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   Chapter 5 Brownie Oxford and the Idlewild Incident

Brownie Oxford and the Idlewild Incident: Brownie Bk 2 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 14826

Updated: 2018-03-07 14:34

Chapter 5

The day passed and long shadows stretched across the estate grounds. There was still some light in the sky and in the distance the house lights gleamed, guiding me in. "Dinner, packing and on my way at first light, " I told myself as I walked. I pushed aside thoughts of family or of the places the Averys acquired the skills they were now using to help me. The thought that this giant estate was actually mine and everyone on it, living and dead, expected me to return and live here at some point was not something I wanted to even contemplate.

"And it is a problem for later, " I reminded myself. "Remember how to eat an elephant?" I needed to concentrate on one bite at a time. For now my one bite was my next destination. Spending a second night here was unavoidable, but I didn't think I could be comfortable for a third night. I knew leaving that I had at best a two and a half, three day start. This was the end of the sixth day since my departure. Time was running out. I needed a place to get to ground fast and Matheson's estate was not it. My steps quickened, my thoughts racing and sifting through facts. In addition, even though the Averys were helpful and I found myself liking them, I found their skills a little creepy and was ready to be away from them. I also wanted time to think and sort through both my new knowledge of my family and my long held personal beliefs. Living at the Mathesons' ancestral home didn't seem the right place for that either somehow.

I reached the house and checked into the kitchen. Mrs. Avery was busy at work and I told her I would be in the guest room. She told me she'd call on the in house phone when dinner was ready. I left her there and headed up to the room, wondering if they would be eating with me or if I would be eating alone again.

In the room, I pulled my notebook and pen out and settled myself and the items Avery gave me in the center of the bed. My efforts at making the bed were improved upon, no doubt by Mrs. Avery, and the bed looked as though professional hotel staff had taken care of it. I decided not to take it as a commentary on my bed making skills.

My search started with maps. I estimated the possible distance I could drive if I started my journey at the crack of dawn and drove all day. Using that as a general radius I began my search. Given that I was willing to drive seventeen hour days, I had a broad radius to work from. I wanted a city that was large enough for me to blend into, but not large enough to look like an obvious destination. Swift knew I would be the most comfortable in large cities and would no doubt use that to inform his initial search.

"And a university would be necessary since that is part of my cover story." Given that it was January I figured I had time to possibly pull together an application before deadline for the following year. "Provided I could get the appropriate documentation." I looked over at the folder Avery gave me and pulled it close. I set the passport and various bank info aside and looked at the paperwork. Sure enough, Avery included both high school transcripts and various testing scores. Avery had me ranked as slightly above average, which I appreciated even if when I did take the tests senior year I scored higher on my own.

"That just means I'm not cheating, " I told myself. With the official documents squared away I figured I could probably handle the rest of the application process on my own. I looked and found that several of the cities within my radius not only seemed to be the appropriate mid-range size, but had state universities. After poking around a bit on the university websites, I picked one of the schools that had a fashion design program. I checked the application deadline and requirements and figured that given the time frame I could probably pull together an application package.

City chosen, I scanned for a hotel to use as my arrival point, booked a room on line and put my Bonnie Brown debit card to the test for the first time. I then began looking up various apartment buildings, looking for one that might suit my needs. By the time the phone rang and Mrs. Avery let me know dinner was ready, I had a list to check out after my arrival in town and felt quite buoyant with hope. In the kitchen, the table was set for one and the Avery's left me to my meal. Normally, I didn't mind eating alone. In fact I was more or less used to eating by myself. Somehow though eating alone in a large space, knowing there were two other people in the house, made it feel more lonely than usual. I shook off the feeling and finished my meal. After washing my dishes, I went upstairs to pack.

Despite hauling out all of my new clothes to play dress-up earlier, packing didn't take long. Thinking that I could place what I wouldn't need in the morning, in the rental car for easy ferrying to the new car in the morning, I picked up the bags and headed down to the foyer. Avery was just coming in the front door as I reached the bottom of the stairs.

