Thursday, October 16, 2014

Unreal Estate II

Damon Petrovich wasn't at all what Adelle had expected. His voice had given the impression of a somewhat older man, probably portly and definitely genteel. In the flesh, Mr. Petrovich turned out to be slender, well-formed, and extremely petite - not much over four feet tall. He climbed out of his car (a black Honda sedan which struck her as studiously anonymous) and stood looking up at her, unabashed by the difference in their heights. "Ms. Terfield?" He wore a black suit, with a patterned tie and a light blue shirt that matched his eyes.

"Call me Adelle," she replied automatically, with her best professional smile. She offered a hand, and he (of course) took it rather than shaking it. His lips didn't quite brush her knuckles.

"Indeed," he said, "and you must call me Damon."

"Yes, well, Damon, I'd like to warn you now that whatever we find in this house, it isn't anything I've done and it isn't any sort of joke that I, or Better Real Estate, are party to." She was watching for his reaction, but his expression didn't change: bright, penetrating curiosity radiated from an angular, adult face.

"If I may ask," he said after a moment, "what is it you expect to find?"

"I wish I knew," said Adelle. "I've only been out here twice before. My boss wound up owning this place early in his career -- he was just making a name for himself, and he was running one of those 'If We Can't Sell It, We'll Buy It' deals. It looked like a great deal, but it's..." She trailed off.

"Haunted?" asked Damon.

"Haunted," Adelle agreed. "Nobody will buy it. The closest we've ever come was a young couple who loved the idea of living in a haunted house. They stayed the night to try it out, and after that... we never heard from them again. Steve -- my boss -- did some checking, and found that they'd decided to move to California instead."

"Interesting," said Damon. He was looking at the gates: heavy black iron, mounted on stone pillars; the high stone wall that surrounded the property disappeared into a tangle of overgrown bushes in both direction. "No tragic history? No murders? No mysterious deaths?"

Okay, maybe he was a writer or an artist, or at least someone with a hobbyist's interest in the supernatural. "Almost no history at all," Adelle admitted. "We couldn't even find a date when it was built. It must be fairly modern -- it has indoor plumbing, running water, and electricity -- but we have no building permits, and no records of when any of that was built, or added on. This area wasn't incorporated until the sixties, but the county should still have records of something. The earliest record Steve could find showed that Alder Campbell inherited the place from someone named Dominique LeClerque, in nineteen fifty-two. Dominique's ownership of the place was either already well established, or taken for granted."

"Well," said Damon Petrovich, "perhaps it's only waiting for the right sort of owner. If you would, Adelle?"

Adelle nodded her consent, and went to unlock the gates.

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