A strikingly, lithe body stood on the other side. He was a handsome man, in a crisp uniform. Dark haired, slicked back, more then a little attractive.
Theodore was more then a little wary of him. He kept watch. Just stared at him. Making no conversation. And, the man whistled. Surprisingly well. He must have to wait a lot.
Now, Theodore was Miss Betsy's husband. They'd been at that house together longer then they'd been married. He was older then his wife and a little more fragile. He got around. Kept the lawns up, but he was feeble in comparison to his wife. His eyesight wasn't very good. And, he spent most of his day on the second floor sunk into one of the chairs, just guarding the floor.
That was something that fell under his job heading. Security. It was a title.
Nothing that could happen, would be stopped by Theodore. A nice older man. But, the wall was really what kept people out. The only way to scale it was by throwing a ladder up against it.
And, there would be nothing suspicious about that.
In an upper class neighborhood in Bath.
Lily flounced out of the house. She cinched a Burberry coat over her negligee and looked, despite her lack of preparation- damn admirable.
“Who is this?” She walked right up to the gate. Eying the man up who stood in front of her, “What's your name, sir?”
“Felix.” He had crafty eyes.
“Well, hello there Felix. What brings you to my doorstep.”
“He says he has something for you,” informed Theodore, “A package.”
Lily was coy, “You couldn't have just left it in the mailbox?”
“I need Cindy Johnson's signature. You don't look like a Cindy to me.”
“Really? Well, you don't look like you have a package for me. Unless it's underneath your pants.”
Cindy intervened, “I'm, Cindy Johnson. My employer had me order something from you. I'm the one who's going to sign for it.”
The delivery man was less impressed by this, mousy brunette, “I'll go get it.” He walked back to the truck. Had Cindy sign for it. Looked over at Mrs. Clinton one more time, and passed the package through the fence. Theodore took it from him before handing it over to Lily.
Michael watched him drive way, “'What an arrogant man.”
Lily ignored him. Just holding the blue foil in her hand. It was square box. A beautiful square box underneath all the wrapping.
“Aren't you going to open it?” questioned Miss Betsy.
“Yes. It's just so beautiful.” She tore at the foil, to unwrap the velvet box. A little card fell out, but she didn't pick it up, “It's stunning.” Pearls. A string of pearls with a gold clasp sat in the box. They weren't delicate or ladylike, but they were beautiful pearls none the less.
Cindy stopped over to pick up the card, “This is from your husband.”
That look of pure admiration disappeared, “Right.” she read it over.
“Tell us what it says Lily,” pressured Michael.
“It just says, 'for you'. I suppose it's a thoughtful gift. I want to wear them everywhere. Pearls go with everything.”
“He got them from Sotheby's you know.” Cindy wasn't sure why she felt the need to tell her that.
“Well, isn't that nice.” The trades would have told her that her husband spent far too much on those pearls, but Lily Clinton only knew that they were beautiful.
They all walked back inside.
“You know she's like a kid,” stated Michael. The fedora on his head, and a crumpled gray suit making him oddly desirable.
“Yes. She's so excited about her new toy.” He breathed in, “It's a beautiful day outside. Maybe a little to bright.”
“You have plans for tonight?”
“No.” his brow furrowed, “Not really.” He looked at Cindy as they reached the doorstep, “You know kid. You're the same height as me.”
Cindy sighed. Maybe next time I'll try not to be infatuated with my employer's brother.
The door locked behind them.
It was the vacation home of millionaire Calvin Clinton. His wife usually resided in London when he was home, but whenever he was on his business trips to India she would come down to Bath.
She spent most of her time in Bath.
Lily Clinton was an attractive, feminine woman. Her femininity matched her husband's masculinity. She was Calvin's first wife. They had been married for ten years now. He was just in his fifties and she was just in her forties.
There was a ten year age gap, but compared to some of his contemporaries the age difference was almost not noticeable. By the time they decided to get married both of them knew what they wanted. Lily wanted his money and Calvin wanted a woman who wasn't too smart or too stupid who could run a household.
Friends were not something that Lily had. Her life before Calvin wasn't something she talked about or was known about. There were vicious rumors about what she had done before her emergence into the upper echelon. Most of them not true, but she didn't have high society friends. Calvin for that part didn't either.
He was new money. Lily couldn't tell you what he did for a living, but the general idea was that he was an import, export expert on India. That's what his company did. Shipped things from India.
