XII

The sunset sinking low, casting a ‘red sky at night’ across the softened hills, was splendid shown from the highest bedroom of Karkroff Hall. Night crept in from the distance, as I watched, my mood still as black-blue as it was out there.

Maripose refused to be seen.

“She’s still in shock,” her husband had announced to me. He had brought his boy up to the bedroom, a few rooms away from Carrie and the playroom. Elsie skulked her way upstairs behind them; I had watched her hide herself around the ajar door’s corner, but her eyes, wide, had watched as I wandered my own way. If I had known better than to question a young girl, I would have said that she wore a guilty expression about my person.

As for the rest of them, I didn’t know to where they had slunk off to. After leaving Carrie with her deep thoughts in the kitchen, I had explored the room. A flight of narrow stone steps, once used when the house had servants, I presumed, promptly lead me up through a dimly-lit passageway, and eventually turned up outside a bunch of small rooms, dust-covered bedrooms, most likely once belonging to servants.

It was from there that I had traipsed up to Karkroff Hall’s third floor, the hallway and window showing all of the outward land.

 

After a brooding minute, I decided to try again, cornering Elsie. I had one certain thing on my mind and I was going to achieve my goal before the end of the day. I refused to let myself down.

I snuck down the servant stairs again, descending only one flight this time, around to where I had seen Ivor’s room. The door there was closed, but I knew it was his, because of the chips in the oak door, made by little feet and toy cars and the rest. I reckoned he had lived in that room ever since he was a younger child.

Elsie’s room was not hard to find either. Its door sat on the opposite wall, just a swift turn away from the main marble staircase. When I knocked, I was first met with abrupt silence, but, after a minute, Elsie’s face appeared at the door. The silence still reigned as her eyes lingered over me, but I planted my vague smile further onto my face nevertheless.

I peered into the room, noticing that it was furnished neatly, and no doubt a younger girl’s room. In fact, it was reminiscent of a room I had once had. Her bed-cover was decorated with sewn sweet-peas; her windows were shaded with warm blinds, the pattern from which was spread out across the floor, covering from the tips of the wooden bedside table to the final post of the bed.

The carpet was not grand, just grey, and the bedroom could have had those elements of being my own, were it not for the record-player spinning around. One of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos was trickling out, and at my appearance, Elsie, having been listening to them whilst she had been writing to herself, her black hand scribbled across half a page of her notebook, trotted over and promptly switched it off.

“Elsie...” I reproached, making my way past her and onto the bed. “Elsie, you must tell me what you’re protecting Ivor from.”

She stared at me. Straight away bursting into tears, she whipped her head back and forth.

“Elsie...” I began, attempting to console her, but I stared, my ideas fading. How could I torture the girl any longer? She’d been through too much already. “If you see anything-” I mimed searching, “-please do come and tell me. We all need your help, especially for Ivor.”

At her brother’s name, the girl’s eyes lit up like burning chestnuts and she shook her head again, a single tear trickling down one cheek.

There was nothing more I could say for the moment. After the tragedy that had nearly occurred, I wasn’t going to push Elise this minute. Instead, I gave one last glance to the room, and my eyes fell to the notebook of writing that Elsie had discarded. I learnt over the notebook, but all Elsie’s writing was in Russian. Nevertheless, it took her two footsteps to cross the room and slam her hand down on to the cover of the book. A scowl crossed the girl’s pretty features.

“All right...” I shook my own fair head, letting a sigh float away, and left the girl amongst her belongings.

As I began to head down the main staircase, I heard a creak of a floorboard from behind me. It was Inspector Simnova, and he gave me a wavering smile as he made his way past me. However, I couldn’t move a muscle. Once he had made his way gracefully down half the stairs, I turned towards Ivor’s door, my eyes flicking over its front. I reached for the handle as it turned, ghostly.

Mr. Karkroff made his own way out, and, although surprised to see my person lingering there, he gave a quick, curt bow and began to shuffle off in the footsteps of Inspector Simnova, slamming the door definitely. It was him whom I watched and was reminded of something that the day’s events had driven out of my mind.

“Inspector!” I called, cartwheeling down the stairs. I tried not to push Mr. Karkroff out of the way as I charged in front of him. When I reached the Inspector, the latter was already trailing down the hallway.

“Inspector…” I finally mused when we had let the silence of our eyes sink too low. “I want to talk to you about Delaina.”

“Delaina?”

“The missing girl, Delaina Sael. She…keeps slipping from my mind. But Petre saw her, didn’t he?”

“He did indeed, so the reports state that.”

Having finished his walk, Mr. Karkroff passed us both as we stood whispering low, but, as I watched, I saw no recognition in his eyes. His smile was for polite-sake, not for the information we withheld.

“I wanted to ask about…her heritage. Is that right? I was just confused…”

I paused to nibble at a cuticle. When I continued, my voice had sunk so low that it was almost a whisper.

“Sael?” I said. “That doesn't sound very Russian.”

Inspector Simnova bowed his head slightly.

“Yes, she was adopted into a French family, Russian-based. ‘Sael’ was her given, adopted surname; I don’t know her birth or taken name, unless you spend your time rooting through police and birth records.”

I laughed.

“Oh, no, thank you.”

“But Delaina is her birth-name completely. That was never changed.”

Marina rounded a corner, cutting our conversation short.

“Hmm,” I mused. “Thank you, Inspector.”

“Look into it, Miss King. I will continue my own search. Miss Rusav.”

They passed each other with a smile, and Marina seemed to head upstairs, before changing tack.

“Oh,” she said, as if she had only just spotted me. “Agnetha, have you seen Carrie?”

I shook my head.

“I’m sorry. We…parted ways at a discussion about…everything.”

Marina turned, and it was clear that her descent was to follow mine.

“It’s been a terrible day! I mean, who would have thought…?”

She brought her hands up through her hair, dislodging a flower-slide. As I knelt to raise it from the floor, her foot seemed to twitch, shaking. I replied, but my voice was tight with guilt again.

“It’s all a mess. How’s Mr. Thomason finding this all?”

“Richard? Oh, he’s pretty good. He worked his magic in there, didn’t he? He’s acting, I’ve noticed, as if he sees this all the time. Oh!” She lifted her hand to her mouth again, snatching her hair decoration from me as she did so. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant that…he’s better than being fazed. He’s shocked inside, but we all are.”

“I know.”

The End

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