“So they’re taking on the roles of the teacher and the guard.”
“That’s the theory,” Malory confirmed. “I’m interested in how they’ll react when I broach it. And I can use Flynn to distract them long enough to give me time to get another look at the painting and take a couple of pictures of it. That could lead to other paintings with similar themes. It might be helpful.”
“I’ll do a search on mythological art this morning.” Dana checked her watch. “I’ve got to go. The three of us should get together on this as soon as we can.”
“Let’s see what we come up with today.”
They walked out together, and Malory stopped on the sidewalk. “Dana. Is it just crazy to do all this?”
“Damn right. Call me when you get back from the Peak.”
IT was a more pleasant, if less atmospheric, drive on a sunny morning. As a passenger, Malory could indulge herself with the scenery and wonder what it was like to live high on a ridge where the sky seemed only a hand span away and the world was spread out like a painting below.
A fitting view for gods, she supposed. Lofty and dramatic. She had no doubt Rowena and Pitte had chosen it for its power as much as for the privacy.
In another few weeks, when those elegantly rolling hills felt the chill of fall, the colors would stun the eye and catch the breath.
Mists would hover in the morning, sliding into those folds and dips between the hills, spreading like sparkling pools until the sun dissolved them.
And still the house would stand, black as midnight, with its fanciful lines etched against the sky. Guarding the valley. Or watching it. What did it see, she wondered, year after year across the decades?
What did it know?
The question brought on a shudder, a sudden sharp sense of dread.
She shook her head, and rolled down her window. All at once the car seemed hot and stuffy. “No. I’m spooking myself, that’s all.”
“If you don’t want to do this now—”
“I want to do it. I’m not afraid of a couple of rich eccentrics. In fact, I liked them. And I want to see the painting again. I can’t stop thinking about it. Whatever direction my mind goes off in, I keep coming back to the painting.”
She glanced out her window, into the deep, leafy woods. “Would you want to live up here?”
Intrigued, she looked back at him. “That was fast.”
“I’m a social animal. I like having people around. Moe might like it.” He gazed into the rearview mirror to see Moe, nose jammed into the narrow window opening, floppy ears flying.
“I can’t believe you brought the dog.”
“He likes to ride in the car.”
She angled around, studied Moe’s blissful expression. “Obviously. Have you ever considered getting him clipped so his hair isn’t in his eyes?”
“Don’t say clipped.” Flynn winced as he muttered the word. “We’re still not over the whole neutering deal.”
He slowed as they drove along the wall that edged the estate. Then stopped to study the twin warriors who flanked the iron gate.
“They don’t look friendly. I camped up here a couple of times with some friends when I was in high school. The house was empty then, so we climbed over the wall.”
“Did you go into the house?”
“There wasn’t enough courage in a six-pack of beer for that, but we had a hell of a time freaking ourselves out. Jordan claimed he saw a woman walking on the parapet or whatever you call it. Swore he did. He wrote a book about her later, so I guess he saw something. Jordan Hawke,” Flynn added. “You might’ve heard of him.”
“Jordan Hawke wrote about Warrior’s Peak?”