"Alex!" Melissa called to her husband. The composer came out of his study with the violin under his chin. He put it down when he saw that she was as pale as her white dress.
"Whatever is the matter?" he held her and she wept.
"There is a body, found in the crying wood," she told him. "A… dead body. We believe it to be Meshak Gardiner." She looked her lover in the eye. "How do we tell the boys?"
"Come on, Toby!" Aaron yelled as he kicked his horse, Melchior, into a gallop. Toby grinned and urged Fedore on to catch up with them. They were excited today - there was news of Mish in the parish. Many people said that he should have been hanged when Mr Gaddarn was. Toby and Aaron didn't understand that. What could Mish have done that was so terrible he should have been killed for it?
Toby and Fedore charged past Aaron, who had slowed Melchior to a canter, and then a bouncy trot.
"What's wrong?" Toby asked. He turned Fedore to face the other pair.
"I wonder if Mish is at Ashbrook yet?" Aaron smiled at the thought of seeing his beloved 'guardian angel' again. He pictured the boy, tall and scruffy, with his curly mop of ginger hair and simple face, calling "Angel! Tobykins!" A cheeky grin crept across the boys' faces.
"Last one home has to help Mrs Gregg with the washing up!" Toby yelled. He gathered up his reins and dug his heels into Fedore's ribs. The big hunter tossed his head and set off at a swift pace, almost like a thoroughbred at the gates of the Grand National.
"Hey!" Aaron shouted. "I wasn't ready!"
The two horses thundered back to the house, where Melissa and Alexander were talking.
"Mother! Father!" Aaron called. "Is Mish here? Has he called yet?" the boys were smiling and expecting Mish to come out of the manor and scoop them up into a big hug like he used to.
"Boys…" Alex began.
"You remember Mr Gaddarn, don't you?" Melissa asked them. They nodded. "He was killed for conspiracy and murder, yes?" Toby and Aaron looked at each other. What could this have to do with Mish? "Lots of people thought Mish should have been killed too – he was Mr Gaddarn's son." She paused, searching for the right words. "Mr Gaddarn was a very bad person He kidnapped little children and sold them for slaves. He deserved what came to him, you must know that." Aaron shook his head.
"What's this got to do with Mish? Can we not see him anymore because of his father?" he asked.
"Mr Gaddarn did wrong to so many people – everyone believed he needed justice, and-"
"What about Mish?" Toby asked impatiently.
"He was under a lot of pressure from people – everyone recognised him as 'the slave-trader's son'. It wasn't nice."
"Boys," Alex looked at them. "Boys, a body has been found in the crying wood. It has been confirmed as Mish." Aaron shook his head again.
"No," he growled, "No. He's just playing dead. Mish isn't dead, he can't be."
"I'm sorry, boys," Melissa was now crying softly, "But this is what has happened."
"Not Mish," Toby cried.
"My guardian angel…" Aaron murmured.
He ran. He ran away until he was sure they wouldn't find him. But then he heard the voice.
"No, angel. No. Go home. Mish is happy. Angel, be happy. Mish with ma now. Mish happy. Angel and Tobykins be happy now. Go home angel, go home." Aaron looked to the sky.