He waited, impervious to the afternoon that drummed down on the stranger's head, attention divided between the insects and the latter's choreography as the man began a measured approach. Tall, closely-shaven and well-dressed, he stood in a pale grey suit that rode the uneasy line between daywear and formality with some success. The deletion of his gaze behind his aviator shades scarcely challenged his almost arrogant, Apollonian beauty; in sympathy with classical precepts his hair was cropped in a conservative fashion over maple-brown skin bestowed by a diverse heritage. Fastidious presentation gave him the squared and heavily-contained air of a presidential aide.
“Mr Lamb.” he began, offering his hand. “Nathaniel Shaw, Trident Security. Do you have time for me now, or should I..."
"Please." Edward replied.
"From my first go-round the building seems reasonably secure. The windows are my main concern... I'd suggest talking to your architect before replacing them.” Shaw explained, gesturing toward the house. "Do you have a construction schedule? Crews and scaffolding can challenge any secure routine that we establish..."
"There are no alterations planned." Edward told him. Shaw did not relish his proximity. The obvious possession of a tail or polished hooves could not have repelled him more than the blatant otherness of the creature's skin, or the impersonal and pyrophoric yellow of his eyes. The subject had made no attempt to disguise their character, and used them to enforce the aversive distance he preferred. “We may have had an incident with an intruder. I need you to establish whether it’s ongoing.”
“A secure perimeter is the best place to start. I’ll set up some some seismics... photoelectric units, remote video... see if I can get images.” the guard suggested.
“I don’t want cameras on the property.”
The man’s gaze shifted away behind his glasses.
“Okay... we can work around that. If you're concerned with ongoing attention, to be completely honest with you Mr Lamb, we most often find that stalking and intruder crime can be linked back to people already associated with the premises... we start by establishing a list of everyone who's resident.” He spoke in a broadly reassuring manner, taking a slim black tablet from his pocket. "Then we move on to associates, co-workers, relatives... ex-partners... and come up with a shortlist. I’ll need whoever lives here permanently, all regular guests and maintenance people. And I’d like to set up a curfew, so I can get a feel for any patterns.” He looked to Edward expectantly and was greeted with unqualified refusal. “Sir, it may seem intrusive to you now, but it’s just standard, effective procedure." He perceived the depth of Edward’s disinclination and shook his head, dropping the electronic device from its position between them. “I can assure you right here and now that none of this information will be seen by anyone other than myself.”
"I'll consider a curfew. There is a housekeeper and a personal friend of mine who will be with us intermittently. I'll advise you of all guests in advance.”
“Can I ask if there are any weapons stored on the premises?”
"No." In lifting his hands in a brief, reactive gesture of appeasement Shaw acknowledged the warning contained within the refusal, though he had not intended to do so. Edward seemed satisfied, if impatient with the pace of the discussion.
"And you want sweeps, every..."
"I want you on the ground from nightfall until dawn. If you can't attend for whatever reason, my brother and I will make our own arrangements. I don't want alternates. I expect you to control entry, and I want a regular sweep of both vehicles for devices.” Shaw reviewed his notes. "Look closely at the hill across the road. If you find anything, let me know.” He watched the guard look to the rise beyond the wall.
“Anything at all.” he agreed.
“There are a few special conditions." Nodding, Shaw put the device away, accepting each point as it was related to him. "We don’t enjoy constructive relations with the metropolitan police. Do not contact or consult them under any circumstances. The grounds are your sole area of concern, so I do not expect to see you in the house. And I take personal exception to any hazard or impropriety directed toward the women under my roof.” Edward could scarcely have been more explicit, either with his words or gaze. "These terms are nonnegotiable, so now is the time to articulate any concerns.”
“Mr Lamb, discretion is the cornerstone of what we do. If there’s anything I can show you to put your mind at ease, or maybe demonstrate my commitment...”
“You can have a hard copy of your employment record sent to me.”
“I thought that had been taken care of.” Shaw offered a brief smile. "I apologize on behalf of Trident. Now I always ask this question because a client's instincts are key to whatever's going on at their location... do you feel yourself that there's surveillance or any regular negative attention happening here?"
The question prompted another of his employer's visual exams.
"Prescience and paranoia are evil twins." Edward replied. "You never know which one you're talking to." He withdrew a photograph from his pocket. "Rachelle Addison Whateley, twenty six, five nine, highly motivated, no longer welcome."
Accepting the image, the guard slid it down into his jacket alongside the tablet.
“Would you mind if I get back to walking it out right now? I’d like to finish up before we lose the light.”
Edward walked away toward the front garden, past the greatly diminished remains of the unlucky locust. When he was out of sight Shaw took the handkerchief from his pocket and patted at his brow.
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce