The Further Adventures of Janice and Mel
THE XENA KORE
by Judy (Wishes)
Amanda appears with a grandfatherly looking man dressed as if for business. "This is Mr. Satterley," she says. "My daughter Janice." Then she stands aside and quietly cries.
Mr. Satterley, who carries a large black bag, pulls up a chair so he can face Janice. "Let me see that, young lady," he orders gently. I hesitate.
"This is the doctor," Gareth explains. I cautiously remove the napkins. The doctor looks, then presses my hand back down.
"It's not too bad," he says. As he takes supplies from his bag, he says over his shoulder, "Lady Amanda, you've done your part. Now go back inside while I do my job."
"Everyone go," Janice adds. "Except Mel."
"Good idea," Mr. Satterley agrees. His word seems to be law, as the others quickly go inside. "You must be Mel." I nod. "You've done fine. Can you help me without fainting?"
"I think so."
"Sure you can." He takes a syringe from his bag and fills it. Janice's eyes are wide. "Don't like needles, huh? Swords, but not needles?" He chuckles.
"What are you going to do?" Janice asks.
"I'm going to inject this around the wound," he explains. "It will anesthetize the site, so I can suture it. It will also help with bleeding so I can get a better look. All right?"
"Good. Mel, release the pressure for a moment." I remove the napkins, and he quickly places small shots around the cut. It's still bleeding, and he places several pieces of gauze over it. I drop the bloody napkins on the terrace and apply pressure with the gauze. "Good girl," he says.
Janice asks, "Now what?"
"Now we wait a few minutes. Don't worry, my dear, you aren't going to bleed to death. Katherine managed to miss anything vital." He chuckles again. "Care to tell me what the duel was over? A man? Not young Gareth, I hope? Bad form to duel over a stepbrother."
"No, just a friendly contest," Janice assures him. Her color is coming back, and she seems more comfortable. "I guess this isn't the first time you've been called here on an emergency."
"Emergency? Here?" He thinks. "No. The whole family is pretty healthy."
"My mother didn't have an emergency a few weeks ago?" I roll my eyes heavenward, unable to believe the nerve of this woman. She would question the preacher at her own funeral.
"Oh, that. Yes, a badly upset tummy." He lifts my hand and the gauze to check the wound, than presses both in place again. "I was called from an excellent supper for that. Sherry trifle for dessert. But I didn't get dessert because I was over here."
"An upset stomach?" Janice asks. "Is that all it was?"
"No, it turned out to be a little more than that." He shakes his
head. "Never figured out how it happened. Especially since everybody ate
and drank the same things, and nobody knew anything about it. Servants never
do. Complete mystery how something like that got into Lady Amanda's
stomach without her knowledge." Mr. Satterley motions for me to remove the gauze, and I do. The wound is now barely seeping, and, taking the gauze from me, he drops it on top of the napkins.
"If she ate or drank arsenic, someone had to give it to her deliberately," Janice states.
The doctor pours a disinfectant on Janice's neck and his hands before unwrapping
and putting on surgical gloves. "Arsenic? That's what your mother kept
saying, even said something about knowing where it came from. . . . but it wasn't
arsenic, of course. I lavaged her stomach, and it was
quite clear what it was." He pauses to prepare a sterile needle and suturing thread. "There will be a pressure and a slight stinging."
"What was it?" Janice's tone is insistent.
"Hush, dear. Don't talk while I suture. We don't want a nasty scar on your pretty neck." The doctor leans forward and puts in four sutures. They are so small as to be almost invisible. "Two or three would probably do," he tells me, "but these will minimize scarring. I'm also using the smallest gauge needle and finest thread." He takes out a bottle of small yellow pills. "With the war, these are precious," he says, "but Lady Amanda will never forgive me if that cut gets infected." He pours several pills from the bottle into a tiny envelope and hands the envelope to me. I've obviously been cast in the role of nurse. "Three of these a day with plenty of water. Bring her around to my surgery in four or five days to have the stitches removed."
"Mr. Satterley," Janice says, tired of being talked around. "What was it?"
"What was what, dear?"
"What did you pump out of my mother's stomach?"
"Oh, that." He take his time replacing supplies in his bag and snapping it shut. He stands before answering, and I think Janice is going to leap out of her chair to stop him if he takes a step toward the door. "Syrup of ipecac."
Without turning on a light, I cautiously push aside the heavy blackout curtains.
The faint lightening of the sky suggests it is just after dawn on a cloudy London
morning. Janice still sleeps, curled at the edge of the big four-poster. As
usual she has kicked off the covers and looks small and vulnerable in the big
flannel shirt she wears to bed. The patch of gauze on her neck is a reminder
of yesterday's accident, so soon after our trial by fire. Knowing I can't sleep
and feeling restless, I dress and
decide to go downstairs. Before leaving the room, I pull the sheet and comforter over Janice and wonder at the innocence of sleep.
A little uncomfortable wandering at dawn in my host's house, I nevertheless head for the library. Amanda has said to feel free to borrow a book, and I wonder if she would have one on photography. The library door is open and I enter, realizing too late that the room is occupied. "Pardon me," I say, backing out.
