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Silent - Part 15: The International Summer School

Two Years Earlier: Gavin

Philippa. Rich, posh accent, dressed all in black, long matching hair, loads of jewellery. I liked her straightaway. Thought she was seriously gorgeous. On our first afternoon in town, we spent a while watching the two guys in army clothes, Jace and Steve, climbing the pylon-structure pier before searching around for a taxi.  

'Lyme House used to be a Prep School for child prodigies run by Agnes Harlesden,' Philippa said during the ride. She spoke in an all-very-important voice, similar to One mustn't do that, must one? 'But someone set it alight ten years ago and a senior teacher there died, Douglas Harlesden, along with his wife Margaret, an ex-opera star. Their only child survived, Lucy Harlesden, and went to live with relatives in a different part of the country. The School shut after that, but Agnes continued providing lessons in the late afternoons.  The locals were upset about it.'

'Yeah?'

'Agnes stayed there until she fell ill,' Philippa continued, in the same tone of voice. 'She went abroad. That was about eighteen months ago. She owns a place in the South of France and she returned there to die. After that, one of the cousins, Terence Harlesden  or was it Brendon?  took over at Lyme House and suggested an International Summer School. The locals tried to get it shut down.'

'Why's that?'  A wooden signpost appeared, followed by a long driveway flanked by tall hedges and bushes. The taxi turned into the driveway and slowed down.

'The fire's still an open case and they thought it was wrong of the family to offer student accommodation on the grounds where people had died. You'll hear loads about it. And about Terence and his father, the former Mayor of Blackpool, rescuing the girl Lucy from the fire. Terence Harlesden, local hero.'

More trees, and then a car park.  Ahead stood a two storey-house set on a grassy mound, surrounded by statues and water fountains and landscaped gardens.  Lyme House, dubbed School Of Death in the media.  'So this is it.’

'There's a lot more round the back,' Philippa said. 'If you want, we'll go over to The Remembrance Garden later. It's near to where the old flat used to be.'

'What flat?'

'Where Douglas, Margaret and Lucy lived ten years ago,'

The taxi pulled up in the car park and we went halves on the fair. When we got out, I looked around.  Nice. Country air, unlike the gross smell on the promenade.  Blue sky again.  Peaceful. I'd downloaded lots of images of the House, but the online images were nothing like the actual thing. I'd expected traces from the past, lingering smoke from the fire maybe. Everything seemed totally normal. Pleasant gardens, stately house, lots of fountains, several cars parked outside, etc, etc.

'Why are you so interested in the Harlesden family and the fire?' I say. 'It just seems a bit -

'Obsessive?'

'I suppose so.'

'Not obsessive. Important. You'll find out in a couple of days anyway. Hey, better go in.' Philippa nodded towards the entrance where a hefty girl had just appeared by the doorway watching us, bushy strawberry hair tied back in a thick ponytail. 'That's Veronica, Philippa said. 'She's on the staff here.

'She looks a bit scary.'

'She is. She had a go at me earlier for carrying a mug of coffee around. Health and Safety, she said. 'Come on, we'd better get inside before she throws us into the dungeons.'
Lozzamus
Written by Lozzamus
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