I left her cheque, which she insisted I took with me, in my desk at home. I had no intention of cashing it into my bank account. I am not a detective and I am not working for her. My interest here is helping poor Mrs Scrivener who has lost her pet.
As the days passed by less and less people phoned regarding the adverts I had posted or the newspaper article. I could see the posters I'd stuck on lamp post disintegrate and fall to pieces as it rained every day. The story of the missing parrot was losing interest and will be soon forgotten.
Understandably, the police were not interested either. They were far too busy dealing with real crimes to bother about a missing bird; whom they believed had just flown out of the open door.
The French farmers market had gone and all traders were most probably back in France. So I doubt there's any trail to follow there.
The burly man who stopped me in the alley way, perhaps the same man who stole the parrot, was never to be seen again.
All I was left with was an old Mrs Scrivener getting sadder and more morose by the day and losing the will to live. I never thought that the loss of a stupid parrot would have such an effect on her. But then, when you are old, lonely, and the only company in life is a pet; then its loss is far more serious than most of us would imagine.
I could ill afford the time to look for a missing parrot and care for Mrs Scrivener. Besides, I had to go to work every day. I did not have time to play detective chasing a bird who by now is probably a tasty meal for a stray cat somewhere. My boss was beginning to get irritated by my getting to work late and leaving early.
I spent every spare minute thinking about Mrs Scrivener and worrying about her. One thing intrigued me though. You know how sometimes we get a thought at the back of our minds that will not subside or go away? "Who is or was this François Bordeaux? Is he just Veronique's uncle or is there something more sinister here? How could he be looking for me, as the burly man in the alley way said, if he is dead? Or is he?"
I called a friend of mine who practised law. He is not a lawyer as such, but what is known as a legal executive. The sort of person who does all the background work for solicitors. I have known him since college and we kept in touch through the years. I asked him, "is it possible to see the will of a deceased person?"
Apparently you can. All wills of dead people are registered somewhere by the authorities and are available to the public on payment of a fee. My legal friend promised to find out more about this François Bordeaux.
And sure enough, a couple of weeks later he contacted me with the information he had dug up through contacts in the legal profession. (Thought: perhaps I should not have used the words 'dug up' under the circumstances!)
Acting on instinct rather than intelligence I jumped into my car and drove to Veronique's house. As I approached the heavily gated community the security guards at the gate, all three of them, stopped me and asked for identification. I told them I had no previous appointment to see Veronique and they kept me waiting for about fifteen minutes until they contacted her mansion to check. Eventually, they let me pass through the gate and I drove up the hill and parked outside her house.
A woman in her fifties opened the door and said, "Miss Sullivan was not expecting you. You should make an appointment in future. She is in the pool for her daily exercise. I'll take you there!"
We walked into the hall and through a door leading to a patio area and a huge outdoor swimming pool. Veronique continued swimming a whole length of the pool and then came out wearing a very tiny white bikini revealing a toned body which Venus would be proud of. Is it Venus who's supposed to be the epitome of beauty or is it someone else? Or was it Aphrodite? For some reason this reminded me of a limerick we had made up as kids in school ... There was a beauty called Aphrodite ... Who wore a pink see-through nighty ... How else did it go? I remember it was somewhat rude but can't think of the ending. My mind was all over the place seeing Veronique in a white bikini.
She sat on a beach chair nearby.
"You have news for me?" she asked.
"Yes ..." I mumbled, "but it is probably news that you already know."
She raised an eyebrow and said nothing. I continued.
"I have discovered that your uncle François Bordeaux was a scientist living in Cambridge. He was British from French descent and had lived in Britain most of his life. He had made a very important scientific discovery which he tried to sell to a laboratory which would produce it and sell it world-wide. They had given him a very large sum of money as an advance before contracts were signed and a deal made. Unfortunately, he died before contracts were signed and the laboratory wanted their money back. They intended to fight it in Court but after legal advice they eventually gave up the fight because they did not want bad publicity. His whole inheritance went to his only relative, his niece named Veronique Bordeaux. Which presumably explains this luxurious mansion!"
