Heart of Stone Ch. 08bypsyche_b_mused©
8. Disappearances, Dates & Documents
The next day, Mary woke before either of her guests. She sat in the kitchen with Maureen, sipped coffee and tried to wake up.
"You look exhausted Miss." When Mary came down in the morning, Maureen usually sat down with her and had coffee. Today, the older woman looked as though she had something she needed to say. Mary was curious but hoped she would have a few minutes to wake up.
"We were up so late last night, and then I couldn't seem to get to sleep afterward." Mary yawned.
"I wanted to tell you, Miss." She started. "I knew that Mr. Ambrose had dealings with all of those people or their families on a regular basis, but I let Colin convince me that if they wanted you to know they would have to tell you themselves."
"Then you knew about Aiden." Mary was surprised.
"I knew what Mr. Ambrose said, but I never for one minute actually believed that the statue was anything more than a piece of stone." She took a long swallow of her coffee. "When Colin told me what he was seeing I assumed all the stories were getting to him. When you introduced us to Mr. Aiden I wanted to tell you what I knew about all of Mr. Ambrose's dealings. Colin reminded me when we got home that we made a promise never to mention the others to anyone. Even though Mr. Ambrose is dead and buried I couldn't make myself go back on my word to him when he was so kind to us."
"It's alright. It just seems like every time I get used to the world one way it gets turned upside down again." She laughed a little. Both women jumped when the doorbell rang.
"Well we're a fine pair, jumping at every little sound." Maureen laughed and went to answer the door. Mary followed her, curious who would drop in so early in the morning.
"Celia?" Even though Mary couldn't see her face she could tell that Maureen was surprised to see whoever Celia was. Mary didn't have to wonder long, the large, disheveled-looking woman in a faded purple dress pushed her way into the house. He dull, graying hair was pulled up into a careless bun that sat off-center on the top of her head. The smell of cheap liquor, cheaper perfume and old sweat preceded her.
"Don't you look at me like you're surprised to see me Maureen March. You're going to tell me what that witch did with my Maggie!" The words seemed to lock up all the air in the immediate area for several long minutes.
"You must be Mrs. Hendrick, Maggie's mother?" Mary asked.
"I ain't never been Mrs. Hendrick." The woman replied indignantly, as if the suggestion offended her.
"Miss Lange." Maureen supplied quietly.
"Pardon me, Miss Lange. I'm pleased to meet you, will you step into the library so that we can-" She didn't even give Mary a chance to finish.
"You expect me to go anyplace with you?" With each statement the woman's voice was getting louder.
"I just thought that we could talk about-"
"Talk about? There ain't nothing to talk about! I want my daughter back and I'm not leaving this spot until I get her." The woman crossed her thick arms over her ample bosom and stared at Mary. "And don't you try to tell me you don't know where she is, because I know all about you."
"Celia, I understand that you're upset, but you're making a fool of yourself." Maureen hissed. "Why don't you come in to-"
"You've always thought you were better me and my Maggie." She uncrossed her arms, planted her fists on her hips and started walking toward the housekeeper in a menacing way. "She told me all about you, too. Walking around here like your the queen herself and you ain't nothing but a servant."
"Alright I've had enough." Mary stepped between Maureen and the rotund woman. Celia Lange looked shocked that anyone dare do such a thing. "You've barged into my house, you've insulted me, you've insulted my housekeeper and you refuse to tell me what this is about."
"MAGGIE'S GONE!" The woman shrilled and stamped her foot to emphasize her point.
"I KNOW that!" Mary answered in a firm tone. "I'm sorry, but I don't know where she is." The harshness of the tone seemed to surprise the woman and she backed away.
"Why should I believe you? The whole village says that you keep some kind of monster here. How am I supposed to know that she wasn't eaten by it?" The tone in the large woman's voice was almost triumphant.
"Have you taken leave of your senses?" Maureen asked, covering easily for Mary's shock.
"But the whole village-"
"Who says it?" Maureen challenged.
"Is a drunk and everyone knows it." Maureen finished.
"Freddy wasn't drunk when he saw it." Celia replied quickly.
