The Leaves Are Turning Brown – Chapter 23

From the moment we comes downstairs and see Esther, I can tell something is amiss.  Esther’s face is cold and hard, showing no emotion, just anger.  She tries to mask it as we draw closer, but I see her straining to make herself seem relaxed.

“How are the results?” I ask, hoping to elicit a reaction that will tell me if she got anything useful.  The thin smile drops and the anger shines through every pore on her face. She quickly recovers, but Jules and I both see it.

“I still need to perform some deeper analysis, but I’m hopeful.  Shall we dine?”.

The food is delicious, served at the table from silver salvers brought from a sideboard of candle-heaters.  The conversation is light, but we don’t discuss the experiments or the results again, steering clear of antagonistic topics.  After we have eaten Esther excuses herself, telling us she wishes to get back to the analysis of the results.  As she leaves the door she turns back, anger on her face again.

“I need to make sure this isn’t all a complete waste of time”.

Jules looks at me, across the decadently large dining table, and I nod back to her.  She stands and starts walking for the door. Without Esther I am at a loose end while Jules gets the bags.  I notice one of Esther’s men, just outside the door.  I walk out into the hallway and peruse the artwork leading down to the room before the vaults.  I watch the man carefully, observing his line of sight.  The house is enormous, but with such few people, I can still hear Jules going up the stairs.  I watch the man as he turns to look at me, and look asa quickly.  I walk back into the dining room and look out over the dark vista, down at the green illuminated grass near the house.  Down to the right is the stables, and our escape.

I hear Jules coming back dow the stairs, so leave the dining room and head for the atrium.  The man watches me, but does not follow.  Instead he walks the other way.  Jules comes down the stairs and I take my bag.  We go out the front door, down the circling steps and try to walk softly over the crunching gravel. I can see the stables ahead, so I focus and see two glimmers head off at speed, checking the area for anyone who may be watching.  The kitchens are near the rear of the house, and I see some staff going about their duties.  I can’t see anyone near the car, the glimmers fade and I look over to Jules.  I fiddle wit the car keys in my pocket, eager to push the remote unlock button, but knowing it will flash the hazards when I do.   We are only 5 metres for the car now, so I pus the button.  We jump into the car, pushing our bags over the rear seat.  I put the key in the ignition and the cars starts.

I intended to drive away, initially, without the lights, but this car has automatic lights and so they come on. I put us into first gear and drive forward.  The sound of the gravel and the engine are booming in the relative silence.  As we turn and drive past the front door I see a face at one of the windows.  I accelerate dow the drive and back towards the main road.  Picking up speed the car skids when we hit a sharp turn, but I manage to keep on the road.  Slowing dow not a near halt at the main road I realise I can’t think which way to go.

Jules shouts “LEFT!” as I pull onto the road heading right.  I lurch the car around and we are away.  The road is empty and I drive fast. I want to get as far away from here as possible, as quickly as possible.  I drive on, checking on Jules, who is focused on the road.  I check the mirrors and see no cars behind us.

After an hour we end up on a motorway, heading North.  Everything and everyone I know is in the South, so heading North seems to best option.  We’ll have to go it alone, but right now that makes sense.

I turn onto a motorway and we go along with the flow of traffic for about 50 miles. We need petrol so I pull off at the next services, parking up we both get out and walk into the shopping and food area.  Jules points and goes to the toilet, and I go to the hot food area, looking at the various junk food on offer.  I wait until Jules comes out and ask if she wants anything. She shakes her head, so we both get a coffee and sit by the window, overlooking the car park.

“What now then?” I say to her, breaking the silence of the past two hours, since we left.  I know what I’m thinking, but just want to hear her voice.