"Come in, Miss Pappas." Sir Robert motions me forward, and I comply. "Excuse me for using you surname. I'm unused to the American affinity for using given names on short acquaintance."
"That isn't the custom in the American South, Sir Robert." He has risen and offered me a chair. Only when I'm seated does he return to his desk.
"I can tell you have had a good upbringing," he says. "And blood will tell."
I think of the blood spilled yesterday. "Blood?"
"Breeding, Miss Pappas, lineage," he explains. He indicates a painting on the wall behind his desk. It is one of those horse paintings favored by the British: a tiny-headed thoroughbred with an impossibly long neck, the horse towering over his groom. "It's important in horses--or people. If only the younger generation could understand that. The importance of preserving the line."
I don't know what to respond or if an answer is expected, so I say nothing.
"When we were introduced," he continues, "I didn't recognize the name. However, the American liaison with the ministry is from your state. Ethan Brochere. Do you know him?"
"His family," I say, surprised Sir Robert has discussed me with anyone.
"It was Lieutenant Brochere who reminded me that your father was a Nobel Laureate. For anthropology, wasn't it?"
"Young Brochere also knew your mother's family. He said that she was a Peltier." He looks at me as if asking a question. If he is, I'm missing it. "And that the Peltiers represent aristocracy in the Carolinas."
"My mother's and a few other families arrived first." I pause, my "upbringing" warring with an impulse to argue with my host. I finally say mildly, "Others who came later may have contributed more."
"Possibly." I hear doubt in his voice, but he will not argue with a guest. He changes the subject. "Were you looking for someone? Amanda's daughter?"
"No, Janice is still sleeping," I answer. "At dinner Lady Amanda mentioned that I might borrow a book. I don't want to disturb you, however." I rise, and Sir Robert follows suit.
"Please. These books are seldom touched except to be dusted." He walks to a shelf behind me and takes from it a book more brightly jacketed that the other solemn-looking volumes. "Perhaps you would like to read one of my wife's books. I'm told they are quite amusing."
He places the book in my hand, and I can't hide my surprise. "Bright Penny's Desert Adventure by A. B. Hylton," I read aloud. "You mean Amanda. . . . Lady Amanda is A. B. Hylton? I had no idea. I read these books when I was a little girl. Does that mean that Janice was the model for. . . ."
"Don't say it." Janice is standing in the library door. "Good morning, Sir Robert."
"Dr. Covington." He hesitates, and then even he decides this is too formal for a stepdaughter. "Janice. Amanda was quite upset by your misadventures yesterday. I trust you have a quieter day planned today?"
"Yes, sir," Janice says. "A little sightseeing. Mel, if you're ready, let's go to breakfast. Will you be joining us, Sir Robert?"
"I've breakfasted," he answers. "Miss Pappas, I enjoyed our conversation. I hope you enjoy the rest of your stay."
Janice and I are almost in the breakfast room before I realize I still have the book in my hand. Near the open door, I pause to look at the publication date. 1928. A first edition. Of course. Janice looks at me, eyebrow raised. Then our attention is drawn by voices in the breakfast room. I am about to make our presence known, but Janice grabs my arm and gives me a warning look. I recognize the voices. Margaret's. Then Kate's.
"I thought you would want to know."
"About him? Hardly."
"You were close. . . ."
"Now he's just the man who could cost me my position."
"If you change your mind, let me know. Don't wait too long."
Janice pulls me back, and, as Margaret stalks out of the breakfast room, it appears that we have just crossed the entryway. With barely a nod for "Miss Janice," the downstairs maid heads for the back of the house.
"Oh, Dr. Covington," Kate cries as we enter. "I'm so glad to see you before leaving this morning. Sir Robert is always up at the crack of dawn and ready to be off. I was afraid we would be gone before you were up. I'm so sorry for what happened yesterday."
"Don't worry about it," Janice says. "And we were on a first name basis before you impaled me. I think that should continue, don't you?"
"Impaled you? I don't. . . . Oh, you're joking."
"It wasn't much more than a scratch, Kate. Really." Janice is already heaping her plate with everything from the sideboard. "By the way, Mel and I just ran into Margaret. She came out of here like her apron was on fire. You and she have a disagreement?"
"Margaret and I?" Kate studies the plate of muffins and bread. "No, not really. She's always been temperamental."
"Always?" I ask.
Kate seems, too late, to realize her mistake. Janice smiles at me approvingly. "Margaret was. . . .she was. . . .she worked for my mother before coming into service with Sir Robert and Lady Amanda." Kate checks her watch. "I have to be going. When Sir Robert is ready to leave for the ministry, I'm expected to be at the door. I'm glad you're feeling better, Janice. Let me know if there's anything you need." This last is said over her shoulder as she hurries out the door.
"Curiouser and curiouser," Janice quotes, and then, "The game's afoot."
We are just sitting down when Amanda enters. At even this early hour, she is
impeccably dressed; I look at the contrast between her and Janice's attire,
and I have to smile. She meets my eye, and I stand, ready to excuse myself.
Janice grasps my wrist and pulls me down. "Eat your
breakfast, Mel. It's going to be a busy day."
I resist slightly. "I'm not hungry." More quietly: "Talk to your mother--alone."
"Sit." She isn't letting go, and I give up.
