Sunshine swept into the room from two directions, creating a warm glow and highlighting the figure in the doorway. Long blonde hair shone like starlight against an attire of midnight blue jeans and a deep velvet shirt. As usual, Tashriel presented a very attractive image. Elizabeth struggled to decide if it was all an act of nature or partly his own doing.
“You think so lowly of me these days?” Tashriel asked, raising one of his perfectly arched brows and casting Elizabeth a disapproving look at the same time.
“I wouldn’t put it past you,” Elizabeth retorted sharper than she had intended and then thought better of it.
Tashriel shrugged, “Forgiven -- always. It happens to the best of us.” He walked over to the window and looked out onto the busy shopping street below.
Elizabeth contented herself by pretending to study the intricate patterns of the William Morris wallpaper and glaring furiously at an empty desk, which was soon to be occupied by Gemma Bolton.
Probably be in my grave just as fast
“RoYds goes on,” Tashriel remarked gently removing his hands from the pockets of his jeans and walking towards the half-glass panelled door leading directly to the street. “Shall we move on? Sarah Entwistle will be expecting us shortly.”
Howell Place was in the middle of Market Street; a long winding road of crowded stone buildings from beginning to end. Built in the early 19th Century as a place of worship, it was one of the few grand structures in Whituth. Elizabeth silently scoffed at the shiny brass plaque prominently displayed on the honey-coloured boundary wall.
“Something wrong?” Tashriel asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I preferred it when it was a chapel.”
“As did I,” Tashriel responded, opening the recently erected black cast-iron gate. “A church cannot survive without parishioners though,” he added despondently.
As they approached the main entrance to the building, Elizabeth concluded that the developer had done an excellent job of keeping the conversion in line with the character of the building.
She studied the list of names and doorbells; there was no Sarah Entwistle. Elizabeth tried to remember the name of the friend Sarah had mentioned as the person she was renting the flat from. Matt or something similar. One of the doorbells was for a Mathew Billington. She pressed the shiny brass button.
“Sarah? It’s Elizabeth Whyte from RoYds and I have a friend with me.”
The buzzer startled her slightly as Sarah released the lock on the main door. Upon entering the building, they were greeted by a smiling Sarah standing in the doorway to their left.
Sarah waved to them. “Over here,” she announced cheerily.
Elizabeth introduced Tashriel as a colleague. He walked around slowly with a hand-held device, mumbling something about a “proton Magnetometer” to monitor changes in the flat’s magnetic field –- people usually found this comforting and would let down their guard somewhat, allowing Tashriel to take his own kind of “readings” -- whilst Elizabeth tried to take in as much of the atmosphere as she could without appearing too obvious.
The layout was open plan with three doors at the far end leading to what Elizabeth assumed to be sleeping and bathroom areas. The two side walls were a crisp far-reaching canvas of white with a trio of leaded gothic-arched windows along the outer wall. A streak of abstract paintings had been hung to perfection on the interior wall and a state-of-the-art sound system took pride of place beneath them. It was clearly a show-flat rather than a home.
“Please take a pew.” Sarah pointed to a pretentious magenta and lemon sofa. “Would you like some tea?”
“Not for me, thanks,” replied Elizabeth. “Would you mind if I had a quick walk around the other rooms to get a feel for things? Oh, by the way, we didn’t find any related problems with local transmitters or masts.”
“Damn!” exclaimed a disappointed Sarah. “I suppose I didn’t really expect you to, but I hoped that you might be able to help me in some way or another.”
As she spoke, the multi-faceted designer light fitting above them flickered and a James Blunt CD began to play,
"I took your soul out into the night..."
An ashen Sarah threw herself down into a tangerine leather armchair and began to sob hysterically. Elizabeth looked at Tashriel who was walking towards the music system and as he did so, Elizabeth sensed another male presence in the flat. Although his name came quickly to her, Elizabeth hesitated to use it.
“Sarah, look at me!” Elizabeth commanded before kneeling down in front of the distraught woman and clasping her hands with her own. “Look me in the eyes. I want you to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly. Concentrate on just doing that.”
Sarah looked at Elizabeth through mascara-smudged eyes. “Don’t worry; I am going to sort this problem out for you. OK?” Releasing Sarah's hands she stood up and was joined by Tashriel at her side.
Sarah reached for a cushion behind her and held it close.
Elizabeth glanced at Tashriel and called out the name of the presence in the flat with them, “Mathew.”
A door at the far side of the room opened and a wet, towel-clad Mathew Billington appeared.
“Who the devil are you people and what the hell are you doing in my flat?” he shouted, thoroughly enraged and rushing towards them. Tashriel calmly reached out and placed his fingertips lightly upon Mathew’s cheek.
Elizabeth stared at a frozen Mathew Billington who was now standing only a couple of feet away with a stationary droplet of water on his bare chest.
Labels: 2007, Elizabeth, Refuge of Delayed Souls, Web Fiction