A few hours later, Fiona and
Mairi headed for the McAllister’s. “I hope those hairy dogs of theirs aren’t
out again. They attacked me this morning; nearly knocked the basket of food
out of my arms and made an awful mess of my cardigan,” Mairi said. “They’re
not the prettiest dogs in the world either.”
They stood at the
McAllister’s front gate. “Callum said they were Scottish deerhounds. They’re
nice dogs. I play with them all the time,” Fiona said.
“Can you see them?”
Fiona looked around. “I can’t
see them, Mum. Malcolm’s home now. I’m sure their in their pen.” Fiona
pushed the gate open and they cautiously stepped inside. “See, no dogs.”
Callum opened the door and
invited them inside.
They followed him to the
living room. When the Thomson brothers saw them, they both stood up and
remained standing until Fiona and Mairi sat on one of the couches.
“We meet again, Mairi
McAllister. This must be your lovely daughter, Fiona. Anne’s been telling me
all about the two of you,” Johnny said.
“Is that so?” Mairi looked at
Anne, who gave her a wink and a smile. “What exactly has she been telling
“Your daughter is as lovely
as she described. I hear you’re from Inverdrochit. That’s a nice village.
I’ve been there before,” Johnny said, giving Jimmy a side-glance.
“Mr. Thomson, I’d rather hear
about you. You’re from London?” Mairi didn’t want to talk about herself.
“No more of this Mr. Thomson.
My name is John, but you and Fiona may call me Johnny. My brother, James,
likes to be called Jimmy. Please call us that,” Johnny said.
“We’re from London, yes.”
Malcolm McAllister, Callum’s
father, listened to the conversation. He sat in front of the fire smoking a
pipe. “I must say your accents don’t sound much like a Londoners. I detect a
bit of Scottish in there and something else, perhaps European?”
Jimmy cleared his throat.
Johnny answered, “Our mother
was from Scotland and our father from the Middle East area. We, however, are
both from London.”
Satisfied with the reply,
Malcolm went on smoking his pipe.
Anne came in and announced,
“Supper’s ready. Could you all come and sit round the table please.”
Five-year-old Murdoch ran
into the dining room and climbed into a chair, followed by his two-year-old
“Sit where you’d like.
Perhaps you’d be comfortable sitting over here next to Mairi,” Anne said to
Fiona giggled and nudged
Callum, who slid in the seat next to her.
After everyone was seated,
Anne brought through the food. The table, covered with a pale pink linen
tablecloth, soon disappeared under a sea of silver platters topped with
“You’ve outdone yourself,
Anne,” her husband said. “Look at all this food. It’s enough to feed a
Fiona caught the exchange of
glances between Johnny and Jimmy. What are these two up to? They are acting
weird, just like Callum said.
“A lot of this food is
courtesy of Mairi. She grew these vegetables in her garden. See the flower
bouquet in the vase? They’re from her flower garden. Nobody grows flowers
like Mairi. Yes, our Mairi’s quite a talented woman,” Anne said,
embarrassing her friend.
Mealtime passed with laughter
and camaraderie. When they finished eating, Shona, Murdoch, Fiona and Callum
asked to be excused and headed upstairs to play. Shona and Murdoch watched a
video. “Callum, did you notice the glances the brothers kept giving each
other when certain things were said? Jimmy coughed a lot and I don’t think
he had anything caught in his throat. They were signaling each other,” Fiona
“What if they’re murderers?
What if they escaped from prison and are going to kill us all when we go to
“Callum! Stop saying things
like that. I don’t think they’re bad men. I don’t feel it anyway. I can’t
explain this and it may sound silly to you, but I think they’re somehow
connected with all of this,” Fiona said.
“All of what?”
“With the orb and the castle
and the jewels. Does that make sense?”
“No, not really, but there is
something unusual about them,” Callum said. He yawned. “I’m tired. We had a
long day. When I got home from your Uncle Angus’s house, I had to help Dad.
I went fishing with them and had to gut the fish and put worms on the
“Fun, Callum. Fun!”
“Fiona? Are you ready to go
yet?” Mairi shouted up the steps.
“It’s Mum. I guess I’d better
go. By the way, Uncle Angus is leaving in the morning for Crianlarich to do
some business. He's doing a show.”
“What kind of a show?” Callum
“He sells his carvings and
travels all over the UK. Sometimes he's gone for a fortnight,” Fiona said.
“He’s taking the train and won’t be home until Monday afternoon. We won’t be
going on another adventure until then. ” Fiona walked out his bedroom door.
“That’s okay with me. It will
take me that long to catch up on my sleep,” Callum sighed.
Fiona met her mum by the
“Would you like Jimmy and I
to walk you home, Mairi?” Johnny grabbed her cardigan and held it for her
while she slipped it on. “We could use a walk after that big dinner.”
Mairi looked at Fiona for
Fiona winked and smiled.
“That would be lovely. Thank
you, Mr. Thomson, I mean, Johnny. Fiona and I would love the pleasure of
both of your company.”
After a round of goodbyes,
they left, heading toward their home. “It gets dark out here early these
days, doesn’t it, Mairi,” Johnny said.
“It is autumn and we are in
the highlands of Scotland.” Mairi looked at the darkening sky.
Fiona blurted out, “Why don’t
you like to watch television? Callum told me you have never seen television
Another glance exchanged and
caught by her eyes. “We never were much for television. Our parents taught
us time was better spent by reading books, or writing stories, or going for
long walks.” Johnny had an answer for everything.
“Oh. That makes sense. I like
to read and write stories too. What is it that you two do for a living?”
“Fiona! That’s none of your
business,” her mother reprimanded.
“It’s quite all right. Jimmy
spends a lot of time traveling and I do a lot of writing,” Johnny said.
“Have you written a book?”
“I have, dear child, though
it was a long time ago,” he said.
Fiona stopped asking
questions and they walked the rest of the way in silence.
“It’s so peaceful here.
Listen to the crickets and the wild animals. I remember those noises from
Nobody spoke. When they
reached Fiona’s house, Mairi turned the doorknob.
“Your door isn’t locked,”
“We don’t need to lock our
doors here in Inveralba. There’s no danger here.” Mairi believed the words.
“Maybe we should lock the
doors, Mum. This time of year there are lots of strangers in town, tourists.
Pardon me, Mr. Thomson. I didn’t mean you or your brother. I meant other
strangers,” Fiona said.
“You’re right, Fiona. I think
it’s a good idea. Lock up from now on, Mairi.” Johnny opened the door wide.
“Go on in. Your safe now.” He took Mairi’s hand in his and squeezed it. “It
was simply lovely to see you again. I hope we will meet up with one another
tomorrow sometime. Perhaps I could stop by and you could show us your
gardens and your beehives.”
“Yes, that would be nice. Why
don’t you come by after lunch, both of you and I’ll give you a tour,” Mairi
With that, the men turned and
headed back to the McAllisters. “Cheerio,” Mairi shouted and then they
She closed the door behind
“That was cool, Mum. Everyone
liked the baklava and the fruit tart. Johnny’s very nice and he’s handsome
too. Jimmy isn’t as handsome as Johnny. What do you think? Are you two
getting married?” Questions poured out of Fiona’s mouth.
“Don’t be silly. We hardly
know each other. You go on up to bed. It’s been a busy day for us both,”
“You don’t know the half of
it, Mum,” Fiona ran up the stairs.