We made our way towards a group standing on the balcony; Nell kissed a blonde haired man on the cheek.
“Johnny, how are you, this is my friend Amy, Amy, this is Johnny Markham.” We shook hands. “Amy’s looking at investing in the sport, but don’t try and persuade her to hand over her money to you, she’s just given your Uncle Reggie a flea in his ear about trying to influence her,” Nell said. Johnny grinned.
“Wouldn’t dream of it dear heart, anything you need to know, especially about the engineering side, what makes the engine tick and how we can make a car go faster ask us at Nelumbo, Charles is an engineering wizard.” He led me towards a man younger than Reginald Markham, thin, with glasses and an earnest expression on his face. “Charles, can I introduce you to Amy, Lady Richmond, she’s a friend of Nell’s, looking to invest in motorsport.” Charles smiled warmly at me and shook my hand; his wasn’t clammy, it was firm and the hand of a worker, lots of hard skin and calluses, unlike Reginald Markham who had soft hands.
“Do you enjoy motor racing my lady?” Charles Chapman asked.
“The races I’ve seen I have enjoyed very much Mr Chapman,” I replied.
“Oh please, call me Charles, you must join us at a couple of races my lady, I’d love to show you the engineering side of a race team. I feel it’s the most important part of a team, the heartbeat,” he said. I shook his hand again and gave him my card.
“I’d love that Charles, I really would, thank you so much for the invitation,” I replied. We chatted for a few more minutes and then Nell and I left them to their racing chat.
“What do you think of Charles Chapman?” Nell asked.
“A man who loves his sport and a worker – unlike Reginald, he has the hands of a man who has worked hard for a living,” I replied.
“According to Johnny he built the team up from nothing, builds the engines and the cars himself, he’s a very talented man. Johnny’s right, he’s a wizard with cars and engines and he’s a nice man too, no show, what you see is what you get I believe is the term.”
“I agree, he has an open face, I doesn’t hide what he’s feeling.”
“So . . .”
“Well he’s got the mechanical knowhow to nobble cars and get away with it, but . . . I don’t think he would, he doesn’t seem the type who would deliberately endanger a driver’s life.”
“Ok, last on the list is Pietro Fallini, Jasmine’s beau,” Nell said as she linked her arm through mine. I sighed, I really didn’t want to meet up with the Bouquet Girls again, they hadn’t really forgiven me for Rose’s downfall.
I spotted Jasmine clutching the arm of a tall dark haired, swarthy continental type. She seemed very reluctant to let him go, which was odd, Jasmine wasn’t the type who needed a man on her arm. Nell led me, reluctantly, over to the group.
“Jasmine, how are you?” I asked. She smiled and tightened her grip on Pietro’s arm.
“Fine thank you, I haven’t seen you in a while?” she replied.
“I’ve been busy, and I thought it might be best, considering,” I said. Jasmine nodded.
“I’ve kept my distance too, Mummy said it would be better if I kept away, you know, due to the scandal, but with Flora and Violet doing the season together, I didn’t have an excuse,” she replied. I turned to Pietro.
“I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure,” I said.
“I’m so sorry, this is Pietro Fallini, he’s a racing driver, Pietro, this is Amy Richmond,” Jasmine said. Pietro kissed my hand in greeting.
“I am pleased to meet you” he replied.
“Likewise, this is my friend Nell,” I said. He shook her hand.
“We have met before, I think?” Pietro said.
“We have, I have taken your photograph at the winners enclosure at Brooklands,” Nell replied.
“Ah yes, I remember.”
“Aren’t you worried about danger, what with all these accidents lately?” I asked Pietro. He just shrugged.
“No, I enjoy the thrill and the danger of racing cars, if it was safe most of us drivers wouldn’t do it, we would run in track races, play cards or fishing if we wanted a safe sport,” he replied. The thrill of danger was like a drug to them, I decided, the shot of adrenaline they got from the danger was just as addictive as Heroin and Cocaine from what I could understand from medical journals I’d read – the more you got away with, the more you wanted the next fix.
“Which team do you race for, I’ve met Reginald Markham and Charles Chapman tonight,” I asked. Pietro puffed out his chest.
“I race for Alpha Romeo, Italy’s premier racing team,” he announced.
“Amy is looking at investing in a motor racing team,” Nell said, and Pietro’s eyes glittered.
“My friend Enzo is looking at starting his own team, he is competing in the Mille Maglia, a race that is a thousand miles around Italy. I will be there also, I will introduce you. You will like Enzo, he is very smart and very ambitious, one day his team will be the best in the world, this I know!” Pietro replied.
Something inside me fizzed; I couldn’t wait to meet the ambitious Enzo.
Jasmine, Nell and I chatted for a few more minutes, and then we bade Jasmine and Pietro farewell.
“Well, what do you think?” Nell asked.
“Very honest, I certainly believe he has nothing to do with the death of James Munroe and the others, even when you said I was looking at investing in a team, he never tried to persuade me to invest in his team. His first thought was for his friend Enzo, the only one of the motor racing fraternity that doesn’t have an agenda I believe,” I replied.
“What about Johnny and Charles, you liked them?”
“I know, but they would like me to invest in their team, they may not have said it to my face, but I’m sure they may try and persuade me their team is best. I definitely don’t like Reginald Markham, there’s something I can’t put my finger on.”
“What about your cards, what do they say?”
“Just that the motor racing fraternity is at the heart of the deaths, a close knit group of friends or possibly a team is involved, a young man who is confident and a bit reckless, things going on in secret, not to take things at face value” – I sighed – “and the dead rising from the grave.” Nell gasped.
“The dead rising from the grave, James’ ghost?” she asked. I sighed again.
“I have no idea, it could be, I haven’t done a séance for years. Grandmamma is the best person to ask about that, I may send her a letter and ask what she thinks, she’s been a great help lately, you know, after Sir Richard . . .” Nell squeezed my arm.
“Let’s not dwell on that, let’s find the champagne and have some fun for once,” she declared. I smiled.