Chaos At Christmas – Episode 19

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The phones belonged to nine of the guests, all teenagers. Lyle gathered them with their parents in the coffee lounge. Nothing had been said about why they were there but the teenagers were looking rather uncertain. Lyle organised refreshments for everyone.

“I want to start by saying that I’m not at all upset about what happened with the penguins. However, they were freed last night and I believe that those responsible are right here in this room.”

There was a moment of stunned silence with the parents looking shocked and the teenagers guilty. Everyone started talking at once.

The parents demanded explanations from Lyle and then from their children and the teenagers announced that they had done the right thing and that wild creatures like the penguins shouldn’t be kept in zoos anyway. It took Lyle quite some time to quieten everyone down and regain the teenagers’ attention.

“Believe me when I say that I don’t object to what you did. You were acting out of conscience, which is a good thing, and the penguins came to no harm. In fact, it was probably a bit of an adventure for them. So, as it happens, I admire you for your actions.”

The parents didn’t look so convinced about that. “I’m also delighted that you were using your GroupChat phones to help you with the task.”

One of the parents stepped forward.

Was it because of the phones that we were caught?

Lyle smiled. “It was, I’m afraid.” The teenagers all began to protest angrily and Lyle had to raise his voice to make himself heard. “But if you’ll listen, I can show you how to switch off the trackers on your phones. So we’ll have both learnt something from the experience.”

Ferelith and Geraint wandered outside. “It’s a whole different life for them, isn’t it?” Ferelith murmured.

“I’m just glad that we found out what happened,” Geraint retorted. He grinned. “And don’t tell anyone but I’m quite pleased that we’ve got rid of the penguins as well.”

To their surprise, they found Sergeant Banks and PC Lyons still at the enclosure. “But the penguins have been found,” Ferelith said. “They should be well on their way back to the zoo by now.”

Sergeant Banks gave her a lofty look. “That may be so but there is paperwork still to be completed.” He turned back to his colleague. “Now PC Lyons, let’s go through your notes one last time to make sure that you haven’t missed any details.”

Ferelith turned away with Geraint, a baffled expression on her face.

Do you ever get the feeling that everyone in the world is a little bit mad? Apart from us, of course.

“I don’t see what the problem is. You have a celebrity staying at your hotel. Lyle Cranford is news wherever he goes. It will make a great story for my paper’s readers.”

Erik raised himself to his full height. “I can assure you that guests at Fosbury Manor haven’t the slightest interest in appearing in newspaper stories.”

“It will mean free publicity for the hotel.”

Erik’s expression became one of icy disdain. “Neither is the Manor interested in free publicity. It advertises itself by reputation alone.”

The woman looked at him thoughtfully. “I think I’d like to talk to someone more senior.”

Erik wasn’t impressed. “I’m afraid that the hotel manager is much too busy.” The woman tried to speak but Erik immediately held up a hand to silence her. “I shall inform him of your request. If he wishes to talk to you then he will get in touch.”

The corners of her mouth twitched in amusement. “Please yourself.” She held out a card. “Here are my contact details. Sometime in the next hour would be helpful. I’d like to do the story for tomorrow’s issue.”

Erik took the card with the very tips of his fingers. “I shall pass the information on.”

Ferelith couldn’t help but smile. She had been sitting at the front desk doing some admin when the woman had appeared. Layanna Parker worked on one of the tabloids and had somehow learnt about the story of the escaping penguins and the link with Lyle Cranford.

She had turned up at the hotel seeking more details but had been faced with a brick wall in the shape of Erik.

Layanna gazed round the reception area. “I could have a word with some of your guests while I’m waiting to hear back from the manager.”

Erik’s eyes flashed., his voice was icy.

You will NOT speak to any of our guests.

“Then perhaps one or two members of your staff?” Layanna’s eyes drifted over to Ferelith who quickly looked away; she had no wish to get involved.

But Layanna’s eyes had suddenly narrowed. She moved across the desk to where Ferelith was sitting. “We were sent photos of the penguins in the park. Weren’t you in some of them?”

Erik hurriedly interposed. “Neither will you speak to members of our staff. Now I must ask you to leave, Ms Parker. We are very busy and I believe that your business with us is over.”

She looked at him for a moment and then at Ferelith. Ferelith got the impression that she wasn’t intimidated in the slightest by Erik and was simply deciding on her next step.

She switched on a beaming smile. “Of course. I shall leave you to your very important work. Thank you so much for your time.”

She turned and moved off across the reception hall, the elegant curves of her swaying hips drawing a number of eyes. Ferelith shook her head in amusement; Layanna Parker had a style all of her own. “Could I ask a favour, Miss Ferelith?” Erik murmured.

“Of course, Erik.”

“Could you check that she actually does leave the grounds?”

Ferelith got to her feet. “I’m on my way.”

Standing on the steps outside the hotel, she watched the journalist striding off down the drive. Despite Erik’s suspicions, there was no sign of Layanna lingering. Hurrying past the entrance to the driveway, she stopped on the pavement.

She took out her phone and pressed it to her ear, gazing back at the hotel. Ferelith watched her thoughtfully. It didn’t look as if Layanna had forgotten about the story.

However, the matter was quickly driven out of her mind. There were only four days till Christmas and the hotel was fast gearing up in preparation for their renowned festive celebrations.

With such a different selection of guests, the staff were having to cope with a whole range of unexpected problems and issues. However, they were all pulling together and many of the guests had spoken with appreciation of the relaxed and happy atmosphere throughout the Manor.

Ferelith felt that she was in a constant rush as she dealt with one matter after another. As soon as she sorted out the items at the top of her To-Do List, more things were added to the bottom.

The staff were all under pressure and it was a godsend to have someone like her available to deal with unexpected problems.

To be continued…

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