De Solace, still holding the vase under his arm, stood in a group of severe looking men. When he saw Max approaching, he gestured towards him to join them.
Max, who did not know any member of the group except de Solace, was introduced by him.
One introduction especially held his interest. It was with Mr. Thomas Faraday, the manager of Faraday Electronics, the company he had wanted to make contact. Now, after Ellie had left the party so abruptly, not all his attention was in the conversation.
Still, Max took the chance de Solace so skilfully had arranged and tried to draw Mr. Faraday into a conversation about his company. But he somewhat had the impression, that Faraday hesitated to talk with him.
|Edited - J. Mulligan as Max (Source: RANet.com)|
Maximilian even mentioned the already sent proposal, but Faraday still seemed very reluctant to get into any kind of conversation with him. Faraday even went so far as to mention, that this ecological housing project seemed to be his, Max’s, new hobby.
Maximilian felt a bit offended to have his hard efforts and deepest and heartfelt cause be called a ‘hobby’, but he, polite as he was, did not correct Faraday in his opinion.
Faraday on the other side did not intend to do any kind of business with another of those ‘do-no-gooders’ of the multi-millionaire species. He had had a partner once, who, after a short while had lost interest in the co-operation they had developed together. He had nearly ruined him in the process. The partner had been rich and of influential background and soon had lost interest in the project when detecting it would demand effort of him. He easily could afford to do nothing at all and live from the fortune his parents had left him.
No, - once was more than enough. He knew this kind of bored society gentlemen and would not get involved with one of them ever again.
At least on terms of the weather, a fairly neutral topic, they were able to establish a kind of truce and got a halfway acceptable conversation running. They politely commented, how fortunately the organizers of the garden party were to get the first sunny day after a long period of rain.
Max still had not totally given up hope to get a favourable review of his proposal, but the conversation with the owner did not bode well. So Max was relieved, when de Solace rescued him after a while and they both could leave the garden party of the most important men in town.
As soon as they took their seats in the limousine already awaiting them, de Solace went through the business cards he had collected. Neatly in his tiny script he scribbled notes on their back and carefully placed them in a fold of his black notebook.
The party, at least for him, had been a full success, as far as Max could see, judging his bundle of business cards.
In some extent it also had been successful for him, as one of the leading Circlers had announced that they intended to accept Maximilian Delarmy as one of their few ‘honorary’ members of their elite society. This was an extraordinary honour, but Max could not really feel joy. He much more would have liked to get a chance to speak with Ellie. He would have to explain the unexpected turn of events, as she obviously was cross with him about them, but first of all, he had to get to her to do that. It seemed she had evaded him on purpose, today. He would have to make up for that.
Max instructed the driver, to let him out at Elllie’s place. He had memorized the address from her card. But still, the very exclusive surrounding of her address surprised him. She lived in an elegant mansion. He had never been in this part of town to prepare him for the exclusivity of almost ‘palaces’ here.
De Solace drove off, still going through some of the business cards and only waving back at him with a distracted smile.
They had arranged that they would later meet at his house for a relaxed drink and to celebrate the turn of events. Besides, the hectic party had not allowed them to get more than a sip of their first champagne, before being busily handed around.
Max stood at the entrance gate. Next to the villa he saw the car he had seen Ellie drive off with. His ringing at the bell was answered by an officially sounding male voice, he presumed by the butler.
He asked for Ellie and if he could see her.
“Ms. Elinor Carrington is not at home. How can I help you, Sir?”
“But she must have come home right now. The car is already back.”
“I assure you, Sir. Ms. Carrington is not at home to receive you.”
For Max that statement left open a wide space for interpretation. But he gave up for today. He intended to come back tomorrow. She could not always hide from him.
He thanked the butler, asked for when she was expected back, though he was quite sure she already was home, and received the expected evasive answer by the butler.
Now he had quite a long walk ahead of him and he would be lucky to arrive home till de Solace intended to come. He had not thought about the distance before, but had been consumed by thought about Ellie.
When Max came round the last corner towards his house, he already saw de Solace standing in front of it. He had a bottle of wine in his hand and looked through the windows to determine, if he was already home.
Max called out to him and a welcoming smile appeared on de Solace’s face.
