TITLE: Don't Call Me Francois 4/6
DISCLAIMER: Carter & Co. gave them life
For the life of me, I can't figure out how anyone could have lived in
this place, as is.
It's 5:30 p.m. We've been wandering around now for several hours, always
together. I've insisted on that, and so far haven't had any little
lambies wandering from the fold.
We knew going in that there was only one bedroom. The idea was strange,
but the reality of the size of the place, and no provision for children,
or guests -- well it only seemed odder when we climbed the spiral
staircase to the upper level. The staircase, by the way, is very cool.
Each step is a slab of art-glass, and looks like someone chunked off
glacier bits into building blocks.
At the top of the well, there is a small half-circle shaped foyer with
doors to the left, straight-ahead, and to the right. As the floor plan
indicated, the left-hand door leads to a short hallway and a door which
opens into a kind of den, again with minimal furniture. Two long,
horizontal windows look out over the countryside, and below you can see
the skylights over the living room. There's a white and gilt roll-top
desk with a spindly-looking chair, and built-in deacon's bench seats
under the windows, done in what looks like mahogany. A drafting table
and empty bookcase are the only other things in the room, except for the
matted and framed posters on the walls.
Byers pointed out immediately that they were original fashion designs,
signed S&S. He was still waving his mike around at this point. The thing
had gone to full erection on the stairway, and was blinking like crazy
while we checked out the den.
A second door, further along the same wall as the entry door, leads to
the master bathroom ... or the throne room, as Langly dubbed it during a
moment of group worship as we got our first look at the place. White
marble everywhere, veined with the lightest pink, and a bathtub big
enough to do laps in situated under a stained-glass skylight. Mirrors
cover every part of the wall that they'd missed with the marble.
Anything you did in that bathroom, two or three of you would be looking
back on, amazed.
The door opposite the den entrance opens to the bedroom.
It's a big room, strangely lacking the windows that flood every other
room in the house with light. There's a circular dome of cool green
glass in the ceiling over the only object in the room -- the bed. Does
this register with everyone else? The only thing in the whole, huge,
empty room is the bed.
Langly made a beeline for the bed, plopped down on the white bedspread,
and sat there looking up at the ceiling. He asked Yves if she knew how
the skylight might operate, and next thing I know Yves is groping around
near the headboard, and the ceiling is peeling back to let sunshine
bounce off the mirrored walls. It was blinding.
(Byers' voice in background: "I don't understand. It was working before.")
Yves and I have been in to look at the boudoir.
I made Yves shut the skylight, and told Langly to get his dusty ass off
the bed. Byers' toy mike is apparently dead now, so he's gone downstairs
-- accompanied by Langly -- for the other gizmo.
There's a little more furniture in the boudoir than there is in the den.
A large vanity and stool, an actual fainting couch upholstered in --
guess what color -- with a marble-topped end table, and deacon's benches
against the wall under the windows make this the most furnished room in
the house. The small bathroom just off the boudoir, constructed of more
pink-veined marble and mirrors, includes a roomy shower-bathtub combination.
Yves hasn't been talking much, but as we walk back to the bedroom she
comments on how sterile the place feels. That's just what I've been
thinking. Standing here in the main doorway, looking out into the foyer
as I wait for Byers and Langly to return, I wonder again how anyone
could have lived here and not left more of themselves. The posters in
the den are the only personal touch I've seen so far. Surely they must
have had more in the bedroom during their lifetimes. Dressers? Chairs?
Even *I* feel there's something vaguely indecent about an empty,
mirrored bedroom that only contains a rotating bed.
Yves is sitting on the bed, with her legs crossed, hands on her knee,
her eyes closed. She looks like she's meditating.
I can hear the guys' voices floating up the stair well. We'll have to go
back down and bring up the sleeping bags next. The floor in here is
covered with a deep pile carpet that just misses being white because the
top of the nap has a silver-blue cast. The pad seems to be in good
shape, so it won't be too bad camping on the floor.
It's 10:00 p.m. We're all gathered in the bedroom, and we've made it
through the first day.
Jimmy told me a few minutes ago that this is the last time he does the
boring job. The cameras have dutifully recorded all the nonevents of the
day, and he was yawning when I told him we were getting settled for the
night. I didn't say I'd trade this plushy carpeted floor for the hard
metal of the van in a second, but it's what I was thinking.
Langly has his laptop booted up. He's sitting cross-legged on the bed,
working at something. Yves is sitting next to him, watching over his
shoulder. I can't explain it, but that bed bugs the hell out of me. I
have no desire to sit on it -- or even touch it. Byers is on the floor
near his sleeping bag, still playing with the karaoke machine.
