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Silent - Return To The House (3)

Two Years Ago, Gavin

Scared of an old man? You'd think, no way. But believe me, hearing that voice on the stairs really freaked us out because it was so unexpected.

Thick darkness of the storage room.          

And then the door opening, letting in light.

Lucy's face has gone chalky pale. As if she was ill or something.  

'Oh,' Arthur Harlesden said. 'I was looking for someone. I thought they might be in here.'

'Oh,' I echoed. 'Yeah, right.'  

'I was looking for one of the young apprentices from Terence's enterprise.'

'I see,' I said.  (Like, why would one of Terence Harlesden's young apprentices hide on the first floor of Lyme House in the middle of the summer. Then again, why would Lucy and I?)

'My Terence,' Arthur said. 'He helps young people with problems back into employment or  self-employment. One of his apprentices – former apprentices – has run into a few problems. Personal problems, I'm afraid. As I know the young man in question and we have a relatively good understanding in place, I thought I ought to try to find the young man and smooth the situation. I'm parked outside the bungalow.'  Which would explain why I didn't see the car just then.

'And he's come here?  The young  man?'  Lucy said, in a manner that suggested she didn't believe Arthur. 'Why here? Why not somewhere else? Here is a private music college.'

'I don't know,' Arthur said.  'The young lass from downstairs phoned Terence about three quarters of an hour ago to say she'd seen a young fella matching the apprentice's description on the premises.'

'And Veronica didn't call the police?' Lucy said.

'Terence asked her not to,' Arthur said. 'The youth in question can react extremely emotionally, and I didn't think police intervention would help.'

'Sounds to me as if Terence and Agnes are more concerned about the reputation of the Summer School. That's why they got you to intervene,' Lucy said, the colour returning to her cheeks. 'To keep the police away and avoid a scandal.'

'Ah, yes,' Arthur said. 'There is that to consider too. Terence has invested a lot of money and effort in his enterprise scheme for young people, not to mention his role in the Summer School. Naturally, he would prefer not to have to deal with scandals and gossip. Please, if you see the man, do not talk to him.'

'Why not?' Lucy said.

'Because he's had a relapse – by that, I mean he has used drugs in the past, and has sadly gone back to using them – and I don't think it would be wise or appropriate for you to approach him.  Or vice versa. Please. Now, what are you two doing in here?'

'We were just having a bit of fun,' Lucy said.

'Fun?'

'Yeah. It was just a bit of a joke,' I said.  'A prank,' I added.

'Fine,' Arthur said. 'I can't stay around chatting. I must really see to this business with Terence's apprentice.'

'My friend here knows who I am,' Lucy said. 'I've told him everything, apart from our conversation yesterday afternoon and what it was about. I wouldn't do that because I have certain principles  – but I've told him all the rest.'

Arthur's eyes narrowed and for a moment or two, he bore a strong resemblance to his son Terence, and also to his grandson Steve. Menacing. 'So you've talked to your friend here?'

'She has,' I said. 'I know she's Lucy Harlesden. And I also know that the people here are messing with her head and scaring her and telling really terrible lies about her. Lucy's been getting nasty messages and photographs. I've seen them. It's not on.'

'Ah, yes. I received an email from Terence, I'm afraid. About an alleged incident at the bungalow involving Veronica and Michelle.  Yesterday afternoon, it happened, I believe.'

'And do you know why it happened?' Lucy shot back. 'I bet no one's told you why. When I came back to collect the rest of my clothes yesterday afternoon, I found a fake skeleton hanging from the ceiling in my room, just like a corpse hanging from a noose. It was so terrifying, I screamed. Veronica and Michelle heard the scream and came rushing in. But instead of helping, they started filming me on their phones. They were laughing their heads off, by the way. Especially Veronica.'

'Well, that's appalling,' Arthur said, crossly. 'Michelle's already been asked to leave and I will certainly recommend the same for Veronica when I talk to Terence later. You mark my words. Now, you spoke of anonymous notes and photographs?'

'It's true,' I said.  'Lucy showed me the notes and the photograph taken of her.  That's evil. You ought to do something about it, Arthur.'

'I've got the notes here in fact,' Lucy said.

'I believe you, Lucy. That's why I said, alleged. I believe you, but I don't understand any of it. I must have missed something.  I'm rather concerned, though, that Veronica might kick up a fuss.  Did you attack her?'

Lucy nodded.

'How badly?'

'I pulled her hair back and scratched her face a few times.'

'Very well. The circumstances were extreme. You were provoked and humiliated. It was a nasty, cruel prank. You'd obviously received a few notes prior to then.'

 'Since Saturday night.'

'Okay,' Arthur said. 'Terence and I will sort it out. Now, do you have anyone to stay at present?  The bungalow's out, I'm afraid. I can't allow you and Veronica to stay on the same premises.'

'I might have,' Lucy said, sulkily.

'That's good. I hope for your sake that you have a place to stay or a train ticket back to York. For the time being, Brendon's agreed not to notify your adoptive parents.'

'They're abroad anyway, so he wouldn't be able to contact them.'  A retort. So like Philippa again.

'Indeed,' Arthur said. 'I'm terribly sorry it's come to this, Lucy.  And of course, I'm shocked by Veronica's behaviour and deeply disappointed at her lack of maturity.  Terence himself recommended her, as she had successfully completed his apprentice project.'

'Really?' Lucy said.

'Yes, she doesn't live far away. When we first met her, she couldn't find work, so she was referred to Terence's project. She did very well on the project. That's why she was offered the job here. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out. I shall ask Terence to terminate her position and arrange for her to get additional help. We can't have her carrying on like that at a major international music event. Call me later, Lucy, if you want to talk or if you need anything. I
haven't seen you now, but don't hang around for too long, please. And no talking about the other apprentice to anyone.'      
Written by Lozzamus
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