The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 01


Sorry, darling, you know how it is – showbiz.”

Archie Fisher’s words echoed in May Maxwell’s ears as she peered through the wrought iron railings bordering the manicured gardens of the Villa Lombardi. There was no-one around. She wasn’t even sure she was in the right place.

The late morning sun beat down on her back and she was glad she had chosen to wear her biggest straw hat. Her flimsy sundress afforded little protection against the fierce Mediterranean sun and she could feel her skin prickling in protest.

If it hadn’t been for Archie Fisher she wouldn’t be here now, but Archie Fisher was yesterday. She wouldn’t waste any more time thinking about him.

May straightened her shoulders and turned her attention back to the villa. Its blue shutters were closed against the sun’s intense heat and the emblazoned flag on the roof curled lazily around its pole as if it couldn’t summon up the energy to flap and display the distinctive family crest – a red dragon breathing flames at a rock against a background of deep blue sea.

As May stepped back she heard the throaty roar of an approaching car racing up the hill.

She scooted towards a convenient classical Roman statue that appeared to be guarding the premises and, using the senator’s toga as cover, she peered out from her hiding place and watched the gates creak open to admit the driver after she identified herself to the security monitor.

The smell of exhaust fumes diminished as the sports car headed towards the Baroque villa. May watched the driver park by the ornamental fountain then stride up the front steps of the house before disappearing through the impressive main door that had been opened pending her arrival.

May hesitated. Would she get the same reception? Clutching her invitation, she strode confidently towards the gates. Startled to see her image leap into life on the monitor attached to the top of the railings, she paused.

“May Maxwell,” she announced in a positive voice. Her identity statement was met with a crackle and a request to repeat her name. After an unnerving wait she was informed her name was not on the list and her image disappeared from the screen. Fuming, she glared at the monitor and pressed the button again. There was no response.

She looked down at the scrawled note on the invitation she was clutching.

“One last gig,” she read.

The invitation was embossed, old fashioned, gold edged and printed in flourishing script on expensive stationery, the sort that didn’t bend after being crammed into a handbag for several hours. May had never heard of Auguste Lombardi and she hadn’t been sure what to do with the invitation. In normal circumstances she would probably have ignored it but after losing out on a plum acting role because the producer wanted his niece to have the part for which she had been cast she knew she absolutely had to get away from Limester and the invitation to attend Auguste Lombardi’s eightieth birthday celebrations had arrived at exactly the right time, even if it wasn’t addressed to her.

 

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!