The next day Celia drew back the curtains of her suite to find a thick blanket of snow covering the hotel grounds.
Humming, she packed her things and left them at reception before heading off to her final two appointments – a tour round Ripon with the Volunteer Ambassador, and a workshop at a primary school. To her amazement, despite the weather the number 36 was running on time.
The tour was rather enjoyable – the Volunteer Ambassador was charmingly cheerful, and treated her as if she were royalty, taking her around the lively market square and introducing her as ‘a famous lady authoress’. The strange hero-worship she had received from @RiponOff44 the day before hadn’t diminished Celia’s appetite for that sort of thing, and she happily signed autographs and posed for photographs. She even bought some bread pudding from a cake stall, in case there were any problems with boilers on the train journey back to London.
The school workshop, too, was a great success, despite her aversion to youngsters. She simply got the children to write stories about buses. What made it even more enjoyable was that, despite his name being on Laura’s schedule, Colin the photographer failed to show up.
Her very last meeting was with Laura, who was to see her off at the station.
‘You’ll send my Louboutins back for me, won’t you?’ she said. ‘I left them at the boutique up from Betty’s. I need them back in time for a function I’m attending at the Groucho next week.’
‘I’ll do my best,’ Laura said. She seemed, to Celia, to be rather tight-lipped. She was only asking her to send some shoes back, for goodness’ sake.
‘I’m sorry the social media side of things didn’t take off,’ Celia said, in an effort to keep Laura sweet. ‘I’m not very good at all that. Wrong generation, you see. Not like you young things.’ This was all piffle, of course, Celia knew exactly what she was up to with Twitter and all that. But she was in an enormously good mood and was happy to be gracious.
‘You’ve got enough material to make a story, though?’ Laura asked her, as they stood on the platform. ‘Transdev are very keen to have a published outcome of your visit.’
‘Oh yes. I’ve got a great story,’ Celia said, smiling. ‘The very best. I’ll mail you my invoice.’
‘Do that,’ Laura said. ‘Just deduct your room service and restaurant bill from the sum, won’t you, though?’
‘What?’ Celia said.
‘Room service and restaurant. That’s your business.’
But even this bombshell didn’t succeed in denting Celia’s good humour.
As her author charge stepped onto the first class carriage at the front of the train, Laura breathed a sigh of relief. Having Celia Fairweather swanning around on behalf of the festival had been a complete liability, and she was glad it was over without major incident beyond the author’s rude, injudicious tweet, which Laura suspected had been in the product of a mind in its cups. At least it had been late at night, when hardly anyone important would have seen it.
The train stood on the platform for much longer than Laura had anticipated. Eager to get back to her desk, and seeing that Celia was far too busy reading a copy of the Daily Telegraph to notice, she slipped away. Climbing the steps up to the footbridge, she was nearly knocked down by three police constables, who were charging towards the first class carriage at the front of the train, with fat Colin the photographer trying to keep up behind them.
As she watched them pass, Laura supposed it was about some sort of ticket infringement or something. But it must be a very slow news day indeed for fat Colin to come along for something like that.
And then she headed back to the office to recommend that Celia Fairweather never be invited to the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival ever again.