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Silent, A Unexpected Encounter

Two Years Ago, Gavin

I went on stage next.

'Let's start again,' Agnes said, a minute or two into the Chopin Scherzo. 'Your mind's on something else today' – yeah, like Philippa  – 'wake up, please, and play the piece as it's meant to be played. You'll be performing this before an audience on Friday lunchtime, so I would like to hear a performance now.'  

***
Everyone planned to head into town for lunch.  After my session with Agnes Harlesden, I decided to slip away and get a taxi back to the House.

I started towards the taxi rank on the main road, glancing over my shoulder in case Jace or Steve suddenly appeared. The shore was deserted – more grey everywhere – and the waves churned moodily in the distance. The cloudy sky and dark horizon made me anxious to find Philippa.

'Gavin.' A voice, faint above the hum of cars. 'Wait.'

Philippa?   No. The honey blonde waitress who'd freaked out last night crossed the road. Lucy or whatever her actual name was. She was coming towards me.

'I'm in a hurry.'  I continued on, hoping to get away from the Lucy-girl.  Wasn't she supposed to be in hospital?  

She followed. 'Gavin, please stop. I need to talk to you. It's important.'  

'I can't deal with this, sorry.'

'I came to see you yesterday evening. I was going to break into Agnes' apartment and I needed someone to keep watch.'

'What?'  Definitely mad. I turned around then, expecting to see a girl all delusional with a wild, crazy expression in her eyes, but the Lucy-girl appeared totally calm.  

'Agnes is keeping secrets.'

'I thought you'd gone.'

'Gone where? Back to Richmond?'

'Yeah, I suppose so,' I said, worried in case she suddenly lost it and started shouting.  

'I walked out of my job at the House. It was getting too much for me. Terence or Agnes kept coming into my room and leaving disturbing notes. I finally had enough of it.'

'Right.'

The Lucy girl appeared to hesitate before saying, 'I'm staying at the B & B over there. Please don't tell anyone. I know I can trust you, but everyone else round here thinks I'm mad. Here, take a look at the notes. This is what I've had to deal with since Saturday.  Someone took a photograph of me sitting in the fields at the back of the House and left it on my bed in the bungalow on Sunday evening. And there's been other problems.'

I didn't want to get dragged into any more madness, but the Lucy-girl had already begun rummaging around in her bag and I couldn't think of any further excuses. She pressed a couple of notes into my hand. 'These are photocopies of the originals. Read them. The person knows who I am.  They've used my real name. There's also a photograph taken while I was having a cigarette in the fields at approximately four fifteen on Saturday afternoon.  Someone was watching me. The photo proves it.'  

The notes.  Nasty.  As for the photograph…well, pretty disturbing.  Who would do something like this?  At that point, I had to accept that the blonde waitress really was Lucy Harlesden, daughter of the man and woman who'd died in the fire.  

I said, 'I don't know if I should be telling you this, but Veronica is telling people you smashed up the bungalow round the back last night. She's saying they had to call the police.'

'That's rubbish. Veronica's lying.  I left on my own accord, but came back later to try and get into Agnes' apartment. When you didn't answer the door, I waited a while. Then I decided to go back to the B & B.'  

Lucy appeared to hesitate again. 'Something did happen with Veronica yesterday and I got a bit upset and threw a few things around. But I didn't smash the bungalow up or break anything.  And the police definitely didn't get involved.  Veronica's part of the stalking.'

Agnes, Arthur, Veronica.  Anyone else?

Lucy explained.  Stuff about a skeleton hanging from a bedroom ceiling, gnashing its teeth when she entered the room.  If she wasn't mad, then Veronica must be.

'That sounds nasty,' I said. 'I heard the other girl got sacked for being drunk on duty.'

'Michelle was drinking when it happened.'

'The problem is, everyone believes Veronica. They were talking about it at breakfast.'  
I gave Lucy a brief update on the situation.  Hospital.  

'It's total rubbish,' Lucy said when I'd finished. 'I left because I could no longer cope with the notes. Veronica's so vindictive and spiteful.'  

There was an uncomfortable pause.  Then Lucy said, 'Terence or Agnes must have paid Veronica to lie. It's so obvious. Think about it. They're scared my presence here will interfere with the master classes and worried I'll discover the truth behind my parents' deaths. The perfect solution is to make out I'm mad. That way no one believes me.'

'I see what you mean.' Still seemed a bit farfetched – but so did Veronica's behaviour.

 'Listen,' Lucy said. 'I have an idea. I need to go back to the House while it's empty. There's things I've got to do. Let's get a cab there.'

'You sure about this?'

'More than sure. Let's go.'
Written by Lozzamus
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