She Shoots to Conquer
driven to the edge of reason by a frenzied desire to rend a pork roast limb from limb?
    “Ben makes superb omelets,” I said.
    My beloved had eyes for me once more. “Would you like one, sweetheart?” he asked tenderly.
    “Well, yes—I would rather. If you can find a mixing bowl and utensils to sanitize and a pan could be radiated.” I broke off when the door opened to reveal Lord Belfrey and Mrs. Malloy, and all thought fled at the sight of her smug smile. His lordship’s expression was that of the concerned host. He said he was pleased to see that we had met Georges LeBois and explained that Dr. Rowley had spoken with him, expressed relief that I hadn’t seriously injured myself, and hoped I would pass a comfortable night in the bedroom that was ready for me.
    “Is it the room that was to have been Suzanne Varney’s?” I asked. Somehow I hated the idea. I pictured her setting out on her journey to Mucklesfeld, a pretty woman, so Tommy had said, not all that much older at forty-five than myself. Had she been excited? Nervous?
    “Not that one,” Lord Belfrey assured me, “but I’m afraidthere weren’t many to choose from. What were the family apartments and the nursery wings are in a bad state of disrepair, which leaves the servants’ quarters. Small rooms with space only for single beds.” He looked questioningly from me to Ben, who said it wouldn’t bother him to sleep on the floor. Of course I wouldn’t let him do that; we could squeeze cozily in together. Even as I thought it, I knew he wouldn’t agree to that. He’d insist that I get an undisturbed night’s sleep.
    His lordship provided an alternative. “The room I picked has a cubbyhole attached that has a small window. I had Plunket set up a bed in there, and I think you may be quite comfortable despite the rather tight squeeze, Mr. Haskell.”
    “Ben. This is very good of your lordship.”
    “My pleasure. Shall I show you both the way?”
    “Who’d have thought when we set off in the car, Mr. and Mrs. H, that we was in for such an adventure?” Mrs. Malloy fluttered her false lashes, attempting to look soulful, but merely looking as though she had something in her eye.
    “I’d like my next adventure to be that omelet we were talking about.” Georges LeBois spun his wheelchair in a circle and brought it back to face Lord Belfrey. “You do know this man’s a chef, Aubrey?”
    “Plunket told me.”
    “Manna from heaven, my dear fellow. Do what it takes to keep him here. Choose him as your bride! Now that would be a reality show!”
    His lordship smiled and Ben did not. What had happened to my beloved’s sense of humor? My headache was coming back full force. I barely restrained myself from snapping at Mrs. Malloy when she suggested accompanying us.
    Lord Belfrey eased the moment by encouraging her to stay and get acquainted with Georges. After a momentary pout, she set her face back to rights and waved me off as if watching a liner shift away from the quay to carry me to parts unknown. Which was the truth of the matter in the small scheme of things. Icebergs andsqualls might not await, but as we followed Lord Belfrey down a corridor and up a flight of angular stone steps, I did have the feeling we were entering alien and possibly hostile territory.
    Ben’s muttering “Damn!” (for want of a worse word) upon stumbling in the ubiquitous half-light didn’t help my increasing feeling that Mucklesfeld Manor did not embrace a visitor with promises of warm and fuzzy delights to come. His lordship flipped light switches with efficient speed, but a candle would probably have worked better. Several more passageways and series of steps loomed. I felt rather like a piece being shuffled forward on the board of Snakes and Ladders—always in danger of shooting precipitously back down to the bottom and having to start the whole business over again. His lordship turned every dozen paces to make sure that we were comfortably keeping up with

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