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Authors: Jacqueline Harvey

Alice-Miranda in the Alps

BOOK: Alice-Miranda in the Alps
7.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Alice-Miranda and her friends are off to the Swiss Alps to ski, sightsee and experience the unique White Turf racing event. St Moritz is as glamorous as they expected and their hotel is beyond belief – as are its owners, the eccentric Otto Fanger and his frosty wife, Delphine Doerflinger.

When the Baron, a close friend of Alice-Miranda's family, shows up unexpectedly in St Moritz after months of being mysteriously uncontactable, it seems all has not been well at his establishment, the Grand Hotel Von Zwicky. Without hesitation, the group head across the country to offer their help. The resort town of Zermatt is full of charm, but underneath the picturesque exterior are glimpses of shady dealings and unsavoury characters. Can Alice-Miranda work out who is involved in time to save the Baron and all he holds dear?

For Ian, who took me to Switzerland, for Mum and Dad, who introduced me to skiing, and for Sandy, who loved to travel.

The man tore off a chunk of bread from the loaf on the table and mopped up the remnants of the stew. He chewed slowly, under the weight of her silence. Once he finished eating, he wiped his mouth with a napkin and looked over at his daughter.

‘Nina,' the man said calmly, ‘I have no choice.'

‘Please don't send Opa away,' the little girl begged. A tear escaped onto the top of her cheek. ‘I can stay home and look after him.'

‘No,' her father replied firmly. ‘You must go to school, and he cannot be left on his own. You saw what happened last week and again yesterday. Would you have him burn down the house? Or shall we find him frozen on the mountain?'

‘What about the museum?' the girl whispered. Her meal lay untouched in front of her.

Her father sighed, his eyes downcast. ‘Your grandfather hasn't spent a day down there since …'

Nina could feel the heat rising to her cheeks. ‘Say it, Papa. Say her name.'

The man buried his head in his hands. ‘I cannot,' he breathed.

‘You are not the only one who is hurting,' Nina said. She brushed her plait over her shoulder. ‘I will look after things for now.'

‘You're a
. I won't allow it,' the man said. ‘Besides, Opa is the only person capable of running all those ridiculous contraptions.'

‘You're wrong!' Nina shouted. She pushed her chair back and fled upstairs to the top floor.

Sebastien Ebersold stared at the doorway, wishing more than ever that he could rewind the clock and change that terrible day.

In a room just off the landing, Nina's grandfather lay in his bed. His eyes were closed but he had heard every word. It had always amazed him how the sound travelled in that big, old place. He couldn't remember how he had reached the peak. He could hear them shouting. It had seemed like hundreds of voices when in reality it was just two – two skiers urging him to come away from the edge; him standing there, feeling as if he might fly. There were days when he felt paralysed by his memories and others when it was as if he had fallen asleep and someone else was in charge of his ancient bones.

The door creaked open.

‘Opa, are you awake?' Nina whispered.

‘Yes, my dear.' He rolled over and looked at her, his weary eyes the colour of her favourite green marble.

The girl rushed to him and threw herself onto the man's chest. ‘I won't let Papa send you away.' The tears she had been fighting flowed freely now.

‘There, there, my Nina bear,' he said, touching her cheek lightly. ‘Your father must do what he thinks best.'

‘How can it be best for you to leave us?' Nina whispered, sitting up.

The old man reached across and opened the top drawer of his bedside table. He pulled out an exquisite silver box and cradled it in his palm. ‘I want you to have this,' he said.

Nina gasped. ‘But it's your favourite.'

He wound a tiny mechanism at the back of the box, and together they watched as its oval lid sprung open and a little bird began to trill, fluttering in a circle as if it were alive. When the creature finished its song, the lid shut once again. ‘It is the most special, like you,' her grandfather said.

Nina stared at the case in wonder.

‘Take it.' He pressed the box into her hand and smiled. ‘Remember that whatever happens I love you from the mountain tops to the stars and all the way back again.'

Nina hugged him tightly. ‘I love you too, Opa.'

Hugh Kennington-Jones crept into the kitchen, where Alice-Miranda was standing on a stool beside her mother. The pair had their backs to him at the far bench, engrossed in their activity.

‘Hello darlings,' he said loudly.

Startled, Alice-Miranda flicked the wooden spoon out of the batter she was stirring, sending splatters of gooey chocolate cake mix all over her mother's face.

Cecelia jumped in surprise and the pair spun around, bursting into laughter.

‘Daddy, look what you made me do.' Alice-Miranda reached out and wiped a glob of mixture from her mother's nose, then popped her finger in her mouth. ‘Yum, this is going to be a good cake.'

‘Give me a taste.' Hugh wrapped an arm around his wife's waist and kissed her cheek. ‘Mmm, that is good,' he said, grinning cheekily.

Cecelia rolled her eyes and tapped the ski goggles on his face. ‘What on earth are you wearing?'

‘Yes, why the balaclava, Daddy?' Alice-Miranda asked. ‘Are you planning a heist?'

‘I was just on the phone to Brigitte at the hotel in St Moritz. I wanted to make sure that we are all set for next week,' Hugh explained.

‘And are we?' Cecelia giggled. ‘You do know you look ridiculous.'

‘I think Fanger's is going to be topnotch. They've given us an entire wing so everyone can be together,' Hugh said as he tried to dip his finger into the mixing bowl, only to have his daughter shoo him away.

