Ruby used the clicker—much like a garage door opener—that Mrs. Reinhardt had given her so that she could go in and out of the driveway’s swing gate. She drove through, past the empty guard booth, and then closed the double black iron gates, hinged to attractive stone pillars, behind her.
She looked in the rearview mirror, making sure the gates had sealed the curtain wall. It had, blocking the outside world from the rather strange one that lay on the other side.
The car she had seen at the first cottage, when she had driven past it earlier, was still there. Good, Patty was home, she thought as she pulled next to it and got out of her car.
It was rather pleasant outside the wall, causing Ruby to wish she lived in one of the cottages instead of the near prison she would be calling her home. As she walked to the door, she watched an American Robin, with its round orange belly, bounce across the lawn. A towhee—with its upper body covered in black feathers, resembling an executioner’s mask—called out, “drink your teeeeea!”
Ruby stepped onto a concrete pad and knocked on the worn wooden door with flaking blue paint. Shortly, it opened, and she recognized the middle-aged home health aide, who was a few inches shorter than she.
“Hi, I’m Ruby, the nurse who’s going to be working here.”
“I remember you,” Patty said, pulling the door open wider. “Have you moved in?”
Ruby walked into the combined living and dining rooms. It was small but had all the essentials a person would need to live for a short—or long—period of time. A stone fireplace, with its curtain closed, was on the far wall. The kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom were on the right. The air was damp and stuffy, not like her room in the mansion. “This is kind of cute.”
“I’d like to build a fire to take the chill out of the air, but there’s no firewood,” Patty said, motioning for Ruby to sit down.
“I’m not staying,” Ruby said. “I was on my way to Mass and was wondering if you wanted to ride along.”
“I can’t, I still have to meet everyone at the house,” Patty said, sitting on the couch. “I take it you’ve already met them?”
Ruby nodded. “I have, and they are rather strict. They have lots of rules, but I think it will be okay working there.”
“How’s the patient, Lord Andrei.” Patty raised her eyebrows and shook her head. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to calling him lord. Is that what you call him?”
“Yep, they’re rather formal there. They gave me a notebook full of rules. You might get one, too. Just so you are aware, you have to call him Lord Andrei, and the others by Lady Beth, Mrs. Reinhardt—she’s the maid—and Mr. Miller—he’s the handyman. At least, that’s what they told me.”
“Thanks for the heads up.”
“Also, they had you scheduled for six to six, but I told them that it would be better if you work seven to seven or eight to eight because I have to give his IV antibiotic around nine in the morning and change the dressing on his foot at that time.”
“Whatever you and they want. I’m supposed to meet them pretty soon. Victor is going to come out and get me when it’s time. There’s a little side gate that I can use, but he needs to show me the code to open it. What are they hiding in there? The crown jewels?”
“Or, by the looks of that creepy Castle Moldovan, they’re hiding a monster.” Ruby laughed. “It seems like they actually are concealing something because I’m only allowed in certain parts of the mansion. But, in reality, they are very nice and I guess they just like their privacy. Although, strangely, I might have to help the maid in the kitchen.”
“You’re kidding? That’s pretty bizarre. If they treat a nurse like that, I wonder how they will treat a certified nursing assistant,” Patty said, standing up. “Do you want something to drink? I made some iced tea earlier.”
“No, I’m fine. But I would like your phone number if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
They exchanged phone numbers and then Ruby said, “I know you have a laptop for work, but did you bring one from home? If so, let’s exchange e-mail addresses, too.”
“I did, but I don’t know the password for the Internet.”
“They gave it to me, but I don’t remember what it is. I’ll text it to you, later. Otherwise, I’ll give it to you when I see you tomorrow morning. I think you’ll be spending a lot of time with me during the day, in my room.”
“I was wondering how all that was going to work. I couldn’t see walking back and forth between the mansion and my tiny house, a dozen times a day.”
Ruby looked around the interior and did not see a television. “They apparently don’t watch much TV, so bring your laptop when you come or you might be rather bored.”
“Will do,” Patty said, just as there was a knock at the door. “That must be Victor.”
Ruby stepped to the side as Patty approached and invited Victor inside.
“Hi, please come in,” Patty said.
Victor entered the room. “Hello, again, Ms. Rush. I’m glad to see that the both of you have met.”
“Hello, Victor,” Ruby said. “We have.”
“Very well, then,” Victor said. Then he turned to Patty. “Are you ready to meet everyone? Ms. Rush already received her grand tour.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”