Not many people wander into the Folly asking for help. We are the ones called in when bodies are found in preternaturally suspicious circumstances and the local crime team needs someone else to take responsibility for budget overruns and subsequent marks against the clear-up rate. The public doesn't know we're here, which is how Nightingale wants to keep it as both community oversight and engagement are conveniently incomprehensible to him. So we were all surprised when a member of the public appeared and asked us to hunt some ghosts.
Nightingale was in the solarium taking pictures of his shoes, while Molly was in the kitchen carefully lighting a batch of muffins so they glowed in a sugary haze. This was my fault because a couple of weeks ago, I'd helped him set up a couple of social media accounts to monitor a group of teens who appeared to be taking selfies with magical objects. In order to make it look real, he posted some OOTD and we discovered that traditional English tailoring has a strong following online. He had had some brogues resoled earlier in the week, and the youth of today were following the process eagerly. 'They're really a country shoe,' Nightingale said, decades of sartorial habit weakened by online popularity.
The woman had walked right in the front door. Now the Folly is covered in magical wards, with over two hundred years of incantations baked into the walls, and we have Molly, who has definite ideas about privacy. This means we have on occasion forgot to lock the front door. There's a rope and pulley system that acts as our magical butler and should keep the door shut, but a determined non-magical visitor can shove it right open.
‘Hello? Are you the magicians?’ she asked. She was a white woman of around thirty-five who looked like she could afford spa breaks on the weekend. As Molly had commandeered our lamps for her photography experiments, I couldn’t really tell her age. Her skin had the glow that comes from good health or expensive cosmetics, and she’d left enough buttons undone so her lacy bra could contrast with the sensible jeans and country jacket.
She advanced, hand outstretched. ‘You’re Thomas Nightingale aren’t you? My name’s Tamsin Wilcroft. Our grandfathers would have known each other, Roland, Rollo Wilcroft.’
‘It’s lovely to meet you, Miss Wilcroft.’ Nightingale didn’t miss a beat.
‘I’m so glad to find you here. My grandfather often spoke of his days at the Folly with some fondness. In his final days, he often spoke of his happy memories of being young in London before the war.’
‘Rollo was one of the finest of his generation of practitioners,’ Nightingale said. ‘At least that’s what I remember reading in the Folly’s records.’
How many times had Nightingale pretended to be his own son, and now his own grandson?
‘Grandad never expected to inherit anything, what our branch of the family lacked in money we more than made up for in bad luck, but the Sussex branch was even unluckier, which is how Hailsham Abbey came into our family. Grandad fitted up the gamekeeper’s cottage for himself, the house became a hotel. Family-owned and operated since 1962, we’ve been in The Guardian twice and had lovely full-colour write-ups in The Telegraph. However, with the banking crisis and everything else in the world, the travellers who are interested in a remote spot such as ours have been few, so we’ve had to take on some international partners.’
‘Miss Wilcroft, I’m not sure—’
She didn’t let Nightingale finish. ‘These ghosts are ruining my business.’
‘I would have thought ghosts are good for business. I know people who would pay extra to stay in a haunted room,’ I said.
There is much disagreement in the magical literature about what exactly constitutes a ghost, but in the day-to-day business of the Folly, ghosts are fairly low on the list of magical stuff that needs more research. With the notable exception of Mr Punch, undead and disembodied Londoners have been a law-abiding lot.
‘Some ghosts are good for business. We have a Grey Lady who floats around looking for a knight who never returned from the Crusades. We have Polly in the Kitchen who hangs about the kitchen. One of the young gentlemen got her into trouble, so now she has to spend eternity polishing the silver. Generally any thumping or crying in the servant’s quarters is attributed to her.’
It sounded like a raw deal to me. Spend your life cleaning up after the gentry and your death as well.
‘Those kinds of ghosts are good for business,’ Tamsin continued. ‘They give our house a historical feel, which to be frank, is a little lacking. The south side is perfect, with a ruined cloister that for health and safety reasons we can’t actually allow anyone to enter, but the rest of the building is Victorian, and was redone in the 1930s by people who hated Victorians. It’s neither grand nor picturesque. In this age of social media, you have to give people a reason to take a selfie. We encourage our guests to use the hashtag #hailshamabbeystyle, but no one ever does.’
