LAST EDITED ON Nov-03-05 AT 12:32 PM (EST)
I dunno if I'd be so bold as to say it's coming soon... but it's coming sometime.
In that chair sat a broad-shouldered man in his middle
thirties, dressed in a charcoal-gray sweater with raglan sleeves
shoved up to his elbows, showing lean but muscular forearms lightly
furred in black. He had a boyish face topped with a thick, slightly
unruly, similarly black shock of hair, and he hadn't shaved in a day
or so. He was looking down at his desk, intent upon something the
girl couldn't see, so his eyes weren't visible to her.
"... In conclusion, comma," he was saying as Keller led her
into the room, "I daresay that Sir Eddingsley knows what he can do
with his offer, semicolon; but in the event that it must be elucidated
for him, comma, would you be so kind as to tell him that he can bloody
well shove it up his - ah, Keller!" he broke off, sighting the new
arrivals. He looked up from his desk with smiling bright-blue eyes.
"Is this our guest?"
"It is, my lord," said the butler.
"Thank you, Keller," said the man.
"Very good, my lord," said Keller, and he vanished from the
"I'm glad to see you're up and about," said the man in the
sweater, getting to his feet. "Welcome to Crofthenge. I'm Derek,
Lord Langley-Croft." He gestured to the wingback chair. "This is my
confidential assistant, the Honourable Miss Carillon Ellison."
She hadn't noticed there was somebody in the chair until Lord
Langley-Croft had pointed the other woman out. She was a small and
delicate-looking creature in her late teens, with a short bob of
blue-silver hair, pale white skin, and wide eyes the same color as her
hair. She wore a smart gray suit and white blouse, and had a
stenographic pad propped up on one knee.
"How do you do," said Miss Ellison in a soft, pleasant voice.
The girl nodded and turned to Lord Langley-Croft. "If they
find me here they'll kill you," she said flatly.
"I've dealt with dangerous people before," said Langley-Croft.
"The prospect of doing so again doesn't fill me with terror."
"No," she said. "I'm grateful that you saved my life, my
lord, but trust me - you don't want to stay involved in this."
Lord Langley-Croft - still DJ to his friends - sat down again
and regarded his visitor. Now that he got a long, uninterrupted look
at her in good light, she looked curiously familiar...
An alarm bell began to jingle softly at the back of DJ's mind.
Outwardly, he had only frowned for a moment; then he sighed.
"Well, miss, if that's the way you feel, I won't try to hold you here
against your will. If you're in some sort of trouble, I wish you'd
let me try to help you."
"Thanks," she said with a wan smile, "but nobody can help me.
You'd only get hurt trying."
He affected a hurt scowl. "I'm so glad you think so highly of
my abilities," he grumped. Before he could go on with that line,
though, Keller had appeared in the door bearing a small silver tray
with a card on it.
"A gentleman to see you, sir," he said, placing the tray on
Lord Langley-Croft's desk. DJ picked up the buff-colored card and
regarded it quizzically.
"Anton DeMarco, Consolidated Biochemistry Limited? What on
Earth does he want with - "
The girl sucked in a sharp breath, what little color there had
been in her face draining away.
"Oh, my God," she hissed, panic edging into her voice, "he's
found me already."
Lord Langley-Croft looked over the card at her eyes, his own,
a moment ago sparkling with a slightly mocking joviality, now as hard
and cold as ice. "-CBL- are the dangerous people who are after you?"
"They're not what they seem to be," she said, her voice
quavering as she fought down the panic. "They'll kill you if you try
to - "
"Listen to me carefully," said Langley-Croft, fixing his eyes
on the girl's. "You're safe here. We can protect you from this man
DeMarco and his friends. If you don't want to go with them, you
don't. Period. All right?"
The girl thought to argue again, then nodded silently.
"Good," said Langley-Croft. "Now please take a seat there,"
he said, indicating one of the straight chairs which stood at the end
of his desk opposite the door, "and try not to worry."
As she went to sit down, the fierce tension drained out of
Langley-Croft's face, replaced once more with a slightly jovial
aristocratic blandness; he settled back into his seat and adjusted his
"Show him in, Keller," he said calmly.
"Very good, my lord," said Keller as though nothing unusual
had passed, and he went.
DJ had time to wink at Carillon before the door opened and
Keller showed in a tall, portly man in a nicely-cut brown three-piece
with tan pinstripes, covered by a brown camel-hair topcoat.
