The Right Thing
They sit in awkward silence for a time. Dimitri fiddles with his glasses while the sisters busy themselves with looking around the room. The formal living room was just that, formal, with gilded furnishings and stiff-backed, uncomfortable seating in shades of champagne and taupe. Cobwebs hang in thick sheets from the crystal chandelier, and off of old oil paintings of duck and fox hunts. There was so much dust and grime on the windows that the panes of glass appeared to be frosted, giving the girls a hazy, obscure view of the grounds outside. It was apparent that this room at least had not been used in a very long time. If the rest of the estate is in the same state, whoever these two strange men hired would have their work cut out for them.
Lara looks over at their host and asks, “It’s Dimitri right?”
The young man shakes out of his daze, “T-that’s right, Dimitri Orlov. And the fellow you met earlier is Derek Drake.”
“Ah, I thought you were Russian. You have an accent like a Bond villain,” Tara tells him.
“I do? I’ll have to work on that,” he tells her with a weak, uneasy grin.
“I didn’t mean it in a bad way. Your accent is cool! Like you’re some sort of secret agent or something. It’s not super thick or anything, it’s just very, well, Russian. I’m Tara, by-the-way.”
“And I’m Lara DuBois. You’ll have to excuse my sister. She has a habit of not thinking before she speaks.”
Insulted, the younger sister scowls and slaps her sister’s arm.
Dimitri leans forward in his seat and asks, “DuBois? You are French then?”
Tara says, “Well yeah, I mean, someone down the line was anyway.”
Dimitri hangs his head down, shoulders shaking from the quiet fit of chuckles he has been trying desperately to hold back. He is unable to look at the two women in front of him, fearing that their expressions would only cause him to laugh harder.
Lara leans forward in her seat, trying to get a better look at his face, “Is everything alright, Mr. Orlov?”
“S-sorry. Everything’s fine. I just remembered something Derek told me a little while ago and it tickled me-”
“Well if it’s something I said, it’s probably best not to repeat it. At least not in front of polite company,” Derek says from the doorway. He waves his friend over, “Dimitri, can I see you for a minute?”
“Of-of course,” Dimitri turns his attention back to their guests and says, “please excuse me, we will be right back, I am sure.”
He goes out into the hallway to speak with his colleague. Once he is out of earshot Tara turns to her sister and motions for them to leave. Lara can tell by the way her younger sibling is fidgeting that something is bothering her. Puzzled, Lara asks in a hushed tone what has her so upset.
Keeping her voice low, Tara says, “I don’t like this. They haven’t told us anything about the job, they haven’t asked for a resume, or references, or anything. Something’s off.”
“Perhaps they’re just waiting for whoever you-know-who is to show up before they can interview us.”
“Maybe. Or maybe they just need one more to help dismember or bodies and toss our bits in a freezer for later.”
“You have got to stop watching all those crime shows before bed. You’re getting paranoid,” Lara scolds.
Tara glares at her sister, not liking that she wasn’t taking her concerns seriously, “Hey, I’m just trying to figure out exactly what we’re getting ourselves into here, dear sister. But if you want to throw caution to the wind and move in with two, possibly three, complete strangers, be my guest.”
Lara couldn’t help the exasperated huff that escaped her as she tries to calm her sister down, “I’m not saying we shouldn’t be careful, but this could be a good opportunity for us. At least maybe a place to stay temporarily until we can figure out our next move.”
Tara grabs her sister’s arm, her palms clammy despite the chill in the room, “Lara, this house is weird, those two are weird, and, I am getting a really bad feeling about all of this. We need to go.”
“Go where? Tara, we have no money, no jobs, no family close by that we can trust, and I don’t know about you, but the thought of moving back home makes me physically ill.”
Letting go of her sister’s arm, Tara hangs her head in defeat and asks, “Okay, okay, what do you want to do then?”
“Let’s just give these two a chance and see what this job entails. I promise if they try anything creepy we’ll bolt. Deal?”
