The Aristocrat and The Lady
On the fifteenth day of August, a man walked into the Security Bank of Geneva, Switzerland and deposited twenty million pounds sterling in a new account bearing the unusual name of Dithanea Spelnadcery. The man, a young retired guards officer with the rugged looks of a Hollywood playboy and the physique of a mythical Atlas, wore a smile that could melt the ice coursing through the veins of any confirmed spinster. He could have been Major Hewitt or Richard Gere, but he was neither.
His name was Stephen Forsythe-Brown, the son of a wealthy upper-class country family from Buckinghamshire that had made their fortunes, not from what they knew, but from who they knew. And they knew some very influential people. In the past, the Forsythe-Brown family had need of these people in order to maintain their extremely opulent lifestyle, for without them, and left to their own dubious talents, they would have floundered into obscurity long ago.
Stephen’s father, Sirus Forsythe-Brown, was in the publishing business. No one was quite sure how he first found himself in this occupation, he least of all. It was as though, through natural selection, he had always been a publisher. To be fair, it required something of a special talent to take non-achieving, self-important noblemen, aristocrats, or their wives, and turn their frivolous and inconsequential lives into the subjects of hardbound autobiographies, which each carried a cover price of around thirty-five pounds. To actually sell the publications took greater skill.
As it happened, Sirus Forsythe-Brown had neither of these skills. He would simply learn from his wide circle of contacts that someone was thinking of writing their memoirs, and the entire project would be placed in the hands of his business manager. It was then the manager’s job to carry out the research, take the notes, find a ghost writer and proceed through all the usual chores of publishing; editing, planning, design and so on. Of course, Sirus took all the credit, whilst at the same time satisfying the vanity of a circle of associates that had little more than vanity to sustain it. Vanity plus money that is.
The twenty million pounds deposited by Stephen Forsythe-Brown was just one of several such deposits made in the name of Ms Dithanea Spelnadcery. Ms Spelnadcery’s fortunes were disbursed through bank deposits, stocks, property, art purchases and antiques acquired over several months. But Stephen’s interest in these proceedings was far more special than even he realised.
Although, as far as he knew, Stephen had never met Ms Spelnadcery, the strange reality was he was actually her very secret lover.
No one, not even his closest friends, knew of the special relationship between he and the secret lover. It was not a relationship anyone was to ever know about. It was a relationship that, as far as the world was concerned, would never be possible. Not if everything was to work out as his manipulator planned.
But how could all the events that were to take place be planned if no one but the two of them knew of the affair? And how was it possible for such extreme planning measures to be carried out without the knowledge of either Stephen or Ms Spelnadcery. Planning and deception of this enormity took a very special talent. The truth was contained in the great lie. That lie not only deceived Stephen ForsytheBrown and his lover, alias the elusive Ms Spelnadcery, but spread across three continents. Each party was deceived by dint of their own desires. Each took care of their own individual agenda and their manipulator was very careful to pander to these personal characteristics.
As far as Stephen was concerned, his personal blindfold was an overwhelming desire to feel important. A low-achiever at the public school his parents had selected for him, he had to fall back on his family’s vast aristocratic circle to impress his friends. This, combined with seemingly inexhaustible financial funds and a natural wit and charm such as often falls on the otherwise inept, Stephen ForsytheBrown sloped through life doing the minimum necessary, and little more. Never achieving status through efforts of real substance, Stephen was drawn like a magnet to anything that might place him in a position of unearned importance.
One such position was his presidency of the Aristocracy Club. The club had been started a few years ago by a group of students at his old school. What Stephen had not realised was, that by starting the club and inviting him to become its president, the students had actually been playing a practical joke. Even though now in his mid thirties, Stephen had often returned to the school, and students over several years had acquired full knowledge of his frivolous lifestyle, general incompetence, and aristocratic circle of family friends. They simply played on these characteristics to ensnare him into a club that had no other purpose than to make fun of him. What they had not reckoned on was Stephen’s great need to feel important.
For just once he had taken hold of a project, made it his own, and actually whipped it into something meaningful. At least it carried depth as far as he was concerned. By using his charm and contacts he had created a meeting place for similarly inept individuals, filled it with his father’s publications, and chaired regular meetings to discuss the imagined merits of the published subjects. Yes, Stephen created an importance for a club that was based on nothing more than the lives of non-productive parasites; created as a joke. But the joke was on its creators.
The Aristocracy Club soon became the information centre for every social event and upper class banquet. If anyone wanted to know what was happening, where and when, they would either ask Stephen or attend the Club.
