Andra's Legacyby Sally Neary
PART 2: Memories of the Past – May 1985, Cornwall and London
Allie Cunningham opened the boot of the car and lifted out a box of vegetables and fruit. "Bill, would you give me a hand, dear," she called to her husband who was pottering in the garden to the side of the house.
"Of course – Allie, please leave that to me." Bill walked across and took the box from his wife and carried it into the house. Allie picked up the remainder of the shopping, locked the car and followed her husband inside. "It was so busy at the market this morning. I had to queue for everything."
"Well, it's the Mayday bank holiday and a fine day and that is to be expected, I suppose," replied Bill. "What time is everyone due to arrive?"
"Around mid afternoon," replied Allie, unpacking the shopping in the kitchen. "I expect Jack and Sue will be here first, as their journey from Bideford is only around two and a half hours. Dinah is travelling down from London with Snubby and Lucy-Ann. Snubby hates driving on Bank Holidays, but he couldn't get away yesterday, as he hoped. Dinah stayed with them last night so that they could set off really early this morning. I would expect them to get here about tea-time."
"Well, it will be good to see them all," said Bill, smiling. "We don't often get them all here at once. There was a time when their visit meant seven children as well, but they are now all old enough to be doing their own thing!"
"Yes, it was always exhausting to have the whole family at once, but I did so love it," smiled Allie, as she unpacked the shopping. "I did think that Harry would be joining us, but Jack called to say that he is going camping this weekend with some school-friends."
"I am sure we can't compete with that," said Bill, laughing. "Harry is so like Jack. He loves the outdoors, and he obviously shares his love of bird-life."
"Well, living where they do in North Devon, there are thousands of birds, and I suppose Jack's enthusiasm was bound to rub off on at least one of his tribe!"
"This weekend will give us an opportunity to discuss Snubby's holiday proposal in Skopelos in September," said Bill. "I must say, it sounds a wonderful place, and the family all seem keen to come. Have we now finalised dates, Allie?"
"Yes. I have said we are flexible, because we obviously need to fit in with the schedules of the others. We have agreed the fifth to the nineteenth of September, and that seems to work for everyone. Bill, would you like some coffee?"
"Yes – I'll make a pot while you are putting away the shopping," replied Bill. "Who exactly will be coming?"
"Snubby and Lucy-Ann, obviously, Barney and Diana, Roger and Isabelle, Jack and Sue, Barno and Susan, and hopefully," Allie smiled up at her husband, "Phil and Caro will also be coming over. Phil is working on it and clearly wants to come."
"What about Dinah, and all the children?" asked Bill, as he filled the coffee perculator.
"Dinah is saying that she doesn't think she can get away," said Allie, sighing, "but I know Lucy-Ann wants to persuade her to come. She needs a holiday, and this would seem an ideal opportunity to take one with all the family. None of the children will be coming – they are all old enough to be making their own plans now."
"I wouldn't push Dinah," said Bill, quietly. "If she wanted to come, she would. I know she is spending a lot of time in New York right now, trying to get her relatively new office off the ground. These things take time."
"I know that, Bill," said Allie, as she started to scrub potatoes for dinner that evening. "But she has to take a break sometime! She works far too hard."
"Yes, but she is a grown woman, and is capable of making her own decisions," said Bill, firmly. "Anyway, we will find out this weekend. I have no doubt the conversation will revolve around the holiday for at least some of the time."
"It will be an ideal opportunity to really make some plans," said Allie. "It sounds a beautiful house and the island is apparently idyllic. There's no airport – we have to fly to either Skiathos, and then take the ferry, or to Athens and take a longer ferry from the coast.
"We could always consider travelling a few days early and flying to Athens and spending a few days there," said Bill, as he poured the coffee. "We haven't been to Athens for years, and you would enjoy looking at the art galleries again, wouldn't you, Allie?"
"Yes, of course – although it would be awfully busy and hot in early September," said Allie. "Let's see."
"By the way," said Bill, "Dinah tells me that she has a mystery for us to solve. She spoke to me about it about two weeks ago, but wouldn't say any more."
"There will be plenty to talk about this weekend, for sure," said Allie. "Now Bill, shall we have an early lunch and then we can relax before everyone arrives.
* * *
"May I take in the tea tray for you, Aunt Allie?" asked Lucy-Ann. "It looks rather heavy."
"It's ok, dear, I'll take it, but perhaps you would carry in the sponge-cake and cake plates," replied Allie. The family had now all arrived and had gathered in the sitting-room after their long drive. Kiki was flying in and out of the back-door of the kitchen, screeching in excitement. "Silly Billy, silly Billy, silly Billy," she screeched.
"That's enough from you, Kiki," laughed Bill. "I would have expected her to become more polite in her old age!"