Amanda has gotten tea and food from the sideboard. She sits down across from us, and I see that Janice didn't get her appetite from her mother. "Good morning, dear. Melinda. What do you have planned for today?"
"We have an appointment," Janice says vaguely.
"Oh, I was hoping we could spend some time together, Janice." Violet
eyes seek confirmation that this hope is shared. "I thought we would talk
before dinner last night, but then there was that unfortunate accident. . .
." Her voice trails off as she looks at the small square of white on
Janice's throat. "I've spoken to Kate about it. When I think what could have happened. . . ." She shudders delicately. "She was so careless."
"It wasn't Kate's fault," Janice states flatly. "I wish you hadn't said anything to her."
"Kate's mother was one of my best friends. Sometimes Kate forgets her place."
Janice's expression is dangerous as she echoes, "Her place?"
Before things can deteriorate further, I interrupt. "I think I'll have some more tea, Lady Amanda. Would you like me to bring you another cup?"
She looks at her cup, which she hasn't touched. She takes a sip. "It's not fresh." She rings a bell, and Margaret enters instantly. "Where's Beatrice?"
"She's busy, your ladyship."
"Margaret, please bring fresh tea and then clear the sideboard."
"Yes, mum." Margaret leaves.
Janice's temper has cooled. "I'm here now, Mother. What do you want to talk about?"
"Not talk about. Just talk." I would leave at this point, but, out of Amanda's sight, Janice has a tight grip on my skirt. "You know. Like a mother and a daughter."
"That would be a new experience." Janice reaches into her shirt pocket and pulls out a small envelope I recognize. "Here's a topic for conversation." She takes out the picture of the small statue and hands it to Amanda.
Amanda looks at it and then back at Janice.
"No? Nothing to say now?"
"You got this out of my desk drawer? At the studio?"
"Yes," Janice answers, not bothering to say that what we actually found was the negative.
"Where are the others? Did they burn up?" She hands the photo back to Janice. "That would be a shame. You would probably like to have them."
"That was the only one we found," I say. "It had fallen behind one of the drawers."
"There were twelve, no, ten. Two didn't turn out." Amanda takes the photo back from Janice and studies it. "Most were like this, although a couple were clear. Your father never was much of a photographer."
Margaret has re-entered with the tea. Using fresh cups, she pours for Amanda and me. "Miss Janice?"
Margaret goes to the sideboard and begins to straighten it.
Amanda finally notices her daughter's expression. "You didn't know? You
worked with him in Egypt. I figured you recognized this statue. I assume it
came from that tomb, the one where your father. . . ." She returns the
photo. I think Janice holds it differently than she did before. She slips
it back into its envelope and, after putting it into her pocket, buttons the flap.
"I don't understand how you got this picture--and the others you say you had."
Amanda raises her voice slightly. "Margaret, leave that for now."
Margaret picks up a serving dish and leaves the room.
"It was several months ago when a small package arrived," Amanda says. "It had foreign stamps and looked like it had a rough trip before it arrived here. It was addressed to me, and the writing was your father's."
"Did he often send you things?" Janice asks.
"No," Amanda answers. "I hadn't been in contact with your father for years, not since you were grown." I wonder about that statement, but Janice doesn't comment.
"And the pictures were in the package?"
"No, film, a 12-exposure roll of 127 film. No letter, no instruction or explanation. Just the film."
"So you developed the film?" Janice asks.
"Not then. I put it aside, figuring a letter would follow. Then I forgot about it."
"You just forgot about it? Weren't you at all curious about why your ex-husband sent you a roll of film? After you say you hadn't been in contact for, what, seven or eight years?" Janice's disbelief is too obvious. I want to interrupt again, but I can't think what to say.
"This was a couple of weeks after you had returned to London. With Tereise." Amanda's voice is so quiet now even I have trouble hearing her. "A friend had told me where you were."
"What?" Janice's question seems too loud.
"I said that I learned you were in the hospital." Amanda meets Janice's
eye. "You were so terribly hurt. I though you might. . . . I wasn't sure
you would recover. For a few days, I imagined you didn't want to. That's when
I got to know Tereise. She and I took turns sitting beside your bed.
And sometimes we sat together in the waiting room and talked."
My heart softens at the picture of Janice's mother and best friend comforting each other.
"I'll bet those were some conversations." Janice's words cut through the mood like a knife. "So the film arrived while you were sitting devotedly at my bedside. When did you get around to developing it?"
"A couple of days after the film came, I received a letter. I had come home from the hospital to rest. The letter was waiting for me."
"Yes, from Harry. He said that he didn't have time to explain, but would I develop the film and send the photographs to a colleague in the United States."
"Which colleague?" Janice asks, but we both know.
"Melinda's father, Dr. Mel Pappas."
So he didn't send the film directly to my father. That's why I had known nothing about it. Janice's eyes meet mine, and I know she is thinking the same thing. I also see a hint of apology that she had never quite believed me.
Amanda continues, "I had been at the hospital all night, but I went to my studio right then to develop the film. As usual, the telephone in the studio wasn't working, so I told John to come back here. If Tereise or the doctor called, he was to come get me. It didn't take long to develop the film and print the negatives. As I said, only ten came out."
"What was on them?" Janice asks.
