They shuffled into the room. Wilhelmina and Arthur exchanged hugs and European kisses – kissing both cheeks. As they drew more into the room it seemed to expand. The positioning of furniture, a small table with six chairs around it, a chair and couch were pleasantly positioned close to a working fireplace – it had a wood fire going in it now – and everything else about the room showed an extensive eye to detail adding to the expansion illusion. Emily could glimpse part of a portrait hanging on a far wall. So, the Society had the entire floor?
“Yes, dear, this was the best place we have had in a while. A mixture of the Golden Age and modern convenience,” Arthur said, pulling Willie to stand beside him.
“Did I ask that question out loud?”
“No, dear, most of us here do not have to use words between us, but love the sound of our voices too much to be quiet!” The old man’s eyes twinkled as he laughed.
“Has Willie finally arrived, Arthur? You’re braying already!” came a voice from the hall. A woman who could have been between 55 and 65 swept in from the hallway. She was dressed in Victorian style and the colors of fall. This woman was so elegant that even tidying her hair was such a natural action it became artistic.
The hair she was fussing with was the most beautiful flaxen color Emily thought she had ever seen. There were patches at the woman’s temples that were just a little whiter, which added to the greenness of the intelligent eyes. Seeing it was indeed Willie, the woman finished entering the room with her hands outstretched toward Willie. There were more hugs and European kisses. Willie introduced her as Elaine Castledine.
“Come, sit down. Everyone. I will make us a pot of tea and put a few things on the table. Is there anything anyone does not like?” Elaine’s skirts rustled as she walked. When she walked on the linoleum of the kitchen, there were little click-click sounds, reminding Emily of taps on tap-shoes as she moved.
“I’ll help,” Willie offered.
“Oh no you won’t! Go on in there and get dressed before the others arrive. Warrick is coming.” Elaine Castledine grabbed Willie by the shoulders and gave her a slight push away from the kitchen.
“Warrick!” Willie’s hands went to each side of her face. Her eyes grew wide and bright. Warrick had obviously made a good impression on Wilhelmina Chastain.
Willie spun. “Come, Emily! Let’s get you a change as well. You’ll find our time period’s clothes a little more comfortable, and a lot more feminine than jeans.” Willie grabbed Emily’s hand and pulled her along to the hallway. “I love my jeans, mind you, but there is something extraordinary feminine about long skirts.”
“Come, me boys! If the ladies are going to get into the spirit of things I don’t see why you shouldn’t either! Come with me!” Emily only had time to see Arthur raise a finger and shake it above his head excitedly before she was drug into the hall proper and face to face with a portrait of the most handsome man she had ever seen.
His hair was jet black. The forehead was wide, but not too wide. The eyebrows were bushy and dark. The nose was aquiline over full lips. His jaw was firm. Square. The nameplate beneath the portrait read THOMAS NOP.
Emily stopped and pulled back against Willie’s strong hand. The other woman only stopped long enough to see what Emily was looking at, then pulled her on down the hallway saying, “Thomas Nop – he was one of our founders.”
“Of the Psychic and Paranormal Study Society?” Willie nodded. Emily received a warm smile from over Willie’s shoulder.
“He vanished about 80 years ago. If Tommy can be believed, he was born in 1711 in England in a town that doesn’t exist anymore. He was an excellent fighter, swordsman, horseman, and gambler. Unlike the majority of us, Tommy didn’t die.”
They passed doors with name plates on them and open areas for darts and pool – billiards, Emily corrected herself. There was a door marked GYM. Emily didn’t know any of the names on the doors so far.
“What do you mean?”
Willie let Emily catch up to her. Looping her arm through Emily’s, they settled into a slower pace, and far more intimate to talk. The older woman’s voice dropped to a near-whisper. “Tommy was the closest thing to immortal you could get.” Willie paused to let her words sink in. “I have seen Tommy shot, stabbed, poisoned, and hung. He has been pronounced dead more times than I want to remember.” Willie shook her head sadly. “Tommy was a good man. Damn, he still may be for all I know. But something is wrong with him, or was. Things were odd before Tommy vanished.” Willie slipped off into silent thought and to a door that said LADDIES ATTIRE. Emily followed.