In the Service of the Wolf (part xviii)

23Nov18

wolf18Part I here

Stacy decided her room would be the best place to hang until the day settled in and she got forgotten and then she would see what she could see. She figured that anywhere that wasn’t locked in the house was fair game, after all Augusta hadn’t put anywhere in particular off limits. Only that she was not to leave the main house. Maybe she could find some family memorabilia or something to provide evidence that the family Stone were not all they seemed.

In the end she waited an hour flat on her back tracing the wood grain in the ceiling with her eyes. Then she tried the door. It wasn’t locked and squinting-a-peek down the hall revealed no one. Stacy made with the frog lips and released them with a pop. Good to go girl, she thought.

The passage leading to the kitchen had two doors, one that led out to the yard and another deeper into the house. Still encountering no one, Stacy half crept and half strolled through the latter into a lined with pictures and old china plates. There was even a grandfather clock with a brass face, painted above which were a couple in colonial clothing: a man in a blue coat doffing a tricorn hat to a simpering girl in white. The plate beneath the Roman numeral clock face announced ‘Earnshaw, London,’ and in smaller writing, ‘1786.’

Stacy pretended to look impressed even though no one was watching. There wasn’t much else in the way of antiques; a stout shaker chair, two coffers and chest of draws that looked expensive.

The pictures were mostly family, some of who she recognised, but none suggesting anything other than ordinary Montana ranchers. The top draw of the chest had napkins and what looked like a wooden case of decent silverware. The second draw had stationary, unused greetings cards and old biscuit tins with ordinary domestic bric-a-brac that she might find anywhere.

For an awkward moment she couldn’t close the second draw and glanced up the hall in case someone was coming. Then it gave. She was quick with the last two, deciding that table cloths and flashlights were not going to be all that illuminating.

Stacy guessed that anything to ‘incriminating’ wasn’t going to be this close to the common areas of the house. All the same she opened the coffers and looked over blankets, some old books and a shotgun that looked like it was broken.

At the end of the hall there was a wooden staircase that led up to the next storey and two more doors. That end was dark and smelled of old wood and varnish. Stacy took a deep breath and opened the left hand door ready to tell occupants that she was looking for a bathroom.

There was a boardroom table and some bookshelves.

“Looks like I found the clubhouse,” Stacy whispered and closed the door. The books could be checked out later, first she wanted to see the other room.

The smaller room facing down the passage to the kitchen was a study of the home-office variety. It was small but there was a computer and some box files on shelves. The desk draws were locked but the box files might be interesting.

Stacy had just got as far as putting her knee on the desk to reach up when there was a sound behind her.

“Can I help you?” Stacy froze and put on a false grin.

“Hi Mrs Stone,” she said breezily, “I was…”

Augusta stood glaring with her arms folded.

“This is my office, bills and groceries mostly… Garrick’s study is locked and on the other side of the house. Anything valuable will be there,” she said.

“I wasn’t stealing I was…” Stacy protested.

“Snooping, or investigating perhaps?” Augusta said sharply.

“Yah… kind of,” Stacy blushed and stood back to dust herself off from phantom grime.

“To be expected I suppose, but don’t do it again… ever,” Augusta warned. “There are some books next door you can borrow. Make the most of them. Tomorrow you can work in the laundry, and you can help in the kitchen too.”

“Sure…” Stacy replied, not really knowing what else to say and wondered if Augusta expected a protest. She could do chores. Why not?

“Books you say?” Stacy made a teeth-point smile and half pointed to the other room.

“Knock yourself out,” Augusta shrugged and turned to go.

*

Adam and John studied each other for any sign of weakness. It was John who usually blinked when they were kids. He was always the one who would try and chicken out of any planned mischief.

“You sure about this?” Adam said at last.

“No, but I think you are right, we should do it,” John sighed.

Adam like to look sage as if he was still contemplating his next move, but in truth the decision was made. “Dad will be pissed,” he said.

“Dad started this,” John said angrily, “What if he is wrong about Stacy? If she is one of Coleridge’s people they may retaliate and take Alice, we have got to go get her. Anyway, it was your idea.”

“You are not going to put this on me when Dad finds out are you?” Adam laughed.