"There was another one of that statue, I think, or one like it. Some pictures, like wall paintings. . . ."
I remember the paintings in Harpsoptah's tomb. "What were the paintings like?" I ask her.
"I don't remember." She thinks. "Egyptian, I think, probably
from that tomb Harry was working on. And the last two photographs, the clearest
ones, were of a stone tablet. It had hieroglyphics on it." She notes Janice's
expression. "Don't look so surprised, dear. I was married to an
archaeologist for twelve years."
"Why didn't you send the photographs to Mel's father as Dad asked?"
"I had just hung the prints to dry. John returned and knocked on the darkroom door. He said Tereise had called and said you were worse. I was to come at once." I think I see remembered pain in her eyes. "I left things as they were and hurried to the car."
"Well, we know I didn't die."
"No, that was your worst night. By the next morning, you had started to show signs of consciousness."
"That's when you decided to disappear."
"I thought it was best. Tereise had told me how bitter you were." Janice's right hand is resting on the linen that covers the table. Amanda rests her own hand on Janice's. "I planned to come back when you were better. Tereise was to call me."
"What about the photographs?"
"A couple of days later, I put them in an envelope and was going to send
them on. But Harry hadn't put Dr. Pappas's address in his letter. I laid the
envelope aside until I could find out the address. Then I heard about Harry's
death. I got in touch with Tereise, who said that you were. . . .
distraught. She said to come, but I decided to wait a little longer before seeing you." Janice carefully withdraws her hand and places it in her lap. "Janice, you were supposed to be in the hospital for at least two more weeks and convalescing for weeks after that. I thought we would have
plenty of time. I made plans. After you got out of the hospital, I was going to bring you here. . . ."
"As soon as I could stand on my own, I went to Egypt to find out what had happened to Dad. Then I went to Greece, to try to do what he couldn't."
I clear my throat. "Couldn't you find my father's address? To send the photographs."
She shakes her head, as if drawn back to the present. "I didn't try. Harry was dead, and Janice was gone. I put the envelope containing the prints and negatives in a desk drawer and forgot about it."
"You seem to be pretty good at that," Janice comments. "Forgetting about things. And people."
"You didn't notice that these photographs were gone?" I hastily ask. "Didn't you look for them when you realized the others were taken?"
"No, I didn't look. The photographs I was concerned about were the ones in the fire safe, the ones for my book." Amanda's gaze never leaves Janice's face. "No matter what you think, I never forgot you."
When Janice and I return to the entryway, Margaret is halfway up the front stairs, furiously wielding a feather duster. "Mel," Janice says, "You know about these things. Does the downstairs maid dust only part of the stairway, with the upstairs maid meeting her halfway?"
Before I can answer her, Amanda hurries out of the breakfast room, "Dear, if you're going out, why don't you wait for John to return? He can drive you wherever you want to go."
"Doesn't he drive Sir Robert?" Janice asks.
"Just to the ministry in the morning and back home in the evening. The ministry provides a car and driver if needed during the day."
"We don't need the car this morning," Janice says. "I thought we would go to the park stables and take a look at your saddle--unless you've had it fixed since the girth was cut. Do we need a key?"
Amanda shakes her head. "Ask for Jimmy. He's the groom who takes care
of our horses. Recently we sent all the horses except Flora's to the country,
to Sir Robert's family estate. It isn't considered patriotic to waste grain
on horses when they can eat grass instead. I suppose the saddles are
"Well, we can walk to the park," Janice says, then adds, with a hint of mischief, "Mel gets restless when she doesn't get enough exercise. We might take you up on using the car later today."
Amanda leans forward to kiss Janice on the cheek and then settles for patting her on the shoulder. She looks uncertain about something, then walks down the hallway that leads to her sitting room.
Realizing that I still hold the Bright Penny book in my hand, I say to Janice, "I'll run this upstairs."
"Why don't you just return it to the library?" she asks.
"I thought it might be fun to read it again. Now that I know the author." I want to add, now that I know the heroine, too, but I know better.
"Why don't you get your new camera while you're up there?" she asks. "Maybe we'll find something interesting for you to practice on."
I walk up the stairs and wonder if Janice's question about downstairs and upstairs maids was as foolish as it sounded. Margaret is still no higher than halfway when I pass her on the way up, and she is gone when I return.
The morning fog has begun to clear, and it's a pleasant walk to the park and across the park to the horse stables. There are two long buildings, and I ask Janice, "Do you know which building?"
She shakes her head. "We'll try the closest." We enter the first
stable and see an elderly man directing two young boys who are cleaning stalls.
"Excuse me," Janice says, "We're looking for a groom who takes
care of the Blessingham horses." She gives her mother's last name the American
pronunciation, with three syllables, and he looks at her without comprehension. She adds, "His name is Jimmy."
"Oh, the Blesm horses," he says, using the English pronunciation. "They're all gone but one. Only twenty-five horses in the whole place. Closed the other barn."
"We're looking for Jimmy," she reminds him.
"He's down the other end."
"Thanks." We walk between muck buckets and head down the stable aisle. We soon see a slight figure leading a very large horse into a stall. He's sliding the stall door shut as we approach. "Jimmy?" Janice asks.
