No. 57 Olive Lane
Nobody lives in the last house on Olive Lane.
Nobody has lived in it since it was built. Even after the flurry of properties bought up since the previous decade, No. 57 remained inexplicably unsold.
The close-knit neighbours all know that the front gate at No. 57 opens itself at night - often very rudely, at inappropriate hours. It has been replaced several times, but the problem persists, and for now they take it as granted.
Yet, while they sleep, the residents of Olive Lane do not see the faint, shimmering light cast in the upstairs windows, as if by the distant headlights of a turning car.
They do not see the smoke that occasionally fills up the house and billows out of the chimney.
On this particular night, most of the residents are already asleep, and none of those still awake are peering out their windows.
A total lack of observers is the only way that the secret people can move around.
Nobody knows where they go, nor what they do whilst out of sight. Nobody knows that they exist.
A man steps suddenly out of a shadow far too small and faint to have hidden him, and walks with poise toward No. 57.
A woman emerges from the narrow opening between a house and its garage, composes her hair, and saunters in the direction of No. 57.
Several young men and women crawl out from under a porsche and skip off together toward No. 57.
The gate screeches open, and closed, and open, and closed, and open-
Mrs. Wensley looks out of her window furiously, and sees all dark windows along a deserted street, and the gate outside the empty house swinging to a close.
She murmurs to herself indignantly as she dons slippers and a dressing gown about how many appointments she has tomorrow, and how she really needs some uninterrupted sleep.
She takes her keys off the mantel and opens the door to the garage, fetches an oilcan, and heads out into the cold.
Shuffling down the road, Olive Lane feels to Mrs. Wensley somehow more empty than usual.
She walks past Mr. Billingdon’s porsche, and wilfully ignores it out of principle; it is a flashy show of pride.
She comes to the gate at No. 57. There are no lights in the upstairs windows, an absence which Mrs. Wensley does not note, for never having seen them.
Nobody is in the left hand window, watching her - another thing which Mrs. Wensley does not note.
She merely inspects the gate and hinges, swings it open. It screeches horrifically as it closes itself. She pushes it open, it screams shut again.
“Ugly, heavy old thing,” Mrs. Wensley remarks of the gate as she oils its hinges, and opens it a few more times, until the shriek reduces to a faint whistle.
She fastens the gate closed.
Job done, Mrs. Wensley huffs and makes her way back home.
Because her back is turned, she does not see the young boy climb out of the letterbox of No. 54 and run across the road into No. 57.
Because she oiled the gate, she does not hear it open.
As soon as Mrs. Wensley is safely inside her house, and her door is closed and locked, a crowd of people emerges from a variety of unlikely places, all moving toward the house at No. 57 Olive Lane.
In bed once again, Mrs. Wensley starts awake with a troubling realisation.
When she had seen the gate out her window, it was swinging closed. The wind can’t push a gate as heavy as that. That means someone must have opened it.
Mrs. Wensley climbs once more out of bed and peers out of the window at the dark windows along the deserted street, same as before. Then a chill races up her spine as she notices the gate at No. 57 swing closed.
There were no people seen entering or leaving the empty house on Olive Lane during that cold Saturday night.
Neither was Alfie, the yorkshire terrier at No. 32, witnessed escaping his yard and chasing an invisible adversary down the road, and then into the empty house via the basement window.
The sun rises late indeed. Frost clings to the grass, and the windows; the pavement is slick with it.
Most people this morning are rising, and getting about their day, but not Genevieve and Tamworth, the little girl and boy who reside at No. 32.
They both contracted a virus from some children at school. They are to rest and sip at soup and water.
They are yet to hear about the dog.
Slowly, the shadows of the night retreat from the sun. Olive Lane is still and quiet, like a photograph.
The gate to No. 57 is found to be firmly latched when Mrs. Wensley leaves for town in the morning. She cannot decide what to make of it, and it sits with her all day.
The basement window remains open. Had Mrs. Wensley approached but a little beyond the gate before departing, she might have heard shrill barking.
In the basement of No. 57, all is dark, and silent, except for the single shaft of light piercing the window, and the faint sound of panting.
Alfie’s eyes twinkle as he searches the darkness, huddled in the corner under the light.
Slowly, a shape begins to form in the dark, but remains obscure. The shadow thickens and moves, but does not emerge. Alfie begins to feel its presence envelop him. Without speaking, it commands speech;
You understand language... You have learned from your humans... But, you cannot speak... I can sense your affirmation...
