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Thursday Afternoon: Late
Elliott tightened the screw on the mechanism and carefully pulled away. Nothing snapped and nothing moved. That was good, so far. Just as carefully he closed the lid on the control box, making sure that it fit tightly.
It was a pretty little box. Any lady would love to have such an attractive trinket container. The Three Graces in white danced in the middle of the pale blue Wedgewood porcelain lid. Their arms were linked together. A smile twitched the corner of his lips. Three ladies dancing, their arms linked together; two ladies dancing, their arms linked — he shook off the thought.
The box had to be small, innocuous, yet not so innocuous it would stand out on a shelf laden with gilded ornaments. It was something that people would look at and note but not note: Such as a pretty, but utilitarian, calling card box. He stared at it for a moment. He did not want it to be the size of a calling card. He did not want to think about calling cards. They were the very last thing he wanted to think about. Ever.
He could understand Lady Charlotte knowing Countess Schtrobeck through social contacts and mutual acquaintances. Charlotte, gentle, innocent Charlotte, would hardly be the kind of person the Countess would cultivate as a friend. ‘E. I know Countess Schtrobeck. B.” On the other hand, he could see Beatrice being a friend of the Countess, especially as she was wealthy.
He sighed and pushed his chair away from his worktable. He picked his way past metal and wood and gears and boxes of pieces of chunks of debris until he reached the sink. It was big. Big enough to bathe a grown man in. He washed his hands and tried to scrub the tired from his eyes. The half repaired grandfather clock at the end of the room was no doubt wrong again, his stomach told him it was much later than the clock face said.
The bell on the string at the door jingled merrily. Then three knocks, followed by a pause and then another knock. He stepped on a release button and the door opened silently. Figbee entered.
”What do you want?”
”Begging your pardon, sir.” the man started.
”Cut the bull when we’re alone, Figbee. What do you want?”
Figbee looked around him. The room went on forever with closed and locked doors on every wall. He’d never been down to this portion of the mansion. He’d heard about the sub-basement but never seen it. Lydia had. Lydia and her husband, Old Thomas knew every inch of it. They’d brought Elliott here to nurse him back to health when the rest of his home was unfit for the rats that ran through it. Time touched nothing down here, and allowed him to do his “tinkering” as Old Thomas used to call it.
”There’s a lady to see you.”
”Tell her to talk to Lydia. She’ll arrange everything.”
Figbee wandered through the room as they talked. He casually reset the clock, peered into the deep sink and stared down a particularly dark and menacing corridor. “She’s pretty upset.”
”Hmm. It’s usually the husbands that are.”
Figbee cracked a small smile. “The Lady says if she came here the least you can do is see her.”
”She’s no lady if she’s come here.”
”I’m not. That’s my sister.”
They both whirled to face the voice, Figbee reaching under his jacket and Elliott outstretching his arm only to realize his gun was not in place. Beatrice looked at the two men in mock surprise, her eyebrows lifted slightly, her head titled as if examining an interesting specimen at the local museum. She wandered into the room with an air of complete ownership.
”How did you get down here?” Elliott demanded. But he was looking at Figbee when he asked.
”Oh, don’t blame your man.’ she said. “You don’t have a proper staff and few people occupy the mansion. Footprints are easy to follow. So this is where you make all the little toys Charlotte has told me about?”
He didn’t answer. Her eyes lit on the little porcelain box. As she started to reach for it his impulse was to dive for cover.
Figbee got to it first and without lifting the lid removed its temptation from her. “I wouldn’t play with things in this room, ma’am,” he said in his best unflappable man-servant voice.
”Yes,” she said as she looked at Elliott, “I suppose some things could be considered dangerous.”
With that dismissal Figbee deposited the box on a shelf and headed toward the door. Once there he stopped. “Shall I bring tea, sir?”
”We won’t be needing any,” Beatrice answered.
Elliott nodded at him and Figbee left the room, closing the door firmly behind him. He pretended to busy himself as she found a suitable place to sit. She pulled off her gloves and placed them carefully on a table next to a variety of gears and glass tubes. Next she placed her small bag on top of the gloves and didn’t, to his surprise, take off her hat and deposit that on top of the gloves and the purse. Instead she leveled her gray eyes on him and waited.
Finally he gave up his pretend busyness and faced her. “I thought we were dining Saturday evening?”
”The schedule is unchanged but events have necessitated a prior meeting.”
There was something in the way she said it, he wasn’t quite sure, but it sounded ominous. He was almost afraid to ask. ‘Is, is Lady Charlotte all right?”