There had never been a time he had bored with the details of his business or she had bothered to ask about them. They had a good enough relationship. It didn't satisfy either of them completely, but the restrictions were something they put up with.
Calvin wanted his wife to come to India with him.
Lily wanted Calvin to hire someone to watch over the company, so he didn't have to travel to India so often.
It was the perfect balance of requests and rejections.
Neither one had a problem saying no.
Most of Lily's companionship came from Calvin's brother Michael and his secretary Cindy Johnson.
Michael was a disappointment to Calvin. If Calvin could make his own way in the world, so could his brother. His brother had made no headway. He was ten years younger then Calvin, and much closer to Lily's age. But, he floated through life on the favors of others.
At some point he got his hands on a good suit and dressed well and socialized. He lived with women and men at their discretion. Living with the best of society. Until they got bored with him. Then, he would just move on.
Now Calvin didn't support this, he didn't give his brother money, but whenever his brother was between benefactors he stayed with Calvin. He'd been at the Bath house for the past six months.
That's how long Calvin had been away.
Even, though most of Calvin's business was in India, he still needed someone at home. That's why he hired Cindy Johnson.
A bright, quick thinking, if plain looking girl, who had just turned 23. She was well paid and when her job demanded her it was all consuming. But, when it didn't. It bordered on being an errand maid for his wife Lily.
It wasn't an inconvenience. There was nothing else for her to do. And, it was never menial tasks like cleaning out the gutters. It was just that she was very bright, and she felt under utilized.
That's what bonded these three people together.
Lily, Michael, and Cindy. They all had a relationship with Calvin Clinton. Love, Family, and Work. If it was in that order.
A lengthy oval table, stretched from one end of the room to another. The three of them sat together. Lily and Michael at one end. Cindy in the middle. They all had breakfast together.
The sun poured in through all the windows. The curtains were drawn back. Lily shielded her eyes. Took a cup in her hand. “You came in late this morning didn't you Michael?”
Her voice was louder, then it might have had to be and he winced. His fingers massaged his temples, “I did get in late, yes.” Michael sipped on the orange juice.
“What were you doing last night?”
“I was out. It's Bath. There's a lot of beautiful women about.”
“There are?” Lily scraped the butter knife across her bread.
“I wouldn't expect you to notice.” He knocked the fedora off his head.
“I would have thought, since you wear that thing so much you would have known it was on your head.”
“Thing?” The tips of his fingers picked it off the ground. “I have more then one of these. Multiple.”
“You don't have to wear it in the house. You can take it off.”
“Cindy. Tell me what do you think about it?”
“Think about what?” she glanced up from her paper.
“Me wearing a hat in the house. How do you feel about it?”
“It is a little early in the morning for a hat. You are eating breakfast,” Cindy paused, “I know I don't care. Wear the hat.”
“I don't think she was agreeing with you,” noted Lily. Just starting to eat her toast.
Michael ignored her, “What's in the paper, Cindy?”
“I think I saw your picture on page seven.”
And, Cindy smiled back. She could tell from his mannerisms that he was a little hungover. Probably would be more hungover if he didn't drink so much. She wondered how much he remembered from the night before.
“No, really what's going on in the world.”
“Bath is boring this time of year. There aren't any tourists to make the headlines.”
“So, no highway robberies or murders.”
“It's tepid at best,” reassured Cindy.
“That's not totally true,” inserted Lily, “Isn't Ivon Chekhov staying at one of the resorts on the beach.”
“What's interesting about that?”
“You know a famous detective, staying right here in Bath. It's fascinating. What if he's here solving a crime.”
“The problem is that there isn't any crime to solve.”
“You just aren't looking hard enough Cindy. A man like that doesn't just vacation. He's here for something. Excitement and adventure.”
“He's probably looking for the exact opposite of that if he's on vacation.”
“Men don't like to be bored. He might think he wants a nice quite British vacation, but he's a continental man. That's exactly what he doesn't want.” Lily Clinton talked as if she knew about the subject.
“Isn't he British?” questioned Michael.
“Don't be silly. You're not really British with a name like that. He's a foreigner, but an absolutely brilliant one at that. You see his name in the paper all the time.” She tossed her hair over one side of her shoulder. “I'd love to meet him. I'm sure I could find a way for us to meet.”
“You sound like you're courting the man.”