Alfie huddles even further, making himself as small as possible, looking for some way to run.
I’m not going to harm you... you don’t need to escape from me... I’m going to set you free...
Alfie hides still further away. The invisible person inherently unsettles him.
We shall make a deal... Because I know you will never tell a soul...
Alfie begins savagely to bark, and snarl, and salivate.
The shadow squeezes itself around him, CALM YOURSELF! You cannot hurt me... I am Nobody...
Jennifer finishes clearing away the soup bowls for Gen and Tam, and goes upstairs to shower and brush her teeth. She’s been using this different herbal toothpaste that the women at work introduced her to, Natu-Fresh.
It’s only available at this one store, or so they say.
But it’s great. It’s so much more refreshing than regular toothpaste.
But as she goes to load up her toothbrush, she realises with distaste that the tube has run empty. How had she not noticed? Darn.
Mouthwash it is, then.
She towels off, gets dressed, and tosses the spent tube into the recycling box.
Gen and Tam are peacefully asleep for now, so Jennifer lays down upstairs to read a book.
I will set you free, if...
She sits upright again, as the phone rings.
...you agree to...
“Hello? Who’s there?”
...come back to me with trinkets from your humans...
“Hello? Jennifer? Any news on Alfie?”
“No, not yet, Carol, we’re very worried as you know.”
...every day. The more, the better...
“Honey I’m sure it’s going to work out fine, you’ll see.”
Can you agree to that?
Jennifer hangs up the phone, and lays there with her book on her stomach, staring at the ceiling.
Alfie nods his head resignedly, or some canine equivalent of that gesture, and the shadow abates.
Oh, good. Well, off you go, then... and don’t forget our bargain...
A door opens, revealing an ascending stair.
Jennifer jumps out of bed and puts on her shoes.
The children are still asleep, so she takes her keys and goes out the door.
God only knows where she thinks she’ll look, but she’s got to try.
She runs out of her garden, leaving the gate wide open, and looks to her right, and then her left - and lo, and behold, there’s Alfie, running up the road towards her.
She screams and starts crying, picks him up, and takes him inside, babbling incoherently about how she thought he was dead, and how she’ll never let him outside again.
Day progresses, for some more quickly than others. The sun traces its low arc in the sky.
For Mr. Billingdon, it hardly progresses at all, since on Sundays he remains in bed until at least noon.
He loves a good Sunday afternoon drive, but only as long as the sun stays out of his eyes and mirrors, and as long as the drive avoids the highway.
Mr. Billingdon leaves his house at 1:37pm and finds that his car is unlocked.
He looks up and down the street, and sees no-one. He leans inside, and feels around in the glove compartment. His secret bottle of vintage whiskey is still hidden there. He reaches under the passenger seat and feels his box of cigars, safe and sound.
He lifts out the cup-holder and finds his spare cash still curled up inside.
He sighs with relief, and sits in the seat, remarking how inattentive he must have been not to have locked the car.
He decides he will have just one nip of whiskey before his drive. A cheeky one, as his wife would have said.
He pulls out the bottle to find it almost entirely drained. He feels his blood pressure rise. What a crime. He polishes off the remainder, savouring what he can, and reaches under the passenger seat for his cigars. Upon extracting the box, he becomes aware that only three cigars remain out of twenty-five.
Mr. Billingdon’s face flushes a deep red, and he begins to tremble with anger. Who has intruded into his property? Whom shall he blame?
His eyes snap to the cup-holder suspiciously. He lifts the thing out and seizes the cash, counts it in his hands. His eyes almost bulge out of his head as he comes to understand that over two-hundred has gone missing.
Mr. Billingdon decides he is no longer in the mood for a Sunday drive. He is no longer in the mood for anything unless it involves finding out who stole these things from him.
Genevieve wakes suddenly in a shivering sweat. The curtains are drawn in the living room, and Tamworth is still fast asleep beside her.
She looks frantically about for the source of the voice that roused her. It was sharp, urgent; she can still feel the breath in her ear, but she and Tam are the only ones in the room.
Gen rises from her lethargy, coughing painfully, to turn off the living room heater. She peels off her wet gown, and goes upstairs to the shower to douse herself in hot water.
Time melts away in there, pouring down the plughole with the soap. The water is like liquid gold all over her, soothing and warm, and soon she cannot feel her swollen throat and sinuses, only the warmth.
Too soon, it’s over, and Gen steps out of the water. She dries off as quickly as she can, and dresses in two layers, to minimise exposure to the cold.