Max opened the door and they, like old comrades, entered the house. Max left de Solace in the kitchen to roam through all the cupboards for something edible, while he went to change his cloths.
When he came back he found de Solace sitting next to the kitchen table and a bit introspect, looking at the trough full of letters.
|Edited - J. Mulligan as Max (Source: RANet.com)|
Max entered the kitchen, took out glasses for the fine wine de Solace had brought and opened the bottle. With two filled glasses, they tasted the exquisite wine and remained silent, each one completely entranced in his own thoughts.
Max was first to break the established silence between them and saluted: “To Ellie that she will speak with me again.”
De Solace smiled, exchanged the salute by clicking their glasses together.
“Where did you meet her?” He asked. “She is not going out much, as far as society rumour is correct.”
“At the bank, when I was there for the loan.”
De Solace already knew about the background of Max and his problems with the bank because of his loan for his house. De Solace in return had confided in him, that he urgently needed more customers and his advertisements did not bring the hoped for results any longer. Economy was in a crisis and people were slow with ordering new things and slower even with paying them.
Max had offered to pay for his cloths, but de Solace had refused vehemently. He would write off the expenses as advertisement, so both would profit from their deal.
The garden party alone had already brought in a full order book for de Solace.
|Edited - J. Mulligan as Max (Source: RANet.com)|
So Maximilian wondered why he still seemed depressed. The outing together had seemed to please him and de Solace had seemed in his element. But the sight of all the invitations appeared to depress him rather than to cheer him up.
After Max refilled their glasses, he took a heart and openly asked de Solace what was the matter with him.
“Oh, je suis totalement all right.”
Max was not content with this evasive answer and continued:
“I know why I am depressed, but you with a full order book should be jumping with joy and happiness. But instead you stare holes into my newly painted walls.”
De Solace kept quiet, sipped on his wine again, before he slowly began: “Do you know, that you were the first who, in all my time as designer, invited me or showed himself together with me?”
“At the Circlers?” Max asked, not understanding de Solace’s comment. He was surprised, as de Solace’s reaction at the arrival of the invitation had already shown that he had never been at one of their garden parties.
“No, not only them, - by any of my clients, jamais. – You are the first.”
“But you have so many contacts”, Max exclaimed.
De Solace shook his head silently.
|Edited - J. Mulligan as Max (Source: RANet.com)|
“But you are well versed in society events – and are fun to talk with...” Max was clueless.
When de Solace just kept shaking his head, Max asked: “Why then?”
“Who wants to be seen with his tailor? – That would ruin their social status.
Wearing my award-winning designs is one thing, but knowing me besides that, - no.”
“Then it is good, that I am not well versed in society rules and give quite a ... about my status and what others think is required of me”, he said cheerfully and added: “Stupid society rules. I rather have a good conversation than to keep up a nonsensical appearance.”
De Solace, as if he had expected Max to dump him after knowing how society worked, looked relieved.
Afterwards, they chatted again in the relaxed way as they had the day before, as old friends, and a bond of trust had been established between them.
Max opened another bottle of wine from the old cellar of the house and to both their surprise, the dusty bottle was still drinkable. With this bottle they washed away their problems and sealed their friendship.
It was no wonder, that after two bottles of sweet intoxicating wine, de Solace did not make it home. Max prepared the old kitchen sofa for him to sleep. This was the only piece of furniture Max had always brought with him. He still had it from his parents after their sudden death in a car accident in Spain on their first real holidays abroad.
|Edited - J. Mulligan as Max (Source: RANet.com)|
During their second bottle of wine, when they had already been deep into their cups, Max had told de Solace about his parents and his reason for travelling the world as far and as much as he could, before coming here into this town. His parents had spent their first real holiday in Spain while Max was in the last year at university. They had taken his little brother with them, as he had school vacations and wanted to enjoy their ‘first discovery of the world’, as they had called it, now that their two boys were ‘big’. He had lost all his close family in this one accident on the new built motorway near Zaragoza, the town his parents had always longed to see and had never reached. He still missed his parents and his younger brother dearly.
Afterwards he had changed his life completely. He had cancelled the contract he had already had with a local company to work after finishing university and had gone abroad, working for different companies around the globe. He had tried to see as much of the world as possible.