“Fine. But, if this turns into the Bate’s Motel, we’re gone,” Tara tells her, cocking her thumb towards the door for emphasis.
Out in the hall, Dimitri leans towards Derek and whispers, “Did you speak with him?”
Derek shakes his head, “No, the old cuss seems to be out.”
“Maybe we should wait for him. I don’t think it would be right to hire these two without his consent.”
Derek’s blue eyes twinkle as an impish grin spreads across his face, “He already gave his consent, remember?”
“That’s not how I remember it,” the scientist tells him as his hands fidget nervously in the pockets of his lab coat.
“You want to wait another month for someone else to show up? We need to get the lab up and running and our equipment fixed. We don’t have time to waste on dusting and cooking!” Derek is pacing the hall by this point as he wars with the tiny angel and devil on his shoulders.
“Derek, he agreed to hire a housekeeper, as in one. Singular. I don’t think he’ll look too kindly on us getting two,” Dimitri tells him, pushing his slipping glasses back onto the bridge of his nose.
Derek throws his head back and quietly groans, “See, this is why I wish he would just suck it up and get a cell phone already! All our problems could be solved with one quick and simple phone call!”
The scientist lets out a soft chuckle. He never could understand Jedidiah’s dislike of technology. Quieting down, Dimitri asks, “What do you want to do?”
Frustrated, Derek tugs at the collar of his turtleneck, “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t want to just send them off yet. What about you? What are your thoughts on these two?”
“They seem nice enough. It’s been a while since I’ve talked to normal people. I did get the impression that if we can’t hire both then we’ll get neither, so...”
“So it’s all or nothing. Well, guess that settles it then,” Derek turns to go into the living room.
Dimitri stops him, “Wait a minute, are you sure about this? Jedidiah’s right, our work can be quite dangerous.”
“Then so long as we don’t bring our work home with us there won’t be a problem,” Derek tells him with an insouciant smirk and walks into the living room. “Sorry to keep you waiting. I was trying to locate our employer to let him know we have two interested applicants, but he appears to be out.”
Lara looks up at him and asks, “Your employer? So, we wouldn’t be working for you two then?”
He shakes his head, ” Nah, you’ll be the same as us. We get to live here for free in exchange for doing ...odd jobs... so to speak.”
The younger sister gives him a leery look as she asks, “What kind of ‘odd jobs’?”
Dimitri is about to answer, but is cut off by Derek’s quicker tongue, “We’ll get to that later. That is if you two decide to work here.”
More than a little suspicious, Tara glares up at the two of them and asks, “I thought you could only hire one of us?”
Derek gives her a grin that would put the Cheshire Cat’s to shame and tells her, “We decided that it would be better for all involved if you both could stay. Dimitri told me you guys are fairly inseparable, and this place definitively could use the extra set of hands.”
Curiosity getting the better of her Lara pipes in, “What tasks would we be expected to perform?”
“Oh, the usual. Cooking, cleaning, running a few household errands. You two would be in charge of the first two levels of the house.”
Remembering all of the windows she spotted from the outside, Tara’s eyebrows shoot to her hairline as she asks, “Just how big is this place?”
“Huge,” Derek tells her, his wicked grin widening.
“We don’t expect you to clean every inch of this place. That would be impossible for just the two of you,” Dimitri tells them in an effort to put the girls’ minds at ease.
“Besides, the attic, the third-floor suite, our chambers, and the basements are all off-limits,” Derek tells them as he counts them off on his hand.
Tara gives him a quizzical look and blurts out, “You mean basement, right?”
“Nope, I said it right the first time.”
The girls stare up at Derek in wide-eyed disbelief, causing him to chuckle at their puzzled faces. Dimitri watches from the doorway with his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his lab coat. He was still unsure if this was the right action to take, but desperate times and all that.
Derek goes on, “We won’t force you into a contract, or lease, or anything. At any time you feel the job is too much for you to handle, you are free to leave.”
Tara turns to her sister and asks, “Well Lara, what do you think?”
