SE­RIAL The Mys­tery Of Anna Grace by Louise Mcivor

If only Char­lie could find out what hap­pened to the miss­ing jour­nals

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ON Sun­day af­ter­noon, Char­lie tried to put all thoughts of Robin and Har­riet to the back of her mind.

She rang her mother, giv­ing her an edited ver­sion of life at Anna Grace, omit­ting any mention of her re­cent feel­ings for Robin, as she didn’t want her mother to worry that she was on the verge of an­other un­wise ro­mance.

“What are you do­ing with your time off?” her mother asked.

Char­lie ex­plained about the project to re­search Anna Gray­stone and her frus­tra­tion over the gaps in the di­aries.

“That sounds right up your street,” her mum said. “Why not treat Anna’s life as you used to treat your re­search projects at uni? Go to the li­brary to see if you can un­cover any­thing else.

“Talk­ing of lost things, did you ever think that guests might have taken things over the years? It used to hap­pen in ho­tels all the time, when folk made off with tow­els, bathrobes and all sorts.”

“You’re a ge­nius, Mum,” Char­lie told her.

“And don’t work too hard,” her mother warned be­fore she rang off.

On Wed­nes­day af­ter work, Char­lie drove into town to in­ves­ti­gate the li­brary.

“We close at seven,” the li­brar­ian in­formed her.

“Thanks,” Char­lie said, then ex­plained what she

was look­ing for.

The li­brar­ian took her to a shelf to­wards the back of the room, where Char­lie se­lected a book called “Coun­try Houses In By­gone Days”.

There was a black and white pic­ture of Anna Grace in about 1950, be­fore the big barn had been built, with a short his­tory.

An­other book in the lo­cal his­tory sec­tion gave the his­tory of the town, rather than of the house.

“I’ll take these, thanks,” Char­lie said, hand­ing over her li­brary card.

Back at the cot­tage, Char­lie pored over the li­brary books.

There was a long sec­tion on John Gray­stone, who would have been Anna’s el­dest son. John seemed to have in­her­ited his mother’s busi­ness brain and warm heart, as the writer of “Coun­try Houses In By­gone Days” noted.

John Gray­stone also dis­tin­guished him­self by his fond­ness for women who were not his wife, it said rather coyly.

She read on. John’s mis­tresses seemed to have caused all sorts of bother, and there were a few il­le­git­i­mate chil­dren as well, which ate into the Anna Grace cof­fers.

Char­lie started to make a few notes in her note­book, but the books were rather shy on facts about Anna her­self, just re­fer­ring to her as the silk weaver’s daugh­ter.

So Char­lie sat down and wrote down ev­ery­thing she knew about Anna Gray­stone. As she wrote her list, she again felt a real con­nec­tion to Anna.

Char­lie had done enough read­ing to know that many women in Anna’s time died dur­ing child­birth, and Anna had hinted that she was ex­pect­ing a fourth child in her jour­nals. How­ever, the lack of a grave was some­thing else.

Anna’s jour­nals so far had made no mention of travel; pos­si­bly the fam­ily had used up all their money, and per­haps all the in­her­i­tance, on the im­prove­ments to the house.

If only she could find out what had hap­pened to the miss­ing jour­nals.

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, Char­lie man­aged to catch Robin as he was com­ing in from work.

“Robin, you know what you were say­ing about lost things? You know, guests ‘bor­row­ing’ stuff over the years? How about I post some­thing like this on the web­site?”

She handed him a print­out of what she had just writ­ten.

We are de­lighted that guests feel at home when they stay. If you have bor­rowed any­thing over the years – such as a book from the li­brary – we would be happy if you would re­turn it. The Anna Grace li­brary is look­ing rather for­lorn.

The nor­mally cau­tious Robin smiled. It wasn’t an ev­ery­day oc­cur­rence and Char­lie thought how hand­some he looked.

“I think you’re a ge­nius,” he said. “Go and post that on the web­site now.”

Over the next few weeks, a wide va­ri­ety of ob­jects came in the post.

“What have we got to­day?” Har­riet asked. To Char­lie’s sur­prise, she had got into the spirit of things.

“Two bone-han­dled but­ter knives and a mono­grammed nap­kin ring,” Char­lie replied.

“What’s the mono­gram?” Har­riet asked. “T.M.,” Char­lie read. “So not fam­ily,” Har­riet said, and Char­lie thought she was go­ing to make a cut­ting re­mark.

