Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Meanwhile, as Conrad suffered his penance, something was going on across the street and a little way down the block....

Constance and Lars are mortals, not vampire, or witch-folk, or paranormal in any way. He's a curator at some museum... urine samples through the ages, or something like that. She sells artisanal sweaters made by Andean shamans from skeins of their own shorn hair. Takes ten years to save enough hair for a really good one. Any change in color during that time is incorporated into the design.

They live in a townhouse, not as large as what the vampires have, though impressive enough for a couple not yet thirty five. In their spare time he studies Mongolian throat singing and she spies on the neighbors.

Now this is a quiet secluded street. It has only five houses. Two on the vampires' side and three on the side where Lars and Constance live. Between them are blank, red brick walls punctuated by heavy, green, metal doors used to make deliveries to commercial establishments that open onto adjacent thoroughfares. That's why Jonathon picked it after they moved back into Center City from Chestnut Hill. Night-folk crave seclusion. . The former owner was a mute solitaire champion, who played game after game in a small garret room on the third floor, right next to where Billy sleeps now. The man detailed each contest in a small, leather bound book. He called his non-existent opponent 'Mister Boogity.' And Mister Boogity never ever won, till a certain night one cold November. It all hinged on the turn of a card... a black queen and he wins... a red queen and it's over. He sighed, thought for a moment and reached for the card. It had to be the black one. He'd played the game, or it's variants, so often. He knew all the odds. The house was silent and dark, locked up snug against the freezing rain. But he ignored the sound. The game was everything. And there, in that snug space, lit only by a small, balloon vendor lamp, like little children sometimes have in their bedrooms, he turned the last card. As The Great Celestial Director would have it, the huge, illuminated, pale yellow clock face, high atop the six hundred foot tall, Third Empire tower at City Hall chimed three. When the last echo died, the solitaire champion saw what he had.... a red queen. The game was over, Mister Boogity's first triumph. The man just sat there staring out at the storm on the other side of the small, mullioned window. He never even noticed as the toy sized figure of the balloon vendor on the base of the lamp let fly his wares and began to grow... But, who knows? Maybe he did notice? Maybe he just didn't care? When the clown-faced thing put it's cold hands around his throat and began to break the windpipe, he mouthed three small words - Who are you?...... The thing contorted its face into a rictus far larger and more frightening than any human grimace... On its upper teeth one read the word 'M-I-S-T-E-R.'... On the lower teeth, B-O-O-G-I-T-Y.... The loser saw it all reflected backwards in the window, against the blackness of the storm beyond. And then he was dead...

Did his ghost join the spirit of the little polio victim in the basement?... Maybe yes. Not every soul makes its presence known. As for Mister Boogity, he simply went back to his place on the lamp, which was packed up and sold a few months later.

Excuse my digression, but I thought you'd like to know.

Now Constance had her suspicions about 'that house' across the street. She saw them come and go after dark... only during the night... no other time. She saw Jonathon and Sarah and Conrad and Annie... Who lets a little girl run lose at all hours? She wanted to call the department of human welfare, but Lars stopped her. She still wants to corner Edith and question her. Edith comes and goes during the day. Her she can get.

But it's late now. Constance peeks through the draperies at the house across the street. Is it dark in there? Are there lights? Hard to tell. The shades are down. The drapes are drawn. But a small, feeble glow seems to be coming from a certain third floor room... the solitaire player's room and Conrad's room now.

And she can see that.

<more next time>


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