Dark Days Ahead, Part 3

Part three, in which Alex gets settled in his room and finds something… unsettling.

After Gambit had been safely stabled and given something to eat, Missy showed Alexander to the room where he would be spending the night.  “Dinner will be served in one hour,” she said, giving him a polite bow.

“Thank you,” Alexander said, as she slipped back out of the room.  Once they’d set foot back inside, she had begun acting like a normal servant.  There was nothing foreboding in her behavior now.  However, Alexander couldn’t get his mind off her words and her insistence that he should not have come.

She’d called the letter a trap.  She’d told him that his mother hadn’t been there at all.  Alexander drew the letter out of his jacket pocket and looked at it again.  The address was correct, he was certain of that.  What sort of trap would send him to the wrong address?  He was just as certain that the letter was written by his mother’s hand.  Her swirling, flowing script was unmistakable.

Shaking his head, Alexander tucked the letter back into his jacket.  He would spend that night only.  If he left in the morning and kept his guard up through the night, the old man could hardly spring his trap – if there was one at all.

Alexander couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched as he unpacked his bag.  He laid out his nightshirt on the bed.  He set out the clothing he would wear the next day, so that it was in easy reach.  As he was laying out some of his personal items on the table, he dropped his hairbrush.

Sighing, he stooped to retrieve it.  Something glinted off the lamp light and caught his eye.  Frowning, he dropped to one knee.  “What’s this?” he murmured, crouching low to reach under the bed.

He found a chain and lifted it to look at more clearly.  Dangling from the end of the woven gold braid, was a small round locket with floral filigree work.  His heart missed a beat.  He knew that locket.  He settled the item in his palm and pried it open with one fingernail.

Inside, there was a tiny painting of a little boy with brown curls on one side.  The other side showed a couple on their wedding day: his parents.  The images confirmed his fears.  This was his mother’s locket.  If it was here, that meant she had to have come as well.

Blinking rapidly, Alexander shoved the locket into his pocket.  Then, he grabbed his hairbrush and, setting it on the dresser, he stood.  He hurried to the door and flung it opened.  Glancing around, he searched for Missy.  However, he couldn’t find her.

“Perhaps downstairs,” he said.  He headed down the corridor to the steps.  Then, he descended to the first floor of the house.  He didn’t find Missy, however.  Instead, he found the old man.  He hesitated to tell the man of his discovery.  His instincts said not to trust the old man and he wasn’t about to ignore the alarm bells screaming in his mind.

He forced a genial expression onto his face and said, “I…don’t believe I caught your name.”  Tilting his head, he added, “Missy called you Mr. Braun?  Do I recall correctly?”

“That’s correct, Mr. Montgomery,” he said, smiling.  He set both hands on his cane and added, “I’m Elijah Braun.  My grandfather built this house for his family and I’ve lived here all my life.”

Alexander nodded.  “I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone who’s lived in one place their entire life,” he said, chuckling lightly.  He shook his head.  “I, certainly, couldn’t say that about any place.  My mother saw fit to move us nearly on a monthly basis when I was growing up and… that trend had continued into my adulthood until quite recently.”

“You must tell me about your travels over dinner, Mr. Montgomery,” Braun said, nodding.  “Knowing only this place, news from the outside is always quite welcome.”

Checking his watch, Alexander said, “Missy said dinner would be in an hour when she showed me to my room.”  He tucked the watch away and looked at Braun once more.  “That leaves me about forty minutes.  With your permission… I’d love to tour the grounds a bit.”

In truth, he wanted to look for Missy or any other sign that his mother had been there and where she might have gone.  However, he wasn’t going to tell Braun that.

Braun looked thoughtful for a moment.  His brows furrowed and he said, “I’d advise against going outside, however.  Wild things come out after dark, you now?”  When Alexander frowned, he added, “You’re quite welcome to tour the house, however.”

“Thank you,” Alexander said, nodding.  He bowed politely and said, “I’ll see you at dinner, then.”

After Braun had returned the nod with one of his own, Alexander turned on his heel and headed towards a room that sat to the left of the foyer.  It was a sitting room.  Low chairs with carved wooden legs and soft cushioned seats sat on either side of a low couch of a similar design.  Missy was not there either.  However, something else caught his gaze.

Frowning, he stepped over to an upright piano that sat against one wall.  A hymnal sat opened on the music stand.  His brows furrowed at the page: Amazing Grace.  It was a song with significance in his family.  Was this a message from his mother?

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