Enter the Darkness
Chapter 6: Confrontations and Confidences
The rest of the vacation went almost normally. That night, after the others went to bed, I got up to see if I couldn't get some milk from the kitchen since I couldn't sleep. Eoin hadn't had a chance to talk to me the rest of the night. Aunt Sabrine and the other kids were around and I was getting a little worried, hence my insomnia.
As I approached the kitchen, I heard noises and when I turned the corner the light was on. "Join me, Alexandra," Eoin said from down the hall. It was he who was making the noises.
Instead of tensing, I relaxed, walking into the kitchen and sitting down on one of the stools drawn up around the island counter in the center of the big preparation area. The servants usually ate there and I joined them more than once during the rest of our time there. It was more comfortable and I was uneasy around Eoin's mother, who lorded over most meals in the house.
He was drinking milk and he poured me a glass, though why he had two glasses I did not quite grasp at that time. "So, Alexandra ... knife-fighting?" he began, an eyebrow quirked and his eyes twinkling.
I simply shrugged. "My dad knows a Filipino style and he began teaching me a few weeks ago, after I got my cast off, so I could take care of myself while I was over here," I replied. Then my promise to keep the knives secret floated back up from my memory and I became anxious. "But you can't tell anyone else! I promised my dad to keep it a secret and not to play with them."
He nodded gravely and then looked at my robe. "Do you carry them everywhere?" Blushing, I nodded and withdrew my hand from the pocket of my robe. His eyebrows rose again, interest plain on his face. "May I? This is a lovely poniard. A good choice for a walk to the kitchen in the middle of the ... uh-oh!" Eoin's said, his eyes locked on a spot behind me.
I turned and saw Aunt Sabrine, wrapped in a long, fluffy robe, her face almost as white as the cotton. "What the hell are you two doing? Eoin? Alexandra? One of you had better begin explaining! What are you doing with that knife?"
"Aunt Sabrine ... I ... um-" I was at a loss for words. Through most of my life I have had the ability to make up plausible stories on the spot, but not then and there.
Eoin, however, was a politician and was trained to think fast on his feet. Plus he knew more about my story than I was aware he was aware of at that moment. "Join us, Sabrine, dear," he said smoothly, making the knife disappear and rising to get another glass for her.
My aunt's eyes were on fire and she should have been breathing smoke the way her nostrils were flaring. "Did you give her that thing?" Aunt Sabrine demanded, walking over to the counter. "Answer me, Eoin!"
"It is mine, Aunt Sabrine," I said before Eoin could open his mouth. Eoin frowned, as if disappointed I robbed him of a chance to charm his way out of this mess. My aunt, on the other hand, seemed to deflate a bit. "Dad gave them to me before I left Virginia. I wasn't supposed to show them to anybody."
The fires went out in her eyes and she seemed to deflate a bit more. "Then why are you showing it ... wait! Did you say them? How many are there? And how did you get them through security at the airport?"
"Yes. Eight. They stayed in a special case in my suitcase until we got here."
"You haven't been taking them out of the house, have you?"
My look went from guilty to incredulous without my thinking. I shot my aunt an are-you-stupid look. "Why would daddy give me knives and teach me how to use them to protect myself and then have me leave them in my bags when I leave the safety of the house? Of course I have been taking them out of the house! I don't go anywhere without them."
Aunt Sabrine seemed to be having a hard time with this. Her mouth opened and closed a couple of times without making sound. Then, "What is going through your father's brain? You are barely ten years old! How could he let you do this?"
The rest of the conversation went nowhere. Eoin suggested that we all go back to bed and talk about it in the morning. He slipped me the poniard and I drank my milk and went back to bed. I heard Eoin talking to my aunt all the way back to her room.
There was very little in the way of talking done the next day at breakfast. My aunt sat at the table, eating in a frosty silence as the rest of us whispered every now and then. When Eoin's mother arrived to take the ladies away for another afternoon of lady-like pursuits, I was forced to go along with the old noblewoman, Janine, Anika, and Mickey while Aunt Sabrine stayed behind with Eoin and William. The look I saw on her face before I turned the corner was not friendly. It had not changed much by the time we got back that evening.
We did the tourist thing the next day and Aunt Sabrine was still a little frosty when she spoke to Eoin. We saw Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, the Parliament building, Hyde Park, and several museums. I was enjoying myself immensely in the last museum when I felt an odd sensation along the back of my neck. Looking around, I noticed several young men I recognized from Trafalgar Square that morning. They all wore long-sleeved shirts over their lighter summer shirts like me. Eoin apparently noticed them as well because he hustled us back to his house shortly thereafter.
I was lying in bed, talking quietly with Mickey and looking over the fancy, miniature sabre letter opener I bought daddy, when one of the maids knocked on the door and entered. She bobbed apologetically. "Beggin' your pardon, but Lord Spencer 'as your da on the telephone. 'e says to please 'urry, as it's all the way from America."