She opens the door, and jumps back in fright as, for a moment, she sees somebody standing right there.
The apparition disappears in the billowing steam.
Gen descends the stairs. She enters the living room and starts again in fright, seeing for an instant somebody standing in the corner, their breast pocket bulging with wrinkly brown crayons.
She can smell him faintly, the smell of smoke and whisky.
Tam remains fast asleep on the couch. She sits on the other end of it and wraps herself in a blanket, staring at the corner where she saw the figure, where there is only a table and a lamp.
Genevieve turns to reach for her water, but drops the glass - the figure is still standing there in the corner of her eye.
The smash of glass, her mother calling, they do not register.
She looks him dead-on, and he disappears.
She looks away again and there he is, in her periphery, watching her.
Suddenly her mother is holding her, saying, “what’s happened? Tell me what’s happened,”
Genevieve can’t help from crying for fear as she says the words, “there’s a man, standing over there, and he won’t go away... I can see him if I go like this,” she turns her head, and whimpers.
He watches her ever more intently.
The afternoon draws on, the shadows lengthen, and people who were not already at home return there.
Mrs. Wensley eyes the gate at 57 suspiciously as she parks her car.
She walks into her home and locks the door.
Mr. Billingdon would have returned home around now, had he gone on his Sunday drive. Instead he is asleep on an armchair in his room, dreaming vengeant dreams.
On the street, someone appears out of the shadow of a telephone pole, and approaches Mr. Billingdon’s door. They push, but it’s locked. They push again, and it opens.
Inside Mr. Billingdon’s house, some two-dozen people are already rummaging around in drawers and cupboards, and under beds and couches.
The stranger goes upstairs to the bedroom, finds Mr. Billingdon sleeping the fitful sleep of the angered, and begins to pick around in his room.
The Corner Of The Eye
“Come on Gen, calm down, there’s no need to panic.” Jennifer strokes her daughter’s red hair.
“But he won’t stop watching me,” whispers Gen in reply.
“There’s nobody there, Gen, you’ve just had a bad dream. That’s all.”
“But look, mum! Out of the corner of your eye! He’s still there.”
Jennifer looks as bade, and searches her periphery.
“Nope. I don’t see anyone.”
Gen starts to cry.
“Why don’t you describe him to me? Can you do that? Then if I do see him, I’ll know who he is.”
The girl sighs, “okay,”
Leaning back, she slowly turns her head.
Jennifer feels her beginning to tremble, and she starts to speak.
“He’s tall, uh, he’s wearing a brown leather jacket... he’s smoking a giant brown cigarette... his mouth is way too big and he keeps smiling... he’s leaning towards me, mum... his eyes are dark green.”
Genevieve screws up her face and dives back into her mother’s bosom.
“Hey, come on, you’re doing good, ’veevie!”
“Mum, I don’t want to look anymore.”
“What about his hair colour, his age?”
“Well we have to be as detailed as we can, don’t we? The more we know, the better.”
The girl takes one more halting, tremulous sigh. She leans out. She turns her head.
His eye is in her periphery, in full grinning stare, and close, but as close as can be, without even touching her.
She screams, claws her way loose of Jennifer’s arms, climbs along the back of the couch, and runs out into the street.
The sun is setting over the horizon, blotting the sky like colourful roses. The cold settles more deeply in.
Mr. Billingdon, having never turned on the heater for the evening, is roused in shivers. His eyes flutter open, and for a moment, it looks as though somebody is standing at his desk. His room is empty.
There’s a draft. The balcony doors are wide open. Slowly, achingly, he hoists himself out of the armchair, and hobbles over to the wardrobe. He pulls on a warm dressing gown and goes and closes the doors.
Something moves downstairs. Mr. Billingdon swears he can hear somebody talking.
Suddenly flustered at the notion of being robbed a second time, he creeps downstairs in an attempt to catch the intruder in the act.
He comes to the first landing and peeks out over the bottom floor.
It’s empty of people, but the front door, too, is wide open.
He crosses the room slowly, hesitantly, and closes it.
He looks in all the rooms, one by one, and concludes that he is the only person in the house.
Genevieve stands shivering in the street, turning in a slow circle with a panicked look on her face.
She stops turning. She can see people streaming out of a house up the road, but they disappear when she looks them dead-on.
They make strange noises as they dissipate in all directions, and then vanish altogether.
She looks at her house. She is shaking violently, her skin is turning numb.
