Silent - Part 20: Arthur Harlesden
Two Years Earlier, Gavin
Weird atmosphere everywhere. I'd already seen Agnes Harlesden in passing. I thought she looked like Princess Anne, an older version, with a walking stick, hair piled high in a knot. Just my opinion, though.
Dinner took place in another formal room, all polished flooring and high ceilings, with steps leading down to the outside patio and the tiered gardens beyond with their statues and water fountains. I followed Philippa to one end of a long table with a white tablecloth. The afternoon was sticky and close, with dark grey-black clouds pinched together. At a table at the other end of the room, Brendon Harlesden and a stocky bloke in a dark suit sat talking to the Princess Anne lookalike, Agnes. Everyone pretended not to stare at them.
'I thought the staff had their own dining room,’ I said.
'They do,' Philippa said. 'But they've changed their plans now. Isn't it exciting?’
‘Because of Agnes?'
‘The staff are, like, really panicking. They know something's going to happen and they want to keep an eye on us. We're not kids, though.'
'What's going to happen?'
We sat down next to each other and Philippa pointed out the guy in the dark suit. 'Terence Harlesden,' she said, matter-of-fact. 'He owns half the properties in the area. His father was mayor of Blackpool ten years ago. Arthur Harlesden.’
'Oh, right,' I said, glancing at Terence again: dark determined look, along with firmly set facial features suggesting considerable upper body strengthsort of don't-mess-with-me businessman. 'And he's the one who saved Lucy Harlesden's life?'
‘If you want to believe that, go ahead. Personally, I don't.’
‘Everyone knows he saved her life,' the girl from the theatre Dawn said, throwing Philippa a dirty look. 'His father Arthur helped. Terence Harlesden forced his way into the building to try to rescue the parents and Arthur Harlesden looked after the girl.'
'Of course, we only have their word for it,' Philippa said.
‘Not at the meal table,' Dawn said.
Sudden silence cut across the room, like a knife. Everyone stopped talking, all at once. An elderly man had just walked in, tall and severe-looking. He wore expensive glasses and a navy blue suit. He nodded at the students, and I could have sworn he stared directly at Philippa who quickly turned away, and then at me.
'That's Arthur Harlesden,' Dawn said.