The Americans arrived at the location early. A miracle, since they hadn’t been certain the overgrown path they’d driven was the right one (or that it was even a road) until the mansion’s triple steeple rooftop peeked at them from a distance..

As the two vans inched closer – equipment and two human occupants in one, more supplies and three warm bodies in the other – the red-bricked monstrosity revealed more of itself to them with all the grace of a retired burlesque dancer. Her stage: a sprawling, bug-infested lawn of unknown acreage, tended by grotesquely deformed stage hands.

Large, dark, mute trees draped her sides and kept modest most of her veranda. Branches reached like spindly fingers to brush at her face. Yet a patron could still see that she had several sets of unnerving eyes. Shutters, like false eyelashes slept in overnight, decorated those cold eyes and their unwavering gaze. Their dark, ghastly stare.

The skirt of her lawn overgrew itself in places, mostly about her earth-sunken feet, but one could see hints of its former sparkle, ornamented as it was with old baubles of landscaping: a garden flung here and there, a statue abandoned hither and yon.

The forlorn old gal stared back at them, frigid, weary, uninviting, yet with a phantom spark of her old fire somewhere in those depths, all the same. She seemed a tired old bitch who merely needed someone to tickle the right buttons. Brush and wash her hair. Hem and press her dress – and massage her body just a bit.

The words Grand Old Dame came to at least two people’s minds as those vans rolled to a stop at the end of a meandering drive. Also the words Shit, it even looks haunted! came to someone else’s mind as they piled out of said vans, and though there was yet daylight, the sky, which provided a backdrop for the mansion, was sinister with clouds that made for a dramatic darkening of the area. At least, in some opinions, it was. Others considered it normal, or didn’t consider it at all.



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