The Secrets of Covingport Manor – Part Seven
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part One
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Two
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Three
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Four
- The Secrets Of Covingport Manor: Part Five
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Six
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor – Part Seven
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Eight
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part Nine
- The Secrets of Covingport Manor: Part 10
I felt awkward with Frank and Elaina standing at the entrance to the living room. Their posture similar to the photos I’d seen of the Buckingham Palace guards; it was an eerie visual for me. If our guests noticed it as I did, they said nothing about the behavior. Hell, perhaps that was another custom I would have to get used to—or it was a Frank and Elaina thing.
“Thank you again, Miss Covingport, for the opportunity to clean up the grounds,” Thomas said.
Thomas Jones wore jeans, boots, a black t-shirt, and blue button-up flannel. His dirty blonde hair had a few whisps of gray, but it was slicked back to keep it out of his face. The style made him look younger than his years.
It was his eyes that sold me even more. They were tired. He looked like a man who had been through a lot and was trying to keep his family on their feet, which was more obvious by how he came dressed to work right away.
“You can call me Hannah, Mr. Jones. As we discussed, I think we can help each other. You’d be helping me just as much as I’m helping you.”
His son, who had introduced himself as Jeffery, JJ for short, had been silent since we sat down. He looked like his father, but without the graying hair or hardened skin from being in the sun for decades.
JJ sipped his tea and surveyed the room while his father and I talked. Despite being at least out of high school, I could tell he had no interest in the business side of this. His knee kept shaking, and I felt that if I put him to work right now, he would have no complaints.
“Call me Tom, then.” Tom smiled. He took a drink of his tea and made a noise of appreciation.
In the corner of my eye, I saw Frank move for the first time. I’m not sure how he made it look like he stood even taller, but he looked pleased with Tom’s reaction to his handy work.
Frank didn’t react that way when they had tried some of the food he prepared, and I wondered if Frank made his own teas. He seemed to always have fresh ingredients for the tea strainers. I made a mental note to ask him about it later.
“You said you had a brother? That there would be three of you working?” I asked.
Tom nodded. Placing his cup in his lap, he spoke. “Yes. He’s walking the ground with Michael; I believe his name is. We wanted to survey the grounds and see if he can spot anything not on the list you said you had.”
I grinned. Michael was the best. “Excellent! Frank over there,” I motioned to where he stood, “helped me create a list of the outdoor things that need cleaning up.”
I pulled the list from under the serving tray and handed it to Tom. “You can keep that copy. I made two, so I could remember what I added on there.”
JJ moved to look over his father’s shoulder, but still, he said nothing.
“Are you able to fix minor issues by chance? The greenhouse needs work, but it’s a matter of putting new hinges on the door and perhaps new groundwork. By that, I mean a stone path, nothing too big,” I reassured.
“Yes, of course,” Tom nodded. “My brother is handy with things like that, and the path work is something we offer with the landscaping options. I’m sure he will check out the greenhouse while he’s out there, and if there’s something he can’t fix, we will let you know immediately.”
“I take it you do it all?” I grabbed some snacks from the tray, which seemed to incite my guests as they followed suit.
“We started as landscapers. My wife got us to add gardening to our skill set. She believed a beautiful garden was the difference between a house and a home. My brother and I are the landscapers. But JJ here, his mother taught him all about wildlife and plants. It’s what he’s best at.”
Tom had placed a hand on JJ’s shoulder and squeezed. I melted at the smile Tom gave his son. It was the same smile my father would give me with any new thing I would do that made him proud.
My chest ached. Visions of my father flooded me as I sat and watched Tom look at his child the way dad used to look at me. In moments like this, I missed him the most.
“Do you mind if I asked how she passed?”
“Liver disease,” Tom said, turning his attention back to me. “It wasn’t pretty, and we lost everything trying to get her into the best doctors. The wait times are the real reason she passed.”
I cringed at the thought of seeing someone I loved dying a slow death. “I can’t imagine. Both my parents passed in a car accident. It was fast and shocking. Same with my aunt. But to have seen them suffer? I can’t imagine what you all went through.”
“Orphaned?” I jumped at the sound of JJ’s whisper. “I couldn’t imagine that either.” JJ looked at his father, and they stared at each other. I felt like a third wheel intruding on their moment.
“We all suffer in different ways. So is the way of life,” Tom said, turning back to me.
“Forgive me. I didn’t mean to pry.” I sipped my tea to stop myself from saying or asking any more stupid shit. What the hell was wrong with me? That was such a blunt way of being intrusive.
“Don’t be. Talking about her reminds me of the good times.” Tom smiled. “Twenty-five years married. Thirty years together. I wouldn’t change a moment of it.”
I smiled at his genuine tone. It was time to get back on track; I told myself. I didn’t want to scare them off before they started working.
“Tell me, Tom,” I started. “What do you expect to earn from this job?”
Tom sat up straight, sensing my urge to get back on the topic. “Well, my brother and I have a few years of experience landscaping. My son is still in training, so we understand we could be slower than normal until we can fully train him. Plus, with only three of us, we know this job might take longer than normal.”
I nodded in agreement. I had already thought about the possibility this job would take a while. “Is 100 euros an hour good to start with then? 120 when JJ has finished training?”
Tom’s eyes widened, and JJ’s head shot over to stare at me. Frank and I had discussed last night the average cost of lawn service in the area. With the amount of work I knew needed doing around the grounds, I didn’t want to low-ball their abilities.
“We-we would be extremely grateful for that amount, Miss Coving—Hannah.”
I smiled. “Good, it’s settled! We can go over hours and, of course, I expect at least an hour break for you to eat. Frank will prepare your lunch daily. I think he’s most excited about having more people around to prepare for,” I chuckled.
Tom and JJ laughed too, but not loud enough that I couldn’t hear Frank clear his throat. He gave me a pointed look when I glanced over at him.
“Ah, yes,” I said, remembering Frank’s reminder from when we were discussing the work.
I turned back to Tom and JJ. “Frank has requested that I remind you again about the manor ghost.” I couldn’t help the eye roll. “Personally, I have not seen any sign of a ghost.”
Tom chuckled. “That’s reassuring. Rest assured, you’ll hear our screams if we see a ghost.”
“It does not bother you, sir?” Frank asked.
We all looked over to Frank, even Elaina, who shot him a warning look. I almost laughed at how often she did that with him.
“I don’t believe in ghosts,” Tom said. “Besides,” he said, turning back to me, “It would look good on our resume when we can start our company, working at a prestigious haunted manor. Shows we can handle anything thrown at us.”
The three of us laughed. Even JJ was comfortable now being vocal. But it didn’t escape my notice that neither Frank nor Elaina looked amused, and I was nowhere close to understanding why their belief in this supposed ghost was so strong.