Sunday, November 22, 2015

Chapter 7 - Blood in the Mortar ---- Abby pulled into the drive and slid to a halt behind Janet’s car. She noticed that there had been some yard work, but haphazard at best. She found Janet on her knees digging around a clump of weeds in the yard. “Janet! Janet? What are you doing?” Abby saw Janet turn and look at her. She could see a blank smile. It made her feel like a stranger. Janet had lost the animation that she normally did, the sparkle, the conspiratorial grin. “Hi, Abby,” Janet said. Abby watched as she stood and brushed the dirt from her knees and gloves. “Have you come for tea?” Tea? Abby shook her head. This wasn’t the Janet she knew. “Tea? We drink wine. And lots of it,” Abby said. She saw Janet tilt her head and furrow her eyebrows. “Wine? Surely you don’t mean before dinner. I would fix you tea but I haven’t gotten the fire up. Perhaps you could come back later?” Janet had grabbed Abby’s elbow and she was escorting her toward her car. Abby pulled away and grabbed Janet by the shoulders. “Janet! It’s me, Abby. What is wrong with you? Have you lost your mind?” Janet didn’t respond but pulled away and went up the steps toward the front door. Abby walked beside her. “Snap out of it! What’s going on?” At the top of the stairs, Abby felt a chill. The boards beneath her feet creaked. She looked around to identify the source of the cold breeze. Janet opened the door and closed it behind her before Abby could recover. Abby reached for the doorknob and twisted. It was locked. Abby ran to a window to look through but there was nothing in the gloom. Abby pounded on the window as hard as she dared. Then she pulled out her cell and dialed Janet’s number. There was no answer. Daniel watched from an upstairs window. He had to move quickly. That woman Abby would be trouble. He watched her drive away and knew she would return. Not today but tomorrow for sure. He left the upstairs window and went down the back stairway. He listened for Janet moving through the house but heard nothing. She would be in the main room in front of the fireplace waiting for him. He slid open the hidden panel in the hall and went inside the room closing it behind him. He walked over to Lenoir and knelt beside her. He took her hand but this time she didn’t turn youthful and Daniel stayed old. “Finally,” she said. “What do you mean?” “You are going to kill me as you have all the others.” “I could never kill you. I love you.” “I may be old but I’m not deaf. I have heard you with that other woman.” “I’m sorry.” “Just let me go. Take me to a home. I’m old. They’ll just think I’m crazy.” Daniel took a piece of tape and placed it over Lenoir’s mouth. She didn’t resist. She didn’t have the strength. He lifted Lenoir from her wheelchair and carried her to the wall that slid open. Daniel carried Lenoir outside to the basement doors where he set her gently on the ground. With the double covers unlocked, Daniel opened them silently and laid then over, the rusted hinges squeaking slightly. Lenoir saw the stairs leading into the dark space below, as she was lifted from the ground. At the bottom, she was set gently back on the ground while Daniel closed the doors. The room went dark. A beam of light from a flashlight in Daniel’s hand swept the room. A single light bulb hanging from the ceiling came on, controlled from a string hanging from its base in the center of the room. The room had shovels and rakes, a wheelbarrow, a garden hose, an orange thing on wheels and other tools that Lenoir didn’t recognize. The walls were stone and along the inner wall stood wooden shelves, mostly empty except for a few cans and bottles of stuff she didn’t recognize. She knew the basement wasn’t as big as the house and knowing Daniel, there would be a false wall, another room. She had heard the screams from below the room that had been her home for so long. Daniel must have done unimaginable things to women to elicit the screams of pain and terror that had filtered through the floor. How had he hidden it from her before and how long had he been doing it? Since the house was built? Over seventy-five years. When she had seen the change in him and knew she had to leave, he had somehow known she was ready to run and had taken her to the room in the center of the house. He had cuffed her and gagged her. The first few years, he would wheel her around the garden at night but the garden and lawn grew, unkempt. He would carry her up the stairs to the master bedroom and bring back her youth and make love to her that she couldn’t fight. Then the furniture disappeared and the house echoed with emptiness. He was always gentle, careful with her, professing his love but she could never break through his madness. And nobody missed her. What had Daniel told their friends? After time she began to notice the house. She heard the sounds, the groans and creaks as the women screamed, the cold touch of the shadows when she tried to escape, the terror in her head when she fought him or tried to break the spell of the house. But the first time he held her hand and she turned young, she knew the house was something, something to be feared. Daniel moved a hidden latch and turned the center shelf exposing an inner room. He wheeled her through the doorway. Lenoir heard a familiar shifting in the house. It was preparing for dinner. She didn’t fear death, she feared the manner of her death. And what she saw made her pass out. Janet was not in front of the fireplace. She was in the dining room looking out over the garden. She loved standing in the light and seeing the perfectly manicured lawn with statues and flowing water. