March 26th, 1820 | Newcliff, England
The light of bright shining lamps quickly replaced the dim light of lit candles in the workshop. The change happened suddenly and blinded Whiterun completely.
“Hell, that was bright,” he hissed and held his hands up against the burning light. Mr Hatch laughed. Apparently, he found Whiterun’s pain laughable. Whiterun stood in the doorway, waiting for his vision to adjust while Mr Hatch moved around in the Workshop. Glass clinked and cupboards opened and closed. When he was finally capable of looking into the light, he saw a room. The ceiling was lit by uncountable light bulbs, which seemed to hang free in their wires. On the wall near the entrance was a large wooden panel, equipped with three wooden levers. Mr Hatch was standing further inside the room, already caught up in work.
“Whoa!” said Shawn, sounding less than not very intelligent.
The Workshop was smaller than he would have expected, though still quite big. The far wall was covered in pieces of paper, most of which were drawings Whiterun could not comprehend without a closer look. Shelves full of slab metal, gears, screws and random gadgets covered most of the floor space in three rows in the left side of the room, whilst the wall opposite was painted white. In front of the wall was a desk, which he gathered was, probably, made of wood, though the amount of books, notes and pieces of metal made it hard to tell. In front of the wall with the drawings was a workbench, where Hatch was currently fiddling with something. As Whiterun stepped closer through the room, he noticed a slim pole about the width of his index finger. It stood about a meter tall, with a little round plate welded on top; on which, a small cog was balanced. A note with crude handwriting was placed on the wall behind it:
Whiterun stepped closer to get a better look, but did not get very close.
“Respect…” Hatch said in a loud and serious voice, back still turned, “-the cog!”
Whiterun looked up, backed away, puzzled, and said, “Can I ask-“
A soft humming was coming from a brass speaker in the upper corner of the room.
“Is it a radio, I hear?” Shawn asked, pointing towards the speaker, causing Mr Hatch to laugh - still not looking away from his work.
“What you hear, dear Mr Whiterun, is my housekeeper, Mrs Riverwood.”
“You have a housekeeper?” Shawn had to do his best not to sound too impressed, but he was. The house itself was a masterpiece with rooms as large as smaller houses and with all the most modern, yet experimental, technology. They even had a housekeeper, and a young one, judging from the voice. Edward threw the piece of unknown technology aside on the table in a surprising state of rage. Whiterun could see that the table was covered in bits and pieces that would have been a lot easier to recognize before Edward Hatch got his hands on them.
“There are few who'd deny, at what I do I am the best, yet that woman insists on doing just so! Thinking that she is smarter than I am! She seriously thinks that I can be outsmarted! A fool is all she is.”
Shawn Whiterun moved away from the smaller man, closer to the speaker and the soft humming. Edward moved back to the table, now holding a large clamp, with which he hit one of the unrecognizable objects on the table. Something on the table sparked and Edward moved away, stumbling to the floor with a well-placed moan.
The humming stopped. It was shortly replaced with the sound of running feet and swearing.
Whiterun witnessed it all, but could not do anything. Before he really understood what was going on, the door to the workshop was kicked in. A shadowlike figure flew in the room. A woman with dusty features and ebony hair had rapidly moved inside the workshop and helped the soot roasted Edward on his feet, all while swearing in a foreign language, possibly Spanish.
“Get your claws away from me, witch!” Edward hissed as he moved away from the woman, while dusting himself off from soot. It did not help at all. The only thing the genius accomplished was to smear out the black powder. The woman rolled her eyes.
“Stupid, stupid man! Do you want to die?” she asked, with fury glowing from her dark eyes.
“Don’t be a fool! Science has a cost, but I’m not stupid enough to put myself in danger.”
The woman raised an eyebrow towards the machines and tools that were shoved aside in the room. Whiterun thought he could see a charcoal driven engine, a metal object shooting electricity into a glass wall and something big in the corner of the room looking like a giant crystal. He did not know what these items were used for, but instantly agreed with the woman that they indeed seemed dangerous.
“Really now?” the woman spat.
“There is no real danger in my experiments.”
“Only because Lord Charles forbids it!”
The woman now turned to Whiterun. The glow in her eyes was still burning strong, but she seemed to have softened a lot. Her eyes were oval and her lips like a perfect bow. When she smiled, it lit up her round face and made her look quite beautiful.
