“Well I agree. I just thought that he was planning it for his return: a self-sufficient life style, perhaps.”
“I haven’t been this far down in the garden before,” Timonthy admitted as they left the cover of the archway. This section was tidy but desolate. It looked like an area dedicated to fruit and vegetables. There were a few permanent plants but generally the earth was bare though beautifully prepared.
“He’s lost his heart the last few seasons,” Mr Phillips said as if he felt he had to defend the garden. “This used to be beautiful, in the summer at least.”
They worked their way around the maze-like paths and found themselves at last in a wild meadow area. At the very end there was a damp and silent space underneath hanging fronds of trees and backed by the hedgerow. Mr Phillips hugged close to the hedge as if determined to find a passageway through to the extra land he was convinced existed. Timonthy watched him as he disappeared in and out of trees and heard him suddenly exclaim.
“At least I was right about that.”
His face reappeared. “Beehives! Only three of them, though, still wrapped up.”
Without waiting for an answer he carried on looking along the whole of the enclosing hedge.
“Boundaries all intact?” Timonthy asked unimpressed. He hadn’t expected anything different.
“Intact and there’s nothing happening of any interest the other side either.”
Timonthy turned again towards the house.
“Let’s go and have that tea Paris was making for us,” he suggested.
They walked back together in silence. The old man was clearly perplexed and Timonthy was equally confused. He could tell that something had been happening but he didn’t know to what extent he could rely on Mr Philips as a reliable witness. He was showing signs of what could only be described as an obsessive interest.
Paris opened the door to the dining area and invited them in. She waved away Mr Philip’s worries about his muddy boots and showed them to the tea tray.
How very old fashioned, Timonthy thought and then realised it was his own fault as she had learnt it working in his antique business. She had even used a tea set he had given Johnathon: not valuable at all but beautiful and deserving of a good home he had thought at the time. There were also biscuits which he assumed she had bought when she went to fetch the milk. Not primarily for him and Paris he thought, as they were already filled to the brim, but Mr Philips seemed to appreciate them. Somehow the act of pouring the tea made the whole event more sociable and they discussed the strange events in great detail. Eventually Mr Philiips left, promising to let them know if he saw anything else out of the ordinary and they agreed to let him know if they discovered anything.
As soon as they shut the door behind him Paris turned to him excitedly,
“I’ve seen all the orders he’s talking about. They were all paid with Uncle Stolid’s credit card: thousands of pounds every week. I looked at some bank statements, as well.”
She admitted this as if she was sure that she shouldn’t have done this.
“Just before the credit card bill is due every month they seem to credit his account with the right amount to pay for it all. Also this amount is credited which stays the same every month,”
She showed him the figure on the bank statement.
“It looks like a salary if it wasn’t so ridiculously large,” he mused.
“All the deliveries were made here. No wonder Mr Philips was worried! There was enough being delivered to keep a hundred gardens like this supplied.”
“Where is it all?” Timonthy asked. “They don’t have a van. I believe Mr Phillips would have noticed them loading up a van or lorry.”
“He can’t watch all the time,” Paris said reasonably. “They must wait until he goes out or it’s dark.”
“He’d hear it in the dark,” Timonthy muttered. “And come out to investigate. If they are really doing that then they are waiting for him to go out, which suggests to me that they are watching the house. They probably know that we are here at the moment.”
“There are two outstanding deliveries,” Paris said excitedly. “One’s coming tomorrow between ten and twelve, and the other is coming at any time between eight am and six pm. So whoever is picking the things up will have to be here tomorrow.”
They both looked at each other with a mixture of anticipation and fear.
“Well, we definitely have to stay now, I suppose,” Timonthy said resignedly.
“You know you were going to anyway,” Paris said with a twinkle in her eyes. He knew that she had no illusions that her mother turning up would enhance the experience. She would have willingly have run away if given half a chance and blithely ignored the moaning whenever they next met.
“I don’t like the thought that they can get into the house whenever they like,” she said. “I’ll never be able to sleep – thinking that anyone could be wondering around.”
“I’ll see if we can bolt the doors,” Timonthy said. “We’ll sort something before bedtime.”
“I’m going to see if I can find out a telephone number for Stolid’s new workplace,” Timonthy said. “Why don’t you see if you can find some linen and make up a couple of beds for us?”
Timonthy went back to the computer. He was beginning to feel like an expert now. He signed on to Stolid’s password again, not wanting to affect anything on the guest account and typed in the address from the letter. It did not seem to be recognised although he could type in the town and even look at pictures of it as if he was flying over it in a helicopter. It didn’t look very impressive, just a handful of houses set in a patchwork of fields. He looked at the outskirts carefully for anything that might be a garden, without success.
Then he typed in the name Peter Macdonald, and the town. There were no relevant results. It seemed odd. The story Miss Gregg had told of a young man inheriting a large estate would surely have made the local news.