Jennifer is standing at the door holding Tamworth, calling her with a mixed emotion part concern, part anger.
“Genevieve! What do you think you are doing? Get inside this house young missy, or you are going to freeze to death!”
She walks cautiously back inside the house, and slowly, timidly, searches each room.
When satisfied, she goes to bed without a word.
Mr. Billingdon goes to fix himself a bit of whiskey on the rocks, but he finds that all in the kitchen is not as he left it. In fact, everything is everywhere other than where it’s supposed to be.
The drygoods are in the cutlery drawer. The fruits and vegetables are under the sink. The crockery is in the refrigerator.
He needs a cigar, whilst he contemplates the situation.
Mr. Billingdon begins to cross the hall toward the smoking room, but stops.
The front door is open again.
He feels the muscles in his neck tense and his pulse thicken.
He closes it, again, and tests it to make sure it’s properly sealed, drops the bolt into the ground.
He turns, and there is a man standing there.
“Where the bloody hell did you come from?” Mr. Billingdon barks. “Get off my sodding property!” He observes the intruder’s attire. “Hey, that’s my jacket!”
The intruder evocatively extracts a cigar from the breast pocket of the jacket, and slides it along under his nose.
“My cigars? So you’re the thief! Oh, I’m going to make sure they write you up and down for this one!”
The intruder places the cigar between his lips, and, producing a book of matches, lights a flame.
“The smoking room is that way,” Mr. Billingdon remarks venomously, as he picks up the telephone and dials for the police.
The intruder just stands and watches him, smiling, with smoke curling out between his lips.
“Yes, hello? I’m Mr. Horace Billingdon of 43 Olive Lane, there’s an intruder in my house, I need assistance please. ... Yes. ... Yes, right now, yes. ... Well, presumably, but I don’t really want to find out. ... Would you be so kind? That’s great.”
He hangs up the phone, still making continuous unbroken eye contact with this strange intruder, who says nothing. There is only silence.
Jennifer thinks it best to give Genevieve her space for now, until she’s had a chance to calm down.
She’s been quiet ever since she went to bed, which is a good sign.
Maybe Jennifer can bring it up in a week, or a month, or even six months, but she will find out what happened.
She becomes aware of sirens approaching. Tamworth is asleep again on the couch beside her.
It’s police, by the sound, it’s really loud. But they don’t just pass by. They continue getting closer.
Soon enough, Jennifer’s living room is flashing red and blue.
Peering out the window, she sees the police car outside Old Mr. B’s place, and wonders at whatever is going on.
When the police came to Mr. Billingdon’s address that evening, they found the front door wide open, and no trace of Horace, or anyone at all, anywhere in or near the house. Only a smouldering cigar in the middle of the hall.
Night falls once again, bruising the sky, and plunging the world into icy darkness. The lamps interspersed along the side of the road illuminate little for the fog.
The cul-de-sac at the end of Olive Lane is darker than the rest of the street, because of the woodlands beyond the small pedestrian access path.
The undergrowth is moving, but there is no wind to stir it.
Jennifer watches the police depart the neighbourhood, and burns with curiosity. They had remained for some time, though she had witnessed no disturbance. At least now Alfie might calm down; he’s been acting up all afternoon.
She resolves to get about the evening routine, and begins to prepare dinner for the children.
Genevieve is still asleep upstairs, and Tamworth is playing video games in his room.
A car arrives outside the house; Jennifer starts, and then realises it is her husband home from work.
Alfie begins to bark, as he usually does, but a little more wildly than normal. Something in his voice is far more desperate. Genevieve wakes in the room next door.
Alfie leaps off the master bed, steals the black silk bow tie on the floor in the cupboard ajar and bolts from the room, down the stairs, and straight out the front door as Kyle opens it.
“Damn it - Hi, Jenny!”
“Oh, hi Kyle,”
“Alfie just got out, I’m going to get him, hold on a minute-”
The door closes, Jennifer sighs. That dog’s a menace; what’s gotten into him lately?
Alfie shoots down the road. For a dog his size, he runs with great speed. Kyle is floundering and clumsy by comparison, in his smart leather shoes and crisp blue-collared uniform.
Kyle fails to see which house it is into which Alfie disappears, but he scours each yard, hoping he hasn’t gone far.
The bushes rustle around the cul-de-sac, as if being rummaged, or stumbled through, by several people, to Nobody's notice.
Alfie dives into the open basement window of No. 57, drops the tie, and barks once.
He is alone. It is not like last time; there are no shadows speaking to him.
