3.45 am: Sunday
27th September, 2020
Having bought the land and demolished the existing house on it, Ricard Pilgrim had a new one built to his own design. It was shaped like a gazebo, an affectation he embellished by having a hexagonal conservatory added to the sixth side, overlooking the extensive gardens. Beyond the gardens were mossy woods, where it was rumoured someone had once hanged themselves, and the house itself stood far back from the access road, which rose steeply towards the dense woodland and grassy hilltops that overlook the city of Oxford.
Ricard had in effect stolen the design by copying plans for a similar house observed while on a visit to another firm of architects in Stockholm. Stealing and cheating came easily to Ricard. Even his name was a sham. It was Richard on his birth certificate, but he had decided in his youth to make it sound more exotic. Clients often assumed he was French before they met him. In fact he had been born in a South East London slum, though no one would guess it by his accent. He had worked on that as assiduously as he had on every other aspect of his life. He wanted to be noticed and seen as special. In the following years he had succeeded far beyond the need to seem anything except important, but the name had become as much a part of him as his smooth appearance and forthright manner.
He had built up his company’s award-winning reputation from the ground floor and during the past ten years had taken on more staff and continued to expand the business without ever diluting the quality service offered. He was admired, envied and feared for his absolute ruthlessness, and gave the impression of being popular without actually being much liked.
In his personal life he allowed another side of his nature to show itself, a veneer of softness, dressed up in charm and an absolute belief in his entitlement to be adored. He was used to getting his own way and it helped that nature had blessed him with remarkable good looks as well as a sparkling intellect. Women found themselves ineluctably drawn to him, their will pulled off course like iron filings towards a magnet, their blood set on fire with desire.
When interviewed (Fortune magazine had done a piece on him the previous summer) he described himself as “merely a humble draughtsman” while discreetly making no mention of his enormous wealth. He spoke in the way that people do when they are anything but humble and expect their audience to understand what a gross understatement it is. A business rival had once described him as having the mean-eyed expression of a worldly wolf sizing up the fattest goat in the herd.
However, Ricard Pilgrim, award winning architect, cannot glory in the glittering prizes at the pinnacle of his career, in this Covid-stricken late summer of 2020, nor any longer size up anything. Instead, illumined by pale moonlight in the pre-dawn gloom, he lies prone and lifeless in a pool of blood on the otherwise pristine Italian marble tiles of the conservatory. Hoist on his own petard, one might say, he has been felled with his latest award – a bronze statue forged in an abstract peacock design so far from an actual peacock it is hard to spot the resemblance. It is a hefty weight, and the perfect size to fit in a hand seeking an impromptu cudgel.
Who will mourn poor Ricard, freshly slaughtered and staining the floor a discordant red not at all in keeping with the spare white, grey, and subtle cream décor? And more to the point, you might ask, whose hand had reached for the statue and used it so efficiently to quell the man’s genius forever?
Author website http://www.lesleyhayes.co.uk
Wow! Great beginning to the story. Such great detail about who Richard is in so few words.
Love Lesley’s writing.