He nods. I think he looks like a jockey, short, about the same height as Janice, narrow-shouldered, but wiry. His eyes are watchful, but not hostile.
"I'm Janice Covington, Lady Amanda's daughter. This is my friend, Miss Pappas."
His manner changes immediately, a big smile splitting his thin face. "Glad to meet you. Miss Flora said you was coming to visit. From America."
"I guess she was overjoyed," Janice comments.
If anything, his smile gets wider. "Well, no. I'm surprised you don't have horns on your head and a long, forked tail. She's been angry as a bear the last few days." He indicates a nearby stall, its door wide open. "She was quieter this morning. Just come in, saddled Archie, and took off for a ride."
One of the stableboys is approaching, pitchfork and empty muck bucket in hand.
"Clean Archie's stall first, since Miss Flora is riding. She'll expect to see it clean when she gets back." The young man nods and goes into the stall. He's back in a few seconds.
"Jimmy, there's a rat in there." His eyes are wide, and it's clear he isn't going to share the stall with a rodent.
"Aw, Cal," Jimmy says, but he goes into the stall. He comes out swinging a large rat by the tail. He holds it teasingly in front of Cal's face. I'm glad he doesn't bring it that near to me. "The thing's dead. It can't hurt you."
"Plague," Cal says. "Rats is filthy. They give you plague and all kinds of nasty diseases."
Jimmy throws the rat into Cal's muck bucket. "Clean the stall," he says, "or you'll find out Miss Flora's temper is nastier than any dead rat." Cal nods and takes the muck bucket, rat and all, back into the stall.
"Baby," Jimmy mutters. "Now what can I do for you ladies? the Blesm horses is gone, but I can find you other mounts, if you want to ride."
"Thanks," Janice says, "maybe another time. What we really want is to look at my mother's saddle."
"The one with the busted girth?" he asks.
"Yeah, that one."
I have a thought. "Jimmy, were you here the day Lady Amanda fell? The time her girth broke?"
He nods. "I'm always here. Sleep in a room in the other barn, me and old Bert, and the two boys. We're all there is since the war took the others. Only ones the war didn't want." I think his tone is wistful.
"Did you see what happened?" I ask.
His eyes suddenly look suspicious. "Look, I didn't put the saddle on Pariah, Lady Amanda's horse. I had, I would have seen the girth was bad. Nobody can put that on me."
"I'm sure you're very careful, Jimmy," I soothe. "Who did saddle Pariah?"
"I don't know." He thinks a moment. "Lady Amanda was going to ride with Mister Gareth. I was busy loading some other horses, horse box had come to take them to the country. That's when most of the horses was leaving, the ones that hadn't been moved during the Blitz. When I come back into the barn, Pariah and Mister Gareth's horse Stalwart were already saddled. I never saw Lady Amanda saddle a horse, so I supposed he done it."
"Wasn't Flora going to ride with them?" Janice asks.
"Miss Flora was ready to ride when they got here. She always takes care
of Archie herself, grooms and saddles him, brushes him after the ride."
I hear admiration in his voice. "When I come back in from loading the horses,
she and Archie was gone, and Lady Amanda was mounting. Next thing
I knew, she was on the ground."
"My mother fell when she was getting on the horse?"
"Yeah. She wasn't hurt bad, but she was upset and holding her head."
"Did she say anything?" Janice asks.
He grins. "Words I didn't figure her ladyship knew!" Jimmy points out the tackroom door. "That's the Blesm tackroom. Their horses was all in these stalls along here. Lady Amanda's saddle is right next to the door. Anything else you need?"
Cal is coming from Archie's stall, his muck bucket full. Janice says, "One thing. The rat. Those things just curl up and die around here?"
"No," Jimmy answers. "We get a lot of rats and mice, the grain and all. So we poison 'em. There's a can of rat poison in every tackroom."
"Thanks," Janice says, and she walks into the tackroom. I follow and see her already inspecting the girth of the saddle closest to the door. I raise my camera and snap off a quick picture. She blinks at the bright flash and doesn't look happy.
"You said I could practice," I say.
"Uh-huh." She motions me to join her. "Look at this. Mother's account of her fall may have been a little dramatic compared to the facts, but the girth WAS cut."
"Just like she said. It's lucky the girth broke the rest of the way when she mounted. If it hadn't or if someone had given her a leg up, she might have been seriously injured when it finally broke." I think how recent Gareth's injury would have been at that time and wonder that he would saddle the horses and try to ride. He certainly couldn't have given Amanda help in mounting.
"Clear through." Janice interrupts my thoughts.
"The girth. There wasn't any breaking for it to do. It's cut clear through."
"You up for a little walk?" Janice and I are standing at the edge of Regents Park.
"I thought we were going to borrow your mother's car and driver," I answer hopefully.
"I would rather not," she answers. As usual, I wait for an explanation that is not forthcoming. "We can get a bus or cab on Goode Street."
"Blackfriars. To meet Hank." Reluctantly, she gives up more information. "I called him before breaking up your little rendezvous with my stepfather. He has the information I asked for."
We're moving along at Janice's usual rapid pace, and I'm thankful once again
that she has to take almost two steps to my one. We come to Goode Street, and,
as I step off the curb, Janice hits me with all her weight. I land in a heap
on the sidewalk and look up into bright blue eyes above a
dark blue uniform. "Bill?"