‘It’s too long to work as a hashtag,’ Nightingale said, and I quickly revised the list of things I never imagined my boss saying.
‘This is a new ghost. It destroys rooms and pushes people down the stairs. Watch.’
A light-haired white woman dressed as an old-fashioned maid, complete with frilly white cap, was carrying a stack of towels down a staircase. Halfway down, she turned as if someone tapped her on the shoulder, then fell, towels flying from her arms in a neat arc.
‘We have CCTV in the stairs and in the public rooms, like the smoking room and the library. We don’t actually allow smoking in the smoking room at this time, guests are allowed to use the terrace as smoking is disallowed in the rooms as well.’
I watched the clip again. There was something odd about it. She turned, and fell.
‘How did she describe the experience?’ Nightingale asked. I wondered if he’d noticed the same thing I had.
‘Katie was a little shaken, but fine. She still works for us, so you can interview her when you come.’
‘Did you report this to your local constabulary? We can flag the report from our end, but for something like this, they need to request our presence before they can act,’ I told her. I had the feeling her view of the Folly was more inspired by Ghostbusters than by family history and that she expected us to don matching suits and plasma weapons.
Tamsin looked puzzled.
‘Now Peter, there’s no need to be so formal. I’m sure we can take a day to look into Miss Wilcroft’s problem.’
We made plans to leave the next morning, and I went to run a background check on Tamsin Wilcroft. I visited her hotel’s Facebook page and her personal page as well, both of which were filled with photographs of Tamsin and some very nice white people toasting the camera and each other as they celebrated their collaboration with Apple Island Organics. According to their mission statement, AIO was dedicated to biodiversity and cultivating heirloom fruits and veg. The only posts to #hailshamabbeystyle were her own, more champagne toasts, and updates on the restoration of the Victorian kitchen garden.
Nightingale took over the driving once we hit the M25, to give me a bit of a break, he said. I think he wanted to reassure himself of what the Jag could do when given the chance.
‘This reminds me of the time I came down to Eastbourne with Max and his cousin Bumpy to investigate a spiritualist, sitting around a table, messages in the dark, that kind of thing. You really don't see that anymore, but it was popular after the War. Max insisted she was real, and she was. She was a hedge witch who was using her magic to make it appear she was talking to the dead. I wanted to expose her, but Max said she wasn’t taking money and her messages were full of hope, so it would be a kindness to let her continue. Later, I felt he might have had a point…’
I couldn’t see Nightingale’s face clearly, but I knew that the people he was talking about only existed as names carved in the Casterbrook war memorial now.
As we arrived at Hailsham Abbey, I could see why Tamsin had said the house lacked a historical feel. The cloister ruins were hidden from the main drive, so when we turned the corner, an oversized white box with some stained glass greeted us. It missed both Victorian whimsy and the sleekness of art deco. A cluster of cars were parked around a dried fountain, and I could see a path leading from the cars into the small thicket of trees that edged some imposing greenery.
Tamsin greeted us at the door and gave us a tour. In the afternoon sunlight, I could see that she was older than she first appeared, which made sense considering her grandfather had been born in 1909.
‘Library, don’t bother with the books, the good one were sold years ago; drawing room and sitting room were combined back in the 1970s, now it’s a popular space for weddings because it opens on the terrace. All of these rooms have cameras, by the way. This was a breakfast room, now it’s a café where you can get a light, healthy meal at any time of day,’ Tamsin waved her hand at some barren shelves.
The café was delightful, if your idea of a light and healthy meal ran to crisps and instant coffee, that is. I’d been trying to feel the hotel’s vestigia as we walked around. Despite the warm colours and natural light, there was a feeling of cold rain on old stones, smoke from a dying fire, and a quick flash of physical pain, a quick stab, fleeting and deadly. A knife in the back, or a push down the stairs?
‘Kitchen, and here’s our restaurant in what had been the dining room and a reception room. The chandelier is Lalique, at the time when my grandad tried to sell it, it was completely out of style, but now we think it is one of the distinctive features of this space.’
The curtains were pulled back, revealing the glassed-in cloisters. The ruins were more extensive than I’d imagined from Tamsin’s description, not only cloisters, but the ruins of the library and living quarters, assuming that the current house was built over the original church. The golden-brown stones looked too peaceful to match the vestigia in the hotel.
