Hereward Savnake took the train to go and stay with his grandmother. It was quite a complicated trip with a number of changes that oddly avoided any of the convenient express trains that could have shortened his journey. Unfortunately his connections weren’t guaranteed ones and so the trip took longer than he had hoped for. By the time he knocked on the front door of his grandmother’s townhouse on New York Boulevard it was the middle of the afternoon and he was glad of the shade trees lining the street. The business suit may, he was prepared to admit, have been a mistake but he had expected to arrive during the morning peak hour and hadn’t wanted to stand out.
His train of thought was interrupted by opening of the front door of the townhouse and his surprise at who had opened it.
The miniature mob cap perched on top of her head brought her height up to his. The white cap was perched between two chocolate-coloured feline ears while the hair underneath it was the same colour as the fur on the ears and cut with a fringe at the front with the rest pulled back into a neat bun. Her face was light skinned and fur free with the only feline feature being her slit pupils. The rest of her, clad in a white apron over a black dress and shod in sensible black shoes, appeared human, except for the chocolate brown tail. That tail appeared alert and interested, but not agitated, curving up into the air behind her so he could see the tip of it behind her shoulder.
“Good afternoon, sir. May I help you?” The voice gave him much the same information as the tail had and it contained no hint of feline pronunciation.
“Good afternoon, I’m Hereward Savnake, come to visit my grandmother.” He doffed his hat politely. “I have come to the right house, haven’t I?” His mother hadn’t said anything about Grandma having employed a maid. A housekeeper/cook had been mentioned, but not a maid.
The maid smiled warmly. “Master Hereward, please come in. You are expected, of course. Your grandmother will be pleased to see you.” She stepped back to let him into the house and then closed the door quietly behind him. “I’ll take you in to your grandmother, sir. If you’d like to leave your bag here, I can take it up to your room while you’re with her.”
“Thank you.” Hereward left his suitcase next to the wall and followed the maid down the hallway towards the back of the house. He was glad she hadn’t kept calling him ‘Master Hereward,’ that made it sound like he was still a kid.
They walked the length of the house, past the sitting room, dining room and kitchen, and out to a shaded and tiled area at the back of the house where his grandmother sat on a wrought iron garden chair drinking tea and reading a book. The maid cleared her throat and said, “Master Hereward, madam.”
The white haired woman at the table put down her book as she looked up, “Hereward,” she smiled. “It’s good to see you here in one piece. I was beginning to get worried. Drusilla, please take Hereward’s hat, then bring us another teacup.” She turned her attention to Hereward again, “Have you eaten, dear?”
“I was able to grab some lunch at Mont Cliff, thank you.” Hereward handed his hat to the maid, Drusilla, with a smile then watched the charming picture she made leaving the room.
“Hereward,” his grandmother’s voice didn’t snap but it did demand attention, “it’s hard enough finding people who want to work as domestic servants these days. Don’t go…making advances that might make Drusilla feel that she can’t continue working here.”
“Don’t worry, Grandma,” he walked over to the table and leant down to kiss her cheek, “I’m not George, James or Mick.”
“I know dear,” she patted him on the hand as he sat down and he was sure he didn’t imagine the touch of regret in her voice. Then she asked brightly, “So, Hereward, how’s the accounting business these days?”
“Forensic accounting, Grandma,” he gently corrected, “and it’s going quite well, thank you.”
“Ah,” was all she could think to say.
After Drusilla had returned with a teacup and saucer then gone back into the house Hereward, remembering an almost recent scandal, asked quietly, “Did she choose to have that work done to her or…?”
“I had the same concerns when I first met her,” his grandmother replied equally quietly as she poured him tea, “but no, the work was done on two of her great grandmothers back when people thought that sort of thing was fun for themselves and others. Her sisters have it too, I’ve seen pictures.”
Later that night, after dinner and cards with his grandmother, hours after he’d fallen asleep in the front guest bedroom, Hereward woke with a start. There was movement inside the house. Listening now as he lay in his bed he could hear the sounds of someone negotiating the hallway on his floor without knowing where the side tables were. The cook and the maid both slept upstairs. His grandmother slept down one floor from him. There was no-one else on this floor, so whoever he heard was definitely an intruder. He sighed. This was just the scenario he’d been trying to avoid by coming here. He rolled over on his side and pulled the pistol out from under his pillow as he got out of bed. Putting his dressing gown and slippers on while holding the weapon in one hand was something he’d actually practised so it was only a matter of moments before he slipped out of his bedroom, armed with a loaded handgun and decently clad.
The intruder, whom he could see in the pale green light from the smoke detector, was trying the door to the floor’s side bedroom when Hereward said, “Hands up in the air without any sudden movements, thank you.”
The man had turned his head to look at Hereward when he gave a quiet grunt and slid to the ground. Hereward found himself pointing his weapon instead at Drusilla who had her hair in a braid and was wearing some sort of knit shorts and top. He wondered briefly and irrelevantly how that worked with her tail.
“Could you please not point that thing at me?” Drusilla was looking at him like he had two heads. “I thought your grandmother said you’re an accountant.”
“A forensic accountant,” Hereward corrected, “and what about you?” He gestured at the man on the floor with his empty non-dominant hand.
“I’m your grandmother’s bodyguard, not just her housemaid,” Drusilla looked tense. “Her former employer, my current employer, has reason to be concerned for her. So, that’s a government-issue service weapon, isn’t it? Just who do you do forensic accounting for?”
“The Tax Office. Does my grandmother know you have two roles?” He lowered the weapon and used its decocking lever.
“I think so, after all my boss did recommend me to her, but sometimes I’m not sure. Since when does the Tax Office issue guns?” She paused for a moment and said, “You’re not in Taxpayer Services, are you?”
“That’s right, Criminal Investigations.”
“Could you have shot him with that thing? Could you shoot someone?” She was looking at him with interest while pulling restraints out of her shorts’ pocket.
“Why? What happened?”
“Some people take being audited very badly.”