Excerpt 2

I arrived at the Frost Home a few minutes later. As I walked up to the door, I had a sense of foreboding. The house seemed ominous and alive. I thought of Bob’s story of the barren land and the stone arch that was here before the house. If the arch in St. Louis is the gateway to the West, this house was a gateway to hell. AC/DC may have sung about the highway to hell, but I suspected you could avoid the traffic by taking a shortcut through the Frost Home.

I looked at the two piles of stones in the front lawn and wondered if they were cairns. Cairns are stone markers used to mark trails or reference important sites. If not, perhaps they represented graves. They also might just be piles of rocks. As Freud once said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

Malcolm Conrad answered my knock. When I explained that I wanted to retrieve the picture from Mr. May’s bed stand, he looked over at Edna May, who was seated by the fireplace where we had spoken earlier. By Mrs. May’s feet was Mr. Fluffinator. His ears perked up as I entered, but he did not move or bark.

“Mr. Conrad, you will get the photograph for Mr. Roberts while he and I chat, won’t you?” Mrs. May said.

She had to be over twenty feet away from us when I made the request of Mr. Conrad. I had also spoken fairly softly. For Mrs. May, at her age, to have overheard what I’d said was miraculous. Perhaps losing your sight really does heighten your other senses. Mr. Conrad bowed and headed up the stairs.

“Mrs. May, what a pleasure,” I said.

“I am an old lady. You needn’t blow smoke up my ass. It is not the least bit of a pleasure for me to bother you with questions. I intend to ask them, anyway.”

“Of course.”

“Please sit down.” I obeyed. “Have you spoken with my son?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Is he all right?”

“Under the circumstances, he is holding up just fine.”

“I’m glad. Even if he committed this horrible act, he was not in his right mind.”

Mr. Fluffinator looked up at me as if curious to hear what I would say next. He seemed like a kind and intelligent dog.

“If it’s not too much trouble, I do have a question of my own. I have heard a great deal about this house. I was wondering if you could share anything about its history.”

She looked in my direction through her sightless eyes and quickly turned away. Whatever she saw, or didn’t see, I assume she did not like it. Her demeanor instantly reflected a tense wariness.

“The history of this house is a little far afield from my son’s case.”

“You never know. I have found that minor, seemingly irrelevant facts can have a large impact on a case. It is better to throw a wide net.”

Mrs. May held her hands tightly in her lap. “I have certainly heard rumors about the house being haunted,” she said, “but I have never heard rattling chains or the moaning of apparitions.”