Read the Preface.
Read Part 1.
The three men returned to the car, only to find a surprise waiting for them: namely, the car was not waiting for them. Basilio’s new Model A, the best car in Illini, was missing.
The two guards quickly dashed off in either direction to look, while Basilio cupped his face in his hands in disbelief. He was soon startled from his reverie by one of the guards.
He came running. “You see it?” The guard who had called shook his head. He was about to speak when the other interrupted: he had spotted tire treads of the car on the road back to Illini. Basilio might have kissed him on the cheek in instant gratitude, but an impatient grimace from the first guard made him attentive again. “Why did you halloo us, then?”
The guard pointed a short ways ahead: “Look!” Sure enough, not twenty yards away, was the West Gate garage, kept apart from the main building and evidently immune to the house’s ill-fortune.
Within minutes they were driving back to the city, this time in much older Model T. The road was slow going, but at last they found themselves back in the city.
Basilio almost blushed at the ignominy of returning in a T. The car still ran, thank the gods, but Dom would have never thought he’d ever be found in a T again, not after he was given a Model A, still in prototype, as a sign of ‘friendship’ with Mr. Ford and more importantly Mr. Ford's financiers. He smiled at the memory: the family business had been good.
But now the estate was threatened, and the threat must be dealt with. The car slowed to a stop outside the Temple, and Basilio flung himself out and up the stairs. Just before he passed through the doors, he stopped, turned, and gaped again. The car, his car, his stolen Model A, was parked outside the house, parked where it had been parked every day since he had received it.
He shook his head with disbelief, then anxiously waved his guards to follow. Whoever had stolen the car may yet be inside, and whoever had stolen the car might have information on the person who had destroyed the West Gate.
They entered, and the other Temple guards quickly gathered around him. One of the men soon admitted that the car had been returned by a young man who had entered the house, claiming the car was abandoned and he was returning it to its rightful owner. This young man was at the moment in the sitting room with the Basilio’s daughter, Dalia.
At that, Basilio waved the others to return to their posts. They fanned out, while his two trusted ‘goons’ followed him to the inner rooms. He would have words with this young man.
He almost knocked over the doors in his haste to enter. The young man quickly stood up. He had been sitting beside Dalia, leaning over to whisper in her ear, but he did not look self-conscious now that he was standing. Dalia, on the other hand, was still fighting a smile. Dom never had to fight a smile. His face was a vassal to his mind, and any wayward smiles had long since been routed. He glared at the youth.
Dom couldn’t read this kid. His eyes were almost dancing, a riot of green, but his expression was calm and confident. Basilio waited, hoping that silence would subordinate the young man, and looked closer. Truth be told, there was almost a hungry wildness in his posture. It was like looking at an animal. Unconsciously his brow furrowed; consciously he maintained a steady glare.
After some time, though still without the expected fear and trembling, the young man stepped forward. “Forgive me, sir, for intruding on your hearth and home. I trust your man at the door told you my reason for attending upon you?”
Interesting, he thought: An animal and a wordsmith. Aloud, he spoke in monosyllables. “Yes.”
“Good! I’m glad that you are well returned, and glad to be of service in returning your car.”
Basilio expected this gruff reply would give the young man some pause. It didn’t.
“Indeed? Pity. Well, I was just telling your lovely daughter Dalia my sad little story. Forgive me, young lady” (her eyes danced with his) “but it seems I am not welcome here.”
It was only the ambiguity of this reply that made the young man stop. “Pardon?”
“You may stay.”
Another pause. “Is that so…?”
“If" Dom paused "you tell me who you are and how you came to find that car in the first place."
"Oh!" His face lifted. "I saw smoke and thought I might help. It was visible all morning. But the place was deserted, and the only thing I saw was the car. It looked to be yours, so I figured the one who took it from you was the one who had burnt the house. So I took it on myself to return it."
Dom pressed him. "But how did you find yourself in the middle of nowhere? No one lives near that house for miles."
The young man seemed abashed for a moment – or perhaps merely confused – but soon took a second wind. “It was a lady, you see.” Dalia looked crestfallen – simple girl! The youth hastened to reassure her. "No, no. It was" (he paused for half a beat) "my sister." His face brightened with hers, and Dom found himself almost buying this performance. "She had lately fallen on trying times and more trying suitors, and I was assisting her with both.” He smiled lopsidedly.
Dom stood in silence for a few moments. The boy’s tale was convincing, even if his face was not. And while Dalia still waited expectantly for his approval – or whatever she wanted for him – he was still troubled by the raw wildness that he saw beneath.
Part 3 will be posted tomorrow.
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