Arno had only ever spoken with her once before, just over a year ago in fact, on his first day after joining the Troy household as a fourteen-year-old and was being shown around by Claud,
the major-domo. Of course, she hadn't been called Miss Ellie then, she had been called Miss Kathryn.
Miss Kathryn, accompanied by an entourage of men and women in suits,
had been walking through the main hall where Claud was showing him how an emergency medical station was discreetly placed behind a tapestry of a wounded soldier getting first aid.
He already knew not to stare at things and people that weren't his concern but then Miss Kathryn had stopped her party and actual come over to where he and Claud were standing.
Arno had assumed that she wanted to talk with Claud so was most surprised when she spoke to him instead.
"You must be Arno."
Miss Kathryn had smiled, but any warmth the smile might have contained was mostly lost because of the dark glasses she always wore.
"I'm not your mother, Arno. Call me 'Miss' or 'Miss Kathryn' but," She shuddered dramatically, relaxing the young Arno. "Never call me Ma'am, ok?"
"Yes, Miss. Sorry Miss."
"That's better. Now, you listen to everything Claud tells you because you can bet it will be important at some point while you are here. But above all, be happy here.
Schloss Egg is a happy home to all of us."
"Yes, Miss. I will."
With that, she had gone about her business and he, Arno, had gone back to learning his new job.
Now, Miss Kathryn was called Miss Ellie and he was in the security headquarters and standing in front of her desk wondering why he was here.
It had been almost a minute since the office door had closed behind him and he was waiting patiently,
with Claud to one side of the desk and both of them watching Miss Ellie sifting through paper and electronic notes on her desk.
Currently, her stylus busy with either, signing things, making notes on other things and just once scribbling through a whole paragraph in annoyance. Arno's mouth had gone dry.
He was pretty sure he wasn't in any kind of trouble. There wasn't a single thing he could think of that was serious enough to land him in front of Miss Ellie.
However, the obvious irritation she was displaying didn't bode well. Then she pulled a file in front of her and Arno saw his name on the cover.
Ellie flicked through the young man's file. She had already been briefed on his record but it was her style to quickly scan through the various notes and progress reports herself.
Besides, it never hurt to let people stew in their own fears for a while. Finally, she extracted Arno's application to join the security personnel and slid it across the desk.
Arno glanced down and recognised the application he had put in to the resources office on the very first day he had begun working at the house.
Shouldn't he have done it? Did they think he was making fun of them?
"It's... I wanted to... I mean I still want to..." He took a breath. "I want to join the security department and become a bodyguard."
Ellie sat back in her chair, pressed her fingertips together and slowly swivelled the chair from side to side.
"You were fourteen when you put the application in. You're only fifteen now. What makes you so sure that you'll still want to be a security officer when you are twenty-two...
You know, the age when you are supposed to put these requests in?"
Arno didn't know where this was all heading.
Surely, he wasn't going to be hauled across the coals, and by the head of security herself, just for putting an application form in early? There was something other going on here.
That simple realisation shooed away his nervousness.
"It's what I've always wanted to do, what I've always seen myself becoming ever since I first saw President Troy on vid.
It's what I still want to do and I know it's what I will be doing when I'm older."
The growing confidence in Arno's voice was impressing Ellie and behind her sunglasses, her eyes twinkled.
She leaned forward and made a show of consulting his file again, even though she already knew the information she was 'looking for'.
"It says here that you have taught yourself how to drive..." She tilted her head up to look at him. "...And how to shoot."
"Do you have a firearms license?"
Weapons are strictly controlled and licenses are very hard to come by, impossible for infants and children under twenty-two years old.
"No Miss. I joined the employee archery and shooting club."
"This is true, Miss Ellie. Arno joined the club in his first week with us. He is proficient in both the .22 Rifle and .
22 Pistol categories and is a member of the inter-house league where he is currently laying in a very creditable fourth position overall."
Claud's information was something Ellie had not known, but it was substantial in swaying the decision she had to make. She was curious though.
"Why driving and shooting, Arno? I imagine because you find these exciting?"
Convinced now that, with Claud's unexpected and detailed contribution, he was in some kind of interview, Arno chose his words carefully.
"Yes Miss, I do. I love driving and I enjoy competing in shooting events." He looked for a reaction in Miss Ellie's face. Seeing none, he went on.
"But I knew that security officers had to be able to drive and shoot, so... I thought that if I could already do both it would improve my chances of being picked over other applicants."
"So, you joined the household staff because, as an employee, you would have access to training in both?"
"Very clever of you."
"Thank you, Miss."
There was another long pause before Ellie spoke again.
"If you were my bodyguard Arno, would you shield me from a bullet?"
Arno's response was immediate and heartfelt.
"I hope so, Miss."
Another seconds-long pause during which Ellie seemed to be scrutinising him, but it was hard to tell with the sunglass's blank stare.
Ellie pulled the application form back across the desk.
"Security training normally takes six months. Bodyguard training on top of that takes another six."
She signed the form in several places and then used a large rubber stamp to print 'APPROVED' diagonally across the middle of the page. Then she looked up at Arno's flabbergasted expression.
"You have one week Arno. Don't let me down. Go with Claud and he'll take care of you."
Claud stepped around the desk and took Arno's hand, pulling the boy out of his shock.
"Congratulations young man."
Claud and Arno were almost out of the door before Ellie stopped them.
"Arno? I want you to understand that your client doesn't so much need a bodyguard just now, as a friend. Please try and be that friend."
Outside the office, a still stunned Arno walked with Claud across the lawns back to the main house. He had a million questions, but the only one that he could think of just now.
"Claud. Why does Miss Ellie still have everything on paper and not just use PDAs?"
Claud stopped him with a hand on his arm and they faced each other under one of the decorative lamp posts.
"My boy. If little questions like that about Miss Ellie pop into your head from time to time, it will always be in your best interest not to ask them."
They resumed their walk.