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"This sucks."

Waiting in my room while a violent thunderstorm, going on two days now, raged outside, I began feeling sorry for myself. Apart from the noise the rain made, the cable television going out being my chief complaint.

Suck it up, Corsair. My inner voice chastised me.

Smiling, I agreed. I'd been in a lot worse situations than waiting on a storm to pass, warm and dry, in northeastern Massachusetts. The weather itself didn't keep me indoors as much as the reports of several bridges being washed out in the local area did. That, along with the lack of cell phone service due to the extreme weather, kept me extending my week-long stay a tad longer than I'd planned.

Like I said, it could be worse.

"Miss Merritt's Friendly Bed and Breakfast" had a five-star rating and for good reason. The rooms, amenities and food were top notch. From what I could tell, the upscale, three-story boarding house primarily catered to various transients and travelers passing through the area on their way to other destinations. The basement held the laundry facilities and storage areas. The first floor contained a common area, kitchen and dining room. The second floor, the floor I stayed on, contained five bedrooms, four of which were currently unoccupied, meant for those staying a night or two. The third floor, from what I could tell by talking to other guests during my stay, catered to the more permanent residences. Above me, on the third floor, Miss Abagail Merritt, the building's elderly owner and caretaker, occupied the largest room. Adjacent to her, Mister Roger Price and Miss Randy Carter rented rooms by the month. I'd seen Mister Price in passing once or twice, but I did have the pleasure of seeing the alluring Miss Carter during breakfast several times during my stay.

Unfortunately, from what I could tell, Miss Carter hadn't looked twice at me.


A series of frantic knocks at my door snapped me out of my melancholy mood.

Who could that be?

From under my pillow, I snatched my "partner", a subcompact pistol I traveled with. Someone banging on my door at night during a thunderstorm didn't sit well with me. Moving silently to the door, I cautiously peered through the peephole.

I spied Miss Carter, the attractive woman renting a room upstairs, glancing around the hallway worriedly, and knocking on my door again.


Maybe delaying my departure a day or two wasn't such a bad thing after all?

Smiling at my good fortune, I placed my weapon in the small of my back and checked the time on my lucky dive watch. After all, I reasoned, I only knew of one reason for a single lady to knock on a man's door so late at night.

Opening the door, I put on my best smile. "Yes?"

"I'm sorry to bother you, sir." Miss Carter began.


"What can I do for you?"

"I need your help upstairs."


My smile grew even wider. "Sure. What's up?"

"I think my neighbor is in trouble." Miss Carter explained.

My smile disappeared as I realized there might be more than one reason for a lady to knock on my door late at night.

Placing my shoes on, I followed the long-term resident of the bed and breakfast upstairs as Miss Carter explained the situation to me. "My neighbor, his name is Roger, hasn't left his room in days."

"Doesn't sound so strange. It's a bad storm out there."

"That's not it." Miss Carter continued. "I knocked on his door several times and even tried to call him, but with the phones out..."

We arrived at Roger Price's door. "Yeah." I replied. "And you're worried."


Knocking, I took out my disappointment for the reason for Miss Carter's visit on the door to Mister Price's room as I banged as hard as I could.

No one answered.

"Well." I told Miss Carter. "There isn't a lot more that I can do."

"Can't you..." Miss Carter didn't finish her sentence as the door across the hall from us opened and Miss Merritt stepped into the hallway.

"What's all this racket out here?" The landlady demanded, obviously awoken by my knocking.

"Sorry to disturb you, ma'am." I apologized.

"Abagail." Miss Carter explained. "Roger hasn't left his room in two days."

"So?" The elderly woman countered. "He's probably asleep. Like you two should be."

"Have you seen him? Heard anything?" Miss Carter continued.

"No. I almost never hear anything from his room. No music, nothing. He hardly ever leaves his room anyways. How do you know he is even in there?"

"I just know it." Miss Carter explained. I could tell the younger woman teetered on the verge of hysterics.

"Ma'am." I spoke up, addressing the landlady. "You didn't see any visitors coming or going? You didn't hear anything? Anything at all?"

The aged woman thought for a moment before replying. "Well, now that I think about it, two nights ago, right before the storm started, I did hear Roger singing to himself, but the words were strange. Not even English I think. I was going to complain because of the late hour, but then he stopped suddenly."

"And no other noises?" I asked.


Returning to the door on a hunch, I clandestinely inhaled deeply. The faint, and unforgettable, odor of human decay filled my nostrils.


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