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement. She pressed her head against the window to get a better view. She saw Daniel lift a woman up and carry her down into the basement. She waited to see if he would come back up. When he didn’t, she turned to go out and see what was going on. She entered the main room and stopped. The room was filled with women of all sizes and all ages. They all wore different clothing; some fancy, some just casual, and some in what looked like nightgowns. There were even a few that stood there naked. All looked dirty, hair matted and tangled. They all stood silently facing the fireplace, heads down. Janet started shaking. Where had they come from and what did they want? She needed Daniel. Janet put her back to the outer wall and slipped quietly around the edge moving toward the coat room. Before she could get there, a young girl stepped out from the crowd and faced her. The girl was young and wearing dirty pink pajamas. She held a dirty pink and white teddy bear. She tilted her head up and looked at Janet with big sad eyes. “He killed me.” Janet screamed. Halfway home, Abby got mad and decided to return. She would kick in the door or bust a window if she had to. She got out of her car without closing her door. Looking around for options, she went for the back door. As she stepped around the corner, she saw movement and ducked down behind a clump of weeds. A man, a young man with long hair, was carrying a woman. Abby couldn’t see more than the woman’s legs and long hair. She didn’t know what to do. Should she challenge the man, see what he was doing? He was big and she could tell by looking at his solid frame, he was strong. He set the woman down and unlocked the basement doors. He turned and lifted the woman and carried her down. Abby still couldn’t see the woman’s face. It had to be Janet but the hair looked gray and the legs old and thin. Abby waited behind the weeds, hoping the man would come out and leave. She decided she couldn’t wait any longer and started to stand. When she did, she heard a scream from inside the house. Daniel set Lenoir on a table in the hidden room beneath the house. He laid her out carefully. He softly brushed the hair from her face. Above the table dangled a number of knives and saws. Their sharpened edges reflected the dull light in the room. Off to the side sat a fireplace and hanging above the fire from a wrought iron rod sat a large kettle. The walls were plastered but unfinished. The plaster was an odd colored light brown and troweled over the stones that supported the house. Three walls had been completed and the fourth half finished. Daniel turned and looked at the dirt floor in the center of the room. The earth shifted and cracked opened. Bits of dirt tumbled into the split as it widened into a deep gash. Daniel walked over and looked into the pit. Inside he could see the throat of the house below its sharp teeth, undulating, waiting for the next meal. He heard the house creak and felt the floor lift slightly. It reminded him of a dog begging for a treat. “Soon, my love.” Daniel walked over to a large square post, one of many supporting the house. He wrapped his arms around it and stroked the smooth wood. “Soon, my love.” He softly kissed the beam. The house above creaked. Then he heard the scream. He let go of the beam and looked up. He ran out and pulled the false shelf closed. He climbed quickly out of the basement and ran for the back door. Abby saw the man come out of the basement and run for the back of the house. Once again, Abby felt unsure of what she should do next. Was it Janet that screamed? And why? And who was the woman taken to the basement? Abby got up and ran to the basement. She went down the stairs expecting to see the woman. She froze when she saw nothing but scattered lawn equipment in the small room under the house. As Daniel passed through the dining room, he saw the woman, the one that had been with Janet, running by the side of the house. She was headed to the basement. No problem. He had closed the passage. That woman would never find it. He stepped into the main room and saw them all, all the women he had fed to the house. They all stood facing the fireplace, the heart of the house. They turned their heads and faced him. He hadn’t wanted to kill them but the house needed to be fed and the house kept him and his love, Lenoir alive and young. These women were prostitutes, homeless, runaways, women nobody cared for. At least most were. Then he saw the girl, the one