VIII.2

“Oh, hello,” muttered Richard as he saw me approach. His expression told all that I was not welcome.

“Am I interrupting? Oh, I’m sorry,” I said rather bitterly.

The adults ignored my comment, or at least didn’t choose to notice the sarcasm.

“Where did you go off to, Miss King?” Marina softly asked.

“I just had to sort some things out,” I briskly replied.

“So, you haven’t hit a dead end?” Marina almost jumped out her seat as her voice rose in pitch, a flush coming to her cheeks.

“Well, not quite. I do need to ask you a few questions first.”

“Me?”

Mr. Thomason put an arm protectively around Marina. My eyes flickered between them both, and he must have seen the knowledge, the suspicion in my glistening eyes again, as he reacted rather guiltily.

“Oh,” he blushed, pulling away. “This isn’t what you think it is. Believe me, Agnetha, I know what you’re thinking right at this minute…”

“It’s not, is it?” I felt my eyebrows rise out of habit. “You two have certainly been getting cosy here.”

“Marina needs comfort. I’ve just been here for her. You yourself should know how hard it is to talk about these sorts of things. I’m sure you have felt grief before.”

It was as though he had known about my first investigation. There was no way he could have learnt of my loss, was there?

“I…already have a partner,” Mr. Thomason was continuing.

“Alright.” I paused, unimpressed. “Do either of you, say, dig, or do you work with tools a lot? Also, what do you know about tunnelling?”

“How does this have any relevance?” demanded Richard.

“Well, it’s more about the tunnelling system that was used in the war.”

“The one used to escape the bombing? Oh!” Marina asked, before she let out a gasp, covering her mouth as she realised that she wasn’t supposed to say anything.

“That indeed,” I replied. “Marina, how do you know-?”

“Don’t think that I have hurt my brother. Ask any Muscovite and they’ll tell you how the lives of their families were affected by the war. Everybody knows it.

“There’s an open tunnel in the alleyway off Sterrt Road, isn’t there? My brother couldn’t stop the kidnappers because they had disappeared down a hole in the ground. That’s what happened, isn’t it? There are so many routes away from there…”

She shook her head sadly and lowered her eyes. At the same time, Richard and I both clutched at a hand of hers.

“And you, Mr. Thomason? What do you know of-?”

“This is the first I’ve heard of Russian underground tunnels. There’s one under this house, but I thought-”

“What? There’s a tunnel under us?”

“Not really,” stuttered Mr. Thomason. “It’s the wine cellar, but the Karkroffs once told me that it was from their converted bomb-shelter that the cellar first came about. It’s not the oldest part of the house, despite what the tour-guides sometimes say. I don’t know how extensive it is exactly, but Mr. Karkroff values all his wines.”

“Can I see it?” I asked, my eyes flashing.

Mr. Thomason glanced around furtively. After staring at Nicky, he stood, pulling Marina up with him.

“Not Miss Rusav, please. I’m asking you, Mr. Thomason, as you seem to know the Karkroffs and the house extensively. It’s a private place, one that would be better not shared. I’m afraid that Marina would just feel like a spare part.”

Mr. Thomason sighed, and nodded, briskly walking to the door. He turned, and though he could see that I wasn’t ready, and would have trouble keeping up, after one glance, he gave one last nod of the head, and then headed in the direction of the entrance, his paces large.

The End

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