from "Mistral"

…I strode out across the hall and banged on Val's door for several seconds. “HEY!” I yelled. “Are you home, or aren't you?” The ensuing silence was thick as cotton wool. I mustn't panic. He had no set routines. He could've left very early this morning to go out on a job--or in the middle of the night, with some less constructive aim. I could imagine him, prowling about the city streets when they were nice and empty, almost clean...

Tears stung my eyes and I wrenched at the doorknob. My effort proved over-vigorous. The door swung open.

Feeling that my concerns were quite justified, I went in. Nothing much had changed since my last visit. I crossed through the rooms I already knew, gleaning no clues. Most of the window-shades were raised about six inches, admitting floods of light the color of old gold. Its play upon the bare floors was infinitely sad to me, like the A-minor rondo I couldn't get out of my head. Both doors to his bedroom were closed.

I stood before the living-room one. It would be inexcusable to just walk in. “--Hey!” I called again, my voice echoing drearily, “it's me, Lara.” Did he even know my name? “--Are you there?” I persisted. “Do you need anything?” Behind the door, all remained mute. I took a deep breath and entered.

There was a mattress with some rumpled bedclothes on it in the southeast corner. A jumble of wooden panels and lathe-turned posts and spindles leaned against the wall adjoining the bathroom. That must be the credenza he spoke of. Near the door-frame leading to the passage a sizeable chunk of plasterboard was missing. So, he had not lied about the work he hoped to do here. Oddly, though, there was no sign of enterprise. The hole in the wall had not been touched for months. The credenza pieces were thick with dust. And our landlord's hand-saw was nowhere in sight…


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