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JOSEPH FREEMAN who’d seemed to resent him as soon as they saw he hadn’t brought an assistant in a bikini, and once a bachelor party where he’d found himself a warm-up act to a stripper even wearier of it all than he himself was starting to feel, and not much younger either. He’d never performed for an exclusively aged audience before, but nor had he ever turned a job down. He couldn’t afford to, but doubted that a roomful of wrinklies would be the death of him. Indeed, perhaps they would be the audience he always wished children would be – wide-eyed and cheerful. If he ever got there he might find out. Two minutes beyond the time he’d agreed to begin and he was still nosing the car through the slush-covered streets. If there’d been anywhere he could have asked for directions he would have stopped, but he’d left all the corner-shops and fast-food bars behind. These streets were lined with imposingly large and unlit houses set way back in dignified gardens. He was growing increasingly desperate, and about to pull over and call the operator for the number he’d neglected to copy down when the home had booked him when he saw that the next street was the one that he wanted, and the glow he’d at first taken for some kind of belated bonfire was a lit building at the far end. Allowing himself a faint smile of relief he drove towards it and pulled up outside. Marshall switched the engine off, and the home seemed to take a step towards the car. He realised how dark, how silent, the rest of the street was – a blessing for the elderly residents, he should imagine. The building was representative of the area – grand, detached three or four-storey Victorian residences. He let himself quickly out of the car and into his coat, then retrieved his large holdall from the boot, full of hopefully all the props he would need to get through the night – especially since he’d cut back on the drinking that had blossomed after his divorce until he’d realised he was turning into what Michelle imagined him to be. He slammed the boot loudly, as if closing the lid on any more unhelpful thoughts, and without further ado turned to stride up the hedge-lined path to the front door. The early December air had finally sharpened after an unseasonably mild autumn, and there was a smokiness that he normally associated with that time of year, and for the second time in the past handful of minutes he found himself thinking of fires. He lined himself up on the doorstep to jab at the doorbell, and barely a second later a light came on and a bulky silhouette jerked forwards in the door’s glass panel. He was - 98 -

Estronomicon Christmas 2008  

The eZine of fantasy, sci-fi and horror

Estronomicon Christmas 2008  

The eZine of fantasy, sci-fi and horror

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