Grace looked carefully outside before getting out of the car. 'Hello Nadia, Harry. I'm pleased to finally meet you. Excuse me if I don't stop to shake hands with you or to exchange casual pleasantries, but I'd rather not waste any time getting inside.' She frowned and then continued, 'Follow me. Please.'
When Grace stood up, she moved with a casual but practised flow, getting up from the car seat elegantly and with presence.
Today, she was not wearing an 80's power suit but was wearing a floaty ruffled silk cream coloured V-necked top beneath a dark blue waistcoat cut high at the back. Below this was a pair of steel grey three-quarter length gabardine trousers and a stylish pair of black and white rubber-soled high-heeled wedge shoes.
'Come,' she said, impatient to get inside the house. 'Follow me. Now.'
Grace led the way to the door, opening it quickly and walking through into the kitchen beyond. Nadia and Harry followed her closely, not knowing what else to do.
As soon as Harry and Nadia walked through the door, Grace closed it behind them.
'I'm not comfortable with being outside,' she explained, giving them a wry smile. 'It's something like agoraphobia. It's an irrational fear of being out in the open, but I've been getting help with it.'
She led them through into the lower floor lounge area, inviting them to sit on the modular sofa, whilst she sat opposite them in the matching arm chair, curling her legs beneath her.
'I saw you both earlier today at the fast food restaurant, and remembered you from when you'd both visited the house before. Of course, I already knew Harry, from before...'
'From before you died,' Harry continued, sensing that the sentence was going to be left incomplete.
Grace frowned momentarily. 'Yes. Indeed. Before that happened.' She straightened her legs again and stood up, picking up a lacquered black cigarette case. 'Before Charles and I decided to go our separate ways.' She pulled out a cigarette, tapped it on the cover of the case and then raised it to her mouth, stopping just short of her lips. 'It's a filthy habit,' she said, lowering it again. 'I really shouldn't …'
'What happened,' Harry asked. 'How come you let everyone think you'd died? How come you're still here?'
Grace smiled artfully, her lips pulling away to reveal perfect porcelain white teeth. 'Yes, how can I best explain this?' She sat down again, crossing her legs this time. 'I had a little fling about four or five months ago. I was, let me say, a little indiscreet and Charles caught us both here together. We were both being quite intimate and Charles became quite upset when he walked in on us. Things got a little bit ugly and Charles over-reacted, and there was really no going back after that.'
'But what happened then,' Harry pressed her, asking for more.
'Well, let's say that Charles' family is better connected than mine,' Grace continued, hesitantly. 'It was better that I just 'disappear', and the best way was for me to perish in an 'unfortunate' incident. There were going to be fewer questions asked that way. Everyone would be suitably sympathetic in favour of Charles and his family, and I would be quickly forgotten. When you have money and a family with influence, legal documents and medical case notes can easily be lost or rewritten, and the lie quickly becomes history.'
So, Charles left the country and the fuss died down. How come you came back?'
Grace chewed her lower lip for a moment before answering. 'Well, after Charles went away, the house was empty and, since it's quite secure and well secluded, I stayed here alone, living off the food and general provisions left over from before. We've a huge pantry, you know? I'm going to be moving on again soon though, going to join my lover in Switzerland, where he now lives.'
'And that's Baron Samedi from the rock group that Nadia likes?'
'Yes, Nadia.' Grace glanced coolly at her for a moment before dismissing her from her thoughts. 'Yes, Samedi's lent me one of his cars until then, although I prefer to think that it'll be a gift. He's got lots of cars, you know?'
'So that's the whole story? You're only here until you get the call from Switzerland, or the food runs out or until the house sells, whichever comes first?'
'And then I'll be gone for good. Yes.' Grace got up again, smoothing the material of the legs of her trousers as she stood.
Harry looked across to Nadia, sensing that they were no longer welcome. 'Shall we go now, Nadia?'
'I can give you a lift back to the gate, if you need one,' Grace offered. 'I know you've left your truck round by the ten acre field, but you can walk around to it from the main gate rather than having to walk cross-country in the dark.'
'No, no. Don't trouble yourself,' Harry replied, placating her. If we leave by the main driveway door we can easily find our way back to the main gate, especially if you put the lights on to guide us.'
Grace smiled thinly. 'Yes,' she said. 'Perhaps that would be the best way for you to go.'
She led them through the house to the door they'd first used when they'd come before with Watkins, opening the door and then operating a switch on the wall beside it to turn on the outside lighting.
'Oooh, the weather's turned,' Nadia said, peering through the doorway and then shuddering. 'It looks like it's beginning to rain.'
Grace looked at her, coldly. 'I suppose you can take an umbrella or something. You won't need to come back again. We have quite a few in the stand beside the door. Help yourself to one. Then you can go.' She paused, momentarily. 'Then you can go without worrying about getting too wet.'
'Gee thanks,' Nadia replied, smiling back at her, but with very little warmth in her eyes. 'We could always leave the umbrella with the estate agents in town, if you want it back.'
'No. You can keep it. You don't need to come back.' Grace turned to Harry, moving close to him and giving him a hug. 'You won't say anything to anyone about me being here, will you,' she murmured. 'Not that I'll be here much longer anyway.'
Harry shook his head. 'No, of course we won't.'
'Come on Harry, I think it's starting to get worse,' Nadia shouted. 'If we don't move soon, we're gonna get drenched, even with an umbrella.'
'Okay, doll. I'm coming,' Harry said, breaking away from Grace.
Nadia hurried outside, putting up the umbrella as she went. 'I think you'd better hold this,' she shouted back into the house, 'because I'm not so tall as you are.'
'Okay, okay. I'm coming.' Harry turned back to Grace. 'Goodnight Mrs Dawson. Grace. I'm so glad that you're not dead...'
'Harry, are you coming,' Nadia's voice came from outside.
'Right now,' Harry replied, turning away and then following Nadia outside into the rain.