Chapter 18 - Interrogations
Chapter 18 - Interrogations
“Noah Jenkins, I’m extremely disappointed in you.”
He lifted his head from the letter to Rosen Inn only to find Cook staring down at him, motherly concern clearly plastered across her face.
“Hey Cook, could you possibly put your disappointment on hold few seconds, I need to finish this letter for Lady Cathliene.” He informed, making sure to add a bit a disdain for the name at the end of the sentence.
Cook placed her hands squarely on her hips and asked, “Doesn’t Lady Montego’s husband have a steward to write those for her?”
“I believe Lord Montego fired him last weekend.” Noah answered flatly.
Cook sighed disapprovingly. “Well,” She said with a huff, “If he trusted his staff even a little, maybe over half of them would still be employed.”
“Maybe he just likes us better?” Noah offered.
Lord Louis Montego’s way of dismissing his staff had been an initial concern of the Manchester staff. Thankfully he only dismissed his own staff. Anyone that had been employed to Lady Cathliene prior to the wedding had yet to be released from his or her positions.
Who knew how long it would stay that way?
“All done?” Cook asked impatiently.
“Just finishing up.” Noah signed the letter, Lady Cathliene Elizabeth Manchester Montego, Durseman Peak, Alminia, then sealed it and placed it with the other outgoing mail. “There done.” He informed rising from the stool to ask. “Could you tell me where-”
He never got to finish his question, for as soon as he turned around Cook shoved him back towards the table.
“What was that for?” He asked confused.
“That,” she explained, “was for disappointing me.” She gestured towards his appearance. “Look at the state you’re in. You were so busy they other day that I was unable to ask you about it, but don’t think that the rest of the staff hasn’t noticed. They have.”
He shot her a smirk, “Cook if it was anything to worry about I would-”
“Don’t you start.” She warned. “You should have told me what happened.”
Noah let out a small laugh of frustration. “Cook come on, I’m fine. Can’t you leave it be this one time?”
“No.” he replied as sarcastic as possible, “of course not.”
“Shirt off.” She demanded.
He saw her cross her arms stubbornly and knew that it was not the time to argue with her. “You’re going to stand there until I comply aren’t you?”
“Just do it.” She demanded.
Noah wiped his lip on his sleeve once more glad that the bleeding had stopped completely. “Promise you won’t tell the girls.” He requested.
She rolled her eyes at him. “You think they haven’t noticed?”
“Just omit what you can.” He implored. “Please.”
“In that case,” she informed, “you have to tell me everything.”
“I’m not sure I-” He began.
Again, she didn’t let him finish. “You can’t fool me Noah.” She said as she crossed her arms. “I know that something has been going on with you and I want to know what it is.”
“I can’t tell you everything, Cook.” He confessed. He knew that he had to keep most of what happened a secret. Annabell trusted him, and he would hold onto that trust.
Cook looked at him closely before acknowledging his statement. “That’s fine.” She accepted.
“Thank you Cook.” He praised.
“Shirt off. I want to have a look at you.” She reminded, and he obliged. “Now tell me honestly Noah,” she asked with concern, “where did they hurt you?”
“Chest, face, and shins.” He replied deciding that it was easier to just not fight her. Still, he kept his demeanor as casual as possible. “They backed me up against a wall.”
He noticed her eyes study the fading bruises on his chest. She felt a few of them to make sure, but seemed content. “Look at the state you’re in.” Cook said disapprovingly as she studied his face.
She pushed his hair out of the way to reveal his forehead. “That barely missed your eye.” She commented to herself.
Cook turned him around and made an odd tisking sound as she studied his back. These two will leave marks.” She announced as her experienced hands passed over his back.
Her words surprised Noah. He hadn’t thought that the palace wall had actually marred his back. She took a quick look at his shins but didn’t seem too concerned about them.
“Now,” she asked after she tossed him back his shirt, “How did this all happen?”
Noah pulled his shirt over his head and rolled his pant legs down. He kept his tone relaxed. “I save a damsel in distress?”
“A damsel?” Cook asked skeptically.
“The Twins were berating her.” He explained. “I interfered.”
“Who is she to you?” She inquired.
Noah knew that Cook wasn’t blaming him for his actions. She just wanted to know why he went through all that trouble for one person. “Annabell Tompson.” He answered as he ran his fingers through his hair. “She’s a high ranking member of Society.”
A mixture of understanding and confusion appeared on Cook’s face. “Wouldn’t this high ranking lady have a guard or a chaperone present to protect her?” The woman wondered.
