Posted on 2011-05-02
An outdoor café on a Greek island.
"So, how is my pretty sister-in-law feeling?"
Charles Bingley an extremely amiable man of thirty two years, assisted his wife of 367 days to her chair on the patio where he had been enjoying the Mediterranean air while waiting for his wife Jane to complete her call with her sister in the States. Celebrating their one-year anniversary by touring in the Greek Islands, the two were sharing a late lunch at a posh hotel overlooking the Aegean. Jane Bennet Bingley replied only after receiving three quick kisses from her husband.
"She is greatly anticipating her visit with us. Mom and Dad are finally relaxing, with Dad finishing his rehab for his hip. Lizzy sounds like a weight has been taken off her shoulder. I just wish I could have been more help to her with Dad."
"Well, it is like she said, no sense both of you being there, and this way she comes to visit us. When is she arriving?"
"Wednesday morning on the Redeye."
" Did you tell her we won't be back until late Saturday?"
"She knows, but that was the best air fare she could get, and she said she would do a little touring while adjusting to the time change. You know how adventuresome she is. She has already booked a tour and has decided to take the train to Disley on Friday, from Netherfield."
"Her dartboard made her do it."
In answer to his raised eyebrows and the unasked question Jane continued.
"She put up a folded map of Europe and tried to aim a dart at someplace in the UK that would be on the National Trust list of places to visit and her dart landed in an appropriate place."
"It landed on Disley?"
"Well no. It landed near EuroDisney outside Paris, so she found something acceptable by changing the 'N' to an 'L' and Voila, Disley and Lyme Hall."
After they both stopped laughing, Charles said, "It will be good to see her again. Can't wait to introduce Darcy to her."
"Now Charles, don't go match making. Neither of them will appreciate it."
"I am not matchmaking love, just having her meet some of my friends. It will do Darcy good to socialize a little more than he has been of late. The man does nothing but work. Besides they would have met at our wedding if he hadn't had a family emergency. Did you tell her that Nicholls will meet her flight at Heathrow."
Laughing she answered.
"Yes, and she was delighted with the idea of having her own man, meeting her at the airport."
The couple finished their meal and left the patio never noticing the man sitting at the table next to them. George Wickham wearing large sunglasses and a Panama hat had seen Bingley and followed him out to the patio arranging to sit within earshot of their entire conversation. He had kept his back to them the entire time with his newspaper open while he slowly nursed his drink. Unnoticed he heard the whole conversation.
So Bingley's sister-in-law, Lizzy something, is to visit Disley on Friday. Well there is more than one way to skin a cat. If she is half the looker her sister is, this could be a pleasurable few days.
With that thought in mind he immediately made calls, first to Harriet in Ramsgate and then Denny in Liverpool. He had been thwarted in his kidnapping attempt of Georgianna Darcy, the previous year. Fortunately both Harriet and he had escaped with their identities unknown. Since then he had stayed in the Mediterranean area seducing rich women on holiday. He had first seen the Bingley's the previous day, and kept to his disguise and sunglasses while gathering any further information from them he could. He had met Charles Bingley only once at a Holiday party at some 4 years earlier and felt confident he was not recognized by the friend of his former employer, William Darcy.
Elizabeth Bennett was enjoying her impromptu train trip. She had wanted to visit some of the British Trust Sites on her vacation and was delighted not to put her sister or brother in law to any trouble for this little daytrip. As it was Charles had his man, Mr. Nicholls, drive her to the most convenient train station early this morning, ensuring no delays for her tour reservation to Lyme Hall.
It felt good to relax after the last few months. Two years in Nicaragua with the Peace Corp had been an adventure she was glad to have taken. She taught English as a second language to students also learning the hospitality business. She spent the next year and a half obtaining her Master's in English literature. Then when her father needed to have hip replacement surgery her Mother pleaded with her to move to their retirement home in South Carolina to help with his Physical Therapy. Helping her father was no problem; after all, he did all the work. All she did was drive him to the physical therapy department, something that could have been accomplished with the local shuttle service. Trying to keep her mother's nerves calm was a different story, but that is as it always was. Nothing new there.
She was pleased to see the quality of their new life. There were enough activities and facilities at their very nice 55+ Community to keep both her parents active and both her parents seemed to be thriving. It was nice to not worry about anything more than which pool to swim in or which book store she and her Dad would visit in the low country coastal area between Charleston and Savannah, GA.
That was the real reason Tom Bennett wanted his second daughter to come visiting, so that the two could take side trips of discovery of the area more to his liking than what his wife would have enjoyed.
Her father, a retired History professor from a small private college in Pennsylvania, had confided in her he wanted to move to this 55+ community to escape the cold winters and to ensure that her two youngest sisters could not move back home whenever their poor planning found them short of cash. Kitty and Lydia had part time jobs and shared an apartment together in Philadelphia, while they decided what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives. Kitty at least had finished 2 years of college and was working part time in an accounting office; Lydia dropped out her first semester for lack of interest, but recently enrolled in a cosmetology school. Lizzy felt this was something Lydia could excel in. She always loved to fix peoples hair and make-up. It made her feel good to have someone look better or at least "with it". Mary, now a nurse, had joined a missionary group and was in West Africa. Her letters had been both fascinating and heart breaking.
By community Rules and Regulations someone under 55 could only visit for a set number of days, and Elizabeth had reached her maximum, therefore her mother couldn't pressure her to stay longer. This made it very easy for Jane to convince her to take a vacation in England and stay with them while she took a breather before hunting for a job.
She knew that Charles was well off, but upon seeing Netherfield, his country home, Elizabeth was somewhat intimidated. She now knew why her sister downplayed Charles' wealth. If her mother saw this palatial home, she would become Mrs. Bennett, the Woman who came for dinner and never left.
Thursday she spent becoming aquainted with Netherfield and its houskeepers. The Nicholls's were in their young fifties, he was retired from the military and they had two sons who lived and worked in the area. She went for a walk into the little village carrying the cell phone, or mobile as the British termed it, Charles insisted she have while visiting them.
She retired early but had barely eaten before getting a good night's sleep. After a small breakfast Mrs. Nicholls gave her a snack to take with her to enjoy on the train. There was a bus at the train depot to take tourists to the National Trust site, Lyme Hall, so it was all working out quite well.
Contrary to the supposed cold reserved reputation of the English, she had met with friendly fellow passengers. One in particular, Mrs. Harriet Younge, a tall woman who appeared to be in her mid thirties, sat with her on the bus, helped to explain some of the Briticisms to her. After a delightful tour viewing what was opened to the public that day Lizzy who had not eaten since her snack on the train stated she was going to stop for lunch at a nice looking pub near the train station. Her appetite had been piqued by an Ad for a full British breakfast and while it sounded a bit more than what she was use to eating, the aroma and the warmth of the pub was enough to encourage her. Mrs. Younge agreed to join her saying that she too was 'a wee bit' hungry.
It was after 2:30 p.m. as she walked back to the train station when Lizzy started to feel ill and very dizzy. Harriet led her to a car where she had her sit and rest. Then Mrs Younge quickly buckled her up and headed out of Disley toward the Motorway. Just as they turned west on the M60, Lizzy feeling drowsy and queasy called out.
"Oh I feel so sick, I... I need a restroom."
With fluctuating bouts of drowsiness, nausea and a feeling like she would upchuck her lunch she repeated her need for a restroom. Mrs. Younge was not listening to her but appeared to be conversing with someone by phone.
"I need, I need to get to a rest room, I'm going to vomit and I need a bathroom."
"Georgie, Sweetie I don't care what plans you made. I am stopping at the next rest stop. She's about ready to barf her lunch, and I'll not have this chit get my clean car all dirty and smelly. She must have sampled everything at that place. I'll call after we are on the road again. Why you couldn't deign to come back to help is still beyond me. Next time I ain't goin it alone. What? Oh all right before I start driving, I'll call, don't worry, I won't give the coppers any reason to notice me. I should reach Liverpool within thirty or so minutes."
"Well next time, you can come and put it in her tea. Maybe there's something wrong with the drugs Denny brewed. He ain't always Mr. Reliable, ya know. And he was supposed to stick around, not high tail it back to Liverpool. He just better have that boat ready when I get there. And my share in the money we get had better be more than a third, since I am doing all the work here. Right now I'm telling ya she ain't unconscious, and I'm not about to let her mess up my car."
