Fleeing and Eluding: Hammersmith (twenty-eight)
A monumental figure unveiled by dispelling shadow stood, robe and nightcap clad, on the closed porch Hogben remembered. She stood depressing the door-latch…with seemingly itchy fingers and poised-for-action footwork. He had entered Green Glade Lodge in innocence; he was exiting it in aid of a coup d’état.
Mossbunker’s wife spotted Jane’s candle and snuffed it. She did this with a tut-tut, and with naked fingertips, a stage-worthy trick Hogben had seen among le Fontainebleau’s ilk, and wouldn’t himself have dared. A strong moon fell through the panels of glass marking the porch’s outer walls; the greyness in which Hogben and the three women exchanged looks of surmise thus not greatly, for their hostess’s act of bold efficiency, disilluminated.
“Before you go,” Mrs. Mossbunker said to Hogben, “pledge me that you will see your niece home in safety. And answer me this…”
She lifted a hand. That she’d given him two points to address had not escaped Hogben; he’d adjusted his face both to pledge (gallantry demanded it…though he might just have touched on the fact he didn’t know Aimee Bard’s niece from Adam), and to query destination, as to the going. He subsided, at an “ahem” from his inquisitor.
“Your professor,” she said. “Do you call him a man of loyalty? Agreeing to a task, he will carry it out, to the utmost…? Or does he…”
She faltered for the expression. Hogben hazarded: “Sell to the highest bidder? Abandon the whole thing if the going gets sticky?”
“Ah. I understand you. Mr. Curach.”
Curach, there apparently, proved this by nudging his head through the crack of the door. “No worries, ma’am. Le Fontainebleau has only a small role to play…and once done, it will be my pleasure sending him packing.”
He woke from a short-lived trance. Not having time to put on his shoes, Hogben had padded across the Mossbunker back lawn, gathering dew. He’d found himself in damp socks ushered aboard Mossbunker’s own buggy, by Mossbunker’s driver, Biyah Kendrick. Curach was with them, sharing the driver’s seat. Hogben was wedged in the middle, Jane, restless but mute, on his right; Hogben’s rescuer from the flood, Chilly, to his left.
“How you been keeping yourself?” he asked Hogben
“Top notch, sir…and you?” Hogben answered, from reflex.
Fleeing and Eluding
(2017, 2018 Stephanie Foster)