‘On the other side is the music room, and beyond that is the door where you entered.’
‘It’s a Cluedo board,’ I said.
Tamsin and Nightingale both looked at me with polite incomprehension.
‘The rooms are arranged in a square, some leading into each other, some with multiple entrances… and it doesn’t look like your cameras have good coverage,’ I said.
‘Until now, our main concern has been intoxicated guests lifting spoons during a wedding,’ Tamsin said. ‘Why don’t you come into our security centre? The computers are down there.’
The ground floor was dominated by an industrial kitchen, with the other half given over to the hotel’s business offices. The smell of fresh bread baking did a lot to dissipate the Hammer horror vibes I was starting to feel on the first floor. That’s the trouble with vestigia, it’s hard to tell if you’re feeling a memory, or expectations based on a film you once saw on the telly.
Thankfully, there was not a single Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing among the guests. Nightingale conducted informal interviews, in other words, he lounged in the café as the guests came in for their tea and made small talk. They accepted his presence as part of the décor, an elegant English gentleman to match the Sèvres and the seed cakes. Out of the ten guests, the four married couples made an appearance at tea, while the screenwriter struggling with a deadline stayed in his room working, and a schoolteacher from Colchester stayed outside rambling.
I started by interviewing the workers who were digging out the kitchen gardens. One was an American and the other was a former financial analyst who wanted to deliver a lecture on the dignity of working with one’s hands. I declined to listen, the economic effects of a return to an agrarian economy was outside my manor and not relevant to the topic of ghosts. Both of them had heard about the recent supernatural activities, but they considered it the price of doing business in an old house. I heard similar sentiments from the kitchen staff, and from the hotel’s yoga instructor, a fit young woman who lived in a kind of bedsit next to the yoga studio on the top floor.
‘This used to be the nursery,’ she told me. ‘Sometimes I can still hear children crying.’
I felt it too, as I’d climbed the stairs: the cold stones and pain had diminished, replaced by tears and laughter, warm milk and wet wool, vestigia left behind by generations of children. I regretfully turned down the offer of a free yoga lesson, and went to interview the maid who had experienced that unfortunate episode with a ghost. I checked the Apple Island web site on my mobile one more time before heading down to the offices on the ground floor.
Someone was playing the piano, probably the grand piano I’d seen in the music room. It was a little slow and awkward, but pleasant. It reminded me of an advert. I walked around, stood in the doorway, and listened. A teenage girl was sitting at the piano, her long brown hair barely moving as she sat upright, hands moving across the keys, but otherwise completely still. I was quiet, but I think she sensed me, because her hands dropped to her lap and she turned around quickly. Her light brown eyes widened when she saw me, a reaction I tend to encounter whenever I leave London. She didn’t look old enough to be on the staff, and I hadn’t seen her listed on the web site, so she had to be a guest.
‘That was nice,’ I said.
‘Satie,’ she said. ‘I wanted to learn the piano, I always thought I had time, but now… That’s how it always is, you think you have time and then you don’t.’ I couldn’t place her accent. At first I thought she sounded Welsh, but then I wondered if she was related to one of the Americans.
‘You’re young, you have lots of time to do whatever you want,’ I said.
She made a little exasperated noise, a sound I recognised as a typical teenage reaction to patronising comments from adults.
‘Do you play?’ she asked.
‘My father’s a musician, but my talents were not in that area.’
She gave me another wide-eyed stare, turned back to the piano, and touched the keys hesitantly. It was a song I hadn’t ever wanted to hear again since that case in Soho, ‘Body and Soul.’ As I listened to the girl play, I remembered how I’d wanted to save Simone, but had got everything wrong. I moved closer to her, but I couldn’t sense anything out of the ordinary. No vestigia, no spells, she felt human.
‘Sorry, I thought… you said you liked jazz.’
She moved over to make room for me on the piano bench. ‘Do you like Adele? Whenever Eddie has to work by himself in the garden, he listens to Adele and dances around. It’s funny because it’s headphones, and he thinks no one can hear him, so he gets really loud,’ she said.
‘What are you doing here, Agnes?’ Tamsin came into the music room, looking like she was trying not to look angry.
‘I was practicing.’
‘You’re not here to practice, you have other responsibilities, especially now when everything is like it is.’