It was Felicity, daughter of Sir Archibald and Lady Cynthia Cruikshank, who first brought the information of the main event to the Club. Apparently, there was to be a charity banquet at Stockton Hall, the country home of Sir Charles Stockton-Willis, and rumour had it that The Lady herself would be in attendance. This would be an event no one would want to miss, least of all Stephen Forsythe-Brown.
Felicity was a long-standing friend of Stephen who had a particular thing going for him. Stephen, who flitted from girl to girl, usually about fifteen years younger than he, would always find himself back with Felicity at regular intervals. Usually it was only for a quick fling in the nearest bed available, and not always a bed either. Felicity passed from one man to another even more promiscuously, but for her there was nothing quite as exciting as her moments with Stephen. At most social events, regardless of which partner had accompanied them, they usually ended up in a clinch somewhere. A spare bedroom at the Murton-Forbes residence, the summerhouse at Lady Margaret’s, among the coats in the cloakroom at the ‘A’ Club bash, and the notorious incident on the snooker table at Vernon Montague’s.
That particular event had, at the time, created the biggest scandal of the season. The copulating antics of Felicity and Stephen on the green baize were first seen by Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the seventeenyear-old Montague twins. They had had been drawn to the French windows by the screeches and groans made by Felicity. Having discovered the secret deed the twins quickly gathered up all the young people they could find and burst into the billiard room to start up a chorus of ‘Go, go, go, go’.
The moment was such an embarrassment to Stephen - Felicity could never be embarrassed by anything – he decided to play along with it. Without looking up he continued to thrust in time with the roar of the chant. Having a large audience excited Felicity so much that she screamed and groaned loudly, which in turn encouraged the audience to increase both their volume and the pace. Eventually she let out an incredible roar, which, to Stephen’s great relief indicated she had at last climaxed. He climbed off the table adjusting his clothing, made a low bow to the audience and made his exit.
When all the talk had died – about three months on – Stephen found himself to be a living legend pursued by every young society girl on the circuit. Felicity on the other hand became the envy of them all. When asked what it was like she simply replied, “Much like all the other times we’ve fucked over the past ten years. Incredible.”
Eventually the day of the great banquet arrived. Everyone who was someone – or at least thought they were, or were thought to be someone by others who wouldn’t know a real someone if they met one – arrived at the country home of Sir Charles Stockton-Willis. The amount of money gathered at that event simply could not be calculated. Most of the aristocracy had little idea of their own financial worth, a symptom of a section of society that was never required to carry out an honest days work for the rewards it received. In contrast, the business people there new exactly how much they were worth. Each penny had been acquired as a result of producing values. Now they were prepared to give a little back to a good charity in the full knowledge that it would actually cost them nothing, being as it was, tax-deductible. They were not fools. It wasn’t foolishness that had made them successful.
Stephen was talking in a corner with a few friends.
Olivia Gresham was hanging on to the arm of a guards officer, Tony Bentwater, who had thought it elegant to wear his uniform to the event, but now felt conspicuous and out of place. Olivia still thought it elegant. Olivia thought anything was elegant provided it did not include the wearing of jeans. Jeans and Olivia didn’t go together well. It was something about the shape of her body, yet in a tight fitting dress she was a remarkably attractive girl.
Sondra Fortune, a young actress, accompanied Charlton Ogilvy, known by everyone except his partner to be a ‘twerp’. Sondra had just acquired a part in a TV series and was one of the new up-and-coming names in TV show business. Charlton, a would-be actor, had never received a part in anything, although rumour had it that he was one of the crowd in a scene from Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves, but it had never been substantiated. The only evidence available was that he had a costume of the period in his wardrobe. The costume however, was that of a nobleman. It was hardly the thing to be worn by a peasant of the crowd. So he retained his reputation of being a ‘twerp’.
Felicity, although quietly hoping to get laid by Stephen sometime during the evening, was draped around a new partner, a young up-start Italian racing driver named Antonio. Antonio was a conceited Roman and so incredibly dangerous behind the wheel, it was considered by most that he would be extremely lucky to reach the age of thirty. Felicity thought she should get the best he had to offer before the date of his demise arrived.
As usual Stephen had no partner. He preferred the challenge of arriving single and leaving accompanied. But tonight there was something more interesting to hold his attention. Tonight The Lady would be present.
Everyone chatted and waited in anticipation of her arrival.
