Meet Ernest Wright – acclaimed journalist and a man of principle. His occupation is about to lead him down a most peculiar path, one that will uncover less about the scoop and everything about himself.
‘You, me and Cancer – let’s face this together.’
The crumpled leaflet slipped down the back of the front passenger seat, joining a graveyard of sweet wrappers and empty cigarette cartons. Ernest didn’t notice; his attention was on the wrought iron gates that guarded the entrance to Beaumont Farm, displaying the initials of the owner in stylish lettering.
Ernest climbed out of his old bug, leaving the engine running; closer inspection told him that the gates were newer than their retro design suggested, an obvious imitation of a late nineteenth century style. He had expected Beaumont to be the excessive type, but sentimentality was far too common in people like him to be genuine.
Deduction had always been Ernest Wright’s strongest quality; it was safe to assume that the gates were less of a homage to the past and instead acted as a monument to Beaumont’s vanity.
Reaching into his coat pocket, he drew a worn leather backed notebook and pen, flicking through it until he found his desired page. Retired actors were not his forte but in his fifty three years of journalism he had met enough of the rich and famous to know exactly what kind of man lived behind bespoke gates.
Ernest scribbled the word ‘Vain’ in bold writing beside the name Lawrence Beaumont and snapped the notebook closed. A minor detail perhaps, but this time he would leave no stone unturned. After all this could be the last time.
He cringed and shook his head; it was best not to think such thoughts.
The suffocating aroma of the bug’s exhaust had begun to thicken the air, prompting him to stop staring at the gates and start thinking about what was behind them. Placing the notebook back into his pocket, he pressed the bell and walked back to the car.
Eventually the gates swung open by themselves, proving his skills in deduction were still second to none. He imagined electric nineteenth century gates were just the first in a long line of tacky luxuries.
The exhaust spluttered as the bug started to climb the winding driveway of Beaumont farm. Ernest smiled; it felt good to be back on the job.
Behind him, the gates swung firmly shut.
It took longer than he thought to fully ascend the steep driveway. By the time he reached the top the car was making an unhealthy rasping noise that sounded unnervingly like a death rattle. Ernest grimaced; the bug had been his companion for far too long to give up now.
If the car really was dying, sadness would be the last of his concerns. Taxis were unlikely to come out this far and he couldn’t imagine the eighty eight year old Lawrence Beaumont was handy behind the wheel. Getting home might be incredibly challenging.
Fortunately, the bug pulled through, coming to an abrupt halt just outside what he assumed to be the farmhouse, only it more accurately resembled a small mansion.
From the doorway, a figure emerged who looked to be in his late fifties. He wore a pair of baggy jeans and a stained tank top, which had just enough white patches to suggest its natural colour wasn’t orange. In the sunlight, his skin looked shiny, reminiscent of an oily wax figure.
‘Good afternoon,’ he called, ‘Mr Wright I presume.’
Ernest switched off the bug and climbed out.
‘That’s right,’ he said, ‘Do you know where I might find Mr Beaumont? He’s expecting me.’
The man chuckled and stretched out his hand.
‘Well you can find him right here! Twelve on the dot; you’re Wright on time!’
He laughed again, more heartily, clearly proud of his terrible pun. Ernest forced a smile, though something was bothering him and it wasn’t Beaumont’s attempt at humour.
‘Nice to meet you Mr Beaumont, thank you very much for having me.’
Ernest reached out and shook his hand. It suddenly dawned on him how tall he was, standing at around six – five, maybe even taller. He always looked smaller in his films.
‘Please call me Lawrence. As long as you’re a guest at Beaumont farm, you’re a friend of mine. I would hate for these next few days to be a formal affair, may I call you Ernest?’
‘Mr Wright is just fine for now.’
Lawrence looked briefly hurt but he quickly masked it with another smile.
‘Then Mr Wright it is. Your room is all ready for you, I’ll ask Pamela to help you with your bags.’
Ernest nodded and Lawrence turned back in the direction of the farmhouse.
‘Oh Mr Beaumont,’ called Ernest.
‘You look very good for your age.’
He didn’t turn around but Ernest could tell he was smirking.
‘Thank you very much Mr Wright. I’ll see you soon.’
With that, he disappeared back into the farmhouse. Ernest stood there for a while, looking out into the farm’s spacious fields; he had never seen anybody of that age look so young. It was impossible.
He took out his notebook and began scribbling; this was already shaping up to be quite the story.