Sunday was spent compiling lists – the one Pythia had ordered on target companies, and the one created by the Z Corp couriers. She sent both, along with the revised version of her default CV to Pythia and closed the computer.
Monday, Calypso bundled up computer and notes and moved camp next door for the day.
Cynthia arrived, on time, just before lunch, gushed all over Herne, was plastically pleasant to Calypso and steered well clear of the dogs.
She settled at the kitchen table, opposite Calypso and pulled a glossy folder out of her bag. “Now, here are some of the places I have on the books right now. We can go through them and see what would suit you, your dogs and, um, Albert. Is he your cat?”
Calypso choked. “You know, I never even thought of that spelling.”
Cynthia looked confused, Herne explained. “Owlbert is an owl, his name is a rather juvenile pun.”
“You have a pet owl? Oh how lovely. Is he one of those ones with the sweet, flat, white faces?”
“A barn owl? No. He’s an Eurasian eagle-owl. Calypso, is he lovely?”
“I think he is, but then I’m a little biased.”
Herne grinned and turned to Cynthia. “Owlbert is very taken with Calypso, has been since before we properly met.”
He put the tea he’d been making in front of Cynthia, grabbed the other two mugs and took a seat next to Calypso, adding their teas to the defensive barrier of table and computer.
Cynthia cleared her throat, lips pinched, and returned to her folder.
They started going through the houses, discussing locations, layouts, ages, gardens and more.
When they got to the end of the list, with three options set aside for an actual visit, Calypso asked. “Who owns Wildwood Grange now?”
Cynthia shot her a sharp look. “How do you know Wildwood?”
“I spent a large part of my childhood in this area and remember going there a few times.”
“Liked it did you?”
Cynthia sat back, eyeing her thoughtfully. “Old Mr Green is still there. His family keep pushing him to sell and move north with them but he says it has to go to someone who will understand it or some such thing. You might just get us through the door. What’s your surname?”
“Titan. My father used to own the house next door to here.”
Cynthia made some notes then began packing things away. “Well I think we’ve made a good start and I’ll be in touch on times to take a look at the houses you flagged, as well as any news I can get on Wildwood. Are there any days you prefer?”
Herne and Calypso looked at each other. Herne asked. “When are you due back in London again?”
He turned back to Cynthia. “Any time before Saturday then.”
“Hmmm, I can probably arrange times for the first three in the next few days but Wildwood is more of a challenge. I’ll let you know.”
The three of them stood and Calypso offered her hand across the table. “Thank you so much. I appreciate the work you’re putting in and the idea of even just seeing Wildwood again is wonderful.”
Cynthia’s handshake was a little warmer and firmer this time and she waved in a friendly sort of way as Herne showed her out of the house.
He returned to the kitchen. “Thanks for that. I’m intrigued by this Wildwood Grange place though. What can you tell me?”
Calypso had taken a quick look at her inbox though. “Can I just see what Pythia’s sent me and then tell you about it?”
“Of course. I can even hold my curiosity for a couple of hours and get on with that help I promised.”
The email was sparse; her CV was ‘fine’, the lists were ‘a good start’ and she needed to get into writing her introductory emails.
Herne was as good as his word, running through her lists of companies and adding his own ideas and comments, then subjecting her to a mock interview over lunch that had her head spinning.
“That was awful.”
Herne grinned. “You did well. That was me dredging up the worst of the worst that I’ve ever been hit with or heard about. Do you want to go through any more questions?”
“No, I’m wiped and I still owe you a description of Wildwood. I can’t believe how patient you’ve been.”
“I’m a veterinarian. When you’re dealing with animals, you need to learn a little bit of zen. Although I find I need it more dealing with the owners than the creatures.”
They moved around the kitchen clearing away food and plates, then retreated to the wide, light sitting room looking out over the back garden. Calypso sat on one of the sofas and wondered where to start.
“Wildwood Grange is one of the older houses in the area. Not as fancy as The Big House or Oak Hill but as much one of the local touchstones as they are. Most of that may be to do with Mr Green. He’s been there as long as I can remember and carries a great deal of weight in local discussions. It’s strange to think of the area without him holding court up on the hill.”
“Summoned a few times were you?”
The Summons, surely it had already been and gone? She gave herself a mental shake and moved on. “Yes. The Midsummer Party was always held there and my father managed to get in well enough with some of the locals to be invited. I used to get bored of all the grown-up talk and Mr Green would call one of his dogs and send it with me in to the Wildwood to hunt for treasure. I’d always come back with some little knick-knack he’d hidden for me.”
She huffed a laugh. “Of course I’d then get a telling-off from my father for spoiling my clothes but I always felt the adventure was worth it.”
“So there is a wood there?”
“Oh yes, you’ll know it. If you’ve done the walk across the valley and into the old wood there, you’ll come up on an old wooden fence near the top of the hill. That’s one of the side boundaries.”
“It sounds like a large property.”
“Oh, I didn’t really think of that, stupid of me. It’s probably going to be horrendously expensive.”
Herne frowned. “Don’t pull yourself down. Remember, Cynthia knows my price range and she didn’t bat an eyelid when you asked about it. Other than the ‘not being able to get in there’ bit.”
She smiled at that and cast her mind back to find anything else that might be of use. “I don’t remember ever spending time in the house. I’ve been through it of course, but the gatherings were always in the garden and the weather always seemed to behave. There’s a large open area at the back that Mr Green called the wildflower meadow. He didn’t hold with lawns, although he did love flowers and herbs. Things that were useful, or beautiful, or both, he said. So the area leading to the meadow was always a mass of blooms and scents with little gravel paths running between them. I got lost in them the first couple of times, before I grew tall enough to see over the plants.”
“You are going to come with me to see these places aren’t you?”
Calypso paused. “I’m only down for the week.”
“So you’ll look at the ones that she can organise for this week at least?”
“If you want.”
“I do. I’d like your opinion on them. And let’s see what happens with Wildwood.”