“As long as Calvin doesn't find out I'll be okay. It's not as if I would ever date a foreigner. Especially someone who's more then ten years younger then me. And at that a Russian. But, I'm sure he's good man to have around for a cocktail party. He probably has absolutely brilliant stories.”
“That's one way to look at it,” murmured Cindy.
It took Cindy a moment, “You want me to arrange a meeting with Ivon Chekhov. For what?”
“Tea, brunch, a martini or two. Anything. You know my schedule. There's nothing for me to do this week. Why don't you call him.”
“I'm not even sure what hotel he's staying at.”
Lily looked confused, “That's what my husband pays you for.”
“And, what will I tell Mr. Chekhov when he asks me why I'm calling.”
“That, I , Lily Clinton would like to invite him for a social call.”
Outwardly, Cindy nodded. Inwardly, she checked off a list. They were not the Rockfellers, the Kennedy's, the Vanderbilts. There was money and there was money. The Clinton's fell under money. They weren't particularly important, “I'll make the call.”
“Perfect,” laughed Lily, “I hope he's not too busy.”
“Well, with all the crime going on.”
“I thought you said there wasn't any crime.”
Cindy wanted to point out that it was sarcasm, “You're right. There isn't any crime.” She bit her tongue.
They continued to eat.
Lily finished her tea. Looked at them completely bored, “Do you know what my husband is up to?” The question was directed at Lily.
“He's not going to be coming home anytime soon.” Cindy folded the paper up. There was nothing in it anyway. “I don't know his exact itinerary. He should still be on a train to Mumbai.”
“That doesn't tell me anything.” She sighed, “I don't know where anything is in India.” She clinched her negligee closer together. “He'll be back soon?”
“Right,” Lily's blonde head laughed, “You said that before. I hope Mr. Chekhov takes us up on my offer. It's dreadfully dull here. I need some excitement. Maybe, Calvin finally wrote me a letter.”
“Not likely old sport,” mentioned Michael, “He doesn't write things down.”
“He did when we were courting.” She looks out the window, “For some reason I always imagine that a deer is just going to be outside, staring back at me.”
A part of Cindy wanted to hold her tongue, and another part wanted to tell her. She let her inhibitions go, “Something is coming for you today. From London.”
“London?” Lily's interest was peaked. “Not a secret admirer.”
“I can't tell you. Mr. Clinton asked me if I would have it delivered today. I think you'll like it.”
Lily soured. “He wanted it specifically for today.”
There was no hesitation on Cindy's part. “Of course. He wanted it today.”
“He's a fool,” she conjured up a wry smile, “He thinks its our anniversary today. What he never seems to remember is that it was last week. Not this week. I wasn't sure if he'd forgotten. That's something you should take notes of Cindy. Get me my anniversary present on my anniversary.”
“Well, I knew it was your anniversary. I even wished you a happy anniversary,” inserted Michael.
There was another smile, “I know you did.” She turned her attention back to Cindy, “So, you will remind my husband next year?”
“Only if I'm buying your present again,” passed off Cindy.
“Tell me,” her interest renewed, “How many zeros are in it?”
“Don't be coy. You're the one who told me it was coming today. What is it? I need to know.”
“You'll find out.”
“When will I find out then? Tonight or will the delivery man be coming this morning. The anticipation is killing me. This is exactly what I wanted. Excitement.”
“A gift is excitement?”
“When things are as dull as this, anything will work. I was almost about to take up an exercise class. I was so bored.”
“You could always go with me. We could work out together,” said Michael.
“Don't we do that enough as it is?”
They made eye contact and Cindy picked up the paper.
“Do you think it would be rude if I rang for Miss Betsy. That is what the bell is for, but don't you think it's rude?”
“What do you need Miss Betsy for?” questioned Michael.
“To clear the plates away. I don't know about you, but I'm absolutely full.” Lily had touched almost nothing on her plate, “I could just leave it for her, but I don't know what's worse. Ringing the bell or just leaving it here for her to find.”
“I think you should just ring the bell,” asserted Cindy.
“You think?” She gave it a dainty little ring.
In under a minute a tiny, stout, overweight little woman came in.
“Miss Betsy, I'm finished with my dishes.”
Miss Betsy nodded, “That's nice dear. Are you done Miss Johnson, Mr. Clinton?”
“You can take mine,” informed Cindy.
“Just working on it,” noted Michael.
