“Rana...” murmured Bede, keeping his gaze deferential as he addressed her. “Il’jiit Sachiin il’avai’ia shai’la.”
She looked down on the object of her foray with eyes that streamed unceasingly, conceding nothing of her intent, and for an airless moment he believed his petition had failed. But with the charred limb in her hands the creature turned instead toward the pale face of the house standing beyond the unmown veldt.
Edward’s sedan stood at the edge of the grove, front doors splayed and headlights dimly-coloured by the dying battery. Susan had lain with her head under her pillow against both the music that had issued from its system and various arrivals and departures; the ordeal greatly reduced her compunction at hauling a garbage bag of bottles and cans amongst the fallen. The bollchu vat lay on its side like the body of an abandoned spacecraft, the French contingent scattered as though by a percussive blast around the hearth and amid the clean bones of the spit roast, vodka bottles and discarded clothing. One of them groaned, feet lying in the beer-doused charcoal, and pulled his shirt over his head. Susan plucked up the packet of Continental cigarettes beside him and lit one for herself. The body she took to be William’s lay on its face in a bed of needles, hands upturned by its sides. She lifted the clattering rubbish and dropped it beside his head.
“Answerphone.” he murmured without moving, the word muffled by his posture.
“Mr Lamb, I just wanted you to know I used the kitchen tongs to pick up a used condom, so you'll have to buy some new ones. Tongs, I mean. I couldn’t find a shovel.”
“In the car.”
“The shovel. In the boot. Check the... no, wait...” With a deep breath and supreme effort William rolled over and sat up. “Don’t." Beneath his open shirt pine needles had stuck to the demonic features drawn in several shades of lipstick over his chest and stomach; a long tongue descended from the pictograph's chin to the region still marginally concealed by the deranged buttons of his fly. The same colours were smeared around his mouth, over his ears and on each side of his neck. She stared at the strange imperviousness of his smooth features to the abuse accorded them, handing him the cigarettes. He placed one between his lips. “And er... don’t turn around.” he added, flagging the sound of someone struggling with their jeans and urinating in the trees behind her.
"I still have South African techno stuck in my head."
“Sorry... alujha DJs." he sighed, unaware of the minor indiscretion. "I'm so sorry about this... it’s all that fucking texting nowdays... it's all OMG, GTFO, LOL... every petite boum you put on gets out of hand.” William explained. He held out his hand to her and she relented, hauling him to his feet, from which he kicked an automatic pistol beneath the legs of its faineant owner before it could attract her attention. “B’s still here, I think... we’ll get it sorted. Don’t worry.”
“I’m not worried. I'm the housekeeper... you're the groundskeeper.” she assured him, dropping her cigarette onto the remains of the fire and walking after him to his brother’s car. He sat down in the front seat, staring blankly at his reflection in the mirror and using his shirt to wipe the colour from his face. “I do need to talk to you about something, though, if you’re up to it.”
“I know it was loud, and I will make it up to you... in fact, have some time off... go crazy til Ed gets back. I’ll get Luc and Étienne some aprons.” he sighed. “They’ve probably got their own.”
“Mr Lamb...” He closed his eyes at the sound of it and she smiled briefly to herself. “I was in my room last night and... I saw something.” There was a note of hesitancy in her voice and he looked up from making an attempt to start the car. Someone had stowed a shopping bag stuffed with the gigantic terminal buds of two dozen marijuana plants on the back seat, filling the interior with their thick olive smell. “I think it’s probably better if I just show you.” she concluded.
Susan helped him to his feet once more and together they traversed the lawn; the golden pheasants had been joined by the young peacock gifted by a guest and the jewelled quartet clucked contentedly by the pool where they picked winged ants from the sandstone. She led him into the shade beside the house, walking backwards from it and peering up into the lime-green canopy to point out a limb some six metres from the ground.
“I’d dozed off and then realised I’d forgotten to close the curtains, so I sat up, and there was someone sitting there. The light shines into the tree, so I saw it really clearly... they were looking right at me.” She frowned back at him, surprised to see that he required no persuasion. He walked to the trunk while she continued. “On that branch there... the one that comes out toward the window."
William emptied his pockets onto the ground and caught the lowest limb, swinging upward and climbing into the elm. Susan located his feet amongst the dappled, glowing foliage.
"Right there, where you are." she called. He sat against the trunk and saw the silvery bloom had been rubbed from the bark before him, supporting her claim. From his position he could see directly into the garret, the paisley of her quilt and the lax drape of the clothing hanging from the bedside chair all perfectly apparent.
“If I had to tap a pervert it would be Luc, but his victims are usually more than willing... and I don't think he was climbing anything after Cay was done.” he replied.
“If he was the one inside with you, it wasn’t him...”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes... it was a woman.”
Descending, he hung for a moment and allowed his grip to slide from the bark as he digested her remark. Though it was only faintly-limned, she did not enjoy the way his unease correlated with her own.
“Dark hair, some sort of dress, definitely female.” she added, folding her arms. “I don’t mean to be a princess or anything, but my rooms are private... maybe you could let people know that next time you have a... thing? Anyway... I just wanted to tell you.” William frowned as she lifted his black record bag from the grass. "Um... is this yours?" He accepted it from her, shaking the dew from it. "You said something about me having the day off..."
He shrugged absently.
"Pas de probléme."
"I wouldn’t mind a swim later. Let me know when everyone’s gone.” she called, pausing in the sun by the corner of the building to shed her apron and pull the pins from her hair, the prospect of a providential afternoon lighting her grin. William murmured a distracted reply, then looked back across the lawn to Bede, who stood alone before the grove.
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