White teeth gleam. "If you want me to be."
I hear another male voice. "His name is David. I'm Bill." Red hair and green eyes, also above a uniform, enter my field of vision.
"Don't listen to him. His name's. . . . Harold, I think he said." Again the brilliant smile.
"Mel, are you all right?" Janice extricates my hand from . . . .
David's. "That maniac almost
ran over you."
"You knocked me down," I accuse.
"Better me than a speeding truck."
"There's a difference?" I move my legs and am happy to find they still work. I put my hand out to David, who helps me up. As he starts to help me dust myself off, Janice steps between us.
"Down, boy. Why don't you make yourself really useful, and get us a cab." She looks at his uniform. "They do stop for American servicemen, right?"
"For the Navy, they do." He nods to his red-headed friend, who steps into the street and starts waving and whistling. "Your name is Mel? You're an American, I know. Alabama?"
Harold has stopped a cab by stepping in front of it and is arguing with the Cockney driver. Janice stays at my side.
"Maybe I could call you. . . ."
"She'll call you," Janice says and pushes me toward the waiting cab, the driver having lost his argument with the Navy.
"Let me give you my number," David begins.
Janice and I are in the car, and she reaches across me to shut the door. "She'll find you. You're on a boat, right?"
As the cab pulls away from the curb, I glare at my friend. She smiles. "Oh, did you want his number? I'm just keeping you true--to Bill." She leans forward and gives the cabbie the name of a restaurant in Blackfriars.
"A little early for fish and chips, isn't it?" I ask.
"Never too early." She leans back, and we don't talk until the cab pulls up to the curb. I pay the driver, and he speeds off, going wherever he was bound before the Navy commandeered him.
We're entering the restaurant when I see a familiar figure on the other side of the street. "Look," I say. "Isn't that Kate?"
Janice follows my gaze. "Yeah, it is. I wonder what she's doing here. This neighborhood is a long way from the ministry. Or anywhere I would expect to see someone from Sir Robert's household." I know what she's thinking. That's why she chose it.
I start to wave, and Janice jerks my arm down. "What?"
"Don't worry; she saw us." Kate has abruptly turned on her heel and is entering an alleyway. "That is a woman with secrets."
"Do you think Flora was telling the truth? About Kate being a Nazi?"
"I wouldn't believe much that Flora had to say."
We enter the restaurant, and Hank, who is sitting at a back table, stands and
gestures for us to join him. Looking at Hank, his enormous size and bluff manner,
I find it hard to consider any meeting with him clandestine. Proving me correct,
he bellows in his New Zealand accent, "Mel, Jannie,
over here. C'mon and try these chips."
When we join him, he seats Janice and then looks at me with concern. "Sit down before you fall down. You don't look so good."
"Bloke tried to run her down," Janice explains. Bloke? Janice looks at me as if just noticing my appearance. "You are kind of white. You feel okay?"
Janice is already munching on Hank's chips as he orders more. I ask for tea,
and it arrives in a few minutes. Bless the English. Hank comments about the
camera I'm carrying, and he answers a couple of questions I have. Thank goodness
the camera seems to have survived my fall. Or should I say
Between bites, Janice finally says, "Well, what did you find out?"
"About what?" Janice glares, and Hank laughs. "I got the names
that go with the faces in your photographs. It seems your mother's photos were
used on the society pages for both events.
Made it easy."
Hank slowly takes out his little notebook and makes a show of finding the right
page. I think Janice may try to snatch it from his hand if he teases any more.
Considering his size and Janice's, there's still no contest as to who would
win. Janice. Before her patience snaps completely, Hank reads the list for the
Orphan's Society photo. Janice shakes her head. None of the names rings a bell.
Then he reads the list for the Grace Gallery opening. Janice and I exchange
glances. She pushes the chips
away, one name taking away even her appetite.
"Read that again," I request, hoping I didn't hear correctly. "Just the last four names."
He obliges. "Kenneth Grace and Sarah Lund. Those were the gallery owners. Sir Robert Blessingham. Janice, I think your stepfather was an investor. And Dr. Franz Gruner. Don't know who he was."
"We do," I say.
"I don't suppose you got a copy of this picture?" Janice asks.
Hank shakes his head. "You didn't ask for one. You could probably see one at the newspaper's morgue."
"Never mind," Janice says. "I'm sure my mother has the original."
Outside the restaurant, I try to get Janice to slow down, to talk to me. Finally, she stops and faces me. "You know, I really owe my father an apology."
This isn't what I expect, and I ask cautiously, "Why?"
"You may have noticed I have a tendency to play fast and loose with the truth."
Although she appears serious, I have to smile. "You do have talent in that direction."
"Well, I always blamed my father for that particular 'talent.' Old Harry
could make you think snow was green and grass was white." Her eyes seem
to see into the past; then she pulls herself back to the London street where
we stand. "But he had nothing on my mother when it comes to lying. First
about the poisoning. Then the severity of her fall. Now this!"
"Mel, what do you think she lied about?" I think over our conversation with Hank. "Gruner? I don't remember his name ever coming up. You certainly didn't give your mother any details about our adventures in Egypt. And I don't think you asked her is she ever in her life took photographs where Franz Gruner was one of the subjects."