‘Sorry.’ Agnes closed the lid to the keyboard.
‘Peter, this is Agnes. She’s a kind of intern, studying hospitality and hotel management. If there’s anything you need to ask her, you can ask her now because she’s going to busy later with our guests.’
Agnes looked at Tamsin, and then at me, and I didn’t need magic to see that she was deeply unhappy. Tamsin had seemed pleasant, if a little arrogant, but I had the sense that the way she treated someone like Nightingale was vastly different to the way she treated her employees.
‘I need to talk to the woman who was pushed down the stairs. Maybe we can talk after that?’ I used my semi-official voice so Tamsin would know it wasn’t really a question.
Katie Carroway was wearing the black dress and white apron, but she’d ditched the frilly cap, pulling her blonde hair back in the kind of messy ponytail I’d always associated with Lesley.
‘And when I turned around, no one was there! Cold, clammy hands shoved me, and I thought this is it, I’m going to die here!’ Katie shivered as she related her memory.
‘That sounds frightening.’ I nodded sympathetically and waited for her to continue. I’m not the greatest at playing the sympathy card in interviews, but it does work when someone is desperate to confess. However, she didn’t seem inclined to elaborate on her story.
‘Katie, how long have you been on the housekeeping staff here?’ I asked, already knowing the answer thanks to Apple Island’s comprehensive About Us page.
‘A couple of months? Some of our guests have been very demanding, so it seems like forever.’
‘On your company web site, you’re listed as a social media director and a member of Apple Island’s PR team.’
‘Oh.’ She wrinkled her nose as if she could smell something bad.
‘Tamsin said the hotel was in a partnership with Apple Island, but in reality, it was bought out, wasn’t it? You’ve tried selling the organic yoga aspect, but that hasn’t brought in the mini-break crowd, so now you’re going to make a push for Olde Tyme England for foreign tourists who don’t know or don’t care that this place isn’t easy to reach from London.’
‘We’re less than three hours by car,’ Katie said, a little resentfully. ‘Falling down the stairs did hurt. How did you know I was faking it?’
‘The screenwriter, the aspiring screenwriter on your PR team, was he the one who cooked up this scheme? He should’ve given you some acting lessons. When you turned around after feeling that ghostly tap, you didn’t look surprised that no one was there.’
There was a gentle knocking at the door. ‘Sorry, is Peter here?’ Tamsin peered in the room. ‘I have a message from the Nightingale. He’s been called back to London, I think something happened? He said he called you several times, but you didn’t answer.’
I checked my pocket, but my mobile was gone. I must have set it down in the nursery after I entered the yoga instructor’s contact information.
‘I told him we’d drive you to the station. It’s about twenty minutes from here,’ Tamsin said.
Katie rummaged in the top drawer, then tossed some keys to Tamsin.
‘Maybe you can come back again when you’re finished in London? I’d really hoped you were the solution to our problem.’ Tamsin sat carefully in one of the empty chairs and wrapped her arms around herself as if she were cold.
‘The problem is taken care of… Katie, would you like to explain?’ I said.
Tamsin looked at the two of us with some bewilderment.
I shrugged. ‘So they didn’t let you in on their scheme. PR stunt, no ghosts.’
‘No ghosts,’ Tamsin repeated.
As Katie was sulking, I brought Tamsin up to date on the publicity scheme she’d accidentally ruined by calling in the Folly.
‘I am so sorry that it’s turned out like this. Perhaps it’s just as well—I think part of me was hoping that I’d get to see your master’s magic. My grandad always said he had magic to move mountains,’ Tamsin said.
Before I could explain that terms such as ‘master’ were antiquated and we were in a new era with more inclusive language, I felt the small change in the air that meant someone was doing magic.
‘Lux,’ Tamsin said, with a little flip of her wrist. A blob of pale light wobbled away from her hand and hovered in the air between us. ‘My granddad showed me this—this is all I can do, but he used to make big ones that sparkled like fireworks.’
‘Like this, you mean?’ It was a third-order spell, and while the forma for the colour was impressive, yet simple, keeping it from setting the desk on fire was more complicated. If it failed, luckily, getting everything wet was a specialty of mine.
Tamsin and Katie watched my mini-fireworks show, their eyes glittering as they watched it sparkle and finally fade.
