Silent, Digging For Answers
Two Years Earlier, Lucy
She waited for Veronica to go, then slipped into the office behind the main desk in the entrance foyer, having planned the moment all afternoon. It was there on the rack, just like she'd known it would be. Left for the cleaners.
A copy of the key to the apartment on the top floor where the Ogre was currently staying, Agnes Harlesden.
I'm being stalked by your son, she'd texted Arthur Harlesden before the evening shift. He's been following me in his car and he's paid someone to come into my room at the bungalow and leave disturbing messages. Am considering calling the police.
This is all rather strange, Lucy. Arthur texted back half an hour later. It was one of those texts that came in three segments due to the size. What do you mean? Those are very serious accusations and Terence is an extremely busy man. Are you all right? I'm sorry our meeting upset you last night. I would very much like to see you again. Maybe we can talk about this tomorrow over lunch or coffee. Please don't do anything rash, Terence doesn't know you're back. He would never stalk you. He was always very fond of your parents, as we all were. I still haven't told anyone you're back. Love, Arthur
She shook her head in disbelief. Terence didn't know she was back; he would never stalk her. Really? An hour ago, Terence's ex Katie had informed her that Terence had rung to warn her about her. Either Arthur didn't know that, or Arthur was lying. She fired off another text before the shift in the kitchens. I have a duty to clear my dad's name and Terence is just going to have to accept that. Next time I find a note, I'll dial 999. Lucy
Arthur hadn't got back to her since the last text.
Not that it mattered anymore. She already had a plan and she would carry it out later when Agnes and the rest of the staff went to the evening concert at the Grand Theatre. After supper, she would go to the top floor of the House and let herself into the Ogre's apartment. She would search through The Ogre's correspondence over the years and find out what secrets the family had kept. Once she got her answers, she'd give up this stupid job in the kitchens.
The evening shift was a nightmare, the noise louder than usual, The Ogre and Brendon Harlesden seated at the staff table with Terence Harlesden who showed no indication of recognising her. It seemed strange, especially after hearing that Terence knew exactly who she was and had rung the ex to warn her about her. Like he wanted to play mind games with her.
But was Terence responsible? What about the stranger in blue? What if some creep had left the note? A figure from her past. A figure she didn't remember.
This couldn't go on. She'd tell boyfriend Ash and ask him not to say a word to Maxine. Things could work out. If Ash makes his way over and stays in one of the cheap B & B places, we could investigate the fire together. Perhaps we could share a room in town. Me and Ash.
As soon as she could get away from the shift, she called Ash.
'Hi, about to play footie.' He sounded distracted. 'Everything alright? Got your answers?' The friendly football matches in the park near their home in North Yorkshire. A group of friends from Sixth Form. His mates, not hers. She didn't know them well and avoided them unless she was with Ash. They looked down on her. Once or twice, they'd given her hints: she was stuck up and weird…a sort of vampire.
'I'm in trouble.'
She started to explain. Ash interrupted: 'Got any money on you?'
'In that case, get on a train and come back.'
'Yes, but we've put so much work into this…'
'Come back,' Ash said. 'Maxine keeps saying it was a bad idea.'
'Maxine said that? When?'
'A few times. She's pretty concerned for you and doesn't think you should be there on your own. She didn't want to tell you that because she knows how much you want to find out what happened to your mum and dad. That's why she went along with it. She's not very happy about it, though. Come back.'
'I didn't know Maxine felt that way.'
'She wanted to help, but she thinks she shouldn't have told you to get the job. It was a bit of a stupid idea, wasn't it? Come back. Get a train back. Tonight. You'll see Bruce. He's been pining for you.'
Bruce, the German shepherd. The thought of seeing the dog tugged at her heart. Such a fine, beautiful, intelligent creature. Of course the dog would be sad now and crying for her.
She pushed the thought away. 'The thing is, you've got loads of free time…'
'I've been thinking, you could drive over and join me here for a few days. We could do this together. I'd be safe then. If you were about.' She was about to add, we could book into a B & B when she heard Ash sigh in frustration.
'I've only just passed my test, Luce.'
'It's just a short drive.'
'Two or three hours. Not short, Luce. Anyway, Max's got the car tonight. She's in the middle of a photo shoot at the studios.'
'But I don't feel safe here anymore. I'm in danger.'
'I thought you said you were going to break into that old lady's apartment.'
'I am. But I'd prefer to do it with someone.'
'I think you should come back. Get a taxi right away and jump on a train. I'll text Max and tell her there's a problem.'
'Wait, don't go, Ash.'
'Call me in a couple of hours and tell me you're on the train, yeah? One of us will come and fetch you from the station when your train gets in. Make sure you text. Promise me? I'll tell Bruce you're on your way home, and he'll be pleased.'
'Yeah, whatever. Enjoy your footie,' she said, and ended the call. So annoying. She was in the middle of a massive crisis, and all he could talk about was the dog.
The House was emptying, the students and staff getting into taxis for the evening concert at the Grand Theatre. Time to act. She waited a few more minutes before climbing the stairs to the first floor. The time had come to discover exactly what secrets the Ogre had kept over the years.
'Hey, what are you doing?' a voice called, from the landing. Veronica from the bungalow stood further down.
'I was just having a look round. Seriously, it's nothing. I was just wanted to see the House.'
Veronica ignored her. 'I saw her go up,' she heard Veronica say. 'I tried to find Terence or Brendon, but they'd already left for the theatre.'
'You did the right thing, Veronica.' Former Prep School Principal Agnes Harlesden stepped out, leaning against the walking cane, hair piled high in a ballroom bun. 'Don't worry about me,' the Ogre said. 'I'll sort this out. You're a good girl, Veronica. Thank you very much. You're free to go now.'