The wind was tossing up outside and he watched with his usual pang of worry as Emma got into Louise Melkin’s little blue American car. The winding drive along the loch was a knuckle biting one and though Louise had done it a hundred times before, he worried about Emma and her nanny on the drive up to Nairn. Emma waved goodbye to him from the car window and he wished he had been able to spend the full weekend with her, but business in Glasgow was becoming complicated without his constant attention and he needed to make sure the workshop was running at the highest quality level. Running his family’s castle estate had never been part of his plan and the sudden need to do so had changed the course of his life and Callum’s too. Malcolm wanted a simple life. He wanted to build boats, to sail and to spend his time with Callum, the way he had done for years. When they became serious about each other six years ago, they got a flat together in the Haymarket district of Edinburgh. Malcolm agreed to commute every day from Glasgow, simply because Edinburgh was nicer than Glasgow. The drive was not that long. When Malcolm was called to take up his duty to his family estate, they both risked everything to move to the highlands. It was worth it to be closer to Emma and to his mother. Emma could come for a weekend now and then and they could go up to the country house in Nairn and spend time with her. Callum’s family was in Aberdeen, so the castle was closer to them. At least that was something.
When the car was out of sight, Malcolm pulled his collar up to keep the biting wind off of his neck, and headed out to the East wing. The restoration artist would surely be awake already. He saw a figure in an arched window. The flash of a camera. Probably one of the stuffy academics from the Historical Preservation Society’s American chapter. He made his way down the long corridor of the East wing, stepping over stone rubble and the remnants of the section that had not been fully restored yet. He constantly worried about Emma getting into that section of the castle. The East wing was a crumbling remnant of the past and required the most reconstruction. Work crews were often at the castle, working on preserving the grand old section that had stood for five centuries. The rest of the castle had been restored in the Victorian era and then modernized in the 1980’s when Malcolm was a child, but the East wing had been left to a haunting kind of dilapidation. Stones frequently fell from the ceiling, letting patches of dappled light fall in scattered patterns over the moss that grown on the damp stones of the floor. There was a section of floor that was still wood, but the wood was rotting and it was easy enough to break an ankle falling through the soft wood that would break like the shell of a boiled egg. Workmen left tools; crowbars, broken drill bits, nails and rusted bits of metal scattered around. Malcolm and Callum always worried about Emma getting curious and wanting to explore the ruin for inspiration for one of her goblins and elves stories she wrote.
He pecked his way around the debris and saw the figure of a woman with a camera, photographing the details of the architecture that was left, the magnificent details that still graced the walls but had begun to rot away. Cherubs and winged devils carved in wood panels on the walls, done by a student of Gibbens centuries ago. The panels, tragically had been left to the elements. His father had taken little interest in preserving the castle’s more fragile sections or the rich and beautiful art that graced its walls. His mother had not always been the independent woman she was now. In the early days, she had bent to the will of James Lachlan and had been too intimidated to ask for the money for restoration of the fantastic wooden panels, so they had weakened and bits had broken away. The wing of a flying serpent, the extended arm of a wailing angel. Moss obscuring the faces of saints depicted in suspended glory at the top of the panels that hovered above the windows that once housed stained glass. It was a shame that it had gotten so bad, but art historians he spoke to claimed Robert Saskin was the best in his field. Despite the high cost, Malcolm sent for him. The 1.2 million pound cottage sales would have to pay for the restoration costs and the project would take months.