‘That was beautiful, Peter,’ Tamsin said.
‘I don’t think we need the Nightingale, do we?’ Katie said.
Every copper’s instinct in my body was telling me to run. Katie had suddenly developed a Christopher Lee intensity and Nightingale had returned to London, too far to save me from trouble.
‘Impello!’ I yelled, knocking Tamsin and Katie off their chairs. I grabbed the keys from Tamsin’s hand and ran. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d commandeered a car in the line of duty. I ran up the stairs to the Cluedo board, where I paused to run a risk assessment. The doors to the terrace were closer, but the gardeners could be out there and should be presumed to be involved in whatever plot Katie had created. That left the front door and a longer run to car park with the hotel’s van. I heard steps behind me, so I quickly threw up my shield.
‘Take me with you.’
I turned around. It was Agnes, the unhappy intern. She’d put on a plain linen jacket and draped a yellow scarf around her shoulders.
‘There’s another exit by the library.’ She took my hand. ‘Let’s go!’
We ran out to the hotel van, and roared down the main drive, tyres skidding over the loose stones. Agnes trembled and stared at me with wide eyes.
‘I dreamt about you,’ she said. ‘I knew you'd be the one to save me.’
Nightingale has said that very little is known about prophetic dreams, especially as would-be prophets are given to revision once events have occurred. It’s possible that I was going to tell Agnes something like that, but the van slammed into an invisible wall. That feeling again, cold rain wearing away stone, sharp flashes of pain, and the world went dark.
When I came to, I was bound to a chair, ropes digging into my legs, and my hands were pulled behind my back, imprisoned by my own handcuffs, insult to injury. I tried yelling, but a feeble ‘help’ or two was all I could manage. I was deep underground, the vestigia I’d felt earlier was overwhelming, colder and sharper. The stone walls that surrounded me had been in place a very long time. With only a faint light coming from under the door, I couldn’t get a sense of how big the room was or if I was alone.
‘Help…’ I scratched out, ‘help!’
A beam of light hit me in the face. After my eyes adjusted, I saw that Agnes was using my mobile as a torch. I wanted to take it from her hand, but the spell was forced back down my throat and I choked.
‘I dreamt about you,’ Agnes said. ‘I’ve dreamt so many things, true things. That’s why I was chosen.’
‘You said you wanted to get out. Untie me and I promise I will help you get out.’
‘We already tried that. As long as my bones are under these walls, I can’t leave. I thought… but this magic is so old and yours is so new. I’ll be free when you take my place.’
‘What did they do to you, Agnes?’
‘They collected my blood inside their sacred grail, sprinkled it around the foundations, and buried my body under this room. I dreamt about it, I dreamt about it for years until it finally happened.’
When we met in the music room I hadn’t noticed anything because she felt the same as the house. Genius loci, the spirit of a place, I hadn’t known it was possible to create one by force, but it seemed I was about to find out. A chorus of voices, chanting in Latin, was approaching the door.
‘Don’t worry, Peter. In my dream we left together.’ She kissed the back of my head in a way that was almost affectionate.
‘I’d be less worried if you untied me,’ I said. I tried to use my weight to make the chair move, but it stubbornly resisted.
Magic prickled across my skin as the chanters in dark robes and masks entered the room. Some of them had created werelights, others were holding candles. I tried counting them, more than twenty, which meant this was both the guests and the staff. I noticed that the ones who were doing magic were keeping to the perimeter of the room, and if they moved closer to where I was being held, their lights dimmed. Agnes turned off my mobile and slipped it into my pocket.
The words were difficult to make out, judging from the variety of accents, their Latin was as good as mine, but they were asking the earth to receive a sacrifice and the stones to be strengthened with blood and magic. My blood and my magic, so I started shouting about how they were never going to get away with it and I was going to arrest them all, give them a kicking first, then arrest them. I tried casting a spell again, any spell, but the words took the wrong shape in my mouth.
‘The time of magic is at hand,’ Katie announced, her blonde hair streaming down her back like a proper druidess. ‘Our protector has grown weak, so it is time to elect a new guardian. A new guardian for a new millennium!’ There was a slight pause, followed by some polite applause. ‘There will be devastation such as the world has never seen, but within these walls peace shall prevail and we will find safety. We shall not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked!’