“Why don’t you pho­to­graph them and put them on the web­site?” Har­riet sug­gested. “It’s good pub­lic­ity.”

“Good idea,” Char­lie agreed, and be­tween them they ar­ranged all the items that had come in over the last few days, while Char­lie snapped them with her mo­bile phone.

There were call­ers to the house, too. A man, who wouldn’t be per­suaded in for a cup of cof­fee, turned up with a set of golf clubs.

“I think my fa­ther bor­rowed these in the 1970s. He al­ways meant to give them back.”

Other call­ers came to the house with wellies and old coats, most of which were still ser­vice­able enough to be used for the artists’ week­end if the weather turned wet again.

Char­lie got back from town one morn­ing, where she had been hand­ing out fly­ers for the artists’ week­end, to find Kata­rina serv­ing cof­fee and al­mond cake to a cou­ple in the morn­ing room.

“Char­lie, these folk are here for you.”

“How may I help you?” Char­lie said.

“We saw your query on the web­site about bor­rowed stuff and we thought we would drive up. It’s a nice day and . . .”

Char­lie got the im­pres­sion that the cou­ple were em­bar­rassed.

“You’ve kindly brought us some­thing?” she prompted gen­tly.

“Yes!” the wo­man said, breath­ing a sigh of re­lief. “It was my aunt. She never mar­ried and used to stay here all the time. She was al­ways in­ter­ested in books and li­braries, and when she died last year we found these in her things.”

The wo­man handed over a bun­dle of let­ters and pa­pers, neatly pack­aged up in a clear plas­tic folder.

Char­lie took a quick glance at the en­velopes. The stamps were old and the ad­dresses were writ­ten in black ink.

Might this be an­other miss­ing piece in Anna’s story?

“Thank you so much for bring­ing these back. I know Robin Gray­stone will be de­lighted. Per­haps you would be in­ter­ested in hav­ing a tour of the house while you’re here?” she of­fered.

“Oh, yes, we would,” the man said.

Char­lie gave them a quick tour while Kata­rina bun­dled up a few slices of al­mond cake for their jour­ney home. They ran a cake shop and promised to put the fly­ers for the artists’ week­end in their win­dow.

As soon as the cou­ple had left, Char­lie went to find Robin.

“I didn’t want to look at these yet, as they are fam­ily pa­pers, so I thought you should see them first,” Char­lie ex­plained.

Robin was look­ing at some le­gal con­tracts.

“Any­thing would be a wel­come break from this,” he said, tak­ing off his glasses and rub­bing the bridge of his nose. “Let’s have a look, then.

“Well, by the looks of the dates and ad­dresses, they’re old let­ters to Anna,” Robin said af­ter a while. “I’ve got a big meet­ing with a client to­mor­row and he’s a tricky cus­tomer. It means I’ll have to leave these to the week­end. Why not take a snap with your phone and post it on the web­site?”

It was a few days be­fore Char­lie could get any­where near Anna’s jour­nals again.

She had spent a busy morn­ing set­ting up a blog for the web­site, but this had taken longer than ex­pected, ow­ing to Har­riet ve­to­ing ev­ery idea, and only re­lent­ing when Robin ap­proved them.

Even­tu­ally, Char­lie had posted a brief en­try on how Ghillie the cat had got his name.

He was found as a kit­ten shiv­er­ing by the lake. His fas­ci­na­tion with the fish in the lake has never di­min­ished, de­spite this rather trau­matic start, and he can of­ten be found at the wa­ter’s edge, star­ing long­ingly at the dart­ing shapes. As a ghillie is an as­sis­tant to an an­gler, it’s an ap­pro­pri­ate name.

She up­loaded a pic­ture she had just snapped of a sleep­ing Ghillie and linked the blog en­try to so­cial me­dia sites. It was

hardly a com­pre­hen­sive his­tory, but of­ten it was the lit­tle de­tails which piqued peo­ple’s in­ter­est.

She had copied the link to Robin’s e-mail, as he was see­ing his tricky client and was stay­ing overnight in a ho­tel there.

Char­lie was tired and hur­ried back to her cot­tage at half past five, be­fore the phone could ring again.

Kata­rina had given her a big help­ing of shep­herd’s pie, and when she had fin­ished that she made a cup of tea and turned back to Un­cle Tom’s man­u­script of Anna’s jour­nal.

