“Tap. Tap. Tap.”
He shuddered with the coolness of the room. Kane slept in his briefs because the down comforter made him sweat after 1-hour under its softness. He moved around the room but couldn’t find the source of the sound and groped for his sun glasses to block the stinging morning rays from the single window with the open shade.
How can one window overwhelm his room with intense sunlight? The tapping grew louder as he came to the window. He looked out.
“Oh, my God.” Kane shouted but the image remained. “What the devil?”
The large black crow perched on the sill tilted its head and looked at him. “Caw. Caw. Caw.”
“It was you, hey? Well you got me up, now go away.” He waved and rapped his hand against the window. The crow stood fast and moved its head in tilting motions allowing each ruby red eye to capture Kane’s image.
“Well screw you. I have one more day touring this gray city.” He looked at the unplugged alarm clock which had stopped and picked up his watch. “Almost seven. I have to be on the bus by eight.” Kane entered the bathroom for a quick shower.
He was shaved and dressed in 15-minutes and picked up the tour brochure. Stonehenge. Two-hours to get there. Two-hours to endure a Stonehenge lecture including an hour to get a snack and reflect on the ancient ruin before the two-hour return trip. And this was supposed to be vacation to get rid of stress.
His boss had forced him to take a week off from his fast-paced coverage of the political climate in DC. “Morgan, something’s up with the President and his position with the Middle East. President Holmes is taking a week off so I want you to rest a week because when he gets back to the White House I want your nose so far into his terrorist agenda that you become a part of it. Here.” Aaron Crandall handed him plane tickets and an itinerary to the United Kingdom.
And with a day left in the UK, the tour bus was to depart to the Wilshire countryside near Salisbury according to his travel brochure. Stonehenge is “near” Salisbury. The British can’t give specific accurate addresses? Kane grabbed his book bag, his umbrella and a guidebook to read on the long bus ride. The weather report was sunny, cloudy, mild-to-cool with a chance of rain. The weather forecast was as vague as the Stonehenge address.
The tour assemblage in his hotel lobby was a clutch of forty people with a thickset middle-age redhead woman waiving a bright orange umbrella in the air.
“All right. We leave in 5-minutes exactly. The weather is typical cloudy with threat of rain. An umbrella is standard tour gear–go get yours if you’ve forgotten them.” She spoke with her closed umbrella making circle arcs as high above her head as she could manage.
“Finally. I was beginning to think this country ran on nebulous inaccuracies.” Kane smiled at the woman standing next to him. “Oh, excuse me. Living alone so much I tend to think out loud–even in crowds.” He put out his hand. “I’m Morgan Kane, from New York City.”
The woman tossed some light brown strands of fallen hair from her forehead and pointed to her nametag. “Martha Sorel. I’m from Washington, DC.”
Kane brightened. “Actually, I work in Washington, DC and live in New York City. I mean I’m really from Boston but I work for the New York Times and I cover DC.”
“For a second I thought you were a politician. We have to board the tour now. Most of the people in this group are couples or have paired off since Monday. How about sitting with me? I’ve been sitting alone all week.”
Kane looked at her bright red painted lips and slight dimpled chin. She was wearing a pale yellow hoody windbreaker with her left hand through the strap of her compact umbrella. “Suits me. Let’s go.”
“Caw. Caw. Caw.”
Sorel looked to the middle roof of the bus. “Look at the large crow. He seems to be looking at me.”
“I hope he’s looking at you. A crow like that one woke me up this morning.” Kane felt recognition. Was the red eye the same red eye at his hotel room window? And there’s that one feather out of alignment.
“Remember to follow my orange umbrella. We must keep together when we’re not on the bus. There’ll be many other tour groups at Stonehenge and we can’t get separated.” The chunky redhead waved her brood into the bus.
“You can take the window seat.” Kane sat in the aisle seat.
“Stronga will let us know if there’s anything worth seeing out the window. And if it’s photogenic, she’ll have the driver stop for a photo shoot.” Sorel unzipped her windbreaker.
“Stronga?” Kane’s brow wrinkled.
“Stronga. Our tour guide. Her name is Stronga MacTavish. She’s really good and knows her history.”
“Who’s to know if she’s right or wrong?” Kane smiled now.
“I, for one. I work at the Library of Congress in DC. My specialty is politics but even today politics is history we’re usually repeating. There seems to be no learning curve.”
“No learning curve?”
“Look at wars. You’d think after World War Two and with the United Nations, wars would be something to read about as happening in the past.”
“Yeah. Today we have Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the rest of Africa.”
“Exactly.” She paused as Kane looked past her out her window as the bus stopped at a red light near the Tower Bridge. “What are you looking at?”
“Ah, nothing. For a second I thought the crow on top of the signal light was the same one from outside the hotel.”
“I don’t think so.” Sorel motioned to the front of the bus. “Stronga’s standing up with the microphone. She’ll give us her morning safety spiel.”
Kane remained fixed on the crow. I do think so
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