THE MINOTAUR

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3: Guests and Surprises

Clarice’s heart pumped hard in her chest as she approached the front door. he was nervous.

Sure, she had been filled with fire and fury when she was in her father’s office; and she really was prepared to make Michael Holger see the error in his purchase of Festningen no matter what it took. But now that she arrived and the castle, which she had to admit looked pretty foreboding in the moonlight, she suddenly realised how little she truly knew about its new owner.

Thing is, before Michael Holger, many people had been trying for generations to acquire Festningen. Companies, corporations, individuals with deep pockets and influences; they would descend on the town like flies on candy after Halloween all in the efforts of taking their shot at the property. But while their offers differed, their results were always the same; failure.

As it happened, ever since West Harbour had settled down around the foot of the castle, the residents had felt the need to protect it. It wasn’t because of the revenue it generated, or the attraction it brought to the town, or any other reason like that. It was just that they had a very deep sense of sentimentality for it that bound them. They belonged to Festningen as much as it belonged to them.

It was that same sense of sentimentality that everyone born and bred in West Harbour had grown up with, breathed in and out every day of their lives, and used to defeat the intruders that came to take away the castle from them. Well, until Michael Holger; and that fact alone filled Clarice with a lot of apprehension about the enigmatic foreigner.

If he could’ve managed to succeed in under a day where many before him had failed for a lifetime, then perhaps he wasn’t all that ordinary a man after all.

Clarice was still contemplating on whether to just take the plunge and knock on the door or return back at daybreak when there would at least be sunlight to ease away some of the bad feeling in her gut when the door suddenly swung open and she found herself face to face with the tallest man she’d ever seen.

Okay, it was worthy of note that Clarice herself didn’t have a tall stature; most people just a little over an average height appeared tall to her. But the man really was tall on his own; a few more feet and he would actually be a giant.

He wore a thick black jacket which reached down to his black leather-booted legs. He hadn’t buttoned up the jacket- or drape it completely over himself either- so, Clarice was able to see that he was also putting on a black vintage suit inwards. She thought the monochrome outfit was a bit too excessive but kept that opinion to herself.

At first glance, his blonde hair appeared short but when he turned to the side to check if Clarice had arrived alone, she realised that it was actually longer than she had initially presumed. The short appearance had been because he tied the hair into two short ponytails at the back: one above the other.

But what caught Clarice’s attention most of all were his eyes. She wasn’t sure what colour they truly were; the absence of proper light made it hard to tell. But when the moonlight fell upon them, they turned a crystal grey like diamonds.

The effect was highly mesmerising, almost like a snake’s just before it struck its prey, and Clarice suddenly began to feel lightheaded the more she stared at them.

“Yes?” he said and she blinked, causing her to realise that she had been staring for far too long than was appropriate.

“Umm, I’m so sorry to disturb you this late in the night-” she took a step back so that she wouldn’t have to crane her neck so much to talk to him “-but I’m here to see Mr. Holger.”

“I am he. What do you want?” Clarice’s eyebrow quirked immediately at that statement.

Thing is, when she had thought of Michael Holger, the man who had managed to acquire Festningen, she had thought he would be... Well, anything but the person standing in front of her.

For one, he was young, like definitely around her age range; plus he had an out of touch, absolutely uncaring attitude around himself. It made no sense that such a young man and with no obvious appreciation whatsoever for the things around him would come all the way to an obscure town like West Harbour to buy an ancient castle when he could easily have bought a high-rise building in the big city for half the price and trouble.

If Clarice thought that Michael Holger was enigmatic before, she found him even more so now. “Well, Mr. Holger,” she continued anyway, “my name is Clarice White, I’m West Harbour’s legal representative. I’ll very much like to speak to you about your recent purchase of Festningen. Can I come in?”

Michael looked like he’d rather do anything but speak to her. But he smiled nevertheless and stepped aside. “Of course, Miss White. Please, do come in.”

The ancient vampire watched as the mortal woman entered into the castle. He had to admit that he was very surprised that she was the one he met at the door after all the senses he picked up; he actually had expected more.

For starters, she was very small, even for a mortal. Of course, it had to be said that that didn’t diminish her beauty in any way. She was at the height of her youth and she knew and wore it expertly so. A white turtleneck top, pink jacket, blue denim jeans with a wedge to complete the outfit; Miss Clarice White was definitely someone who had no problem with making herself look good.

However, the thing that Michael found most curious was how despite her small, slight, almost fragile-looking frame, she was still able to carry such a heavy aura of trouble he had only previously detected on strong men and supernaturals. Even as she looked around the house on her entrance, he could still perceive it on her. Something about her was definitely different from the other mortals he’d met; and he was eager to discover it.

Clarice was fully aware of Michael’s eyes on her; even as he tried to hide it behind an impatient look that he was eager for her to get the visit over and done with. It was a game that she had played many times over in her line of work. With defendants on a case, with her own clients, even with her colleagues at the firm. All of them always tried to read her as much as she was reading them; and all of them always ended coming up short.

Michael Holger would be no different from the others who had played that game with her; of that, Clarice was ready to make certain.

“I’m eager to hear what you’ve come to say, Miss White,” Michael finally said after a while; he really was getting impatient with her presence in the house.

“Like I told you at the door, Mr. Holger, I’m here because of your recent purchase of Festningen,” she replied. “It was a transaction done in error and I would very much like for it to be rectified.”

Immediately, Michael began to laugh. It was a predatory kind of laughter- like something that would have been heard from an hyena- and Clarice suddenly found the hairs on her body standing straight. It was almost like she was in danger and her subconscious knew it. “Seriously, Miss White,” he said, “you really expect that I would return this castle just like that, especially after paying top dollar for it.”

“I know how inconvenient this must be for you and I truly I’m sorry for it. But Festningen is a public property and it should never have been sold in the first place.”

“But it was sold, Miss White, and I bought it,” he returned, stepping so close to her that she had to reflexively back up; something about his countenance really had her on the edge. “I have no intentions whatsoever of giving it back." He stopped moving and she did too. "Now, if you have nothing else to say, my butler Henry will show you to the door. Have a pleasant night.”

Michael didn’t wait for Clarice to make any kind of response as he stepped around her and took the stairs up to the second floor.

But just as he was about to reach the top and forget that she had even come, she returned him her statement. “This conversation is far from over between you and I, Mr. Holger,” she said. “One way or another, I will find a way to make you return Festningen back to the people. But until then, as a host to her guest, I hope that you enjoy your stay in West Harbour.” And with that, she left him standing there on the spot as she turned and walked out the door into the night.

Clarice White really wasn’t like the other mortals Michael had met. But he was starting to become unsure if that was a good thing.

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