(Byers' voice in background: "The needle's either stuck, or registering
the presence of something with a PKE rating between 9 and 10. I wish I
had a clue about what PKE means."
Yves' voice: "Surely that's obvious. It's registering psychokinetic energy."
Langly's voice: "We don't all have your intuition, Stardust. Byers is
out of his depth here."
Yves' voice: "And you and Frohike are feeling at home?")
She's laughing, maybe at the bizarro nickname Langly came up with, and
for some reason it's weirding me out. I've never seen Yves loose enough
to actually laugh out loud from deep in her belly. She reaches over and
pushes Langly's hair behind his ears, so he can see his screen better, I
guess. He must be absorbed in his work, because he doesn't bat her hand
away and call her something more creative than 'Stardust.'
I'm crawling into my own sleeping bag now. I should have brought another
pillow. Oh well. I took off my boots, socks and vest ... but I'm
sleeping fully dressed in case of midnight alarums and excursions.
We spent the late afternoon walking through the gardens and grounds on
both sides of the stream. There's a small footbridge just below the
kitchen end, so you can cross from bank to bank without going through
the house. I can understand why Mrs. S&M would want to take possession
of this place, if only for the grounds. I stood and looked down at the
pond, at the floating lilies breaking the reflection of the house with
the colors and texture of a Monet, took a deep lung full of the honey
sweet air, and peace seemed to settle deep in my bones.
I cooked dinner on that wonderful range. There were eggs in the fridge,
glorious double-yolked, day old eggs with creamy brown shells, and I
couldn't resist. I hope I get a chance to thank whichever of the Browns
did the shopping. There was olive oil, garlic cloves and shallots, and
green, red *and* yellow peppers. I diced and chopped, and made omelets
topped with the same sharp cheddar we'd used on the sandwiches at lunch.
Yves found a couple of bottles of Gamay Rose in the cupboard, and real
crystal glasses. Langly set the table while I cooked, complete with
We sat around the table and ate without talking much, then just sat and
sipped wine and watched the sun throw long shadows across the Zen garden
Yves started talking about the Professor. She had worked for him one
summer, as a part-time job. I wonder if she was a student at an area
university. There are still things *I* don't know about Yves. Galigo is
apparently the one who introduced Yves to the Venkman character who sent
us the spirit-detecting trash. I think it embarrassed her to admit that
she was friends with someone whose business is chasing after ghosts. I
could have pointed out that some of *our* friends have much stranger pursuits.
After the wine was gone, Byers helped me clean up while Yves and Langly
went to carry the last of the luggage up to the bedroom. Byers seems to
be having a hard time concentrating on anything other than the blasted
ghost-meters. He kept sitting down and fiddling with the mike, trying to
get it working again. I had to speak sharply to him a couple of times
before we got the dishes done and put away; he just looked at me as if
surprised, shrugged and got back into the job. Byers is, without
question, the one of us farthest gone down Workaholic Avenue. He needs
to realize that work is only one fraction of a rounded life-style. The
kid needs more hobbies.
I'm not going to bug him about it now, though. We *are* here on a job,
even if it feels a little like a B&B weekend.
It was getting dusky in the living room when we finally left the
kitchen. Yves and Langly came downstairs as Byers and I were looking for
light switches. Yves found them without difficulty, which is odd since
they're cleverly hidden, recessed touch panels located near the main
entrance. The impression of the house being more museum than home is
even greater at night. There are lights under each of the glass chairs,
spotted on the mobiles, and focused in soft, overlapping oval pools high
up near the skylights. Most of the area near the windows and back
against the wall is draped in shadow. The glass floor contributes a
substantial part of the illumination to the portion of the room nearest
the front door. There are lights underneath the glass, providing a clear
view of the river below.
Did the Shadets entertain in here? Did they give their guests food and
drink ... and if so, where did they sit the glasses and plates ... and
themselves? I have this bizarre mental image of people standing between
the chairs, living statues draped like fashion models, staring out the
windows, or into the river. None of them are talking, none of them are
looking at each other. They move like figures in a clockwork dance,
always just missing any kind of connection ...
I'm definitely weirded out, but if this is as bad as it gets, I can take
it. I'm not sure what we'll do tomorrow. I think I'd like to make a
picnic lunch, and spend the day outside by the river.