This sec­tion con­tained all sorts of metic­u­lous de­tails and Char­lie was read­ing it in con­junc­tion with the house­hold ledger from the li­brary, which con­tained the ac­counts and de­tails of the ser­vants’ wages.

Anna made economies wher­ever she could, but was gen­er­ous to her ser­vants, while still re­tain­ing her fa­ther’s busi­ness brain.

There was a ref­er­ence to a poor girl from the vil­lage – not yet ten years old

– who was given good boots and a dress so she could go to school. On Satur­days, the lit­tle girl seemed to come up to col­lect eggs and do a few other lit­tle jobs.

Char­lie sus­pected that Anna did this to en­sure that the wee girl got a few good meals and per­haps a bath.

Yet the Anna from the jour­nal was sharp as well. A labourer was dis­missed for be­ing a “good for noth­ing” as Anna was wise enough to see that they could not af­ford to be taken ad­van­tage of.

There were also lines of de­mar­ca­tion, and Anna would make ref­er­ence to wish­ing to change the trades­man who de­liv­ered the fish as Mrs Fan­shawe did not trust him.

There were ref­er­ences to the child Anna was ex­pect­ing, too.

The maid asked if she might let out the waist­band on my dove-grey skirt. My, but she is sharp. I sim­ply asked if she would be able to do it next week. I still have two dresses I kept from when I was ex­pect­ing Eva.

I must con­fess that part of me was hop­ing that I would not have to make use of the old dresses again. Eva is now five, af­ter all, Lot­tie is seven and John is ten. Her re­mark put me in some­thing of a tem­per. I was hop­ing to keep the news to our­selves for a lit­tle while longer. No doubt it will be all over the vil­lage by teatime.

Here the di­ary stopped. At least, Un­cle Tom’s er­ratic typ­ing did.

Had the project been aban­doned be­cause World War II had in­ter­vened, Char­lie won­dered. She felt a grow­ing sense of frus­tra­tion.

Just then, she heard Robin come through the back door.

“Robin, do you know what hap­pened to Un­cle Tom? Anna’s di­aries have stopped rather abruptly and I’m try­ing to work out if there are more hid­den away some­where.”

“He grew veg­eta­bles dur­ing the war,” Robin said, flick­ing through the type­writ­ten pages.

“Oh, yes, you did tell me,” Char­lie replied.

“The area near the sum­mer­house was a cro­quet lawn. That was ploughed up and Un­cle Tom su­per­vised the grow­ing of veg­eta­bles. The cro­quet lawn was given over to pota­toes, then they put cab­bages in the meadow, and the en­trance to Lit­tle Wood was full of beds of onions and car­rots.

“There was a bunch of evac­uees stay­ing,” he went on. “My grand­fa­ther used to receive Christ­mas cards from them. The old iron gates were taken away and there pos­si­bly wouldn’t have been time to re­search a fam­ily his­tory project. Af­ter the war, Un­cle Tom went to live in France.

“He lived out his days in a flat in Lille and never re­turned to Anna Grace,” Robin fin­ished.

“So the project was sim­ply un­fin­ished?” Char­lie asked, look­ing through the slop­ing, looped writ­ing in the orig­i­nal jour­nals.

“Yes. Anna may have writ­ten more jour­nals, but they weren’t tran­scribed by Un­cle Tom. And where they are is any­one’s guess. Un­cle Tom learned to be a lit­tle more or­gan­ised dur­ing the war, but with ev­ery­thing else, hap­haz­ard was pos­si­bly his mid­dle name.”

Char­lie thought for a mo­ment.

“So there may sim­ply be more jour­nals, but we don’t know where they are and no-one’s looked at them in years.”

“Ex­actly. I’d bet­ter get my­self to­gether if I’m to make the train. I liked your post on Ghillie, by the way.”

High praise in­deed, Char­lie thought, won­der­ing why she was al­ways on edge when Robin was around, yet miss­ing him when she heard his car pull away, as it did now.

No doubt wise, prac­ti­cal Anna would have told her to pull her­self to­gether.

Grant was not what she had ex­pected, Har­riet thought a few days later as she made her­self a cof­fee in the Anna Grace kitchen. Char­lie was out do­ing some mar­ket re­search for the artists’ week­end.

For their first date, Grant had taken Har­riet out for the day along with her niece, whom she looked af­ter for her ill sis­ter. Rhona had liked him from the mo­ment he pre­tended to pinch the marsh­mal­lows from her hot choco­late.

