Alfie looked at me frantically, and I could almost see his mind racing. “Quick, stuff these bags into the closet and run straight to the kitchen. Try to get out through the kitchen door and run straight to town. I don’t care if you have pay a hundred quid for a cab to drive you, just get out of the county.” As he whispered this, he threw my suitcases into the closet and started urging me down the corridor. “Quickly now, hurry!”
“What on earth is going on, Alfie?” I had to ask, I couldn’t just accept this crazy behaviour and do as I was told.
“Aggie, don’t question me. There’s no time. I’ll try to head them off here,” he muttered.
I heard the urgency in his voice, even though I didn’t understand it, and let him hustle me along. Most unfortunately, as I learned all too shortly, my uncle’s efforts were all in vain, because before we had reached the end of the long corridor, the front door swung open and a deep voice rang out, “We have the house surrounded; stop right there, for her sake, Alfred.”
Alfie froze, cursing under his breath, and pulled me to a halt along with him. Dejectedly, he turned towards the voice and, pulling me by my elbow, walked slowly back to the door.
“Alright, Tatlock. No need to…” Alfie trailed off, as though he couldn’t even begin to put his thoughts into words.
“Were you trying to cheat the Llewelyn tradition?” the man who had spoken continued, almost in a pleasant tone of voice. He was a tall man in his late fifties, whose black hair had begun to grey about the temples, and even standing still he managed to exude great authority and grace. Beside him, a younger man in his mid- to late twenties stood in an aggressive, yet petulant manner.
“Not exactly,” Alfie said cautiously. “There are nuances to be considered.”
“Really?” The older man feigned surprised interest, still in a very pleasant tone. “I can’t imagine what those nuances would be. She is a Llewelyn, is she not?”
Alfie hesitantly opened his mouth to answer, but I couldn’t just stand there and let them keep talking about me – which is what I assumed they were – and not say anything.
“Would someone mind explaining what the hell is going on?” I gave up trying to control my voice; I was confused and angry, and after what I had been through in the past twenty-four hours, I was in no mood to be trifled with.
“Hush,” Alfie hissed at me. “Let me try to salvage this.”
At hearing this, the man burst out in hearty laughs, shutting the front door behind him and moving farther into the house. His companion, obviously failing to find the same humour in this, followed in his reluctant, hostile way.
“There is nothing to save,” he said genially. His laidback friendliness, when contrasted with my uncle’s defensive fright, only made me nervous. “Would you perhaps introduce us? We will be getting to know one another quite well in the future.”
Alfie wet his lips anxiously. “My niece,” he nodded at me. “This is Stephen Tatlock and Luke Tatlock.”
“That’s fascinating. Whoever they are, do you think you could come back tomorrow? I’m sure you’re lovely people, but I don’t think I’m up to exchanging pleasantries with strangers at the moment. I’ve had an exhausting couple of days and a long journey. So if you wouldn’t mind, please go away.” I was going to tell them to piss off, but this seemed a nicer way of doing it. Pointed, but with a veneer of politeness, which is all I was willing to concede at the moment. I didn’t understand what was going on, I was tired, still recuperating from my hangover, and generally in a foul mood because of Sam. I was taking a stance here, and if they didn’t like it, they would have to get over it, preferably in their own home.