“Lord!” she exclaimed suddenly.
“What is it?”
“My purse. It is still in the corridors of the dig somewhere.”
“It must be—”
“Perhaps the young man found it”
“He didn’t have it when we left the church.”
“Perhaps you didn’t see that he had it. Don’t be afraid. If it were there, most probably, our phone would have rung by now, the police would have found you here. Let us hope it is gone, as I have said. If it is found, you must say that you lost it when you visited the church and the excavation site. You must not let on that you know anything about the murder.”
“This is still wrong, my not reporting what I know. If I could help—”
“You can’t help. Not by going to the police.”
Tara heard Ann’s car in the driveway below. She walked to the windows that looked down on the courtyard.
She turned back. “You mustn’t tell Ann about anything that I have said. She will not believe. She is beautiful and smart and loving—and entirely pig-headed! And I fear ...”
“You fear what?”
“I fear that I can’t keep her from danger. You must watch out for her as well. Never risk yourself, but watch out for your cousin. She is all sense and fact and what the eyes can see, and this will not help us now.”
“Grandpapa, what exactly will help us?”
He closed his eyes. “I have to think... I have to think ... if only the old Alliance were still about We have grown so weak with time, with the horrors of today’s world. Men fight other battles, and they forget...
easy to forget because so few believe, and then again, if they did believe, what would happen would be frightening.”
“Ann is on her way up.”
“You must say nothing.”
“What do you mean, say nothing? She told me this morning that you wanted her to go to the church.”
“Tell her that you went, that is all.”
Ann came up the stairs, hurried into the room, and spoke so quickly herself that Tara wasn’t called upon to say much.
“Did you hear? Dear Lord, I had the radio on while I drove home. I never do, I usually listen to CDs, music, you know, after endless meetings. There’s been a murder. At the church. Something really horrible, someone broke in, apparently stole the contents of a coffin including the corpse, and murdered one of the workers. Horribly. The man was decapitated!”
“We heard,” Jacques said, shaking his head.
“Tara, did you go there today?”
“It makes me shiver, just to think of it! My God, you must have seen the poor man who was killed!
Were they working when you went?”
“Yes, I suppose I did see him. But the workers ignored me, mainly. I struck up a conversation with the professor running the dig.”
“Dubois,” Ann said, rolling her eyes.
“Do you know him?”
“I’ve met him. He is a wild-eyed fanatic with wild hands as well. Hm. At least now, he will be stopped.
And they will hold up the excavations, so that will please you, won’t it, Grandpapa?”
“This is all on the news already,” Jacques murmured.
“Well, yes, of course. A terrible murder was discovered. The one coworker discovered the other and went to the police. Of course, he is under suspicion. They don’t say so on the news, but he must be. It was just him, and the dead man, who remained at the excavation.”
“I wonder,” Jacques murmured.
“You wonder what?” Ann said.
“I wonder if Dubois was really gone. Have they spoken to him since this happened?”
“He was called, according to the report I heard. He was shocked when he spoke to authorities, having been interrupted at his dinner after a long day. And, of course, he was deeply dismayed, but it didn’t sound as if he was as dismayed about the worker as he was that his dig would be halted. But I certainly don’t think he was guilty of killing his own worker. Nothing in the world meant more to him than that dig.
He is disturbed because his great scientific work will be held up by crime scene detectives.” She looked at Tara. “You’re all right? The fact that you were even there today gives me shivers. I’m bringing Eleanora in from the stable tonight She will sleep in the hall.” Ann paused and shivered again. “This is horrible. Horrible. Such a brutal murder to have taken place so close to us!”
“There is an alarm on the chateau,” Jacques reminded her.
“Of course, Grandpapa. I’m not a silly little chicken. It’s just unnerving.”
“Very unnerving,” Jacques agreed.
Ann frowned suddenly. “You look exhausted, Grandpapa.” She looked at Tara, as if her cousin’s arrival and time this late with their grandfather was foolish and discourteous and Tara certainly should have known it
“I’m fine. But I will sleep now. And Ann, you are not a foolish little chicken—you must bring the dog in, and, of course, you must see that the alarm is carefully set And as I have been telling Tara, we must not invite any strangers into this house. You understand that? We mustn’t invite any strangers in.”
