as crazy as the whole thing sounded as she was telling it, neither of the two women expressed any surprise or amazement at it. the older one, still seated in the car, seemed attentive, but the younger one continually glanced at her phone and at the sky.
“so she is lampeduse’s daughter,” the older one said, when stephanie finished.
“that is all very well,” the younger one replied, “but where is lampeduse? and does it matter now?”
“yes, but we can’t be sure what they meant,” the older woman replied.
the younger woman started toward the dirt road. “you say there were two planes up there?” she asked stephanie.
“we only saw one go.”
stephanie shrugged. “i saw two.”
“and how many people - altogether?”
“i’m not sure, “ stephanie answered uncertainly. but the young woman held her hand up before she could go on.
a light had flashed on the phone in the young woman’s hand. she quickly pressed it close to her ear.
“yes - yes - yes - right,” she answered at intervals. “yes - of course we understand - later.” she took the phone away from her ear and slipped it into a pocket.
“and - ?” the older woman asked.
“it’s on. just a couple of minutes ago.”
“ah.” the two women just looked at each other.
“should we go up and check out this mysterious landing strip? “ the older woman asked.
“not much point, do you think?”
“what about my sister?” stephanie asked. “she should be back by now - if they didn’t take her.”
“well, there you go,” the younger woman said. “they must have taken her with them.”
“maybe they shot her,” stephanie said. “maybe she’s lying up there bleeding to death right now.”
“you know, celine,” said the older woman, “maybe we should go up and see what is there. if we don’t and it turns out - “
“you are probably right.” the younger woman turned to stephanie. “do you want to stay here and wait, or come with us?”
“um - go with you.”
“get in the back seat, then.”
stephanie got in the back of the blue car and celine got back behind the wheel and maneuvered the car onto the dirt road.
“what was that phone call about?” stephanie asked, when they were fairly on to the dirt road.
“nothing much,” celine replied, with a little laugh. “just that war has been declared.”
stephanie did not know what to say. she had been hearing talk about “the war” for so long - almost her whole life - she hardly paid attention to it. “by who? against who?” as soon as she said it, she expected the older looking woman to say - “against whom” - but she did not.
the younger woman, celine, said “everybody against everybody,” and both women laughed.
“you seem to think it’s all quite jolly,” stephanie said.
“not really,” the older woman told her, “it’s just that - we’ve been waiting so long, it does seem a bit of a relief.”
they were now off the dirt road. celine drove a little further and then pulled over.
there was a thick clump of trees on the opposite of the road and she turned the car around so that it was in the shade of the trees and facing back down the road toward the highway.
celine opened the glove compartment and took something out of it that stephanie could not see - a gun? she got out of the car without a word and started up the paved road toward the airstrip.
the older woman moved over behind the wheel.
“was that a gun she took?” stephanie asked.
“yes - but it was just a little one.”
“ha ha. you know, i didn’t mean to get anybody killed.”
“don’t worry about her. she can talk her way out of anything. and into anything.”
“what is your name, by the way?’ stephanie asked.
“my name? my name is priscilla - miss prue to you.”
“you mean you want me to call you ‘miss prue’?”
“no, that was just my little joke. you can call me priscilla.”
“well, priscilla, what is all this about? if you don’t mind my asking.”
“if we knew, we would not be here. we are trying to find out what it is all about.”
“are you spies?”
priscilla laughed. “what a quaint word. you must read old books, my dear.”
they both fell silent.
after a while, priscilla asked, “when we are through here - and i have every confidence we will be through here, do you want us to take you home - to your castle or whatever?”
“why, of course, where else would you take me?”
“oh, we will take you home if you wish, by all means. but when celine returns, maybe we can discuss other options.”
stephanie did not reply to this, and priscilla went on, “you showed quite some spunk, my dear, just walking off like you did. and a cool head, too. yes, a cool head.”