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Andra's Legacyby Sally Neary
PART 4: Greek Idyll – September 1985, Skopelos, Greece
"Who's for lemonade, then?" asked Diana, as she lifted the glass jug of iced homemade lemonade and began to pour it into glasses. A chorus of, "yes please," greeted her from the shade of the terrace; Lucy-Ann, Caro, Sue and her mother were all reading in the shade of the bougainvillea which covered the pergola, and Isabelle was lying full length on a sunbed, a short distance away under a sun-umbrella. Even in the shade of this September afternoon in Skopelos, the temperature was 30 degrees, and none of the party felt very energetic.
"The boys will be having a good afternoon boating, I expect," said Diana. "I knew that the moment we got here, Barney would want to be out in a boat."
"Well – the boat is a beautiful one, and I would like to go boating myself, tomorrow," said Lucy-Ann, lazily. "I can't believe how beautiful this place is. Not only is the house cool and lovely, but the gardens are charming. We will have to force ourselves to leave it, or we won't see much of Skopelos during the next two weeks!"
"There will be plenty of time to enjoy Skopelos," said Susan Lynton, laughing. "We don't have to do everything on day two, after all! When exactly will Bill and Allie be arriving tomorrow, Lucy-Ann?"
"At about four o'clock on the hydrofoil from Agios Konstantinos on the Greek mainland," replied Lucy-Ann. "It seems a long-winded way to get to Skopelos, but Bill and Aunt Allie wanted to spend a few days in Athens first at the National Gallery, primarily to see the Andra treasure collection there. They thought it would be rather fun to travel by hydrofoil to Skopelos rather than fly to Skiathos and then take another ferry."
"Why not?" said Diana. "This whole thing about the Andra treasure collection is a bit of a mystery, isn't it? The pieces were withdrawn from the auction in June, and from what you say, little has happened since."
"Well, Dinah has certainly been pursuing it in New York, and also through Denham's London office, and I know that Bill will be making more enquiries in Athens," replied Lucy-Ann, sipping her lemonade. "Dinah is convinced that the items were withdrawn from auction because she was making uncomfortable enquiries. The FBI are involved and investigating, but nothing has been made public yet."
"It will be interesting to hear what Bill has to say when he arrives tomorrow," said Diana. "I suspect he won't want to leave Athens without more information about the whole issue. I am sorry Dinah won't be joining us on this holiday, Lucy," she added.
"So am I," sighed Lucy-Ann, "but at least she had a holiday with Phil and Caro in Newfoundland in June. She obviously had a marvellous time, Caro."
"She certainly did," replied Caro, smiling. "She was so relaxed at the end of the two weeks with us. We had other house-guests and lots of visitors, and she loved the country and space of it all. I was also really pleased to see how she and Phil were getting on so well," she added. "I know Phil was looking forward to spending some real time with Dinah, and it was good for both of them. There wasn't one single argument!"
"Well, that's a miracle in itself," said Lucy-Ann, laughing. "Gosh, you should have seen them when they were in their early teens. They used to fight each other. I always got so upset, but it was always over in a short time, and they both just forgot about it."
"In some ways, they are too alike," said Caro, considering. "They are both headstrong and stubborn when they want to be. Luckily, I know how to handle my husband when he is that kind of mood!"
"You certainly do," said Lucy-Ann. "But then, you are very much on a wavelength. We all manage our men in a variety of ways, don't we?" She then bit her tongue, realising that Susan Lynton was with them, and she had lost her husband almost fifteen years ago now. How could I be so thoughtless? thought Lucy-Ann. She glanced up, but Susan was engrossed in her book.
"I would like to explore Skopelos town tomorrow morning," said Diana. "That would still leave time for a boat trip in the afternoon. Anyone want to come?"
"I would like to do a spot of shopping, dear," replied her mother, looking up, "but I would rather be here in the afternoon to greet Bill and Allie when they arrive. Have any arrangements been made to pick them up at the harbour when they get here?"
"Either Phil or Jack will collect them in the car," replied Lucy-Ann. "We can then all meet up on the terrace for drinks and hear all their news."