"Celia, use your head. That man hasn't been sober a single day in the last thirty years. You're going to make wild accusations against someone on his say so?" Maureen's tone was mocking and Mary wondered if that was really the best approach to take at this point. It seemed to be getting results though.
"You think I won't go to the Police?" Celia's face was bright red and she was starting to sweat.
"Go." Mary said with a little shrug. "Are you going to tell them that Maggie was eaten by a monster?" The older woman thought for a minute.
"No. I'm going to tell them that you killed her and that you've got her body hid in here somewhere. Probably lots of places to hide a body in a place like this. You didn't even report her missing, did you?"
"Of course I didn't report-"
"There, you see? That's a clue right there. They'll tear this place apart brick by brick." Celia Lange's piggy eyes narrowed even more as a little grin twisted her lips.
"I didn't report her missing because she's an adult and can go where she wants, when she wants. If she wants to move to the next village, move to London or move to Peru without leaving a new phone number or forwarding address it's not my business." Mary's heart was pounding. It didn't make any sense that Maggie had been abducted. Not many kidnappers canceled the phone service and left the landlady a letter telling her the tenant had moved out. Still, something about the police poking around made her nervous. Celia Lange looked from Mary to Maureen and back again, trying to figure out what to say next.
"You ain't heard the last of me." She stormed out of the house as quickly as she had entered, leaving Mary and Maureen staring at each other.
"Do you think the police would come here?" Mary asked.
"On her word and nothing else? I doubt it." Maureen waved her hand dismissively. "Even if they do, they certainly don't have a reason to search."
"Police?" Robbie asked. Mary hadn't noticed that he was on the stairs. Even though neither man had been formally dressed yesterday the jeans and light sweater he wore today looked much more relaxed. "We haven't overstayed our welcome that badly, have we?" He was smiling, but it was clear that he had heard at least part of the scene that had just played out.
"My maid, Maggie, decided to vanish into thin air. Do you know if Andy is moving around yet?" She asked, realizing that she was hungry and not accustomed to waiting for others to make an appearance before having breakfast. It was one of the many perks of living alone she had discovered.
"Yes, he should be down in a few minutes. I was wondering how you managed such a large house with just Mrs. March."
"I'll bring coffee into the breakfast room." She said and slipped quietly out of the entry. Mary led Robbie into the sunny room decorated in several warms shades of yellow.
"You've redone this room." He looked around and waited until Mary sat down in one of the comfortable white wicker chairs, and then took his own seat. Maureen came in with coffee for three and left again quietly. "I noticed last night but it looks completely different in the bright sunlight."
"Thank you. I don't want to change the house too much, but some of it just needs to be freshened up a bit." Slowly Mary was making small, mostly cosmetic changes in the house and finding that she had a flair for interior decorating. She had found the paint color for this room first. The other shades in the fabric had come from that and plants just seemed a natural addition.
"You're welcome. I take it that was the missing girl's mother who was threatening you with the police."
"Yes." Mary poured a cup of coffee for him and one for herself. "Maggie's not a child, so I suppose if she wants to leave and not contact anyone she has that right. There's something about it that just seems strange to me."
"Something strange on such a beautiful morning?" Andy said as he came in.
"One of her housemaids ran off." Robbie explained.
"Nothing strange in that. Seems like every other month Jean is complaining that this one or that one didn't show up. Then she introduces me to a different one. Frankly, I can't keep them all straight. I think it was easier when they all lived in. Someone was always available at any time of the day or night and they didn't get ideas about running off so often." He said firmly.
"That is positively medieval." Robbie looked slightly shocked. Maureen entered with a tray of sausages, eggs, toast, fruit and the accompanying condiments and left quietly. Everyone took a different dish, served themselves and passed them on.
"Why? It worked for everyone for quite a few years." He spread some raspberry preserves on his toast and took a bite. "That's delicious!"
"Maureen makes it. She'll be happy to know you like it." Mary wasn't sure how to respond to his comment and she intended to let it drop. Robbie didn't have the same intention.
"It worked for a very small number of people, the rest simply didn't have there ability to do anything about it." Robbie took a generous helping of the preserves.
"Says the man whose client list reads like a who's who of the UK." A little sneer twisted Andy's lips as he said it. Mary didn't like the road this was heading down.