A few minutes later Harriet Younge, parked at a rest stop, put on a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses and then was quick to assist her passenger out of the car. Lizzy was so disoriented she had to lean heavily on her while walking to the loo. Fortunately it appeared nearly empty.
"Listen missy, you can hold it till I get you inside this stall. Just be glad I didn't leave you out at the side of the road, dearie."
A young woman that had just walked out of a stall in the restroom froze at the sound of Harriet Younge's voice.
Oh my God, it's her!
Posted on 2011-05-15
3:10 Friday afternoon,
Service Station off M 60
Oh my God, it's her!
The same voice, almost the same words she said to me last year.
"Just be glad I don't leave you by the side of the road, Dearie."
Georgiana Darcy was tired of feeling vulnerable. She may have never been bold but this constant worry about someone coming after her was frustrating and wearisome. Her drugging and attempted kidnapping the year before had both scared and angered her.
13 Months Earlier.
After a 3-day course on watercolor painting in the little town of Broadstairs, Georgie was in really good spirits. Her schoolmate Clarice Moody and she had shared a hotel room and enjoyed both the course and the local ambience. Their paintings varied from the chalk cliffs of Botany and Kingsgate Bays, to York Gate Arch and Bleak House.
They went clubbing for two nights, the first night in Ramsgate, the second night they stayed in Broadstairs.The fourth day Clarice was meeting some friends to go for a trek from Margate to Ramsgate, and would be off early in the morning. Teasing Georgie, the last thing she said before she left was,
"You never know, Georgie, if our timing is right, we just might join you for lunch. It's not too posh a place, they let all sorts of stragglers and tourists in."
"Yes, but do you truly want to meet my aunt Catherine? I don't think so."
When her Aunt Catherine had discovered that Georgiana was so close by to her home in Rosings Park, she insisted on having lunch with her niece. Knowing not to upset her aunt by being late she arrived early at the restaurant that her aunt had chosen. Georgie ordered some tea and was reading some tourist information when she started to not feel quite right.
Arising from her chair, a woman seated nearby offered assistance and the last they were seen was as they walked out the back to get Georgie some air.
Catherine deBourgh was very upset with the condition of the English roads that day. There had been an accident, which backed traffic up for a considerable time, and this she took as a personal affront. As Mr. Collins, her driver, was finally able to pull up in front of the restaurant, she became more upset to not find her niece. This was not to be borne. Georgiana knew better than to keep her waiting.
Not seeing her niece she did however see a tall young man who looked familiar to her. As he was talking with one of the restaurant waitresses, she assumed he was someone in charge at this restaurant she visited at least once a year, so she called out to him, stopping him from exiting out the back door.
She couldn't see his hand waving behind him to the tall woman at the back door.
"Young man, you know who I am," she declared more than asked.
"Why yes, its Mrs.--Mrs.?"
"I am Mrs. Catherine DeBourgh! Surely your remember me from my last visit."
Ah, yes, Mrs. DeBourgh. How are you this fine day?"
"I am quite put out. My niece was to meet me here, and she is unbelievably late. Can you find out if she has called and left a message for me."
"Of course, ma'am. Just take a seat at this table. I will send a server over to you and I will try to find out what I can. Excuse me."
With that the tall man turned and exited the dining area, very nearly knocking over a sweating, short, pudgy man who was rushing in from the car park area. The little man was persistent and extremely solicitous in his apology, practically stepping on the first man's toes as he stepped out of the establishment. The tall young man looked around and then closed the back door and retraced his steps to the front door, with the little man still on his apologetic bent. Exasperated in his movements by this little man he gave him an extremely curt "Bugger off!" and left the building.
This time he stepped out to the street and after looking both ways headed off to the left. The reason he had not seen the women he was looking for was because they were no longer together.
Harriet Younge in her rush to get Miss Darcy away from the building and into George Wickham's car ran into a snag. The car was locked and George had the keys. He was supposed to have followed her out.
"Where the blasted hell is he?"
She started walking the young woman further from the building not noticing the short man hurrying from a car into the restaurant. When Georgiana stated her need to sit down, Harriet replied.
"Listen Dearie, you need to keep walking. Just be glad I don't leave you here on the side of road."
They were walking north when Clarice accompanied by other walkers recognized Georgiana Darcy and wondered what was happening. Noticing that Georgie appeared ill and nearly unresponsive Clarice asked the woman with her.
" Hi, are you Georgie's Aunt Catherine?"
Harriet stated she was just a passer-by and saw that the young woman needed help. After thanking her, Clarice and her friends said they would take care of Georgie.
"My goodness, Georgie, I hoped we would meet you for lunch, on our walk, but if it is making you ill, I think we will just find another spot."
Never suspecting what was happening at the time, no one observed much about the women other than her size, hat and sunglasses, and the fact that she did get into a gray car, driven by a man also wearing a hat and sunglasses. The man had honked his horn, which is what caught all their attention.
Clarice asked Georgie about her aunt, and it was then that she realized Georgie was truly ill. Sending one of her fellow walkers to the restaurant to search for Mrs. deBourgh, Clarice assisted Georgie who was having some dry heaves.
Much later, after an afternoon of loud vocal complaints from Mrs. deBourgh, the management of the restaurant was cleared of any misdoing.
Apparently, the tall young man, who was familiar to Mrs. deBourgh, had chatted up an impressionable young server, distracting her while his cohort, the tall woman, must have "doctored" the water glass to be served to Georgie. Mr. Wickham, a former employee of Darcy Ltd., who had been fired after attempting to forge some cheques, stolen from the treasurers' desk, was not familiar to Georgie, but was to her aunt, even if she could not remember why.
The reason his face was familiar to Mrs. deBourgh was because she had seen him when she attended some board meetings at Darcy Ltd. while he was still an employee.
The staff at the local hospital was also relieved when the young woman's brother and cousin arrived to take charge of the young lady.
Though it was now more than a year later when she heard that voice, the same voice she would still sometimes hear in her sleep, Georgina tried not to panic.
Breathe slow deep breaths, slow deep breaths.
Breathing deeply, and repeating the mantra she had learned to live by in the past year, Georgiana calmed herself and she quickly looked to see a young woman being assisted by the larger woman into a cubicle in the ladies loo. Then she turned and ran outside.
I need to get out of here; can't let her see me. Wills is at the car. If I use my phone she'll hear me. He hates texting and might not read it. But I can't just let her get away and she may be hurting someone else.
Her brother refused to let her travel alone anywhere and he was waiting for her right now near his car. Keeping her face down she quickly left to seek her brother's help. She could see him standing in front of his car and speaking on his mobile. Screaming, she ran over to him.
"Wills, it's her. It's her! It's that nasty, awful women from last year, she is in the loo right now, and I think she is kidnapping someone else. She's wearing a big hat and sunglasses just like last year. Hurry! Hurry, before she gets away."
William Darcy at first upset with his sister for her behavior finally realized what his distraught sister was referring to. They quickly went back towards the entrance to the shop and could see two women were heading towards the car park area.
"Will, over there. That's them!"
Darcy called out, "Anna take a picture of her and her car with your mobile. Quickly, and then call for help."
Some of the other travelers in the area upon hearing this also did just as he instructed his sister to do.
Running after the women he called out, "You there, stop!"
Harriet Younge saw in an instant who was following her and decided to do the best she could to save herself. She pushed Lizzy out in front of an approaching car then ran to her own car losing her hat in the rush and quickly drove off, barely escaping Darcy, who had his hand on her door handle.
Darcy's chase had been hampered due to the necessity of pulling the young woman away from the traffic area. He memorized her car plate number and called the Emergency number. After giving those details to the police along with the make and model of the car and direction the car traveled in he walked back to his sister who was trying to assist the nearly comatose woman.
Elizabeth slowly became aware of unfamiliar sights and sounds. She could hear people speaking with British accents and was trying to make sense of her situation. The closest voice was a deep male voice, at times very correct and business like: at other times less clipped and more caring. The second voice was a softer female voice.
"Ana, Reynolds will be here shortly, and one of us should get home for some sleep. I'll wait here until we can get some answers or Richard gets here."
"But I want to be able to talk with her, 'Ms. Keane', as you called her. Why did your call her that?"
"There was an American artist named Keane who created all those paintings of girls with large eyes. At one time when you were about six, you wanted a doll just like those paintings."
