William’s ride from the industrial complex had dropped him off at the guest-house of the Braxton estate. They promised to pick him up again on Monday, before they drove off to let him get settled in. He’d been in meetings for three days as they’d picked his brains. He’d intended to fly out after the first day, but things had gone so well that he had been asked to continue. Then there had been an airline strike that forced him to stay even longer than he had intended. He had brought pitifully little in the way of a clothing change with him. He had a change of underwear and socks, which he always carried when he went more than a hundred miles from home, and here he was, more than five hundred.
His one day had become three, as they had thrashed-out what they should be doing to solve their difficulties. He was dog-tired and needed his sleep. His hostess offered to put him up with her family, having had him stay much longer than intended. He had politely thanked her for her offer and explained that he needed time to mull over what he had learned; to develop a plan of attack, and to have both quiet and rest.
Knowing that her own house would be too noisy with teenagers in and out at all hours, she gave him free run of the guest-house in the modernized barn-farmhouse they owned by the shore. He would be the only one where he would be, all weekend. It had all the facilities he needed to look after himself; washer, dryer, and a fully stocked kitchen—well supplied for those who intended to raid it to go sailing, or out in the power boat. He could sleep as late as he liked, and spend the entire weekend recovering. He looked forward to some rest. They could meet again on Monday. He would have two complete days to himself.
When he was dropped off it was after nine in the evening, and still just light enough to see things with the help of a moon, but it might not be there for much longer from what he could see of the gathering clouds moving in, but it was warm.
The local scenery was of a gently sloping meadow leading down to the sea, a hundred yards away, with scattered clumps of trees, growing in small rock pile accumulations located in isolated coppices.
He let himself in with the key that he had been told about and replaced it outside and under the plant pot before he closed the door behind himself.
He put all of the lights on, threw the switch to turn on the outdoor hot tub that he had been told about, and then explored.
The lower half of the house consisted of a kitchen, and a fairly large living room with fireplace; a small bathroom, and an adjacent garage. The garage was empty except for the washer, dryer, sink, and wooden shelving at the back of it.
Adjoining the house and accessible from it, was a large stable, empty of horses or cattle. The intervening door was locked. The upper floor was set up for one or two guests, with a large and modern open bedroom, whose windows over looked the sea, and with an adjoining bathroom—also large—and a shower.
He made himself a snack from the store of canned, and dried food. He would explore the freezer in the garage later. He settled in, deciding that he would have an early night. He couldn’t find the bedding that he’d been told about. That must be in the boat-house, as he’d been warned. He would get it later. The family had planned a boating trip this weekend, but it had been cancelled, so he could recover what he needed from the boat-house in the sheltered cove if he needed it.
He decided to go for a walk around the point, even though the wind was blustery, and the waves were beginning to pick up in height and intensity. A storm was coming. He’d heard something of it, but they had been too busy with everything else to worry about that. He would risk it. He didn’t bother locking the house up.
His walk was much longer than he expected with his mind going over many things. However, he needed the exercise to clear his head. If he’d brought his running clothes he’d have been out doing that instead. When he got to the furthest point and it began to become too dark for comfort, though his eyes had grown used to the dark, he turned back. It had gone much colder, the wind had strengthened, and he could hear the waves smashing into the pebble beach somewhere below him and grinding the edges off to make those rounded cobbles and pebbles, that children from six to sixty loved to collect.
He was surprised how far he had actually gone, with his mind on other things, and he got caught out in a downpour the like of which he had never seen before. There must have been two inches of rain in less than fifteen minutes and then steady, heavy rain after that, as well as the wind. He wished he’d paid more attention to the weather forecast. The lights from the house guided him back. He was soaked through to the skin and weighed twenty pounds heavier. He was cold, but that was because he was wet. It did not matter. He would climb into the hot-tub, even though it was outdoors, and relax with a glass of wine, or something soothing, and let the rain come down as it might.
He walked through to the garage, squelching with every step, kicked off his shoes, stripped down to nothing, and squeezed the excess water from his jacket and trousers into the sink. He put his outer clothing in the dryer, first removing the dry bath towel he would need for when he got out of the hot tub, and got it started as he toweled himself off. There was nothing that was likely to shrink. There would be a steam iron somewhere.
He’d better wash all of his other things. He threw his underwear into the washer, seeing it begin to fill with water, and then padded into the living room to retrieve his dirty socks and underwear from his overnight case, throwing those into the washer too. He knew he was the only one who would be there for the weekend and no one else was expected, especially not with the weather turning as it had. He walked off to the living room, thinking that he might review some of his notes. It was fortunate that there was no one else to see him wandering the house as he was.
That was when the lights went out and all of the noises from inside the house shut down, while those from outside suddenly became more obvious. He had planned on drying out his wet clothing and donning his underwear to sleep in, but now he couldn’t. Everything was still wet, and the power was off.
It didn’t matter. There was only him there, so no one else would be shocked at his lack of clothing. He could forget about relaxing in the hot tub. He would retire. It was late, and he needed his sleep. Tomorrow would bring its own problems.
He slowly made his way through the dark house to the kitchen and found the milk in the fridge. He checked it for freshness by sniffing at it, drank direct from the small carton and then replaced it. He did everything by touch and, fortunately, he had seen the layout of the house earlier. He was shocked where the time had gone. Just before the power had gone out he had noticed that it was midnight.
There was nothing else to do but turn in. He’d seen that the bed had a sheet and plenty of pillows. It would be warm enough even though there would be no heat. It would have to be. He could double the sheet. He’d slept in worse conditions.