The Moonstone

Chapter 2 -  Something's Come to England

 

@copyright Jean G. Hontz 2010

 

As Charles led him into the foyer Blakesley was surprised by many things. The townhouse was large and surprisingly airy. The walls and wainscotting were painted or papered in pastel colors brightening the place even more.

Sunshine spilled down the curved main staircase. Large windows had replaced older smaller ones, thus making the place feel less depressing than it had a right to feel, he thought. The draperies on every window, he noticed, weren't the height of fashion, which tended toward ponderously thick drapes that blocked out far more light than they let in. Instead the drapes were mere confections: thin,nearly transparent material that seemed to welcome the light from outside and scatter it throughout the room. He hated to admit it, but he approved.

Charles led Blakesley down a comfortably wide hallway, past a massive grandfather clock, treading carefully over still rolled up rugs, and around delicate furniture not yet in place, and in between hurrying workmen who seemed intent on some task or other. Then Charles took a hard left and came to a door nearer the front of the house than the rear, which surprised Blakesley yet again. Charles knocked.

The door swung inward seemingly on its own.

Charles bowed to the visitor and turned on his heel. Blakesley swallowed his first impulse to allow his sarcasm free rein, and stepped into the spider's parlor.

Blakesley admitted to himself that he did associate Julian Vyse with all manner of creepy crawly, nefarious creatures. Possibly because one never knew what the man was up to or what role he was attempting to recruit one for. More likely because he just didn’t trust Vyse an inch.

The room he stepped into was at sixes and sevens. Partially unpacked wooden crates, most of which seemed to have contained books sat all round, and the unpacked piles of leather-clad tomes added to the mess. A huge desk had apparently already been put in place near the windows, windows which gave a soothing view of the Avon. The desk too was buried in books and papers, as well as packing material. A sofa and two comfortable-looking oversize wing chairs were set near the fireplace, but they offered no place to sit, since they too were full of stacks of books.

A large painting leaned against the wall near the fireplace. It was of a beautiful woman, blonde, elegant. The expression the artist had caught made her looking surprisingly vulnerable and perhaps a bit frightened. He badly wanted to know just who she was.

The sound of someone clearing his throat startled Blakesley, he'd been so lost in regarding the portrait, he hadn’t really noted that the man himself was in the room. He mentally shook himself and looked around.

Julian Vyse was sitting crosslegged on the floor amidst the chaos. He wore a bemused expression as well as an outfit that looked foreign. He held a book in one hand, and had apparently stopped arranging things in his study to peruse the book.

"You are looking well, Adrian. Thank you for ignoring your second thoughts."

Blakesley, as usual, frowned. He always frowned around Vyse, which irritated him. Why couldn't he just keep his usual emotionless mask in place when he was near this man?

"You look.." Blakesley couldn't quite find the right word. Or perhaps it was merely too impolite to say it aloud.

Vyse, with a grin offered, "Tanned? Handsome? Younger? Smug?"

"Actually, I was going to say ‘the same’." A lie, of course.

"Oh, I don't know," Vyse replied as he lithely got to his feet. "I believe I found a gray hair the other day."

Blakesley knew it was Vyse's annoying sense of humor because Vyse's locks were ash blond and lush and the chances of him finding a gray hair in that mop was a thousand to one.

"Ah, thank you Franklin," Vyse said as his butler came staggering through the door carrying a tray laden with tea and sandwiches. "Just set it down.. oh, anywhere. We'll serve ourselves."

Franklin looked around for somewhere to sit the tray. Vyse waved a hand in the air and suddenly everything on the desk was swept off onto the floor willy-nilly. Franklin, apparently not bothered by this strange occurrence, took advantage of the space and set down the tray with a grunt.

Franklin was rather old and frail but if he were like most English butlers would shout to the heavens if someone suggested he might turn some of his duties over to a younger person. Franklin, unaware he was being judged as wanting, nodded pleasantly to both Vyse and Blakesley.

“Will there be anything else, Master Julian?” Franklin asked.

“I think not. Thank you. I’ll ring if we need the slightest thing.”

Franklin bowed and creaked his way out of the room.

Vyse walked over to the desk and indicated the tray with a languid gesture. "Help yourself, Adrian. Drinks tray is over there somewhere.” he added pointing toward the oppose wall, “if you'd prefer to stick with single malt."

Considering who he was with, Blakesley headed for the single malt. "So,” he asked, once he'd gotten his drink and offered Vyse one, which he refused, "to what do I owe this honor, if honor it be?"

Vyse smiled, a surprisingly warm smile, at that. He poured himself tea and took a cucumber sandwich. “I’ve missed these,” he commented savoring a bite. Once he swallowed he added, “Must I have a reason to ask you to drop by? We've been friends for a long time. Perhaps I just felt the need of a friendly chat and a chance to catch up on events here in England."

Whatever they were to one another, Blakesley certainly didn't think of it as a friendship, and he seriously doubted Vyse did either. "You and I don't have friendly chats," he finally rumbled.

"See, that is so very wrong, Ian. We should, don't you think? After all, we share Adele."

Blakesley, despite his promises to himself that he would control his temper, felt anger stirring up powers and energies, powers and energies that charged the very air in the room. Bad enough Vyse had used not only his first name, but a nickname. Worse still that he then brought up the Adele in the same sentence.

Vyse sniffed. "Ozone. I've no idea why you tend to get so defensive regarding Adele. She loves it when I visit her."

Blakesley swallowed his liquor, forcing himself not to respond immediately. He counted to ten. As he reached ten, Vyse said aloud, "Ten." And THAT was exactly why Vyse drove him to drink.

"How old is she now?" Vyse asked, grinning his most devilish grin. "Is she twenty-one yet?"

Blakesley ground out, "She's three."

"Going on thirty," Vyse replied blithely. "You'll have your hands full the moment she realizes she can wrap Daddy round her finger."

Blakesley headed back to the liquor cabinet. Alas, she already knew it.

"So I admit, I did have a favor to ask, and that's why I asked you to drop in," Vyse said to his guest's back. "It has to do with the Rose and Cross as I'm sure you'll have suspected."

Blakesley turned, relieved now that the subject of their conversation was not his daughter. "Oh?"

Vyse’s face now looked deadly serious. "Something's come to England. I want to know what it is, what its intentions are, and why it’s been watching me."

 

 

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