"And we think she, Ms. 'Keane' here is American?"
"Well, you're the fashion expert who said all her clothes had American labels. So she could be American, and she does have large dark eyes."
Lizzy drifted back to sleep.
Lizzy once again became aware of a man with a British accent speaking, and she stirred and opened her eyes.
She could see a tall man looking at her while speaking on a phone and she closed her eyes. The Voice called out louder.
"Nurse, she opened her eyes."
Lizzy could feel someone gently pressing on her arm and asking her questions.
Trying but failing to open her eyes, all she was capable of was responding by a soft grunt.
"Miss, can you hear me? Can you tell us your name?"
With her eyes still closed she replied in a near whisper,
"Was that Beth?"
"My name is Molly, I am a nurse. You are in hospital. Can you hear me?"
Hearing another British accent Lizzy thought of her sister, living in the UK.
The voice that answered was that same British male voice.
"Beth, can you hear me? My name is William, can you tell me who Jane is? And what is your family name?"
"Is your name Beth Benn?"
But there was no response from the patient who had once again drifted back to sleep.
Some time later upon hearing many voices Lizzy was becoming more awake and aware of the conversations around her and a woman asked the man with The Voice about someone named Georgie.
A different female voice spoke.
"Well, Mr. Darcy the bus pass that was found in her overcoat pocket was quite helpful. The security cameras at the train station show this woman, the patient, being assisted to a car similar to the one you described. It was parked near the Disley train station. The Disley police are getting copies blown up. The staff at Lyme Park stated that there was only one tour today and that was populated by a large group of tourists at mid day, all women. They will go through their reservation list and contact us. I'll let you know any further updates as they occur."
"My pleasure sir."
A nurse looking in on the patient named 'Beth' found the patient with her eyes open and filled with uncertainty.
"Hello, Beth, do you remember me, I'm Molly a nurse here at __________ Hospital."
"I am going to get the Doctor. Don't worry, I'll be right back."
She returned in under a minute with two other women, one wearing a white coat and with a stethoscope worn as a necklace and the other a policewoman, along with one tall man. All were strangers to Elizabeth. The non-policewoman spoke.
"Hello, I'm Dr. Patricia Hollingsworth. How are you feeling?"
The nurse quickly gave her a water glass with a straw and cautioned her to drink slowly. Once verifying her full name the Doctor gave a cursory examination, asked about any allergies and then assured the patient that she should feel better as soon as they could give her appropriate medications.
"What happened to me?"
The doctor asked her what was the last thing she could clearly remember.
She explained that she had been on a tour and befriended by an Englishwoman who seemed to take care of her when she had a sudden onset of dizziness and nausea. The policewoman, named Sergeant Peters, was busy taking notes while listening to her story.
"Mrs. Harriet Younge, you say," inquired the policewoman.
"Yes. I vaguely remember asking her, well begging her to take me to a restroom. Did she not tell anyone?"
"No ma'am, we haven't talked to her as yet. Did she say where she lived?"
"Lived? Uhmm, something with a gate at the end."
The Doctor was now speaking to her.
"Elizabeth you were brought here by ambulance. You were rescued barely conscious and functioning, by this gentleman and his sister. Do you recall any of that?"
"Yes, apparently you had been drugged and were being kidnapped."
At the look of disbelief on the patients' face Sergeant Peters asked who knew her plans for the day.
Slowly she tried to think clearly and replied.
"My sister Jane….. and her husband… my brother-in-law, Charles, but they are flying back from Greece on Saturday. It's still Friday, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is now 10:37 Friday night. What is your sister's last name? "
"Their…their housekeepers, Mr. and Mrs. Nicholls, and my parents in the States…."
"The Nicholls!" Exclaimed the man with the Voice and then started to dial on his phone.
"And....my parents in South Carolina." Lizzy finished as she stared at the man with The Voice.
"Could I have the last name of your sister and brother-in-law, ma'am, and addresses and phone numbers, please?"
She gave the names of her sister, brother-in-law and staff saying that their phone numbers should all be in her purse.
"That is a problem as your purse has not been recovered."
That bit of news seemed to be the item to bring the realization that something really bad had happened to her and she was totally alone.
But then she heard the deep, velvety, cultured Voice calmly speaking.
"Excuse me Sergeant, but I have Mr. Bingley's home number on my mobile, I am speaking with Mr. Nicholls right now."
"I thought you didn't know this woman."
"I don't. I have never met her before but her brother-in-law, Charles Bingley, is one of my best friends."
"And how is it that you don't know the sister to the wife of one of your best friends?"
"As I just said, we've never met before. I could not attend Charles' wedding in the States last year due to…another incidence, which I have already explained to the policeman earlier this evening."
It was apparent that this man did not appreciate repeating himself. Turning to Lizzy, the Voice in a gentler tone spoke again.
"So are you Jane Bingley's sister, Lizzy?"
All Lizzy could do was nod her head in response.
"I'm William Darcy, who was supposed to be best man at Charles' wedding. So that you shouldn't worry, my sister Georgina and I will look after you."
He had spoken as though she had no choice in the matter. Lizzy looked at the man who was again speaking either with the policewoman or on his phone. She saw that he was a tall, good looking man who appeared in his late twenty's or early thirty's. He was wearing a black leather jacket over a black turtleneck and jeans, sturdy walking boots and a five o'clock shadow. All of his clothing looked top drawer. She at that moment could not remember anything Jane had mentioned about Charles' friend.
Sergeant Peters continued with her questions to Mr. Darcy.
"And you just happened to be at the same service station?"
"Yes, we, my sister and I, had business in Manchester this morning, and then had a picnic lunch and walked to Hartshead Pike. On our way home we made a stop to use the facilities at a service station in Stockport. I gave all those details to the policeman who was here earlier, a Sgt. Rawlings. The reason I didn't get to Charles' wedding in the States last year was due to the attempted kidnapping of my sister, Georgie, Georgiana. She too had been drugged. You can check all of this with Richard Fitzwilliam, in Scotland Yard.
Doctor Hollingsworth was studying Lizzy while the conversation continued and could see a sudden look of panic on her patient's face and Lizzy was panting.
"Are you all right, Miss Bennet?"
Everyone suddenly looked at her, and she whispered to the Doctor.
"May I speak to you in private, please?"
After the Darcy and Sergeant Peters stepped out to the waiting area, Lizzy said.
"Please, I don't know this person, I've heard his name, but I've never met him or his sister.
"And...Mrs.Younge….in her car…was talking …..to someone…. named Georgie ….while driving her car. She said something…. like Georgie, Sweetie!'"
"Well, not to worry Ms. Bennet, you are not going anywhere for a few hours. It will take at least that long to ensure the drugs are out of your system and you have no lingering effects."
"So was I definitely drugged?"
"Yes, the urine and drug screen tests have come back positive. It was GHB, one of the so-called 'date rape drugs'. There was also a narcotic, which one is still being determined. But at first because you had apparently fallen and hit your head we could not rule out a concussion. We did a CAT scan of your brain to ensure there was no bleeding."
"But why would she drug me? What should I expect? And how did she do it? Was it my tea? My food? I don't remember any needles or anything."
Now that she was awake Elizabeth was full of questions.
"GHB is usually found in liquid form that is colorless and odorless, and has no taste when mixed in a drink or water. Sometimes there is a salty aftertaste, depending on how it was produced. Do you remember eating anything that tasted different?"
"Everything I ate was different, and all of it tasted wonderful. It was at a pub in Disley, called The Ram something or other. Mrs. Younge was with me. I did have some tea, that was different tasting but then again, I am not familiar with all of your teas."
Doctor Hollingsworth then continued:
"GHB is manufactured by individuals, and the strength can vary from batch to batch. Symptoms can include intense drowsiness, unconsciousness, or coma, muscle spasms, disorientation, vomiting, and slowed or stopped breathing.
"Believe it or not you may consider yourself fortunate. I think that because you ate such a good lunch it helped to dilute the effects of the drug, and caused the intense and early vomiting."
Mr. Darcy approached her with his phone stating that Mrs. Nicholls was on the phone and wanted to speak with her. Everyone could see the relief on her face while she was on the phone. The Nicholls' both spoke with her and assured her that the Darcys were longtime friends of Mr. Bingley and that she couldn't be in better hands.