“And who might you be?” she asked.
“Shawn Whiterun - I’m Mr Hatch’s bodyguard from today forward.”
The woman ignored his stretched hand, but ran her slender finger through that dark mane of hers, while biting her lips and twirling her hands.
“That is just unacceptable!”
The shout blew both men backward in fear. The fury burned like never before in the eyes of the Latin female. In one motion, she reached out and grabbed Shawn by the shirt. He felt his head hit the wall. His eyes widened in shock. This woman was strong. A moment Shawn actually thought that she grabbed him by the neck with her claws, but then he realised that they were ordinary nails - fine cut, painted and partly sharp nails. Moreover, he did not doubt that they could be used as an excellent weapon.
“Mrs Riverwood, it isn’t my place to correct you, but it is your behaviour that is unacceptable,” said Edward Hatch, standing with his back turned towards them, working again. This time he had properly prepared himself by covering his hands in rubber gloves.
“There is just one rule in this house: I’m only taking care of one man-child and only by orders from the lord. Don’t get in my way!”
The gunman could feel her hot breath on his neck with every word she muttered, as his body was pushed to the wall, until the female finally let go. She dusted herself off, as if she was cleaning her body from anger, before returning to the aristocratic lady she was supposed to be. A couple of stray hairs had loosened from the complicated bun.
Shawn Whiterun felt happy that the mysterious housekeeper had not ripped out his throat.
“I won’t then, Mrs Riverwood.”
The woman looked at him, clearly confused.
“Get in your way… - I won’t,” Shawn said slowly. He felt like he was walking towards a wild tiger disguised as an innocent kitten.
“No worries and you can just call me Angelina,” the woman said with only a faint hint of an accent in her soft voice. Her face lit up in a fine smile, as she walked to the door, without moving her eyes from his.
“Close the door after you, Angelina,” said Edward with pressure on the last bit. He laughed to himself as the woman closed the door with a loud noise.
“And on that note, I believe it’s time to get you to your room. I’m busy, so do you understand simple directions?” Hatch asked, smiling at his work, though directed at Shawn.
“Um, I guess so,” he replied, feeling like an idiot for the third time today, “where do I go?”
“Great! Well, you go through the door,” he started, gesturing to the door, “then right, for about three doors. You then go through the fourth door, not the third and not the fifth, you go through the third door-” he looked up at Shawn, then shook his head and corrected, “no, the fourth door. You go through the fourth door. That’ll lead you to another corridor, where you’ll take a left when the corridor allows it - this will lead you to a staircase. You go up one floor, then exit the staircase on the right, and three doors down is your room. Got it?”
Three times today, all in the last hour or so, he had sounded like an idiot, so his response was prompt: “Yeah, I got it.”
He took a step towards the door, and then stopped.
“By the way, what is the combination to enter your workshop?” he asked.
“The Workshop,” Hatch corrected, then answered the question by handing him a slip of paper with another fine example of his crude handwriting:
“Any specific reason? Might make it easier to remember.”
“Turn it upside down.”
“They’re funny birds.”
Shawn turned around, walked towards the door, and before he turned the handle, he mumbled: “It’s ‘geese’.”
“What?” Hatch mumbled in response as the door closed behind Shawn.
As Shawn exited the Workshop he smirked to himself, then took a right. Mumbling, he repeated the instructions to himself, but found that this simply confused him even more. It was not long before he realised he was lost, while his attempts at remembering instructions were jumbled and led him further astray. Eventually he found a staircase and went one floor up. He exited the staircase through a door and found himself in the entrance hall.
To his right was the front door and to his left the big stairway he and the Rat had used earlier that night. He was quite sure this was the wrong place and decided to look for help. He heard voices from a door across the hall and walked to it. His knock was followed by an invitation to enter, and enter he did.
He was not sure what kind of room he had stepped into. It was rather small, compared to what he had seen of the house, but it was cosy. There was a surprisingly small amount of furniture and it did not seem as clean as the other rooms. Even the Workshop had been clean. A fire was burning in the fireplace, spreading its orange light on the floor, while the moon was shining through the windows and hitting the walls. A round table was placed near the fire and around the table; there were four chairs in very different styles. Henry - the rat, Angelina and Mr Hatch had each taken a chair. All were facing Whiterun as he entered the room, all looking surprised.
