THE BROWN BOOTS STEPPED STRONGLY AND BLENDED WITH THE same colour leather pants.
From the top of the staircase, the man admired the vast hall, fit for a visionary.
Or a sybarite like him.
Today he was feeling particularly pleased. Power really suited him and, in the last few days, he had been able to successfully make use of it.
He straightened his white roomy shirt and ran his hands through his silky curls, proud of the disturbing but inevitable attraction he would hold for her.
He opened the bedroom door. The girl was sitting on the made up bed, looking out the barred window to her left. She turned to see who it was and immediately went on with her contemplation.
“How’s your shoulder?”
“Rosie, Rosie,” he said, sitting on the space left at the foot of the bed, next to her feet. “I hope you’re not angry with me.”
“I’ll admit being locked here for two days must’ve been rather boring. On the other hand, you’re fairly used to it, aren’t you? I guess you were surprised to wake up in this room again. It was so easy… Just a little prick while you were sleeping and you didn’t even notice.” He sighed. “Celeste was much more trouble. All the better. Some action is always stimulating. She’s probably taken the confinement worse than you. After all, you needed to rest anyway.”
Mr. Harris stood up, too excited with his current command, to remain still for long.
“You’re not annoyed that I gave Dora the key to your bedroom door, are you? As you can see, I’ve put locks on all of your doors and on the front door. It was unnecessary before, but… after your little adventure… who knows what dangerous ideas might cross your sisters’ minds now.”
“But you’re not worried about all my sisters, or you wouldn’t have given a rifle to one of them.”
“That’s quite true,” the man replied, pointing a finger from his nose towards her. “And I see you’ve expanded your vocabulary. You can now say rifle, bullet, shot… So can your sisters, by the way. However, they have not experienced them like you have. You’re the privileged one! Oh, c’mon. Don’t frown. Pardon my joke. You’re right: it wasn’t funny at all. And you’re also right about Dora. That kid’s worth her weight in gold! I told her what she had to do and…” he snapped his fingers, “she quickly understood and was totally up for it! It’s a pity I didn’t ask for her instead of acid Celeste. But… what can I say? I seem to have a predilection for the problematical.”
Roxanne dangled her legs over the bed and sat with the back turned to the window.
“What are you gonna do with us?”
“Nothing. Your father will be back soon and he’ll distribute each of you where you belong. However… No, wait… You’re right. No one will want you two. You’re a pair of rebels. And, besides… the one in blue was assigned to me, so…”
He came closer and sat down again beside her.
“To be honest, I don’t know what’s to become of you.”
“Maybe you could kill us, like you killed Helen?” she said, much more nervous than she would have wanted.
Roxanne, then, realized her mistake.
He was staring at her, deeply intrigued. He grinned from ear to ear.
“I believe you got me confused… But enlighten me, please!”
Although she couldn’t be sure, it was likely that she had in fact made a mistake, since it had happened so many years before.
“You really don’t know anything about it?”
“Nothing at all.”
They were suddenly peacefully sharing confidences, as if they were two companionable friends. Roxanne organically needed a moment of relaxation, and Mr. Harris was too pricked by curiosity.
“How long have you known my father?”
“Uhm… Let me see… fourteen years?”
“No, I was… about seven then. This must have happened at least eighteen years ago.”
The young woman hesitated for a couple of seconds and continued speaking.
“Helen lived here in the castle. She was a bit younger than my mother. One day, Father realized she talked too much and resigned herself too little.”
“And he killed her?”
Mr. Harris burst out laughing, holding his stomach.
“But that’s fantastic! Well, well, well.”
The first thing that crossed his mind was how valuable this information could eventually become against Leonard.
“I wonder,” he said, focusing on Roxanne again, “what else you know that your sisters ignore.”
She didn’t answer.
“I’m off. And I’m leaving you with good news. For the time being, the doors will remain open. I trust you won’t do any silly things while I’m not here. Buuut… just in case, let me give you a little inside information. If any of the six is missing… the rest will be getting a rough deal. I don’t know really to what point you care for one another, but it’ll be fun to find out.”
The handsome athletic man, about ten years older than her, remained deep in thought for a while, leaning on the door frame. It was strange what he had felt being with her. Far from hurting his ego, the lack of attraction she’d showed had made him feel at ease. Comfortable. Under a different set of circumstances, in a different place, they might have become friends. Is age softening you up, Harris?