Dangerous To Know – Chapter 2 ‘The Duchess’

Here’s another chapter of my current project. I hope you enjoy!

“I rapped on your knocker several times, but no one answered.” I make an attempt at an explanation of sorts.

The pool cue, which appears to loom on its dangerous ascendancy in the direction of my nether regions, fails to prevent me from continuing my interpretation of events.

“The young guy, Alexander is it? He told me that Mr Harrington was at the pub.” The woman refuses to deny her suspicion, although I am at a loss to wonder why. It isn’t as if I’ve turned up out of the blue. I was cordially invited to Harrington’s home, to price up the work that he required me to carry out on his gardens. I had half expected the gardens to have been in a poor state, I’m surprised to discover how perfectly tended they are.

Nevertheless, Harrington was adamant that I call tonight at seven. When it comes to my business I try not to be late. I attempt to explain all of this to a woman whose expression suggests she needs to be convinced. The unfathomable glances she exchanges with Greggors are not lost on me. Greggors looms above her protectively, as if I’m about to cause her harm. It’s the farthest thing from my mind. In my naivety I go on to explain that Alexander suggested that I speak to the Duchess.

At this juncture I’m aware that Greggors’ expression has transferred from completely unreasonable to the inevitability of kicking seven kinds of shit out of me. The woman’s face breaks into a smile, highlighting the perfect match of even white teeth and porcelain skin, which serves to further encapsulate her beauty.

She laughs with subtlety, while her Irish accent is overly pronounced when she says, “I know that’s what he calls me.” This is conducive to allaying my earlier preconception of her being some elderly infirm Dowager. “Alexander, Sandy, is my stepson.” Her stepson? Then Harrington has to be many years older than his beautiful young wife. “When Paul goes to the pub, usually the Feathers, he could be here anytime. I’m sorry that you had a wasted journey.”

“Nevertheless I think I should wait for him. He was quite adamant that I should be here at seven.”

“Why are you supposed to be here for seven?” It’s obvious that Greggors isn’t as easily convinced. “As I said, my husband has no sense of timing. I must apologise for not answering the door. We wouldn’t have heard you if it wasn’t for Charlie.”

She passes the pool cue to Greggors, before scooping the Spaniel into her arms. It’s conducive to quieting Charlie down, especially when she rubs her face into his. His tail continues its vigorous wagging, his pleasure evident.

“Greggors and I were enjoying a game of pool. He doesn’t like it when I win,do you, Greggors?” She is quite tall, but pitted against this broad shouldered, six five giant, she is compelled to smile up at him. His own smile is more in the way of a brief uplift of lips unaccustomed to performing even that simple task.

“Do you play pool?” she asks.

“Sometimes.”

“What did you say you came about? The gardens was it now?”

“Your husband called me, asked me to come here. Like I said, he mentioned something about storm damage. Most of the gardens I’ve attended to have become damaged by the floods and winds, but what I’ve seen of your gardens so far, they seem in pretty good shape,”

“They are. We’ve had very little storm damage. We’re quite well protected here. Anyway, we have two guys who do all our gardening. Paul must have made a mistake surely. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name. I’m Sarah Harrington.” Her grip inside mine is soft but firm.

“Aidan McRaney.”

“Aidan McRaney?” The palm slips from mine instinctively. Her eyes transform to cavernous intimations of darkness. Even Greggors appears uncomfortable, as he shifts from one booted foot to the other with a sense of agitation. It is those eyes, managing to eclipse every other feature, afford the appearance of a striking cobra.“You get the fuck out of my house!”

The Spaniel is practically hurled from her arms. Charlie resumes his tirade, this time the raucous notes of his barks are in accompaniment with his mistress. Her voice is raised and high-pitched. “I know who you are, and what you are!”

“Yes, I’m a landscape gardener. I’ve come to see what work your husband needs me to do.” I say defensively.

“I said get out!” She snatches the cue from Greggors with both hands. Her feet apart in the combat stance, as if she intends some farcical kind of sword-play.

“Look, Mrs Harrington, I don’t understand.” I stretch a hand imploringly. I really don’t understand. She’s beautiful. There’s no denying that. Reminiscent of a wild Irish gypsy. Dark hair frames her face, which is consumed with this unfathomable anger, that is oddly alluring. Her lips are full, sensuous.

The greeny brown-flecked eyes glower with some inner luminosity. I can almost entertain the sensation of my own watering at thoughts of that pool cue closing in.

Aware of my hesitation, she rasps, “You ever have a pool cue shoved up your jacksie, mister?” Jekyll and Hyde don’t cover it. I’ve no occasion to have witnessed such a dramatic change in someone’s demeanor as I have Sarah Harrington. From friendly and welcoming to a demented virago within minutes.

“No, I can’t say that I have.” I deliver an equally glacial response.

“Greggors, do your job.” Now her tone is commanding and haughty when she addresses the ugly bodyguard. At least that’s who I assume him to be. He’s obviously in awe of the woman. A subservient lapdog.

“But, Miss Sarah…” His hesitation is painful, “what about Mr Harrington?” She is obviously a woman who is used to getting her own way.

“Fuck to what my husband says. Quick, get him out of here before Paul returns. You!” Green eyes zero in on me with lightning speed. “You, McRaney, or whatever your name is. Just get out of here if you know what’s good for you”

“But I haven’t done anything.” I attempt to plead my case. “I would still like to see your husband. After all. it was him who asked me to come here.”

“Greggors!”

“Okay, okay, I’m going.” I raise my hands in conciliation. There goes my potential contract. Before the brutish Greggors can feel my collar, I am swift to exit.

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