He is apprehensive about barking again. He would prefer to avoid another of those unsettlingly peculiar conversations, if he can, and let the shadow sleep - or do whatever it's doing.
After a couple of minutes, Alfie’s eyes adjust to the darkness. He walks further into the room.
He sees in every corner large piles of miscellaneous objects: garden hoses, coat hangers, pillowcases, single socks and gloves, pieces of furniture, bicycles, jewellery - the list just goes on.
Something starts moving upstairs.
Lights are ablaze in all of the windows except for those at No. 57.
Kyle peers into each and every yard, peeking under every shrub, and into every flowerbed.
Each time he leans in to inspect a garden, 57’s gate opens and closes several times. It is silent still, from its recent oiling.
“Kids, dinner!” Jennifer has their sausage and mash with gravy plated at their table, and their cocoa warmed.
Tamworth comes down immediately, and Genevieve several minutes later.
The basement door opens. Alfie scuttles out of sight and watches. Two short silhouettes come and gather up a load each of stuff from one of the corners, and turn and exit, leaving the door open. Alfie runs up the stairs and then out of the house.
Kyle is still several houses down, and doesn't see Alfie split into the street. He barks as he runs home, and Kyle, bewildered, turns to follow.
Smoke begins to pour out of the chimney at No. 57, thick, and billowing.
Kyle unlocks the door, and Alfie bounds inside and lays down in the living room, suddenly content.
"I don't know what his problem is lately," Jennifer remarks.
Kyle hangs up his coat and scarf, sniffing the air. "He's probably senile."
Jennifer laughs, "maybe." She walks into the kitchen. "Give me a few minutes and I'll get some food ready."
"Oh don't worry, I ate on the way home."
"Righteo then," she continues cooking her meal.
Someone is walking slowly down the pavement, someone indistinct and ill-defined. They stop every couple of houses to inspect something, and then continue. They stop at No. 32, and begin to rummage through the trash.
Kyle holds up a finger. "Can you hear something?"
He freezes for several moments, then turns, and abruptly opens the front door.
The bins have been turned, and trash strewn across the street.
"Oh, you what!" he pulls on his coat again, takes a broom, and hastily sweeps up all the trash and places it into the bins, leaving them safely inside the fence.
During this exercise, he misses several pieces of trash, including a banana peel, a used teabag, and an empty tube of toothpaste, which now all lie in the road.
Kyle hurries inside, remarking, "I wonder what could have done that? A fox? The wind?"
"Well the bins are inside the fence now, aren't they?" Jennifer offers.
"Yes dear, they certainly are." He rather thought they had been to begin with.
On the top floor of No. 57, in the right-side window, Nobody stands watching, surrounded by smoke that fills the entire room. After several moments, he walks into the recesses of the house. He descends a staircase which opens out into a larger room, in which some hundred or two hundred secret people are gathered, eagerly awaiting his arrival.
He steps onto the landing and casts a sweeping gaze over them. They gaze unblinkingly back.
My friends... you have done well. But... it has not been enough... I fear this power is... ephemeral... it is insufficient for my needs.
There is a prolonged moment of silence before somebody responds.
“But what about McNeid? Did anyone see what happened to ‘im? Back up at that rich guy’s place? He got well powerful, jus’ from cigars an’ whiskey!”
Yes, as did I... what I’m saying, Mr. Manwel, is that this power fades quickly... is is not substantial enough for all of us... Look at my body... I am already fading back into shadows and dust...
"Then what should we do?"
Find Mr. McNeid.
Mr. Billingdon comes hazily to consciousness. The last thing he can remember is having recently done the same thing in his armchair and having seen - a figure.
He squeezes his eyes shut and tries to make them focus.
He opens them again, and sees only shadows in a dimly lit shack. His vision is still fuzzy.
Horace, can you hear me?!
"What? Who said that?" Mr. Billingdon can feel the breath on his ear. He turns around and he's alone, but he can smell cigar smoke.
I need your help...
"Where are you?"
I'm going to drink all your whiskey...
"You're that little thief, aren't you? What, do you think you're going to get a ransom for kidnapping me? Ha! Joke's on you, kiddo!"
Joke's on all of us sooner or later, Horace, you ought to know that...
The Strangler’s Beech
And the lane lies silent, save the prolongued slight rain that falls, soaking everything, reducing what remains of the autumn leaves to a foul, slippery brown mush.
Smoke billows yet out of the chimney of No. 57, but it goes undetected, since all the neighbouring doors and windows are closed for warmth.