Beatrice waved the remark off with a quick movement and a short shrug. “We’ve had her husband get her out of harm’s way. You needn’t worry about her.”
He hadn’t meant to, but he physically and very visibly sighed in relief. “Thank God,” he whispered. Then he frowned. “Who are you? Really.”
“I’m Charlotte’s spinster sister,” she replied. “Pitied by all who view me and treated with utmost kindness at my manless station in life.” The smirk she sent him said she’d have it no other way. “Of course they also envy me my wealth.”
”What events?” he changed the subject.
”The Countess has managed to have her uncle killed,” she answered. “You don’t seem surprised.”
”Not particularly.” he said. “She was hell bent to have that happen.”
”Yes, she was. And she’s none too pleased that it wasn’t you who did the deed.”
”It appears that her Mr. Bellows and your father are connected in some way.”
He tried to hide his hesitation in answering the remark. “My father is dead. I was told he walked into the jungle…”
”I know, followed by your mother.” Her interjection was rewarded with a glare.
”… and neither have been seen since.” he finished.
”It’s possible they’re dead,” she said. “But until we’ve proof, we don’t know, do we?”
”Who are “we”?” he looked at her suspiciously. She knew much, much more than she was telling and yet he felt that she was trying to find out something from him. But what?
She smiled and stood, slowly gathering up her purse and gloves. As she walked toward the door she stopped in front of him to gently touch his cheek. “Let me just say that “we” will pay handsomely for your help. Maybe even enough to refurbish, oh, the first floor of beautiful DanBois park?”
And with that she opened the door. “I’ll see myself out. I look forward to Saturday night, and your answer.”
photo of Robert Taylor taken from: katjaanderson.tumblr.com
The Liar had a partner? Lila sucked on the nail of her little finger. A Partner. A Liar’s Partner. Mmm, tasty, maybe. The Man was staring at her. She put her hand down. “What?” “You look like you’re thinking about eating her.” Lila sniffed. “I don’t eat people.” “I was joking,” he said. She shrugged, flexed her fingers and thought about hunting.
To anyone walking past her, Lila looked like any other young woman, albeit with a now blue Mohawk and hidden nails. It was her movement that left a lasting impression; a lasting, unsettling and somewhat nagging impression. An impression of being hunted.
With money from The Man’s wallet Lila paid for more supplies at the drug store. The clerk eyed her. “You got someone hurt?” Lila nodded, “cuts and bruises.” The clerk frowned. “She need to see a doctor?” Lila stared at her. The clerk stared back. Hazel eyes? Brown? The clerk tilted her head. “Who said it was a she?” Lila asked. The clerk shrugged. Lila left. The clerk turned to her co-worker. “That girl’s got… gold colored eyes.”
Lila strolled toward the motel. There were a lot of people out, she didn’t want to attract too much attention. “She need to see a doctor?” Lila replayed the clerk’s question. “She.” Why “She”? A screech of tires and someone laid on a horn. “Watch where you’re going!” Lila wanted to leap at the car and pull the driver out for interrupting her thoughts but… “watch where you’re going” and “She.” Lila went back to the drug store.
At the drug store the clerk’s co-worker was behind the counter. Lila looked around. He motioned toward the back of the store. “She left. You forget something?” Funny, there was an element, a whiff, of fear coming from him. Lila slid her hand across the counter. He moved Back. “Why did your friend think my friend was female.” The man avoided her gaze. She smiled. “Never mind, I’ll find out.” Real fear this time.
The Man paced the motel room. “She thought I was a woman?” Lila shrugged. “Either you, or your sister.” He paused in mid step. “You think she was asking if my sister was hurt? You think she knew about her?” Lila shrugged again. “Do you know who the Liar’s partner was?” He shook his head. “I’ll be back.” And she was gone.
It didn’t take Lila long to find the clerk. She was already dead, not that Lila had planned on de-souling her. She’d just wanted a little information. There wasn’t much left of the body, external burning does that. The sound of sirens meant it was time to leave. But before she did, under the body, saved from the fire — she grabbed it and loped away.
The Man turned the ring over and over in his hand. “Was she wearing it?” Lila shook her head. “It doesn’t smell like hers.” He put it in his pocket. “It wasn’t.” He stood. “I suppose there’s nothing more for me her.” She grinned and he stared as she unsheathed her nails. “don’t you want to get the people who did this?” “There are more?” The tip of her tongue traced the edge of her lip as she breathed “oh, yesssssss.”