Antonia has paused on the top stair and gazes down upon William, who, at the bottom of the stairs, has taken hold of the handrail and is violently pulling at it until it breaks free from its rusty bolts. He throws it down into the bushes next to the stair. He stands motionless for a moment, panting with flared nostrils. He kicks the railing for good measure, then just looks at it. Eventually, he reaches into his jacket pocket, takes out a cigarette, lights up, and begins pacing. Kicking up dirt. Forcing air and smoke in and out of his body, clearly wanting to do more damage, but not sure to what.
‘Dr Brandon? Mr Brandon? Mr Honeywell will see you now.’ The Chanel-suited receptionist stood next to them. She led them out of the reception room, up a grand polished, curving wooden staircase, to a door with a brass plaque on it. She knocked discreetly and, at the reply, opened the door and stood aside so that Emily and Robbie could enter.Eliott Honeywell was slim and sharp, with white wings of hair and a three-piece suit in a rather gorgeous muted tartan, complete with watch chain, red silk tie and pocket handkerchief. He stood up when they entered and came round his vast mahogany desk to shake both of their hands. ‘Dr Brandon, Mr Brandon, what a pleasure.’
His hands were manicured and, in addition to his wedding ring, he wore a gold signet ring on the pinkie of his right hand. His handshake was dry and firm; he gestured to the leather armchairs facing his desk and spoke to his receptionist: ‘Sissy, some tea I think. Is tea all right for you folks?’‘That would be lovely,’ said Emily, perching on one of the armchairs. It was big enough that she felt dwarfed, and set far enough away from Robbie’s chair that she couldn’t reach his hand without stretching the full length of her arm. Eliott Honeywell wore cologne, something strong and expensive-smelling, and the scent permeated the room with its striped wallpaper, bookcases lined with leather-bound books, and more certificates on the walls.Honeywell returned to his own vast leather chair behind his desk and steepled his fingers. ‘Is that an English accent I detect, Dr Brandon?’ His own accent was Southern, pure honey.
‘Yes, I grew up in Norfolk.’‘I’ve been there. It’s a beautiful country. We visited the Broads on our way up to Scotland to do some golfing – eight, nine years back. You earned your medical degree there?’
‘I see. Very nice, and impressive too. And Mr Brandon, are you a sailor or a motorboat enthusiast?’Winter managed to extricate himself from the fight and rushed over to me. ‘What are you doing? What’s wrong?’
Thank goodness. I raised my eyes to his, an action that took a lot of effort and energy, particularly as I still didn’t know which was the real Winter. ‘It’s not him,’ I croaked. ‘That’s not Blackbeard.’He frowned. ‘What?’
I opened my mouth again but it was too late. The security guard raised his hand and thumped Winter on the back of the neck. Winter collapsed, his body sprawled heavily against mine.‘I’ll try again,’ the guard said, blood streaming from his nose and into his beard. ‘Who the hell are you?’