Those next few hours brought in more police and some one named Richard Fitzwilliam. Apparently he was a bigwig in the government, or police force. He was in close conference with Mr. Darcy and then the young woman named Georgiana who did indeed arrive shortly after dawn. She now had tears in her eyes and her brother looked angry enough to hit someone.
When they all approached her again, Lizzy was extremely wary. The tall man named William Darcy, gave her his mobile phone again stating it was Mrs. Nicholls.
Mrs. Nicholls wanted to inform Liz that so far they had been unable to reach the Bingleys who most likely had turned off their cell phones, but would continue to try to reach them and had also called the airline and the Greek authorities.
"Do you think they are all right? I mean, could there be a connection with what has happened to me?"
Mr. Nicholls tried to put her mind at ease without stating that Mr. Bingley had been avoiding calls from his sister, Caroline, so just informed her that since he was on vacation, he had not wanted any further calls to interrupt his holiday.
Mr. Fitzwilliam then asked to speak with Nicholls. By this time it was apparent that he was now in charge and was also known to Mr. Nicholls who gave him more in depth information.
Richard Fitzwilliam was an interesting man. Serious but friendly with a manner that helped her relax. He informed Lizzy of some of the particulars regarding the previous failed attempt to kidnap Georgina.
Lizzy was studying the young woman while listening to her misfortune from the previous year.
"You seem so young, I hope your weren't seriously hurt."
"Not physically, and my nerves are much improved from last year. I hope you don't mind if I stay with you. I know how awful I felt and how scared I was last year, and I had family and friends with me. I can't imagine how you must be feeling."
Elizabeth couldn't help but respond to Ms. Darcy's earnest reply with a little smile. Georgiana came close and gave her hand a little squeeze, which Elizabeth responded to by squeezing in return.
Mr. Fitzwilliam continued in his story.
"We had suspicions that one Mr. George Wickham was involved last year but he disappeared before we could question him. Ms. Harriet Oldham a.k.a. Harriet Younge, a.k.a. Harriet Easton a.k.a., ad infinitum, is one of his many female contacts, and I have just been informed of her capture in at a marina in Liverpool. Her real name apparently, is Harriet West.
"Unfortunately, she tossed your belongings before being apprehended. The police are backtracking looking alongside the motorway in case your bag is visible from the road. But she was filmed on many different mobile phone cameras along with the Disley train station security cameras, so she knows that there is no escaping this time and for her own good she needs to cooperate.
"We think that the 'Georgie' she was talking to is George Wickham but can't prove it yet. She must have tossed her mobile also."
"What about my phone? Did you find that? Charles had purchased a disposable cell phone, a mobile as you say, for me to use while in the UK. The Nicholls' have the number. Perhaps that phone is lying about somewhere? Along with my coat. My new coat! Oh damn!"
Thinking about her new London Fog coat, with its zip out lining, caused Lizzy to exclaim Damn again, and then tears started forming in her eyes as she realized just how vulnerable she was. No coat, no, ID, no money. She didn't even know where her clothes were. Georgie was quick to pick up on Lizzy's sudden look of despair.
"No, no don't worry, we have your coat. It is dirty but you were wearing it so we have it. That is how we knew that you were in Disley, since there was a bus pass from the train station to Lyme Hall in your pocket."
The nurse said that the patient appeared to be overwhelmed and perhaps they should let her rest. Mr. Fitzwilliam gently continued stating it was necessary to get as much information from the patient as soon as possible.
"Ramsgate!" Lizzy suddenly yelled out.
"The Pub where we ate, it was called the Rams Head, and I think I heard Mrs. Younge say she had driven up from Ramsgate. Is there a place called Ramsgate?"
"Yes ma'am there is. Excuse me for a moment!"
The two men both abruptly stepped away and were again talking into their mobiles. What no one had told the American was that it was near Ramsgate that Georgiana Darcy had been abducted the year before.
That young victim pulled up a chair to talk with Lizzy and ask her about her touring plans prior to this mishap.
Suddenly there was a increase in peoples' voices and Mr. Fitzwilliam stepped away and then came back.
"It appears that someone who caught your rescue on their mobile sold it to the news. Some of it was broadcast last night, and now the media is beginning to arrive outside. Darcy is being painted as a knight in shining armour. Sorry, Darce."
William Darcy gave out an expletive, and then looking at Lizzy, he apologized.
"Sorry Ms. Bennet, it's just the media quickly turns into the paparazzi, and that complication we can do without."
Mr. Fitzwilliam then stated,
"I don't know, Darce, it can't hurt to have this Harriet's face all over the news, along with her history. It could help us with other sightings by the public."
It was decided to move the patient to a quieter area for the next few hours while making sure she would continue to recover. They were still running fluids to counter the effect of the GHB and any dehydration.
Georgina had left and returned with two large bags and an older gentleman. The men spent some time in discussion with each other while Georgiana sat with Elizabeth trying to put her at ease. Once she was cleared to be discharged the Darcys indicated that they were going to take her to their home.
Lizzy however had a sudden fit of stubbornness. She was still in a hospital gown, her own clothes smelly and dirty, and she was not inclined to go anywhere. She did not like feeling so vulnerable. The tall Adonis named William Darcy kept staring at her. Lizzy wasn't sure if he was upset that she had not implicitly trusted him to take her from the hospital or if it was because she looked as awful as she felt. She didn't know these Darcys from a hole in the wall. And she didn't like the feeling of lack of control over her life.
Mr. Fitzwilliam informed her that the police would prefer she stay in the vicinity for any further clarification regarding the incident.
Finally she was speaking with Jane who was at the airport in Athens.
"Jane, I am so sorry to be such a problem, I have no idea what happened or why anyone would want to kidnap me. It can't be what they are saying."
"Lizzy, don't worry, we will work it out. You can trust the Darcys. William is concerned due to what happened to his sister last year, and feels it may somehow be connected."
"But how could anyone possibly know about my travels? I didn't say anything to anyone about my relatives other than I was visiting my sister. Obviously she, or they, knew I wasn't English. And why me? I don't have any money."
"I don't know, Sis, but we will figure it out. Are you sure the Doctor said you were okay to be discharged?"
"Yes, they feel the drug or drugs have left my system, so I can leave. I can't wait to see you." Nearly in tears, Lizzy continued, " Oh Jane, I don't have money or a credit card, I don't even have any clean clothes with me and I look and feel like a wreck."
At that point William Darcy indicated the clothing bag brought in earlier by his sister, containing everything she needed for an overnight stay, including a comfortable sweat suit. Saying good bye to Jane, Lizzy gave him his phone and took the bag to go change out of her hospital garb.
Darcy assured Jane that Lizzy was well enough to be discharged and it would not be a problem to look after her little sister. Also, since the police had stated that they would rather she stay near-by for more questions and identifications, it was logical to have her stay at Pemberley. Jane had insisted on speaking with the physician in charge so she knew the words he spoke were true but felt helpless being so far away. Charles and Darcy spoke with further assurances on both sides.
It was now approaching one o'clock on a gray rainy afternoon and Lizzy could not see anything much out the windows of the car. While grateful to Georgiana who had purchased a new set of everything for her, she still felt out of sorts. Feeling a little embarrassed about her hesitancy regarding the Darcys she tried to maintain friendly conversation with her host. Mr. Reynolds, Pemberley's man, (Lizzy smiled with that thought) was driving them to the Darcys home. Georgiana and someone else apparently had driven William's car home earlier.
"I don't want to appear ungrateful Mr. Darcy, but truly I could have stayed in a motel for the night. Jane said she and Charles will drive up late tonight or early Sunday."
With a look of disbelief he answered.
"I don't think so. Your sister would have hung me on the closest flagpole if we had deserted you. Its no great distance to travel back to Stockport or Disley if need be, just under 50 miles, an easy drive from Pemberley."
Lizzy just nodded her head in response and looked out the window. She still felt like a zombie and while upset that everything seemed beyond her control decided there could be worse scenarios than sitting in a comfortable car with a handsome man.
When they turned and drove through a gate and entered a park she looked at William Darcy and asked, with a smirk, if they were sight seeing.
With a chuckle, he said.
"In a manner of speaking. This is the drive to Pemberley, and that" he gestured out the window on his right as the car drove over a small bridge, "is Pemberley."
