Chris could not wait. As soon as the sky began to lighten, he rushed towards the bedroom into which Graham and Judith had returned. His knocking, so insistent, awoke more than those he had intended to awake. A very tired looking Judith peaked through the gap between door and frame. She had been asleep for no more than four hours.
“Christopher, what is it?”
Chris detected a vague note of annoyance. Judith, he was sure, had a side to her that would very rarely tolerate irrational behaviour from any body. Although he was certainly forever in her good books, he saw a spark if impatience flash past her eyes.
“Judith, is Graham awake?”
“No, he’s still sleeping,” a self piteous groan crept from the bed that told otherwise. “He had a lot to drink last night and now he is suffering. Could you come back later perhaps? When he is better.”
Chris stood and thought for a time before he answered.
“No, I can’t. It’s really important.”
“It’s not about you and Lucy is it?”
“Me and Lucy? No. Why would it be about me and Lucy? It’s about something I saw last night, something on the edge of the lawns.”
“What did you see?” demanded a voice from within the room. “Come in immediately and tell me.”
If drunkenness had sat upon him when first knocked from sleep, it had now been shrugged off. Judith opened the door and allowed the boy to enter. Sitting up in a huge bed, Graham Hunter looked every inch of a man to the manor born. Clothed in complimentary silk pyjamas, bleary eyes and self-standing hair, he was the epitome of an eccentric aristocrat.
“What did you see, Chris?”
Chris took a intake of breath before starting. He told them about the library and how he and Lucy had gone there to talk. At this point he noted the exchange of almost imperceptible looks between the two adults yet continued without bothering to explain. When he reached the point about the figure standing partly hidden by the tree-line, there was a change of mood.
“What type of figure,” asked Judith, “male or female?”
“I think it was male. From where I stood, I think it was pretty well made and tall. I watched it for some time without it noticing me. We had no lights on in the library. Well, we did, but only a little torch and that was placed on the floor. I don’t think it could have been seen from outside. Anyway, I watched this thing and it just stood there watching the castle. I looked away for less than a second to tell Lucy about it, but when she looked, it had gone, completely disappeared. I watched from window of my room for most of the night just to see if it would return. It never did.”
“It might have been a trick of the light, or an animal,” was Judith’s addition.
“Yes, I thought about that. So, I went outside as soon as it got light. I went to the place I thought I had seen the figure and do you know what? I found some footprints.”
“What type of footprints?” asked Graham.
“Human ones. I followed them for a while and they led all the way out of the grounds. There was a sharp frost last night which meant the surface of the snow turned to think ice. When I walked on it, my weight barely caused a crack, but these footprints were massive, almost twice as big as mine and they must have carried some weight because they sunk deep into the lower layers of snow. I could have carried on following them but I didn’t think it would be the best thing to do. So I came back.”
“Well there’s nobody big enough to fill shoes like that in our group,” mused Graham weighing up the possible solutions.
“It wasn’t wearing shoes. The footprints were of bare feet.”
“So,” Judith submitted, “we have a big footed naked guy prowling around the grounds when everyone has gone to sleep. Did anyone bother to lock the front door?”
Chris smiled ruefully, “I’m afraid not. It was open when I went out this morning.”
Graham was already climbing out of bed; the luxury of a hangover would have to wait.
“But you locked the door on your way back in?”
“I locked every door I could find.”
“That’s my boy. We need to get everybody together as soon as we can. Don’t panic anyone. Just make sure we can have a meeting. I don’t want somebody to wander off outside on their own. Can you and Chris do that for me Judith?”
“Certainly, but it would be best to shower first. I would not wish to be seen by anyone looking like this. Not even a ten foot tall naked guy.”