"Good afternoon, Mr. DeMarco," said DJ, rising to his feet and
extending a hand. "I'm Lord Langley-Croft. What can I do for - "
He stopped as DeMarco turned to the girl sitting in the chair
at the end of the desk and shouted, "Galatea, your mother and I have
been worried sick about you! When we get home you'll be dealt with
severely. Now get out into the car and wait while I apologize to this
man for his time you've wasted."
The girl seemed to visibly shrink, trying to pull herself away
from the red-faced man without leaving the chair.
Langley-Croft gave the man a sharp look. "I say, old man,
we don't shout at people in my house. Do you know this girl?"
"She's my daughter, Galatea," DeMarco said, his anger
moderating slightly as if for the sake of good manners as he faced the
lord of the manor. "As you can see," said DeMarco with a gesture
toward the girl's hairstyle and metallic adornments, "she's in her
rebellious phase. Always defying me and her mother, running away,
getting into trouble. She's lost respect for us. Runs with a bad
"Well, bellowing at her's not going to make her respect you,"
said his lordship offensively. "Now why don't you take a seat there,"
he went on, pointing to a chair not far from Miss Ellison's, on the
other side of the wingback from the place where Galatea sat, "and
let's discuss this calmly."
"There's nothing to discuss, my lord," said DeMarco frostily.
"Galatea is going home to face her punishment."
Galatea's eyes flicked to Langley-Croft's, silently pleading.
Langley-Croft frowned. "Have you some evidence that this girl
is your daughter?" he inquired.
DeMarco scowled. "Are you implying that I am a liar?" he
Langley-Croft replied unflappably, "I'm implying that it's
possible. Have you?"
"No, of course not," DeMarco said. "She's not old enough to
have a driving license, and I don't carry my children's birth
certificates with me. This is absurd!"
"Absurd it may be," Langley-Croft said, resuming his seat,
"but I have a responsibility. The girl came to me in need of help and
sanctuary, and I have offered her both. To turn her over to a man who
says he's her father on the basis of nothing but his insistence would
be unforgivably irresponsible."
"Ridiculous!" DeMarco spluttered. "She's my daughter and
she's coming with me. End of discussion!"
"Fine," said his lordship, turning the telephone on his desk
and pushing it toward DeMarco. "Ring the police, then. I'm sure they
can sort out where she ought to go."
DeMarco snarled and pushed the phone away, taking a step
around the back of Miss Ellison's chair toward the girl, who shrank
away. "By God, Galatea," he said, "you're really going to pay for
"Mr. DeMarco!" Lord Langley-Croft snapped, freezing the man in
his tracks. "I will not tolerate this! You are a guest in this
house. See that you comport yourself accordingly."
DeMarco whirled, his face a mask of anger. He pulled a
long-barrelled automatic from under his topcoat and thrust it into his
"Carillon!" Lord Langley-Croft barked.
Something touched DeMarco's right shoulder, but before he
could react to the light contact, it had become a crushing, twisting
agony. His whole arm went numb, the automatic dropping with a thud
onto Lord Langley-Croft's desk blotter, and, gasping, he fell to his
knees in the vain hope that it would relieve the crushing pain. He
forced his head to turn to the right and raised his eyes to see the
slim, smartly-dressed form of Langley-Croft's secretary. To an outside
observer, her left hand appeared to rest lightly on DeMarco's shoulder.
Langley-Croft picked up the automatic, dropped it into a
drawer of his desk, and smiled. "Thank you, Miss Ellison," he said.
"I think you can let him up now."
Carrie smiled slightly, let go of DeMarco's shoulder, and
returned to her chair. Gasping, the portly man slumped against the
front of the desk.
"Now then, Mr. DeMarco," said Lord Langley-Croft
conversationally, sitting back in his chair. "Did you want to ring
"By God, I'd like to see you try me man to man," DeMarco
snarled, struggling to his feet.
Langley-Croft shook his head. "No, you wouldn't," he said
pleasantly. "Now, suppose you tell me what's so important about
this poor girl that you have two men beat her up and drive her across
the country in the middle of the night."
Lord Langley-Croft shrugged offhandedly. "All right, failing
that, then suppose you get out of my house," he said.
DeMarco glared a little more, then turned on his heel and
headed for the door.
Just as he arrived at it, Keller opened it, but DeMarco didn't
see him; he turned back to direct a furious gaze at the man behind the
"We'll be watching you," he snarled. "You can't hide her in
"Yes, well, that's very nice, Mr. DeMarco. Keller, show
Mr. DeMarco out, please."
"Very good, my lord," said Keller, and he conducted the fuming
DJ waited until the door closed, then let out a sigh.
"Nice save, Carrie," he said. "D'you know, for a moment there
I almost thought the bastard was going to shoot me."
"Not on my watch," said Carrie with a smile.