"Kiki, rude bird," called Jack, as Kiki flew back into the sitting-room and settled on his shoulder. He tapped her beak, and she put her head under her wing, offended.
"How was the journey down, Snubby?" asked Bill.
"The first bit was OK, as we started early, but it got progressively worse once we had reached Bridgewater," replied Snubby. "Lucy-Ann and I shared the driving, and we stopped for lunch on the way. Anyway, we are here now, and it's good to be back. I love Cornwall in May, apart from the fact that it is lovely to be back at Craggy Tops with you both," he added, smiling. He was extremely fond of all Lucy-Ann's family.
"Well, we haven't all been together since Christmas, and so it's wonderful to have you all here again," smiled Allie, as she poured tea, and began to cut the sponge-cake. "I always wish Phil and Caro could be here more easily, but Phil is very good at keeping in touch by telephone."
"I spoke to him last weekend," said Jack. "They are both well, and he is pretty sure that they can both join us in Skopelos in September, which is great news."
"Yes, he mentioned that to me in his call a few days ago," said Allie. "They are planning to fly directly to Athens, and then take the ferry from the coast."
"It's another year for celebrations," said Bill. "Roger was fifty in April and of course you have your own in July, Jack. Are you planning anything special?"
"Sue, the children and I will be taking a two week holiday in Vancouver and Alaska," said Jack, promptly. "We will actually be in the wilds of Alaska on my birthday itself."
"Are you saying that I will be deprived from helping my brother celebrate his fiftieth birthday?" said Lucy-Ann in disappointment.
"Don't worry, old thing," replied Jack, laughing. "We will do something together when we get back. I just don't want a big party."
"Well, in addition to that Lucy-Ann and I will be celebrating our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary on the fifteenth of September," said Snubby. "It so happens we will all be in Skopelos together, and so you can all help us celebrate."
"We had in fact remembered," smiled Allie. "We'll make it a very special day."
"And for that reason, I really hope that you will be able to join us, Di," said Lucy-Ann, looking appealingly at Dinah.
"I will try, but it is probably unlikely," said Dinah, hurriedly. "If I can't be with you, I will certainly make it up when you get back and take you and Snubby out somewhere special for dinner, I promise."
"Anyway, Di" said Bill, "you mentioned that you had a mystery for us to solve. What is it all about?"
"Ah," said Dinah. She opened her handbag, and removed an envelope which contained the Denham's catalogue. "Take a look at this – page 5 showing the European art auction to take place in New York on the fourteenth of June." She passed the catalogue to Bill.
Bill scanned the page and then looked up at Dinah. "Items from the Andra treasure ships, found in Thamis. From a private collection?" I assume this is the mystery you are referring to?"
"Well, yes," replied Dinah. "I had always understood that the Andra treasure which we found belonged to the Greek nation and were permanently on display at the National Gallery in Athens."
"So did I," said Bill, looking puzzled. He passed the catalogue to Jack, who read it and passed it on to Lucy-Ann.
Jack turned to his wife. "Sue, do you remember my telling you about the Mediterranean cruise in our teens when we located some Greek treasure from a map we found in a ship in a bottle."
Sue nodded. "Are you suggesting this treasure might be from that collection?" she asked in surprise.
"I bought the ship in a bottle for Philip's birthday in August," remembered Lucy-Ann, "and we found the map inside it when Kiki broke the bottle. "It proved to be the treasure from the Andra treasure ships which Lucian had told us about. We thought the tale was a fictional one, but it proved to be true."
"I would be surprised if any part of the Andra collection had found its way into private collectors' hands," said Bill, considering. "For one thing, the value of the whole collection would be reduced by any small part of it being sold separately. I just can't see agreement being given to the sale of any part of it."
"I haven't done anything about it yet," said Dinah, "as I wanted to tell you all about it this week-end first. Surely we can find out if the collection is still in tact in Athens?"
"Yes, I can do that quite easily," said Bill. "I can check if any part of it has been sold, or of course if anything has been stolen. Any serious art theft is now reported to Interpol. There is another explanation, of course," he added, looking at Dinah.
"The items coming up for auction at Denham's could be fake," said Dinah. "As Bill knows, art forgery is the second greatest crime in the world, after drug-crime, and all art dealers have to be on the look out for it. It is the bane of our profession," she added.
"You're right," agreed Bill. "Well, I'll check after the Bank Holiday if the collection in Athens is still intact. If it is, it suggests these items coming up for auction are not what they appear. Who knows what might be uncovered," he added thoughtfully.
"I wonder what became of Paul Eppy and Lucian for that matter," said Lucy-Ann.
"Well, Eppy had a prison sentence following his illegal actions in Greece and attempted theft of the Andra items," said Bill. "He had a very shady past, and his activities as an archaeologist were definitely not all above board. He may not be alive now of course. He was some years older than I was at the time," he added.
