The Call

Tuesday: 2:30 AM

 

THE PHONE CALL that woke Archibald Clayborn in the middle of the night was as unexpected as the voice on the other end of the line.

“Hello?” He answered, voice gruff and heavy from sleep.

“…Arch?”

The caller sounded hesitant, her voice tinged with something Clayborn couldn’t place in his still waking state. But the voice itself, that he could place. Clayborn would never forget her voice, not in a million years.

“Camilla?”

“Arch! Oh, Arch, it is you. I feared I had the wrong person.”

Sitting up from the bed, he cradled the phone, fighting off the illogical fear that this was all a dream.

“Camilla,” he whispered, astonished. “It really is you…after all this time.”

“Yes, Arch. It’s really me.”

Camilla’s voice hitched at the end and he was finally awake enough to ascertain what he had heard in her voice earlier; she was crying.

“What is it, Camilla, what’s wrong?”

“I—Oh, Arch, it’s Lesley…He’s, well, he’s gone!”

Camilla’s voice broke. In almost twenty years, and despite all the horrible things he had witnessed in his life, the sound of her crying still cut him to the bone.

“Gone, how? Camilla.”

He suspected, but did not wish to assume and put his foot in it.

“He died. It happened last week. I—Oh, Arch, I’m sorry to call you up out of the blue after all this time. But…I need your help. Arch, would you come to Warren House?”

Even without the edge of desperation in her voice, he would have gone. Clayborn had not set foot back in England in almost five years, but he would return now.

“It may take a day or two to arrange everything, but I shall make preparation at once.”

“Arch. I cannot thank you enough.”

“It’s fine, Camilla. I shall call you back when the arrangements are settled.”

They both bid each other farewell and hung up. It was only after the call ended, did Clayborn wonder what Camilla might actually need help with.

He shrugged. It was irrelevant. He would find out soon enough.

Clayborn stood and walked the few short steps to his bedroom door, opening it in preparation to call for his manservant.

“HERM—!”

He stopped short, seeing the darker man standing in his night garments, awaiting him.

“Here, Sir. Shall I commence making the necessary travel arrangements?” Hermes asked.

Clayborn smiled and clapped the man on the shoulder.

“Yes. Thank you, good man.”

“Very good, Sir.”

Hermes disappeared leaving Clayborn alone. Knowing sleep would evade him, he stepped over to the small standing closet in the corner of the room and pulled the old, well-used leather suitcase from above. He took the suitcase and placed it on the bed, opening it in preparation for what he would need to pack. A small square cloth sat within the empty case. He lifted it, unraveling the cloth to reveal the picture he always carried but rarely looked at. In fact, he had not looked at in almost three years. There, a young woman with light hair and eyes smiled back at him.

“Camilla…” he whispered.