* * *
The scent of the bourgainvillea around this terrace is wonderful, thought Diana, as Barney poured glasses of wine for the party as they gathered for evening drinks before dinner. At that moment, Bill and Allie appeared on the terrace, looking relaxed and fresh after their long hydrofoil crossing from the Greek mainland. They had had time to unpack, have a rest and get ready for dinner.
"Isn't this charming?" said Allie, as she sat down between Diana and Lucy-Ann. "The house is wonderful, and so are the gardens. I want to explore properly tomorrow morning. I have my painting things with me, and I have a feeling I will be using them before too long."
"I am longing to hear your news from Athens," said Lucy-Ann. "Did you see the Andra treasure, Aunt Allie?"
"Yes, we did, and it looked wonderful," replied Allie. "Bill has some news, actually, but I will leave it to him to tell you the story."
"Tell us, Bill," said Jack, looking at Bill, expectantly. "You know we are all dying to know."
Bill laughed. "There wasn't a lot to find out at the gallery, because the Andra collection is still in tact. I was able to ascertain that there hasn't been any attempt from anyone to buy any part of the collection or any plans to sell. That is certain," he added.
"What about your other enquiries?" asked Philip.
"Well, I have some interesting news from my police investigations," said Bill. "I thought it was important to firstly check into what happened to Eppy and Lucian for that matter. I found out that Eppy died some fifteen years ago from a heart attack," he added.
"Well, that excludes him from being involved in this Andra affair," said Philip. "I had wondered if he was somehow involved."
"So had I," said Bill. "It was the first thing to check. The second was Lucian."
"What happened to him?" asked Lucy-Ann. "It must be over thirty years since we heard anything of him."
"Well, Lucian Eppy is alive and kicking, and spends his time in Athens, London and quite often in America. He is now forty-eight, and read ancient history at university in England, before training as an art historian. His uncle was an archaeologist by profession, but Lucian was more interested in the history of art – rather like Dinah – and developed his own business, buying and selling art. There is no history, as far as I can tell, of him having been involved in any illegal dealings."
"I can't imagine him being clever enough to do that," said Lucy-Ann. "After all, a successful rogue has to be canny and know how to cover his tracks. Lucian was such a wimp, although I know that sounds unkind," she added.
"I also ascertained that Paul Eppy's wife became ill after her husband's death, and was ultimately admitted to a nursing home with dementia."
"I was rather sad to hear that in Athens," said Allie, quietly. "She and I became quite friendly on the cruise all those years ago, and she can't have been any older than I am."
"It seems that Lucian looked after all his aunt's affairs after that, as they had no children of their own, and Lucian was the nearest they had to a son."
"Did he marry?" asked Lucy-Ann.
"Yes, but the marriage broke up after about ten years, and there were no children," added Bill. "I would guess that Lucian was not much of a husband."
"Lucian is not likely to have anything to do with this Andra mystery then?" suggested Philip.
"We don't know yet, although there is no evidence so far. The background as a buyer and seller of art is interesting, although was likely to follow that path, given his history and the influence of his uncle. He also travels quite a lot, and obviously spends time in the US, but then a buyer and seller of art would be likely to do that" replied Bill.
"Have the police unearthed anything at all about these Andra items in New York?" asked Philip, impatiently.
"This is the interesting part. It seems that the items were submitted by a private collector by the name of Andreus Panagopoulos, but the FBI have been unable to trace anyone of that name."
"The name is false, then," suggested Jack.
"Almost certainly," agreed Bill. "The items have not been represented since the auction in June, but the FBI are still checking, and also checking other activities at Sotheby's in New York, in case other doubtful items appear. The trails seem to lead no-where."
"That almost suggests that there is a clever cover-up going on," said Snubby, joining in. "The false name, the lack of trail – it sounds like a managed operation."
"It's possible, and the FBI have to check that. Art fraud is often an international activity, and Interpol have a database of all suspects and leads in all parts of the world."
"Has Lucian been questioned by the FBI, on the basis he had knowledge of this treasure haul all those years back? asked Philip.
"Not yet, but he will be as a result of these enquiries. I have ensured that he will be thoroughly investigated because we can't rule anything out, and there may be a link. We should know more before we leave Greece."