"Eppy was Lucian's uncle," Jack explained to Sue, "and he and his wife were Lucian's guardians, as his parents had died when he was small, as ours did. Lucian continued to live with his aunt after Eppy went to prison, didn't he? Do I remember we had a card from him the following Christmas after the cruise?"
"Yes, we did," remembered Dinah. "Lucian was half-Greek and he went to boarding school in England and spent his holidays with his aunt just outside Athens. We lost touch with him shortly after that."
"Well, we weren't really very fond of him, although I felt sorry for him because he had had such a difficult life," said Lucy-Ann. "He was an awful coward, and could hardly say boo to a goose. I remember him crying when his uncle scolded him, and he was fifteen at the time!"
"A nice little mystery for us to solve," said Bill. "I will check it out next week and let you all know the results of my enquiries."
"And if everyone has finished tea, how about a lovely bracing walk down to the cliff in the late afternoon sun?" suggested Allie. "It will give us all an appetite for dinner."
* * *
"I wonder what the explanation is to this Andra mystery, Bill," said Dinah over breakfast the following morning. "I keep thinking about it, and I am really keen to get to the bottom of it."
Well, I am sure we can find out and we will," said Bill. "I'll call you next week when I have ascertained whether any items have been sold or stolen. Now, if everyone has now finished breakfast, I'll just take a stroll up to the village and get the Sunday newspapers."
"Bill, may I come with you?" asked Dinah. She loved having Bill to herself when she had the chance.
The two of them collected the newspapers from the village store and strolled back along the cliff path. It was a lovely May morning, and the fields were ablaze with wild flowers. "I love being back in Cornwall with you and mother, Bill," said Dinah. "I always feel revived when I've been down here for a few days."
"You should try and come more often, then," laughed Bill, "and certainly take a break more often. You already have more colour in your cheeks than you had when you arrived yesterday afternoon."
"Bill, you won't try and persuade me to come to Skopelos with you all in September, will you?" said Dinah. "I know it is going to be really difficult to get away, although I don't want to upset Snubby and Lucy-Ann. My work in the US is taking up a lot of time at the moment."
"I have no intention of trying to persuade you to do anything," said Bill, sitting down on a bench. Dinah sat down beside him. He put his arm round her shoulders. "I quite understand that you wouldn't want to go... and why," he added hesitantly.
"You do?" said Dinah, looking at him anxiously. "What exactly do you mean, Bill?"
"I have always known," said Bill slowly, "from the beginning... how you feel about Barney."
Dinah looked at him in horror. "Bill, how did you know?"
"Because I know you, and I know the signs. Believe me, I understand far more than you realise," Bill said softly, looking at her stricken face. "But you have to try and put this down once and for all."
"Bill, does mother know anything?" asked Dinah in panic.
"I have no idea," said Bill firmly. "I have never discussed it with her and have no intention of doing so."
"Bill, I have never done anything or tried to..." began Dinah.
"I know you haven't," interrupted Bill. "You are far too intelligent and sensible to even consider it. Barney was spoken for long before you ever met him, and he was never meant for you," he added softly. "That means that someone out there is, but you have to give yourself and everyone else a chance."
"Bill, I know you're right, but nothing I do ever seems to make any difference. I suppose I bury myself in my work to try and make up for the things which are missing."
"I know that," said Bill. He paused for a moment. "Let me share with you something which I have never discussed with anyone else," he said slowly. Dinah looked up at him silently.
"When I joined the security services after I left university, I was just 22" said Bill, looking into the distance towards the sea, lost in his memories. "I joined on the same day as a guy called John Henderson. We both began our training together, and we became great friends. In fact, he was probably the closest friend I have ever had. He was a terrific guy – of great character, and he had a wonderful sense of humour. We eventually shared lodgings and spent a lot of our spare time together, as well as our training time."
"We both had various assignments, and he was seconded up to Scotland for six months after we had completed our training," continued Bill. "I then received a letter from him, telling me he had met a wonderful girl, a Scottish lass, who was a nurse at the local hospital near to where he was working. His letters during the next few months were full of Flora, and he eventually wrote to say they had become engaged and he wanted me to be Best Man at their wedding. He said he couldn't wait to introduce me to her, and planned to bring her down to London with him the following month, in October."
"He duly came back to London with Flora, and we were introduced." Bill paused for a moment. "I think I fell in love with her during that first meeting," he said quietly. "She was simply lovely, and John was certainly worthy of her," he added. "They were obviously very much in love, and full of their wedding plans. They insisted I joined in everything they were doing, and I spend a great deal of the next six months with them. The more I knew her, the more strongly I felt," said Bill. "My main concern at that stage was ensuring that neither of them were aware."
"I understand that, Bill," said Dinah softly.