"I can take those Miss, " He said with a smile. "I was just about to see if you were ready to load up. I had the feeling you would be ready to go bright and early tomorrow."

"It might not be bright when I leave, but it will be early, " I told him.

He took the bags from me and headed towards the door. "Understandable, " he said nodding his approval. "You'll be less noticeable leaving before first light. It will help as no one really saw you arrive. Which, of course means you were never here."

Outside a dark blue mid-sized SUV waited. It wasn't a newer model, maybe a few years old and showing the signs of wear. It was conceivable that this would have been a family car, passed down as parents bought a newer vehicle. It was roomy, but not too large for me to handle. It could carry everything I was taking with me while not blocking the windows and was relatively inconspicuous.

"Nice, " I said as I watched Avery add my bags to the back. He looked relieved by my approval.

"I know it's not flashy, " he began.

"But flashy isn't what I need, " I replied. I moved towards the open garage and Matheson's rental car. In no time, everything that was inside was transferred. With the rental car empty, I handed Avery the keys.

"We'll wipe it down to remove all traces of you before we turn it in on the off chance it was spotted leaving town." He told me.

"Thanks, " I said. While I had been wearing gloves most of the time, I was sure there were some loose hairs or other things that might tie me back to it and I appreciated the caution. Old vehicle settled, Avery walked me through the new one, making sure I knew where all of the buttons were and how everything operated. I appreciated both the tour and the fact that the gas tank was full. When we were done, I returned to the house, set the alarm on my new cell phone and noticed my new driver's license was sitting on the night stand. I put it into my wallet, along with my bank cards and put everything into my purse. Then deciding I might as well take advantage of it, I soaked in a nice long bubble bath before climbing into bed.

The next morning my alarm went off well before the sun came up. "Gotta run to stay on schedule for Paul, " I told myself as I rubbed sleep from my eyes. I blinked as reality caught up with me and I shook the thoughts awa

y. "Time to get gone, " I corrected. As my getting dressed process now included straightening my hair and adding make-up, it took longer than usual. Taking this into account, I set my alarm accordingly.

"Every day for the foreseeable future, " I reminded myself as I unplugged the flat iron to let it cool before packing it with the last of my things. "That's going to take some getting used to." As I was adding the last of my things to my one remaining bag, a soft knock sounded on the door. I jumped a little and cautiously opened the door, hoping Swift was not on the other side.

I sighed with relief when I spotted Mrs. Avery with a breakfast tray in her hands and what looked like a picnic basket over one arm. She set the tray down on the side table and the basket at the floor by the chair.

"The basket is to take with you and should have enough to carry you through the day, " She told me. "Just leave the tray when you are done and I'll come fetch it."

"Thank you, " I told her. "For everything."

"You are very welcome. Now you take care and we will see you when you return. Don't worry about looking us up to say goodbye."

She left and deciding not to waste, I sat down and ate the eggs and bacon she brought with her. While I wasn't terribly comfortable with the idea of having a house with staff, I had to admit, the breakfast was better than I would have gotten for myself otherwise.

"Which is a good thing, " I reminded myself. "Once things settle down I'm going to have to go back to my testing levels and eating regular meals." I still had Dr. Harding's pills for emergencies, but my goal was never to have to take them again. I thought about the books Avery loaded into the car with the rest of my things. "I wonder what else I'm supposed to be able to know, " I wondered as I brushed my teeth, added the last of the items to my bag, picked up the bag, purse and picnic basket and headed downstairs. Both Catherine and William had been astounded by my lack of education.

"Who knows, " I said as I left the house and added the last items to the waiting car. "Maybe I'll find out the ghost hunter type shows actually got a few things right." Deciding Martha might be both too noticeable and memorable; the dressmaker's dummy had been relocated to the back and covered over with a blanket. As I placed my purse in the empty passenger's seat, I found I sort of missed her. She may not have been much of a companion, but at the moment she was all I had.