"Why was Esme available for public sale?" Her voice was slightly louder than normal, both men looked at her as if they were just remembering her presence. Robbie answered first.
"We didn't know until the sale was already in progress." He said. "Caroline Finch-Griffon had some personal difficulties-"
"HA!" Andy interjected. "'Personal difficulties' means that she married a penniless, shiftless gambler who used her family's money to finance his habits. He bled her dry and left her. She lost the house and everything else. The new owners thought Esme was nothing but an ugly statue, so they put her on the market. Of course dear Caroline couldn't possibly pull together the money to buy Esme back, and she was too humiliated to tell any of the rest of us what was going on. If it wasn't for one of my connections at the auction house we wouldn't have known until we saw her in your garden." He took another slice of toast and more preserves.
"You just bring the glow of sunshine to the breakfast table." Robbie's tone was flat. Andy shrugged.
"I don't like to tiptoe around things like you do." Robbie glared at the other man, as if considering if he wanted to respond. He turned to Mary instead.
"Our group may have a common purpose, but we're not all socially compatible." He explained simply. For a few minutes, the three of them ate silently and Mary was grateful for the quiet. She wondered why Robbie had brought Andy at all, the seemed to dislike each other so intensely. Before she could ask, Robbie spoke again. "How did you happen to know Esme was for sale?"
"Well, you know I had been trying to locate the others. At first it was just so that Aiden would know they still existed. I felt like I was getting nowhere fast so I started looking for the statues as fine art pieces. When I happened upon the information online that there was a 'realistic gargoyle' statue coming up for auction I decided to bid and hope she was like Aiden. Though at the beginning I thought she was a he." Mary still felt a twinge of jealousy when she thought about that.
"I know the sound of my voice grates on your nerves," Andy said. "But do you intend to tell her?"
"Tell me what?" Mary asked, her heart starting to pound. She looked from one man to the other.
"Cyril found a document written in the gargoyle language that he claimed was from the very beginning of the trouble." Robbie began. Mary noticed that his cup was empty, so she refilled it.
"The beginning? Aiden made it sound like everything happened so fast." Andy cleared his throat and Mary refilled his cup as well.
"Well the final decisive stroke was very quick, but there were years of unrest that lead up to it. Around 600 AD, Pope Gregory sent Augustine and forty monks to England to convert the populace to Christianity. Soon after they learned about the gargoyle's existence the rumblings of unrest began. Of course the church didn't hold much power in the beginning, so the gargoyles remained safe and protected. As the power of the church grew though, it became clear that a confrontation was imminent. Both the gargoyles and the human beings who saw the oppression for what it was tried to find a way to head off the disaster. This is when Cyril claims the document came from."
"Claims? No one believed him?" Mary looked over at Andy, sensing that she was getting into his territory with that question.
"It's not that he wasn't believed," Andy replied. "he never displayed proof one way or the other. He claimed the contents of the document were too shocking to trust others with its safety."
"Well what did it say?" Mary looked from one man to the other. They glanced at each other.
"He claimed it suggested a marital union between the two races. Of course that was strictly against the unspoken rules of both societies." Robbie continued. "Apparently he found the document nearly a century after it was written so the plan had never been put into action and I'm not certain that it would have helped anyway. Cyril was always convinced that it would have worked if it had been put into practice though."
"The rest of the group wasn't so sure." Andy said. "And no one in your line ever produced the document either. Without that, or some corroboration from the gargoyles themselves, it was considered as simply Cyril's idea."
Mary debated with herself about whether or not to tell them about her relationship with Aiden, in the end she decided against it, for the moment. There would be a time when they would simply have to accept it, but now wasn't that time.
"Is there a way for me to meet the rest of the group?" Mary said.
"I'm hosting a meeting in two weeks at my country house, I was hoping you would want to participate." Robbie smiled.
"Of course." She accepted.
"Good. I'll e-mail you with directions and more details after I get back to the city." He looked genuinely pleased.
"Will you need anything else?" Maureen asked.
"I don't think so, thank you Maureen. Everything was delicious." Having company had been interesting, but she would be glad when she had her house back again.
