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Alter Ego – Charlotte Harcourt Private Detective 1920’s Melbourne

April 1, 2012

Hatmatters - Alter Ego - Photo by J Mitelman

I have always been a good detective – I actually have it on authority from a forensic psychologist. It’s important to learn early in life to discriminate between the wheat and the chaff. This is especially so when developing a hat collection – provenance is everything. But when it comes to solving mysteries and seeking out the villain – clearly if the hat fits wear it!

The plot is set in Melbourne in the 1920’s.  My character, Charlotte Harcourt, is a glamorous emancipated young woman of a fearless disposition. She owes her considerable wealth, education and enlightenment to her late father, a man of substance who had returned from the First World War with a greatly heightened sense of social responsibility.

Hatmatters - Delage DMS Roadster 1929Her grand house in East Melbourne identifies her as a woman of independent means. Her cream and brown Delage Roadster sits parked on the circular driveway as if ready for a fast getaway. Charlotte is a young woman on the move. Renovations are under way at her East Melbourne mansion under the direction of the renowned Melbourne architect Henry Norris, designer of the iconic Sherbrook Forest Burnham Beeches country estate of the Nicholas family.

Miss Harcourt has taken up temporary residence at a suite at The Windsor Hotel whilst these works are in progress. It is here at The Windsor that this story unfolds.

There was a loud knocking at the door. It was after midnight, who could it be?

It was a cold, dark, inhospitable night. Rain lashed the windows of her hotel room. Charlotte reached for her dressing gown and slippers. Gingerly she opened the hotel door. It was a man in uniform whom she vaguely recognized. It was the Hotel Windsor’s night porter. “Miss Harcourt he whispered there is someone very important that needs your help urgently. Could you please follow me”. The porter led her along the wide corridor to a door just down from her own hotel suite.

He knocked gently on the door of Room 139 and she was told to come in by a voice with an accent that was peculiarly English. Ushered into the room Charlotte was immediately assailed by the smell of cigarette smoke. The man smoking sat hunched in an armchair his back to the door. He didn’t turn round as she entered the room. “That will be all Porter” he said in his distinctly Yorkshire accent.

Hatmatters - DH LawrenceCharlotte moved to the centre of the room to be nearer the warmth of the fire burning in the grate. The man slumped in the chair was a smallish, slim, middle aged man with a pale face and a dark beard. The face seemed strangely familiar. She waited for him to speak.

At first he just stared at her. “I thought they were bringing me a private detective” he said. “I am a private detective, Miss Charlotte Harcourt at your service, and whom may you be”. In a softly spoken voice he said “I am the writer D. H Lawrence”. He waited a few moments before he spoke again. “Something very serious has happened Miss Harcourt, my wife has been abducted from this very hotel room by Italian anarchists and if I want to see my wife again I cannot go to the police”.

© 2012 The Waters Group ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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