Life Begins at Thirty : Chapter Thirteen


Hannah and I were fashionably late by the time we arrived at the Amber Lounge and Caroline and Spencer would be later still with Caroline’s short pink dress obviously having had the desired effect. The same could be said for the effect that Hannah’s dress was having on me, she was wearing a beautiful black dress which hugged her figure in all the right places making her look like she deserved to be one of the models who would be taking to the catwalk that evening.

As we walked up the red carpet into the lounge flash bulbs exploded from the gathered paparazzi who obviously thought, like I did, that Hannah could have been one of the visiting models and actresses. As we entered a maitre’d checked our tickets and showed us to the table I had purchased for the evening. A complimentary bottle of Cristal lay in a cooler at the side of the table and I motioned to the waiter to pour the champagne into the flutes which lay on the table.

The fashion show began a few minutes later followed by an auction of the pieces that had been displayed. Hannah had looked awestruck as Ariana Stryker, a beautiful golden skinned model, who had been featured on the cover of one of Hannah’s magazines on the flight from Heathrow, took to the stage. My face must have looked the same as one of my heroes, triple Grand Prix racing world champion Damien Wilde, sauntered down the catwalk alongside the subject of his much publicised romance, Lyla Stone.

Caroline didn’t arrive until midway through the auction and Spencer was nowhere to be seen. She explained that he had received an urgent call from work and would be joining us later.

“Urgent business at a strip club?” I thought to myself.

The final piece in the auction was a gorgeous and sexy silk dress which had belonged to Princess Stephanie of Monaco. When Hannah mentioned how beautiful she felt the dress had been Caroline started to poke me, whispering that I should buy the item for Hannah. For half a second I decided that I would but when the bidding started at ‘two and a half million euros’ I suddenly felt as poor as I had been prior to my thirtieth birthday.

After the auction a five-course Michelin starred dinner was served alongside champagne cocktails. Following dinner the venue transformed into a nightclub for an after party. It was approaching midnight at this point, the Grand Prix drivers having already left as they would be driving the following morning. I decided at this point that I would join them thinking of the tickets I had for the following morning which would allow me into the pit lane and paddock. Hannah decided to stay at the party with Caroline as Spencer had still not arrived.

A few hours later I was in bed, sleeping, when suddenly a loud siren awoke me. A fire alarm? I jumped out of bed and looked around the room. I was alone. The girls must not have been back from the after party yet. What time was it? The clock on the side table read three thirty in the morning.

I pulled on the nearest clothes I could find and headed out into the corridor and followed the few other residents to the fire escape. The fire escape was guarded by a tall man wearing body armour. The guard said something in French.

“We have to use the lift, there’s no fire” an American voice translated.

A short lift ride later I found myself in the lobby. The lobby was full of guards. Armed Police. The exhibit that Hannah and I had visited the previous evening was being taped off. Something had been stolen and a man had been killed. I tried to look inside as I walked past but was quickly ushered away by one of the gendarmerie.

It was a mild cloudless night outside the hotel, groups of gawking onlookers were stood behind police tape whilst groups of guests were gathered in their night things trying to keep warm. Most of the hotels residents were still out partying but there were noticeable bands of Grand Prix mechanics in team uniform huddled together.

“Renner are you okay?” Hannah was rushing through the crowds of onlookers towards me. Caroline was following slowly behind unable to move quite so fast in her tall stiletto heels.

“I’m fine” I said. I smiled at her attempting to be reassuring. I never quite know if these expressions of mine came off.

“Have you seen Spencer?” Caroline had now reached us. She reached down and pulled the shoes from her feet and then moaned in mild discomfort as her bare feet returned to the pavement below.

“I haven’t” I said.

“Do you know what’s going on?” Hannah asked.

“Something’s been stolen from the exhibition and one of the guards has been killed” a French voice responded in perfect English before I could move my lips.

“I wonder what was stolen” Hannah wondered aloud.

“I’ll be on the lookout for a man in a 1920s R.A.F. Uniform” I smiled.

“Hannah is always on the lookout for of those” Caroline giggled a little too hard, clearly happy with her joke in her inebriated state.

“Don’t you think it’s a little inappropriate to be making jokes at my expense when there is a man dead” Hannah was trying to look stern but she was equally inebriated and couldn’t quite pull it off.

It was two hours before we were allowed back inside the hotel. Spencer had not returned and Caroline’s glee had soon turned to worry and once we had returned to our suite Hannah stayed with her friend until she eventually fell asleep. It was only once she had fallen asleep that we noticed that all of Spencer’s belongings had gone. His wallet, his passport, his clothes and luggage. They were all gone.