"In the meantime, " said Philip, "I know that Dinah is keeping a close eye on items coming up for sale in all the galleries, in case the Andra items appear again, somewhere else. She is also keeping the pressure on Michael Anslow at Denham's, and asking him to keep her informed of the progress of Denham's investigations. She is not going to let this lie," he laughed. "In fact, she has now bi-passed Michael Anslow and is dealing at a more senior level."
"Well, we can't do any more right now," said Bill, "and the only thing I am really interested in at the moment is having a relaxing drink here on this beautiful terrace, and contemplating an excellent dinner. What are we eating?"
* * *
"Well, now that the others have taken Snubby and Lucy-Ann boating, shall we start to get things ready for this evening," suggested Diana.
"We may as well make a start", said Allie. "We can prepare the flowers and keep them cool in the cellar. We can then get the terrace and table ready early this evening while Snubby and Lucy-Ann are getting ready for dinner."
"The flowers are keeping cool nicely," said Susan, "because I checked them earlier. "We may as well prepare them now, as they are the most time-consuming thing."
The three women went indoors to the utility area where the flowers which they had ordered for Snubby and Lucy-Ann's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary dinner had been delivered. Allie, Susan and Caro had spent some time looking at the florists in Skopleos town and had eventually ordered a selection of white flowers with green foliage for the table decorations they wanted to make. Isabelle, Diana and Sue had assigned themselves the job of candle-hunting, which they had very much enjoyed as they chatted to the delightfully friendly shopkeepers of Skopelos, explaining what they were looking for.
"I have just what you want!" exclaimed suddenly the Greek owner of one of the gift-shops which they had tried. "You call this wedding anniversary celebration a silver one, and you therefore need silver candles!"
"Do you have silver candles here?" asked Diana, looking round the summer collection of pastel candles on show.
"Not here, but I have my Christmas collection in my loft, and I have many silver candles!" said the shopkeeper in triumph. "If you can come back in half an hour, I will get down my Christmas stock and you will have your silver candles!"
"What a charming woman," said Isabelle, as they left the shop to have a drink while they waited. "The shopkeepers in Paris would not be as willing as she is!"
"It's a totally different environment here," said Sue. "Everyone has time, and the friendliness is overwhelming. "I feel I know everyone in this town already, and we have only been here ten days."
On return to the shop, the agreeable shopkeeper had unpacked various boxes, and presented a variety of silver candles. "Aren't they lovely," said Diana, in delight. "What shall we have, girls?" The three ladies had agreed what they wanted and carried two bagsful away with them. The shopkeeper had waved them off, smiling in pleasure that she had three very happy customers.
Now that the day was here, the rest of the party had taken Snubby and Lucy-Ann out in the boat for a picnic lunch, and they returned later that afternoon. "We have had a wonderful day," said Lucy-Ann, her freckles more pronounced than ever. "I wish you had been with us, Di."
"Well, Allie and Mummy wanted a rest today, and I thought I should keep them company," said Diana, smiling. "We will obviously have the rest of the day together. We thought we would meet for drinks on the terrace at around seven thirty."
"Lovely," said Lucy-Ann. "And until then, I am going to have a rest and a long cool bath. I'll see you later."
Snubby and Lucy-Ann walked onto the terrace at just after seven thirty, where everyone was already gathered. Lucy-Ann stopped in delight, looking round her. The evening was still light, but the terrace was surrounded in silver candle-light. Vases of white flowers stood on the terrace tables. Bill and Roger were pouring glasses of chilled champagne. "How lovely!" she exclaimed. "Now I know what you others have been doing today!"
Following several glasses of champagne and an hour of reminiscence and laughter, dinner was served, and the party moved to the dining-table laid under the pergola in the shade of the garden. There were two white floral table decorations and the large silver candles along the centre of the table had been lit.
By the time dinner was finished, the evening was dark, and the candlelight glimmered in the darkness. Bill raised his glass and proposed a toast to Snubby and Lucy-Ann. Snubby said a few words, thanking everyone for joining him and Lucy-Ann on this holiday in Skopelos and talked warmly of the twenty-five years which he and Lucy-Ann had shared together, of their children, and how their marriage had joined together two families which had shared so much love and happiness over the years.