Alice-Miranda's eyes twinkled. ‘I can't wait.'

After cleaning up the mess, Cecelia picked up a large round cake tin and began to grease the inside of it. ‘I think the White Turf racing is going to be spectacular.'

Alice-Miranda plunged the wooden spoon back into the batter. ‘Are we going to see Uncle Florian and Aunt Giselle while we're there?' she asked.

Hugh shook his head. ‘Each time I've tried Florian's cell it goes straight to one of those silly long-winded messages that end up telling you that you can't leave a message.'

Cecelia's brow puckered as she pushed up her sleeves. ‘That's such a pity. It would have been lovely to have him and Giselle over for a few days. You know, last time we spoke I thought he seemed a little worried about the business.'

‘But they're always so busy whenever we're there,' Alice-Miranda said.

‘I wondered about that too, darling,' Hugh admitted, ‘but their hotel was fully booked when I checked online. Otherwise, I would have suggested we spend another week and take the Glacier Express over to Zermatt. I much prefer skiing there than anywhere else and I think it's safer for the children, given there are no cars in the village.'

‘I wish I could see Nina too,' Alice-Miranda said. ‘We always have such fun together.'

Hugh nodded. ‘I'll try again tomorrow. I think we should tell the ladies this afternoon – there's
not enough time for Shilly to come up with any excuses now.'

Alice-Miranda and her mother grinned.

A mumble of voices grew louder as the family cook and the housekeeper walked in through the back door.

‘Good heavens, are we being robbed?' Mrs Oliver cried in mock horror.

Hugh, Cecelia and Alice-Miranda laughed.

Mrs Shillingsworth shook her head. ‘Sir, I know where your spare glasses are. There is no need to resort to those silly-looking things and, truly, it's not that cold out.'

‘I thought I might spark a new trend.' Hugh took off the goggles and balaclava, plonking them onto the kitchen table. His hair was sticking up all over the place.

Dolly Oliver bustled over and picked up the teapot from the end of the bench. ‘How's that cake coming along?'

‘The mixture's delicious,' Alice-Miranda said as she helped her mother pour the batter evenly into the two tins. She gave them one final swirl, then licked the spatula.

‘I hope you haven't pulled all the ski gear out
of the attic, Hugh Kennington-Jones,' Shilly said sternly. ‘I knew exactly where everything was and I was planning to get it ready for you this afternoon.'

Hugh looked at her with his puppy-dog eyes. ‘I was just trying to help and you know very well that you don't need to pack for me.'

‘Yes, but this trip isn't just about you, sir. What sort of a mess am I going to find upstairs now?' the woman scolded.

‘It's not a mess,' Hugh said. ‘More of a mountain, really, and I was going to sort it out. Scout's honour.' He held up three fingers and gave a salute.

Shilly tutted, then walked to the sideboard and pulled down several teacups and saucers. Alice-Miranda turned and smiled at her father, who gave the child a wink.

‘How are your ski legs, anyway, Shill?' Hugh asked.

‘I haven't had any for longer than I care to remember,' the woman replied, ‘and I don't suspect I'll be needing them again anytime soon.'

‘I think you might,' Alice-Miranda said.

‘What are you lot up to?' Dolly asked. She lifted the lid off the giant glass cake dome and began to cut several slices of date loaf for their morning tea.

‘Well, we were thinking that you and Shilly might like a break,' Hugh began.

‘We don't have time for a break,' Shilly said as she laid the table. ‘I've got everyone booked in for the quarterly clean and then we've got the garden party planning and umpteen other things coming up.'

‘Nonsense,' Cecelia said. ‘We have plenty of time to get things done.'

‘So, ladies, do you fancy a Swiss sojourn?' Hugh asked.

Shilly looked at Hugh and Dolly spun around.

Alice-Miranda jumped off her stool and clasped her hands together. ‘Please say yes.'

‘You don't need Shilly and I spoiling your fun,' Dolly said.

‘You won't spoil anything,' Alice-Miranda insisted, her eyes wide.

‘Plus, you could both do with a break,' Cecelia added. ‘I promise, no looking after the children and you can do whatever takes your fancy.'

‘I also heard that a certain someone has a birthday coming up,' Hugh weighed in.

Shilly rolled her eyes. ‘Don't remind me. I feel like I'm a hundred.'

‘You're only turning sixty-five, which is ages off one hundred,' Alice-Miranda said.

‘And you're as fit as a fiddle,' Hugh added.

Cecelia nodded. ‘Daisy collapsed in a heap last week after only half a day's work with you.'

Dolly opened her mouth to protest, but Hugh held up his palm like a policeman directing traffic. ‘We won't hear another word from either of you. You're coming with us whether you like it or not.'

‘Goodness me,' Shilly huffed, ‘you two must be the bossiest bosses in the world.'

Alice-Miranda raced over and hugged the woman around her middle. Then she ran back to hug Mrs Oliver as well.

Dolly tried to suppress a grin. ‘Yes, it's dreadful the way they insist on taking us on holidays to exotic locations.'

Shilly smiled too. ‘Oh dear, Dolly, it looks like there's no getting out of this one.'

‘Well, that solves that,' Hugh announced. ‘Get your goggles, ladies. We're off to the Alps.'

BOOK: Alice-Miranda in the Alps
7.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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