Time passed, a matter of two hours or so, in which was spent repairing a friendship with Caroline, and, eventually, the invitation to dine was presented to me again, through Carrie’s popping in and out, as per usual. Knowledgeable of what had happened before, I declined, but was still offered the chance to keep an eye and hand upon poor Ivor whilst the rest of his family ate. He, of course, was not going down to dinner, and, to judge from his words, he had no appetite after the Cyanide had wiped him out anyway.
Eventually, dear Caroline actually departed from us, making her excuses about looking to the other guests and helping with the evening meal, despite what I knew was really going on: her anxious disability to remain at my side for long, still filled with the troubles of our last couple of days.
“Oh, when will it be fixed?” I asked myself, mere minutes after she had left us two alone.
Half an hour must have passed since Carrie had departed, when I began to notice the hints of meaty smells wafting up as the dinner finished its cooking. How strange it was to be going through motions of the lack of hunger! Instead, the two of us sniffed the air and lay back, readily continuing our work. For me, that was planning some kind of wacky conclusion to my mystery that had no actual end. Each suspect had their own shroud of darkness, including both Carrie and myself (though I did hope that the Inspector would not be so distasteful as to believe that I had poisoned the boy). But Carrie had been innocent once; she wouldn’t break her innocent streak, would she really?
With the ticking of the clock loud in my pounding head, and the chatter of the world somewhere distant, just out of my reach, I finally could not concentrate on the blanks of my own mind.
Looking down at Ivor, he doodling eagerly in his notebook, random scrawls undefined, I smiled. This was where I was meant to be at this moment.
“Come on,” I whispered to him. “Let’s see where Caroline is.”
Ivor stared at me blankly, but, being pulled up and along, he probably had an idea of where I was taking him, despite the little choice I was giving.
We wandered through the maze of corridors and doors, ruby carpet and lime walls filled with those faint flower-patterns…and it began to occur to me that my route wasn’t the same way as I had travelled back before… I must have been paying too much attention to keeping the little boy close to my side to notice the wrong turning that I had made in the rush of colours. Now, I realised as I went into another room and watched the wallpaper dull, I was completely lost.
For a mere, frozen moment, there was complete silence, before excited chatter filled my ears from all sides; Ivor, too, began to cower at the excess of footstep clatters.
Looking around, I spotted a narrow door with a ‘no entry’ sign pinned to its worn wood. It was only then that I could see the balustrades and the velvet between us and the ornate furniture of the room; also standing ominously was another neat notice telling visitors: ‘please keep behind the rope’.
Dragging the protesting Ivor with me, I jogged over to the unlocked door, pushing it ajar from behind just as a touring-party was led into the small room, set out as an olden-styled lounge or dressing room.
The troop barged past over hiding place. I held my breath, Ivor tensed beside me. We were clearly not supposed to be here. Yet, these people were not the dangerous lot who had taken up residence in the other side of the building. I was becoming afraid of the wrong sort of questioner.
Ivor grumbled some Russian behind me, agreeing with my thought in his tight, sharp vocals.
“I know. I’m sorry.”
I wondered about moving out of my hiding space, but where one group had just vacated, another of the same size sidled through, crowding every space with their handbags and concealed cameras, blocking my view. Still, that didn’t stop me from hearing. The blustery faulty-English of the tour-guide, stepping forth in front of then all. The chatter of old women, Russian, English, American, all alike, picking up on the Karkroff decorations with glee. Carrie hadn’t been exaggerating when she had said that it would be busy!
Again, my breath caught in my throat, and I was without an exit for the second time in two minutes. I felt the boy’s clammy hand on mine, tight as his own breath crept silently in and puffed viciously out. In this silence, I bit my tongue, frustration running like the blood that had sprung up from my lips in the trepidation.
Suddenly, a hand found itself upon my shoulder. In a second, a remembrance of my previous life flashed before my subconscious, a thick set of knuckles on that shoulder, the brisk snap of a hardback book to my head. The deep blackness, that fierce, tightening fear. More and more, the rapid throbbing of my rabbit-heart bounced, even with Ivor there, and the walls seemed to close in on me, over and over again.
With a start and an almost-squeak that I covered with my own quivering hands, I jumped away from the ajar door, letting Ivor alone, and into the arms of the tall man behind me. Foolish as it was to do, my mind would not let me relax for one moment as those dancing evils retold of my told. But now I struggled, aware of the figure behind me.