Lara’s mind had been made up the moment they had stepped into the taxi, not that she would ever let her sister know that. With a shrug of her shoulders, she tells her, “Considering our other options, I don’t see the harm in giving this a try.”
Derek looks at the two sisters and asks, “So, we have an agreement then?”
With a warmhearted smile, the older sister looks up at him from her seat on the sofa and asks, “When do we start?”
“You two can start tomorrow. Spend today settling in and exploring the grounds,” Derek shows her his first truly warm smile since the sisters arrived as he extends his hand towards her, “I look forward to working with you, Miss...”
She takes his hand and shakes it, “Lara DuBois. And this is my sister, Tara.”
“DuBois?” Derek asks, glancing over at Dimitri with an amused smirk.
Dimitri coughs and looks down at his shoes, knowing that if he looked at Derek now nothing would be able to contain his giggles. The sisters look between the two men, confused as to what they found so humorous.
Derek clears his throat and says, ” Well, I better go downtown and get copies of the keys made. Dimitri will show you to your rooms,” and with a grand flourish, he leaves to do the task at hand. The three stand around in awkward silence until they hear the front door close.
Dimitri fidgets with his lab coat and says, “Well, I better show you to your rooms. Do you have any luggage you need to be brought in?”
Tara points to the duffle bag and old trunk perched in the doorway, “We can manage.”
“I see. Well, follow me then,” he leads the two upstairs. “This place is huge, so until you’re used to it, I would advise against roaming around after dark. You could get horribly lost.”
At the top of the stairs, they reach a large corridor splitting off in two directions. Dimitri points to his left, “This way leads to the West Wing. You’ll find a sitting room, a study, your rooms, as well as several other unused rooms and a bathroom down there. Down the East Wing are mine and Derek’s rooms, and a few other spare guest rooms and the library.”
Lara spots a narrow staircase hidden in the shadows of the East Wing hall.
“Where does that lead to?”
Dimitri wipes his glasses and peers over at where she is pointing, “The master suite and the attic.”
Tara nods, “Ah, off-limits, then?”
He escorts them down the West Wing. Once they reach the end of the hall he motions to two doors.
“These two are to be your rooms. Sorry, we were only expecting one, so this room might need a little airing out. The bathroom is down the third hall. Just go down this hall and take the right fork, then go down that hall and take the other right fork. You can’t miss it. If you like, you two can decorate your rooms, however, no painting the walls. If Jedidiah came this way and saw lime green walls or the like he would have a fit.”
Lara tilts her head at him, “Jedidiah? Is that the name of your- I mean our- employer?”
Dimitri nods, “Yes. Jedidiah Fáelán is the master of this house, as well as an old friend. Although, I doubt he would ever admit to the latter.”
Tara turns to him and asks, “So, when do we meet the boss man?”
“You’ll meet him soon enough, I’d think.” Pulling out a large set of keys from his lab coat, Dimitri removes two from the set and hands them to the sisters, “These are the keys to your rooms. Derek should be back later this evening with copies of the house keys.”
“Who else has copies of these keys?” Tara asks as she waves her room key in front of Dimitri’s face.
“No one. Those are it, so please try not to lose them. However, Mr.Fáelán does carry a master key.”
“And, how do we know this Fáelán guy won’t come sneaking in whenever he feels like it?” Tara inquires with a cocked brow.
Lara scoffs at her sister, “Tara! Please...”
The young man thinks for a minute, then nods, “No, no, it’s a fair question. Jedidiah is a very private person. Being such, he tends to keep to himself and respects others’ privacy.”
Tara asks, “So, don’t bother him and he won’t bother us?”
“Pretty much, yes. But, if it would make you two feel more comfortable, I could ask David to install deadbolts on your doors.”
“David? There are four of you?” Tara blurts out as she gawks at their new housemate.
“Huh? Oh! No no, David lives in his flat downtown. He’s just handy with stuff like that. Well, I better be getting back to work. If you two need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask,” he gives the two an awkward wave as he goes back the way they came.
Tara waits for him to round the corner before turning to her sister and saying, “God, I hope we’re doing the right thing.”