The Thunder of Nautilus

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Justin Returns

James called Marie as soon as Nigel told him about their discovery at the chapel and said that he was terribly worried about her, that he could be at the manor later that evening, and that he could take her back to London to stay with him at his flat. Marie told Jim that she thought it was sweet of him, but she’d just started to work on the next part of her book, and the manor was not only a safe haven, but also very convenient for her because she could use John’s library to do research. She said she didn’t want Jim to interrupt his work on her account and told him to come down only when he had no other commitments. James reluctantly agreed to her wishes and asked her how she was dealing with the horror she’d seen, and she said that being able to talk to John—who, after all, was a psychiatrist—helped a lot, and the diazepam he’d given her the last couple of nights had ensured that she would be able to sleep. James concluded by saying he’d call again the next day, and that he’d come to see her the following weekend.

In the meantime, after traveling through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee, Justin and Julian arrived in Nashville in early February. Justin had been in regular contact with his parents and had rung his brother a couple of times when he was a little drunk, telling James about the amazing things he’d seen and the interesting people he’d met. Two weeks after James had been to see Marie, Justin called and James told him about Marie’s and Nigel’s distressing experience, the connection to the psychiatrist, and that Marie was now staying at the manor because she felt unsafe alone at the cottage. James then described the circumstances of the missing woman and the discovery of her body miles away. Justin was disturbed by what his brother had told him and expressed his concern for Marie. He asked James to give him the address of the manor so he could write her a letter.

As soon as Justin ended the conversation with his brother, he decided to return to England and booked a flight to London for later the same day. He told Julian that a friend back home was in need of his help, but he didn’t want his family to know, so he asked Julian to keep his return a secret. He bought a few postcards, filled them with banalities, placed stamps on them, and signed them, then asked Julian to send them one at a time to his parents each week until further notice, and promised that he’d call Julian and keep him informed.

After arriving back in London, Justin stayed overnight in a youth hostel, and the next day surfed the Internet, looking for a secondhand car dealer with inexpensive campers. He soon found what he was looking for—a small van minimally outfitted with a bed and storage space underneath, a gas cooker, and a good-sized cooler to store perishables. He paid cash and drove to an army surplus store, where he found all he needed for basic camping, plus a pair of good boots, a pair of pants, two jumpers, and a warm jacket, all camo. He bought binoculars—one for daytime and another for night vision—a knife sharp enough to cut the throat of any enemy, and a sleeping bag made to withstand arctic temperatures. After his purchases were done, he bought some takeout at an Indian restaurant and returned to the hostel, where he stayed another night and drove to Wiltshire early the next day.

When Justin arrived in the township closest to the manor, he bought three maps—one of Wiltshire, one of historic sites in Wiltshire, and one showing every country road, village, and access to farmhouses and cottages in the area. He bought soups in ready-made packages, some canned foods, instant coffee and long-lasting milk, a few apples, and bottles of mineral water. Then late in the evening he drove into the woods close to the manor, where he was able to observe who came and left while remaining hidden from view. That night, Justin tried to sleep but kept waking with thoughts about ways to protect Marie from a psycho killer, who more than likely was still within the locale and posing an actual threat to his brother’s girlfriend.

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