Dark Days Ahead, Part 2

Here’s the next part of the story.   (In which, Alex really should have just left…)

The trip to the town from which his mother had written him was uneventful, almost to the point of being dull.  He heaved a sigh and shook his head.  There were times that his mother was more trouble than she was worth.  However, she was his mother and he couldn’t abandon her with a clear conscience.

When he arrived at the address on the envelope, it was nearly dark.  He found that it was a large, old mansion.  He could well imagine his mother’s reaction when she first laid eyes on the place.  Visions of dollar signs would have danced in her head.  The house was set back from the road by quite a way.  However it was up on a hill and that made it clearly visible, even over the expansive distance.

Alexander turned his horse up the path that led to the house and frowned.  Tall trees with thick greenery overhung the dirty road, casting long, deep shadows over him.  A chill wind rustled their leaves and Alexander stifled a shiver.

Gambit’s ears pinned and he nickered.  Alexander reached down and patted his neck in a soothing manner.  “It’s a rather gloomy place, isn’t it?” he said, his voice soft.  He heaved a sigh and shook his head.  “We won’t stay for long, Gambit.  Once we’ve extricated Mother from this bit of trouble, we’ll head home.”

He took a steadying breath and then sat straighter in his saddle.  Then, he kicked his horse to quicken their pace a bit.  He frowned as he reached the house.  The old mansion was a bit rundown.  Now that he was close by, he could see that its grandeur had faded long ago.

Alexander swung down from his saddle and stepped up to the front door.  He raised the old brass knocker and let it fall a couple times.  Then, he waited.  He had just taken a step back, thinking that there was no one there, when the door opened.

The woman at the door was pretty and young.  Her thick dark hair was drawn back from her face.  Her eyes were a vibrant blue that seemed to glow in the dim light of the setting sun.  She wore a plain black dress with a white apron, a uniform typical of maids in the grand old houses back east.  “Can I help you, sir?” she said, frowning at Alexander.

He gave her his most charming smile.  “I apologize if I’m intruding, miss…” he trailed off, arching an eyebrow.  He liked to know who he was talking to, even if she was only a pretty young servant.

“My name is Missy, sir,” she said, giving him a faint smile.  Then, she shook her head.  “It’s no intrusion, sir, but… if you could tell me why you’re here?”

“Of course,” Alexander said, nodding.  “Missy,” he said, smiling, “I received a letter from my mother and she left this as the return address.  She asked for my assistance in a personal matter.  I wondered if she might still be at this address.”

“She’s not,” Missy said.  Her brows furrowed and she shook her head.  “In fact, I think you must be quite mistaken, sir.  There haven’t been any women here – other than myself – in all the time I’ve worked here and, I assure you, I would know.”

Alexander frowned deeply.  He reached into his jacket pocket and drew out the letter.  He was about to ask Missy if he had, somehow, misread the address, when a voice interrupted them from inside the house.

“Missy,” a tremulous voice called.  “Who is it at the door, Missy?”

Missy stepped to one side and Alexander could see an elderly man stepping towards them, leaning heavily on his cane.  “This young man seems to be a bit turned around, Mr. Braun,” she said.  “He thought his mother was here.  I’ve told him that there haven’t been any women here…”

Alexander nodded slightly.  “Perhaps I misread the address,” he said, shrugging.  He frowned and was about to ask the man the address of the house where they were standing, when Missy set a hand on his arm.

“Go,” she breathed, her green eyes flashing.  Her voice was so soft that Alexander thought, perhaps, he had misheard her.  However, he could see that she was desperate for him to leave for some reason.

“I didn’t mean to intrude, sir,” Alexander said, frowning and tucking the envelope back into his pocket.  He glanced at Missy.  “I’ll just go back to town and begin my search again in the morning.”

“Nonsense,” the old man said, giving him a warm smile.  He shook his head.  “It’s nearly dark out there, Mr.…” he trailed off, his pale eyes locking on Alexander’s own.

“Montgomery,” Alexander said, his voice soft.  He nodded politely.  “My name is Alexander Montgomery, sir.”

“It’s nearly dark out there, Mr. Montgomery,” the old man said.  “Please, accept my hospitality for the evening.  You can get a good night’s sleep here and start fresh in the morning, as you’ve said.”

Alexander hesitated, tempted by the offer, but he could feel Missy’s hand on his arm, pushing him towards the door.  She wanted him out of there and Alexander had learned though hard experience to trust his instincts.  His instincts told him take her advice.

“I shouldn’t wish to impose any further, sir,” he said, shaking his head.

The old man smiled.  “It’s no imposition, son,” he said.  “We’ve plenty of room and, really, I get such little company and I’m lonesome with only Missy for company.”

Alexander heaved a sigh and nodded.  “Very well, sir,” he said, giving the old man a smile.  “Then… I accept, with thanks.  Just allow me to see to my horse.”

“I’ll show you where the stable is,” Missy said, nodding.  As they stepped outside, she heaved a sigh.  “It’s a trap, Mr. Montgomery,” she whispered as she moved to his horse.  “Before this night ends, you’ll wish you’d never seen this place.”

With those ominous words hanging in the air, Alexander followed her.  Yes, his mother had done it again: he was in terrible trouble because of her.

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