holding Janet by the wrist. She was speaking to Janet. He ran through the room knocking the dead women aside. He reached where Janet stood and broke the connection of the little girl. The women disappeared. “Janet! Janet?” Janet stood there for a moment looking where the little girl had stood. Then she slowly turned to Daniel. She shook her head and looked around. The main room had gone dark and there were no gay people engaged in conversation. There were no dead women standing in the room like sad ghosts. In fact, the house was cold and gray, unfurnished and dirty. Daniel held both of her hands but it wasn’t her Daniel. It was the repairman, looking even older than before, very old. His eyes were sunk into his head and only a few gray hairs lay on his head. The hands that held hers were bony and thin. Daniels teeth were yellowed and gapped from missing teeth and a few hairs sprung from his nose. Janet pulled away. “Where am…who…what is…” She couldn’t form a question as she looked quickly left and right. The past few days were fuzzy in her mind. “It’s okay, love. Just a dream. Just a dream,” Daniel said. He began leading her toward the library. Janet pulled away from him again. “Who are you?” Daniel grabbed her hand and Janet watched as he changed from the old man back into the young strong Daniel. This time, instead of feeling the passion of love, she felt fear. Janet pulled away again. “You. You killed all those women.” “Janet, my love. I would never hurt a fly.” “The girl told me. The little girl.” “They were throw-a-ways. Prostitutes, drug addicts. Nobody wanted them.” “Except the little girl.” Daniel grabbed her by the wrist this time and she felt the hard grip. She tried to pull free but he was too strong for her. “It was for us. For us and our house. For our love.” Janet struggled, twisting and yanking against the hold. When she realized she couldn’t break free, she began to yell. Daniel pulled her toward the hidden door in the library. When Janet yelled again, he hit her. He had to silence her until he could deal with the nosey woman in the basement and he didn’t have time to fight. He slung Janet over his shoulder and took her behind the wall. He placed her in Lenoir’s old chair and chained her to it with two padlocks. He set the keys on a table top where she couldn’t reach them. Abby walked all around the perimeter of the small room, looking for another opening or a cubby the man had stashed the woman. She accidentally kicked a gas can and froze at the sound, which was amplified in the small room. She waited to see if the man would show back up. She hated being in here. It would be a trap. She turned to leave when she heard a voice. “Help! Abby turned and faced the wall. “Hello?” The she turned her ear toward the half empty cabinets. “Help!” It was muffled but it came from the other side of the shelves. Abby pulled at the wooden uprights. When she pulled a shelf it almost came out. She spoke as loud as she dared toward the back wall of the cabinet. “I hear you. I can’t find a way in.” “Help.” Abby traced the entire edge of the wood wall with shelves. It was divided into three sections. She buried a sliver in her finger and jerked it away. She sucked on it as her other hand continued to feel along the edges for a latch, a switch, something that held the hidden door closed. Abby picked up a shovel and used the handle to tap along the back wall of the wooden cabinet. She could hear the thud of solid wall along the edge and then heard the higher pitch of a hollow space behind the center set of shelves. Abby looked down at her feet and saw the half circle scrape marks in the floor. She knew this meant the middle shelf pivoted from the center. She felt along the edge to find the latch. At first, she found nothing. The wood felt smooth and there was no protrusion to indicate anything that controlled it. Abby looked along the sides for any sign of a hidden mechanism. Looking up at the bottom of a shelf, she saw marks not unlike those on the floor. She grabbed the shelf support and moved it sideways. She felt the latch give and the center set of shelves pivoted. Lenoir came to lying on a wooden table. She was looking up at knives and saws hanging directly above her. She tried to get up but Daniel had tied her down to the big wooden table. It hurt her back and old bones. She was too old and too weak to struggle. She twisted, looking as far as she could for Daniel. She called out. “Daniel?” Silence. She saw the fireplace, the mantle above stained with black soot. The room had the odor of death and wet dirt. She laid her head back and stared at the instruments hanging above. She wished they would drop and kill her. She had a feeling it would be better than what lay in store. When she heard a sound on the other side of the wall, she held her breath. What was Daniel doing? She heard the sounds of metal and wood clashing. Then the bang of a metal can rang out through the wall. If it was Daniel, why didn’t he come in? She had to chance it so she yelled as loud as she dared. She heard a voice on the other side, a voice that