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Andra's Legacyby Sally Neary
PART 5: Conclusion – One Week Later, Hertfordshire
Lucy-Ann opened the kitchen door and stepped out into the garden on this sunny late September morning. Laddie, their black spaniel, followed her out, barking joyously around her legs. "No Laddie, we are not going for a walk," said Lucy-Ann firmly. "You will have another walk later this afternoon when Snubby gets back. I'm busy right now."
Laddie ran round the garden, as Lucy Ann walked down to the greenhouse to collect some lettuce and tomatoes and fresh herbs from the herb garden. She looked round at the spacious gardens of their Georgian home, which she and Snubby had bought some fifteen years ago now. How different it was now from the wilderness it had been when they had first bought it. On the day when Snubby had first seen the house for sale, he had raced home, white-faced, to collect Lucy-Ann to bring her to see it. It was a former Georgian rectory in three acres of grounds, having all the space they needed for their growing family, and situated on the outskirts of St Albans in Hertfordshire. The property had not had a makeover for about thirty years, and would need a fortune spending on it. But the character and charm of the house! The views across the garden wilderness over the countryside were beautiful, and it was possible to see St Albans' Cathedral on the horizon. They couldn't really afford it, but Snubby had been determined to buy it, and they raised the necessary finance, undertook the renovations gradually and semi-camped in the process.
But it had been worth it, thought Lucy-Ann. They had brought up their children here in a community which they had loved, and she had created the garden she had always wanted – full of beautiful romantic herbaceous plants which she had tended and grown over a period of years, and a scented rose-garden which never failed to delight in summer. She had also developed a sizeable vegetable plot which provided well for the family and which was her pride and joy.
We have been so lucky, she thought, as she collected the tomatoes from the greenhouse. How different her life had been from Dinah's. A feeling of sadness enveloped her as the thoughts which had troubled her for some time flooded her mind. Meeting Snubby, their marriage and the connection with his family, the Lynton-Martins, had brought her considerable happiness, but for Dinah it had brought the reverse. She had never discussed it with anyone, not even Snubby, because doing so would have somehow made it a reality, but it all added up. The expression in Dinah's eyes sometimes when she looked at Barney, her reluctance to join family gatherings, her distance from Diana, and the absence of a partner some five years on from her divorce; it was the reason she hadn't joined them in Skopelos, Lucy-Ann was sure, and yet if she had been with them, she would have been safe and secure, and not in New York...
It is all so totally and completely unfair, she thought miserably, cutting the tarragon and parsley which she needed. She carried her basket of vegetables back to the house, and began to prepare them. She added the tarragon to the chicken casserole she had prepared and put it to one side for later. There would be nine for dinner this evening, she calculated, as the twins would be home. She hoped there would be enough. She laid the table for three for lunch and began to prepare the salad.
She glanced at the calendar. Was it really only a week since their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary dinner in Skopelos? It felt more like a month. They had known nothing of the telephone call from New York until the next morning when they had all eventually emerged for breakfast on the terrace. Jack had greeted them all to tell them what had happened; Bill had spent two hours that night on the telephone to New York and Athens, also getting out of bed some very senior people in the British Home Office. He and Philip had already left, having taken the first ferry that morning from Skopelos to Skiathos to fly to Athens. They had then caught the next flight to New York, and had arrived later that night, New York time. Aunt Allie was understandably very upset and worried and would be staying in her room, as she didn't want breakfast. Lucy-Ann had immediately rushed upstairs to comfort her.
Bill had asked that they didn't disrupt their holiday and that they all remain in Skopelos as planned until their flights home on the nineteenth, three days later. Either he or Philip would call twice a day to tell them any news. The party had remained at the house for the next couple of days, as no-one had wanted to leave in case there was an important call. It had ceased to be a holiday, Lucy-Ann considered. Aunt Allie had got out her painting things and had painted for hours. It was her way of coping, and it had kept her calm.
Bill had called to say that Dinah's disappearance was considered to be as a direct result of her persistence in her enquiries at Denham's, and it meant that a full-scale investigation was now being undertaken into the auction house and others as well. He advised that Lucian Eppy had also been taken into custody and some very interesting factors had been revealed. "I believe we are uncovering one of the biggest art fraud conspiracies we have seen for years," he had said grimly in his call the following evening to Jack "We have the key players in custody, and we can therefore find out what has happened to Dinah. They know that a kidnapping charge is likely to land them in prison for an even longer spell than art fraud conspiracy, and so we are now getting some co-operation."
