The Hexer from Salem - Witches of Salem
The Hexer from Salem - Witches of Salem
"Y ou're sure you have the right address?" The driver's voice implied a great deal more than the words he used. As I leaned forward and pulled aside the dingy curtain, I understood why he had given me a frown when I first gave him the address. "If this is the WESTMINSTER Guest House, then yes," I answered slowly.
The driver nodded. He was a tall, burly fellow, who looked a little ridiculous in the black livery uniform, but he had a good face and kind eyes. I could tell a lot from eyes. The face could lie, but not the eyes. "This is it. You're sure, sir, your friend lives here?"
"Is there perhaps another WESTMINSTER Guest House?" I asked uncertainly.
The driver shook his head. He pushed his top hat back and scratched his forehead in thought. "No," he said. "There's a hotel with the same name on the west side. Otherwise ..." He shrugged his shoulders and grimaced, which said all I needed to know.
I tried but wasn't really able to smile. I had already been at the Hotel WESTMINSTER for three days, immediately following my arrival to London. I even had a room there, not that I could really afford such an expensive and lavish place.
Unfortunately, Howard, the elusive Howard my father had sent me to, was not to be found at the Hotel Westminster. In the last three days I had done little else than try to find him.
To find a man whom I knew only by the presumably fake name of Howard, in a city of a million inhabitants bordered on insanity. I was on the verge of giving up when a helpful bobby informed me of a guest house going by the same name.
There the similarities ended. The guest house was at the end of a street that was rundown even by the standards of the New York slums which I had left not half a year ago. Barely a quarter of the two-dozen streetlights adorning the cobblestone street worked, and what they did manage to illuminate would have been better left in the darkness. Waste and refuse were strewn everywhere, and the dark outlines of overflowing trash cans stood out against the buildings' broken brick facades. What few windows I could see were shuttered or boarded up. Now and again you could hear squeaks and the tapping of tiny, hard claws. Rats. They were the only living things in this area after dark. The stench even seeped into the coach, and we had only just arrived.
The guest house itself was only distinguished by a poorly handmade sign and a dim gas lamp with a cracked shade above the door. Even the windows were shut, with only a bit of light seeping through the cracks between the shutters.
"Would you wait here a moment?" I said, opening the coach door and stepping out. "If I'm not back in ten minutes, you can leave." I reached into my vest withdrew a five-pound note and handed it to the driver. To my surprise, he shook his head at it.
"Sorry, sir," he said. "It costs just a pound and, as soon as you go in there," - he pointed to the boarding house - "me and old Beth here will be on our way. We aren't tired of living yet, you know?"
I let out a disappointed sigh, but didn't try convincing him further. Instead, I handed him the pound and turned quickly to the boarding house. I couldn't blame him for wanting to leave. Three other drivers before him had refused to take me here.
I nervously gripped the walking stick under my coat. I had a feeling I wasn't alone- and I'd enough experience in such places to know when I was being watched.
My hands trembled slightly as I knocked. The knocking sounded hollow, I could hear a door opening somewhere inside and steps coming toward me. I glanced back to motion to the driver to stay. He nodded and began to play nervously with his whip. Shadows were moving on the other side of the street.
The door unlocked with a clatter but opened just a crack, stopped by a chain. A pair of sleepy and suspicious eyes looked through. "What you want?"