© Charles Vess 2019
That afternoon a satisfied smile played across John Ravenscroft’s face as he picked up the new dossier that waited on his desk. It faded quickly after thumbing through an extremely thin folder that contained exactly two digitally enhanced pictures of a pleasant-looking young man. Both were taken with his own security cameras. In the first he sat a motorcycle with Janet’s arms wrapped tightly around his waist. They were at the front gate. In the other, the same man was leaping impossibly over the estates fence, all twelve feet of it. Underneath the photos were several text pages with a scant typed profile of a particular family, once prominent in the Highlands named Lynn. Quickly reading through the brief outline, he found that at one time the Lynns had been a very wealthy Highland family, but now their estate was bankrupt and fallen into ruin. The family had indeed produced a son named Thomas who, it seemed, had disappeared over 100 years ago in mysterious circumstances.
Grimly he muttered to himself, “What utter, useless nonsense!”
Immediately Ravenscroft hit the speed dial on his mobile. When the call was answered he hissed at its recipient with formidable rage, “Mr. Mackintosh, am I to understand that you and your team could find nothing on this man?”
“Yes sir. But we’re still looking. We’re hopeful that something will turn up by the end of the afternoon.”
“Hopeful? This afternoon? I see. Am I to be kept waiting an eternity then?”
“Sir, we are going through every database in our network. And hacking into others as well.”
“I should think so, Mr. Mackintosh. It is the future after all. Everyone’s life is an open book if you know how and where to look for it.
“Yes, I am aware of that, sir. We will find him.”
But by that late afternoon deadline when there was still absolutely no record, public or otherwise located anywhere, in any database, on this particular Thomas Lynn, John Ravenscroft began to grow increasingly agitated.
Absently leafing through the short file that contained every known fact about the Lynn family and their runaway son, only served to infuriate him even more.
On the other end of the hallway, Janet balanced a cup of steaming tea in one hand as she stared out her bedroom window. What had become so obvious last night was even more so now that she’d had time to contemplate all the possibilities.
I’m stuck right bloody here for a long, long time.
Too many of those damned monsters prowling around out there past that fence.
Then, for the first time, Janet noticed the purchases that she’d made during yesterday’s abruptly abandoned shopping trip stacked against the back wall of her bedroom. Reluctantly she walked over to what now seemed like a useless vestige of anger directed at her father. But when she opened the first of the boxes and holds a lengthy roll of brightly colored batik fabric out against the sad beige lace canopy of her bed a smile begins to spread across her face.
Okay, if I’m stuck in this damned prison, the least I can do is make it look better.
What else did I get?
From one heavily padded package Janet removed the painting she’d so carefully selected yesterday at one of the galleries on Bank Street. Eagerly, she replaced the dull abstract painting that, except for one brief day, had always hung by her bedside with her new purchase. The canvas was by English artist Brian Froud. It pictured a woman, clothed in an elaborate medieval dress, holding up a mask that obscured her features. Her deep-set eyes stared out through the leaf mask, directly at the viewer, as if questioning the meaning of the world that she looked at. Directly behind the mysterious woman was a lacework of leaves and vines, filled with a multitude of tiny faerie creatures.
I like it almost as much as the painting father stole from me.
Satisfied, Janet walked out into the hall with the old canvas and left it, face against the wall beside her door as if to proclaim her newfound sovereignty.
She let out a subdued whoop when she stepped back into her room, pleased at the transformation that had begun. But a moment later, a sudden flicker of movement outside her window ripped through her giddy mood, sending Janet’s heart pumping into overdrive.
Bloody hell, not here!
Eyes wide with apprehension, Janet braced her hand on a pane of glass and looked down onto the terrace. What she saw there brought relief, of a sort.
Okay, no monsters this time… just father’s private army marching to his orders…
Below her window a half dozen security personnel headed purposefully toward the estate’s garage, and almost immediately after, she heard the roar of vehicles rumbling down the driveway.
My father’s sent them after Tom.
If they find him someone may end up seriously injured… again… because of me… I don’t ever want that to happen again… to anyone.
Unconsciously fingering the delicate pendant hanging from her neck, Janet considered what she could do about it.
After several hours, the scurry of security personnel along the hallway ceased, and Janet cautiously made her way to just outside her father’s office. She used to play this same game when she was much younger so Janet knew that even through the thick oak door, she could hear John Ravenscroft’s raised voice. But this was no longer a childish game.
She shook her head in disbelief as she heard her father run through a very long and very specific list of his chief security officer’s faults. From experience, she knew just how terribly efficient his men were at ferreting out information on anyone they were interested in. But now, after working diligently all night and day to uncover anything about Tom, they had found nothing.
How is that even possible?
Listening to yet another outburst from her father, Janet shook her head and then quietly slipped back down the hall to the relative safety of her own room. His loud, emphatic voice still rang in her ears. “If this Thomas Lynn has the kind of resources at his disposal that make it possible to wipe his identity this clean, then I want him found and brought to me in any condition that leaves him able to answer my questions.
“And Mac, I want that to happen as soon as possible! Do you understand me?”
When Janet finally closed the door to her bedroom she pressed her head against it for a moment, lost in thought
Fuck! Wouldn’t I’d love to hear Tom answer those exact same bloody questions…
Memories of Tom leaping gracefully through the air, deftly trading sword thrusts with the leather-clad man and his creatures played through his thoughts. But most of all, it was the confident smile that seemed so at home on his handsome face that burned itself into her thoughts.
Will I ever see him again?
Because, I don’t think my mysterious Mr. Lynn will be found unless he wants to be.