The Gruinard Project part 4a

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Thanks once again to Ali. Short chapter again. Spying will begin in earnest next chapter.

Chapter 16 Lucas North's Family Home Keswick.

The house was still and quiet, all except for the noise of the grandfather clock. The simple repetitive ticking should have been comforting. It's metronomic rhythm a calm and peaceful addition to the traditional English home. It shouldn't irritate her but of course it did; its constant ticking and deep chimes, as it struck the hour and the half, a slow reminder of how long he had been gone. The stillness, apart from the clock ticking a reflection of how early it was. Too early to be sat drinking tea in the farm house kitchen.

Kate had heard him fighting his demons in his sleep, even though they were not sharing a bed in his parent's home. She wondered if anybody else had heard. If they had it seemed they were able to return to sleep, while she had lain awake until the clock had driven her mad and she had come down and made a cup of tea. She glanced about at the dim kitchen, like the rest of the house it was lived in and comfortable, a home. A huge pine table, the kind a family should congregate round, sat in the middle of the large flagstone floor. Rustic pine units with granite work surfaces were fitted to the walls. A Belfast sink and range although new, maintained the original Victorian feel of the place. Elsewhere in the house original features had been lovingly restored. Kate sighed, the sad thing was just how uncomfortable Lucas appeared here; a place that should have been a haven.

She rubbed her eyes tiredly as the clock struck five o'clock, reminding her once again how little sleep she had that night. The party had not finished until gone midnight. Judging by the number of people who had attended Marcus and Helen had a lot of friends. Kate had watched at first amused and then astonished at the stir caused by Lucas' entrance. Whispers followed them as they made their way towards Marcus and Helen. It was obvious that neither of them had really expected Lucas to show up at the party and equally obvious how delighted they both were that he had decided to attend. Marcus grabbed him in a bear hug and tears formed in Helen's eyes. They had both been surprised by Kate's short brown hair but accepted Kate's explanation that she wore the wig as bet with a friend. Lucas' parents though had reacted very differently to their son, their hellos cautious and guarded; the conversation stilted and awkward more like strangers than family.

The evening had been a bizarre combination of whispered speculation amongst the guests, fun and enjoyment with Marcus and Helen, and sheer discomfort with his parents. Kate had actually been amazed when Philip and Lucy North insisted that they stayed at their home. Which is how she found herself sitting at the table drinking tea in a house that looked like a home, but one where the son was little more than a stranger.

The ticking of the clock was interrupted by footsteps on the stairs, somebody else in the house was stirring.

"Lucas not back yet?" Philip North asked.

Kate glanced up at him.

"No. I didn't realise that anybody else knew he was up. Please excuse my being cheeky but I made a pot of tea."

"Tea, the British answer to all that ails us, but its soothing properties are nothing more than a myth," Philip commented.

"No, I guess that it just gives us something to do with our hands while we wait," Kate replied.

"I have drank countless cups of tea in the middle of the night Miss Masters."

"Please call me Kate, it seems a little formal to call me Miss Masters, especially when we share a common love."

"A common love?" Philip North looked at her.

"Lucas, is that not who we are both awake and worrying over?" Kate asked.

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