Across a field and beyond a small pond stood a structure, similar to but smaller than the building she had toured the day before. Lizzy was too stunned to reply beyond an "Oh my."
"So do you think you will be comfortable enough to stay here, Miss Bennett?"
Realizing he was now teasing her, she blushed when she thought of how stubborn she had been about going to the Darcy home. But she wouldn't be intimidated.
"Well, it depends. Are the rooms drafty? The linens moldy? Will the service be four star or only motel quality? Is it haunted by ghosts, or worse, tourists? We freeloaders have our standards, sir."
"I do believe Mrs. Reynolds will give you no cause to complain. She will love mothering you," stifling a yawn, he continued, "and you most definitely are not a freeloader."
"Did you get any sleep last night?"
With a slight raising of his eyebrows he replied.
"A few hours but I would probably not have slept much at home either. Since yesterday it has been like déjà vu."
Posted on 2011-05-28
Georgiana, greeted her at the front door her with a warm hug.
"Oh Lizzy, I am so glad you agreed to come to Pemberley. I know this must be strange for you, but we will try to make you comfortable."
She introduced Lizzy to the Darcys aunt and uncle, Emma and Geoff, "with a G for you Yanks" and then Mrs. Reynolds joined them.
"Miss Bennett, I cannot even imagine what you are feeling, but please come in and we will do our best to help put some of this nightmare behind you. Tell me would you like anything for your tea; perhaps some comforting soup? On a drizzly day like today, it always seems appropriate to have a bowl of soup. Or would you prefer a nice warm shower first? Miss Darcy was delighted to pick up a few more clothing articles on her way home this afternoon. Shopping is one of her favorite activities."
William Darcy, along with his relatives, watched as the women walked into the hall, Mrs. Reynolds' arm draped over Elizabeth's shoulder, and noticed that Lizzy just kept listening and speaking with her escorts, and barely gave any recognition to the grandness of the estate.
"Richard called to say he and the family would be arriving in time for dinner and would give everyone an update as to the investigation."
"Thanks Uncle Geoff. Reynolds, would you and Helen be able to join us at dinner? I think that tonight, eating together as a family, would be beneficial to all of us."
"Of course sir."
"Aunt Emma, Uncle Geoff, thank you for coming by and keeping Ana company. I, too, am in need of a shower and sleep after I grab a bowl of soup." In spite of himself he sounded like a petulant little boy who had been forgotten by the cook.
His uncle replied. "Of course. We're here to help any way we can. It is astounding what has happened. Bingley's sister-in-law! Quite a coincidence. Are you sure you weren't hurt during the rescue?"
"I'm fine, and I don't think it was a coincidence at all. I smell Wickham all over this."
It was after five in the evening as Lizzy found her way down the stairs walking along a grand hall. After a long hot shower and a short nap she was feeling human for the first time that day. Wearing a comfortable and fashionable sweat suit, probably worth more than she could ever consider purchasing, and comfy terrycloth mules, she was trying to find the kitchen when she walked past the library and couldn't resist a glance inside.
Oh my, I could live in here.
Resisting the urge to look at any of the titles, Lizzy continued on her way towards where she thought the kitchen was located, and was found by Mr. Fitzwilliam as she entered the hall once again.
"Hello Miss Bennett. Are you lost?"
"Hello Mr. Fitzwilliam, and I just may be lost. I am trying to find the kitchen. This is a rather large building so I thought I would try to follow my nose. But since libraries always seem to have magnetic pull on me, I was detoured. Are you joining us for dinner?"
"Yes, and to give everyone an update. My cousins are most anxious to put this nastiness behind them, which can't happen until we have all the culprits involved under lock and key."
"Yes, Anne Darcy, their mother, was my fathers youngest sister."
At that moment Darcy walked down the stairs to join them. Lizzy couldn't help but notice how good this very handsome man looked, now freshly shaved, in his jeans and turtleneck sweater; a GQ ad come to life.
"How are you Miss Bennett? Did you get any rest?"
"Yes, thank you, and you, Mr. Darcy?
"It's William and a full four hours of undisturbed sleep."
"Please call me Elizabeth, or Lizzy. Is it possible for me to call the Nicholls' and then later my parents? "
"Certainly, step right into this study. And the Netherfield number is on the Rolodex. Can I get you a drink Elizabeth?"
"Aiming for the four star service rating Mr. Darcy, excuse me, William?"
"How am I doing so far?"
"It may be too early to rate you, but, beyond the fact that the management did not leave an information pack with a building map in my room, I am not displeased."
Darcy smiled back at her, and she swallowed while trying to stay levelheaded.
That smile of his is a potent weapon. I must remember to ask Jane about him. He must have a ton of women after him.
"So, may I take your order?"
"Just a cup of green tea, thank you."
Stepping back into the hall, Darcy just ignored his cousin's smirk as they walked toward the kitchen to get the tea.
"Four star service rating?"
"An inside joke, and you Richard, a cup of tea, or will you join me in something stronger."
"Something stronger, thanks."
The two joined everyone in the family kitchen area, where in addition to watching the reruns on the news people were helping prepare the evening meal. There were additions to the family group, including Sophia, Richard's wife, and the youngest Fitzwilliam cousin, Victoria and her husband of three months Martin Davies.
Mrs. Reynolds was directing the crew of people in their offer to assist with the meal preparation.
After greeting all his relatives he told them he was on a mission to deliver some tea to Elizabeth. Amid all the questions regarding the previous days happenings was their curiosity about the young woman that the Darcys rescued.
"She will be joining us for dinner, but I caution you that we are all strangers to her and to not overwhelm her with questions."
Returning to the study, Darcy saw that Elizabeth was off the phone and was standing and staring out the window. He noticed how she was essentially hugging herself, as if she was cold, one hand rubbing up and down her other arm.
Her long brown hair was pulled to her left shoulder and tied with a colorful scarf complementing the leisure suit. Reminding himself to thank his sister for her choice of purchases, he cleared his throat and announced himself.
"Your tea, Mademoiselle."
Turning toward him Lizzy gave him a small smile and softly said thank you.
"William, I left a message on my parent's answer machine. My Dad will most likely try to call back at Netherfield or email me. May I give him the phone number here?"
"Certainly, and I will be glad to speak with him should he have any questions."
He then showed her the computer set up and she quickly sent off a message to her Dad. She thanked him again and he extended an apology to her.
"An apology, whatever for?"
"Elizabeth, I am not sure how much company you feel up to tonight, but I have to warn you that we have been inundated with Darcy cousins, and some are still arriving. They are here to lend support, and probably because they are curious as hell, but if you feel overwhelmed at any time we will understand should you withdraw from the teeming masses."
Just then they could hear someone running in the hallway. He and Lizzy stepped into the hall as two boys attacked him.
"Uncle Will, Uncle Will, we saw you on the telly. You're a hero."
"You saved a lady! Did you find out who she is? The TV said she was someone named Annie Mouse, but that's not her real name."
"Whoa, you two. One question at a time."
He laughed as he was swinging both boys in his arms.
Placing them back on the floor he then introduced the twin sons of Sophia and Richard Fitzwilliam, Joshua and Colin, aged 4, to Miss Elizabeth Bennett.
"Oh Uncle Will, you are just like a Knight of King Arthur's, you saved a damsel in distress," a young girl said as she ran into William's arms. She was introduced as the twins' older sister Marianne, age 7.
"Come on, we had better get into the kitchen before all the food disappears and that includes dessert."
Leading them into the kitchen area Darcy had Joshua on his shoulders with Colin and Marianne calling ahead saying they found their Uncle Will and the rescued damsel, all activity stopped as everyone turned to see the lady that was the cause celebre'.
Mrs. Reynolds and Georgiana stepped forward to greet her with hugs and questions regarding how she was feeling, if she had slept at all. Introductions were made all round and dinner was served.
The dinner was roast lamb with mint jelly and spring vegetables, a favorite meal of the man she had been addressing as Uncle Geoff, with a G, and Lizzy nearly fell off her chair when she realized his official title was Lord Geoffrey Fitzwilliam, a Member of Parliament.
Anna and Mrs. Reynolds sat on either side of her with William directly opposite her at the large round table. After dinner the children had turned the television on once again and called out that Uncle Will, Auntie Ana and Miss Bennett were on the telly again. It was after speaking with Mrs. Nicholls that Lizzy became aware that her rescue by the Darcys was on television, but it came home to her upon watching the videos. She had absolutely no memory of it.