wasn’t Daniel. She yelled again and then waited. Then she heard the scraping on shelves through the wood. The light coming from the opening was bright and she had to squint. “Holy shit! Who are you?” It was a woman’s voice. “Lenoir, Lenoir Davidson.” “Let me get you out of here.” Abby looked into the frightened face of Lenoir. The woman was ancient. Her hair a rat’s nest, her plain dress faded and stained. The woman couldn’t weigh eight pounds, thought Abby. Abby stepped over to the woman and saw that her arms and legs were fastened to the table. Abby reached for the rope to untie the woman. The light from outside disappeared and Abby saw Lenoir’s eyes go wide and her mouth open to speak. “No!” She turned, knowing the man had returned. Before she had made it halfway around, something hit her on her jaw and the lights dimmed and from far away she heard the old woman yell. When Abby woke, she found herself sitting in the floor with her hands and feet tied. Her lips were covered with duct tape forcing her to breathe through her nose. She could taste blood in her mouth where her teeth had cut her cheek, Her jaw also felt stiff and swollen. From her position on the dirt floor, she looked around the dim room. The man she had seen earlier was nowhere to be seen but standing at the table where the woman had been tied stood an old man, as old as the woman herself. He was looking down at her. Abby didn’t see anger or madness in the man’s face but a gentle sadness. He was speaking softly to the woman. “Lenoir, my love,” Abby heard. “I have loved you always. I have cared for you, protected you.” “Daniel,” Abby heard the old woman speaking. “You may love me but you love this house more, what this house has given you. I want no part of it.” Abby heard the name Daniel. This couldn’t be the man that Janet claimed she loved. He looked like the repairman she had met last week. Where was the man that had hit her? That had carried this old woman down here? “Lenoir. I am so hurt. Have you forgotten our love?” Abby looked up as the man reached out and touched the woman. Abby blinked twice. She was stunned as the man changed, got younger, bigger. He turned into the man that Abby had seen carrying the woman. She looked over at the table but couldn’t see the woman from her spot on the floor but she did see beautiful golden hair hang over the edge of the table. Abby began to panic. She couldn’t believe what was happening right in front of her. It couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be real. She was seeing things. She was dreaming. It couldn’t be real. She saw the man turn toward her. He let go of the woman on the table. He reached down and lifted her to her feet. He pulled the tape from her mouth. “You seemed surprised.” Abby saw the woman on the table, now young and beautiful, except her eyes, her eyes still showed terror. “Let her go, Daniel,” Lenoir said softly. “If you love me, let her go. Keep me. Let her go.” “Oh, Lenoir, how I wish I could. But you know I can’t. I can’t let you go either but we’ll be together. You’ll be a part of the house, the house we love. The house that loves us. I promise.” “What is this?” Abby asked. “What is going on? How can this be possible?” Abby struggled against the grip but she was no match with her feet and hands tied. Still, she thrashed and twisted. “Help!” Abby yelled. Daniel placed the tape back over her mouth. “You can’t see because you don’t love this house. If you loved this house, you could see its beauty, you would see the happy place it is. It’s a house of love. I love her and she loves me. I love Lenoir so in turn, the house keeps us young to love.” “And what do you give the house, Daniel?” “I care for the house,” he said. Abby could finally see the insanity in his eyes and she fought him best she could. Janet woke up in the dark. She reached up to rub the sore spot on her jaw. She found her wrists had been shackled to the arms of the chair. As her eyes adjusted, she looked around. She was inside a small room. There was a bed, a toilet in the corner, a few small tables and lamps, a bed, and the chair she sat in. She realized she was in the hidden room she had been looking for before she met Daniel. And where was he now. Then it came back to her. The dead women, the child telling her to be careful. Daniel was the killer. Now she was captive in this room, at his mercy. How long had she been here? The past few days were hazy like a fading dream. There were parties and food. There had been bright fires and meaningless chitchat. There had been Daniel on the bearskin and on the bed but it didn’t jibe. It had been her imagination or worse. Had she been drugged? She got angry. She yelled for help. She yelled but knew there was nobody to hear her. She saw the dark shadows creep across the floor. Anger turned to fear as she looked for the light that would cause them but in the gloomy room there was little light. The black shapes formed into hands. One crossed her ankle and Janet felt the icy chill. She tried to scream but felt the shadow cross her neck and choke off her air. Abby