He had asked Annabell the same question earlier that morning. He smiled at Cook and offered her the same response that Annabell had given him. “It’s hard to protect people, when everyone is wearing a mask.”
The silence in the room was deafening.
The confusion in her eyes was so tangible that Noah felt pressing down on him. “Alright Noah, no more questions.” She stated assuredly. “I know you said that you are unable to tell me everything, but start at the beginning and tell me what you can.”
And to Noah’s credit, he did.
~~~ Change Character Focus, Two Days Later
The day had just begun and Alexandria was already exhausted. She loathed the thought of having seven more suitors.
Well, perhaps not all seven.
She couldn’t help but wonder about Noah.
Would she see him again?
Was that even a possibility?
She looked forward to it. There was still so much Alexandria felt like she didn’t know about him. She hadn’t expected to learn that Noah had been pretending to be a Lord.
The knowledge didn’t sit well with her.
And yet...did it matter?
While the two of them conversed in that reading room she had found it easy to speak with him. It took a while for Noah to relax back into his carefree state around her, but eventually he did. Her conversations with Noah Jenkins invigorated and yet, disheartened her.
Each time Alexandria had asked him about his life his answers always sounded carefree, but she was sure that things were worse than he let on.
Alexandria looked up as one of the Royal Stewards walked in the parlor to announce that her guest had arrived, and her etiquette teacher would be acting as chaperon that day.
The knowledge that the stiff woman would be watching her every move exhausted Alexandria even further.
She looked up and noticed that the old steward was waiting for her respond. He couldn’t allow the visitors into the room until she allowed him to do so.
“Is there something the matter, your Highness?” The steward asked after a full minute of silence.
Alexandria knew that she eventually had to admit the suitor and her chaperon into the room, but she wanted to wait as long as possible.
“How long have you worked here?” She asked the old man in front of her, hoping to strike up a conversation.
“Well your Highness,” He answered confused, “I’ve been in this position for forty-two years.”
She marveled at his answer and offered him a smile. “That is a rather impressive amount of time.”
“Oh, thank you, your Highness.” He said returning the smile.
Alexandria looked at the man’s eyes and could tell that he was slightly uncomfortable with her scrutiny. This steward never caught her notice before and she wondered how that was. He had been working at the palace before her parents were born, but she wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a crowd.
She remembered what Noah had told her about being a good servant. “The better we are at our job, the less members of Society notice us.”
If his statement was true than the steward in front of her was an excellent servant. “After forty-two years of service, you must be able to recognize an ally from and instigator fairly easily.”
The old man paused for a moment and considered her words. He seemed confused by her statement, but true to a fault, he responded to it, “I would believe that to be correct, your Highness.”
That gave her an idea.
“What is your name?” She wondered.
“Stuart Thurston, at your service, your Highness.” He introduced with a bow.
Alexandria stiffened a giggle at his reaction. “I would like to ask you for a favor personally, Mr. Thurston.” She informed.
“Me, your Highness?” He seemed startled by her request, but recovered quickly and even stood up a bit straighter. “I am at your command, Princess.”
“I find this suitor business worrisome.” Alexandria began, “I am unable to grasp their actual objectives. Therefore,” she continued, “if you have any reason to believe that a suitor is acting under dishonest intentions, I ask that you notify me immediately.”
He nodded dutifully. “I wouldn’t hesitate, Princess.” Again he bowed in her direction.
“What are your thoughts regarding the gentleman waiting outside the doors?” She asked him.
Mr. Thurston contemplated her words. “He seems like a fellow who is very eager to please.” He finally informed.
Alexandria wondered if the man waiting behind the door was nervous because she hadn’t allowed him in yet. The thought gave her a mischievous sort of satisfaction. She contemplated leaving him permanently on the other side of the greeting room door, but knew that her etiquette teach was already appalled by her actions.
She didn’t wish to sit through one of the woman’s boorish lectures, so she figured that it was time to allow the suitor in.
“Thank you Mr. Thurston.” She acknowledged with a nod, “You may allow them entry.”
The old man offered a court bow in her direction and quickly exited the room.
Alexandria hoped that she hadn’t offended the man in any way. He probably hadn’t expected such a bombardment of questions when he walked in that afternoon.
She was impressed with how thoughtful his answers had been. She wished that she had asked him about the other men that had visited her, but she didn’t have the time to do so.
A few moments later Stuart Thurston returned to the room and announced the man that she would be spending the next few hours with. Alexandria’s exhaustion suddenly returned and she wondered how her sanity would make it through the day.