Time seemed to drag on, and Helen’s ‘little while’ became a 15 minutes edging towards half an hour. Each of the three in the room looked at the clock from time to time. They stretched their legs, checked their phones, snacked, and drank a little. Through the big windows, the view, complete with driving rain coming down from the hills, was almost completely obscured, most of the time, as the promised weather poured in.
The dragging delay was as if the energy was being sucked from the room and losing itself in the drops of rain harrying each other down the glass.
The metaphor was not lost on Adele.
It seemed that the rush to get here that morning was seeping away with the murkiness outside. After a few minutes, the pastries lost any attraction they had and even the coffee – a good blend though it was – began to taste stewed and cheapened as the time went by.
For Laoise, as she watched Marie, flitting from her heavily used notepad to the laptop she’d rushed to fetch and to her phone, there was an appreciation of the simplicity of the day. Where she watched the assistant simply ploughing through activities, she felt a pang or two of jealousy as she shifted back and forth from the discomfort she held in her demeanour. A heaviness in her stomach that dispelled from her at least, any thoughts of what might have initially been the tasty morsels set before them.
She had her story, and now that she’d made up her mind, all she wanted to do was get it out and move on. Not just herself, but for everyone else too.
Just after the half-hour mark, causing everyone to jump after the tedious wait, the door opened, and Helen’s back half appeared as she reversed into the room. It did so only slightly, and then, just as quickly, it closed, almost cruelly after their hopes were raised. The slowness of how it eased shut again, without a word from the lawyer, made it all the worse.
Adele reasoned to and fro whether it meant they were about to get back on with it. She wondered what, after such a time, would prompt anyone to decide to come back in, only then to rescind that idea and let them all slip back into their stupor. She realised that however important this was to the two of them – Laoise in particular – they were but a block of billable hours in the crowded calendar of a busy law practice.
Except she sensed that they weren’t billable.
“Is this going to go on much longer?” she asked of Marie. The woman, distracted from the other work she was doing, completed what she was engaged with and then broke off, with what Adele thought was a rather rude sigh. She wasn’t even sure if Marie had heard her question, so she began to repeat it.
“Is this. . .”
“I heard you.” She cut Adele off rather abruptly. Realising her attitude, she relented. “I’m so sorry,” she continued. After a moment’s consideration, she made a move.
“I’ll go and ask Helen.”
She edged all her papers together and put them in a perfect pile beneath her laptop, shut its lid and now, rather obsequiously, Adele thought, drifted off, taking just her phone.
Once from the room, Adele caught Laoise’s eye.
“How are you doing?” she asked.
“All right, but I want to get this over now.” She wrung her hands together gently as she made her considered reply. “I just want to get it done.”
Before Adele had the opportunity to continue, the door opened again, and Marie returned.
“She will be two minutes. Literally, two.” She had an affirmed look about her, seemingly convinced at the new timeline.
That eased their frustrations a little, and they sat back; the energy in the room felt a bit lighter, and they were ready to move forward. As Marie began to unravel her tidy pile, she pulled out her yellow pad and flipped the pages one-by-one to her last entries. Much to Adele’s and Laoise’s relief, she found the page she’d begun when they first began the interview.
Helen again reversed herself into the room, still speaking with someone outside the door as she did.
“I know. That’s right. Yes.” Her attempt at parting words.
She turned and realised she was being scrutinised by everyone at the far end of the room. A further comment from outside the room triggered another response from her.
“I appreciate that. It’s important. Let me get this done first, and then we’ll know where we stand.”
Adele was not the only one who noticed the implications of the last words between the two, considering the slip a little unprofessional. Yet it might be helpful to their cause, and she would hold onto that appreciation. It felt like there was a loop she and Laoise were not in, yet the person outside the room was, and perhaps at an advantage.
“Who was that?” Adele asked, in an attempt to recover from the drawback, and put a little of the pressure back Helen’s way.
“No one. Nothing,” the lawyer stammered.
“I’m really sorry to have kept you. Things happen.” When no one said a word, she recovered from the awkward silence and continued
“Let’s get on, shall we?” She was flustered at being caught out, but she was robust and experienced in so many previous situations and moved everyone on.
“Now,” she asked, taking control of the room back, “where were we?”
The circumstances were frustrating, and both Adele and Laoise were annoyed with being brushed off so. Yet common sense prevailed. There was no benefit to them to be in a huff with Helen, so, at first a little tersely, Laoise continued.
“When I came to you about Hector, you will recall I was annoyed and wanted him to pay. I explained the nature of the complaint, and you agreed there was a good case to answer.” Helen nodded, Marie scribbled, and Adele observed.
Laoise was back centre stage, and Adele sat back, as enthralled as anyone about what was unfolding.
“But it was not true.”
A loud squall of rain lashed the windows, and the room awaited what was to come next.
“I was put up to it by someone else.” Marie jotted furiously and then stopped. The pause was tangible, and despite the modern building as strong as any, the windows made a loud creaking noise in the gusts of wind.
“But before I get on to that, there’s a bit more to the story, which I need to tell you first.” She waited for encouragement. The room was neutral – still waiting. Without any rebuffal to her proposal, she continued.
“I have a connection with the house,” she said. “A very long connection with the house. And where it stands.”
“Does this have anything to do with the case against Hector?” Being a busy, fee-oriented lawyer, Helen decided to check if this tangent was relevant.
“It does,” came Laoise’s response. “It very much does.” And she turned to Adele. “And it has to do with you too.”
A deep breath. “You remember the box of things you had in the trunk in your attic?” she asked. “The old photographs and images. As well as the jewellery?”
“I do,” replied Adele. She said no more, leaving the vacuum for Laoise to fill.
“We have a history in the house. We both do. We also have a history together too.”
Well, that was interesting, thought Adele. The segue to bring them together was apposite. She’d had an inkling of a connection for a long time. From the moment where she found the hidden image in the photograph she took. The selfie as she set off to Boston. It had never felt alien to her.
It had felt relevant, related somehow.
“The pond is where it all began. This history together. Because, as you may know, it is not a natural pond at all. In fact, it was created by my ancestors over two centuries ago. And it holds a power of attraction so strong, such that we are drawn to it.”
The words sat for a moment in the room. The weather fell silent. No noise from outside the blinds in the bigger office. The revelation seemed to transport them into a different world.
“Let me tell you about it. Let me tell you about that, Laoise.”
And she paused. The others waited.
“About where it all began.”
- : Mystery