Janice shakes her head and gives a look, that look. Then she starts to walk away.
"Janice Covington, you stop right where you are!" Several head turn, as passersby hear for the first time a southern belle in full cry. "Do you hear me?"
My friend stops her forward motion and, when I don't join her, turns and comes back. "Do I hear you? All of London can hear you. Jesus Christ, Mel. . . ."
"Don't take the Lord's name in vain," I say. "If you want to swear, use some of those other words. You have enough of them."
"Mel. . . ."
"I'm tired of you acting like I'm your foolish cousin Beauregard." At her look of incomprehension, I explain. "Where I come from, everyone has a cousin who's not quite right, and it seems like most of the time his name is Beauregard."
"Probably comes from marrying your. . . ."
"You hush, Janice," I say. "We don't have any more foolish cousins than you Yankees. We just treat them better. Keep them in the parlor instead of the attic. And we would NEVER give them a look like the one you just gave me."
Janice opens her mouth. And shuts it.
"Now, as I politely asked you before, what do you think your mother lied about?" I'm well aware of looking down on Janice from my greater height, and for once I don't try to minimize the difference.
When Janice finally speaks, her voice is quiet. "Could we have this conversation somewhere else? Off the street?"
"No." I wait. Suddenly Janice is worried about propriety?
She sighs. "I thought it was strange that pictures were sent with the
first two extortion notes and not with the third. I suppose that's why I asked
Hank to find out about the Grace Gallery opening, too, since it was third on
the list. After hearing who was in the photo, Sir Robert, a woman
I assume was Kate's mother, and Franz Gruner, I'm sure that my mother lied."
"So you think the photograph of the Grace Gallery opening was sent with the third extortion note? And that your mother lied when she said it wasn't?" When Janice nods, I ask what I think is the obvious question. "Why?"
"Isn't it clear? If we see Gruner, we're going to know. . . ." She stops.
"Know what?" I prompt.
"Well, since Gruner was the one responsible for Dad's death and almost for our own, she lied because. . . ." Her voice trails off again.
"Janice, do you think your mother knows anything about what happened to
us in Egypt?" I ask. "And if she did, that she would be on anyone's
"I don't know."
"Gruner's dead," I say. "He had your father killed. He hurt you." Tears burn in my eyes at the memory of that. "But he can't hurt you ever again." I remember Janice and Antone Zepp carrying Gruner's lifeless body from that tent in the desert.
Janice calls me back with a soft touch on my arm. "I don't know why my mother lied," she admits. "Let's go ask her." She starts back down the street and, when I don't immediately catch up, calls over her shoulder, "Come on. . . . Beauregard."
Janice and I enter Amanda's sitting room just as Margaret is leaving. Amanda is pouring, and I see there is a service for three, just as on our first visit. "Janice, Melinda, I"m so glad you decided to join me. When you called John to bring you home, I hoped you would."
She pats the seat beside her and looks at her daughter. Janice takes this seat, and I take the one opposite. I don't want to be here, but the short redhead has won this round. The truth is I'm not sure I trust her to talk with her mother alone.
Amanda pours and hands me a cup of tea. Janice declines, and I know she is longing for the "tea" provided by Gareth yesterday. "Thank you," I say.
"You're looking tired, Melinda," she notes. "Did my daughter run you all around London again today?"
"No," I say, embarrassed b her observation. "We only went a couple of places."
"You were going to the stables in the park, weren't you?" she asks. "Janice, did you see Flora there? She left early this morning, and I haven't seen her since. She's always over there with that horse."
"She was already riding when we got there," Janice responds. "We talked to Jimmy and looked at your saddle though."
"It was pretty much as you said."
"More tea, Melinda?"
"No, thank you."
"Where did you go besides the park?" Amanda asks. "I hope you saw some of the nice parts of London."
"We visited with an old friend of mine," Janice answers.
"That's nice. Is it someone I would know?" She holds out a plate of biscuits. I take one, but Janice surprisingly declines.
"I doubt it. He's with the foreign press."
"I know quite a few people," Amanda says.
"Yes, I realized that today." Janice leans forward and asks abruptly, "Mother, where did you put the photo that came with the third note?"
"Dear, I told you that no photograph came with that note."
"I know what you told us," Janice says. "What I'm asking is where it is." Mother and daughter lock gazes. The older woman looks away first.
"Excuse me." Amanda rises and leaves the room.
"Janice," I hiss, "you just called your mother a liar. To her face."
My friend doesn't respond, and a few minutes later Amanda returns. In her hand is a photograph. Without speaking, she sits and then hands it to Janice, who studies it before handing it to me. I nod and give it back.
"Mother, who are these three people? The ones around Sir Robert?" Janice asks.
"The first is Kenneth Grace, the co-owner of the gallery that was being opened. The woman beside him is Sarah Lund, his partner." She stops speaking as she looks at this woman's face.
"Is that Kate's mother?"
She nods and adds, "And my best friend. She was an artist who welcomed me into her circle when I first came to London. She died at the beginning of the war, just four years after I took this picture. Poor Sarah."
"Was her death before or after the gallery was destroyed?"