But after a while he felt the need to settle down, so he had taken the offered job here in town and had bought this nice old house.
The next day fortunately was a Sunday and de Solace and Max had time to sleep off their overindulgence.
After a strong black coffee, Max became impatient. He wanted to go to see Ellie again and try to explain, so de Solace left him to come back later in the day to hear about the outcome.
When Max arrived at the mansion of the family Carrington, diverse cars stood in front of the entrance. He went through the open gate to get to the entrance door.
The butler immediately answered his ringing at the doorbell. He must have stood directly behind the door.
Max heard a child screeching in joy.
When he asked the butler, if he could see Ms. Ellie Carrington, the butler gave him the same answer as the day before.
“I regret, but Ms. Carrington it not at home.”
A small boy came hopping and jumping to the door. Directed to someone in the back of the house, hidden from view, he quite audible asked in a child’s whisper: “Aunt Ellie, why are you not here?”
“Shhhh....” Max heard Ellie whisper, but he knew, that she had refused to see him.
The boy, now hanging at one liveried leg of the butler, looked out at him and said: “Aunt Ellie is not here for you – and for him.” He gestured back into the house.
Max had to smile over such a lot of cute naivety. He now spoke louder, for Ellie to hear him inside the house: “Ellie, I must speak to you. I can explain....”
“Pfhhh....” he heard from inside, but the butler just ended the discussion by closing the door in his face.
He heard another screeching sound of the boy and a muffled exclamation by Ellie.
Ellie had been very embarrassed, that her little nephew had openly proclaimed that she had been home, when she had instructed the butler to tell everyone she had gone out. She had not only wanted to evade Mr. Delarmy, but also a guest in the house, a friend of her brother-in-law.
Ellie had no good stranding with Anthony Ridley, her brother-in-law, and tried to get out whenever he came for a visit. His haughty attitude and the way he treated her like a stupid child who needed him to think for her, just got on her nerves. She could only bear him, because he was good to her sister and Carolyn loved him.
But since he took it into his head that he wanted to marry her off to one of his annoying friends and partner in his company, Ellie tried to make herself scarce whenever he was around.
That she loved and adored her little nephew and he in return sought her out to play, repair his playthings and just to make nonsense together, posed a slight problem in avoiding her brother-in-law Anthony.
So now, after her presence had so openly been declared by her nephew and after Max had left, Ellie had to join the family with the special guest she had tried to avoid, Frederic Ellroy.
Resigned into her fate, she went, on her hand her nephew Benny.
Frederic Ellroy immediately covered her with his unwanted attention and Anthony did make everything to make it impossible for her to evade his friend.
Frederic Ellroy was the gruff looking man Max had met yesterday at the entrance of the garden party. Ellie just had rejected him to stay any longer with him at the party.
He now wanted to make sure, that Ellie could no longer reject him and wanted to stake his claim in front of her family.
Ellie’s father knew of her aversion for Frederic and rescued her from her dilemma not to break the fragile peace with her brother-in-law and still to escape her persistent admirer.
“Ellie, could you play us something on the piano, please? You know, Benny loves to turn your music sheets.”
With this he made it possible for Ellie to escape to the next room and with Benny, crawling all over her to reach the music sheets, her playing the piano was either a light-hearted and funny interlude as well as a way to block Frederic out.
Besides, her father and mother loved her to play the piano and were happy whenever she played. So the morning was spent in happy laughter and for lunch she faked a previous invitation and escaped, taking Benny with her to visit friends of her with small children around the age of Benny.
She just hated Frederic and his certainty that he was so brilliant that she must fall for him anyway. He did not care to court her, but just was boasting with his superiority and geniality he had only in his own eyes.
Ellie thought, he did match her brother-in-law quite well and they should join not only in business, so similar they were. Ellie smiled and took Benny to see Christopher and Regina, her long-time friends since schooldays and their two adorable children, Bob and Celia.
Her prediction in some way came true in the afternoon, which she fortunately still spent with her friends and Benny.
The family sat together to take coffee with their guest, Ellie’s father had just left for a moment to receive a telephone call.
Anthony remarked indignantly, that the Circlers, of which he just was a beginning member and still quite low in their ranks, had offered this upstart Mr. Delarmy an honorary ambassador position for their group. Frederic joined him in his complaints, as he had observed the interlude between Ellie and Maximilian the previous day and wanted to get rid of this unwelcome competitor. Caro, Ellie’s sister, just listened and confirmed her husband in his outrage.