“Of course not,” Ann said. “We’ll leave you now to sleep.”
She kissed him on both cheeks, and Tara did the same. His eyes caught hers, and in them, there was a look of pleading along with determination.
“Bonne nuit, Grandpapa,” she said softly.
They started out of the room. He called after them.
“If there is trouble ever, of any kind, you must call me. I mean it. I fought in the Resistance, you will remember. And I may be old, but there’s nothing wrong with my aim.”
“Of course, Grandpapa,” Ann said.
They stepped out of the room. Ann closed the door behind them. “You have to learn, Tara, how easily he tires,” she said reproachfully.
“I just got home, and have been with him only a few minutes,” Tara said. “But don’t worry, I adore him, too, and intend to be very careful.”
“It must be this shocking news that has so upset him,” Ann said. She shivered again. “When I heard on the radio ... my skin just seemed to crawl! Oh, Tara, I should have a wonderful dinner and sit down and be chatty, but I am so tired. I was thinking of a very large drink in the bathtub, and then bed. Would you mind? I know that I had suggested going out tonight, but the day was so chaotic, I ran so late, and then hearing about the murder ...”
“Go to bed. I’m exhausted as well. I never got to sleep because Grandpapa wanted me to go to the church.”
“If you had arrived tomorrow, it would have been too late.”
“Yes, well, I arrived today,” Tara said ruefully. “Go to bed, get your rest. I’m off to my room as well.”
“I’m just going down for the dog. Eleanora is a shepherd, huge, and loyal, and so trustworthy!”
“Good night, then.”
Tara kissed her cousin on both cheeks, and headed for her room. Once inside, she sat down at the foot of the bed. She felt numb. The worker had been beheaded.
Sweat broke out on her palms. She had been there when it happened.
She stood, trying to shake off the mantle of fear that seemed to tighten around her as she sat. She walked to the French doors that led out to the balcony and opened them to the night breeze.
Her room was to the right of her grandfather’s, while Ann’s room was to the left—all three of them overlooked the front of the house with the drive and the entrance to the stable to the right when she was looking down.
There were no stars in the sky, and the moon was but half full. The chill of the coming fall suddenly seemed great She looked from the sky to the stable, wondering if she had the energy to go and give Eleanora a welcoming pat.
She heard a strange sound.
A baying. Fear seemed to clasp chilled wet fingers around her heart again.
A dog. It had been nothing but a dog.
And there it was. Down below, at the end of the drive. Eleanora?
The animal was huge. She heard the baying again. Deep, and otherworldly. A haunting sound that might have come from an entire pack of deep-throated animals, crying to the night and the heavens above.
She leaned over the balcony. It was not Eleanora. It was not a shepherd.
It was a wolf. And a wolf as large as a horse, so it seemed.
There were no wolves here, just outside of Paris, she told herself. And she blinked. Hard.
The wolf remained.
And once again, the night was split with the unearthly sound of the creature crying out to the moon and the sky.
She withdrew, standing in the doorway, away from the balcony. She closed her eyes, wishing that the sound didn’t seem to tear into her soul, and bring such a premonition of danger and fear.
A man had died. A horrible death. And she had been there, down in the darkness of ancient corridors that belonged to the dead. Naturally, she was frightened. And it wasn’t at all usual to see a wolf in the driveway . . .
She opened her eyes. The wolf was gone.
Neither did she see Ann, securing Eleanora.
Tara hesitated for a moment, then suddenly heard a whinnying and thudding from the stables. She turned, ready to hurry down. Across the room, she realized that she had left the balcony door open.
She often left it open when she stayed at the chateau.
For a moment she stood there, watching the breeze touch the draperies. The feeling was soft, cool, seductive, but the chill was giving her goose bumps. She walked purposely back, closed and locked the doors to the balcony and then hurried downstairs.
There was no one about. But the front door wasn’t locked, and she assumed Ann had to be outside, looking for the dog.
Old Daniel was still whinnying. It was very strange, because he was the most placid animal in the world.
Something had to be disturbing the horse.
She hesitated, afraid to step outside.
Ann had to be out here somewhere.