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Authors: Anna Lord

Tags: #murder, #wolves, #france, #wolf, #outlaw, #sherlock, #moriarty, #cathar, #biarritz

The Curse of the Singing Wolf

BOOK: The Curse of the Singing Wolf
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The Curse

of the

Singing Wolf

 

 

 

 

ANNA LORD

 

 

 

 

Book Five

Watson & The Countess

Series

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Anna Lord

Melbourne, Australia

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this
book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical
means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in
the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or
reviews—without written permission.

 

 

The characters and events portrayed in
this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to
real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by
the author.

 

 

1
A Room without a View

 

Dr Watson was not the sort of
Englishman abroad who went about with intolerable airs and graces,
a pretentious twat, a pompous arse, an insufferable bore, who
enjoyed lording it over harried hotel staff and hapless foreigners
by virtue of some unspoken birthright of Queen and country but it
was a question of health, namely his own. It might even be the
death of him.

A violent shade of menopausal
pink flushed through his face as he addressed the Napoleonic
mountebank garrisoned behind the polished mahogany reception desk
of the Hotel du Palais in the sort of priggish tone he would never
have dreamed of employing back home.

“My room was reserved in
advance. It is the same room I have whenever I come to Biarritz.
Room one-two-seven.”

He shot-gunned each digit
separately to emphasize his point – bang, bang bang! – probably
because he felt like shooting the condescending buffoon outfitted
in Hussar-style military jacket adorned with pretentious
frog-fastening buttons and ridiculous gold-tasselled epaulets. It
was all he could do to stop from shouting: Remember Waterloo!

“It had a view over the terrace
towards the lighthouse and…”


Oui, oui, monsieur
,”
cut off the concierge with a supercilious shrug of golden
shoulders, “but I cannot evict the guest who is now occupying
chambre cent vingt-sept
.”

Dr Watson was loath to make a
fuss but now that he had taken a stand he would not back down. It
was a matter of principle. “I am not asking you to evict the person
in room one-two-seven, but the room you gave me had a view of the
stable yard. I had to sleep with my window closed because of the
odour of horse dung. My bronchitis flared up from the fetid, stale,
rank air and I found it difficult to breathe. It was most
unsatisfactory. Surely in a palatial establishment of this size you
have another room of which I could avail myself.”


Un moment
,
s’il vous
plait
.” The concierge swivelled on his heel to check the keys
hanging on the brass hooks behind him. He swung back almost
immediately. “I am sorry
monsieur le doctor
, but we are
tres occupé
, with the exception of rooms 401 to 456. They
are on the fourth floor. It is - how you call it? –
le
grenier,
the attic. There is no
ascensor
to this
etage
and the stairs they are steep and narrow, not good for
those with the breathing
problème
. The windows they are
miniscule
and they give a view of the service yard where the
smoke it blows from the kitchens day and night, again not good for
the lungs. I think you will not like these rooms. They are reserved
for the lost baggage, the broken furniture and the lowliest
servants. The room you have, it is better for you,
vous
comprenez
?”

Dr Watson comprehended only too
well. The nerves stretched to breaking point were testament to
that. “If it is not too much of a bother can you determine if any
guests will be checking out in the not too distant future?”

The concierge heaved a long
sigh, ran a forefinger down the hotel register, flipped the page
and continued running his digit down the list of dates and rooms.
He did this for the next three pages. “I am sorry
,
monsieur le doctor
, but we have no personage checking out
until
lundi
the week next. We have the World Spiritualist
Congress
en ce moment
,” he reminded unnecessarily, mixing
English with French which the doctor would normally have found
interesting but today found merely irritating. “Last Wed-nes-day
there arrive here in Biarritz a large group of Theosophists from
America with
epouses
- how do you say? – their wifes. The
day before yesterday there docks in the Bay Basque a sailing ship
from the Baltic with the German, the Polish, the Latvian and the
Russian spiritualists who come for the congress. And yesterday
there comes your steamer ship with the clairvoyants.
C’est
impossible
! I can move you to the honeymoon suite on Monday
next – no sooner,
monsieur
.”

That did it! The doctor noticed
the concierge flick his beady black eyes lasciviously over the
Countess – and not for the first time! “I am not requesting the
honeymoon suite!” he ground out through gritted teeth, no longer
worried about sounding like a pompous English twat. “A room with a
window allowing for entry of fresh sea air not tinged with horse
dung, belching chimneys and coal dust is all I ask!”

Sensing that the battle for
self-control was about to be lost, the Countess placed her hand
gently on the doctor’s arm. The rigid muscles felt like tensioned
steel fastened with rusty rivets and she feared the structure was
about to crack under the strain. “We can always try another hotel,”
she suggested tactfully, hoping he would not burst a blood vessel
when those rivets popped. “The boulevards are lined with quaint
little inns and comfortable boarding houses.”

“I refuse to decamp to a
boarding house when you have paid good money for my room in
advance.”

The money was of no consequence
to her but he had Calvinist-Methodist-Protestant blood coursing
through his Scottish veins. “What about that interesting hotel
perched like a small chateau on the rock that jutted into the sea?
We passed it last night when we took some air after dinner and took
a wrong turn at the end of the esplanade. It had wrought iron
balconies at the French windows with lace curtains billowing in the
breeze. It would be sure to have an uninterrupted view from every
window and an abundance of fresh air.”

