Christmas At Pyaridge Hall – 6

Dreyfus Sinclair was not having a very good time.  He was cold.  Even with his coat on and his hands over the glowing red electric heater, he could feel the drafty room in his bones.  Yesterday had been miserable.  He’d spent the day playing hurry up and wait for a few odd minutes with Emily, hide and seek with the Pyaridge staff (who were overflowing with May-I-help-you’s) and just hiding from the evil Janet Miller who prowled the corridors like Lady Macbeth.  And when he went outside (twice) he ran into a strange-looking man cradling a shotgun.  Dinner had been a disaster — a table full of local potentates obsessed with drainage and a nervous woman on his left who actually wanted to hear about insurance.  Plus he just realized he hadn’t seen Sydney since he disappeared up the stairs with the Midsomer Murders’ butler, Reynolds.

“The hell with it,” he thought and got up to go find the breakfast room.

“Breakfast is at 8:00, Mr. Sinclair.”

Dreyfus looked at his watch.  So kill me for ten minutes.

The breakfast room was a cavern with a high vaulted ceiling.  For a second, Dreyfus thought about shouting “Helloooo!” to see if it echoed.  But he saw Emily sitting tiny at the far end of the very, very long table and decided not to be flippant.  Instead, he walked in.  At least it was warm.

“Cozy,” he said, halfway up the table.

Emily ignored the remark.  “Good morning, Sinclair.  Did you sleep well?”

Dreyfus took a cup and saucer from the sideboard, set them down on the table and gestured at the carafe of coffee.  “Very well.  But, this morning it was freezing up there.”

“Really?  Hmm.  I’ll have a heater sent up.”

“There’s one in the room.” Dreyfus poured coffee, “And believe me, it’s not up to the task.”

Emily thought for a second then casually changed the subject. “Is Sydney coming down?”

“You better check. I think the penguins ate him.”

“Oh, for God’s sake!  It’s not that bad.”  Emily turned her head and shot Dreyfus an annoyed glance.  Dreyfus caught a glimpse of fuzzy pink at her throat.  In one smooth, swift motion, he stepped forward, grabbed Emily’s bandaged hand at the wrist so she couldn’t move it, reached his other hand just under the neckline of her sweater, and before she could react, pulled the collar of her pajamas free.

“Hey!” Emily yelled.

“Flannel!” Dreyfus replied, letting everything go and calmly sitting down again.

“No wonder you’re not cold: you’ve got about three layers on there.” 

Emily adjusted her sweater and her composure. “Alright, it might be a little chilly, but you need to control yourself, Sinclair.  This isn’t Scotland.  Around here, a girl likes to be asked before you stick your hand under her jumper.”

“Good advice,” Dreyfus laughed and sipped his coffee. “But, seriously, what’s the deal?”

Emily shrugged. “Big house, old boilers.  I think the last time they were refit was in the 60s.  Normally, it’s not a problem.  I’m the only one who lives up there, and in the summer it’s quite pleasant.”

“Don’t the fireplaces work?”

“Oh yeah.  When I was young, we used to have fires in all the bedrooms at Christmas.  But the house was full then.  Now …” Emily shrugged again, “Besides, the insurance premiums were killing us.  So, no fires.”

“Insurance.  Bunch of thieves.”

“Says the man.”

Dreyfus spread his hands.  He gestured with his chin. “Give me one of your pieces of bacon.”

“No,” Emily wrinkled her brow. “Call down.  Mrs. Tisdale will make you anything you like.”

“Seems like a lot of trouble for a piece of bacon.”

“No, really.  Call down now, and Janet can bring it up when she comes.”

“Oow, the ubiquitous Ms. Miller.” Dreyfus wiggled his fingers, “Will she be joining us for breakfast?”

“No, we go over estate business every day after breakfast, Morning Prayers.  Don’t you like Janet?”  It was a real question.

“She scares me.  And I think she wants me,” Dreyfus paused, raised his eyebrows and nodded his head slowly, “sexually.”

They both chuckled.

“Careful what you wish for, Sinclair.  You could end up losing more than a finger.”  Emily held her bandaged hand in the air.

Dreyfus smiled to himself.  This was the Emily he’d gotten to know in London.  He’d been worried that she might have changed – fear and trauma can do that.  He was relieved.  It wasn’t that he felt guilty — he didn’t — he’d done what he had to do.  No, this was the Emily he liked.  The one he wanted around.  And it was good to see her again.

“Am I allowed in the kitchen?”

“What?”

“If you two are going to talk drains all day, I want to be warm and close to the food.”

“We’re not going to talk drains all day.” Emily shook her head sarcastically, “Actually, I’m going to walk down and get the dogs this morning.  Come with me?  It’ll do you some good.”

“Okay,” Dreyfus shrugged. “So just direct me to the food, and you and Ms. Miller can plan and plot to your heart’s content.”

Emily thought about it.  It was a serious breach of etiquette.  The staff might not be pleased.  But … that’s what she loved about Dreyfus: he was a different breeze.  And it wasn’t as though they weren’t already talking.  She could well imagine.  Emily closed her eyes to remember and pointed her finger.

“Out that door,” Emily bent her finger left. “Left, then first right.” She straightened her finger. “Follow the hall all the way to the end and down the stairs.  First landing.” Emily opened one eye. “I think.”

Dreyfus drank the last of his coffee, set the cup down and stood up. “Where will I meet you?”

“I’ll be in the entrance hall in about an hour.  Have someone find you a pair of boots.  It’s a bit of a walk.”

Dreyfus met Janet at the end of the hall just before the stairs.  She looked just slightly shocked.  Dreyfus smiled with mischief.

“She’s all yours,” he said.  Then he raised his index finger, “But I get the dogs.”  

Friday – Part 7

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