Quite suddenly the volume diminished. A flurry of activity across the room preceded the entrance of the first bodyguard, a huge heavyjawed Neanderthal who looked quite out of place dressed in evening suit and bow tie. Rather like a bulldog impersonating a poodle. Then she appeared, tall, elegant but demure, strong yet strangely vulnerable. Her expensive white designer dress draped the floor behind her, followed by an attentive, if inconsequential escort. Behind the escort a twin of the Neanderthal blocked any sudden access to The Lady from that direction. Neanderthal number one stepped aside to allow space for the host and hostess to greet The Lady. Then they began to introduce her to some of the guests.
Across the room the group of friends looked on fascinated.
“My God, she’s beautiful,” said Stephen in awe of the marvellous lady.
“What’s new?” said Felicity somewhat piqued at Stephen’s unusual interest.
“No, I mean really beautiful. Exquisite. I’ve never seen a woman like her. She’s… she’s dazzling.”
“Dazzling?” said Felicity indignantly, “She’s just a woman, not a jewel.”
“No Licie,” Stephen used the familiar shortened name he always used, “You’re wrong. That’s exactly what she is… a jewel among women.”
“My, you are besotted.” Felicity sidled over to him and whispered in his ear. “But you won’t get as much change from that one as you get here,” she said pointedly, and her hand hidden in the voluminous folds of her dress surrounded his crotch and squeezed gently.
Either the action was so familiar he hadn’t noticed, or he was genuinely preoccupied. Whichever, he ignored the intimacy.
“I have to meet her,” he said and stepped out to cross the distance between them.
“Don’t be silly Stephen,” said Felicity, “You can’t just go up to her unannounced.”
But Stephen did not hear her. He was already halfway across the room. Avoiding the bodyguard and the hosts he stepped in front of The Lady. A large smile saturated his chiselled face as he spoke.
“Good evening, ma’am, Stephen Forsythe-Brown. Isn’t this extremely peculiar?”
The Lady looked at him through eyelashes like the crown on the Statue of Liberty. Those clear blue almonds presented a strange combination of sadness and mystique. The familiar voice came unexpected.
“What is so peculiar Mr Forsythe-Brown?”
The Lady met his gaze with soft yet penetrating eye contact that seemed both bold and reserved.
“Why, the fact that I have been to every social event throughout the land for the past ten years, yet we have never met before,” Stephen’s charm came unaffected and natural.
“You are right Mr Forsythe-Brown,” said The Lady.
“That it’s peculiar?”
The Lady laughed. “No. That we have never met before.”
“Well, now that we have met at last, I have much to tell you.” Stephen held out his hand in invitation for her to walk with him. The Lady stepped forward, thanked the hosts for their invitation, and allowed herself to be guided across the room to a vacant seat. Meanwhile the rest of the guests watched the couple in amazement and envy. Not least, the sensuous Felicity, although she was not envious of The Lady. She knew Stephen would always seek her out when he really wanted a good time. Besides, she was well aware of how unattainable The Lady was.
Now the centre of everyone’s attention, the two people sat for some ten minutes talking.
“Now Mr Forsythe-Brown,” The Lady began, “what are these many things you have to tell me?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have a list,” said Stephen wearing a large smile, “but I’m sure we can find something to talk about.”
The Lady studied him intently for a few moments before saying in a calm voice, “Tell me, who is the real Stephen Forsythe-Brown? There must be something more under that cloak of innocence and charm.”
Stephen’s demeanour never changed, “I’m sorry to disappoint you my lady. If only I could have been a rocket scientist… a learned philosopher… a Harley Street heart surgeon. But sadly I am none of these. Unfortunately what you see is what you get.”
The Lady smiled.
“I think I believe you. You really are just a simple man with an extraordinary amount of charm. I imagine it serves you well,” she said pointedly.
“Well enough,” Stephen agreed, “but enough about me. Like everyone else I want to know who the real Lady is behind those beautiful sad eyes. I suspect the public figure is not you at all. Neither do the books and articles written about you identify the prisoner trapped in your own web.”
They maintained eye contact for a few moments. Stephen saw in those eyes a sudden glimpse of the pain of this beautiful woman. His comment had hit a nerve. Who really was this lady? What was the real woman like? She hid a deep secret even though her life was an open book. He realised then that she was the most vulnerable and unhappy person he had ever met.
The Lady retreated from his gaze to look at her hands that suddenly seemed to require her attention. Stephen wondered what was going through her mind at that moment. He wanted desperately to help her… to hold her tightly… to comfort her tortured soul. And to his amazement, he wanted more than anything to love her. Not in the way the masses loved her, but intimately with a classic passion. He could not understand these emotions. They were alien to him. They were feelings he had never experienced before.