At five o'clock on the morning of the eighteenth, the day before they were all due to leave, the telephone had rung. Jack had leapt out of bed and taken the call. "She's found," Bill had said, his voice breaking in relief. "Apart from being upset and afraid, she is fine and well. She is now asleep at the hotel, here with Phil and me, and when she wakes in the morning, she will call to talk to her mother. I have a story you will not believe," he added grimly.
The relief had been indescribable, Lucy-Ann thought, closing her eyes for a moment. Mid-afternoon that day, Bill had called again, asking for Allie, and Dinah had spoken to her mother. She was fine, had slept well, and would be returning home with Bill in a few days when he had tied up all the loose ends. Philip was insisting on staying in New York before returning to Newfoundland until she and Bill had left.
Lucy-Ann looked at the kitchen clock. It was a quarter to one, and their flight from New York would now have landed at Heathrow. She opened the door of the conservatory. Sue was sitting reading, and Allie was painting. "It's all very peaceable in here," smiled Lucy-Ann. "I wondered if you would both like an early lunch. Bill and Dinah's flight will have landed now, and Snubby and Jack will be on their way back with them shortly. They should be back within the hour."
"I feel very guilty," said Sue, getting up. "You have been slaving away all morning, while we have been relaxing. Can I do anything to help?"
"It's all ready. I have just made a salad. Shall we eat?"
* * *
Just as the three ladies had finished lunch and cleared away, Lucy'Ann's sharp ears caught the sound of a car on the gravelled drive. "They're here!" She flew to the front door, and all three stood in the doorway, as Snubby's car drew to a halt on the drive. He and Jack got out, and they opened the rear doors of the car for Bill and Dinah. Dinah smiled reassuringly as she stepped from the car.
Lucy-Ann flew down the drive and threw her arms round Dinah, hugging her closely. "Welcome home, Di," she cried. "We have been so worried."
"I'm ok, I promise," laughed Dinah. "And I'm sorry I have caused you so much worry. Hello mother." She hugged her mother and Sue, and the four ladies went indoors, as Snubby and Jack collected Bill's and Dinah's luggage and followed them inside.
Lucy-Ann and Sue made tea, and the family settled down in the sitting-room. "I must say, you don't look any worse for your ordeal," smiled Allie at her daughter, "but I have a few more grey hairs than I had a week ago. I thought you had all had enough adventures in your teens to last you a lifetime, but clearly I was wrong!"
"I wasn't mistreated, mother," Dinah said reassuringly. "A panic decision was taken to get me out of the way for a while, but it has led to us unveiling the whole mystery, and I am going to leave it to Bill to tell you all about that."
"I can't wait to hear it," said Jack. "Bill wouldn't tell us anything on the way back, understandably, but I am ready to hear it now."
"OK – well, we were right in thinking something fraudulent was going on in New York," began Bill. "Dinah's enquiries and my own in Athens before we came to Skopelos led to some key people being investigated and certainly speeded things up. Unfortunately, as Dinah has said, it led to the panic decision to her being abducted. It was a huge mistake on their part," he added, "and wasn't taken at top level. It then became a kidnapping enquiry and led to the whole plot being uncovered."
"Lucian was involved then?" asked Jack, unable to stop himself interrupting and asking the question they all wanted to know.
"He wasn't directly involved in Dinah's abduction, but he is certainly involved in this art fraud conspiracy and one of the key ringleaders."
"I can't believe it," said Lucy-Ann. "I wouldn't have thought he had the ability to do such a thing!"
"Lucian Eppy is a very clever rogue," said Bill sadly. "He was always intellectually clever, and I recognised that years ago, but his character was weak, and he suffered the disadvantage of having been very influenced by his uncle in his youth. Let me tell you the story about him first."
"As you know, Lucian lived with his aunt in Athens after his uncle went to prison over thirty years ago. Paul Eppy was in prison for ten years, and it devastated Lucian," said Bill. "He was afraid of his uncle, but I suspect he had always wanted to please him, as he was the only male role model he had had, other than his school masters."
"He went to university in England, to study ancient history, and became particularly interested in art during his time there," continued Bill. "He began buying and selling art, although not islands like his uncle, trying to make money. After his spell in prison, Paul Eppy never really recovered, and he suffered ill-health for a number of years until his death fifteen years ago from a heart attack. Following his death, Eppy's wife's own health deteriorated, and she was admitted to a nursing home, having been diagnosed with dementia, as we already know. Lucian was given full power of attorney for his aunt's affairs, and that is when the trouble started," Bill added.
