The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 35

“Want me to come in with you?” Vin enquired.

“Perhaps I’d better go in alone,” May decided. “I wouldn’t want to overtire Auguste.”

“I should get back to the autodromo,” Vin conceded, “and see what’s going on.”

“If you see Florence, give her my best wishes.”

“Talking of Florence, it looks like she needs me urgently.” Vin scanned an incoming message. “I hope she hasn’t done anything rash. You know where to find me if you need me.”

Vin touched May’s arm in a gesture of support. May stayed where she was until he reached the iron gates leading on to the main road and she heard him drive off before she mounted the stone steps up to the main entrance to the villa.

“Sr Lombardi is waiting for you, signorina,” the housekeeper greeted her and led May through to the terrace.

Although it was a warm morning Auguste had a rug wrapped around his knees and wore a jumper.

“I’ve thrown off the shawl,” he confided. “My housekeeper is of the opinion I’ll freeze to death out here and without Florence around to keep an eye on me she has taken on the role of carer with enthusiasm.” He held out his arms for an embrace.

“I am sorry I was too tired to see you earlier. Tell me the latest.”

May perched on the edge of a sun chair, uncertain where to start.

“I know very little,” she admitted.

“Didn’t I see you walking across the garden with Vin Piace?”

“He came to see if I wanted company,” she explained.

“I see you don’t,” Auguste replied.

“I didn’t think you would want too many visitors.”

“You’re right, I don’t – and Vin will have more than enough to do dealing with the authorities. I am embarrassed to have caused such a fuss yesterday and you can reassure Vin the next time I see him I won’t interfere or start breathing down his neck demanding to know what is going on.”

Auguste seemed more like his old self, no longer annoyed with her and happy to sit and talk about recent events.

“You know the remainder of the festivities have been cancelled? I can’t say I’m sorry. I went along with Florence’s plans to celebrate my birthday because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings but,” Auguste leaned forward in a gesture of confidentiality, “I’m glad they’ve been cut short.”

“How are you feeling this morning?” May noted he had more colour in his cheeks.

“Rested, but my doctor says I have to take things easy for a day or two. From the noise in the background I assume there is activity over at the autodromo.”

“Vin’s gone back to keep an eye on things.”

“Perhaps you would be kind enough to pour out some water for me,” Auguste asked.

May added some slices of fresh lemon to the drinks.

“Thank you.” Auguste drank half the contents of his glass before replacing it on the small table beside his chair.

“I’m not tiring you, am I?” May asked. “Would you like me to come back later?”

Auguste sipped some more of his water.

“You have something else you would rather be doing?”

“No.” May gave a flustered denial, knowing how easy it had been in the past to upset Auguste and hoping she hadn’t said the wrong thing.

“Then you must stay and talk to me.”

May couldn’t help wondering where their meeting was going.

“The storm has done significant damage to the trellises, so my head gardener tells me,” Auguste said.

She stirred the ice cubes in her glass with a swizzle stick. Aware Auguste was subjecting her to a look of intense scrutiny, she couldn’t help wishing he would give some indication as to the reason for this summons.

“A while ago if you can recall we were talking about earrings, weren’t we?” he asked as if reading May’s mind. “Before other events got in the way. If I tell you the history of the earrings will you promise not to over-react?”

“As long as you promise not to have me arrested.” May spoke in a steady voice trying to control the rapid beating of her heart.

“Why would I want to have you arrested?”

“Because we both know they are not mine.”

“They were given to you and you should enjoy wearing them.”

“I can’t, unless,” May looked hopefully at Auguste, “you are going to tell me they really are coloured glass.”

“I’m afraid not. They are genuine emeralds. You see, they belonged to my wife.”

“It’s true? They are part of the Lombardi collection?” May sat bolt upright.


“You must have them back,” May insisted.

“What use are they to me? Jewellery should be worn, not hidden away. I want you to keep them and wear them.”

“That doesn’t seem right.”

“It does to me. Think of them as a gift. Hector gave them to your mother and she passed them on to you.”

“Do you have any idea why your son gave them to my mother?”

“I wish I did but,” Auguste paused, “no, I don’t. I think I told you we weren’t close?” May nodded.

“But enough about Hector – I can see from the expression on your face there is something else worrying you. Would you like to share it with me?”

“It’s my mother. I have been in contact with her.”

“In Australia?”

“She was there but she isn’t any more.” May was distracted by the sound of footsteps approaching from the far corner of the terrace. She turned in their direction.

“Who on earth can this be? I told the housekeeper I didn’t want any more visitors.”


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!