A howling midnight wind blows, quivering the bare limbs of the apple trees.
Over the tumbling grass of the common, a mist is settling. It hangs in the air like a ghostly memory, glowing in the moonlight.
A figure weaves along the path through the trees. The mist remains undisturbed as the figure steals by under the lamp and into the clearing toward the strangler’s beech.
History stirs this night, in this place, an echo of an incident which occurred twenty years prior.
A similar figure wove along the same path through the trees, and passed under the same lamp. The figure parted the mist in his wake, like waters past the bow of a ship, and crossed into the clearing, toward the centre of the common where stood the lone tall, twisted beech tree. On these winter nights, he fancied that its branches resembled murder.
A lone vagrant slept under the tree that night, a forgotten person with no friends or relatives; he was nobody.
The vagrant remained peacefully asleep as the dark presence loomed over him.
He only woke when the figure wrapped its freezing hands around his throat and stopped him from breathing or making a sound.
The more he struggled, the more he lapsed, floating out of consciousness; the stranger was far stronger than he.
After several protracted moments, the vagrant stopped moving. Several protracted moments after that, the figure relinquished its grip of the vagrant’s throat, and then, coolly, proceeded to hoist the cadaver up onto a tree limb using the sleeping bag.
By midday the whole of the common was a crime scene and the story was all over the local news:
Man Strangled in Leadley Common, Killer At Large;
Leadley Common Crime Scene, Strangler On the Loose;
Horror In Leadley: Strangled Man Found in Tree.
The victim could not be identified, and the culprit was never found.
The tree became known around town as ‘strangler’s beech’, and was thereafter rumoured to be haunted.
The pristine, unbroken mist obscures the figure that walks now toward the tree, who vanishes from the sight of the second figure that presently appears, striding blindly into the darkness, tripping over the clumped-up soil, and tearing the mist apart like a most delicate gossamer veil.
The first figure stands silently under the tree in esperance.
The second figure falls and swears savagely, clambering upwards and groping on in the dark.
The tree comes into view and he freezes, “strangler’s beech...”
His breath condenses and carries his words off to join the mist.
Strangler’s beech, the thief’s voice confirms, as his shape distinguishes itself against the trunk.
“What are you going to do, kill me?” There is such exhaustion in his tone.
The figure advances upon him. He makes to get up, but the thief’s firm hand is already on his shoulder, half-transparent.
I promise, Mr. Billingdon, he says slowly, deliberately, this is the last thing I will ever steal from you.
His hands slide around his throat and tighten, pushing Mr. Billingdon down against the grass.
The last thing he sees are the wicked branches of the beech, silently cackling.
Something changes in the darkness. Life leaves one breast and enters another. Mr. Billingdon lies still on the grass, and the figure sweeps briskly away, churning up the mist, and finally relishing sensation, as the cold rain bites his face.
Nobody stops, mid-conversation.
Something’s not right. He sniffs the air. Did any of you burn anything?
There is a general shaking of heads and of vague shadowy silhouettes in lieu of heads.
Everyone resumes their conversations.
Mr. Billingdon, who is dead, looks ghastly, all contorted in the grass, and so remarks Mr. Billingdon, for whom, in his shocked and disoriented state, the penny has not yet dropped that he is, in fact, dead.
He looks about himself in a dream-like daze, and a bright light further stays his penny.
The light seems to pull him nearer, increasing in its warmth and its urgency.
In a flash, he disappears into a shadow and immediately emerges in front of No. 57 Olive Lane. The light dissipates, but he can see many people gathered inside.
He scrunches up his face in astonishment.
Nobody stands up and walks through the crowd to the bay window and looks down the street toward the common.
He stands there for several protracted moments, remaining utterly still and calm, while people talk in the background.
“I heard McNair secretly has a living cousin,”
“Yeah, well good for him.”
“I always wanted to know what it would feel like to have a living relative,”
“Oh, please. I’ve got seven and trust me - they’re overrated. I would give you some, but you know, I can’t.”
“Yeah... I wish I could have the peace of mind of being the last of my bloodline.”
“Oh that’s not what I meant.”
“Wouldn’t you prefer to just be alive yourself?”
“I guess, yeah.”
“Too much commitment.”
“Oh, what the-”
Nobody’s silent voice cuts through noise like butter. Someone is coming.
Some others gather around, and together they examine the secret man standing awkwardly on the pavement, staring at them in open bewilderment.