The Lady suddenly remembered she had to circulate.
“Mr Forsythe-Brown…” she began.
“Please, call me Stephen,” Stephen implored her.
“Mr Forsythe-Brown. I have to speak with many other people. Remember, the charity needs their money and they will want their pound of flesh before parting with it.”
Stephen leant a little closer and touched her hand. “And very beautiful flesh it is too. Can you blame them?” The Lady blushed visibly and snatched her hand away.
Stephen put his hand in his breast pocket and took out a card.
He took hold of the hand again and kissed it gallantly.
“I’ve enjoyed our little chat. If you ever need a friend or someone to talk to give me a ring,” he said.
Then he placed the card in her hand.
With that The Lady left to circulate among the other guests and Stephen returned to his group of friends.
“Stephen, you old rogue. You have the audacity and nerve of a master criminal,” Felicity greeted him.
“Or a politician,” Stephen grinned.
“Come. You will have to tell me all about it,” she said, leading him out into the garden and across the lawn in the direction of the Stockton Hall maze. But Licie did not have talking on her mind.
When they returned from their walk the room was buzzing with the activities of fund raising. For the remainder of the evening Stephen looked anxiously in the direction of The Lady, wishing desperately that she would look his way, but she never did. He wondered whether it was on purpose or simply that she was very occupied with other people and events. In any case she never met his gaze again that evening and he felt lowly and inferior because of it. Neither lowly, nor inferior were feelings he had ever experienced before. This lady had really got under his skin and he didn’t like how it felt. No. He didn’t like it one little bit
It was about six weeks later and two in the morning. Stephen lay in his bed at his London apartment. Lori Layton was the partner sharing the bed that night. If Stephen had been asked who Lori Layton was he couldn’t have answered. As far as he was concerned she was simply the distraction of the day; something to take his mind off the image of two sad blue eyes full of pain that filled his waking hours.
The ritual lovemaking was over and the call of the night sandman was just taking control of his spent body and restless mind. The pitiful music of the British Grenadiers broke into the void sleep was creating as it took over. The refrain finished and started again before he slowly but instinctively reached out from the duvet to pick up his mobile phone. His thumb made the connection and the British Grenadiers music stopped instantly.
“Hello,” he mumbled into the mouthpiece.
“Mr Forsythe-Brown?” enquired the voice at the end of the line.
The voice asked again.
The voice was familiar. It took a few moments before he realised to whom it belonged. When he realised who it was he clapped his hand over the mouthpiece and sat up quickly. Placing the sole of one foot in Lori Layton’s back he gave a strong shove and ejected the poor girl from the bed.
“Get dressed and go, now,” he snapped.
“But Stephen, it’s two in the morning,” the girl pleaded.
“Get out!” he shouted, and something in his voice prompted her to flee from the room with her clothes under her arm.
“Close the door behind you,” he said as she escaped from the room.
The voice at the end of the line spoke again.
“Are you there, Mr Forsythe-Brown,” it asked.
Stephen took a deep breath.
“Yes ma’am. I’m right here at your service,” the charm had been restored without effort, the ability of a lifetime of practice and experience.
“Oh, I thought I was talking to myself.”
“Who could be so thoughtless as to allow such a thing?” Stephen asked in mock disbelief.
“I need your help,” said The Lady.
“My help? Anything. Anything at all. Just ask and it is yours.” Stephen was at this point very serious and meant what he said. He had been thinking about The Lady almost every moment for the past six weeks. This call was more than he could have ever hoped for.
“Thank you, but I just need to talk with you. Can I trust you?” she asked warily.
“With my very last breath,” Stephen replied dramatically.
“I’d like you to come over. You know where I am don’t you?” she said, as though it was a crime that someone might not know where she lived.
“Of course,” said Stephen. The Lady’s home was not too far from his London apartment. “Do you mean right now?”
“Absolutely. It wouldn’t be possible for you to visit in daylight.”
It was strange, Stephen thought, but perfectly true. Whereas for most people it would be inappropriate to make a visit in the dead of night, in the case of The Lady, it would be even more inappropriate to be actually seen visiting her. The media would have a field day.
“Right. I’ll be right over.” Stephen was already getting out of bed and fumbling into his trousers.
“Just a minute Mr Forsythe-Brown. You mustn’t use your car. It’s too distinctive. I’ll send transport for you.”
This cloak and dagger routine added to Stephen’s excitement. What did she want to talk about at this time of night, he wondered? But he didn’t argue with The Lady.
