Spring had come to Croft Manor. The lawns were turning green, the Lombardy poplars were sending out the first vestiges of leaves, sparrows were darting in and out of the hedges. The sun was just beginning to glint off the third story windows when Winston shuffled into the kitchen and turned on the stove. He set the kettle on and then cracked a few eggs into a frying pan. He would be breakfasting alone…again. The last four months had been so terribly lonely.
After Lara returned from Israel she was gone from the house as much as she was there. And when she was there, she wasn’t, well…all there. First, she had undergone surgery to repair a partially lacerated liver and two toes on her right foot. Then there was the lengthy hospital stay to recuperate from a nasty infection she’d contracted from a wound on her arm. She had been interrogated extensively by the British MI6, the American CIA, and the Israeli Mossad. Each time she returned home, when she was permitted to return home, she was emotionally raw. She had received a thorough psychiatric re-evaluation by Dr. Conrad Montgomery. She had settled the criminal assault charges brought against her by the maid from the Victoria Thistle hotel. And she had watched, with great sadness, the investigation, trial, and sentencing of Dr. James Woodson.
Physically and legally Lara had been made whole. But Lara still harbored a wound inside of her that refused to heal.
It was a quarter past one when Lara finally emerged from her room. She padded down the stairs and into the kitchen. Light was filtering through the windows and playing on the black and white tile floor. “What would you like for luncheon?” Winston asked.
“Just some tea, thank you,” Lara sighed. Winston pursed his lips and put the kettle on. Lara had dropped fifteen pounds since being discharged from the hospital. And there hadn’t beenmuch to lose in the first place. After the kettle whistled Winston placed a cup of tea and a plate piled high with biscuits in front of Lara. Lara drank the tea and then headed back out into the main hall. The door bell chimed. Lara thought about telling Winston to get rid of whoever it was but then she thought better of it. She needed someone to unload on and she couldn’t do it on poor old Winston. He had been a saint ever since she got home.
Lara unlocked the front door and headed out into the afternoon sun. The gravel drive crunched under her feet as she neared the wrought iron gate. A white-haired man in a gray three-piece pinstripe suit and wingtips stood outside. His bearing was rigid like a army private preparing to be dressed down by a drill sergeant. He didn’t look like a reporter, the likes of which Lara was now all too familiar with. Lara’s undifferentiated anger was temporarily overshadowed by curiosity.
“Can I help you?”
“Lady Croft. My name is Ian Fisher, I am a…was a colleague of Ryan Caruso.”
Lara flinched ever so slightly at the mention of Ryan’s name. “What do you want?”
“May I come in?”
Lara paused a moment. With a sigh she opened the gate and motioned for Fisher to follow her into the house. She led him to her study and offered him a seat in one of the leather armchairs her father had often used. “So what is this all about?”
“I’m here to execute a provision of Ryan’s last will and testament,” Fisher said. He pulled a small manila envelope from his jacket pocket and handed it to Lara. “He and I disagreed about many things, but as his superior I feel an obligation to fulfill his last wishes—especially in light of his sacrifice.”
Lara opened the envelope and pulled out a single 3x5 index card. There were two sentences handwritten on it in black ink, one above the other:
Remember what you promised me.
I love you.
Lara flipped the card over and checked inside the envelope. “Is this all?”
“Should there be something more?” Fisher replied.
“No…I suppose not,” Lara muttered as if to herself.
“Well, my work here is done. Please excuse me if I’ve been a nuisance.”
“Not at all.” Lara stared at the little card.
Fisher stood. Just before he came to the door he paused and said: “Thank you for helping Ryan. I shudder to think what would have happened to us if the Idol hadn’t been recovered.”
“Where is the Idol?” Lara asked.
Fisher smiled. “We’ve taken care of it.” He gave a slight bow and then left. Lara sat there for a long time. Tears came after a while. She let them flow. When her tear ducts had nothing left to give Lara wiped her eyes with her sleeve, put the index card in her pocket, and left the study. She descended the stairs and strode into the kitchen.
“Winston, my dear, will you please call Paul and tell him to come to dinner?”
“Yes, of course.” A smile broke over Winston’s face. Lara turned to leave. “Wait! What do I tell Mr. Murdock we’re having for dinner?”Lara smiled for the first time in four months. “Winston, fix everything we’ve got in the house. God, I’m hungry!”
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