"Eppy had left a considerable amount of money, as a result of his buying and selling of islands and discovery of art treasures over the years, and Lucian now had control of it. He misused it, and illegally transferred much of it to a variety of bank accounts in fraudulent names over which he had control. He ensured his aunt was provided for, but by the time she died, some five years later, she had very little left, as Lucian had confiscated it and used it for his own purposes. It is only now that this has been uncovered."
"He was now on the slippery slope," said Bill, "because when people go wrong, they usually do it gradually. One act of dishonesty leads to another, and I suspect in a strange way, he felt that his uncle would have approved. He became involved in fraudulent art dealings firstly in Athens, and this gradually developed on an international scale."
"How big is this international activity, Bill?" asked Jack.
"Probably one of the largest art fraud conspiracies so far this century," said Bill calmly. "Not only have Denham's been a victim, but other key auction houses and galleries in London and Europe may also have suffered. It has involved a team of fraudsters who have engaged clever but unknown artists to fake works of art, age them up and sign them and so on."
"Was Michael Anslow at Denham's in New York involved?" asked Snubby. "I thought he sounded a very shady character from what Dinah had told us."
"No," replied Bill. "None of the senior staff of the auction houses were involved, but Michael Anslow had only been in place for three months at Denham's, and he didn't react as actively to Dinah's initial enquiries about the Andra treasure as he may have done, partly because he didn't want to rock the boat and suggest trouble at such an early stage of his appointment. Having said that," Bill added, "the conspirators planted their own people at the various auction houses, and two of them were employed at Denham's in New York, which gave them first hand knowledge of what was happening internally. It also meant that they were fully aware from the beginning that Dinah was stirring up a hornet's nest with her enquiries and meetings with Michael Anslow."
"Lucian must have been amazed to hear the name Dinah Mannering when it was reported to him," said Lucy-Ann thoughtfully. "He surely would have recognised it immediately."
"He did," said Bill. "He knew it meant serious trouble from the start, because Dinah knew the whole Andra story. He hadn't bargained for her suddenly appearing on the scene and pursuing her enquiries as she did. In fact," he added, "he gave instructions for the whole operation to close down for a few months in order to get the FBI off the trail. That is why nothing really emerged between the auction in June and my enquiries in Athens in September."
"I remember your saying, Bill," said Jack, "that you thought Lucian would be fully investigated during our time in Skopelos and we would probably know the outcome by the time we left. Is that why Dinah was abducted, because he was taken into custody?"
"Yes, basically," said Bill. "Once it was realised that Lucian had been picked up, a number of the conspirators at a lower level in New York panicked. Control of the operation was lost, and Dinah was taken from her hotel in what was ostensibly a taxi, but spirited off to a safe house outside New York. The implications of her abduction had not been fully considered," added Bill. "Lucian would never have ordered it, because he was clever enough to realise that it would have led to a full scale kidnapping enquiry which would have been more risky. He also would have known," he added, "that my inevitable involvement would have been very dangerous."
"The whole operation may have gone on for years undetected," said Lucy-Ann, "had Dinah not seen the Andra items listed in the Denham's catalogue. What a huge mistake to offer fake items from the Andra treasure, when the whole collection was on display at the National Gallery in Athens."
Dinah and Bill looked at each other. "You tell them, Bill," said Dinah smiling.
"Well, that is the irony of this whole story," said Bill slowly. "The items from the so-called Andra treasure collection offered for sale by Denham's in June were not fake. They are genuine."
There was a silence. "How come, Bill?" asked Jack.
"You will recall the story which Lucian told us over thirty years ago when we were on the cruise. A deal had been done between the two Kings, and King Panlostes had sent a fleet of ships carrying treasure to the mainland of Greece. Andra had arranged for the man she loved to intercept with his own fleet but no treasure had been found because the captain of the treasure ships didn't plan to deliver the treasure. He planned to abscond with it to a secret destination, on the island of Thamis as we know, and although he was killed, a number of his men took the treasure and hid it."
"Yes, but we found it Bill, from the map in the ship in the bottle," said Lucy-Ann, puzzled.
"But we didn't find all of it," said Bill, softly. "The map was drawn by some of the men who hid the treasure we found. A number of men were obviously involved in the hiding of the treasure, and some hid more of it on the island in a different place, and no doubt planned to return. No other map has ever been found, as far as we can ascertain, and therefore nothing was known about the remaining treasure. They were possibly subsequently killed, because they obviously didn't return to find it."
"Who did find it then?" asked Jack.