She did not speak for a while and continued to dry her legs softly with a towel.
She then looked up at me from her chair and said, "Bravo ... so you've discovered a little about my uncle ...Yes, he was a scientist and had discovered a very important formula that would be of great value to the whole world. I don't know what it was. He never spoke to me about it. And yes, he did get a very large sum of money from the pharmaceutical company or laboratory, or whatever it was in payment for his discovery or invention. When he died suddenly by falling off a ladder whilst he was fixing the roof of his house the company tried to get their money back through the Courts; but thought better afterwards because of the bad publicity this would create. And you are correct. I did inherit the money to buy this place and live in comfort for life. Is that wrong on my part?"
As I stood there I saw her upper lip tremble a little.
"What you don't know," she continued, "is that this happened some three years ago. At the time I was on honeymoon with my husband in America. I was twenty-nine at the time and had been married two weeks earlier. My uncle was at the wedding. It was the last time I saw him alive. He walked with me up the altar because my parents died long ago."
She stopped and took a deep breath. It was obvious it was very difficult recalling what had happened. She bit her lip to control her emotions and went on.
"Whilst we were on honeymoon ... in America ... my husband was tragically killed in a road accident. I was slightly injured, not serious. I had to deal with the situation and cope with the trauma of it all. I was almost penniless and trying to get my husband's body back to England to bury him here. I don't know how I did it ... how I managed ... it took about six weeks in the States to make all the arrangements. When I finally returned to England with the coffin I found a letter from a solicitor in Cambridge telling me my uncle had died. I was devastated. In a short period of weeks I had lost all I had ... the only two people who meant the world to me! Both killed in tragic circumstances."
She burst out crying uncontrollably. I did not know what to do. Do I say something? What do I say that would help in such a difficult situation? Do I move forward and hug her? Is it OK to hug a young woman in a tiny bikini? I mean ... she is practically naked. I would not know where to keep my hands. Should I ask her to get dressed first before I hug her? Or should I change into my swimming trunks and then it is OK to hug her? But I haven't brought my trunks with me. What should I do?
Once more, I think all these difficult situations should be listed in a book somewhere with suggested solutions.
She stood up from her chair and hugged me tightly. I held her close for a few minutes and could feel my clothes getting wet from the water on her bikini. It was an uncomfortable situation, I tell you. What if the housekeeper who let me in saw us?
Veronique then sat down again and said, "What's worse, is that after my uncle died his house in Cambridge was broken into twice in a week.They ransacked the place. It's obvious they were looking for his formula or his discovery. Nothing was stolen. They left money, and some jewellery belonging to my late aunt, untouched. I could not cope with the situation and asked the solicitors to sell everything; the house and its contents, and settle the estate. It was then they told me I had inherited everything. I knew nothing about this. And I did not realise that he was so wealthy because of the money he got from the pharmaceutical company. He always lived like a pauper and wore twenty years old tweed jackets or suits with leather patches on the elbows. You know the ones?
"I asked the solicitors whether it was OK for me to keep the money my uncle got from the pharmaceutical company, and the solicitors said it was legally mine. The company made it clear they would not pursue the matter further. I would be silly to give it back. That's when I left Cambridge and moved here. It wasn't until six months later that I remembered the parrot. I got in touch with the solicitors again and they said they'd sold it to a pet shop."
She had calmed down a little. "I'd better get dressed," she said, "what must you think of me in this bikini?"
I chose not to record my thoughts here.
I chose not to record my thoughts here.
We went indoors and I waited in the living room. Moments later she came in and asked me if I wanted a drink, "not Crème De Menthe this time in case you throw it all over me again!" she smiled.
"I would really like you to find the parrot," she said, "sentimental value. You understand?"
I understood clearly, but then, if I were to ever find this parrot who deserves it more? Her or Mrs Scrivener?
What do you think?