Chapter Twenty-One: Two Phone Calls

". . . and then she told me that the police hadn't just arrested some protestor – it was her son!" Even lying in bed, Charity Hill felt almost breathless with excitement as she finished telling her story over the telephone.

"Well, if that's how she treats her family, I'd hate to see how she treats total strangers," Georgina joked over the phone.

"But it's not her fault, don't you see?" Charity frowned, wishing she could see the cheeky girl on the other end. Georgina the Goth was great fun, with her slick-backed hair and black leather clothes, always grinning and joking. But did the clever fashion photographer really not see how Lady Margaret had suffered in all this? After last night, Charity saw the wealthy older woman in an entirely new way.

"So Lars is still on the loose, but now it doesn't matter because you've discovered all at once that Lady Margaret needs you to replace her long-lost son." Georgie's voice was so dry it made the Sahara seem like the Amazon.

"You're not that funny," the little red-head grumbled. She wished skeptical, cynical Georgie were actually in the room so she could throw something at her. But Charity was all alone in her huge hotel bedroom, with nothing to throw except her pillow. Lady Margaret had gone off to an early meeting, leaving her to rest after all yesterday's excitement. Of course Georgie would ring when she was still in bed, sleeping and quietly recuperating. But catching up on the latest news was more exciting than catching up on her sleep.

"If I were you, I'd try to dig up more information on Lady Margaret's past," Georgina was saying now. "I'll bet she's got some real skeletons in her closet. Dark secrets, like."

"Do you really think so?" Charity shuddered, and then forced a rather nervous laugh. "Lady Margaret can be a bit formal, but she's the most well-mannered person I've ever met. She's smart and she works very hard. I think she's amazing!"

"I think she's hiding something," the Goth chick said flatly. "You'd better be careful, my sweet. Otherwise I might have to ride to your rescue some dark night."

"Right, you'll ride in on your motorcycle," Charity giggled. "Speaking of that, do you fancy taking me for a ride this afternoon? I'm dying to see if can learn more about Lars."

"Can't do it," Georgie said. "I've got to take some photographs at an outdoor fashion show in Hyde Park. Some people do work for a living, you know."

"Oh! Well, I suppose I'll see you later then." Charity felt rather let down when Georgina abruptly ended their chat. Nothing to do until Lady Margaret returned from her meeting. Stretching luxuriously beneath the bed covers, she wondered if the hotel had a fitness center. A few laps in a heated pool might help her to burn some calories. A good workout with weights would be even better. And afterwards she would reward herself with a brisk, invigorating massage. All she needed to do was ring up the fitness instructor . . .

The bedside phone rang shrilly, jarring Charity from a dream where she was perfectly toned and marvelously fit. Fumbling here and there for the slim, stylish phone, she tossed and rolled to the bed's edge and croaked out a muffled greeting.

"Good morning, dearest," chirped Lady Margaret Carlton. "Sorry to wake you, but I wonder if you might do me a small favor. I'm supposed to meet a man for tea and I can't make it. Would you mind filling in? His name is Prince Rashid Ali."