He had taken them to a lit­tle café near the play park so Rhona could have a go on the swings later.

Nor­mally Har­riet didn’t date as she was too busy with her job and with Rhona.

It had been a dif­fi­cult few months, though Har­riet’s sis­ter was a lit­tle bet­ter now and Rhona had moved back home.

Har­riet had spent the morn­ing go­ing through the ac­counts as the au­di­tor was due in a week or two. She was canny enough to see that Anna Grace could not keep go­ing the way it was, but she also knew that Char­lie had more than paid for her po­si­tion in the short time she had been with them.

Har­riet spooned cof­fee into the cafetière. She knew she had to stop see­ing Char­lie as a ri­val. She was sim­ply a young wo­man try­ing to make a go of things, just as Har­riet had been a few years back.

Robin, she knew, wasn’t re­ally a great one for men­tor­ing. He sim­ply hadn’t the time and she knew, with a guilty start, that Char­lie re­ally had been thrown in at the deep end.

It was also Char­lie who had made sure that Grant Thorn­berry ar­rived safely that snowy night.

When Har­riet had met Grant, she had felt her­self be­gin to re­lax. Of course, she hadn’t wanted to let her guard down too soon, but there was some­thing that she liked about Grant.

Har­riet had dealt with many wealthy peo­ple, es­pe­cially in her early days at Anna Grace, when some guests would stay for the pres­tige of it.

She had soon learned which of the guests ig­nored her when they re­alised she was not one of the Gray­stone fam­ily.

Yet Grant had turned up for their first date in jeans and train­ers and had not been too put out by the snow or hav­ing to wear a jumper from the lost prop­erty box.

It soon be­came clear to her that Grant, like all good busi­ness­men, played to his strengths. He had a de­gree in com­puter sci­ence and ran the IT side of things for his fa­ther’s ho­tel chain. One look at their web­site was proof that it worked.

Har­riet poured the wa­ter into the cafetière.

Just then, Kata­rina bus­tled in, her arms full of laun­dry. Au­to­mat­i­cally, Har­riet started to help her fold the dry sheets.

“They do not grow on the trees, you know,” Kata­rina said.

“What don’t?” Har­riet said.

“Good men.” Har­riet laughed. “Grant has just taken Rhona and me for hot choco­late a cou­ple of times, that’s all,” Har­riet replied. “And he’s tak­ing me out to that new restau­rant for lunch. The one near where Denby’s farm used to be.”

She knew that her red face would give her away. “I just like him, that’s all,” she added.

Just then, she heard a car pull up. He was early.

Un­ex­pect­edly, Kata­rina gave Har­riet a hug.

“I must go,” Har­riet said qui­etly, hardly trust­ing her­self to speak.

In the car, Har­riet told Grant more of her plans to make Anna Grace a wed­ding venue for guests from all over the county, adding in her ideas for a spa.

Grant lis­tened as he drove through the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side.

“I’m afraid Robin’s right, dar­ling,” Grant said as they pulled into the car park.

“Do you think so?” Har­riet said.

“Anna Grace can’t have a spa or be­come a wed­ding venue, and I think you know that in your heart, as well as in your good busi­ness brain,” Grant added.

“Surely it’s only a case of hir­ing the right in­te­rior de­signer and ne­go­ti­at­ing com­pet­i­tively with sup­pli­ers and –”

She paused, looked at Grant’s hand­some, kind face and fi­nally found the courage to be hon­est.

“I al­ways felt like this place gave me a home when I needed it most, and I just feel . . .”

“That you’re not ready to let go?” Grant prompted gen­tly.

She found she had an un­ex­pected lump in her throat.

“Yes,” she said qui­etly. “You may find that your debt to Anna Grace was paid long ago, Har­riet. Maybe it’s time for a fresh start.”

Har­riet took Grant’s hand, looked down at Anna Grace, nestling in the hills, and knew that he was right.

The le­mon driz­zle cakes were cool­ing on the wire rack. It was lunchtime so Kata­rina made her­self a good cup of cof­fee and ate a lunch of smoked salami, av­o­cado and some fresh bread.

She checked the white board by the door to see where ev­ery­one was: meet­ings, work or af­ter­noons off. The phone had been switched to the an­swer­ing ser­vice so she picked up her magazine.