“Mr Whiterun, we hadn’t expected you this evening,” said Henry, the rat.
“We hadn’t expected you at all,” Mr Hatch corrected, “let me guess. You got lost?”
Shawn ignored the comment. He would not want to give the bastard the satisfaction of the truth. Luckily, Angelina interrupted.
“And what if he did? We have space for one more and it could be nice with a change,” said Angelina.
“Change from what?” Both Hatch and Henry’s lips turned into fine lines of rage, looking at Angelina.
“Winning, of course!”
Playing cards were covering most of the table, along with a couple of bottles of alcohol of unknown spirit.
Angelina pushed out the last chair with her foot while smiling at him. He took the invitation and sat down. Henry turned on an oil-lamp after Edward kept swearing about the lack of light. Angelina dealt the cards, sending Shawn a sorry smile. When the game finally began, the moon was on the sky, just outside the window. It was a late night game of poker, with only a small price in coins and bills. Shawn was surprised at Angelina’s talent, and how bad of a loser the genius Edward Hatch was - especially towards Henry.
Angelina won the first two games, Shawn won the third and the last ended as sudden, but inevitable argument broke out between Henry and Hatch, debating whether or not the other one was cheating. Hatch argued that he was a genius who did not have to cheat, whilst Henry referred to the genius’ current losing streak of 142 games. Shawn did not pay attention, but instead helped Angelina collect the cards, while the war of the cheating poker player raged on.
“Are they always like this?” he asked, curious to find out more about the true nature of the genius.
“Always. He is a sore loser. Both in reality and in games,” Angelina said as she stood up.
Whiterun decided to follow her example and leave the game before the bloodshed. He pulled the chair back, grabbed his gun and followed the housekeeper out the door. Behind them, they could still hear the men fighting.
Angelina laughed. Whiterun held the door for her and they entered the yard together.
“So you just wandered around the house for two hours straight, and found us by luck!” she laughed, summarising the story he just told her. The dark hair had loosened completely and had fallen around her head. He could not help it but laugh a bit himself.
“It isn’t funny, Hatch’s instructions were wrong!”
“Sure they were - Edward gets lost from time to time as well, you know,” Angelina promised him, still laughing.
“Yes, but we will have to continue this chat later on. I’ll have to put the bottles back in the kitchen. The lord is strict and we can’t continue to play our little games if we make a mess every time.”
“Shouldn’t be the sore losers’ job to clean up after the game?” Shawn asked.
Angelina chuckled softly. The night wind made a mess out of her hair, before making them both shiver. The soft sound of tree branches drowned everything for a moment. He stared at the pretty woman and she stared back as she fumbled with the box containing the empty bottles. Whiterun could feel how alcohol rose to his head, and for a moment, a single moment, he strongly considered kissing her. She laughed again. This time it was a tired laugh.
“It is rather chilly for a spring night, wouldn’t you say?” she asked, looking at the moon.
“Aye, it is,” the words were a low mumble and an ending.
“Just take the door to the left from the entrance hall. It leads directly to your room. It is next to Edward’s.”
“Should be easy to find.”
She nodded and smiled. The box of bottles was lowering in her hands. It must have been heavier than he thought. Suddenly he felt very rude not to offer her help and he was about to ask her, but she had already turned her back to him. As he watched her walk, he heard her mutter:
“Don’t get lost again.”
But it could have been the wind.
The door swung open, just like the first time, as if controlled by magic. If it had not been for the small mechanical sound, Whiterun would have thought it was, indeed, magic. He sighed as he entered the warm house. It did not feel like a home. Not yet, but he felt assured that Mrs Riverwood could help him feel at home. After all, they were both babysitters of Edward Hatch. He stood alone in the dim light, thinking, but suddenly a sound awoke him. It was an indescribable sound, but he was able to place it. The sound of a human being scared to death. The sound he instinctively connected with gore. The same sound, which once before had ruined his life. He turned around on his heel, facing the door. The only thing he could hear now was the strong spring wind against the glass windows.
Maybe it was the wind.
It could have been the wind.
A new scream shattered the night. Shawn grabbed his gun whilst throwing the leather belt over his shoulder. He was out the door in seconds, running through the yard as fast as he could. He damned himself that he had been growing sloppy and slow.