Chaos At Christmas: Episode 02

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Over the next half hour or so, Ferelith became familiar with the many different departments of the Canadian Embassy. No one she spoke to seemed able to help but she made sure that she was always passed on to someone else. She was sure that there had to be a keen ice-fisher somewhere in the building. Then she hit the jackpot. “Is that the Department Of Agriculture And Development?”

“No, ma’am. This is the embassy kitchen.”

Ferelith frowned. Had that nice woman in the Visa Office passed her on to someone else at random just to get rid of her? “I don’t suppose you know anything about ice-fishing.”

“Nothing at all, I’m afraid.” Ferelith’s shoulders drooped. “But I know someone who does.”

Ferelith’s eyes widened. “You do?”

The woman was shouting. “Pascal. Pascal!” She returned to Ferelith. “Pascal, one of our porters, is mad keen on ice-fishing. Here he is.”

A friendly voice began speaking into the phone. “Hey there, this is Pascal Clermont.”

She explained the situation. “Our guest just wants someone to share the basics of ice-fishing with him.”

“I’d be very happy to do that,” he said eagerly. “It’s the one thing I miss about living in London. Ice-fishing is the best sport in the world.”

That brought Ferelith up short. She couldn’t imagine what fun there was to be found in holding a tiny fishing rod over a small hole in a frozen lake for hours on end. But she pushed that thought out of her head. “It has to be this afternoon.”

“Oooff,” Pascal said in a vague noise of French-Canadian uncertainty. “That could be a problem. My shift at the embassy finishes soon but I have a lot on this afternoon.”

Ferelith tried to inject some rampant gorgeousness into her voice. “I’d be so grateful to you, Pascal,” she murmured huskily. Rather to her amazement, the ploy seemed to work.

“I suppose I could rearrange things,” he said reluctantly. “How about if I got together with your guest on Skype? I could manage that.”

Ferelith knew that Laurence Berthier had been thinking of a person-to-person meeting but this might be as good an offer as he was going to get. “I’ll see what he says, Pascal, and get right back to you.”

As she passed behind the reception desk, she noticed that Erik seemed to be dealing with someone who was booking out which struck her as odd. However, her mind was on other matters. She found Laurence deep in conversation with his parents.

“My apologies for interrupting you, Monsieur Berthier, but I have someone who would be happy to give you an ice-fishing seminar this afternoon. Would you mind if the meeting took place on Skype?”

Good heavens no. I want to see him in person so that he can demonstrate the techniques to me properly.

“It’s just that…”

His handsome forehead creased with a frown. “I had hoped that this would have been sorted by now, Ferelith. Something has come up. Time may not be on our side.”

Ferelith heard her father’s voice in her head. “What our guests want, our guests get.”

She stifled a sigh. “Of course, Monsieur Berthier. I shall arrange the matter at once.”

She hurriedly retraced her steps. Now there was a crowd of people gathered around the reception desk. And more of them seemed to be booking out.

“Miss Ferelith, can you give us a hand?” Erik hissed at her in passing.

She grimaced an apology. “Sorry, Erik, I’m on a mission.”

Back in the security room, she called Pascal back. “I’m afraid that the seminar will have to be one-to-one. Could you come here to the hotel?”

He made another unidentifiable French-Canadian noise. “I don’t think that will be possible.”

It seemed as if he was starting to go cold on the idea but Ferelith suddenly realised that there was something she hadn’t yet mentioned. “You’ll be paid for your trouble, of course.”

There was a silence. “How much?”

His voice suddenly sounded more interested, though Ferelith had no idea what she should offer him. “£100?” she suggested.

“Agreed,” he replied immediately. “I’ll have to reorganise my afternoon but then I’ll come straight to you.”

Ferelith sat back in her chair, feeling drained but pleased. It hadn’t been easy but she’d got the job done. At the reception desk, there was now a noisy throng of people clamouring to be dealt with. To her surprise, she spotted Laurence and his parents amongst them. “Good news, Monsieur Berthier. Your ice-fishing seminar is all arranged.”

He shook his head. “I can’t manage that now. We’re leaving.”

Ferelith’s mouth sagged open. “Leaving?”

“Erik, did you arrange a taxi?” Laurence called.

“It’ll be outside in two minutes, Monsieur Berthier.”


Ferelith couldn’t believe it. “But Monsieur Berthier…”

However, Laurence Berthier wasn’t listening. “On y va, Papa, Maman,” he said and, with a wave of the hand, he was gone.

He wasn’t the only one leaving either, judging by the scene around them. “Erik, what on earth is happening?” Ferelith said in confusion.

“I wish I knew.” For once, he sounded rattled. “People are leaving the Manor and moving to other hotels on the spur of the moment. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“What people?”

Guests. Dozens of them. The whole hotel is emptying.

“I don’t understand.” At that moment, her phone rang. When Ferelith saw the name on the display, her shoulders sank. She forced a smile onto her face. “Pascal, hi.”

“I’ve managed it, Ferelith,” he said, sounding very pleased with himself. “It wasn’t easy but I’ve rearranged everything. I’m on my way!”

She closed her eyes with a groan.

“Of course, madam. I’ll have your Bentley fetched from the garage immediately. It will be waiting for you by the front door.”

“And my luggage?”

“One of our porters is on his way to your room to collect it even as we speak.” That wasn’t absolutely true but, with a bit of luck, it would be very soon. Ferelith waved a hand to attract Erik but his attention was being taken up by an elegant couple who had both been talking to him at once in rapid Italian.

“Non è affatto un problema, signora, signore,” he said with a smile that seemed to have become fixed to his face.

The voice on the phone broke into her thoughts. “Tell your porter to hurry. I don’t want to be kept waiting.”

“Of course not, madam. He’ll be with you shortly.” Ferelith crossed her fingers as she said that and the Italian couple turned to leave. “Erik!” she hissed at him. “We need a porter at room 104. Pronto!”

His shoulders sagged slightly. “I’ll contact Madame Pomfret. We’ll have to use the waiters.” Ferelith gazed at him in shock. The waiters at Fosbury Manor were the finest in the business. Some of them had worked in prestigious hotels all over Europe. It was unthinkable that they should be asked to lug suitcases around. Erik saw her expression. “We have no choice; the porters are being run off their feet. I’ve already roped in Geraint and the ground staff to help.”

Ferelith’s ears pricked up as they always did when Geraint was mentioned. She barely knew him but she was hoping to change that situation very soon.

To be continued…

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