She flicked past the recipes, which were far too fid­dly and ex­otic for her taste, in­volv­ing in­gre­di­ents she couldn’t get at the su­per­mar­ket in town.

She looked at the pic­tures of ac­tresses at an awards cer­e­mony. Kata­rina’s favourite film star was Au­drey Hep­burn, closely fol­lowed by Ju­lia Roberts.

Ju­lia Roberts was not in ev­i­dence. It was all ac­tresses she had never heard of. One was wear­ing a dress that left lit­tle to the imag­i­na­tion.

Dresses. A bell rang in her head. That was it! She thought there was some­thing in the at­tic that might fit Char­lie.

She put down the magazine and went out to the hall, up the stairs to the land­ing, then to the next level, where a door opened on to a stone stair­case that led to the at­tic rooms.

She had put her mo­bile in her pocket, just in case any­one was try­ing to reach her. Ghillie padded af­ter her, never want­ing to be left out of any­thing.

The stone stair­case opened into a nar­row hall with a se­ries of doors lead­ing on to the old ser­vants’ rooms with their slop­ing roofs.

Kata­rina did not much like com­ing up here. Although the ser­vants’ quar­ters at Anna Grace had not been as spar­tan as in some of the grander houses, she still thought with pity of the house­maids who would have had to grope their way down the stone stair­case at five-thirty on a win­ter’s morn­ing.

It was a fine day and she prised open a few win­dows, mov­ing from room to room me­thod­i­cally, check­ing for mould, bad smells and any wildlife.

The last three rooms were full of lum­ber, and had been like that for as long as she could re­mem­ber. How­ever, one year, when Mrs Ce­cilia

was a lit­tle more fo­cused than she was now, she and Kata­rina had come up and at­tempted to make sense of some of it, and the four big tea chests now each had a neat la­bel on them.

One said, China dinner ser­vice, two plates miss­ing,

but­ter­cup pat­tern, and she looked down to see the china, still wrapped care­fully in the news­pa­per which was now yel­low­ing with age. An­other was la­belled

Mis­matched sil­ver. The thrifty Kata­rina had a look through this now. This was the old sil­ver – mainly wed­ding presents for the old Gray­stones.

It wasn’t prac­ti­cal, but it was beau­ti­ful. There were fish knives and sil­ver sugar tongs and a lit­tle mus­tard pot with a tiny spoon.

Kata­rina didn’t want to get dis­tracted, and turned to the next box. The third tea chest con­tained a mis­matched as­sort­ment of toys from var­i­ous gen­er­a­tions: dolls with one leg, a teddy bear whose stuff­ing was pok­ing through his tummy, and pieces of jig­saw.

Kata­rina care­fully reached her hand into the depths of the chest, but found only two for­lorn ten­nis rac­quets, still in their presses.

She knew the dresses were here in the wooden trunk, with the name of Robin’s grand­fa­ther painted on it in white paint from his time in the Army.

Deftly, Kata­rina opened it. Mrs Ce­cilia did not give a fid­dle for fish knives, but was par­tic­u­larly care­ful about clothes. So ev­ery­thing here smelled of laven­der, from the laven­der bags that Mrs Ce­cilia used to make her­self.

There was the dress, un­der­neath the beau­ti­ful wool win­ter coat Mrs Ce­cilia could still fit into. She must re­mind her about it.

They were never quite sure who the dress had be­longed to. It was too pe­tite for Mrs Ce­cilia and too nar­row for her for­mi­da­ble mother-in-law, who had ap­par­ently been built on more am­ple lines.

It was an early 1960s black cock­tail dress with dia­manté straps, a boned bodice and a skirt that was full but not over­whelm­ing.

As Kata­rina held it up to the light, ad­mir­ing the stitch­ing, she thought it would fit Char­lie very well.

It was only when she was chop­ping veg­eta­bles for sup­per a cou­ple of hours later that Kata­rina glanced over at the cat food pouches and re­alised she hadn’t seen Ghillie for a while.

“Oh, that silly cat,” she said and rushed back up to the roof space.

Sure enough, she could hear Ghillie yowl­ing from the up­stairs land­ing and she opened the door to the at­tic rooms, ex­pect­ing him to shoot out.

How­ever, though she could still hear the yowl­ing, she couldn’t see any sign of the cat.

She went from room to room and even­tu­ally tracked down the noise to where the tea chests were. He had some­how man­aged to get him­self stuck and couldn’t work out how to get out.

