At the Sanatorium, chaos reigned. After such a declaration, made so loudly, the security guards had felt it necessary to drag part of the unfortunate party off, though they continued to be respectful and helpful to Charles and Charlie. In the end, David had been half carried as far as Rix's office, where he waved them in looking weary. It was his intention to inform them of Hilda's condition – he couldn't help thinking of her as Hilda despite it all – and then escape to somewhere slightly less problematic, like the room of a patient in a coma.
But, as with even the best laid of plans, it didn't ever happen. He opened his mouth to deliver his professional verdict, only for it to be filled by words that he certainly hadn't thought he meant to say. He blinked, then sighed at his cousin, who for once had forgotten his placid nature and looked furious.
“What on earth did you think you were doing, announcing it in the corridor like that?” Charles demanded, rounding squarely on David. Augusta, who had for once managed to remain in the background, perched on the arm of Rix's chair while Charlie hovered next to the doctor's elbow uncertainly. “Don't you have any idea of what you might have done?”
“You wanted to know how she was, and they weren't going to let you in,” was the response, as David glowered at the two security guards, who, seeing that the problem seemed to be contained and that they could go back to their post, felt it best to slip away back down the corridor. “It's fairly obvious with goons like that just hanging around, anyway.”
“Actually,” said Charles through gritted teeth. “As far as anyone here but Rix knows, Hilda is just a very old heiress who feels the need to protect her fortune from her scheming nephew and has hired a couple of men to that effect. The last I heard they were laughing at her for being eccentric. The last thing we need is for them to find out that minus her wig, glasses and certain other effects she's actually the most recognisable woman in Britain right now!”
“I'm sorry for trying to make amends, then,” stormed David, but Augusta did notice him shift in a slightly uncomfortable manner as he fell silent. This was nothing to Charles, though, who, once he lost his temper, did it in a thorough manner – as his children could have said with some certainty.
“A lot of good sorry will do us when half the British press are camped outside Freudesheim taking pictures all bloody day and night and frightening the children, while the other half make the San almost completely impossible to run. It only takes one person to have heard you and decided to tip them off as to her whereabouts, you know! And my family are trying to grieve, the last thing they need is a media furore around the house most of them are desperate to forget, and what my father would say I shudder to think. Don't think you'd all get off either!”
“Yes, well, it was a stupid thing to do,” said Augusta quickly, deciding that the argument had gone too far. Glancing at Charlie for support, she added, “David is very sorry for causing trouble, and I'll make sure he keeps quiet in the future, but what's done is done, I don't suppose anybody heard what he was saying anyway.”
Charlie, sensing that her husband might be starting to calm down, laid a hand on his arm and looked up at him through silently pleading eyes. The last time he'd lost his temper this badly was when John brought home a report from school about having been in a fight with another pupil, and it had been a horrible time for all concerned. Little did she want the younger children to pick up on his fury again.
“We've taken enough precautions,” she said quietly. “Nobody would think to connect the two until now, and if all else fails I'm sure that it can be released that this was all just a fake trail to keep them off the scent of where she really is, and Hilda Straw has nothing to do with Margaret Thatcher really. Honestly, we won't let this ruin our holiday.”
Deciding that diplomacy was the better part of tact, and that he might be as well to try and contain the incident now, rather than himself shouting about it and increasing further the chances of somebody overhearing and passing it on to the wrong people, Charles took a deep breath and smoothed a hand through his hair. Then, turning to Rix, who had stayed patiently for the inevitable question, he asked what was on all their minds.
“How is she?”