"Lucian," said Bill, "about ten years ago," smiling at the reaction of everyone, other than Dinah, who already knew the story. "Lucian knew the story well, and it seems always suspected that we had not found all the treasure involved. The fleet had included a number of ships, and hundreds of men would have been involved in the treasure's delivery, although many of them were killed en route. He returned to Thamis to continue the search on a number of occasions, taking with him archaeologists involved in the fraud conspiracy. He found more catacombs on another part of the island and eventually found what he was convinced was there – more of the treasure. The items which appeared in the auction at Denham's are just three of a considerable number which he has kept under lock and key ever since."
"Good heavens!" cried Jack. "I can hardly believe it!"
"The irony is that by placing these hugely valuable but fraudulently obtained items from the Andra collection in the auction in Denham's, he put us on the trail of the real international art fraud conspiracy going on in Europe and the United States," said Bill. "It was also partly the reason why Michael Anslow was slow to react to Dinah's initial enquiries, because their experts rightly assessed that the items were genuine 18th century art, and they were correctly advised through Lucian's people that the items had been found on a separate occasion on Thamis."
"I couldn't really understand it at the time," said Dinah, "because I could see when I looked at the items at the preview that they were genuine 18th century. I assumed they were just wrongly valued and described as being part of the Andra collection."
"What will happen to the remainder of the Andra collection now, Bill?" asked Allie.
"It will be in Lucian's interest for him to come clean about the whereabouts of the remainder of the treasure and to hand it all over so that it can be returned to the Greek authorities, and be placed with the initial items which we found all those years ago," said Bill. "Together the treasure will be worth a small fortune."
"Andra left quite a legacy, one way or another, didn't she?" said Lucy-Ann, considering. "All those hundreds of years ago, there was an agreement between two Kingdoms for her hand, a subsequent conspiracy between her and the man she loved, a further conspiracy by the Captain of the ships whose men stole the treasure and hid it, and two further conspiracies by both Paul Eppy and subsequently Lucian to find it. And that in turn has led to the unveiling of a huge art conspiracy in the 20th century."
"And directly and indirectly, we have unveiled it all," said Dinah. "One day soon, all Andra's treasure will be reunited and on display at the Athens National Gallery, and I for one can't wait to see it."
"What will happen now, Bill, to Lucian and his fellow conspirators?" asked Jack.
"The key people are already in custody, and the remainder will be gathered up, because the key guys will squeal to try and save their own skins. They always do," said Bill, drily. "They will be charged with conspiracy to defraud, and as one of the key ringleaders, Lucian Eppy is likely to have a very long prison sentence. His life is actually a very sad story, and a pattern which emerges all too frequently. He was a parentless boy from an early age, and his only real male role model was his dishonest uncle. Lucian was clever but he was weak, and weakness of character can be extremely dangerous."
"In my case, I lost my parents when I was six years old," said Snubby quietly, "but I always had Uncle Richard behind me and Roger and Barney ahead of me. They were three or four years older than I was, and I looked up to them both, and I knew if I did anything too mad, they would both be down on me like a ton of bricks. It made a huge difference."
"But you are also a very different person from Lucian," said Lucy-Ann. "It is also a matter of character, and Lucian was very weak, as Bill has said. You have always had very clear ideas of right and wrong."
"In our case," added Jack, "Lucy-Ann and I lost our parents when we were even younger than Snubby, but we eventually became part of a family with Aunt Allie, Philip and Dinah. And most importantly, we had you Bill."
"Absolutely," agreed Lucy-Ann.
"I can't even imagine the difference it would have made, if we had not met you that day Bill," said Dinah, looking up at him. "You have made an enormous difference to all our lives."
"I would agree with that," said Allie, softly, smiling happily at her husband.
"And you certainly all did to mine," laughed Bill.
"Presumably, Phil knows this whole story?" asked Jack.
"Of course," said Bill. "He flew back to Newfoundland this morning. Caro will be pleased to have him home, I am sure. I agreed we would call him to let him know we are home safely. We should call soon."
"My brother has been absolutely wonderful to me this summer," said Dinah, fervently.
Allie looked up. She had never heard Dinah say that before. Not ever. Well, well, well...
"Yes, he has been great," said Bill, "and so has Alastair. Alastair has been an absolute star throughout. It was he who alerted us to the fact that Dinah was missing, and he acted very quickly, which made a huge difference. He also held the fort very well until we got out to New York. I am extremely grateful to him."
"I always liked him," said Allie, "from the time Phil first knew him when they were at university together. It was a tragedy about his wife."
"Di, will you stay with us for a while, now?" asked Lucy-Ann. "You surely don't want to go home to the flat and be on your own yet?"