Miss Betsy had one of those kind reassuring faces. She'd come with the house. A housekeeper who had never kept house at any other one. An old soul. Someone must people would think they could trust.
It was only as she was clearing the dishes that she finally remembered. “There's a man at the front gate.”
“What do you mean there's a man at the front gate?” questioned Lily.
“That's just what Theodore told me. There's some man at the front gate.”
“Come everyone. That must be my present. Leave those dishes, Miss Betsy. I want everyone to be there when I open it,” she stood up from the table, “You too Michael.”
“I'm not done yet.”
“Yes, you are.” And, she picked up the plate from in front of him, “Let's move along everyone. We mustn't keep our visitor waiting.”
She yawned again.
It was too late at night for this.
She pushed the reports away and took out a piece of paper. She still had to call the hotel Ivon Chekhov was staying at. She had no intention of actively pursuing him, but she at least had to make an effort.
Tomorrow. It would have to wait. At least the phone call to Sotheby's was over. Lily had wanted her to call them and thank the delivery man. Apparently she wanted to tip him.
Cindy thought it was a strange thing to do. When did people start tipping the delivery man, but it just reminded her that Lily wasn't one of these people. She shouldn't be living in one of these houses or getting pearls from Sotheby's. It was irritating.
She felt like such a spy being here. There was no reason for her to be in Bath. Her employer's personal life was his own, and it unnerved Cindy to be apart of it. Here she was staying at his vacation home when she could just as easily have stayed in London and arranged everything.
Of course she knew why, she really came down. It was a way to insert herself into Michael's life. She wasn't his type. He liked the rich. He wasn't discriminatory on age or gender. He just liked money and that was something Cindy didn't have.
It was nice, though, to just be around him and his stupid fedora he wore everywhere. It pained her to have a crush on a man twenty years older then her. A girlish crush at that. She knew she wasn't that pretty. That she was homely, but it always seemed to make people underestimate her, and Cindy was fine with that.
He was everything she wanted to talk about and the only thing she wanted to ignore. She'd had a friend talk to her about him. Michael Clinton was occasionally in the tabloids after all. The girl said to Cindy, “Would you date him?”
Cindy hesitated just long enough, so it would look like she had to think about it before replying. She told her that she wasn't opposed to it. But, he is twenty years older then her. It wouldn't really work.
But, she wanted it to work and if that meant inserting herself into the house at Bath so he would know her name. Cindy was fine with that.
The grandfather clock struck eleven.
It really was late. She looked down at the pad of paper. Cindy had no idea why she grabbed it. She put it back and turned to the expense reports.
She really wished Theodore had never gotten around to fixing it. Of course he had and now it rang every hour.
It had been earlier that day, at this very window, when she was still trying to get the expense reports done that she'd overheard their conversation. Apparently one of them needed surgery and they couldn't afford it.
Cindy felt guilty listening in on them. But, she caught enough of what was being said to piece it together. Poor Theodore. The husband is always the first to go. Cindy tried not to concern herself with it. They would find the money, when it comes to surgeries you do what you have to.
Getting into debt at their age, though. That must be rough. Poor man.
Then. That phone call. A man asking for Michael. Didn't sound like a nice man. Cindy knew he had gambling debts. Everyone knew. Everyone knew he was a mess when he was drunk. None of which surprised her, it might explain why she liked him.
That's what Cindy thought he was doing out tonight. Paying someone off. She didn't know for sure, but he didn't walk out with his usual gusto. It was little more laid back, planned out. He had a mindset for something. She shrugged.
He'd left three hours ago.
She was probably wrong.
He was probably out doing something more intoxicating then that. Scandalous more likely. Sinister maybe. She could see him as Sydney Reilly. Super spy in disguise.
Nothing was really that surprising about her obsessions with her employer's brother.
There was an unlocking sound at the front door. It was shut quietly. Cindy couldn't hear any footsteps, but she knew someone was there.
“Michael is that you?”
He popped his head in the doorway, “Your still up this late?”
“Yes. Just working on some expense reports.”
“Glad I didn't wake you. I thought everyone would be asleep at this point. Didn't even see the light on.”
Despite the fact that he was standing as far away from her as he could, she could see his sleeve, “Your bleeding.”
“Oh, this?” He stepped, through the doorway, “It's just a scrape.” He laughed, “I'll have to get the jacket mended, though.”
