinth.’
‘Thank you for telling me about the cellar. That’s a relief. So, why did they drug me?’
‘Because you’d found them in the grotto dividing out the diamonds. You should have stayed in the ballroom, and not gone nosing about.’
‘I’ll stay, but I want to speak to Lou, now.’



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