After dinner, the party moved back to the terrace for coffee. The evening was still warm, and the sound of crickets around the terrace could be heard quite strongly. "Crickets are an interesting specie," began Philip. "Phil, please spare us the details," said Allie, "and please don't collect any as pets to take inside."
Barney had disappeared, and suddenly returned to the terrace, carrying a guitar. There was a cheer, as Barney was a very able guitar player, and it usually meant he would also sing, which he rarely did in private.
"As the evening is such a special one," he said smiling, "I thought we would have a few songs to mark the occasion. My first song this evening is a beautiful song which was written and composed by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein in 1939. I sang it at Snubby and Lucy-Ann's wedding reception, twenty-five years ago today, and I would like to sing it again for them now. For two very special people." He began to play, and his clear baritone voice rang out into the stillness of the night.
You are the promised kiss of springtime
Snubby reached across and squeezed Lucy-Ann's hand. He could see her green eyes glistening in the candlelight. He felt moved himself, as he had had no idea Barney was going to do this. "I should have guessed," he thought, warmly. "This is so like him."
When Barney had finished, the party erupted in applause, and Lucy-Ann rushed over to him and hugged him.
"My next song," continued Barney, "is from Les Miserables which will be opening in London next month, and which I believe will be one of the greatest musicals of all time. This song is one of my favourites from the show and will be sung by Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean when it opens. I wish him well."
God on high
Diana swallowed hard, as Barney sang. She knew how desperately disappointed her husband was not to be playing the part of Jean Valjean at the opening next month. If only... she thought, but we must remember that we both escaped with our lives after the shooting and we are all here together, safe and happy, and that is the main thing. The opportunity may come again.
As Barney sang, one of the house staff made his way discreetly towards the party on the terrace. He walked over towards Philip and spoke quietly in his ear, "excuse me Mr Mannering, but there is a call for you from New York."
Philip rose from his chair and walked towards the house. He looked at his watch. It was a quarter to eleven which meant it was a quarter to four in the afternoon in New York. It must be Dinah calling to congratulate Snubby and Lucy-Ann. Oh well, better late than never, he thought. She had promised to call. He wondered why she was asking for him and not Lucy-Ann.
Applause erupted once again at the end of the song, and there was a cry for more.
"I would like to sing one more song," said Barney, "and this is for Diana. This hauntingly beautiful love song was written by Cole Porter, also in the 1930s, and has been performed by no-one better in my opinion than Sinatra, who first released it in 1957. That was a special time for us, and this became our song. It still is," he added. "For Diana." Once more, his voice rang out softly.
Night and day
This time the applause was loud and long for the last song. Bill looked up and saw Philip trying to get his attention and signalling that he wanted to speak privately. Bill got up and followed him towards the house, wondering what was wrong. They walked inside and Philip shut the door.
"What's wrong, Phil. You look worried. Have you had bad news?"
Philip looked at him soberly. "That call was from my friend Alastair James in New York. Dinah has disappeared. It seems she hasn't been seen since yesterday morning when she left her hotel. No-one realised at first that she hadn't turned up for appointments, but she didn't make a dinner engagement last evening – with Alastair, actually, and Alastair realised something was wrong. He tried to call her at the hotel, and went there this morning to find t what had happened.
"Have any of her office staff heard from her?" asked Bill rapidly.
"No – nothing," continued Philip. "Alastair and the hotel manager went to her room and her belongings were all there, but she obviously hadn't slept at the hotel last night. Alastair and Dinah's office staff have called everyone they can think of in New York – clients, friends, and even her London and Paris staff, but no-one has heard from her. Alastair has contacted the New York Police Department. I think that something has happened to her, and I believe it's something to do with this art fraud case at Denham's. Bill, don't try and stop me, but I am going over there. I am going to get the first flight to New York I can tomorrow from Athens. I have to go – Dinah might be in grave danger."
"I am not going to try and stop you, son," replied Bill, gently. "I'm coming with you."
To be continued...
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