He didn’t seem to be hurt, but Kata­rina care­fully slid the first tea chest con­tain­ing the china out a bit so he had room to squeeze out. He bounded into the hall, then Kata­rina could hear him thump­ing down the at­tic stairs.

Kata­rina stayed where she was for a mo­ment, think­ing that she would get the clean­ers to come and give this place a thor­ough clean.

The dust be­hind was thick and some­thing had dropped on to the ground when she had moved the tea chest.

She glanced down. It looked like an old pil­low­case.

She un­folded the fab­ric, think­ing it would just have more pil­low­cases in­side it, as they seemed to have so much old bed linen lurk­ing around.

In­side there was an old note­book about the size of the vis­i­tors’ book that they used to keep at re­cep­tion.

At first, that was what Kata­rina thought it was. Then she opened the first page and saw the spi­dery writ­ing, slop­ing to one side,

so curly that she couldn’t read it.

She had found Anna’s miss­ing jour­nal.

Char­lie let her­self into the kitchen and quickly keyed in the code so that the bur­glar alarm wouldn’t shout at her. She loved the peace of the old house when there was no-one about. Old book on your table,

Kata­rina had texted her.

Char­lie had spent Satur­day morn­ing phon­ing her mother and wait­ing in for her on­line gro­cery delivery.

Now, she thought she would take ad­van­tage of a quiet Satur­day af­ter­noon to pick up the jour­nal.

Dean and Al­bert were in the sum­mer­house, where Al­bert was show­ing Dean how to re­pair the rot­ten win­dow frames and see what they could sal­vage of the floor. Robin was see­ing an old univer­sity friend, who was vis­it­ing from Amer­ica. Kata­rina had taken Mrs Ce­cilia to the hair­dresser’s.

Char­lie didn’t want to take the jour­nal back to the cot­tage as this was an old fam­ily heir­loom. She read a few pages, get­ting used again to the curly, old­fash­ioned hand­writ­ing, mak­ing the oc­ca­sional note in her own note­book of dates and key events.

It made her feel con­nected to Anna, who seemed to have had the same busy life as folk to­day.

The other jour­nal she’d found a few weeks ear­lier was here, too, and she would look at that in a mo­ment and try to get the se­quence of events clear in her head at last.

Char­lie be­came so ab­sorbed in the task that she didn’t no­tice the time pass­ing.

The tele­phone rang but she let the an­swer­ing ser­vice take it. Any­one im­por­tant could ring her mo­bile.

She smiled as she read the words.

In­stead of a folly, we started to build a dairy room.

“I knew it was here some­where,” Char­lie said out loud, so de­lighted at last to find a ref­er­ence to what had hap­pened to Anna’s hus­band’s plans.

Ru­fus the dog took this as an in­di­ca­tion to be so­cia­ble again, so he got off his floor cush­ion in the morn­ing room and padded in to be made a fuss of.

It was now pour­ing with rain out­side so Char­lie thought she might as well read more then head back to the cot­tage when the rain eased off. She noted that Anna re­ferred to ta­pes­tries, and how at home she felt when they were hang­ing on the wall in the li­brary.

What a find this lat­est jour­nal had been! She felt more con­nected to Anna than ever, as if she were stand­ing at her shoul­der.

Ru­fus sud­denly gave a low growl, then a short bark.

“Are they back?” Char­lie said to him, ex­pect­ing to see Mrs Ce­cilia and Kata­rina.

Sure enough, she thought she heard a car en­gine, but it was rain­ing so heav­ily now that it was hard to tell.

Just then, she heard a squeal of brakes. No-one drove like that around here.

Ru­fus barked again and this time he wouldn’t stop. Slip­ping her phone into her pocket, Char­lie got up and ran into the hall.

She couldn’t see a car, but there were two men run­ning through the rain. Hoods cov­ered their faces. Still Ru­fus barked. Quickly, Char­lie pressed Al­bert’s name on her con­tacts list in her mo­bile phone.

“Yes?” Al­bert said in his nor­mal, un­flap­pable way.

“There’s some­one here,” she whis­pered. “Two men, run­ning to­wards the house. Are you ex­pect­ing any­one?”

“No,” Al­bert said more ur­gently. “Stay there and don’t open the door. Dean and I will be right there. I’m call­ing the po­lice.”

For the first time since she’d come to Anna Grace, Char­lie felt afraid.

To be con­tin­ued.

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