Mary sat cross-legged on the wide bed and stared at the pages arrayed before her while she rubbed her temples. Each page held a series of markings that was roughly circular. Some were larger, some smaller, all were described by Aiden as elementary thoughtforms. There was no uniformity to the markings, except for the fact that each one had a central symbol. Aiden had explained to her that the entire circle represented a complete thought in his language, and that the symbol in the center was the subject of that thought. Beyond that, nothing he said made any sense. She had thought that after a few days of study and practice the symbols would start to make a rudimentary kind of sense, but that hadn't happened. She was beginning to doubt that it ever would.
"You look frustrated, child." Mary jumped, she hadn't heard Aiden come in. He sat behind her and she leaned back against his chest.
"I'm hopeless." She turned and kissed him softly. His hands roamed from her back to her hips and back again. His arms tightened around her waist and Mary arched against him.
"You are not hopeless. Ours is a difficult language to learn, especially when one cannot pronounce many of the sounds." He stroked her hair.
"You read English so easily." She sensed tension in his body, so she reached around and firmly kneaded his lower back. She had discovered that that was the place where his tension usually settled. Aiden closed his eyes and within moments a soft, pleasure-growl emanated from him.
"English is a very simple language for my kind, so are most human languages that we have encountered." He groaned as she worked at a knot in his thick muscle. "Your symbols are far more limited than ours and the amount of possible valid combinations are more limited as well."
"Cyril managed to learn." She moved and let him stretch out on his stomach. Mary started to work more intensely on his back. It took a great deal more force than she would have used on another human being.
"He managed to learn a few rudimentary phrases, but all the nuances that complete a thought were lost on him." He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly, allowing her to press more firmly. "That feels so good."
"What did you do to yourself? You're almost never so sore." She worked gently but firmly.
"I was hunting an hour or so before dawn and my quarry twisted while it was in my grasp. Being that it was late and I was hungry, I twisted too. Perhaps I am no longer as young as I believe myself to be." He chuckled softly, so did Mary.
"I'll be on the lookout for a nice, sturdy walking stick for you." Mary kissed the back of his neck.
"You are a kind mate." He grasped her wrist firmly and before Mary knew what was happening she was on her back under him. "You are also rather appealing, even if you are only semi-literate." He was grinning a bit when he said it.
"Semi-literate huh?" She squirmed away from him and suppressed a smile. "Well I won't bore you further, I know how precious time is to you."
"That is not to say that I believe you to be untalented." He followed her, his lips brushing hers softly. Mary sighed heavily and turned her head away, looking perfectly bored.
"I'm afraid that I have far too much studying to do." She turned and fixed her eyes on his. "Besides, my teacher is a real slavedriver." Aiden's hairless eyebrows rose.
"Is he indeed." He knelt behind her on the bed, one knee on either side of her slim body, his arms around her. "Then I suppose you would have to follow his directives in all matters, in order to please him." One large hand found and fondled her breast. Mary moaned in spite of herself.
"Well, maybe. I mean, that would depend on what he wanted. I'm not always such a good student." She gasped when his thumb and forefinger closed on the firm bud of her nipple. She squirmed against him, her eyes closed. Mary could feel the firm bulge of his erection against her back as she moved.
"I think this particular exercise will not be as unpleasant for you as the reading lesson was." He nipped at her earlobe and Mary moved so that she pressed more firmly against him, rubbing his shaft between them. He growled softly, his hands reaching under her t-shirt. Mary pulled her arms out of it, then turned to face him, her mouth finding his.
Aiden wasted no time in sliding his hands into Mary's sweat pants, pushing them and her panties down. She opened his belt quickly, allowing both of her hands to reach inside his loincloth. She stroked him with both hands, covering his whole length and breadth as only her hands could. His mouth became more aggressive and Mary yielded for a few delicious moments.
The talons on his thumbs traced the erect peaks of her nipples while his tail sneaked between her legs, teasing her already slick opening. Reluctantly, she moved away from him to finish undressing. Aiden tossed away the loincloth and leaned back to watch Mary, a little smile on his lips. She was getting used to him looking at her now, but the hungry way that his eyes swept over her body still sent chills down her spine and brought a blush to her cheeks.