(Rumours abound, An abhorrent abundance of sandwiches, Camping by the bell, and The persistence of exhaustion)
Iris didn't see it happen, but a thousand different rumours hurtled about the manor. Everyone knew that Colonel Walter had retreated to his lab, but word had it that the Admiral had gone up to shout him down. It was the first time that the Colonel had ignored the riding cane.
It shattered across his back, they said.
Then the Admiral attempted to use fisticuffs, but the Colonel had an improved knowledge of a mystical art known as Krav Maga. It was the first time that the son bested his father!
From there, the rumours differed. The Admiral had a broken arm. A broken leg. Broken ribs. A broken nose. Broken jaw. Some part of the Admiral's skeleton had cracked, and now the old man had shut himself in his room and would only allow Mrs Cambridge in to look after him.
The Colonel would only eat those awful sandwiches, now. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, he ate them. And an extra, fourth meal at the stroke of midnight. Iris was the only one he'd accept them from. Which meant that she had to see to his needs every six hours, without fail.
She made two of the horrible sandwiches on the ringing of the bell. Poured his coffee - stronger than God's love, blacker than Satan's soul, and enough sugar to sweeten the heart of Ebeneezer Scrooge. And then she made her way up to him when the the resultant tray. Deposited it on the little table and recovered the previous tray.
If his metal twins were awake, she would spare them an hour of comfort before returning to the camp she'd made under that cursed bell. She entirely lost track of the time of day. The day of the week. And very possibly, her sanity. It was just an endless stream of sandwiches and coffee and consoling the twins before returning to what little sleep she could snatch.
Until it stopped.
Iris was dimly aware that she had slept too long. On the other hand, her body teamed up with her tired brain and convinced her that she had yet to sleep for long enough.
Voices filtered through her slumber. But reality was still something very far away that she need not concern herself with. Not yet. Besides. Right now, all four of them were busy shushing each other.