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The Consultants 4.17

by Charlotte Arabella Graham

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© Copyright 2013 - Charlotte Arabella Graham - Used by permission

Storycodes: Solo-M; F+/m; cd; fem; maid; pvc; revenge; cons; X

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Part 4: Chapter 17

Gwyneth sobbed uncontrollably. Charles put his arm round her to try to comfort her. She turned her face to his shoulder for a few minutes. She pulled away and with a sniff pushed back another tear and wiped his shoulder with her hand smudging further the mascara and makeup already deposited there. She tried to force a smile.

“I’m afraid it’s going to be the last time you wear that white jacket. You should have stuck to the rubber dress you had on when we first met.”

“I do,” said Charles trying to force a joke. “I don’t use enough talcum powder inside.”

They stood by the smouldering ruins of the New Stables as firemen damped down the charred embers while others collected up their gear and began to re-stow it in the engine. The chief came over and raised his hand to his helmet as if touching his cap.

“I’m sorry, Miss Gwyneth, the lads did all they could. They got ‘ere as fast as they could after the alarm was raised, but by the time they arrived the building was well and truly alight. It’s a good job there was plenty of water in the lake so that they could stop the fire spreading. Like I said, I’m pretty sure it was arson, but I’ll leave being definite to the forensic boys, they’ll be over shortly.”

He paused, not knowing how to go on as Gwyneth began to weep again, Charles once more clutching her to him.

“It’s the ‘orses, isn’t it miss. They had no chance. They were dead even before we got ‘ere. I’m sorry.”

The little group turned to go back to the house. The happiness and fun of yesterday now seemed an obscenity in the face of what had happened at Saxon Court. They felt crushed and very small. Even Amber had lost all her usual bounce as she trudged along at the back of the little procession, not wanting the others to see that she too was crying. Charles pushed Leslie in the wheel chair; Gwyneth lending a hand as much to steady herself as to lend extra propulsion over the rough cobbled surface of the yard.

Once inside the habit of a lifetime sprang into action for Charles. He may have been Charlotte for a while, now the response to damsels in distress that Amber had told him he must resist way back when they had first dined together came flooding back. In no time at all he had propped Leslie up in an easy chair beside the disconsolate Gwyneth so that she could hold her hand to comfort her. Amber had been dispatched to the kitchen to bring coffee straight away, but then as a means to keep her occupied and take her mind of the events of the last few hours, to go and make everyone sandwiches for a late breakfast. Charles poured them all a stiff drink, at least triples. He took a big sip from his own glass. It hit his empty stomach with a crash. It was a long time since he had subjected it to so much Scotch in one go. He excused himself. He wanted to think quietly away from the emotion charged atmosphere of the lounge. Half way across the hall the doorbell rang.

“We can do without bloody visitors at the moment, thank you very much,” he said under his breath as he went to open the door, planning to say something very unladylike to whoever had had the temerity to call at this time. He flung the door open. It was Barry.

“How the…?” Charles began.

“Saw it on the early news dear chap, lady,” Barry hurriedly corrected himself. “Didn’t like the look of it at all. Seems very fishy to me. Thought you might need some help. Contacts in the right places and so on, what?”

“I couldn’t agree more; about it being fishy and needing help. Come in Barry I’m really glad to see you.” Charles led Barry to the study indicating with finger to lips to be quiet as, through the lounge door he could see that Gwyneth had sobbed herself to sleep in Leslie’s arms. Leslie winked at Charles, and also put her finger to her lips, then spotting Barry and gave him a little wave.

“Have you had breakfast?”

“No, came as soon as I saw the news.”

“Well make yourself comfortable in the study. Amber was supposed to be making sandwiches ages ago. I’ll just pop along to the kitchen and see what she’s up to. I’m starving too, as well as feeling a bit woozy having had a big Scotch. If you want a drink there some stuff in the left hand cupboard, I’ll be right back,” and he was gone.

Charles was gone quite a long time, too. Barry stood looking diagonally out of the window to where the stables had been. He was sure it was the work of Sarah Turnbull. Something had to be done, but what? A familiar voice brought him out of his reverie.

“Good morning, Sir. Would Sir care for eggs and bacon for breakfast?”

It was Amber. Barry spun round and, despite himself, he burst out laughing.

“Well if that doesn’t beat everything.”