“You need me to patch that up.” It wasn't a question.
“I don't want to bother you. It really is just a scrape. I'll be fine.”
“That doesn't look like a scrape. I'll go get some bandages.” Together they walked up the stairs to the only disconnected bathroom in the entire house. There was one in every bedroom except for Cindy's. Cindy rummaged through the medicine cabinet, and had him take off his jacket. His shirt was bloodied.
“I don't think you'll be able to save that shirt.” She was going to roll up his sleeves.
He took it off instead, “That's fine. Got it as a gift once. Salmon isn't my color.” He stood there shirtless, while Cindy cleaned out his wound. And, it was a wound not just a scrape like he said.
“How did this happen?” Cindy was trying not to look at him. The clothes were well fitted, and they hid his body, but he was a forty year old man. It wasn't tight, it wasn't quite put together, but it was admirable and Cindy forced herself not to look.
“On a knife?” She continued cleaning it up, “This isn't a fall. And, I'm not Lily.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” He was amused.
“I question what I'm told. I'm intelligent, not that she isn't. Leaving those pearls out today. She doesn't know how much they cost. It was reckless. I don't believe you fell and I'm not oblivious to what you do. So, why don't you just tell me what actually happened.”
He sighed, “I tried to win some money tonight. The cards didn't quite go my way.”
“You have a debt.”
“Yes. I'm assuming you already knew that, though.”
“They were due tonight. The loans. I didn't have quite enough, so I tried my hand at a few games of poker. And, here I am having my brother's secretary licking my wounds.”
Cindy stopped what she was doing, “I'm not a secretary.”
“Is that right?”
“A secretary undermines what I do and what I can do.”
“You feel underestimated a lot, kitten?”
The bandages were in her hand, “Is that some metaphor. A kitten licking your wounds?”
“Only if you like to lick things.”
“You disgust me.” She continued wrapping the bandages around his arm, “You should probably get that checked out.”
“I think I do anything, but disgust you. You think I can't tell when a woman likes me? You sweetheart are easy to read. That's not a bad thing, but you should be careful.”
“I should?” She busied herself putting everything away.
“People like to take advantage of that. You're to on the straight and narrow to do something stupid, but never underestimate your vices. You have them I'm sure. What do you do with your time. Your money?”
“Everything. I don't want to rely on anyone. I certainly wouldn't want to end up stabbed in a street over a gambling debt.”
“Hitting a little close to home.”
“Your home.” She looked at him in the eyes, “Put your shirt back on.”
“You don't want to kiss me?”
“Not particularly, no.”
“That's too bad. There won't be another moment like this for you.”
“I'm dating someone.”
He laughed. One of those loud obnoxious laughs, “That is a bold faced lie and you know what. Even if you did. I've found that women- and men tend to color outside the lines when it comes to something they want. You do want me. I'm just what? To dangerous for you.”
“I was going to say old.”
“That hurts.” He leaned forward.
She blocked his lips with her hand, “Don't try to kiss me again.”
“Is this about this morning? Me calling you a kid? I didn't mean anything by it. Don't stop yourself just because your pride is hurt.”
“Somehow,” Cindy chose her words, “A man twice my age doesn't appeal to me. What about that surprises you, I don't know. I do not know what you want from me Mr. Clinton, but I'm sure. You can find another woman. Younger, older, my age, who is more attractive, and far more versatile then I am.”
“It's Mr. Clinton now.” He winced as his put his jacket back on, “If that's how you want to play the game, Miss Johnson. I can play that game.”
“This isn't a game. When are they planning on killing you.”
“Next week,” he looked at her, “Was that interest in your eyes?”
“How much do you need?”
They stood there and just looked at each other.
Michael leaned forward to whisper, “Do you want to kiss me now?”
“Good night, Mr. Clinton.”
She pushed past him into the hallway. Where she stopped, and took a step back.
“What is it now. You changed your mind?”
“No. I just.” She shook her head, “I thought I just heard someone on the stairs.”
“Want me to walk you to your room-” he stopped. Listened closer, but the moment had passed. He swore he heard the front door shut.
Cindy heard it to. She walked over to one of the many windows and looked out. It wasn't a full moon, but it wasn't completely dark. She could just see a figure make its way out of the gates.
She was locking her bedroom door tonight.
Lily was not satisfied with anything. “It's just not good enough.” The pearls were around her neck and she was spread out on top of her bed, “Nothing is good enough for these pearls. They're too perfect for these clothes.”
