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“Thank you kindly, sir,” I said, handing the coachman a dull silver shilling. “No need to wait for me.”
I stepped out onto a cobblestone terrace amidst a garden of long-withered flowers that lead to the mansion. I began a brisk walk, marveling at the grand house. A wrought-iron fence surrounded the premises. My eyes followed the long spikes pointed toward the heavens that spread a few inches apart, easily keeping any criminal at bay.
I pulled my pocket watch from my lapel. Still broken. I hoped I was on time.
Carefully, I continued my way down the path slicked with ice. Exquisite light fixtures shone in the late winter dusk, giving off an eerie bluish tint that seemed to emanate from beyond the house. A light made up of crystallized beads hung from the porch. Two marble canine statues, teeth bared, guarded the front door, a massive wooden structure the color of oxblood.
The yard, once immaculate with lush, green grass chopped to perfection, now was overgrown with brown, crackling weeds, almost hidden by the fresh dusting of snow. A red hue of swooping curtains peeked through each window, giving the crimson interior the warm look of a womb.
I looked back at the iron gate that opened automatically when the carriage approached. The gate,
with bars of endless curly-cue designs splayed out in whimsical fury, was now closed. I shivered silently, wondering if I had made the right choice in coming here.
Just as I finished my trek to the porch, the door opened immediately.
“Hello. You must be David,” a woman said in a warm yet distant tone.
I stepped onto a black and white-tiled floor as the woman led the way quickly through the entryway.
Directly in front of the door, a silver-haired portrait painting of a man with a furrowed brow hung in an unsettling attempt to make visitors feel welcome. I tucked my hands into my pants pockets, toying with my penknife. Several steps later, a giant chandelier gave light to the otherwise dark entryway, the light sparkling through diamond-like droplets and intricate designs etched into a crystal base.
Another woman, who I figured was the maid because of her black dress and white apron, came
from around the corner in the foyer. I caught a whiff of something burning, and I looked around the hall for a fallen candle. The first woman whispered something in the maid’s ear, and the maid started following us just as the first woman spoke to me again.
￼“Do you always travel alone?”
“I try to. It’s been my habit ever since I’ve started this kind of work,” I answered, trying to keep up with the woman’s long-legged pace as she lead me through the house. “It’s hard enough as it is trying to patent these inventors’ wacky ideas let alone test them out. Most of these inventions never work they way they’re supposed to.”
“Well, this will work the way it’s supposed to, I’m sure. Jack is in real need for someone, like you, to sit in on his new project,” she explained, looking blankly past me and into another room adjacent to the foyer.
“Could you tell me something about his project?” I asked.
“He was inspired by an American with an obsession for electricity.”
“No,” she answered, stopping in front of a door.
We stepped into the dimly lit room, and the woman gestured toward the settee.
“Have a seat,” she said, before handing me a folded slip of paper. Then she whispered something to the maid and left the room.
The expressionless maid, duster in hand, walked to the other end of the room, straightened a picture that hung on the wall, and left me alone to wait.
Feeling the softness of the velvet, I nestled into the cushions to make myself more comfortable. I
unfolded the piece of paper. This must be the name of the invention, I thought.
I couldn’t seem to take in all the spender of the room in one glance. My eyes scanned the room
swathed in flame flickers from a wall sconce. A dark bookshelf showcased gold detailed book bindings and a pair of fighting lions carved from stone on the mantel above a large fireplace. The fire crackled soothingly, and I watched as the glowing, sizzling embers cast shadows on the walls.
I was especially drawn to a painting of a dramatic storm over the ocean. I could almost hear the water crash against the rocks and see the lightening strike undeserving palm trees.
A sudden wave of heat came over me. I leaned back into the cushions and shoved my hands back into my pockets.
“I am ready to see you now,” a deep, masculine voice announced from behind me. Just before I turned around, I removed my hands from my pants pockets and noticed inky, black smears from my penknife on my right hand. I quickly wiped the ink on my white button-down shirt, secured the buttons on my overcoat to mask my carelessness, placed both feet firmly on the floor, and stood.
“Electric Chair,” I read again before stuffing the slip of paper in my pocket.
Credit To – Lindsey Cox