Friday, 9 September 2011

8) Dr. Scarab's House

    One balmy summer in New England CPA Eddy Schie was house sitting for his client, Dr. Scarab, well, less house sitting and more estate sitting. The sprawling mansion, attached bungalows for the servants, and suite of garages for Dr. Scarab’s collection of classic cars covered nearly a half mile and the rest of the property continued on out for a hundred more acres across woodlands and fields.
    Eddy had jumped at the chance to spend a month out in the country. His two bedroom in Boston was starting to get squalid. Even five years after his divorce he hadn’t gotten the hold of handling all the household chores. And Scarab had his own T1 internet connection.
    There had only been one caveat, and it sounded so cheesy to Eddy’s urbane ears, but when he heard it straight from Dr. Scarab’s voice over the phone it had caused a chill to run up his spine.
    “Enjoy yourself Mr. Schie, but know this, should you leave the grounds after the sun sets you can no longer be under my protection. I advise you to, whatever you may hear or see, to stay indoors at night. And under no circumstances should you leave the house without the keys. Do you understand?”
    “Absolutely Dr. Scarab. No problem. You can count on me.” He’d said, shaking off the trickle of fear with aplomb.
    With that the deal was sealed. The keys had arrived by courier the next day and that weekend Eddy was driving up Rural Road 5 and a little more than excited to bask in the obscene wealth of the Scarab Estate.
    That first afternoon his excitement was cut short as a column of black summer storm clouds quickly rolled in and opened up into a deluge while Eddy was practicing his backhand alone on the tennis court. By the time he ran back to the house he was drenched.
    Later that evening, after he had dried himself off, there were several flashes of lightning. Then the inevitable rumbling bass of thunder. Then the power went out.
    Eddy sighed. No TV, no internet, hell he hadn’t even bothered to charge his phone or bring the book he’d been reading the other day.
    After a decadent dinner of cold soup and crackers in the fading half light of the late afternoon Eddy rummaged through drawer after drawer and closet after closet until he found a flashlight, a top of the line six D cell truncheon that felt almost like a medieval mace more than a modern torch.
    Eddy tried to amuse himself by playing board games by himself, and by reading some of the musty legal books in the library, but nothing worked. He felt cheated. He poured himself two fingers of brandy into a tumbler and made his way to the master bedroom with the crystal decanter in hand as well.
    He drank half of his glass while inspecting the room and nearly finished off the bottle shortly after.
    A four poster bed, probably 18th century, wall hangings a hundred years older than that. He found the clock radio, tuned it to a classical station and tried to get some sleep, ignoring the fact that it was only 8pm. He succeeded and was quickly asleep in the most comfortable bed he’d ever been in.
    A loud crack of thunder woke him up a few hours later. And then he was really awake. He turned off the static coming from the radio, pulled on his pants, grabbed the flashlight and went for a walk. Down the hallway he got the impression the paintings were watching him, but he chalked that up to the slight buzz he was still feeling from the booze.
    He walked to the main living room and saw that the fountain out front was going again. But the lights in the house weren’t on yet. He figured it was a circuit breaker that needed to be flipped. He put on his shoes, grabbed the keys and went out to the courtyard. Instead of the cobble stone he was expecting his shoes crunched leaves. He looked down and saw the forest floor litter and remembered what Dr. Scarab had said about leaving the house. Eddy swore. He still had the flashlight. He patted his pockets, he still had the keys so he thought he was probably still okay.
    He wandered around in a spiral pattern, trying to get his bearings when he suddenly saw the unmistakable shape of peaked roof of the mansion off in the distance. Careful not to trip over any exposed roots he jogged back.
    When he got to the main entrance the keypad at the head of the driveway was gone. This is some prank, Eddy thought, but remembering Dr. Scarab he had never seen the man cracking a smile let alone pulling a prank. Eddy walked up to the main gate, crunching gravel as he made his way.
    There on the gate was an obscenely large lock and equally large set of chains wrapped around the iron bars. It was obvious that none of the thin little modern keys he had on himself would do the job. Eddy Schie wept.

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