“Yes, an upstart he indeed is”, Frederic grumbled. “Some days ago no one had ever heard about him and now the whole town has gone crazy because of him.”
“A multi-millionaire incognito! What stupid person wants to hide his money and status.” Anthony added heatedly.
In this discussion, Conrad Carrington came back from his telephone call and innocently added: “Perhaps the newspapers got it all wrong. At least he seems a decent guy, buying that unspeakably ugly piece of porcelain for charity, when no one else wanted it. – Really very noble of him.” He did not mention that he had seen the interlude between his daughter and Mr. Delarmy and fully well knew that the buying had been a complete accident.
It would only cause further questions and Ellie had to decide for herself what to do and when to speak with Mr. Delarmy again. At least as a relief for him, he had seen real interest and joy in the face of Mr. Delarmy when he had detected Ellie among the listeners. The whole situation had been quite good to observe from the heightened viewpoint of the speaker’s podium. Ellie’s interest, which was quite clear to him, otherwise she would not be so ruffled about this man lying to her, was not one-sided then.
But Mr. Carrington’s remark had unwanted consequences. It had exactly been what Anthony and Frederic had wanted to hear. Not, that Delarmy was a decent guy, but that all might be completely wrong perception. They shared a glance, showing they understood each other’s intentions and after the coffee, they strolled out into the garden together to speak about their plan to ‘un-throne’ the ‘star of the day’.
“What would happen, if his oh so praised gold card was gone?” Frederic commented.
This immediately caught Anthony’s interest.
“What a brilliant idea. – All society has gone mad because of this card. But when it is gone ... – what clever idea.”
“But how should we achieve such a thing?” Frederic asked “And could he not easily replace it?”
“No, such cards are not issued each day. They need backup, security, time,... – Brilliant idea ...”
Both were lost in thought, searching for possibilities how best to achieve such a thing and silently walked alongside each other through the garden, when Carolyn, Anthony’s wife, came out on the terrace holding an edition of the “Vogue” in her hand. She sat down and started to read, but Frederic drew Anthony back and whispered.
“I have an idea. – The “Vogue” is doing a report about his house shortly. I know the reporter team and will convince them to snoop around and perhaps ...”
A nasty smile marred his features and was met by a cunning grimace on the face of Anthony.
“That is brilliant. – And I know the manager of the “Economy Daily” and will give him a slight hint as soon as the card is gone. – Then we will see, what fun the society can be.”
Both parted to set this charade in motion.
For Frederic it was easy to find a willing partner in this scheme among the reporter team. A voluntary assistant, female, impressionable and willing to do everything to gain a good job position, was an easy target for the sleek charm of Frederic. The promise of a position in his company’s press office was enough to guarantee her full cooperation.
On Monday afternoon already, their work schedule indicated that there would be a first photo shot at Delarmy’s house. Cora, the young girl, promised to help and report back at the end of the day.
Frederic impatiently awaited her call, to give Anthony the go-sign for his own part of the plan.
When she did indeed call, he sighed in relief.
“It is done. The gold card is gone. – It was easy to find it and get rid of it.”
“You didn’t take it with you. You left it at the house as discussed?” Frederic asked.
Taking it would have been theft, but hiding it was something entirely different. Who should find out and who would care after all the now certain trouble which would enfold.
“And he cannot find it? Are you certain?”
“Yes, all is well, Sir. - When can I begin with my new position?”
“Oh, wait. We have to see, how things turn out. I want to be sure he does not find the card first.”
“Oh, he won’t, rest assured of that. It is the optimal hiding place right under his nose.” The girl giggled about the fun of this intrigue.
“I call you about the post then, say in a week. I am looking forward to being chief online editor at Ridley Finance.” With these words she hung up.
What had he done? But the prospect of chasing the admirer of Ellie off the field just left him smiling contentedly.
He took up the phone and called Anthony. Though he had to tell his partner, that he just had gotten them a new chief of their online marketing department, the joy over what they did overruled any scruples and he gave Anthony the go-sign to start with his part of the intrigue.
... Continue with Part 6