“OK. I’ll wait downstairs” his voice reflected her urgency.
“No. No, don’t do that,” she urged quickly, “Walk to the next block and you’ll be picked up there.”
“Of course. I wasn’t thinking,” said Stephen.
“That’s alright. You don’t need to. I’ll do the thinking,” said The Lady seriously.
About half an hour later the limousine drove up to the large wrought iron security gates. The guard opened the gate to let them into the long straight drive up to the house. Stephen alighted.
He was shown into the house by the guard who left him to take up his duties outside in the grounds. The Lady had made sure no one to disturb them was in the house and came out to the hall to greet him herself. She was wearing a simple flowered dress, something she would never have been seen wearing in public. The simplicity of the dress made the occasion seem more intimate than it was. It made his presence there appear casual and innocent, natural even.
The Lady led him upstairs to a small quiet sitting room.
“What are you drinking?” she offered walking over to a small bar in the corner of the room.
“Nothing for me thank you,” said Stephen. He wanted to preserve a clear head. Nothing of this illicit liaison must be missed or forgotten. At that moment he felt like the most important person in the world. And many people might have agreed with him had they been aware of his presence there at that time of night.
The Lady sat down on a chaise lounge and invited him to sit beside her.
“I’m sorry to bring you out at this time of night,” she began, “but I just need someone to talk to. You know, someone unattached, impartial, and friendly.”
“Ma’am, I’m sure no one could be anything but friendly towards you,” Stephen’s syrupy charm seemed unquenchable.
The Lady sighed deeply.
“If only that were true. There are a thousand people who would love to make trouble for me, given the chance,” she whispered. “All I need is someone to confide in. Someone I can trust implicitly. But I doubt such a person actually exists.” With troubled brow she looked imploringly at Stephen.
“I think I could be that person you seek,” he offered.
“I have heard that many times before and many times I have been betrayed.”
Stephen recalled some of those occasions, not the least when a secret lover had, for a price, revealed all to the press. He wondered how anyone could do such a thing to a lady of her substance and global esteem. Why would someone betray a woman loved by the world? He could not imagine the shame of such a thing. A public screw on a snooker table was nothing by comparison. And that event was a moment he was pleased to live down.
“Please my lady,” he pleaded, “Trust me. Trust me as you have never trusted anyone before. I am at your eternal service. I will never betray you at any price. You have my enduring word on it.”
“Why?” she asked with a frown.
“Why?” Stephen repeated.
“Why should I trust you? And why should you give me your enduring word? Why?”
“What can I say?” Stephen was, for once, at a loss for words.
“You must say something.” The Lady looked into his eyes desperately searching for something that could give her a hint of his sincerity.
“I would say it, my lady, but even I do not have that much nerve,” Stephen shook his head.
“What would you say?” A look of hope sprang into The Lady’s eyes. “Whatever you have to say you must say it. If I am to entrust myself to you there has to be something that at least looks like a guarantee.”
Stephen picked up a hand that lay in her lap and placed it to his lips. He looked deeply into her eyes in a manner he had never looked at any other woman. When he had summoned sufficient courage he spoke.
“My lady. My dear sweet lady, I could never hurt you in any way. You see I am awash with the vision of you every day. I see your eyes in every face. When I close my own I still see you vividly. For the past six weeks I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind.”
He paused for a moment.
“Please don’t force me to say something that might spoil a friendship before it starts,” his face was full of anguish.
The Lady breathed a sigh of relief.
“I won’t force you say anything you don’t want to say. Perhaps one day soon you will want to say it. I trust you Stephen.”
It was the first time she had used his name. He felt euphoric. But when she kissed him gently on the lips Stephen Forsythe-Brown, the desire of every society girl in London, and the stud of the aristocracy, was on another planet.
It was a single kiss.
For the next two hours they talked intimately whilst The Lady poured out her innermost secrets and fears to the besotted Stephen. Her life was not the fairytale most believed it to be, but a prison in which she could never be herself. Her days were a performance put on to accommodate the designs and needs of others. It was a day of frustration and despair, and one day led smoothly into the next, equally frustrating merry-go-round of unreal and pointless fantasy.
The Lady was clearly at her wits end. If ever she needed a friend to confide in, she needed one now. Stephen was only too willing to be that confidant.
They concluded their secret talk before the light of day focused its gaze across the city. Surreptitiously, a car drew up at the house and Stephen left.
It took three more night visits before the relationship developed into an affair. After that the two became an item of secret and enduring passion.