There was an air of business that became apparent the moment Bodil stepped out of her room. People were not running exactly, but certainly moving with a degree of urgency.
Uniformed house staff, in ones and twos, skittered about the ground floor rooms and hallways with arms full of everything from linen, to vases, to flowers destined to put in vases,
to long brooms and dustpans with which to quickly clean up any linen, vase or flower related accidents.
Bodil was met at the foot of the stairs by Arno.
"Please, Miss. Your car is here."
"Yes, Miss. I'm sorry, but the driver had to park on the other side of the caterer's vans." Arno set off for the door, fully expecting Bodil to follow.
"Caterers? Is there a party?"
Arno held one half of the ornate entrance door open for her.
"Yes, Miss. Well, in a manner of speaking."
The Professor was too busy watching the chaos in front of the Schloss to notice the door quietly close behind her.
Only when she turned to ask Arno a question did she realise that she had just been expertly 'shooed' out of the way.
"That young man will go far." She murmured to herself as she picked her way through bakers' trays of delicious looking pastries, distraught looking caterers and bored drivers.
Her own driver saw her emerging from between two vehicles and got out of the car to open the door for her. Bodil felt a delightful little internal fluttering when she saw who it was.
Victor grinned, holding the door open and bowed low with an elaborate sweep of his arm.
"Professor Hill, your carriage madam."
They drove slowly until the car left the immaculate gravel driveway and onto the long straight road that led away from the house and the estate buildings.
They sat in silence and Bodil found the luxurious quietness of the car a little unnerving. She wanted to open a conversation but for some reason felt stuck as how to start.
To ask why he had left her with the awful Ute smacked of reproach she did not feel, and could only create an awkwardness she certainly did not want. Even though, in her growing...
What, paranoia? She was very curious.
In fact, she mused, as the manicured grass and artistically placed copses changed into hedged fields of ripening wheat, to broach anything personal with Victor would be very forward.
To talk about the weather, though, seemed trite. It was July, the skies were clear and blue and it was seasonably hot. She sighed.
"How long before we get where we're going?" And immediately cringed. Now she had just reduced him to the role of chauffeur. Not what she wanted at all.
Without taking his eyes from the road Victor produced a Gaelic shrug.
"About sixty kilometres soooo, an hour? Perhaps ninety minutes, depending on the Auto-Cults."
Bodil had her infancy in a rural environment and an incident from that time left her with an irrational fear of the slow moving, mindless behemoths, and more than a few nightmares too.
Ten metres wide. Five metres high and as long as the width of whatever field they serviced.
The Auto-Cults were a moving arable production facility that handled everything from preparing the field to packaging the finished product. The professor controlled her breathing.
They handled their own pest control too. Any living thing in their path that was not conducive to the production of the crop was systematically and unfeelingly turned into something that was.
Hence her nightmares.
During harvesting the Auto-Cults would be attended by fleets of heavy transport vehicles efficiently removing finished produce as the mammoth machines trundled slowly up and down in a
never ending cycle of harvesting and seeding.
Even now some machines would have judged their fields to be ready for harvesting and the nearby roads would be turned over to the commercial vehicles.
Private vehicles having their progress restricted automatically by the producing Auto-Cult.
To take her mind from the childish fear of the farming machines Bodil turned to look at Victor.
"Victor? Where are we going, exactly? All I got was some kind of fancy invitation. Arno said it was a party of some kind?"
Victor flicked a glance in her direction and smiled at the half confused, half irritated look on her face before returning his attention to the road.
"A party? In a way I suppose. Miss Alicia is to be married..."
"So, a wedding? A wedding?!" She stared at him silently for a few seconds and then, when she spoke, Bodil'd voice took on an increasing tone of mild panic. "A wedding...
no, a Troy wedding, an ex-president's wedding. And she was dressed like a... a..."
"Relax, Professor. It is not a wedding. The wedding will not be here. Miss Alicia's betrothed is coming to collect her. There will be a ceremony. Good food, good wine. Everyone will be happy."
Bodil relaxed... a little. Well, perhaps more than a little. It was a nice day. The countryside was beautiful, despite the lurking Auto-Cults. The car was air conditioned.
Victor was charming, and he smelled nice. So, Bodil didn't let the little things bother her.
Like that she was being driven to a place she didn't know, to be among people she didn't know to be a witness to something she knew nothing about.
They drove in silence for a while until Bodil realised that because Victor was her assigned 'bodyguard' he was technically working and therefore it was going to be up to her to initiate
such conversation she wanted. And she wanted.
"Ute was telling me about the little gold pins you all wear."
Victor shifted position in his seat. A movement that forced the tiniest of smiles to cross Bodil's lips.
Ask a student an awkward question and you often get the same exact fidget instead of an answer. She pushed a little further.
"She explained her own little badge and the other one, Alicia Troy's, but she seemed reluctant to tell me about the little gold crescent you wear."
"Mmmm. She said I should ask you."
"Did she now?"
Victor continued to watch the road. What traffic there had been had all been going in the same direction they were travelling in, large box-vans mainly.
Even with those, it was hardly enough of it to warrant Victor's current intense attention to driving.
Bodil let a little sigh of frustration escape her lips.
Victor glanced at her.
"So are you going to tell me? Or should I just add it to the list of all the other things nobody talks about or changes the subject from?"
Victor's shoulders did the same exaggerated shrug as before.
"What's to tell? The crescent is that of the Grand Mother's security people."
"But the Grand Mother died three hundred years ago."
"Three hundred and six." Victor finally took his eyes off the road and looked at Professor Hill. "But her sigil still demands respect among the Troy family and those who guard them.
" He returned his eyes to the road. "What better symbol for the head of those whose job it is to protect all the Troys?"
Victor's words pulled together the strings of mystery about the strange little blond woman that had dangled enticingly in front of Bodil.
"You mean Ellie?"
"Of course." It was said with a degree of surprise.
"And you are her... what? Her elite? Her personal guard?"
"Elite?" Victor chuckled. "I must tell Gregor that. No, we are the last of the Grand Mother's personal... "He was about to say 'personal guard.' "...security team."
Bodil smirked. Then what Victor had said sunk in.
"Wait. You mean that you, you personally, knew her, the Grand Mother."
"Well, yes. And Gregor and one or two others."
"Not really. It is a family thing. My father was present at the signing of the treaty at Los Alamos."
Bodil stared at him. Not sure if he was joking or not. Her look must have shown her doubt.
"It's true. You must visit my home one day. I'll show you the photos."
Now the professor knew Victor was joking. There was precisely one photograph known to exist of that historic event.
This posed photograph, taken just after the signing,
was ragged and creased and its colours were so badly faded that any attempt at computerised colour correction persisted in showing one of the bystanders to be dressed in bright canary yellow.
Generally, then, the photograph was displayed without any colour correction at all.
Unfortunately, in the photo, the Grand Mother's head is just a blur of blond hair as she seems to be turning away at the moment the picture was taken.
Conjecture and even conspiracy theories persisted even to today as to who or what distracted her at that vital moment.
"Oh come on, Victor. I'm an archaeologist and a historian. If there were any other pictures of the treaty signing, I'd know."
Victor grinned at her, his eyes twinkling.
"Just as you say, Professor."
They both returned their attention to the sunlit road. Bodil risked a sideways glance at her driver. Victor was still smiling.
The professional in her, the intellectual, wanted to call Victor out on his bold assertion.
But forcing an argument on a man she was hoping to get closer to was not exactly going to be a winning strategy.