John grinned and extended his arm as he had done when they were boys, “All for one…” he said.

“And one for all,” Adam completed for him. The Two Musketeers were about to ride again.

“How do we get out of the compound?” John said as if that small detail was unimportant.

“Through the gate of course, I don’t know… more supplies maybe. Who will stop us?” Adam shrugged.

“We’ll go after midnight, whoever is gate duty will have to risk challenging us or getting Dad or Sundance out of bed…” John suggested.

“…And why they are thinking about it we are out of here.” Adam liked his brother’s thinking.

“And we have a plan,” John said in eager boyhood tones.

*

Alice couldn’t sleep. John and Adam rolled around in her mind until her head hurt. At first it had been fun and she had switched on a light to examine her bruises again before slipping back into bed for further explorations. Usually that was enough to take the edge off and let her sleep, usually.

This time she tried it twice before considering a pill. This time when she was up she noticed the car outside across the parking lot. Its lights glared at her cabin for a moment before dimming and she saw someone come out the bushes and gesticulate wildly at the driver.

Alice switched out her light and pulled back the drapes. All was quiet but no one stirred in the car and she wondered why whoever was there didn’t get out or at least turn on an interior light. Also there was no sign of whoever had reacted to the headlights either. Then she noticed a man smoking by the vending machines outside motel reception. He looked like he was trying not to be seen in the shadow of the Coca-Cola machine, but the glowing end of his cigarette gave him away.

She had an uneasy feeling about this and for the first time in days thought about packing up and leaving town. You are just being silly she chided herself. Then straight ahead the dark undergrown exploded into light to reveal a man lighting his own cigarette. For a single moment he was looking right at her and then the black swallowed him. The man had been large and certainly wasn’t whoever she had seen before, that made at least three of them and whoever was in the car. She shot a glance at the man by the vending machine. He hadn’t moved, but although she couldn’t see his face, she knew he was watching her too.

*

Marsha MacLeod kicked at the dust and then fell back to leaning in the gate post. Rachel Hemmings and Danson had headed off for a sweep of the perimeter, leaving the 30-year-old to watch the gate. God she hated guard duty, especially when she had to work with oh-so-popular Rachel and that weasel Danson. Still the stars were incredible and at least she was excused duty the next morning and could sleep in.

Many thought of Marsha as the dumb blonde, an image she tried to shake off by having an opinion on everything. Not that she saw it that way; it was just that she hated being ignored. She hated too not being in the loop and being ordered around by that also-ran Danson. She hated too that if he hadn’t been the lead guard tonight then they would have given that job to Rachel over her.

There were a lot of things Marsha hated and most nights alone or when on guard duty she liked to rehearse them over and over in her head.

The jeep that appeared at the gate took her by surprise and it wasn’t until its lights went on that she even saw it. Her heart still pumped as she thanked her stars that it was inside the perimeter and hadn’t snuck up on from outside.

“Open up Marsha we have to make a run,” Adam said in sharp voice from the driver seat.

Marsha swung her flashlight beam into the car and saw the other occupant was John and she relaxed. “No one is supposed to leave,” she said.

“Damn right, keep it that way,” Adam ordered, “But we have to make a sweep of the outer roads.”

“No one told me, Jared told me himself to keep it tight. Garrick’s orders,” she replied.

“So no one told you, maybe they did and you didn’t listen,” Adam said in an annoyed voice, “Come on open up, you think we want to be out here. One sweep and back to bed, that is if you don’t mind.”

“B-but… I am not supposed to…” she looked around to see if Danson was coming back with Rachel yet. Maybe someone told him and he didn’t bother to share. She bet he told Rachel though.

“Look, I don’t know who has screwed up here, if you have got to call the house then do it, but get on with it,” Adam snarled.

Marsha glowered at him, it was hard to face down Adam Stone and it was a cinch that he had permission and no one had told her. “I guess I did hear something…” she took one last look for Danson and then unhitched the gate. You got a walkie in case…?”

Adam waved her away and the jeep pulled moved forward. “Yeah, yeah, but alert the outer guard that we are coming through. I don’t want any more screw-ups tonight”

Marsha felt an idiot and wished to hell Danson had come back. Then she shrugged and reached for the walkie to alert the outer perimeter.

To be continued



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