stopped struggling when Daniel held a knife to her throat. “Sit.” Abby sat down hard on the dirt floor. She watched as Daniel removed the ropes from Lenoir’s wrists and ankles. He picked her up. Abby noticed that she had returned to the old woman Abby had first seen. She didn’t struggle. Daniel carried her to the hidden door. He pushed it open with his foot and walked into the small tool room. Abby heard him tell her to wait there. “I’m sorry I have to tie you up. I’ll be gentle.” After a moment, he came back through the door and walked directly to Abby. He reached down and lifted her to her feet. He put her up on the table. Abby again tried to put up a fight but Daniel took a rope and put it around her neck and tied it tightly to the table, the loop cutting off her air. Abby couldn’t breath. “Hold still and maybe I’ll loosen the ropes.” He cut the rope holding her feet together. He ducked one kick then pulled her foot to one side and tied it in place. Then he grabbed her other foot as she kicked at him. Abby felt about to pass out. The tape kept her from breathing from her mouth and she didn’t feel like she was getting enough to live. She panicked even more but it didn’t help. She saw the light fade then darkness with pinpricks of light. When she came to, the light around her appeared brighter. She pulled her hands and legs and found them tied tight. The rope around her neck was still there and cut into her. She was able to twist her head. She saw Daniel with his arm around one of the support beams and his forehead against it. Then he kissed it softly. He turned and looked at Abby. He walked over to her and looked down. Abby tried to pull her knees together. “Don’t worry about that.” He grabbed the edge of the tape and pulled it away from her mouth. Abby screamed. Daniel just looked down at her and waited. “There’s nobody to hear you. Nobody but me and her.” When he said ‘her’, Abby saw him look toward the ceiling. The rope still cut off the air some but with the tape gone she could breathe easier. “Let me go! Let me go!” “You know I can’t do that. My love needs her sacrifice.” Abby thrashed more feeling the ropes cut into her wrists and ankles but her fear drove her through the pain. “You see, she needs a loving touch but she needs food, too. But don’t worry. You’ll always be a part of the house, a part of us, a part of our love. See?” Abby watched Daniel walk over to the wall that was half plastered. He stroked it softly. “I’ll use your blood to make the plaster. Then after you fall asleep, I’ll feed her your muscle and boil your bones. The bones I’ll use to make more plaster.” Abby continued to pull at the ropes. The pain was excruciating but she had no choice. She watched Daniel reach above her and unhook a knife. The blade glinted off the dull light. Then she saw him bend over. When he stood, he held a white chipped porcelain bowl. She felt the cold edge as he held it against her wrist below the edge of the table. She realized he was going to drain her blood into the bowl and she doubled her efforts to pull free as she screamed. Daniel took another piece of rope and tied it to keep her hand from moving. Abby pleaded with him and she cried. She didn’t know what to do and she didn’t want to die. Daniel took the knife and made a cut in Abby’s wrist. The hot blood washed over her wrist and dripped into the bowl. “It’s a small cut. An appetizer.” She felt the table lift and settle. The house groaned and creaked. Daniel turned and walked away from Abby carrying the bowl. She followed him as she continued to pull at the ropes. She saw him stop at the edge of a crevice in the floor. The dirt at the edge moved. Daniel looked down inside. “Soon, baby, soon. Plaster first, to cover your nakedness. But here’s a taste.” Abby watched as Daniel tilted the bowl and a small rivulet of blood ran into the gash in the floor. Abby heard another sound behind her, soft like a wind through the trees. Then she saw Daniel look toward the sound. He stood up straight. “What? What are you doing? How did you get loose?” Abby turned and saw Lenoir, the young and beautiful Lenoir. But she wasn’t alone. With her were a dozen other women, the dead women Abby had imagined the first time she had entered the house. They moved as a group toward Daniel. “Lenoir. What are you doing?” They moved closer. “I am going to give your love to your house, your true love,” Lenoir said. “Lenoir, you know you aren’t strong enough. Those ghosts can’t do anything. They can’t touch me.” “Daniel. Is that what you think? What are you but a ghost yourself. You’re no more a young strong man than I am a young strong woman.” Abby watched as both Lenoir and Daniel grew old before her eyes. Lenoir limped closer to Daniel. “Lenoir, don’t make me do this.” Daniel held up the knife in his thin arms. Abby could see the danger in his eyes. He was old but Lenoir was no match for him. Lenoir and her band of ghostly dead women stopped. “You’d kill me now? After all the years? Years of love?” “If I have to,” said Daniel. “Drop it old man!” Abby turned toward the door. In walked