- 36. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 37
- 37. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 38
- 38. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 39
- 39. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 40
- 40. The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 41
Vin cast May a guarded look as they lapsed into silence. Over the past few days May had seen little of him. Tish with her usual whirlwind enthusiasm had insisted on revisiting her old haunts. Auguste had provided a car and driver and together she and May had toured the area with Sofia.
The fairy lights cast shadows on the dark circles under Vin’s eyes.
“I have decided on a career change,” May blurted out before her nerve failed her.
“What have you got in mind?” The tone of Vin’s voice was not encouraging.
“I have an idea and I’d like to run it past you.”
“Is this anything to do with Auguste?”
“In a way. You know he’s retiring from the business with immediate effect?”
Vin nodded but said nothing. May had rehearsed what she was going to say but she knew breaking the news to Vin wouldn’t be easy.
“Florence’s accident unsettled him and when he found out what Rebecca had been up to he decided the autodromo wasn’t a good influence on her so he’s arranged that she should go to Milan to study fashion. Florence has indicated she would like to move there, too.”
“Perhaps a complete break would be a good thing for everyone. And this idea of yours is?” Vin prompted.
“I don’t know if you are going to like it.” “You don’t have to break the news gently,” Vin insisted. “I can guess what you are going to say.”
“I didn’t think telling you would prove this difficult.”
“Let me help you out,” Vin offered.
The noisy celebrations of a group of diners at a neighbouring table weren’t helping May’s concentration.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know or who you are related to. I presume your new job will be at the autodromo.”
“Is that such a bad idea?”
“As a filing clerk, no, but you’re talking about taking over from Auguste. There’s a big difference.”
“No, that’s not what I’m talking about.”
“And you want me to play nursemaid?”
“We seem to have got our wires crossed.”
“Before you offer me the job of second in command I’m turning it down.”
“Vin, will you listen?” May raised her voice.
“If Auguste chooses to put his granddaughter in charge of the autodromo then I wish the pair of you good luck. I’m not sure how you’ll manage without Florence or myself but that’s not my problem. Now was there anything else?” May fixed her eyes on Vin’s.
“Auguste Lombardi is not my grandfather.”
Vin didn’t move a muscle. “Did you hear what I said?” Vin remained silent.
“And I have no intention of taking over his job at the autodromo – or yours, come to that.”
“If you’re not going to inherit the business who is going to take over?” Vin demanded.
“I can guess who Auguste has in mind, but he hasn’t confided in me.”
Vin filled his glass with water and drank the contents before speaking again.
“I jumped to conclusions,” he admitted. “What was it you wanted to tell me?” he asked. Vin’s attention strayed to the view across the lake and May knew she had precious little time to get her proposal across.
“First of all I would like to tell you about my father. He was descended from Italian nobility. His family did not approve of his relationship with my mother. A penniless English girl who performed on stage for her living was not what they had in mind for their son.
“When they found out what was going on they sent him off to visit relatives in America. Before he went he married my mother in secret and gave her some money, promising to send for her as soon as he could.
“She gave birth to me in Milan but heard nothing more from my father. She waited as long as she could before the money ran out and she was forced to return to England.”
Vin slowly turned his attention back to May.
“Tish dropped her stage name of Delacourt and adopted a new name, Maxwell,” May continued, “in order to cover her tracks because she was worried my father’s family would come looking for her.
“She also feared the authorities might start asking awkward questions and link her sudden disappearance as an admission of guilt.”
“We’re back to the jewel robberies again, are we?”
“There was no way she could check up on her husband and she didn’t dare tell anyone she was married.”
“So no-one ever knew about him?”
“Eventually she received notification from an American law firm. Somehow they had managed to track her down. They informed her that my father had died. He had left her a small annuity but there was nothing else.”
“And the earrings?”
“Hector gave them to Sofia. She hid them in Tish’s things because she was scared she would get arrested.”
“And your mother kept them?”
“She struggled with her conscience, debating whether or not to mail them back to Auguste but she didn’t want him finding out where she was and in the end she decided to give them to me as a birthday present.
“Of course, she had no idea I would come out here and wear them for Auguste’s birthday party.”
The restaurant lurched as a passing speedboat disturbed the restaurant’s moorings.
“So there you have it.” May gave a shaky smile.
“Was Auguste disappointed to find out you weren’t his granddaughter?”
“I think he was.”
“I have promised to stay on here, if you agree.”
“If I agree to what?”