Standing in from the doorway was Amber holding a silver tray on which rested two dome-covered plates, Charles bringing up the rear with another tray sporting toast and jam plus cups and a cafetière of coffee. The reason for Barry’s astonishment was what Amber was wearing. She had cast off the old jumper and pair of leggings she had grabbed at the hurried departure from London. In their place she had put on a shiny PVC French maid’s outfit, complete with frilly edged pinny and cap, being one of several, in different sizes and colours, she had found in a cupboard while searching for things in the kitchen. However, rather than the regulation black, she had chosen red.

“May I serve breakfast?” she asked.

“Yes, please go ahead,” said Barry. “Where on earth did you get that dress?”

“Oh, don’t you like it?” She asked coquettishly, pausing from laying out the breakfast on the desk to do a twirl followed by a deep curtsey.

“Oh yes, it’s very nice, very nice,” he said pretending not to be looking at Amber’s frilly panties as she deliberately bent over the desk to place the cups that Charles handed to her. “It’s just…”

“An entirely appropriate costume for her current role.” Charles interjected. “Though black might have been more appropriate in the present circumstances. Now run along my girl, Mr Schofield and I have matters to discuss. We’ll ring if we need you, otherwise you can replenish the coffee on the half-hour. Oh, and ask Miss Leslie at what time she will be taking luncheon as we would like to join the ladies at that time. Charles gave Amber the customary slap on her plastic bottom to accelerate her out of the room.

In the usual bye-play, Amber made a face at Charles who raised an eyebrow a trifle. “Watch it, young lady,” it said.

Amber left them to it.

“If Charles and Barry were going to try to work something out,” she said to herself, “it was clearly now her task to look after everyone. Perhaps it was a bit of luck finding the maid’s outfit, but wearing it was fun.” Then she remembered why they were at Saxon Court and sadness hit her again. She shook herself. “Come on Amber,” she said, “you may be only a serving wench, but without you the others would be lost.” She went to find Leslie and get her orders for the day.


There was a conference of war after lunch. Charles and Barry had failed to come up with any concrete proposals and the general depression showed in the glum faces that everyone displayed. Amber twiddled the edge of her maid’s pinny.

“I’ve been thinking,” she said hesitantly. “I know you all think that I’m a fluffy head.” There were cries of protest.

“Oh, yes you do,” she went on. “Anyway I’ve been thinking.”

“Yes, go on,” Leslie encouraged.

“Well, it’s like this, I was wondering why Sarah Turnbull tried to sell your statue at auction, rather than just dump it or get a bit for it through a fence?”

“We’ve been wondering about that. The only thing we can think of is to humiliate Leslie?” Charles suggested.

“I don’t think so,” Amber continued. “I was talking to my kid sister. She’s dried out now, but she has friends who are still close to the drug scene. She think that ST is in trouble with the Barons and owes them a lot of cash and she doesn’t have it because most of her stock got bust by the law after it was delivered to her and before she could get it onto the streets. The story that is going around is that if she does not come up with big money very soon something unpleasant will happen to her.”

There was a pause while the others took this in

 “So what I wondered,” she went on, “is because, Charlotte, you know so much about computers, do you think that you could hack into her bank and take out all the money she has so that she couldn’t pay anyway?” Amber looked down at her fingernails and said in a quiet voice, “I don’t suppose it is a good idea. It’s like what Pooh says. When an idea is in your head it seems a lot better than when it is outside and everybody is looking at it.”

Charles put his arm round her to and gave her a little hug.

“It’s a very good idea, in principle,” he said. “If what you sister says is true then the more financially embarrassed she is the better. However, your idea has a lot of problems attached to it. And even if we could hack our way in I would expect ST to have taken the precaution of spreading herself very widely for safety.” Amber looked crest fallen.

“I’m sure that must be true in general,” agreed Barry, “but I do happen to know of one bank in which she has an account.”

“How’s that?”

“Because Henry showed me the cheque she had paid to settle up the auction affair.”

“I don’t suppose you can remember the account number, can you?” asked Charles, possibilities starting to stir at the back of his mind.

“Well, at the time I didn’t pay that much attention. I expect that Henry would tell me if I asked. I could always buy him lunch again.”

“That would certainly make it a lot smaller haystack for us to go hunting for needles in. However, hacking is not my expertise and there are a lot of security checks that we would have to crack. It’s a lovely idea though. Reduce her account to zero and watch the cheque bounce. Barry, do you know if Sir Henry has cashed ST’s cheque?