"Soon after. She was crossing a street when she was struck by a lorry.
The driver kept going and was never caught." She shakes her head sadly
at the memory, and I shudder. "Kate was out of school and already working
for Gareth, but she took it so hard. Her father had already returned to
Germany because the declaration of war had made him an enemy alien. Then to lose
her mother. . . ."
I set down my cup. "You say Kate worked for Gareth?"
"Yes, she worked for him until he was accepted for training as a pilot.
There were some problems when Robert took her with him to the ministry, her
being half-German, but his influence was great enough for her to finally be
accepted." There is pride in her voice at this last. "As if Sarah
daughter would be a Nazi spy!"
"You say the gallery had already been destroyed in the Blitz? So Kate didn't inherit even her mother's half?" I ask, thinking of the young woman suddenly left on her own.
"I suppose she did inherit the lot it was on," Amanda says. "That will be valuable property after the war."
"What about Kenneth Grace?" Janice asks. "Wouldn't he own part of it?"
Amanda shakes her head sadly. "Kenneth died before Sarah. He was searching for something in the wrecked building after it was bombed. A wall fell and pinned him. He died a few days later. Kenneth didn't have any family. He was a lifelong bachelor, and he left his share to Sarah. The building was razed for safety reasons after his death, but, as I said, I suppose the lot belongs to Kate."
Changing the subject, Janice asks, "Who's this man on the other side of Sir Robert?"
"Don't you recognize him?" Amanda responds. "I'm sure you would have met. That's Dr. Franz Gruner, a Swiss archaeologist. I know your father knew him."
Without answering her mother's question, Janice counters with another of her own. "How was he connected with the gallery opening?"
"I don't know that he was."
"I mean, why is he in the photograph? Was he a friend of the owners? An investor? What?"
"Well, of course, he knew Sarah and Kenneth, and he was a friend, I think, of Sarah's husband, Horst." She rearranges cakes on a small silver tray.
"Mother. Why was he at the opening, and why was he included in this photograph?" Janice's voice and eyes are compelling.
"He was there as Richard's and my guest," Amanda says quietly.
"Is he why you didn't want me to see this photograph?" Janice asks.
Amanda looks up, unveiling those startling violet eyes. "I thought you might know him and might remember."
"Remember what?" I ask. Can it be she does know what Gruner did--and tried to do--to her daughter?
Although the question is mine, she speaks to Janice. "I know you were only eleven when I left, but you were already interested in your father's work. I thought you might remember that Franz had a dig nearby. He and your father were working on some of the same questions, and they often seemed to be working in the same part of the world." Now that she's talking about it, the words roll forth easily, almost as if this is a confession. "There were differences, however. Harry wanted to spend all his time in the field, always on the look-out for clues to those so-called Xena scrolls. He never took time to publish and teach, to build a reputation, at least not a respectable one. So he always had to scratch for money, run his digs on a shoestring."
"And Gruner?" Janice asks, her voice tight.
"Franz knew how to play the academic game," Amanda says. "He
wrote and lectured, didn't get distracted by any imaginary quest. He knew how
to build a reputation and use that reputation to get funding for his digs. Why,
in Turkey, he even had a generator that supplied refrigeration and ran
fans in his tent. He had ice in 100 degree heat. . . ." She stops. Too late.
"It was Gruner in the big black car, wasn't it?" Janice asks, describing what an eleven-year-old saw the day her mother went away. Forever."Yes." Then, after a pause, "He was my friend. He flew me to London and helped me get started here. He introduced me to the right people."
"Including Sir Robert?" I guess.
"Yes. Robert has always had an interest in antiquities, with the roots of our culture, as he says. Franz introduced us at a lecture he was giving at the British Museum." She looks at Janice and says again, "He was my friend."
"Is that why you felt you had to hide the picture? And lie?" I don't know if Janice regrets her tone, but I do. Tears glitter in Amanda's beautiful eyes. "Did you know that Gruner had a dig close to Dad's at Cashi Zun?"
"No." The tears begin to slowly spill down her cheeks, but her voice is steady. "The last time I saw Franz was at Sarah's funeral. He told me that he was going to Egypt, that he had a permit to dig at a famous oasis. He was very excited about what he hoped to find there."
"I bet," Janice comments, then, "Wasn't he worried about going into an area that might soon be controlled by the Nazis?"
"No. As a Swiss national, he was sure they would respect his neutrality." She hesitates. "I learned only recently that he died there. Killed by Egyptian nationalists at his own dig, I heard. I miss him. He was a good friend when I needed one."
I wonder what Janice will tell her mother about this "friend," this
Swiss citizen whose henchmen were Nazis. Will she tell how he killed Harry Covington
so he could steal his discoveries? How he took credit for some and sold others?
Will she tell Amanda that her good friend Gruner tortured
her own daughter to get her to reveal where she had hidden one of his stolen treasures? That he would have maimed her if I had not given up her secret?
We sit in silence, Amanda and I waiting. Janice's eyes seek mine, and I try to keep my expression neutral. This is between mother and daughter, a relationship about which I know nothing. Janice stands. "Mother, please excuse Mel and me. We need to clean up and get some rest before dinner."
I nod to Amanda and follow my friend out the door.
Continue Chapters 28-35
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