A second is not a long time. But the sound of tearing air seemed to linger longer than its actual duration. Nobody moved, nobody said anything. Then the bleachers behind Bodil and Ellie exploded into laughter. The laughter then turned into a steadily growing round of applause until Poppy soon had her very own standing ovation.
Bodil couldn’t take her eyes off the scene on the small stage. Everyone remained calm and motionless. Unless, that is, you looked a little closer. Almost all the seated dignitaries betrayed slight up and down shoulder movements. Some had faces slowly turning red with the effort to maintain their diplomatic dignity. Even Kratsix’s fur shook a little, despite the stern glare aimed at his daughter. Those at the podium, though, went on as if nothing had happened. Poppy raised the chalice first to Alicia, who took it from her and drank deeply before passing it back to the very solemn little cup bearer. Poppy then passed it up to Admiral Backstrom, who did the same. Finally, still bearing her chalice in front of her, Poppy did a much rehearsed dignified turn and slowly lead the now officially betrothed couple from the stage and up the steps into the ship. Only when all three were out of sight did Bodil lower the binoculars.
Ellie had slid down in her chair. Her laughter had subsided into oxygen gulping snorts and long tears escaped from under her sunglasses to meet at the end of her chin in a wobbling teardrop that glistened in the bright mountaintop sunlight.
Bodil swapped the binoculars for her whiskey and sipped as she watched Ellie trying to regain her composure. The stern and scary all powerful chief of every one of the Troy families’ security teams was reduced, in Bodil’s eyes, to the level of some third year student after a successful end of term prank. It was still several seconds after the applause from the crowd had died down before Ellie summoned the strength to lift herself upright in her chair. Bodil frowned.
“I suppose you put her up to that?”
Ellie turned her head, lifting her sunglasses just enough so that she could wipe her eyes. Job done, the glasses came down again and Ellie turned back. She sniffed one last time.
“It was a joint effort.”
Bodil, whiskey glass still in her hand, folded her arms and gave Ellie ‘that look’.
“Oh alright. Yes it was my idea.”
“But she’s the one that’s going to get into trouble for it. Not you, the supposedly responsible adult in all this.”
Reaching for her beer, Ellie slouched back against her chair.
“No she won’t. Alicia will see to that, she’s figured out it was me. And anyway, how can you get angry at a kid just for farting? There’s no way they can prove it was deliberate.”
Bodil let it drop. It wasn’t her concern anyway.
“So what happens now? The ceremony I mean, is it over?”
“Pretty much. The important bit is over. You’ve seen what Alicia wanted you to see and I’ve done like she asked and explained it to you. So unless you want to stay for the food and the dancing before the ship takes off tonight then yes, it’s over.”
“Maybe I’ll stay. I’d like to talk to Admiral Backstrom, Alicia too.”
Ellie sat up again, becoming more business-like.”
“That’s not going to happen Professor. If you were the president then you might, might be invited on board for a few minutes out of politeness but nobody of importance will be leaving that ship again until it gets to the wedding.”
Bodil looked disappointed. She had questions she wanted to ask, and she wanted to thank Alicia for confiding all this in her… and trusting in her.
Ellie noticed the look on the professor’s face. She gave a signal to Gregor and then leaned in, arms folding on top of the table.
“Never mind Professor, I’m not much of a party goer myself. And I might have something to take your mind of all the political space shenanigans for a while.”
Gregor placed a small wooden box on the table between the two women. Now it was Bodil’s turn to lean in. Small wooden boxes intrigued her.
Thanking Gregor, Ellie lifted the lid and folded back several layers of tissue. She lifted something gently out of the box, something small and golden. Ellie closed the lid and placed the golden thing carefully on its delicate feet on top of the box.
Bodil’s eyes widened and a soft breath escaped between her lips. She leaned forward, bringing her face on a level with the tiny, intricate and bejewelled clockwork chicken.
Ellie brought her head down to the same level as the professor’s.
“Isn’t it though. It’s been in our possession for seven hundred years. It’s pre-sirtuin. Right up your bally-whack eh Professor?”
Bodil leaned even closer, her nose almost touching the five centimetre high figure.
“Are you sure? How do you know?”
“Because we know who made it. We know where it was made and when… roughly.”
Bodil looked up, her eyes creating the question.
“Who made it?”
A small smile twitched across Ellie’s lips.
“This beautiful little thing was made in South Burb by Miss Brown, Professor.”
Bodil sat up slowly, and Ellie followed suit, still smiling.
“You mean…” But Bodil’s question was cut off when Gregor placed a second small wooden box next to the other.
Ellie went through the same procedure as before. Carefully unwrapping another golden figure and placing it, like before, on top of the box it had arrived in.
This time Bodil’s expression flickered from the same awe at the detail and workmanship, through disappointment and sadness to a look that was close to anger. The figure this time was a golden scarab, but it was broken and crushed. Even so, Bodil again bent close to take in the incredible detail.
“Miss Brown again?”
Ellie didn’t join Bodil to examine the figure this time. She picked up her beer instead.
“Oh yes. Definitely Miss Brown’s work. And we again know where and when it was made.”
Bodil sat up slowly. Something in Ellie’s tone. Ellie looked at her from behind her black glass mask.
“This one, Professor, was made in London, about seventy years ago.” Ellie’s smile broadened at the swift look of pure avaricious longing that blossomed on the archaeologist’s face.
“Fancy a trip to 'La Grande Bretagne' Professor Hill?”
Bodil’s smile was the twin of Ellie’s.
The glasses of the two women met over the table with a sunlit ‘chink’.
((So ends this chapter. What happens next is only roughed out so it's going to be almost as much of a surprise to me how we get to where we neeed to go as to anyone reading.))