“Probably not. It is only two days ago that he showed it to me. He’s always very relaxed about such things when he gets to handle them personally. I’ve had to give him replacement cheques on several occasions when he forgot about the original one and it got out of date.”

Gwyneth had been quiet during this exchange. Now grief was changing over to anger.

“Which bank was it Barry?” She demanded.

He told her.

“If you can get the account number I think that I can get the security codes.” Before anyone could speak, she held up her hand. “Don’t ask how or from whom!

“What else do you need, Charlotte?”

Charles was quiet for a minute all eyes on him. At last he broke his silence.

“I need to think about this a bit more and maybe talk to some people I know. Some of them I haven’t seen for a while. It will be a bit of a surprise for them to meet Charlotte Graham,” he added with a laugh. “We will only get one chance, so we have to get it spot on, first time. The first thing is for you, Barry, to contact Sir Henry and ask him to make sure that the cheque is not presented until you give him the say so. Tell him it’s another case of Matron’s Knickers, or something.”

Gwyneth raised her eyebrows as much as to say, “Matron’s what?” but Charles went on.

“And get the account number. Gwyneth,” he turned to her. “I know it must be awful for you at the minute, but do you really think that you can get the information you said?”

“Yes, I think I can. It will give me something to take my mind off …” her voice trailed off as she sniffed back a tear. “Yes, I shall.” She said pulling herself up. “I shall need the house to myself.

“Yes, I’ll be okay,” she answered in response to everybody’s simultaneous question of, “Would she be all right?”

“I’ll possibly need it tomorrow, but more likely the day after. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go upstairs to my bedroom and do some phoning, forgive me, but I don’t want to be overheard. If you would like to use the study, please help yourself.”

She left the room, calling over her shoulder as she went, “And perhaps that useless maid of ours can get us some lunch.”

“Useless,” said Amber as she too left, in her case for the kitchen, “whose idea was it anyway?”


In fact it was four days before Gwyneth came back with the information that Charles required. During that time what they had all suspected had been established, namely that the fire had been started deliberately. Worse, the vet confirmed their deepest fears. The horse lungs showed signs of smoke inhalation. They had been burnt to death in their boxes. Though the knowledge of that had upset all of them, it had filled Gwyneth with a grim resolve to avenge the deaths of her dear charges.

Charles came down from London and set everything up in the study at Saxon Court. He would have very much preferred not to have an audience. Apart from a feeling of guilt for what he was about to do, it would be distinctly un-nerving to have so many pairs of eyes as there would be looking over his shoulder. To make matters worse Barry had insisted on coming too, so as to be, “In at the kill.”

“I’ve found something else out,” Gwyneth explained to the team, as Charles made final checks on the computer’s connections.

“Tell us later,” pleaded Charles. “If you want to stay, please do so, but all of you be quiet for a bit. Hacking is not my scene. You know we’ll only get one chance at it and if I balls it up we’ll all be in the shit.” For once he did not even notice his unladylike choice of words.

They all sat in rigid silence.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard Charlotte swear before,” Amber thought, siting on her hands just in case she wriggled. “She really must be feeling the tension.”

Charles’s fingers flew over the keys. He paused while messages scrolled up the computer screen, then stopped. He scrutinised it for several minutes, then started to search through the pile of notes at his side on the table. He reached out for his coffee cup. It was empty despite being the fifth in quick succession. Gwyneth noticed and tiptoed out to bring another pot with which to refill it. Charles found what he was looking for in his notes and a full cup of coffee, downed it and again began pressing computer keys. For a moment his right hand hovered over the Enter-key. He took a deep breath and hit it. More figures scrolled by, too fast to read to be replaced by a screen blank save for one word flashing red.

Charles pushed back his chair, its scraping sound breaking the silence. Amber, who had been biting her lip as the tension mounted could bear it no longer and started to clap, stopping immediately, in some embarrassment, when the others failed to follow her lead. He smoothened back his hair from his face with a hand that seemed clammy even though his brow was covered in sweat. He reached out for yet another coffee.

“That’s it. We’ve done it. You can tell Sir Henry to present Sarah’s cheque, preferably tomorrow.

“God, how much coffee have I drunk? I’ll have to go for a pee.”