I glanced apologetically at Mickey and bolted out of bed. I struggled into by robe while the maid led me to Eoin's study on the first floor. I was surprised to see Aunt Sabrine there and she was looking more relaxed than she had in a couple of days. She even smiled warmly at me when I walked in. I was even more surprised to see Eoin behind his desk with the phone to his ear, talking to daddy.
"No, no. I was my pleasure. Even my son says she has great talent, and he will wind up being quite a bit better than myself. Yes, I am. I am hoping we all might see him in the Olympics some day. Yes. Ah, here she is. It was pleasant speaking with you, sir, and I hope you give that thing we discussed some thought. And don't forget about my offer should the need arise. Here is Alexandra."
And with that intriguing string of conversation, Eoin handed me the phone with a smile. "Hello, daddy. I miss you," I said, a little catch closing my throat for a second. I swallowed and cleared my throat and then went into a long description of what we had been doing.
"So you are having fun, pumpkin?" he asked when I ran out of things to tell him.
"Oh, yes, daddy!"
I heard him chuckle a little. "That's good. I just wanted to see how you were doing and Mr. Spencer wanted me to let you know that it is all right to accept the gift he is going to be giving you. I want you to carry it with you whenever you are out. Mr. Spencer will explain it to you when he gives it to you. Understand, pumpkin?"
"Yeah, dad, I guess," I told him dubiously, rather confused about the serious tone to his voice, as if he was trying to explain how to disarm a bomb and wanted to be absolutely sure I understood the directions before trying.
"Good. I miss you, Alexa," he told me softly. I could almost see the sad expression on his face and the woebegone smile. "I will see you next week."
"Goodnight, daddy. I love you."
"I love you, too, pumpkin."
The rest of our time was spent in doing the typical tourist things. We saw all the sights, everything from Windsor Palace and Westminster Abbey to day trips to see stuff like Stonehenge and Hadrian's Wall. It was probably the best summer I had in my entire childhood. The night before we were to go back to the United States was spent in packing. I was just about finished when Eoin came into my room with a couple of wrapped presents. One he gave to Mickey and the other he gave to me. I sat on my bed and examined the package.
"Oh, Mickey," he said before I could open mine, "Sabrine wishes to speak with you in your sister's room." Mickey left with a puzzled look on her face as she concentrated on opening the gift and walking at the same time.
I opened my present and was surprised to see two sheathed knives inside. "Thank you, sir, but don't I have enough knives? Why would my daddy want me to have more?"
Eoin smiled and sat down on the bed next to me. "These knives are specially made, Alexa, dear," he told me, taking one of them from its sheath with an odd slither sound. It was a glassy black with strange geometric patterns on the hilt and sheaths. "I know a strange old Irishman who specialized in weaponry in the Irish Army. He now owns his own company. I contacted him about you when I discovered you are a little deeper in trouble than your aunt told me about. He called some people and they told him a few things that I have since passed on to your father. I also asked the Irishman to craft a couple of knives that you can carry anywhere, even through airport security. Your dad and I want you to wear these when you are going to be going somewhere you can't wear your other ones."
"Somewhere like airports?"
He smiled and nodded, giving me a quick hug. "Precisely."
"Thank you," I said simply. "For the knives ... and for everything."
The trip home was a little depressing. I really enjoyed myself in London and I really liked Eoin and William. At the airport, after Janine and everybody had said good-bye and went through the metal detectors, Eoin gave me another hug and whispered in my ear, "If you ever need anything, anything at all, you can call me or have your aunt call me. You have the friendship of Eoin, Lord Spencer, Alexandra McKiernan." And then he let me go with a sad smile.
I thought about what he said all through the flight back to JFK, and for many years after that, and it was only when I truly did need the friendship of someone with Lord Spencer's connections that I began wondering when he knew I was going to be in trouble. The kind of trouble only government connections can get you out of.
But that was not apparent then, as I got off the plane at JFK in New York City. Aunt Sabrine and the kids decided they would walk me to my gate and wait with me until my plane boarded. That gave us two hours to go get their luggage from baggage claim and eat something near the concourse. Then they walked me up to my gate and waited until they announced the pre-boarding for the elderly, handicapped, and unaccompanied children. They all gave me a hug, even Jacob, and I went on my way back to the slum that was Washington, D. C.
Daddy met me at the gate at Dulles. As soon as I saw him I went flying across the waiting area and I leapt into his arms, crying. I hadn't realized how much I missed him until I saw him standing there, watching all of the people stream off the plane, looking for me. I felt something wet land I my hair and I realized daddy had missed me as much, if not more, than I had missed him. He wasn't quite ready to let me grow up.