"…well-known businessman and philanthropist, William Darcy, along with his sister, Georgiana Darcy came to the rescue of an unnamed woman, who apparently was being kidnapped. Police at this time are looking into the possibility ……"
She watched as if in a stupor as Mrs. Younge pushed her towards the oncoming car. Then you could see a man run in front of the car and pull her away from the oncoming flow of traffic. In so doing it appeared that both of them were rolling on the ground.
Darcy was explaining what they were looking at.
"The car was not all that close, the angle makes it looks much closer than it was. Plus the driver hit his brakes so he might have been able to avoid hitting.."
"Come, come, William, no false modesty. You did a good and brave thing. And as your uncle it is my duty to remind everyone of that fact."
Another video showed Georgiana run towards the two women and yet another showing William as he continued to chase after Mrs. Younge with his hand on her car door as she sped away.
The children were cheering their Auntie Georgie and Uncle Will, the adults were either giving pointers or asking questions. William had been watching Elizabeth and could see that she was becoming affected by the video, her eyes glued to the large television screen. Georgie quickly moved to hold Elizabeth's hand and Victoria cried out,
"Oh my heavens, she hasn't seen this before, has she?"
Lizzy heard Georgie repeating,
"You're all right, Elizabeth, you're safe."
In a tremulous voice she replied,
"She, she…. just pushed me,… in front of that car. I could have been killed. But you risked your self,…. you don't even know me. You could have been injured or …."
The reality and the scope of the near tragedy and her rescue by the Darcy's that she had just viewed at this point left her panting and nearly speechless. Georgiana and William stayed with her until she was under control and could face the others. Then William excused himself to see to the other relatives who had discreetly left the area.
Lizzy told Georgie that she would feel better if she wasn't alone that night and wondered if someone could sleep in the same room, even if it was Marianne.
"Unfortunately, I know exactly how you feel. But last year I, at least, had family to support me. You have been so brave being on your own. Thank you for letting us try to give you some relief. It makes me feel less weak, more empowered somehow. I think if I was anywhere near that woman right now I would grab her and slap her silly."
The image she created caused Lizzy to giggle and look around to notice that the other family had departed.
"Oh dear, I hope I haven't frightened everyone away."
"No, I believe most everyone has gone to the media room or the library, and the children are on their way to bed. Wills and Richard are ensuring everything is closed up for the night."
"I take it everyone is staying here."
"No, my aunt and uncle with Victoria and Martin are returning to their home in Matlock. It's only 15 miles away but there might be more relatives dropping by tomorrow, even though we are discouraging them."
"It must be comforting to you to know you have such supportive family."
"Yes, it is. Like all families we have some less charming characters but we try to band together to weather the more formidable personalities."
Lizzy stated she would again like to try and reach her parents. She emailed them first and then called. Her Dad loved the Internet and looked up everything and anything on line. He had already come across an article about an unknown woman being rescued in Stockport, and saw the name Darcy. It sounded familiar so he had planned to wait until Sunday when he spoke with his daughters to ask about it. He had no thought it could be his Lizzy.
"Lizzy, are you sure that you're all right?"
"Yes, Dad, and I am being treated royally, I assure you. Could you downplay this with Mom, I don't want her to get on a plane and fly over here."
After speaking for a few more minutes Lizzy, stepped back into the hall where she asked that William and/or Richard speak with her father to assure him of her safety.
They both did: first Darcy as a trusted friend of his son-in-law, and then Richard as a representative of Scotland Yard. Afterwards, Richard wanted to review everything one more time before they retired for the night.
Darcy was explaining his reaction to her statement about the Nicholls.
"I admit when you mentioned the Nicholls I was astounded at the coincidence but had immediately called Netherfield while you spoke with the Sergeant. Mrs. Nicholls assures me that neither she nor her husband spoke to anyone of your plans." Darcy continued.
"They had alerted the train security when you never contacted them with your arrival time. And of course you didn't answer your mobile. Your bus ticket was in the pocket of your coat, which is why we discovered the Disley train station security information so quickly. We didn't know your name at the time but we would have discovered the Nicholls' alert."
"But there is still no clue as to why me?"
Richard now answered.
"Not yet, but we are tracking the phone numbers from the phone that the Bingleys purchased for you. It appears Mrs. Younge used your phone for at least one call. Most likely hers was also a disposable phone. They could have looked alike. But now that we know where her home address in Ramsgate is, we will check phone calls to that address as well. Also, in response to the TV exposure and requests for information, there have been many leads both from people on the tour with you and others from Ramsgate who are familiar with Mrs. Younge. Georgie has spoken with her friend Clarice Moody who also identified her. She will be arriving tomorrow afternoon to go with us to Stockport Police Station
When Lizzy climbed into her bed that night and looked over at the sleeping Marianne holding on to a cuddly bear, she wondered if she would be able to sleep as soundly as the little girl. But it was only a few minutes later when Georgiana checked on her guests, she found Elizabeth was already fast asleep, and completely unaware of Georgie turning on a soft night light in the bathroom.
When Lizzy woke up it was well into Sunday morning, and she could hear muffled sounds and voices. Propped up on a vase of fresh flowers was a note from Mrs. Reynolds stating she should stay in bed as long as she wanted. The only person who would wake her would be Jane who had called last night and twice this morning. She and Charles would be arriving shortly this morning.
Lizzy put her head down and went over everything she could remember, trying to make sense of everything that had happened, to no avail.
Stretching she saw a little head poke in the door and Marianne Fitzwilliam was staring at her.
"Good morning, Marianne."
"Oh, I am not supposed to disturb you. Are you feeling better?"
"I am awake and you are not disturbing me. I just feel a little sore and achy. Where do you live?"
Very glad to speak with the saved damsel Marianne came and sat on her own bed.
"We live in London, most of the time and sometimes in Cambridge. We are going to church at 10 o'clock so I wanted to see if you are okay this morning. What's it like to be rescued by Uncle Will? He is my favorite Uncle, and if anyone beside my father was going to rescue me I would like it to be him."
"Well, quite honestly I cannot remember most of it, but it was nice to wake up and know that there was someone to watch over me."
"Why can't you remember it? Were you…."
"Marianne, what are you doing? Oh, Elizabeth, please forgive us." Sophia Fitzwilliam came in to chastise her daughter.
"There is nothing to forgive. I am awake but find I am more sore on some of my muscles today and just feeling very lazy."
"We are preparing to leave for church but please don't disturb yourself. Will and Georgie also slept in late this morning. It has been a trying few days for all of you."
After exchanging more pleasant small talk, with Lizzy thanking Marianne for sharing her bedroom, Sophia took Marianne out and Lizzy prepared to face the day. Again attired in the comfy sweat suit she was walking down the stairs when Jane ran up the stairs to hug her.
After many tears and hugs the sisters returned to the bedroom with Lizzy's suitcase that Jane had brought from Netherfield. Charles soon followed carrying two coffees, and his million-dollar smile.
"Lizzy, when we invited you to visit us we had planned a better welcome than the one you received."
"Oh I don't know Charles, I quite like having your man meet me at the airport. A man just for me, carrying my luggage, at my beck and call. I could become accustomed to Mr. Nicholls very easily. In fact, I already have. May I take him home with me?"
"No, you cannot have Mr. Nicholls to take home."
"Rats. Well I had to try."
"Now tell us Lizzy, are you truly well?"
"I feel more normal today, but I am sore on my right side, and I finally realize why. It was when I landed on the ground after, well after. Oh Jane, please don't cry, I am all right, truly. My skin wasn't scratched. Besides I have a lot to be thankful." Giving her sister a smirk she said,
"After all, who knows where I would be,
if the Darcys hadn't needed to pee?"
At that moment both Darcys stood at the door having followed Charles out of the kitchen.
Feeling her self turn beet red, she swallowed and tried to sound cheerful.
"Good morning, everyone, it appears we are having a conference this morning. What's on the agenda?"
"Well, in our attempt to earn your four star approval, Mrs. Reynolds has sent us with express orders to enquire as to your breakfast wishes."
Darcy stood at attention with a small towel draped over his right arm and with a raised eyebrow and a slight smirk.
With a little twinkle in her eye Lizzy replied,
"Is there a house special?"
