‘It probably won’t be him,’ Ian said, winking. Barbara smiled and shook her head, then knocked firmly. Ian was making her nervous.
There was no answer. He shrugged, and started pulling his driving gloves back on. ‘See? I told you it was a fake.’
Barbara pursed her lips. She wasn’t ready to give up yet. Even though it was a freezing November night and the wind was blowing round the sharp corners of this old Victorian mansion. Every window was forbidding and dark.
‘He sent us a note,’ Barbara insisted. It had been waiting for her in the staff room. A very official-looking letterhead. Brian who taught Chemistry had been most impressed.
‘I really doubt it’s him,’ sighed Ian. Now it was starting to rain. Big, shivery spots.
Quite curt and to the point, the letter had been. This address, miles out of London. A short apology for not being in touch.
‘It was his handwriting,’ said Barbara, knocking even harder. ‘I tell you, it…’
All of a sudden the front door flew open. Golden light from the hall came spilling onto the drive. He was in a smoking jacket and a ruffled shirt, as if he’d just stepped out of the beginning of the century. He was grinning broadly at them both.
‘Barbara!’ he cried. ‘And Chesterfield!’
They were swept indoors, and in a kerfuffle of coats being taken and drinks being offered, they became aware of a chaotic but luxurious home. Plus, a very petite, pretty girl.
‘He’s very excited,’ she said. ‘He’s only just remembered that you’re here, in the same time zone.’
Ian groaned ruefully. ‘It really is him, isn’t it?’ He turned to study the tall, elegant man, busy loosening the cork on a dusty bottle of champagne.
Barbara’s eyes were shining. ‘I knew it.’
The young girl said, ‘He says you watched him pilot the Ship a thousand times. You remember how to fly it, don’t you?’
Barbara and Ian looked at each other, suspicion closing over them as the man brought sparkling flutes, his opera cape swirling about him.
‘To old times,’ he proposed.