Head of security Terrence Carr was another new recruit, as were about half a dozen others. As new employees in key positions, we had been given a mandate: Bring Marshfield Manor into the twenty-first century. Not everyone was happy at our arrival. There were days I felt “Agent of Change” had been branded onto my forehead, causing staff members to either avoid me completely or go out of their way to explain just how important they were in the running of the mansion so I wouldn’t consider cutting their jobs.
My title of assistant curator had come with an understanding. When Abe retired—within the next year or so—I would be in the best position to be considered as his replacement. He not only served as museum curator, he was the mansion’s director. As such, all staff members reported to him. And in a little more than a year, they might all report to me.
As long as I made it through this probationary period, of course.
Bennett apparently expected me to reply to his reminder. Instead I deflected. “Abe received another warning letter.” I pointed upward, in the general direction of Bennett’s private sanctuary on the fourth floor. “I think he’s leaving it for you in your study right now if you want to catch him.”
Bennett straightened, taking a deep breath. “Trying to get rid of me, are you?”
“More like trying to ensure the manor’s efficiency,” I said, smiling to take the sting out of my words. According to the attorneys who had interviewed me, Abe had lost touch a long time ago. But they also warned me that Abe and Bennett were tight, and until Abe chose to retire, all decisions rested with him. This issue was non-negotiable.
“Abe gets worked up about these letters,” Bennett said, waving his hand with a shoo-fly motion. “They’re the work of a crank. I keep telling him that. But he worries about me.” Casting a long glance around the Birdcage, he added, “And about the manor.”
I watched as our maintenance team restored the Birdcage. They righted chairs, fluffed cushions, and placed tables back where they had been before Percy’s outburst. Waitresses carried out trays laden with sweets and savories, as busboys hurried out with replacement vases and fresh flowers for each of the distressed tables. While Bennett and I had been talking, the last of the fled guests had returned. Conversations resumed, china
, and I noticed a heightened, more jovial air than had been in the room before.
Danger as entertainment. Whatever worked.
I turned to Bennett. “A little excitement, and no one got hurt. I think we dodged a bullet here.”
He was about to say something, but our walkie-talkies crackled to life, interrupting him. “Private channel,” the dispatcher said, her voice strained. “All security switch to private channel.”
Bennett and I moved in sync, grabbing our walkies and heading out the door. Only security and certain high-ranking staff members were allowed access to the private network. Bennett and I both switched over, and I was the first to open the line.
The dispatcher’s voice was tense. “I repeat: Shots have been fired in the residence. Fourth floor. Private study. Authorities are on their way.”
Bennett blanched. “The study. That’s where I was supposed to meet Abe.”