Ten minutes later Charles reappeared as a totally composed Charlotte in immaculate white blouse, black business suit and his highest heels, hair and makeup redone to perfection.

“I’m sorry I interrupted what you were going to tell us a bit ago, Gwyneth,” he apologised. “I’m afraid that I’d got myself a bit worked up.”

“That all right. I’m not surprised that you were worked up. My news can wait a bit longer. Come on, please tell us just what you’ve done. I don’t understand anything about computers other than word processing and using a spreadsheet for the stables and farm.”

“Yes, what have you done with all those numbers, but don’t tell us how to build a watch,” pleaded Amber. “Just tell us what time it is!”

Charles laughed. “Well, most of the numbers were just placebos for me to reassure me that things were working. In a nut shell, and skipping the technicalities, using the information that Gwyneth got, without which this exercise would have been impossible,” he wondered just what it had cost her personally and emotionally to get it, in the present circumstances, “I have been able to empty the Turnbull bank account we knew about.”

“How much was there?” asked Amber.

“A lot more than we thought, but I don’t think that I should tell you. I’d intended not even to look myself, but the figure came up and I have this gift of being able to remember numbers even though I often forget people’s names. By the way, what’s did you say your name was,” he added with a laugh, trying to deflect Amber’s question.

“What have you done with the money?” it was Barry who asked. “You can’t just make it disappear. Where have you transferred it to? It could be dangerous if it were traced. Presumably ST has access to the same methods that you have used?”

“I don’t know where it is,” said Charles mysteriously.

“You must do!” Leslie retorted.

“No, not actually,” said Charles. “I had already thought of Barry’s point so what I have done is to transfer it in random amounts averaging £1000 to randomly selected accounts. I don’t even know how many of those there are because that number was random too, but it is over 2000. Even the random number generation processes can never be replicated because the seed, for starting it all, was the time I waited before hitting the final enter key and it would be impossible to reproduce that to the millisecond.”

“All of which enables you to work out approximately how much was in her account, give or take. I wonder why she had so much there?” said Barry quietly.

“Well, there’s one thing for sure,” said Amber who had been doing sums on her fingers, “there’s going to be a very pleasant surprise for a little old lady in Penzance tomorrow.”

“And a very unpleasant surprise for another lady in London,” Leslie added grimly.

“Yes,” agreed Charles, “and that is all I’m going to say. The less you know, the better.”

He got up and taking his notes and jottings with him, went over to the fire place, piled everything into the grate and set fire to it. As the flames took hold he added some logs. Soon he had a hot fire burning. From beside the computer he collected half-a-dozen floppy disk and returning, added them to the pyre, stirring everything with a poker till all was consumed and reduced to millimetre-sized particle of ash, save the metal edges of the diskettes. Finally he returned to the computer and set it to reformat its hard disk.

“So, Gwyneth, what do you have to tell us?”

“There seems that there has been heavy betting to win on a horse that ST owns. It was very good last season, but on its recent from it shouldn’t stand a chance. However, there is also talk that her other horses have been running erratically. You know, loosing against a weak field then winning in a much stronger race. I suspect that they are being doped, but no one has caught her at it yet.”

“What would happen if she were caught?” asked Barry.

“It rather depends on the details. She would probably be banned as an owner and her trainer loose his licence.”

“Don’t the stewards, or whatever they are called, know?”

“I’m sure that they do, but they have to be sure to make it stick. And Sarah is not someone you cross if you can help it, we should know”

“If another owner with a horse in the same race lodged a formal complaint, what then?”

“They would have to hold an enquiry, with veterinary tests and the like.”

“Okay, you said a bit ago that there is heavy betting to win on ST’s horse that hasn’t been going very well recently. So the suspicion is that she plans that it should win this time. Do you know, on form, what should win the race?”

“Yes,” said Gwyneth, “Pendragon Falcon.”

“Suppose I were to buy it?” asked Barry.

“No!” said Leslie, holding up a hand. “You’ve done enough already. If this is going to happen, I’ll be the owner. It was because of me that all this started and it is my job to finish it off.”

“Forgive my impertinence, dear lady, but can you afford it?”

Leslie looked angrily at Barry. “If necessary, I’ll mortgage Knightsbridge. Or auction Flame Leaper,” she added with a laugh as he smiled at her and she realised that he had been teasing.


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