The servants were drawing near the large mansion that lay on the Coventry ground, the place in which the family generally resided. It wasn’t a house of great size, but it merited great splendour, and was a good example of the Winters’ glamour, much touched by that of the era’s lavish lifestyle too. The walls of the building were rough red stone, topped by grey slate, cold enough to match the sky when it raged in winter. The doors and windows, however, as well as giving out a glimpse of the interior’s splendour, were neatly decorated; they were moderate and curtained in brilliant white, an echo of the gleaming summer sky. Whilst the windows were without feeling, the door to the front of the house had been painted accordingly, colourfully greeting the guests when they needed to.
As far as Alexandra knew, the buildings, at least the Winters’ living space, had been built in this spot many years ago and, enduring, they reflected every aspect of what nature was like. Indeed, inside even the moods of the lady of the house and her husband were turbulent vistas.
Having taking a step toward the place, Alexandra noticed something glittering into the corner of her eye, a sparkle of refracted light cast from an object hidden amongst the sculpted Hawthorn bushes near the central front porch. Indicating, to Christophe, the object that was pushed into the soil below the bushes, Alexandra rushed over, the butler close behind her. Spotting the entity amongst the foliage was not a difficult task, as the object had been thrown down in a rush and only implanted into the soil a short way. After a small tug, the butler removed it. They smiled at each other; noticing unusual objects had always been Alexandra’s forte.
“What is it?” she exclaimed. “It’s beautiful.”
“A cane, or some sort of thing…” Christophe pondered, weighing the object up in his hands, and rotating it around to feel the smooth substance beneath his fingers.
The cane itself was a resin-based material but had been painted with a coat of bright golden paint to make it glimmer. Down the length of the cane there was painted a thin black line dotted with small white gems. Alexandra touched them and boggled; to her, they looked just like tiny diamonds. However it was the head of the cane that was the most spectacular: it was a large black jewel, five centimetres in every direction and cut perfectly into a hexadron, so that the blackness shined, rather like a signal of impending doom. The cut was the round brilliant shape, and yet the jewel had a fair number of imperfections that stood out, even in the dark swamp of blackened light. What a mimic of life.
Alexandra fingered the jewels, running her hand up and down the resin pole, and as the girl’s digit caressed the black stone, a corner caught on it, and caused a cut. Lifting her index finger quickly to her mouth before a drop of blood dared to drip, Alexandra muttered in disbelief:
“Do you think they’re real?”
Christophe gazed over the jewels as well, especially the large black one, as though he too was mesmerised.
“It is hard to tell, for, counterfeit or not, these jewels are precious in their beauty. But I’m sure, as detective work is a great hobby of mine, the answer will soon be found.”
Mrs. Winters appeared at the doorway of the mansion, waving wildly.
Alexandra flinched at the mistress’ extravagant movements, as she felt a quick jolt of panic flick through her body.
“Quickly, Christophe, hide the cane!” she exclaimed.
“Alexandra! Christophe! Quickly! We must start our arrangements soon,” declared Mrs. Winters.
The lady of the house was a pretty woman, in a rather plain sort of way, but there were glimpses of glamour on her person that duly indicated that she must have been quite a sight in her younger days. Days that had been, no doubt, filled with numerous fancy soirees at the houses of the elite middle-upper class society that Annabelle had once belonged too.
She was now a little on the plump side, having enjoyed many a lavish meal in her day, with greying hair that left only a trace of its original blonde colour. Her eyes were nothing special either; grey with a trace of leaf-green like a poor imitation of her hair.
And as for her temperament…she was normally calm and jovial, but on occasions, she could be bossier than her husband.
He, the ‘lord of the manor’, was a grey-haired, sometimes absent-minded and often unreliable man, ten years older than his wife. He had no defining features except that his nose was almost permanently dark red, as though he had drunk too much port wine.
They lived together on the estate with their daughter, a lady about five years older than Alexandra, and so in her twenties, and the odd collection of servants. That included the butler and assistant to master Geoffrey (Christophe), the chamber and ‘general’ maid (Alexandra herself), the Cook, and various scullery maids, the quantity of which were always fluctuating, as various girls grew and then left to find other work, or arrived from their servant families to begin their service. The lead housemaid had recently left to pursue other ventures, so that left her position wide open…and left the staff fighting for it. Cook seemed to assume that she had already won the position, going from her usual only-quite-domineering demeanour to an incredibly officious and boastful one. Alexandra didn’t think that fair, as anybody had an equal chance for the place…herself included, though that was unlikely.
“Go on, Ally,” Christophe muttered to her. “I’ll deal with the cane. Can you deal with the mistress?”
“Yes, but how are you going to-?”
“I have an idea where it can be kept…for the present anyway…”
Trusting in Christophe’s ideas, Alexandra hurried forward to the lady, who was impatiently tapping her plastic false nails against the white-washed doorframe.
“Alexandra, finally. Where is that daft butler? I called him to arrive too.”
The maid ignored the fury that rose up inside her throat when the mistress insulted her love, and announced:
“He went to prepare the small building in which the entertainment will take place.”
“Of course. Good man. Now let us get moving, Alexandra, I’ve a list of the guests who are due to arrive at a quarter past noon.”