She finished on a note of triumph, holding aloft a glittering knife and a small wooden bowl. The applause turned into a rhythmic clapping, creating an oddly sporty feeling, considering the circumstances. It was like they were urging on a free kick, not murder.
‘Right. I’ll be taking that if you don’t mind.’ A familiar, confident voice filled the room. Lesley stepped forward, threw off her robe, and reached out for the bowl and the knife.
‘Who are you?’ Tamsin’s wobbly werelight popped out of existence.
‘Seize her!’ Katie declared. A couple of the robed figures stepped forward, but they backed away quickly when Lesley pulled out a gun.
‘This is a Glock I somehow forgot to return when I quit the police. Peter here can tell you what it can do, and why it might be a bad idea for me to start shooting in a room with hard stone walls. I can shield myself, but I know for a fact that’s beyond your abilities, otherwise you wouldn’t have gone outside your little cult for a sacrifice. Hand over the knife and the grail.’
‘You’ll never get away with this,’ Katie screamed as Lesley took the knife and the wooden bowl away from her. Before I could properly appreciate the dramatic irony, Lesley turned to me.
‘If I untie you, are you going to try to arrest me?’ she asked.
‘That’s too bad. I hope they don’t give it a go with a non-magical knife then.’ She backed out of the room, keeping the gun aimed at Katie in case any of the robes started to get ideas. As she passed through the door, she lowered her gun, every light in the room went out, and I felt an icy lash of magic slice through the bindings holding my legs and the metal of the handcuffs.
A couple of the robes tried to grab me as I ran after her, but they were confused by the darkness, and terrified that Lesley would return with her gun. I stumbled as circulation returned to my legs, and I forced myself to run up the narrow staircase, a steep spiral that never seemed to end. I finally crawled out into the glassed-in cloisters. Health and safety wasn’t the reason they’d been kept from the public. In the distance, I could see a motorbike roaring away. Lesley. I used telescopium to confirm, and as if she knew, she made a very rude gesture before the bike disappeared into the trees.
A moment later, blue lights flashed down the main drive. The local plod was coming to the rescue. My mobile gave a little buzz; whatever had stopped me from casting spells had protected it. I made a note to research magic-nullifying circles in the Folly’s library.
Lesley. You’re welcome
It buzzed again.
Tell Nightingale the knife is 15th century the grail older than that. Much much much older
There were so many things I wanted to ask Lesley, but I was too tired.
Don’t text and drive, was all I could write. Going by the number of police who had been called out and were now swarming the hotel, I was in for a long night of interviews and paperwork.
Thanks to Nightingale’s bureaucratic magic, most of the artefacts we discovered in the hotel went back to the Folly to be researched. There were some books we sent on to Postmartin, an elaborately decorated cloth that Nightingale insisted was most definitely not a flying carpet, and a Harry Potter-style wand that turned out to be an officially licensed Harry Potter wand from Universal Studios. However, not everything found its way into our records.
We unearthed a small iron box from the room where I’d almost been sacrificed. There was no name, but we knew the bones had once been a girl named Agnes. A girl whose prophetic visions had led to her death. We laid her to rest in a quiet corner of an old churchyard, and as we stood by her grave, the feelings I associated with her and with the hotel faded, the last traces of smoke and rain and unimaginable years of pain.
‘I don’t think she meant you any harm, in fact, in her role as a household guardian, I don’t think she could have harmed you,’ Nightingale said.
I tried to say a prayer for Agnes, but what could you say for a girl who had been forced to be a goddess?
‘No, she didn’t mean to hurt me. I was never the target anyway. You’re the powerful one. It was you that was supposed to end up tied to a chair,’ I said. ‘They were planning on shoving me in a cupboard until they’d finished their ritual. Thank god for Lesley distracting them.’
‘You didn’t see the results of the Faceless Man’s distraction that called me back to London,’ Nightingale said quietly.
I hadn’t, and judging from Nightingale’s face, it was for the best.
‘The creation of genii locorum is a matter that is in need of further investigation,’ Nightingale said. ‘If that is the purpose of the artefacts that were stolen, then we need to be prepared.’
He was concerned by this turn in events, but it was not enough to divert his attention from matters of true importance. His newly resoled brogues, the hotel in the background, #hailshamabbeystyle.