"The wedding day arrived, and I stood next to John and watched Flora walk down the aisle, looking more beautiful than I had ever seen her, and marry him."
"Oh, Bill, how awful for you!" said Dinah. "That must have been so hard!"
"After the wedding," Bill continued, quietly, "I knew I had to back off, and reduced my contact to a minimum. Neither of them could understand it, and I used work as an excuse, but I knew John was perplexed and upset. He obviously eventually came to the conclusion that I no longer valued our friendship, which was of course completely untrue, and we lost contact."
"After that," said Bill, "I simply put up a wall around me and buried myself in my work for the next fifteen years. That was until I met all of you and your mother here in Cornwall. That day changed my life completely," he said smiling at Dinah.
"Mother doesn't know about Flora, then?" asked Dinah, softly, feeling extremely moved by Bill's confidence in her.
"No, I have never discussed it with her. Some things are very private, and I also didn't want her to think in any way that she was second best, because she isn't," said Bill. "I love your mother far more deeply than I ever loved Flora, because we have a real, shared relationship. You must remember that when you love someone you can never have, it feels very acute for that reason. In your case", he added, "it has been particularly difficult because Barney is a member of the wider family."
"I know," said Dinah, "and it was all made worse by the fact that I married Jim and the marriage was doomed to failure from the start."
"You married him for all the wrong reasons – he was an escape route, and it was never going to work. He wasn't strong enough for you, for one thing."
"It was totally unfair," agreed Dinah, "and it made us both unhappy. Like you, I think I have had a wall around me ever since."
"Well, it's time to let the wall down," said Bill. "The world will not stop turning if Dinah Mannering is not working six days a week for ten hours a day, and your business will not fail either. Let the people you employ do the job you pay them to do, and start taking more time out for yourself," he continued. " Look up old friends, meet new ones, take up a new hobby, take more holiday. When did you last see Philip, for example?"
"At Barney's fiftieth birthday party in Rubadub," said Dinah.
"Well, why not go out to Newfoundland and spend a couple of weeks with him and Caro?" suggested Bill. "We have all been over, and it's a wonderful place. I know you are not fond of wildlife, but it's beautiful country, and you would enjoy walking and boating and just spending time in a totally different environment from your life in the city. I know Phil would love to see you."
"I am not sure he would," murmured Dinah.
"I know he would," said Bill, kindly. "He cares far more than you think. You need to let those barriers down, and start letting the world see the real person you are beyond Dinah Mannering the businesswoman – kind, warm, fun to be with, generous hearted, with a huge amount to give, and allow things to come into your life." Dinah finally gave way and wept onto his shoulder. "I know you're right Bill, and I will try."
"Good girl," said Bill, giving her a warm hug. "I promise you, there will be happiness somewhere for you, but you have to give yourself a chance to find it."
"Bill, the things we have spoken about this morning will always be our secret, won't they?" said Dinah, looking up at him.
"Our secret, always," he said quietly. He kissed her on the forehead. "Come on, we better get back, or your mother will be sending out a search party."
* * *
The telephone rang just as Dinah was picking up her bag to leave her apartment. She walked back across the sitting-room, and picked up the receiver. "Dinah Mannering," she answered.
"Di, it's me. I thought maybe I had missed you and you had already left for the evening."
"Hello Bill – lovely to hear from you," replied Dinah, smiling. "I was literally just leaving. I am having supper with an old school friend this evening."
"Excellent," laughed Bill. "The new Dinah Mannering life has started then?"
"Well, sort of," replied Dinah. I called Jane on Tuesday evening after we got back, and it so happened she is free this evening, and so we are meeting up. I haven't seen her for about twelve months!"
"I won't keep you, but I thought I would just let you know the result of my initial enquiries about the Andra treasure items."
"What is the news Bill, do tell," replied Dinah in excitement.
"I have checked with the Museum in Athens itself. All the Andra treasure which we found over thirty years ago is still intact. No part of it has ever been sold to a private collector, and there is no evidence of any theft."
"That can only leave one explanation, then," said Dinah slowly, "and that is that the items to be sold in the Denham's auction in June are fake."
"It looks like the obvious explanation," said Bill. "Are you planning to make enquiries at Denham's in New York?"
"I think I will. All professional art dealers have to look out for potential forgeries."
"Well, be careful, and let me know how you get on. Enjoy your evening. Your mother sends her love."
"Thanks, Bill, and thank you again for a lovely weekend. Thank you for everything in fact," she added.
Dinah rang off, and sat and thought about Bill's news. Any suggestion of fraud always angered her. Apart from that, she wanted to find out what was behind this mystery of Andra's treasure which they had found all those years ago. One thing was certain, she would be at the art auction at Denham's in New York on the fourteenth of June.
To be continued...