Oh -- I don't think I've mentioned it yet. Yves told us this afternoon
what happened to the first caretaker. We were down by the river, and I
said something about it being obvious no one could drown by accident
around here ... the water is fast, but very shallow. Yves had it from
Mrs. S&M that the two fishermen who hauled Mr. Orthway out of the creek
reported he was stark naked, wearing what turned out to be his wife's
(copiously decorated with rubber chrysanthemums) bathing cap, and
claimed to be Esther Williams. The incident turned into a police matter
when the men tried to return Mr. Orthway to his wife's care, and found
she had gone missing. Mathilda Orthway was located a week later, in
D.C., where she had been singing nightly at a dinner club.
I feel like I should see a pattern, but I'm yawning now. It's all the
fresh country air, no doubt. Byers has crawled into his sleeping bag and
pulled it over his head. Langly and Yves are still sitting on the bed.
I'm going to use the throne room, caution them one more time to stay put
for the night, then hit the hay.
SHADET HOUSE CASE: AUDIO JOURNAL OF MELVIN FROHIKE, TAPE 3
Goddammit. It's Friday, 9:30 a.m., and I'm alone in the bedroom.
I never sleep eleven hours at a stretch. I panicked right away, but
Jimmy told me everything is fine, they're all downstairs in the kitchen.
Byers wanted to get me up, Jimmy said, but Langly and Yves told him to
let me sleep.
Who died and made them leaders of this expedition? I'm getting dressed
and going to lay down the law.
That is, I'd get dressed if I could find my duffel. There's a huge mound
of clothing spread all over the floor between my sleeping bag and
Byers'. His suitcases are turned inside out, and so, apparently, are
Langly's and my duffel bags. At the other extreme are Yves' and Langly's
sleeping bags, which are still rolled up neatly against the wall. It
gives me a shudder to think they might have crashed on that bed.
Langly must have done this. I'm going to kick his ass.
I'm about five minutes away from ordering everyone out of the house.
It's ... 10:30 a.m.
I'm sitting out by the lily pond, getting a little fresh air and
pondering what I've just seen around the breakfast table. I don't know
what bothers me the most, the fact that Byers was wearing one of
Langly's tees and a pair of jeans, or the fact that his hair was
sticking up in spikes (gelled?), and he was eating corn flakes moistened
with beer. Honest. The long-neck was still sitting beside him, and I
could see foam on the flakes.
Byers wasn't the only one who reached for the wrong suitcase this
morning. Yves has discarded her leather. Both she and Langly looked neat
as identical pins; both had their hair tied back in tails, both were
wearing crisp white shirts and brown trousers. Trousers, for god's sake;
there were front-pleats and everything. Langly doesn't roll out of bed,
brush his hair and tie it back. I'm thinking whatever happens in this
place has happened overnight.
God, what am I wearing ... jeans, shirt, vest, normal, normal ... am I
the only one of us who's maintaining?
Jimmy says everyone sounds fine over the com, just like usual ...
although Byers does seem more taciturn then normal. Is Jimmy being
affected, too? I would have bet he didn't know the word taciturn.
I'd better get back inside and call for a pow wow.
The Chicken Frohike I made for lunch (lightly breaded filets of breast
wrapped around cheese and fresh asparagus tips) turned out perfectly, as
did the five-fruit salad. I wonder where the Browns found those huge,
perfectly ripe Kiwi fruit? I wish I had the time and ingredients to make
a trifle, or maybe a chocolate cheesecake. A chocolate cheesecake might
improve Byers' mood.
Langly and Yves have gone to sit in the living room and watch the river.
Byers has pushed the dishes to one side and is disassembling the
microphone gadget. He's already killed a six-pack, and has another two
long-necks standing by. I can't see that a little relaxing will hurt
him; at least he's absorbed in his work and isn't stripping down and
heading for the creek.
Oh, yeah. It's 2:00 p.m. We had our talk, and I decided I was being more
paranoid than necessary. Yves explained that she found the clothes they
are wearing up in the bedroom ... she'll show me where after I clean up
the lunch things. I'm still not clear on why they decided to change
their regular duds for dead people's clothing, but she did say that
leather sticks to glass something awful.
Byers has been surly and unhelpful all morning. He claimed to be tired
and bored, stated he was over 18, no longer needed a baby-sitter, and
hadn't been hired as the live-in maid so I could do the damn dishes myself.
Fine with me, this kitchen is a pleasure to clean. I'm going to finish
in here, then tell Jimmy to keep an ear on them and go for a walk under
the oak trees. When we explored yesterday I kept smelling mint and lemon
balm. I'll bet there's an herb garden out there somewhere. Fresh salad
greens would be just the thing for dinner tonight.
<Part III - Part V>