Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without one of my silly stories ……well that’s what my friend says. So, here we go with an extremely silly tale ………
Merry Christmas everyone !
The coffee was hot and very strong and the Inspecteur de Police sipped it gratefully.
It was early morning on Christmas Eve and all around, in the hustle and bustle of the hotel kitchen, toasters were popping out bagels, croissants were being baked and breakfast was being prepared for the well-heeled guests. Sous-chefs calmly prepared expensively exotic fruits and other foods, while lowly minions and humble kitchen staff emptied bins or carried huge steaming pans and pots of aromatic coffee and tisanes.
The Inspecteur sighed, steeling himself for the task ahead. Normally he would never be able to afford to cross the threshold of such an exclusive establishment. The five-star hotel sat high in the snow-covered mountains and, at this time of year, was filled with wealthy guests, all expecting to celebrate the Festive Season in ultimate comfort and luxury, waited on by attentive, deferentially polite staff.
These guests demanded the highest standards and the strictest privacy. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with their lives; cushioned, as they were, by vast wealth. In fact, the Inspecteur noted, money seemed to saturate the atmosphere; he could almost taste it. And now, one of the guests …. these hallowed beings …. had gone missing !
The alarm had been raised at 6.30 by a chamber-maid, who was taking an early-morning cup of Earl Grey tea to the woman; named Miss Nagle, in room 205. The maid had knocked and entered; as she had done every morning since the guest had arrived, five days ago. But the dear lady was nowhere to be found. A quick search of the hotel proved fruitless and so a call had been made to the Gendarmerie.
A room was set up next to the foyer. A sort of “head-quarters” for the Police and the hotel Manager flapped about, trying to keep the Gendarmes as inconspicuous as possible.
” I’m afraid everyone will have to be questioned ” Inspecteur Renard said, then, noting the Manager’s agonised face, he added,
” But we will try to keep it as informal as possible. I’m sure there will be an explanation. No doubt the lady will turn up unharmed “
The Hotel was thoroughly searched again and enquiries continued all day, but the missing guest was not found and no satisfactory explanation emerged for her sudden disappearance.
A patrol had been dispatched, to search the tiny village and surrounding area, but, so far, they had had no success.
Inspecteur Renard wearily surveyed the files on the table before him; they revealed a strange case.
It became clear that the wealthy guests could barely remember Miss Nagle. The only recurring description was that she had been a quiet lady, who always sat alone. In fact, most could not recall ever seeing her; although she had been among them for five days and had, according to the waiters, taken all her meals in the dining room and attended the dances each evening.
However, the lowliest of the hotel staff; the boot-boys, the cleaners and the laundry workers, could all remember her in great detail. They had all liked her, would have gone through hoops to please her, but she was never demanding. They described her kind face and gentle grey eyes. Her slender frame and modest height. Her flowing, almost ethereal clothes. They all told of how she talked to them and listened to their stories about their lives and families. Most of them had travelled to France from abroad, leaving behind children or infirm relatives. They did menial tasks and were treated like dirt by the “front of house” staff, but they suffered these indignities so that they could send a few precious Euros home to their desperately poor families in Croatia, Algeria and India.
Miss Nagle had been kind and hugged them when they felt particularly homesick or lonely. She had given a warm shawl to one young lass, who found the Alpine winter such a contrast to winter in the slums of Mumbai.
She had bought cough medicine for the boot-boy’s croaky throat.
They had all loved her.
Renard stretched and looked at his watch; 22.30 ! He gathered his files, shaking his head slowly.
Outside, in the darkness, the snow was falling steadily; huge flakes that turned everything into a winter wonderland and covered the hotel grounds like a sparkling, white blanket. Across the foyer, in the Ballroom, a Christmas party was in full swing, fairy lights twinkling on the huge Christmas tree and glasses of Champagne clinking; the sound mingling with tinkling laughter and festive music. Downstairs, in the kitchens, the staff washed endless dishes and laundered dozens of linen napkins.
He may as well go home, no more could be done tonight and, as tomorrow was Christmas Day, he supposed nothing would be done to further the investigation until next week. It was as though Miss Nagle had never existed.
Christmas Day dawned and in various homes in Croatia, Algeria and the slums of Mumbai, people were waking up. People whose relatives were far away, working in a grand hotel in France. But these humble individuals were waking to a surprise. Each and everyone found a brightly coloured stocking next to their meagre beds and each and every stocking was stuffed full of money.
It was as though they had been visited by an Angel ………………………………
It only remains for me to wish you all Happy Holidays ! May you all find happiness, peace and love over this Festive Season.