Cindy and Miss Betsy stared on at her. This wasn't a problem they had ever faced.
She leaned up and looked at them, “I'll have to go shopping, tomorrow.”
“Why not today. It's only four?” stated Cindy. She was already bored with this conversation. Spending two hours looking for something to go with pearls was something she was overqualified for.
“I'll have to go to London. There's not enough time today to do any real shopping. I'll leave early tomorrow. Stay here Cindy. Make sure no one stops by.”
Cindy didn't mention that she hadn't even called the hotel yet.
“Miss Betsy, I need you to have something foreign, but not too foreign ready in case a Russian stops by.”
“Theodore won't like that,” informed Miss Betsy.
“It doesn't matter what Theodore likes. This is only a possibility. The Russian detective, Ivon Chekhov is stopping by.”
“Ivon.” Miss Betsy turned her face up at it, “He's too posh for Ivan? People from the continent are not people to be trusted. Mark my words Mrs. Clinton.”
“Don't be silly Betsy. Nothings going to happen.” She looked at the pearls in the mirror, “They are beautiful aren't they? Calvin did a good job.” she laughed, “He probably bought the most expensive thing there. He has horrible taste.” She stood up to get closer to the mirror, “I shouldn't be wearing these pearls with this negligee.” She took them off and set them on the dresser. “I just want to look at them.”
The three women stared at the pearls.
A knock came at the door and Michael walked in, looking surprised to see them all there, “I'm so sorry to disturb you all.”
“No, please come on in. We were just about to leave.”
“Do you want me to put the pearls in the safe?” asked Cindy.
“No. Leave them out. Getting things out of the safe is always such a hassle and I want them at arms reach whenever I just want to touch them.”
“But, what if someone takes them.”
“Don't be such a prude Cindy,” reprimanded Lily, “You know the combination to the safe. They are just as safe outside the safe as they are inside the safe. Am I right?” She didn't look for approval. “What was it you wanted Michael?”
“I just wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Let's do that, then. Miss Betsy. Do you mind putting the clothes away for me? Thanks.” She started walking towards the door with Michael, “Now tell me what was it...”
Cindy made her way out of the room, but turned one more time to look at the pearls sitting on the dresser. Miss Betsy also took them in. They both made uncomfortable eye contact, and Cindy made a fast exit.
It would have been so easy to just take the pearls.
Cindy and Michael had made limited eye contact.
“I hope you two don't have too much fun, while I'm gone today,” said Lily, internally conflicted on the kind of jam she wanted.
“We won't do anything you wouldn't do,” replied Michael. He had an obvious lack of sleep. There were bags under his eyes, yet he seemed perfectly content, “How long are you going to be gone?”
“All day. I still haven't decided whether or not I'm going to take the pearls. That's just not something you put in your clutch. And, I wouldn't want to wear them with Chanel.” There was a logical train to her thought somewhere.
“What exactly is it that your looking for.”
“Anything that can be worn with pearls like that. Something simple and expensive.” She bit into the toast. “Damn. I think I ruined my lipstick. Miss Betsy!”
A towel in her hand, she came into the room, “Yes, Mrs. Clinton?”
“Could you run upstairs and grab me my lipstick tube. It's right on the dresser.”
Miss Betsy nodded.
“Thanks, your a doll.” She watched her walk away, “I don't know what I would do without that woman. I'm horrible at hiring staff. Although, I'm sure I could have done better, then Theodore. Sweet man, but terribly lazy. Saw him this morning passed out in that chair at the end of the hall. It's just not tasteful.”
“That's where he always is,” pointed out Cindy.
“Exactly. It's shamefully lazy. What time do you think he'll get around to doing something. Noon?”
“Let the man sit in the chair, Lily. God knows he's old enough,” reproached Michael.
“It's just unnerving. He just sits there at the end of the hall. Right by the stairs. The man can see everything that goes on.”
“Except for the fact that he's completely and utterly blind.”
“Shut up, Michael.” She looked out the window, “It's going to be a perfect day. I just sense it.” She paused, “Do you think he watches us. He always has something to read with him.”
“I think he's awake most of the time,” agreed Cindy.
“I knew I wasn't crazy. Michael is just being difficult. By the way you both look horrible this morning. Did neither of you sleep.”
“Not a wink,” informed Michael.
