My mind was nearly made up, but I would not be certain until I saw the house again.
The voice had not said where to meet it, so I thought I would seek the owner of the house without the aid of the owner of the voice. I would knock on the doors of the old businesses on the main street until someone pointed me in the right direction.
The neighborhood was beautiful in the daylight. The sun shone brightly as if it were still summer. The lake breeze burgeoned with that feeling of change that is so sweet in autumnal air. I followed the quiet southbound street to where it forked, and then I veered eastward.
Suddenly my eyes were again filled with majesty.
The house towered on the bluff. I stood in awe at its foot.
“Pretty place, wouldn’t you say?” the voice called from my left.
I turned to spy a short, squat figure straining up the old curvy road that wound up from the lake.
“Big place for a lone gentleman,” the voice rasped.
The squat person was out of breath. I guessed him to be asthmatic. He stood next to me now, well below my shoulder. His posture was indeed bowed by some injury. There was in fact a roundness to his upper back. An odor of decay accompanied his person. He was clad in an oversized wool greatcoat that fell to his ankles and bore a torn collar and holes in the sleeves and on the abdomen.
I was struck by the fact that he wore no hat.
He had long, thin, balding hair; small, sunken eyes; and fleshy jowls. I noticed a patch of golden stubble on the chin, but only on the chin — not on the cheeks, the neck, or the upper lip — and suddenly I was no longer certain of the person’s sex. There were neither trousers nor skirts visible beneath the greatcoat from which to garner a clue. There was an indication of a bosom that could have been feminine or could have been the result of masculine lumpishness. I could not ascertain whether I might have caused offense the night before by calling the person “sir.”
“You don’t speak much,” came the rasp I had been waiting for.
Surely, I had thought, the rasp will indicate the sex. But the voice I had assumed the night before to be masculine now rang in the crisp air with an ambiguous cadence: raspy, indeed, but with a subtle pitch that could have been feminine.
“My name is Morgan,” I said. I held out my hand.
The owner of the voice looked at my hand, then turned and shuffled westward, along the path I had crossed the night before.
“Pray hurry,” the person called without turning around. “It will be dark in an hour.”
I trotted to catch up, but the person did not stop to wait. It did not take long, however, for my long legs to gain on the person’s short ones.
When we reached the main street, I expected to turn right, but the person continued forward several blocks and led me to a small carriage house that was part of a larger property. The big house that reigned the property stood in a sickly manner. Its roof was in poor repair, and its siding bore a wound that had been only partially bandaged with mismatched wooden clapboards that appeared to have been salvaged from a number of different buildings.
The carriage house, though dilapidated too, was at least in one piece. Smoke piped from its chimney in a cozy manner. With a gesture, the person entreated me to knock.
The word “Enter” resounded from within.