In front of the Smythewood mansion, Angus got out of the truck with Amanda. Two eyes beneath a red and black Elmer Fudd cap gazed at them from a nearby field. They belonged to man wearing a jacket that matched his hat, plus a green reflective vest. He plodded across the parking area toward them. Angus felt Amanda’s fingers clamp onto his wrist. The man had a rifle crooked over one arm. He had a vacant look in his eyes. Angus frowned. Was he one of Wayne Osler’s security crew? The man nodded his grizzled face toward them, then turned toward the idling truck.
Angus stood with Amanda, watching the stranger. Big Jim rolled his window down and introduced himself. Angus couldn’t make out the man’s reply. His voice came from somewhere up in the roof of his mouth, perhaps the nasal cavity. He spoke no faster than he walked. Big Jim repeated almost everything he said over the sound of the engine. Angus gathered that his name was Bud Edwards and that he was the Smythewood groundskeeper.
Angus took Amanda’s hand. “May as well go inside. They’ll probably talk for hours about hunting.”
“I don’t like that guy.”
“Because of the gun?”
“No. I’m used to guns. He’s leering at me.”
Angus shrugged and led Amanda toward the mansion. Before they reached the top of the steps, Sharol emerged from the front door. She smiled at Angus and he smiled back. He stood there for a few seconds, Amanda’s hand in his, looking at Sharol. She wore black slacks and a purple turtleneck sweater. Her blonde hair gleamed in the sunlight. She looked more beautiful than the other day, when the late-afternoon sunlight streamed into her office. She had on glistening pink lipstick. She was luminous. Angus had never seen a girl—a woman—with such a visible field of light surrounding her.
“Hello Amanda, Angus.”
They shook hands with Sharol and stepped inside.
Sharol looked out at the truck and waved. “Don’t be shy, Jim. Come in for a minute.”
“Righto.” Angus heard the truck engine shut down and the door slam shut.
“Erin’s getting our horses ready.” Sharol pointed to a green building a quarter mile away down a winding road. “We’ll go down to the stables in a few minutes.”
Angus and Amanda slipped off their boots. Big Jim came in behind them and closed the door.
“Welcome to the Smythewood residence.” Sharol curtsied and effected a gentrified British accent. “It’s a little big to be called a house, but too small to be a mansion.” She laughed. Angus felt her fingers touch his shoulder. She pointed to a doorway off the front hall to the right. “I want to show you Colonel Smythe’s billiards room. It was his favourite part of the house and has never been modernized.”
Angus took Amanda’s hand and followed Sharol into the room. Sunlight cast a grid pattern of shadows from multi-pane windows onto the hardwood floor. The aroma of varnished wood panels permeated the air. Amanda’s fingers slipped away when Angus stopped by a coal fireplace—what else, in Sharol’s house? He felt enveloped by its warmth. A wall clock to his left ticked the seconds away. He read the gold leaf lettering emblazoned across its glass: Standard Time. Grand Trunk Railway. In its day, the clock’s regularity had reinforced the notion that all was right in the world. On the other hand, it had signified adventure, partings, and journeys to places unknown.