People who think that little towns are quiet aren’t listening hard enough. News travels rapidly and with an exponential rate of inaccuracy. While gossip about celebrities is entertaining, it can’t compete with people you know, or at least see in person.
The woman who inherited “That Place” was described as young goth by the Burt the mechanic and as a wizened crone by Myrtle, the manager of garden centre. Neither of them had laid eye on her but that didn’t matter. Of course there were multiple variations of those two extremes. None of them were accurate, but it’s understandable given the local fear of that location.
The truth was her name was rather ordinary, like someone who you worked with in an office whose cubicle was adorned with pictures of her cat. She was Rachael Pegg. See? I told you. Unremarkable. For the record she was neither a youthful goth nor an ancient crone. Rachael appeared to be in her early thirties, neither striking nor hideous, and like her name, she drew little attention to herself.
Well, until after she mentioned her inheritance. Then she found herself the center of passive attention. For the rest of the previous night’s meal, everyone wanted to look at her but didn’t wish to caught doing so. Normally, that might be just politeness, but in this case it was pure fear.
Things did not diminish the following morning, she was told that the kitchen was closed for breakfast, despite the fact the local cafe was filled with folks hoping to catch a glimpse of her.
She drove her rental car through the foggy morning out to the lane that lead to “That Place.” A low stone wall ran along the road and when Rachael arrived at the turn off, she was greeted by the site of a constable who had arrived before her, his bicycle leaning again the wall. She pulled over and approached him.
“Good morning,” she said.
“Morning,” replied Clive, which was the constable’s name.
The awkward pause that had been trailing her since the evening before caught up and each of them stood silently. With a desperate wish to end this, Rachael spoke.
“Is there something I can do for you?”
Clive stood a little straighter and cleared his throat.
“It’s part of my duty to make sure you have the correct paper work,” he said.
Having anticipated this, Rachael produced a thick packet of papers and handed it to Clive, who had not expected such a rapid response. He leafed through them and made some thoughtful noises as he did so. Clive thought that these murmurings made it seem as though he was considering all the minutia of what was before him. It didn’t. Nor did he understand the documents, other than it read “Deed of Property” and that it listed one Rachael Pegg as owner.
“I suppose you have-“ began the constable when Rachel proffered her ID.
“Ah then, everything seems to be in order,” he said returning the documents and ID to her.
“Excellent,” said Rachael.
“You have to understand, it’s my job make sure everything is on the up and up,” Clive said in what he hoped was an official sounding manner.
They stood for a moment.
“Was there anything else?” she asked.
“No! Just dotting the eyes and all that. Have a lovely day.”
“And to you as well.”
Constable Clive was about ride off when he stopped.
“Begging yer pardon, I know this might seems a bit odd…” Clive trailed off.
“What?” said Rachael a little sharply, the lack of breakfast or even tea had frayed her nerves a bit.
Clive jumped a little.
“It’s just that the property, your property. Well, it’s a bit unwholesome, if you get my meaning,” he said in a low voice.
“In what way?” asked Rachael.
“When I was-“
He stopped, took a deep breath and spoke once more.
“Just be cautious, that’s all.”
“Old houses and all that?” she asked.
“Right! Exactly. Well, good luck and all that,” he said as took off on his bicycle.
Rachael got back into her rental and turned on the path that led to her new home. The trees that lined the way seemed to lean in but then parted, like cats that have sniffed you and decided that your presence is not an affront to them. She soon arrived at an old, wrought iron gate, which pattern suggested a dark and sinister forest, set between two carved stone pillars that abutted a solid looking stone wall.
She got out of the car and pulled a large ring of keys from her coat pocket. Picking one with a stylized tree at the top, (the top of a key is called the bow FYI), she unlocked the gate and they opened outward.
Driving through, the gates swung shut behind her and she looped around the circular driveway to the front of “That place.” Looking at the lawn, which might be more accurately described as a meadow given its unattended state, Rachael took a moment listened. Aside from the faint sound of the car’s engine cooling and the rustling of leaves, it was silent
Taking only the key ring, she got out of the car and walked to the front door. Her fingers found the largest key, heavy and cold, slid it into the keyhole and turned it anti clockwise, or widdershins, as her granddad used to say.
“It’s me,” she said.
With that, the lock clicked and the door opened.