"I believe it will be whatever you wish, Ms. Bennett. Helen is at this moment preparing a full English breakfast with pancakes. She is expecting people to show up quite hungry apparently and you'll have no shortage of choices. Jane your Buck's Fizz is also."
"Buck's Fizz?" asked Lizzy.
"They're the British version of Mimosas." Jane replied.
"What a great idea! Let's head to the Mimosa fortification without delay!"
Walking towards the kitchen she replied to everyone's questions of concern.
"Yes, I feel much better than yesterday. Earlier Marianne asked me that same question. But I think what she most wanted to know was how it felt to be rescued by her Uncle Will, as she thinks, beside her dad, he is the man she would like to be her rescuer. I'm afraid I had to disappoint her as I could not remember any of it." She nodded to Darcy, "And no slight meant to my rescuer, I hope to never have need of such service again."
She sat down at the kitchen table and Darcy placed a Mimosa filled flute near her coffee cup, and softly said,
"Rhyming so early, Miss Bennett?"
"Why yes, Mr. Darcy, better than tears, even if my warped humor causes a few cringes."
The Bingleys and Georgie had watched the interaction between Lizzy and Darcy with growing amusement. Never had they seen him so casually tease a new acquaintance, and acting the servant to boot!
During their breakfast, Lizzy asked Charles about his family. She had met his parents and sisters at the wedding, and was in no hurry to meet up with his sister Caroline again.
"My parents and the Hursts are fine and have sent their greetings. They have extended an invite for dinner to you while you are visiting. And to the Darcys also. Of course, they will not be surprised if you don't attend Darce, but you should know Caroline's away for another week."
"How nice of them. They are in London, correct?" Lizzy responded.
"No, at the moment they are driving up to Pemberley.
I'll ride back with them and Jane will stay the night and drive both of you back to Netherfield tomorrow or Tuesday afternoon."
"You sister Caroline is away?"
"Thursday she flew to Acapulco to go on a Panama Canal Cruise. Excellent timing, if I do say so myself."
"Were you keeping me away from her or vice versa?"
"How about a little bit of both? Caroline didn't know when or if you would be coming, however, before we left on our trip, I just let it be known that a certain 'Mr. J. Law' was travelling aboard a particular ship and the rest took care of itself."
"Charles do you mean, the actor Jude Law?" asked Georgiana.
"Well, no, actually his name is Jacob R. Law, and he's married to one of our secretaries, Julia Law. But since Caroline never comes to the office, I had no fear of her knowing Julia. However, Julia does know who Caroline is and will most likely keep her distance. Since Caroline is such a celebrity worshiper, she made the erroneous assumption that when I said a certain Mr. J Law, I meant Jude Law. Surprise, surprise!"
"That is the real reason we had the phone turned off, Friday, we were sure she would try to call Charles, and read him the riot act."
"Do you mean to tell me that Caroline might not want to befriend your sister-in-law? A single attractive young woman. Shocking." This, Georgie said with an all too impertinent tone.
"Ana, be nice."
"Oh Wills, I remember well Caroline's description of the wedding, one not shared by her parents or sister, mind you. She especially was unkind regarding Jane's sisters, which told me that at the very least that they must have been pretty."
"And right you are, as you can see," said Charles.
"However, while Lizzy to me is as pretty as any movie star, I didn't think my sister-in-law would create quite the media sensation that she has. It's a jungle out there, Lizzy."
"Please tell me you're not serious."
"He's serious. The Derby police are doing their best to keep the traffic on the road outside Pemberley's gates moving but even so it was backing up for about a quarter of a mile."
"Darcy, I am so glad you have Lizzy staying with you. I can't imagine what would have happened if she stayed in a hotel on her own up in the Stockport area."
"We are more than happy to have her stay here. It makes it easier for Richard to speak with all of us at one time, and it seems to have given Ana a new zest for life. Not that shopping has ever been a chore for her, now she seems to have taken to it with a new purpose."
The look on his sister's face did not escape him. He would have to look into that further. Lizzy then spoke up.
"Charles, your friend is being very gracious in overlooking the fact that I originally put up quite a fuss about having to rely on him or his family. But I am glad now that they did prevail upon me to stay here at Pemberley. However, they may learn to regret it. This place is fantastic. Between the lovely grounds and incredible library a gal could be tempted to find an attic room to hide in."
"What of the tenants? Would you deprive them of your company?" Charles responded.
"I should think they would prefer to return to their normal routine without all this fuss and bother over a foreigner."
"It is no great fuss or bother, I assure you."
"Well, then Mr. Darcy, by all means direct me to the attic."
While they all laughed at Lizzy's comment the frank appreciation in Darcy's gaze did not go unnoticed by his sister or his friend.
After breakfast Lizzy persuaded Georgie and Jane to join her in a short walk on the grounds. There appeared to be a break in the rain and she wanted to get some outdoor exercise while she could. Louisa and Henry Hurst greeted them upon their return and surprised Lizzy with their warmth.
"Henry was the one who first caught the news about Darcy but had not had time to actually see the video. That night at the party we attended the Darcy's were all the talk with everyone wondering about you Lizzy."
"Yes, and the whole time we were unaware that we also knew the rescued lady. Part of our extended family, as it were."
At that point the returning Emma and Geoff Fitzwilliam along with an older woman entered the family room.
Behind this first group were Richard, Sophia, and their children. Victoria and Martin followed, with the latter heading straight to the bar.
He gave Lizzy a quick wink and a thumbs up sign while he nodded his head at the older woman who was now speaking with a shrill commanding voice.
"William, Georgiana, I hope you are not suffering from all your endeavors. What were you thinking? Rescuing an unknown woman. Are you sure it wasn't some scheme to trap you? You can't be too careful with all this riff raff running about. And honestly, to roll around on the ground like some savage, and with an American, to boot! Come, come greet your Aunt, you at least still have manners, don't you?"
"This should give you a laugh or two." Whispered Georgie to Jane and Lizzy before going to place a kiss on her aunt's cheek.
William and Georgie both went to their aunt to give her a quick peck on the cheek. He quickly spoke up before she caught her breath.
"Aunt Catherine, what a surprise that you should come all the way to Pemberley. You must have got up very early to come all this way."
"Actually, Cathy came to Matlock House last night as she said you weren't answering your phone." Emma just gave her nephew a knowing look.
After all the introductions were made, and Catherine realized that there were two American women among them she commented with a "Humph" and asked for a Bloody Mary.
Richard then said that after breakfast he wanted all the concerned parties to meet and go over all the details in chronological order. Lizzy, Georgie, Darcy and Clarice, Georgie's friend, would need to report in the morning at the Stockport Police Station for identification of Harriet Younge.
When the door closed behind his relatives, Darcy leaned against it with a large sigh.
"Lizzy, Jane I am sorry for any offense caused by my Aunt Catherine. For the life of me, I can never understand how she can find fault with everyone before she even meets them."
With a twinkle in her eye, Jane replied.
"That's quite all right William. You have never met our mother. Believe me those two would provide hours of amusement if they were ever to meet."
Charles looked at her with wide eyes while she smirked and added,
"They both have the same voice range. Can you imagine how the dogs would howl in the hallway?"
"Jane, I am so proud of you; that is the most unkind thing I have ever heard you say. Marriage is good for you, it's rounding out your personality," her sister replied.
When everyone stopped laughing, Richard said he wanted to go over every step in chronological order prior to the drugging/kidnapping.
"So let's start at the beginning. Ms. Bennett, when did you decide to go to Lyme Hall and whom did you tell?"
"A week ago Friday, I made the decision to go. But I was online much of Saturday seeking the cheapest flight to London. On Sunday evening I booked the tour to Lyme Hall. While my parents had the details regarding my flight, I didn't tell them much else except that I wanted to visit one or two National Trust sites.
"I called Jane in the wee hours of Monday morning, Carolina time, to tell her my plans and then I e-mailed the Nicholls at Netherfield with my flight plans and my tour booking. I am sure I put in that information since I asked about train schedules. But I didn't speak to anyone else about it."
"There was no one else?"
"No, no one."
"A fellow passenger? One of your sisters, a good friend at home?"
"No, I took the Red-eye and I spent most of the flight sleeping, like most of the passengers. I doubt I would have mentioned it in detail even if I had been awake. I wouldn't tell my younger sisters since they would not have a clue as to why I would visit an old building that wasn't housing a celebrity."
