Taking a deep breath she got out of the car and walked slowly back along the footpath, her heels making a light rhythmic tapping on the concrete. Wild pigeons cooed softly from somewhere nearby. She could taste the salty tang of the sea on the breeze. Everything was so normal and suburban.
Now that she was here, she had no idea what she would say. Would the gatekeeper let her in? Was Linus even here? Would he want to see her if he was? Would she have the courage to go in if she was admitted?
It was still early in the afternoon, and the sun was high enough in the sky not to hinder her view into the gatehouse booth. She could see a man in uniform, his face framed by a mop of rust-coloured hair. As she got closer, she saw that his face was barely visible under all the hair. His uniform cap was pulled down tightly, forcing the hair at the front to fall over his eyes.
Alethea knew the man was watching her as she approached, but as she drew nearer, he lowered his head and turned away, picking up a magazine as he did so.
She tapped on the gatehouse window. The man slowly raised his eyes from the magazine. Alethea did her best to look directly at him, but was unable to see his eyes clearly at all.
After a lengthy pause the man reached forward to open a sliding glass window.
‘Yes, miss. Can I help you?’
‘Thank you, I’m looking for Linus Vasilakis. Does he live here?’
The man hesitated and appeared to be uncomfortable. He looked down again, avoiding her gaze. Alethea thought it strange that someone employed in the security industry should be so timid.
‘Does Linus Vasilakis live here?’ she asked again.
‘He does, miss.’
‘Can I see him, please? Can you please let him know I’m here?’
‘I’m sorry, miss. The master and the young master aren’t seeing anyone at this time. My instructions are that no visitors are allowed at all.’
Alethea was emboldened by the man’s refusal to let her in. The idea that she wasn’t likely to be admitted made her feel safer. This timid man didn’t frighten her either, so she attempted to engage him in conversation.
‘So he does live here, then?’
The man looked up at her again. ‘Yes, miss.’
‘Do you know when he’ll be able to see me?’
‘No, miss.’ The man was clutching his magazine tightly and was obviously unwilling to converse.
‘Can you at least tell him that I called and would like to visit him when he’s able to have visitors?’
‘Certainly, miss.’ The man looked down at his magazine again, obviously hoping that this was the end of the matter, but Alethea continued to stand there, waiting. Reluctantly he raised his head again. She could barely see the man’s eyes but she thought that he was looking straight past her, rather than directly at her.
‘Is there anything else, miss?’
‘Aren’t you going to ask my name so that you can let Linus know who called?’
‘Oh, yes, certainly. My apologies, miss. I’ll just get some paper.’
He stretched his arm towards the end of the bench, and picked up a notepad and a pen.
‘Your name?’ he asked without looking up at her.
‘Alethea … Alethea Galanos.’
‘Thank you, miss.’
‘Thank you,’ she replied brusquely, mildly offended by his rudeness and apparent unwillingness to help. She turned away and returned to the car, slamming the car door with frustration as she climbed in. She drove away again slowly and looked at the man as she passed, but he wasn’t watching her at all. His nose was firmly planted in his magazine. She turned left into the traffic of Brighton Road and began the drive home.