15 April 2007

Oxford Ostinato - Chapter 3 Part 3

Stan swore colourfully for a few moments, giving vent to his disbelief at this strange young woman, and his annoyance at what he had done, not to mention what he suspected would happen as a result of this encounter. He glared down at Saskia's unconscious form.
"Oh great!" he exclaimed softly. "Now I've got two bodies on my hands!" He hunkered down beside Saskia and checked her pulse. He didn't quite know whether to be sorry or glad when he found that she was still alive. He hesitated, too, over what he should do. He couldn't leave her here to wake up, that much was certain. But he also knew his master would be furious at this development. He picked Saskia up with a few grunts. She was tall and well muscled, making her awkward to carry for someone who was short and stocky. He managed to move her to the spot where he had left the dead woman he had brought into the woods. He unwound the sheet and carried the body into a small hut to which only he had the key. He then went back to Saskia, wrapped her in the sheet and slung her up over his shoulder. He hurried to the edge of the wood and stood silently listening for a few moments, then hastened back along the towpath and through the garden gate. He moved as fast as he could manage, silently cursing this young woman for her interference.
Stan got Saskia into the kitchen and dumped her unceremoniously into a chair, pulling off the sheet. He paused to catch his breath and rub his aching back. What was he supposed to do with her, he wondered. He scowled, then picked her up again and carried her downstairs to the basement where he strapped her onto another trolley bed. He stomped back upstairs, paused by the kitchen door, then went on upstairs to his master's room. He knocked more tentatively than usual, then went inside when summoned.
Mr Inglesham looked up, frowning, from his place by his desk. "Stanley?"
"We – uh – we have a bit of a difficult situation, sir," he said.
"I took the body out to the woods, to dispose of it and was seen by a young woman. She was running on the towpath and she – uh – she followed me into the woods." Stan stopped speaking when he saw the dark look that had settled on his master's face.
"Stanley, why do I suspect that you did not do the obvious thing, and dispose of this young woman?"
Stan swallowed convulsively. "Uh – well – she surprised me," he said, realising how lame this sounded even as he said it.
"And?" Mr Inglesham's tone was icy.
"She said she'd stop me if I was doing something wrong."
"By herself? A young woman who was out running and, therefore, presumably not armed in anyway, proposed to stop you – and you let her?" His tone was savage now.
"Sir." Stan was quaking with fear inside, but trying not to show it.
"Where is this remarkable young woman? I should like to meet her."
"In the basement sir."
"You have severely displeased me today, Stanley, and if my operation is delayed by your actions, you will pay heavily."
"Sir." Stan's tone was miserable. He opened the door and waited whilst his master pulled himself stiffly from his chair and, leaning heavily on a silver-headed cane, made his way painfully across the room. They made their way downstairs, Mr Inglesham pausing often to catch his breath.
"Go downstairs and wait," Mr Inglesham snapped suddenly.
"Sir." Stan hurried downstairs to the basement, glad to get out of his master's way. He glanced over at the young woman and saw she was still unconscious. She began to stir just as Mr Inglesham entered the room. Stan moved aside to allow Mr Inglesham to see her clearly.

Saskia woke slowly, feeling groggy, and suffering from a thumping headache. She tried to lift a hand to her head to see if she had a lump there, and found she could not move her arms. She turned her head stiffly and found a stranger looking back at her. Saskia took in the short grey hair, dark striped suit, crisp white shirt, the pale beige silk scarf draped around his neck, and the claw-like hands resting atop a silver-headed cane.
"You must be the boss," she said, more calmly than she felt.
"I am. And you, young woman, are trouble I do not need."
Saskia was chilled by the icy tone in his voice. It reminded her of ancient stonework.
"Oh, and we've only just met!" she exclaimed. "Don't you think you're being a little hasty in your assessment of me?"
"Do you think facetiousness is appropriate?" Mr Inglesham asked with a snarl.
Saskia shrugged, but didn't answer, concentrating instead of reading his emotions. Not that it was a difficult task: black hatred and cold, merciless anger were practically streaming off him. Saskia felt as if she was drowning and blinked twice in an effort to break free.
"So what happens next?" she asked, hoping her voice didn't sound as shaky to him as it did to her own ears.
"You tell me what you're doing here and on the basis of that I decide how best to – " he paused a moment, deliberately Saskia knew, " - dispose of you."
"I came to Oxford to attend a concert at the Sheldonian Theatre last night." Saskia was acting obtuse deliberately, she wanted to see what she could find out about this man and what he was doing in this house which she had now recognised from her nightmare, just as she recognised Stan as one of the two men she had seen in that dream. She had to keep the boss talking in order to find out as much information as possible so that she and the Doctor could find out why Marie had died. These thoughts raced through her mind as Mr Inglesham watched her, a considering look on his face and a sense of surprise and disbelief overlying his anger and hatred. She realised that he wasn't used to dealing with people who talked back to him or had their own ideas about things.
"Why did you follow Stanley into the woods?"
Saskia shrugged again. "Curiosity mostly," she answered. "I could see he was carrying something heavy, but the way he looked at me and the way he moved were what really caught my attention. He looked like he was up to no good."
"So you followed him, a young woman on her own, followed a strange man whom she believed to be up to no good, into a wood?" There was a note of disbelief in his voice now.
"Yes," Saskia answered simply.
"And yet you don't look stupid. Why did you do it?"
"Saskia shrugged again, knowing he found the habit irritating and hoping to keep him off-balance. "To stop him." Her tone implied this was the obvious answer.
"How? Stanley said you mentioned someone else, a doctor. Doctor who?"
"Just 'the Doctor'," Saskia said.
"And where is this doctor?"
"Out looking for me, by now," Saskia answered.
"But he won't know where to find you," Mr Inglesham observed. "After all, you do not know where you are."
"I may not know our exact location, but it's safe to assume we're not that far from the woods where I met your man. He wouldn't have wanted to carry me very far, and not enough time has passed since we met for him to have taken me any distance in a car." Saskia knew that she had impressed him and would have been amused, if her situation hadn't been so serious, that such a man could be impressed by a little deductive reasoning. "It doesn’t matter where I am, though. The Doctor will find me, and when he does, he'll want to talk to you both, especially your man, to find out what you both know about the sudden death last night of a perfectly healthy woman."
"What woman?" asked Mr Inglesham.
"Last night?" asked Stan simultaneously.
"A cellist named Marie died at the Sheldonian Theatre last night in mysterious circumstances," Saskia said, trying to read two reactions at once. Stanley's was the easiest – he was feeling considerable surprise and some fear too. Mr Inglesham's feelings were more opaque, but a strong feeling of cold anger was uppermost in his mind. He looked at Stanley, a look of cold rage that burned even more intensely than most people's hot anger.
"Outside!" The man's curt tone promised pain, Saskia realised, and felt a momentary pang of pity for the hapless Stanley. Upstairs a door banged, and the voices and boots of two people could be heard entering the house. Stanley and his master went out, the one moving swiftly, the other moving painfully slowly. She wondered what crippled him, and what drove him. The rage and hatred he felt were very intense, but what fuelled them?
She closed her eyes and reached out for the Doctor, wondering if she could find him or if he could sense her when she was still taking Dr Karg's drugs.

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