The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 34

“We are going to have at least one more guest,” May recalled her conversation with Tish.

“Who?” Vin asked.

“My mother.”

“I thought she was in Australia.” With an exhausted expression on his face Vin leaned back and closed his eyes.

“She’s home.” May paused, debating how to update Vin on the situation with her mother. She glanced at him. His head had fallen forward and he had fallen asleep. May snatched up the ringing telephone before it could disturb Vin.

“Signorina Maxwell? This is the housekeeper. Sr Lombardi would like to see you. Would tomorrow morning at eleven o’clock suit you?”

“I’ll be there,” May replied.

   *    *    *    *

“Good morning.”

May jumped at the sound of Vin’s voice behind her.

“What are you doing here?” She spun round. “I thought you would be tied up with the race track officials all day.”

“I had to clear my head so I left them to it for a while.”

“Have you made any progress?”

“Not that you would notice so I’m here now to make sure nothing disastrous happens to you.”

“I think I can manage the short walk across the gardens on my own.”

“I’m sure you can but I also want to thank you for your hospitality yesterday and to say I’m sorry I fell asleep on you. It was not polite behaviour.”

“Eating olives, peaches and mozzarella cheese washed down with red wine is not something I do very often, either,” May admitted.

When Vin had stirred from his deep sleep May had been sitting opposite him catching up on her e-mails. Neither of them felt like eating much supper and not wanting to disturb the kitchen staff, May had salvaged what she could from the small fridge in her kitchenette and the two of them had settled on the sofa, sharing plates of cheese and olives and glasses of red wine.

Later after Vin had left, May relaxed in a scented bath before slipping between the fresh cotton sheets of her large double bed. The lingering aroma of the sweet orange oil sent her into a deep and dreamless sleep, which wasn’t disturbed until one of the maids delivered a morning tray of tea.

Uncertain what to wear for her forthcoming meeting with Auguste she had opted for traditional casual and chosen a button-through dress of pale green cheesecloth, a long-time favourite of hers and one she felt comfortable wearing. The housekeeper had assured her that Auguste had passed a restful night and was looking forward to seeing her.

“Have you spoken to Auguste since the accident?” May asked as they headed towards the pathway leading to the camellia garden.

Vin shook his head.

“I couldn’t get past his housekeeper.”

He fell into step beside May as they crossed the freshly clipped lawn and strolled in the direction of the villa.

The tang of fresh lemons drifted over from the small orchard on the south side of the garden. May hoped the trees had been sturdy enough to withstand the strength of yesterday’s storm and the fallen fruit wouldn’t lie rotting and unforgotten on the grass.

She momentarily closed her eyes in an attempt to commit all the sights and sounds and smells of the villa to memory. This could possibly be her last day in Bella Acqua and she didn’t want to forget a thing.

“What time do you think she will arrive?” Vin asked.

“It’s difficult to say. She can be unpredictable. She was annoyed over what I’d done and I don’t think she wanted to return to Bella Acqua, but for some reason she had a change of heart.”

“It must have been a big decision for her.”

“I’m sure we’ll see her – sooner or later.”

“I know very little about her despite all the rumours and gossip. What is she really like?”

“It’s difficult to know where to start. When I was a child she would host impromptu parties. Mothers would come to our house expecting to collect their children and find Tish had taken us all off for a skate boarding session or a ride on a roller coaster.

“My grandparents were always making excuses for her. She loved a good protest too. If something didn’t please her she didn’t hesitate to stir up local officials.” The ghost of a smile hovered on May’s lips.

“She was very different from other people’s mothers. That’s why it’s so difficult to be cross with her for long. I just wish she had told me more about her past,” May added wistfully.

“You love her very much, don’t you?” Vin spoke in a soft voice.

“Of course I do but before I came out here I didn’t understand what motivated her.”

“And now you do?”

“I have a better idea of what she went through with Lis and Florence and why she’s always challenged authority but I can’t believe she would go as far as breaking the law. She’s not a thief.”

In the distance the sound of a car revving up on the autodromo circuit disturbed the butterflies sunning themselves in the wildflower garden.

“Looks like we’re in action again,” Vin said.

May jerked herself back to the present.

“Have the authorities finished their enquiries already?”

“They haven’t officially started them.”

“Perhaps you should go and find out what’s happening.”

“We have been granted a provisional licence so I don’t think there’s any infringement of regulations going on. I don’t know how Florence did it but she has charmed the safety marshal into verifying her version of events.

“She told him she skidded on an earlier oil spill and that caused the accident and he’s allowed us to carry on with our routine activities on a temporary basis. Auguste has a good local reputation and Florence used that to argue her case.”

“Surely she hasn’t been interviewed already.”

“She insisted on it.”

“In hospital?”

“She’s home. She discharged herself and she was on the telephone to the authorities first thing this morning.”



Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!