Forever Scarred(5)By: Jackie Williams
Joe laughed loudly as he remembered the day after he had arrived at the Chateau, the day that David began to smile once again. He quirked up his lips and then spoke wistfully.
“Yeah, well, if I ever get half as lucky as you and Patrick then I’ll be satisfied, but I can’t see it happening now. I think I’ve met every woman around here and they all do that awful fixed staring thing, like they think I’m going to be embarrassed if they look away.”
There wasn’t much David could say to that. He’d seen it with his own eyes often enough. He turned to follow his son, assuming that Joe would walk alongside him but his friend had turned back to the river. He was scanning the opposite bank as if expecting to see someone standing there.
“Anything wrong Joe?” His friend didn’t respond immediately. And then he turned quizzically towards David.
“Has Patrick left Ellen alone at the Chateau?” It would have been such an unusual event that he scarcely knew why he asked.
David’s frown deepened.
“I doubt it. He doesn’t leave her side much as it is let alone now she’s pregnant. He barely deserts her even to do the cooking. He keeps insisting that he needs her help with the veg all the time. They have barely been apart since, well, you know since when. It was the New Year’s Eve dinner dance, the same year Geraldine and I got it together. Why do you ask?”
Joe tilted his head to the side, listening carefully.
“Can you hear that?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I thought someone was on the other side of the river earlier, before I caught Robbie. I could feel them looking at me. And now I swear I can hear a car engine. It would have to be someone on the estate for me to be able to pick that up.”
David stood silently and listened hard for a few moments.
“Can’t hear a damned thing, but then I have one less ear than you. Doesn’t help much. If it had been one of us or the staff they would have made themselves known to you rather than sit there spying. I wonder who it was?”
That David didn’t doubt Joe’s assertion that someone had been there was unsurprising. Joe was a quiet man, thoughtful and of few words if he didn’t take to you, but he heard everything, had supersensitive hearing which was why it was nearly impossible to catch the man out.
Joe scanned the opposite river bank one last time and then gave it up. Whoever had been there was long gone. He turned back to the path.
“I hope we didn’t lose one of that last bunch of idiots. You did count them in and out Dave? Please tell me that none of them were missing when you waved them goodbye.”
“Nope they were definitely all gone so no worries there. All accounted for at point of departure. Let’s go and see if it’s a visitor. Geraldine is likely to bite someone’s head off if they turn up unexpectedly at the moment. She’s at the grouchy stage.” David was referring to his own wife’s pregnancy. She was just over three months gone with their second child and the morning sickness was relentless.
Joe took one last glance back at the river. He knew someone had been standing there observing him. He wasn’t entirely happy that he hadn’t been able to pinpoint the fact slightly earlier, but there was no worrying about whoever it was now. Unless they were heading for the chateau they had probably just been lost and had found their way by mistake onto one of the Chateau tracks. There were several that led up from the town and so he walked in silence beside David, listening to Robbie chattering away to himself as he took the prize fish home for their dinner.
Ellen leaned back from her huge desk and placed her hands in the small of her back. She groaned as the twinges shot through her stomach. She gave a deep sigh and leaned forwards again as she stared at the paper work in front of her, comparing it to what was on the computer screen at her side.
She hated book work. It was the only thing she couldn’t bear about her project. Everything else had been a doddle in comparison, but she had been too stubborn to hire someone else to do the work for her. At first it had been because she needed to keep an eye on how every penny was spent but it had soon become obvious that the chateau expenses were running very high and she didn’t want anyone telling her that the project might become unviable. She had changed strategies the previous year and now she was showing enough profit to expand.