"So, is this just more avoiding answering questions then? And when is this event going to take place? When am I likely to start getting any answers?
Not that I'm too inclined to even believe them if they come."
Ellie looked down at her notebook.
"If everything is on schedule, then the 'event' will begin in twenty-seven minutes." She looked up again. "Once it is over, is when you get to ask your questions.
" She leaned across the table and, picking up the jug, began to refill both their glasses. "Of course, whether you choose to believe the answers is up to you.
" After filling Bodil's glass she put the jug down and picked up her own. "My concern is what you decide to do with the information."
And that pretty much killed the conversation. Bodil recognised a definite change in Ellie's demeanour away from the more relaxed attitude of the day before. She kept quiet.
If Ellie was in a bad mood, then getting answers from her was going to have to be done with finesse.
The potential for an embarrassing silence was dispelled when Ellie's notebook began to beep for attention.
While the head of Troy security attended to business Bodil took the opportunity to look around.
Looking up past the mushroom head of the table parasol, the crowded bleachers hummed with excitement.
Loyal Troy staff members chatted and pointed and gazed through binoculars while they munched on the home-made snacks they had brought with them.
All waiting for whatever it was to start and all seemingly quite happy about the display of obvious militaria all around them.
The lowest tier of the bleachers immediately behind Ellie's table seemed to have attracted more than its fair share of infants but Bodil very quickly realised that it wasn't Ellie who was
the draw for them. Rather it was Gregor who the awestruck children devoted their attention too, much to Victor's amusement and Gregor's resigned patience.
Several TV cameras buzzed overhead, their station logos turning them into brightly coloured hover flies as they focused their attention on whatever took the interest of their controllers.
Bodil watched them for a while as they darted hither and thither looking for something to show their audience to fill the time before 'The Event'.
Every now and then one or another of the little flying bots would glide down the row of 'Senior Staff' tables.
Except, Bodil noticed with a wry smile, they never looked at or even looked in the direction of Ellie's table. Never. Not once.
Now that takes clout, Bodil thought. A lot of clout.
She looked over to the presidential platform again. The TV drones were beginning to swarm there in force now and Bodil wished she had some binoculars too.
And then she did. Two leather binocular cases were delivered to the table by the same waiter from earlier.
Oh well, she thought as she took a pair of binos from their case and trained them on where she had seen the president's flag, perks of being with Ellie I suppose. A thought struck her.
She looked away from the eyepieces for a moment to look at her host. Ellie was still engaged with her notebook, flicking icons and files left and right with casual waves of her wrist.
Ellie who? She wondered, watching the woman concentrating so hard on her screen.
Not finding an answer, but filing the question away with the many others she had, Bodil returned to looking through the binoculars.
She found the president easily enough, sitting on an impressive looking chair on a small platform directly in front of the top of the stairs.
Bodil was perhaps not surprised to see Alicia Troy sitting next to him on the same platform and in an identical chair.
The dress she was wearing was the absolute opposite, style-wise, of the simple, elegant kimono she had worn at the unveiling of the Spivey statue.
This was all bright colours and protruding feathers and, even at this distance, it looked really uncomfortable.
Around them, seated at tables not unlike the one Bodil was sitting at, were a lot, a LOT of high-ranking politicians and many of the more fame-hungry Troys.
Beyond them were people Bodil didn't know but there were many of them, children and infants too, the younger ones running around the tables,
totally careless of the supposed solemnity of the occasion.
When Bodil looked away she found Ellie watching her. She lowered the binoculars. Ellie turned and looked over her shoulder towards the presidential platform.
"All the big wigs eh? All the politicians, the powerful, the wannabes."
"Even the little infants? Plenty of them up there."
Ellie turned back to the professor.
"No. Not the kids. Not yet at least. Except for..."
Ellie turned in her seat, peering at the far-off podium. She pointed.
"There, do you see?" Bodil picked up her binoculars again and tried to follow where Ellie's finger pointed. "Right up in the very far right-hand corner."
Bodil brought the powerful glasses to bear. Just more tables, infants running around, playing tag by the look of it.
"I... I don't see. Just people."
"Troy family members. Everyone was invited you know. Some couldn't make it. Some didn't want to come. Some have come a long way."
Bodil swept the glasses along the rows of tables. Families. Yes, it made sense now. Alicia was to be married so the Troys were having a big family get together. Ellie was still talking.
"There. See? The table second from the one in the corner. Mum, Dad and a whole batch of kids."
"Good. Like all the Troys they could have lived here, around Lake Griffen. House paid for; staff provided. They chose not to. Not that that is unusual in itself.
Some Troys actually try to live the name down."
Bodil continued to watch the little family. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, even if they did look a little uncomfortable amongst the throng of other Troys.
"Not them, though." Ellie continued. "They own a bar in a small town in Oz. They seem to be respected members of the community, serve on the town council, that kind of thing."
Bodil smiled a little smile. 'Oz'. What used to be called 'Australia' before the Fall. Full of dangerous animals, insects, fish, even plants.
Not much in the way of resources so no major commercialisation going on. Oz was a place to go if you liked the simple life... or if you were a wanted criminal.
"So they came back just for the wedding?" The children had stopped playing tag and seemed to be involved in some kind of free for all wrestling game. At least Bodil hoped it was a game.
No, wait. Parental override was being employed by the simple expedient of grabbing the nearest limb and pulling. Eventually, the pile was reduced just a pair who were really going at it.
Boy and a girl, about elevenish. And now Dad has the girl under one arm while trying to fend the boy off with the other. He looked well practiced. Bodil was grinning.
"No," Ellie said. "They could never afford the tickets. They were paid for by the estate. We told them they had won a prize."
Bodil slowly lowered the binoculars. Ellie was still staring off in the direction of the family fisticuffs. She had an ominous feeling.
"See the little girl still trying to claw her brother's face?"
Bodil wondered for a moment how Ellie could see anything at this distance but then raised her glasses again and looked at the girl,
still under her father's arm and now being carried back to the table.
"What about her?"
"Well, when she wakes up tomorrow, in their cheap hotel, ready to sit down to her breakfast cereal because the croissant and jam are more expensive." Ellie paused.
"There is going to be a knock on the door and that little girl is going to suddenly find out that she is the new de facto head of the Troy family."