They walked into a billiard room, it too was dark, the windows covered by planks of wood. Long, thick, maroon curtains hung undrawn and almost stretched to the full height of the room. It was as if they had been opened in a hurry leaving the curtains in an untidy state, yet this was not in keeping with the precise layout of the rest of the furnishings. The billiard table was set up for a game. A thick layer of dust across the baize gave it a light grey tint with a splash of dark green around the base of the three balls and where two cues rested on the cloth. Lisa dragged her fingers through the dust creating three almost parallel grooves across its length as she walked to look closer at the three portraits hanging from the opposite wall.
Unlike the paintings in Charles Middleton’s study, the portraits had their names inscribed on a small brass plate underneath each one. Lisa removed the grime from the first plate with a draw of her finger. “Minnie Middleton 1827-1876.”
David looked closer. “That’s you. It’s quite clear.”
“Do you think so?”
“Definitely, and this lady next to her.” David removed the dirt from the brass plate underneath the next portrait. “Mary Middleton 1861 – 1921.”
“I wonder what relation they are to me?” She flashed her torch towards the third frame. “Who is the last painting of?”
David shone his beam on a woman with glaring eyes. “Elizabeth Middleton 1847 – 1878.”
“You didn’t clean the brass plate?”
“It wasn’t dirty.”
Lisa looked in puzzlement at David and then at the brass plate until her train of thought came back to her. “Charles was born in 1850. Could we assume that Mary and Elizabeth were his sisters and Minnie was his mother?”
“And you could be looking at your great great great grandmother or at least one of them could be.”
Lisa felt stunned. She’d been so far removed from the Middleton’s that it never really entered her head to consider the people in the portraits were her direct descendants. Her own great grandmother was ninety five and lived on Bletchley Lane, but that was the O’Hara family. She took a step forward and started to stroke the dried colours of Elizabeth’s portrait. The matter of family and bloodline had always been two different aspects. She knew this, but at that moment it was the first time she felt a part of the Middleton legacy. After all, her full birth name was Beverley Lisa Middleton. The whole circumstance of Charles Middleton and the estate was exciting, romantic even, and up until now it had seemed like an adventure, but Lisa was starting to grow excited by the notion that she could find out who she actually was.
She grunted when David told her he was going into the next room. Did she really look like the women in these paintings? They all had blazing faces and thunderous expressions. Were they an unhappy family? Lisa took a step back but then she heard a sharp click behind her. She turned quickly . The billiard balls had moved, only a few inches, but in the beam of her torch she could clearly see the grooves in the dust created by their wake. Shining the light across the room, she was hoping to glimpse David, but she was alone? The sound of a soft scrape puzzled her initially as she tried to decipher its origin, and then she saw it. The three lines she had made in the dust on the billiard table were becoming six as three mores lines were being formed parallel to hers. Whatever was making the shallow grooves was moving slowly towards her. The illumination from the torch revealed nothing, there was no one else in the room. Her heart quickened and the hairs on her body prickled as the lines drew closer and closer.