I stood in the doorway and stared at the man holding the door open. He was average height and slim, with pale skin and dark eyes. His face was narrow and angular, with a slightly pointed nose. His hair was so black it was almost blue, combed straight back from his face. It looked like he had gelled it, but little pieces were poking straight up in a few places. He was wearing a simple black suit, with a little embroidered bird above the breast pocket. It was black, a slightly different shade than the fabric of the suit, and I guessed it was a crow. It just seemed to fit.
Johnson had not said anything about a butler. Then again, I suppose I should not have been surprised by Johnson failing to mention something. I just stood there and stared at him for a couple of seconds, at a loss for words. He looked back at me, smiling slightly.
“Uh, hi.” Witty, that’s me.
“Benjamin Cooper, I presume?” He spoke quietly, with a slight British accent.
“Um, yeah.” This was awkward. I definitely had not been expecting for there to be someone in the house. I had been prepared to spend the day sorting through old junk, and looking paperwork about my family, and I had prepared to be doing it alone. The fact that this guy was here put a whole new spin on things, and I was at a loss at how to react. “So, ah, who are you?”
“I come with the house.”
He stepped out of the doorway, and swept his arm back, welcoming me inside. It felt awkward as hell, but I stepped past him into the house. “Um, okay.”
He smiled a little more as I stepped past him. It was kind of creepy, actually.
I took a moment to look around. The door opened into a little entryway or coat room, but beyond that was a much larger…I guess I would call it a hall. Or something. It was two stories, and had a huge arched ceiling above, with a few skylights. Stained glass skylights. There was a balcony along the far wall, which led off to what looked like hallways in both directions. There were two curving staircases that came down from the balcony, swept along each wall, and met rather near each other in the middle of the big room. The room was painted in muted colors, white with a little blue or green, and there were a few tastefully placed paintings. There were a lot of doors, at least three that I could see downstairs, and several more off of the balcony upstairs.
The young man closed the front door and turned back to me. “May I take your coat, sir?”
“No, I’m good, thanks.” I was only wearing a light jacket, and it felt way too weird to give it to him.
“Very well,” he said, and without another word he walked past me, through a nearby door, and disappeared.
What. The. Hell.
What was this guy, a butler or something? I had never even seen a butler in real life. How was I supposed to deal with this now?
Let me just say, I grew up with a single mother. I was never really deprived or anything, and I am not complaining, but growing up my idea of a luxury was ordering pizza. Even now, I had a good job, with a good salary. But I was definitely not rich. And having a butler? That was rich.
Was I supposed to pay this guy’s salary now? I did not get any money in the will, just the house, and I definitely could not afford a butler. Definitely, definitely not. So what, I had to fire him?
This added a whole other level of crap to this already complicated situation, and I was definitely not ready to deal with it now. I sighed out loud, and decided to worry about it later. First things first, I was here to try and learn something about my Great-Uncle, and get a feel for this house. I needed to focus on one thing at a time. I would deal with this butler situation later.
I sighed out loud, and looked around.
I could see eight doors from where I was standing, all of them closed. I had absolutely no idea where to start. It was a much bigger house than I had really expected, and I had no experience with this sort of thing anyway. For some reason I had pictured a closet with a little shoebox of old photographs and letters, stuff that would tell me more about my family. But I had no idea where the bedroom – er, bedrooms, rather – were, much less which one might have a closet with a special shoebox.
On the other hand, I had also been expecting to have to do this completely on my own. I definitely did not want Johnson to help me, that was for sure. But…there was this butler guy. If he was a butler.
No matter what he was, it seemed like he lived here, or something. Okay, I really had no idea what his deal was, and assuming he was a bulter was just that – an assumption.
“Well,” I muttered, “He definitely knows this place better than I do.” At least he would be able to point me in the right direction.
I glanced at the door he had gone through, and sighed again.
I headed off to find the butler.