A week later. My visit to the city hadn’t brought me back alone.
I stepped out of the car with Mr. Porter, well, Mr. Morgan, at my side. He brought a small suitcase ready to spend the one promised week at the estate. Though, I hoped he wouldn’t run off after two days.
Richard, the butler and Mrs. Darts, the head of Housekeeping were on their way to welcome our new guest.
‘Miss Cane,’ Victor was however quicker to arrive on the spot. He was wearing his breeches and tall boots as he came towards us smiling. A handsome man, some might say, dark hair, warm smile, blue eyes yet a vicious, terrible gossip cat. ‘I see this time you’ve brought more than books!’ He gave the detective a confident strong handshake. ‘Victor Silverwood! A pleasure!’
‘Andrew Morgan!’ replied the detective with perfect acting. He even smiled as he said it.
‘He’ll be the new assistant,’ I added.
‘Oh, really? Why? What will you do?’ he asked me curiously.
‘I’m taking over uncle Albert’s lectures until we can find a proper replacement.’
‘Oh?’ he frowned. ‘Ah yes, good old Albert, what a shame, what a horrible way to go! Oh,’ he said facing the detective, ‘You don’t need to be frightened. We’re training the dogs properly this time!’ He winked at me. Had the detective known the true meaning of what Victor had just said, he would have understood that Victor’s remark was both cruel and repulsive.
‘Well, good to have you! Bear in mind I’m the least favourite teacher of them all. I assume it goes with the perks of being a Physics teacher. Though I can’t say Fred’s any more liked. Math teachers are the worst!’ he chuckled though no one did. ‘Well, see you around, Morgan!’ And he was gone.
‘He’s late for his horse riding appointment,’ I stated. ‘You’re in luck! Normally he’d ask you a thousand questions, most of them inappropriate.’
‘Next time then,’ replied the detective. ‘What was that about the dogs?’ he asked as he gaped at the construction before him.
The Silverwood estate swallowed by forests, the building standing tall and vast, a castle in disguise. The front overwhelming the eye with its gardens, flowers and decorations as though the king himself resided here.
‘Well, the dogs…’ I explained.
‘Welcome to Silverwood, Mr. Morgan!’ interrupted Richard taking the detective’s suitcase and the stack of books I had brought.
‘We hope you’ll have a pleasant stay!’ added Mrs. Darts with a warm smile.
‘We have new pups, ‘ I explained as we walked towards the entrance. ‘They’re in training now.’ Though that was not what Victor was referring to, not at all.
‘And Victor,’ added Mr. Porter. ‘Victor is…’ he was trying to remember. I had given him a copy of our family tree and a list of everyone living and working at the estate. ‘He’s Hendrik’s son, isn’t he?’ stated the detective.
‘Yes, Victor is my cousin.’
The house welcomed us…only the house. Everyone else was busy and the children were in class. Mr. Porter stared at the high ceiling, the fine crystal chandelier flaunting it’s elegance. The red and golden carpet presented two dark wood staircases each going its separate direction. And if that didn’t confuse a newcomer, there were also three hallways leading left, right and between the staircases. Five directions and this was only one of the estate entrances.
Richard took one of the staircases and the detective followed. He paused for a moment to study the beautifully carved wolves resting on the staircase posts.
‘I’ll give you a tour of the estate as soon as you’re settled in,’ I smiled as we ascended.
‘And after brunch!’ stated Mrs. Darts walking behind us.
Walking up the stairs we faced a stained glass window revealing riding hunters and dogs running at their side. The details became more vivid as we approached but we were soon distracted.
‘Who is this?’ A woman in her forties stood at the top of the staircase. She held a cup in her hand which I doubted was only coffee and she stared at the detective. Richard passed her by quickly.
‘I’m Andrew Morgan!’ said the detective as he shook her hand softly. She looked at me utterly bemused.
‘He’s my temporary replacement…’
‘Oh, really?’ she smiled.
‘Yes, well, until we find a replacement for uncle Albert…’
‘Ah…must you spoil the moment?’ Her freshly painted lips curled as she snapped at me. ‘Have you had brunch yet?’ she asked the detective, her voice sweet as honey.
‘We’re on the way to Mr. Morgan’s room. Once settled we’ll…’
‘Yeah, yeah,’ she interrupted me, waving me off. ‘We’ll be expecting you in the brunch room, Mr. Morgan. I’ll save you a seat next to mine!’ she whispered the last words as though this was an intimate moment between them. The detective gave her a nod. She didn’t move and kept staring at him intensely. He smiled and walked passed her. She shamefully stared at his behind as he passed her by. ‘My, my, Mr. Morgan…’ she whispered. She ignored me as I passed her by then hissed at Mrs. Darts. Lovely, just lovely.
‘That was Lidia, Victor’s sister,’ I said as we walked through the hallway leading to Mr. Porter’s room.
‘Is she a teacher too?’ he asked.
‘Ah no, she has other…priorities…’
‘Thank goodness,’ he replied. It was the serious manner in which he said it that made me chuckle.
Mrs. Darts hurried before us and remained at a door where Richard was standing as well. They awaited Mr. Porter as if some kind of festivities were about to take place. The detective entered and they followed in. I remained in the hallway. They were, of course going to give him an enthusiastic tour of the chamber as they did with all our guests…though lately we didn’t have that many.
‘Such a nice boy!’ said Mrs. Darts as she exited Mr. Porter’s room. ‘I would love to stay and chat but I must see to brunch! If left unsupervised for too long who knows what those girls might do!’ She was referring to the two girls that usually set the brunch table.
‘Thank you, Mrs. Darts!’
Richard came out of the room a few moments later talking to Mr. Porter. ‘Yes, a shame this time of the year, let’s hope they make it ’till spring,’ he then smiled and continued, ‘Get settled, should there be anything, make sure to ring the bell!’
‘I will, Richard, thank you very much!’ said the detective.
Richard gave me a friendly wink then left us.
‘This room is bigger than my entire apartment,’ said Mr. Porter in a few moments. I saw the surprise on his face. ‘Are all rooms similar?’
‘The family rooms are bigger,’ I smiled. ‘These are the guest rooms.’
‘All these rooms?’ he looked at the doors along the hallway, there must have been a dozen of them and this was only a part of it. ‘Where is your room?’ he asked.
‘On the other side of the staircase, end of the hall,’ I pointed out.
‘You have a guest room?’
‘Yes,’ I smiled though I knew what he was implying. ‘The upper floors belong to Hendrik’s family. Each family has her own private wing.’
‘Ah, I see.’ Though I wasn’t sure what he was referring to. ‘And, what about Richard and Mrs. Darts, can they be trusted?’
‘Richard is all right when it comes to secrecy. Mrs. Darts would only keep a secret if it doesn’t concern or affect Mr. Silverwood.’
Mrs. Darts was a cheerful yet authoritarian woman who only followed the rules and Silverwood’s wishes. Richard on the other hand was a gentle and even-tempered man but he didn’t mind breaking Silverwood’s rules now and then. They were both nice to me and helpful from time to time but that did not mean I could trust them.
‘I’ve noticed Mr. Silverwood is quite fond of dogs and wolves. Even my room has a few unique pieces.’
‘Hmm,’ I agreed, if only he knew.
‘Well,’ he smiled. ‘I guess I’ll prepare myself for brunch.’
‘I’ll meet you in the hallway when you’re done.’
‘Yes, that would be perfect. I can easily get lost in this place, I’m sure I will at some point,’ he chuckled.
I wasn’t escorting him to the brunch room because he might have gotten lost, I needed to be there when he’d face the others for the very first time. And something told me it wasn’t going to be pretty.
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