"Okay. So then we have Jane and Charles, Monday morning Greek time." He looked to the Bingleys, "Did you discuss it with anyone else?"
Jane answered. "No, I spoke to Lizzy while in our room at the hotel, and then joined Charles for lunch."
"Charles was not with you in the room?"
"No, he had gone downstairs to get a good table on the patio. I joined him there after my phone call ended."
"No maid was in the room, no one else to overhear you?"
"No, absolutely no one."
"You know, Jane," said Charles, "we discussed it when you joined me at the table."
"Yes, but I don't recall if anyone else was near by."
Charles sat there concentrating and trying to remember if there was anything specific that he could recall; something was niggling at him.
"What is it Bingley?"
Looking at Richard, he answered.
"I am not sure if it is anything, it's just that I remember something had piqued my interest before Jane came down. I am going over it in my head trying to recall what it was."
All were quiet while Charles closed his eyes trying to remember what it was.
"It was something and I can't quite grasp it. And maybe it was nothing, but I'll let you know if, wait…
wait, it was the hat!"
"Yes, while waiting for Jane I remember looking around and seeing a good looking man, one table over, with a really dapper looking hat. And then there was something that was familiar about him, or perhaps he reminded me of someone, but I forgot about it as Jane then joined me."
What Charles was reluctant to divulge to anyone was that at the time this tall good-looking man had pricked his insecurities, and was glad that he and Jane were married.
"What hotel was this?"
"Can't remember the name, but it was on Crete. I'll have to call Nicholls to pull out my receipts for that day. We stayed there three nights and then traveled to another island."
"Jane do you recall this man, the man with the hat?"
"Not at all."
"And this was where you talked of your sister's plans?"
"Yes, and Charles laughed out loud about the dart board and Euro-Disney."
A few minutes later Nicholls called back with the name of the hotel and Richard left everyone while he talked with someone in London.
Jane and Charles were feeling the horror of perhaps being responsible for Lizzy's kidnapping.
Lizzy was trying to fathom why anyone would go to this much trouble to drug her.
Georgie watched her brother as he watched Lizzy, not certain if Will was worried about her or just appreciative of her looks.
It was at least an hour later when Richard received word that the hotel where the Bingleys had stayed, kept videotapes of their lobby and other heavily trafficked areas for up to a month at a time.
Clearance was obtained for the videotapes to be sent via the Internet and the Bingleys, the Darcys and Richard were watching them trying to discern the man in the hat.
"There! See that hat! The man who is wearing sunglasses and carrying a newspaper."
Sure enough the man could be seen leaving the lobby and then entering the patio café after Charles. Not too close, but not too far either. Both Darcy and Richard immediately had gut reactions to the man's stature and carriage.
Posted on 2011-09-30
The Sunday afternoon meeting came to an abrupt end when Richard was called away. Charles left with the Hursts, and Jane and Elizabeth were introduced to a new character, one Mr. William Collins.
He was of medium height, slightly rotund and seemed to be in constant motion around Mrs. deBourgh who was ingesting yet another Bloody Mary. He reminded Lizzy of a black and white hummingbird, all atwitter around a flower.
The Darcys had given Jane and Lizzy some background information about 'Aunt Catherine.'
Georgiana described her Aunt Catherine as being a somewhat domineering woman with a superiority complex and a tendency to be a nosy busybody. It was the family joke that she could lie on the floor doing exercises and you would still feel she was looking down at you critiquing your sit-ups.
Now in her sixties she seemed to have become confused in her thinking and she did have short-term memory difficulties, and would often ask the same questions, repeatedly.
The family feared that part of the problem with her cognizance was her history of drinking; she had never been a teetotaler.
Her marriage to Louis deBourg, who had a distant claim to European royalty, had been a reasonably good one. His heritage helped feed her feelings of superiority and they enjoyed all that their money and position allowed.
The couple had two children, a son and much younger daughter. Unfortunately her son and husband both caused their early deaths with horrible auto accidents, just twenty months apart. Catherine then became overprotective of her youngest child, Anne.
Anne, perhaps in rebellion, had married soon after finishing University to someone she met while on a vacation trip to Bermuda; a young banker named Ian Knightley.
It didn't hurt that he looked great in his business outfit of jacket, tie and Bermuda shorts. There was the added plus that he had no plans of living anywhere else but Bermuda permanently. After his marriage, he did work for his bank in England for two years at the end of which Anne and Ian gladly relocated back to Bermuda.
Catherine did not take to the confining nature of that island nor could she ever adjust to the sight of grown professional men working in Bermuda shorts, so did not travel to visit her daughter but once a year usually in the winter. Anne and her two children would in turn visit England in the summer.
Shortly after her daughter's' marriage she obtained a puppy dog. That was not what was stated on his resume of course, but that is what the Fitzwilliam family called him in private.
Mr. William Collins was originally hired as a butler but unofficially he was a secretary, driver, house manager and escort all rolled into one. In some weird symbiosis the two people seemed to thrive as a result of their pairing. He gloried in his role as Mrs. deBourgh's right hand man, and she glowed with his excess praising and doting on her.
At first the Fitzwilliam family did not quite trust the man, and as a precaution took extra steps to keep Catherine's finances safe. But nothing was ever amiss and the last decade had seen her as happy as anyone could recall.
Mr. Collins did seem to genuinely care for Lady Catherine and also did not mind the fact the she took him everywhere. The theatre, the finest restaurants, and an occasional vacation trip were all part of his duties. He lived in a lovely suite of rooms with a separate entrance from, but still attached to, the main house at her estate in Kent.
When his background check came back in full, it appeared that he had a sad upbringing, and he and his parents had gone separate ways when the man had been quite young. His father, a rigid and miserly man had always favored the older of his two sons, spending any time and money he could spare on that son alone. When Edward Collins was hired at a posh private boy's school in the north, the parents followed and lived in a nearby village. They had wanted "Billy" to go into the church but he left the seminary after the first year and enrolled in a School for Butlers. After informing his family that he would never be getting married and never giving them grandchildren, his family cut off all contact. This, to him, was a blessing as his life had been filled from the very beginning with their criticism and tales of their disappointment in him.
So when he responded to the employment agency for the job of butler and had his interview with the widow it seemed like Kismet. Their quirks were complimentary; his humility seemed to feed her vanity, and they survived quite happily together. Whether they were oblivious to, or not bothered by, the perceived impression left to the rest of the world, no one knew for sure.
He most likely was homosexual, something Aunt Catherine would have never tolerated previously, but now accepted as the most natural thing in the world. He did possess a wicked wit that seem to please Mrs. deBourg no end, even if her relatives were not always in on the joke.
Her natural tendency for being a nosy busybody still continued, but had softened, and she seemed to be satisfied with just having her say and was no longer inclined to force her decisions.
The family had come to appreciate Mr. Collins' patience and peculiar style of wit more as time passed. Sycophant he may be, but he was a caring one. He never failed to inform the family when Mrs. deBourg would be seeing her doctors and her attorney.
The plump man and the tall elegant lady were always seen together, becoming a known oddity, and he was considered an extended family member for all Fitzwilliam gatherings.
Of one thing it was certain, one or the other would be talking; whether it was while she was in the back seat of her Bentley as he drove her to her different functions, or as they walked about or ate at different restaurants.
A short while after meeting him, Lizzy overheard Mr. Collins make a quiet joke to Mrs. deBourgh and Lizzy started laughing with them. To Catherine this showed the young woman's innate intelligence. From that moment on, this American was taken under her wing, such as it was.
Lizzy found that Monday was another rainy day, made gloomier by the task at hand. Fortunately, the press was kept somewhat at bay by the weather. After identifying Harriet Younge and filling out the paperwork, they were surprised to find out that contrary to what Richard Fitzwilliam thought this would not be an easy conviction. The woman claimed it was all a misunderstanding and coincidence. Whenever she saw ladies in trouble she would take it upon herself to help them.
Since it was getting late that Friday, when the young American woman appeared ill, Harriet claimed to offer to drive her to the Stockport rail station, so she wouldn't miss her connecting train. Ms. Younge claimed to have a fear of male strangers and that is why she ran away from Mr. Darcy.
She truthfully told them she had no idea where George Wickham was but did not deny knowing him.
"Yes, of course I know him. You see, Georgie, he saved my life!"To Be Continued . . .