As for Outcast Ops: African Firestorm, I've got the plotting up to Chapter 32, setting the scene for the big finale! Lots of explosions and daring-do in the making!
And now, for the start of Chapter 5 of Merlin's Legacy.
My first look of the estate called Camelot was the tall, stone-gray walls surrounding the grounds.
I followed Donella back into town and then north onto a two-lane road called Bayfront. As soon as we cleared the town, the walls appeared on my right, while the left was thick woods. The walls were ten feet tall, topped with black iron spikes that bent outwards. Several minutes later, Donella slowed and turned right, into a driveway bordered by two large, heavy-looking black iron gates, with closely set bars. I followed Donella through the gates and up a long driveway.
Trees groves and grass bordered the driveway. Near the gate, on my left, a small, single-story house sat, made from the same colored stone the estate’s walls were made from.. A larger building sat next to the house, a barn, from the size of the doors on it. I saw a couple of large dogs in the yard looked up as we passed them, and in the rear-view mirror, I saw them rise to their feet and follow.
A large pond appeared on my left, surrounded by a few trees. Just past the pond, Donella turned right onto another driveway. I followed, and saw a small, near-looking, two-story house, again, made from the same stone as the estate’s wall and the house we’d passed on the way in.
To my left, I could see the Atlantic Ocean. The ground between the driveway and the cliff was the length of a football field, mostly grass and open until it reached a few trees that helped screen the near-constant wind coming off the ocean. Beyond the trees, the rolling whitecaps of the sea water sent up sprays of mist.
The driveway flared out into an area large enough for several cars to park side by side. There were already two cars there. One, like Donella’s was an older Honda, while the other was a late-model Lincoln. I parked next to Donella, who parked next to the Lincoln.
There was a chill in the air as I got out. There was a wind coming in from the ocean, and despite the trees near the cliffs, it cut through my windbreaker as if it wasn't there. Despite the sun, I felt cold.
I followed Donella to the house. The house had a solid permanence to it, but there were a few softening touches, like the well-tended flowerbeds and potted plants. A porch ran along the front and the right side of the house, not as wide as Doc’s but enough for several people to stand together without crowding.
Donella opened a screen door, then a door that looked thick enough to stand in for armor plating. “Aunt Abby!” she called out as she entered. “I’m home and I brought a guest!”
“In the living room, dear!” a female voice called out. I followed Donella into a small, neatly furnished sitting room. With the exception of a big screen TV against one wall and a phone on another wall, the room could have been transported as is from the 1890s. A pair of overstuffed chairs, another pair of love seats, a sideboard, two end tables and a bookcase were the major pieces.
There were two people in the room, sitting on different love seats. One was a woman in the late fifties, early sixties, wearing a purple sweater over an ankle-length skirt. Next to her, a black cat laid curled up in a ball, watching me. Her hair was brown, shot through with gray, done up into a ponytail. Wrinkles around the eyes and corners of her mouth were the only sign of age on her face. Clear brown eyes swept past Donella and locked onto me. She looked me up and down, then smiled. “Hello!" she said. “And who are you?”
“Aunt Abby, this is Roger Merlin, Lucian’s great-nephew,” Donella said, shrugging off her jacket. “Roger, my aunt, Abigail Nesbille.”
The other person turned around and I saw it was Charles Windicott. “Roger!” he exclaimed, getting to his feet. “Are you all right? I ran into Sheriff Walker at the courthouse right before I came out here and told me you’d been attacked!”
“I’m fine,” I replied.
“What happened?” Abby asked.
“Several masked men tried to beat on me when I visited Uncle Lucian’s tomb,” I replied. “I managed to drive them off.”
“Oh, dear!” Abby said, rising to her feet. “Are you all right?”
“A few bruises, but nothing serious. Doc Weatherbee says all I need is a week of rest and to avoid any contact sports.”
"Well, come sit down!” Abby said. “Would you like some tea?”
“Thank you, tea will be fine.” Abby left the room through another doorway. I sat down next to Charlie, while Donella went over to the other love seat, picked up the cat and sat down, with the cat in her lap.
‘Tell me what happened,” Charlie said. “When Sheriff Walker told me what happened, he didn't go into any details.” I gave him the same basic story I gave the sheriff and Donella. He sank back into his seat and shook his head. “My god,” he whispered. “I never realized how much trouble you’d been in.” “Somebody doesn't want me up here,” I said.
“Do you want to postpone the night at the main house?” Charlie asked.
“No,” I replied. “I’m not about to throw in the towel. I’ll go through with the stay tonight, as planned.” “Good!’ Charlie said.
The cat hopped off Donella’s lap and onto the floor. It padded over to me and I reached down to present my hand to it. It sniffed my hand, then sat down and looked at me. I looked back. The cat’s eyes were large, pale yellow, and strangely intelligent.
Donella laughed. “That’s Cachmawri,” she said. “He belong to Lucian, but we've been taking care of him.” I leaned back and tapped my thigh. Cachmawri jumped onto my lap and laid down.
Just then, Abby came back into the room with a tray and collapsible stand. She opened the stand and put the tray on top of it. “Here you go,” she said. “Cream and sugar?” She filled and passed out the teacups, then returned to sit down next to Donella. “Now,” she said, looking at. “Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?”
“Antie,” Donella said in a warning tone. “he’s not a suspect. Be nice.”
“I just want to find out more about him, dear,” Abby said. “Lucian did mention him a few times over the years and I want to know a little more about him.”
“Uncle Lucian mentioned me?” I asked. “He spoke favorably about you several times.”
“I didn't know.”
Donella looked at her aunt. “Neither did I.”
“Lucian and I had coffee many times when you were at work,” Abby replied. “Lucian mentioned his family a few times and Roger in particular. I just wanted to see what sort of man he is.”
Donella frowned, but before she could say anything, I said, “There’s not much to say.” I recited the same background I’d told Donella in the car. She asked a few family questions, mostly about who the members of the family were, making a couple of mistakes that I corrected her on. She moved the conversation onto other subjects, and we spent forty-five minutes talking about local issues. Cachmawri laid on my lap, eyes closed in sleep.
Finally, Charlie looked at his watch. “I think we’d better cut this short,” he said. “I want to show Roger the main house before tonight.”
“Of course,” Abby said, rising to her feet. “But I insist that both you and Roger here come to dinner tonight, and I will not take no for an answer.”
“Turn down one of your dinners?” Charlie said with a smile. “Perish the thought, Abby.” He looked at me. “Roger?”
“I have no plans for dinner,” I said.
“Good!” Abby said, picking up the tray. “Donella, why don’t you go with them? You know the house better then Charlie does.”
“But you need help with dinner!” Donella said.
“Nonsense!” Abby snapped. “I’ll be fine.”
I reached down and scratched Cachmawri’s head. “What about you?” I asked the cat. The cat opened his eyes and looked up at me. He got up slowly, stretched and hopped off, landing on the floor and striding away, tail head high. “I guess that answers that,” I said.