"I would love to stay for the weekend," said Dinah. "But I really need to be back in my London office on Monday. I have neglected everything here for far too long. I must then spend at least three days in Paris the week after, and I will then need to go back to New York the following week."
"What!" cried Allie. "Go back already? Dinah, you're impossible!"
"No mother, I am simply your daughter," Dinah smiled at her mother. "Tell me of one instance when anything that life has thrown at you has defeated you. Just name one."
Bill threw back his head and roared with laughter. "What can I say?" said Allie, smiling. "I rest my case."
* * *
Eight Weeks Later – Cornwall
I can't remember such a beautiful November day for years, thought Bill, as he drove through the country lanes towards Craggy Tops. It was late afternoon, and the Autumn colours looked spectacular as he drove along. He eventually arrived home and pulled into the drive. As he opened the front door, the wind howled behind him.
"Hi darling," called Allie from the sitting-room.
Bill took off his outdoor clothes, and opened the sitting-room door. Allie was sitting on the sofa, sewing. "Would you like some tea?" she asked.
"Yes, please, I'm dying for a cup," said Bill, sinking down into his armchair. Despite his attempts to give up his pipe, he still longed to light up when he was relaxing at home. No, he thought. I have made Allie a promise, and I am going to keep it.
"Did you do everything you needed to in Penzance?" asked Allie.
"Yes, I saw my accountant, and everything is fine," said Bill. "Well, as I expected, anyway," he said.
Allie made the tea, and returned to the sofa. She carried on sewing.
"Phil called while you were out."
"Everything ok?" asked Bill, drinking his tea.
"Yes, very well. In fact he had some very interesting news." Allie looked up at Bill over her glasses.
"Oh yes? What exactly?"
"Well, about Dinah actually. It seems that since she went back to New York after her abduction, things have moved on – between her and Alastair."
"What do you mean exactly?" Bill looked intently at his wife.
"Well, as you know, they met up in Newfoundland when they were both staying with Phil and Caro in June. It seems that Dinah spent a lot of time with Alastair and his sons and they got on extremely well. In fact since then, Alastair has been wining and dining our Di in New York all summer."
"I knew that he was due to have dinner with her on the day of her abduction," said Bill. "That's how he knew something had happened."
"Well, it seems that following her return to New York in October, things really took off," said Allie, "and what is more," she added dramatically, looking up at her husband, "he apparently has plans to whisk her off to Bermuda for a ten day holiday before Christmas. Phil sounded absolutely thrilled and said, 'mother, watch this space. I do believe sister Dinah has found love at last'."
"Well, if she has, there is nothing in the world right now that would make me happier," said Bill.
Allie looked up, surprised at the fervour in his voice. "I agree with you, Bill," she said softly. "I want her to be happy as well, and she deserves it. I do believe that the whole ordeal in New York may have been a kind of catalyst in her life, and has made her reconsider everything. I now understand why she was in such a hurry to get back to New York after her abduction. She wanted to be with Alastair."
"Well, I have no doubt she will tell us all about it in her own good time."
"How lovely to be still relatively young and in love," sighed Allie, wistfully.
"Isn't it all right to be relatively old and in love?" asked Bill. "Are you complaining, Allie?"
"Oh, Bill, you know I'm not. It's just, well, you know exactly what I mean," she said, continuing her sewing.
"What you are saying is that you love the idea of a wild affair in Bermuda, is that it?" asked Bill, looking across at his wife. "It could be arranged."
Two startled eyes looked at him in amazement.
"On one condition, of course" he added, "and that is that the affair is with me."
Allie's laughter rippled round the room. "After all these years, darling, I couldn't imagine anything else!"
"I am very glad to hear it," answered Bill. "And just to show you what a romantic old fool I really am – there is going to be a terrific sunset in about half an hour. How about us putting on our outdoor things and going down the cliff to watch it?"
"Oh, yes let's," said Allie, throwing down her sewing. "We haven't done that for ages. I remember the first sunset we watched together," she said looking at him. "Do you remember? It was when we were on holiday with the children at Mrs Evans' farmhouse in Wales when they were in their teens and had that hair-raising adventure. I remember sitting on the farmhouse wall with you one evening, looking at the wonderful view of the mountains, and watching the sunset then. In fact," she added, "I think it was during that holiday when I realised I was in love with you."
"I was well ahead of you, then," said Bill, softly. "Come on, let's get ready."
They collected their outdoor clothes and boots from the hall cloakroom. Allie picked up Bill's scarf and wrapped it round his neck. She put her arms round him and smiled. "And don't think I am going to let you forget what you said about Bermuda..."
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