I slipped into the driver's side, fastened my seatbelt and started the engine. The gate at the end of the property was open, which I found a relief as I hadn't remembered it was there until I saw it stretched across the road. Spotting no one on the road, I followed the directions I wrote down the night before and turned my vehicle to the roads leading to the nearest interstate.

As I drove, I tried to push thoughts of Matheson, the Avery's and everything else away. Instead, I sang along with whatever radio station my car's antenna could pick up and tried to figure out the details of my previous life with my non-existent grandmother. Swift always said it was the details that would trip you up. Knowing the details was part of what sold a good story. If you said you lived with your grandmother, then you had to expect to be asked what happened to your parents, even if everyone was too polite to ever ask.

"There is always one who will ask, " he told me. Admittedly, the incident he was citing as an example involved him infiltrating the household of a Columbian drug lord and if memory served the details didn't relate to his grandmother. I decided the principal still held.

By the time I was hungry enough to pull off to a rest stop and investigate Mrs. Avery's picnic basket, I decided that my faux parents, Emily and Greg, died in a car accident sometime before my first birthday. Emily and Greg seemed like the sort of parents who would name their child Bonnie.

I opened the basket and my eyes went wide. Apparently Mrs. Avery's estimation of my eating habits resembled that of a sumo wrestler. I was fairly certain I could live off the contents for days. I picked up a Tupperware box that looked as though it had a sandwich inside. Upon opening it I found two slices of bread and a set of instructions. Several Tupperware containers later and I had assembled my sandwich. I had to admit the buttermilk fried chicken breast topped with a spicy coleslaw was much better than a fast food salad. Thankfully Mrs. Avery also thought to pack both napkins and handy wipes so I could tidy up before continuing my drive.

As I drove, the landscape around me changed, ebbing and flowing like a tide. The flat grazing lands became mountains again, the mountains leveled out and gradually became plains. Strange rock formations appeared as plains faded into bare rock and then became mountains again. The sun also made its rotation and when I finally pulled into the hotel I booked for the night, it was as dark, if not darker than when I started out. I looked at the clock as I pulled up under the hotel's carport area just outside its main doors.

"Ten twenty six, " I said shaking my head. "Good thing I told them I was coming in late." I turned off the car and opened the door. My entire body sighed with the relief of standing upright instead of being wedged behind the wheel. "It's the last big drive, " I promised myself. "Tomorrow I'll start looking for apartments and then I'll try to settle in." Avery's six month deadline flashed across my mind, but I ignored it. While I justified standing next to my car as stretching, I knew that I was stalling. In a few moments I would need to go into the hotel. They would see me and I would use Bonnie Brown's identity. During my drive, I only used the pre-paid card for gas as I didn't want Bonnie to have a trail anywhere in the area.

"Gotta go in sometime, " I said. I picked up my purse and locked up my car, reluctantly heading into the hotel lobby. The night clerk smiled pleasantly at me and welcomed me to the hotel.

"Thank you, " I replied. "I have a reservation under Bonnie Brown, " I told him. "I knew I was going to get in late, but I didn't expect it to be quite this late." I added as he click clacked on the computer.

"No problem Ms. Brown we have people coming and going all the time, " He told me. "Oh and here you are. I'll need to see some ID?"

I took my wallet out of my purse and slipped out the new driver's license. He looked it over and handed it back. I put it away trying not to look relieved that it passed his visual inspection. "Would you like to leave it on this card?" He asked.

"Yes, " I replied. A few clicks later and I was signing a sheet stating I wouldn't wreck the room, or would pay for it if I did, and being handed a plastic key card. The clerk gave me directions to my room and I returned to my car to park it properly and get my overnight bag while trying not to look like I pulled off some sort of heist. I parked my car and took my overnight bag into the hotel making sure everything else was covered up and looked inconspicuous. Thankfully the windows were tinted. Hoping any burglars in the area would give the car a pass, I went into the hotel. Once in my room I stripped, put on my pajamas and fell into bed, sleeping like a stone until morning.

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