“And, you Cindy?”
“Why not?” questioned Lily. She did seem legitimately curious.
Cindy waved it off, “Nothing. I was just a little rattled. I thought I heard someone go down the stairs. I don't know. It was silly of me.”
“Oh, really?” Lily seemed flustered, “That's very interesting. Well, that's what happens when you stay up late at night going over whatever it is you were doing. How late did you stay up?”
“I was in bed by midnight.”
“You too Michael?”
“Yes, of course.”
“That's good at least. You all must be exhausted,” Lily laughed, a little uncomfortable. “I'm sure you both will want to get back in bed. It's probably too early in the morning for you.”
“That was my plan,” agreed Michael, “I want to go right back to sleep.”
“Well, I'm fine. I just need a shower to freshen up,” informed Cindy.
“That's all good. We all have plans. Goals set in for the day and if Miss Betsy ever hurries down and gives me that lipstick. I can head out for the train.”
“Doesn't it leave at 9:00?” questioned Cindy. Not that it was a question. She'd booked the train. It left at 9:00.
“Yes. But I want to get there early. Make sure I don't miss it. Forget anything. You remember I forgot my luggage the last time Calvin and I went on a cruise and he had to buy me a whole new wardrobe.”
I remember that. I also remember thinking that you forgot it on purpose, but we can go with it was an accident.
Miss Betsy bustled in, “Mrs. Clinton I finally found your lipstick. It had rolled onto the floor.”
“Thank you. Miss Betsy. And, what are your plans for the day?”
“Just to get the wood floors scrubbed out.”
“That's nice. Your right. They have been needing it,” concurred Lily, visibly bored. “Well, goodbye everyone. I'll see you tonight.” She stood up and smoothed out her skirt, “I'm so glad, Calvin taught me how to drive. I feel like so independent being able to take myself out.”
“Do you need me to start the car up?” questioned Michael.
“That's fine.” She didn't look up at him.
“I really need some sleep.”
“I wouldn't want to keep you from that.”
“Your frigid, you know that. A cold woman.”
Cindy sat down her paper, “I don't know what you wanted me to say to that Mr. Clinton. If you're propositioning me you need to be a little more direct then that.”
“I never proposition a lady.”
“It's a good thing I'm not a lady, then.”
He looked at her in confusement, “You know maybe I was wrong last night. You might be harder to read, then I thought.”
“Go to sleep, Mr. Clinton.”
“Who said anything about sleeping?”
She didn't deign a response to him. She turned back to her paper. Out of the recesses she could here him making his way up the stairs. It was interesting watching him want her, now that she didn't have a visceral interest in him. She would leave the next day. Go back to London and do her work at home. Find a nice man. Not some forty year old play boy who has no idea how to handle himself.
It was as if she had ignored all the signs. She knew he was a messy drunk. She knew he wasn't a good man. And, yet Cindy had wanted him. She grimaced. Now that her school girl crush was over she would find someone better.
“Are you done with that?” Miss Betsy was a sweet woman, Cindy supposed. She just always tended to be a little gruff around her. Probably, because she was the only other person you could call a servant in the house.
“Not quite. No.”
“I need to do the wood floors.”
It killed Cindy that she would say that. How do you respond to that. I am not done eating. I'm sorry that this bothers you? Cindy figured that Miss Betsy was one of those nice women who tried to hard to be nice. If that makes sense. She wants so hard to be a good person, that occasionally she can be frustratingly rude to get what she wants. “I'll be just a second.”
Miss Betsy didn't say a word. She started taking the chairs out of the dining room. This was going to be a hard conditioned clean out.
It was also going to be horribly uncomfortable when the only chair left was the one Cindy was seated in.
“Is everything all right Miss Betsy?”
That threw her off, and she looked up at Cindy more then a little confused.
“Financially, I mean. I just overheard yesterday. And, I didn't know if you needed help or anything like that.”
“It's just Teddy.” She sighed, “I don't want to bore you with the details, but he needs a surgery. It's expensive, but don't you worry love. We will figure it out.”
“If you need anything Miss Betsy-.”
“Don't be silly. I haven't lived as long as I have to be too prideful. We will figure it out.”
She took out another chair, “Sweet of you to ask, though.” She looked at Cindy in and the plates on the table, “We all have our time, though. If it's Teddy's that's what happens. We can't control fate.”