The tension in his face visibly
melted. “Oh, yes,” he said eagerly, recalling the peppercorn
turrets like little witch’s hats crowning what was most likely a
maritime fort that had gone the way of most historic buildings that
no longer served their purpose until someone with creative vision
and deep pockets rescued them and with a little imagination brought
them back to life, “just down from the lighthouse at the end of the
Plage Miramar. Do you recall the name of it?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t
pay attention to the name. But I noticed through the wrought iron
gate that it had a sheltered courtyard garden with an angel
fountain and not a soul in sight. It looked a haven of
tranquillity. I think it might be that little bit too far from the
main boulevard for most of the tourists.”

Tranquillity – that’s what he
needed. He pictured a bedroom simply furnished with a few
inexpensive antiques, one window overlooking the sea, another
overlooking the courtyard garden where the only noise to disturb
the peace and quiet would be the sweet chirrup of birdsong and the
soothing burble of water.

“Are you quite done?”

Startled by the abrupt tone, Dr
Watson whirled round. “I beg your pardon?”

The speaker was a portly man
with a magnificent handle-bar moustache and a ripe New York twang.
“I said: Are you done yet? You have been taking a fearfully long
time sorting out your room, old chap, and the lady-wife and I would
like our key from the major-domo.”

Mortified, the doctor stepped
back to allow the husband and wife to approach the reception desk.
He hated to think of the fuss he had made now that the heat had
gone out of his anger, and even worse, that he had made a fool of
himself in public. He had the Englishman’s dread of public
fuss-making. He took the Countess by the arm and steered her toward
some potted palms set in a discrete corner of the bustling marble
foyer.

“There is no need for you to
relocate. You can stay here. You have a perfectly lovely suite with
a marvellous view of the sea. And Xenia and Fedir have settled into
servants’ rooms at the end of the hall. It will be difficult to
replicate such an arrangement in a small hotel and I don’t want to
disrupt you. I will pack my belongings and move to that, er,
establishment on the rock.”

He was almost going to say
fortress but stopped himself in the nick of time, though a fortress
was what he wanted – a fortress against a harsh, modern,
superstitious world.

She wasn’t about to start
arguing with him. He looked like he’d suffered enough and she
feared his next room would be in a private sanitorium which
specialized in health cures for treating psychological disorders or
perhaps a padded cell in a mental hospital equipped with breathing
apparatus and a straightjacket.

“Let’s take a fiacre right
away. We can check if the hotel has a vacancy before you pack your
bags and move out of the Hotel du Palais and end up sleeping on the
street.”

Biarritz was the most
fashionable resort on the Bay Basque, and though it was the
unseasonable end of November the promenade was packed with wealthy
foreign tourists cocooned in furs that muffled them from the biting
west wind that blew straight off the Atlantic and almost blew them
off their feet. The ladies had their large hats tied down with
colourful scarves to stop them blowing away and though frilly
parasols were
de rigeur
whatever the season they were rarely
opened at this time of year. A few hardy souls were even braving
the freezing cold water - sporting the latest in scandalous bathing
costumes.

The fiacre followed the Avenue
de l’Imperatrice until the end of the Plage Miramar where the
crowds thinned and the winding avenue began to gradually narrow
until they could go no further and had to go the rest of the way on
foot. That explained why a hotel with so much outward charm was not
overrun with paying guests.

Steps gouged out of the rock
followed the natural curve of the promontory until they came to a
pair of scrolled iron gates. A brass plaque set in one of the stone
pillars announced: Roche des Chanteurs. Its twin had a brass plaque
that announced: Hotel Louve. A third sign set in a small manicured
lawn announced: Property privée. And a fourth in the garden bed
said: No trespassing.

“I think they’ve spelled the
name wrong,” wheezed Dr Watson as they mounted the last few steps
to the front door. “Shouldn’t it be Louvre with an R?”

“You are thinking of the Louvre
in Paris,” she countered. “Louve means she-wolf.”

“That explains the picture of
the wolf on the sign above the door – what an odd name for a hotel
by the sea. I wonder if it was originally sea-wolf not she-wolf.
There doesn’t seem to be anyone about. I think the wind puts people
off staying here. It is certainly blowy.”

“If it worries you…” she began,
thankful that she had swapped her wide-brimmed French chapeau for a
snug fur toque.

“Not at all,” he cut off.
“Let’s go inside.”

The entrance hall of an
historic fort-cum-hotel might easily be a bleak and austere space
of cold grey stone glinting with military hardware but this one was
decked out like a comfortable private sitting room. It contained an
unpretentious mix of provincial Spanish and French antiques. There
was not a scimitar or sword in sight. A faded Flemish tapestry in
bluish hues depicting a galleon at sea graced one entire wall.
Beneath it stood a country-style sideboard. Groupings of armchairs
were upholstered in embroidered fabric depicting fruit and flowers.
The side tables had nicks and chinks from wear and tear that were
more endearing for being less than perfect. Huge wooden
candlesticks like those found in Italian cathedrals dotted the
surfaces. There were no tropical potted palms with spiky leaves,
just cachepots of fresh flowers that looked like they’d been
plucked from a country garden and arranged artlessly in colourful
bunches. An old wrought-iron Venetian-style lantern, rather than a
glittery chandelier, was suspended from the centre boss of the
vaulted ceiling. The floor was laid using red bricks that felt
warmer than slabs of chequered black and white marble.


Bonjour monsieur et
madame
,” greeted the concierge with extreme geniality sans oily
attitude and slick smile.

BOOK: The Curse of the Singing Wolf
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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