Janet. Abby turned back and saw the surprise on Daniel’s face. “How did you…how did…” “I had a little help. Now drop that knife.” “I may be old but I can still take you.” “Maybe, maybe not,” said Janet. Abby watched but her vision was failing. She still felt the blood running from her wrist. Janet brought the shovel from around behind her back. She swung it at Daniel who stepped back and dodged the swing. Abby saw the surprise turn to anger but before he could take a step, the edge of the crevice gave way and his leg dropped in. The crevice snapped closed and Abby saw Daniel turn white, his eyes bulging. Then the scream. The crevice opened again and he slipped in further. “No! No! I love you! It’s me! It’s me.” The crevice closed and he screamed again. The gap opened up wide once more and Daniel disappeared inside. It closed with a crunch. Abby saw the light fade and then turn dark. “Your friend,” said Lenoir. Janet turned. She dropped the shovel and ran to Abby. Abby looked pale and the pool on the floor looked huge. Janet grabbed a knife and cut all the ropes. She stripped off her top and used it to bandage Abby’s wrist. She lifted her, but Abby weighed too much. “Help,” Janet asked. She looked around and all that stood in the room were ten ghostly women and an old lady. Twenty ghostly hands lifted Abby and carried her to the tool room. They set her down. “I need to get her all the way out.” The ghost women stood there. Janet realized they couldn’t leave the house. Lenoir hobbled out the inner room and grabbed one of Abby’s arms. Janet grabbed the other. The both pulled and stumbled up the stairs. Finally they got Abby on the grass. Janet got up and ran to Abby’s car. She would have her cell phone. When Janet returned holding the phone, she saw Lenoir at the bottom of the steps holding the gas can. She stood halfway through the hidden door. “Thank you,” she said. Janet looked at her not comprehending what she was doing until she saw the cabinet rotate shut. Janet heard 911 answer. “129 Berry Road. I need an ambulance. We are outside the house.” “What is the nature of the injury?’ “A cut wrist bleeding very bad. Just hurry!” “Help is on the way. Please stay on the line.” Janet kept the phone to her ear and ran down the steps. She banged on the cabinet and yelled. “Lenoir! Lenoir! Open it up! What are you doing?” Janet smelled smoke. She felt the house shift and the groan this time sounded different, angry. She turned and ran back up the steps. The basement doors slammed shut with a bang. Janet grabbed Abby’s good wrist and pulled her away as far as she could while watching the house. She looked up and saw smoke coming up from the chimney. The she saw a light flicker in the window. Then the flicker became flames. The ambulance arrived with a cop car, blue lights cutting the darkness. She ran to meet them and directed the medical technicians to where Abby lay. The medics turned and saw the flames inside. “Is there anyone in there?” Janet looked at them. Just then the center of the house collapsed with a scream that sounded almost human and huge flames exploded up. “I…I don’t…no. We were alone,” said Janet. How could she ever explain? Abby woke in the hospital. She could see the white ceiling and could feel the uncomfortable gown. She felt a bit dizzy as she turned her head. There, in a chair sat her husband. He stood immediately and walked over to her. He looked down at her and smiled. Abby felt him take her good hand and she smiled back. That was when she noticed him getting younger. She pulled her hand away quickly and shifted away. “What’s a matter? What’s wrong?” he asked her. “We can live forever, we can live young.” Abby screamed. Then she woke and looked quickly around the room. She was alone in the hospital room. She looked up and saw a blood bag hanging above with the red tube running to her arm. Her wrist lay bandaged and taped to a board. She shook off the nightmare. She heard the door to her room open. Her husband poked his head around. “Did I wake you?” Abby held still, frightened. What was real and what was a dream, she wondered. She watched as he walked over to her and bent down to give her a kiss on the forehead. He reached out and took her hand. Abby watched his face closely. She saw nothing but the big smile. All the crinkles remained and the few gray hairs stayed gray. Abby exhaled. “You don’t look happy to see me,” he said. “I am,” she said. “I am.” Over her husband’s shoulder, she saw the door open again. This time Janet walked in and again Abby held her breath. She saw a bouquet of flowers in her hand. “Hi. How are you feeling?” Janet asked. “How are you feeling?” asked Abby. “Ready for wine. Gallons.” “And the house?” “Dead and gone. Completely. I went up there today and there is nothing.” Abby watched Janet carefully for a few moments trying to read her. “But you just bought it,” Abby said. “And insured it,” Janet said with a smile. “You going to rebuild it?” asked Abby. Janet saw the concern and smiled. “Take the money and run.” The End

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