“No, I suppose not.” She bit the inside of her lip, “You need me to get up?”
“Yes,” responded Miss Betsy.
Cindy took up her plates, “I'll let you at it, then.” She rinsed the dishes off in the sink. And, tip toed her way across the floors until she reached the stairs.
It was hard for Cindy to imagine someone dying. The concept was familiar, but not something she had ever had to face herself. She placed her hand on the bannister and looked at Theodore in the chair. Couldn't even tell if he was breathing or not.
Her foot landed a little too hard on the top step, and she saw him jolt awake.
“Good morning, Theodore.”
He nodded, “Good morning.” He squinted, “Cindy.”
She smiled at him. He was such a cute old man.
The question of how to pay back his debts were in question.
Calvin wouldn't pay for it. He knew he wouldn't. He was a shitty older brother. Look out for your brother. That's what his mother had always told Calvin. He never did any of that. He believed you needed to fall.
Michael didn't like to fall.
He had to turn over. He winced. The pain was bearable. They'd taken a knife to him the night before. Cut his arm up pretty good. Told him they were going to sever off one of his body parts by Sunday if they didn't have some kind of payment.
They were very pleasant about it, though. They told him he could choose what they cut off. Michael was thinking his little toe. No one would miss it. He could call it a war injury. It would be attractive.
Pain washed over him. Just thinking about it, made him cringe. He wasn't about to lose a body part. He could always just stay in Bath and never leave the house. But, there was someone in the house last night. He knew there was. Cindy knew it.
Such a plain girl. And, she's smart. She was never going to get married. She was too much of a hassle.
He closed his eyes.
Now only if he could sleep.
It was acting up.
Miss Betsy was on her hands and knees trying to polish the floors up. Money problems. They were going to have to take a mortgage out on the house. They had just paid it off. She sighed.
Kids were no help. They had their own bills to pay. They're own children. It wasn't unreasonable that they couldn't help. It's just that she needed them. Their father needed them.
It made her want to cry thinking about losing him. She would have to be the strong one at the wake. And the funeral. All of the children who couldn't find the money would cry and cry. And, she would have to stand there and be strong. The pillar.
It was too much to think about.
She looked up, she could hear footsteps on the second floor. Someone was going to be on their way down. If they messed up her floors. She would smile. That's all she could do. One of these days she was going to hit every single person with a chair.
Then, there was that damn running water. Miss Betsy understood, showering. But, there was showering. Cindy always took long showers. Wasting the water. The girl meant nothing by it, but it was unnecessary background noise.
That constant, steady stream of falling water. No difference. Just a constant steady sound. No variation. Just water hitting the tile.
There was a long drawn out sigh.
Lung cancer. To make it this far and find out you can't even breath. It made him laugh. Theodore was content. There wasn't anything he wanted to do with his life that hadn't been done. He felt good about where he was.
He wish he could tell Betsy that. She was worried. He could tell, but it didn't matter to him. It didn't matter at all. He was ready. He'd had his time and it had been a good time.
If he could just convey that. His body was achy. His mind was shot. It was time. That just had to be accepted.
He was starting to drift, when he saw movement. He opened his eyes, and he couldn't see much. Just a man with a fedora. Michael. He looked harder, but he disappeared into the door at the end of the hall.
Theodore couldn't have seen him with his glasses on. He just shrugged it off. If only he had a little more time to live. He didn't want to spend it thinking about what Michael was doing.
She felt like she was putting something off, but the only thing she had to do was call Ivon Chekhov at his hotel and see if he was interested in meeting Lily Clinton.
The woman would probably wear her pearls if she did meet him.
Cindy wasn't sure if that would impress the man or not. He was that strange mixture of continental and British. If he was French the pearls would be perfect. But, he was Russian. No one knew how to read Russians, especially not a self respecting housewife from Bath.
Not her problem.
That was one good thing about coming to Bath. She realized that she didn't really have problems. Theodore was about to die and someone was going to slash up Michael.
She on the other hand was a comfortable middle class, single, alone, sad self.
All of which could be fixed. Unlike their problems.
Cindy started to shampoo her hair, she had it lathered, when she heard screaming. She hesitated in the shower. She couldn't just run out naked.
She finished washing out the shampoo, before she turned the water off. Remembering to put the stopper in the drain.
She slipped a bathrobe on and a towel around her head.
Lily had left ten minutes ago. Now she was back and screaming.