The Mystery Of Anna Grace – Episode 17

Grant Thornberry was frozen. He had driven up that morning without so much as a winter coat or scarf, as there hadn’t been any snow forecast.

Seeing a handsome man in a business suit, Harriet was all smiles.

“Please do come and sit by the fire. Charlotte will bring you a drink.”

Charlie nodded.

“I’ll bring a pot of coffee. Dinner will be around seven thirty,” she told him.

“Wonderful,” Grant Thornberry replied. “It was kind of you to rescue me.”

“It was no trouble,” Harriet said, showing Grant into the lounge.

Charlie went off to see to the coffee and set an extra place at the dining table.

“Could you find him a jumper or something?” Charlie whispered to Katarina, who was making up the bed in the Weaver’s Suite with military efficiency.

“Go up to the box of lost things,” Katarina suggested.

Charlie went up to the trunk on the landing and found a pullover that looked about Grant’s size.

Just as she was closing the lid of the trunk, something caught her eye.

There at the bottom of the trunk was a book. It was backed in brown paper and someone had written on the front: Anna’s Book.

“Charlotte, there is no-one manning reception.” Harriet’s voice was sharp.

“Coming!” Charlie called, taking both the book and the jumper.

She hurried downstairs, handing Grant the pullover.

Charlie didn’t see much more of Grant that evening. She was kept busy answering the phone, as another couple cancelled for the weekend, then the neighbouring farm rang to say that they had a burst pipe. Robin went to help them mop things up.

Charlie helped Katarina serve dinner and, in Robin’s absence, Harriet was sitting in his place beside his mother, Mrs Cecilia.

Grant proved to be excellent company. He was explaining how he had been brought up in the hotel trade as his father owned several hotels near the coast, and Charlie caught snatches of conversation about mad guests and temperamental plumbing.

That’s why his name had been familiar, Charlie thought. She had stayed in one of his father’s hotels years ago.

The Anna Grace plumbing was making its presence felt. The dishwasher hadn’t worked since that morning and Albert said that a pipe had split and he would need to order a new one directly from the manufacturer.

So Charlie and Dean started to wash up the old-fashioned way.

It was nine-thirty before they got a chance to sit down in the kitchen.

“Sit and eat,” Katarina said, putting a plate of lasagne before each of them. “Remember that Harriet is not the boss of any of us.”

Charlie hadn’t realised how hungry she was. Dean wolfed his down. He’d been quiet all evening, though that was nothing new.

“This is wonderful, Katarina,” Charlie said.

“There was more than enough for the extra guest. I see he has no wedding ring,” Katarina pointed out.

“Don’t try to matchmake!” Charlie laughed. “Besides, I think Mr Thornberry was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and would be looking for someone posher than me. Like Harriet.”

“Do not talk nonsense,” Katarina said. “He would be lucky to have such a lady on his arm. Miss Harriet says she will not risk the driving home. She is sensible and will stay in the Butler’s Lounge.”

Charlie frowned. She always felt herself breathe a sigh of relief when Harriet left for the day.

“I’ll clear the pudding dishes.”

When Charlie returned to the dining-room, Harriet, Cecilia and Grant were all laughing at something. As Charlie went to take Harriet’s dish, Harriet didn’t bother to acknowledge her.

I’ve dealt with difficult women before, Charlie thought. Grit your teeth and get on with it – that’s what her gran would have said.

As Charlie washed up the last of the dishes, she wondered if she and Harriet would ever be friends.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.