When Fanshawe reset the hidden door and went back to his suite, he already knew he wasn't going to tell Abbie or Mr. Baxter about his discovery, at least not right away.
There was something else to do first.
Crickets throbbed; even a few bats flitted. Overhead the near-full moon projected down so much radiant white light, Fanshawe felt apprehensive that someone might see him, but...
Who would be on the trails at this hour?
It was half-past eleven now. After alighting from the attic he'd immediately gone downstairs. The inn was dead-quiet save for dim television squawk. He peeked around the hall from the elevator and saw the night clerk watching a baseball game. Eventually, the lanky man muttered, "d.a.m.n Red Sox," then rose as if irked. When he turned toward a coffee pot, Fanshawe slipped past and out the front doors.
Now he stood amongst the hillocks, gazing back at the inn through the looking-gla.s.s. Yeah, who would be on the trails at this hour...besides me?
He felt consumed by the nighttime, as though it had somehow incorporated him into its essence. He rationalized that he wasn't "peeping" this time; instead, he'd engaged himself in this final experiment before he returned the gla.s.s to its proper place and never touched it again. His revelations in the attic had confirmed everything Mr. Baxter had said about it.
Except for this...
It wasn't quite midnight when he began his "experiment" in earnest. He swept his one-eyed gaze across the town's panorama. The streetlamps of Main and Back Street shone bright, yet few people were seen strolling the streets, and only one couple had an outside table at the cafe he'd visited yesterday. He noted the pillory closest to the corner-empty, of course. Again, Fanshawe felt impressed by the archaic optics of the device; something about the lens-or was it the cryptic water behind it?-seemed to magnify all available light to an effect of hyper-concentration. He could see the grid-work of storm screens, smudges on windowpanes, the actual patterns of rust on a ridgepole. Fanshawe focused on an ash tree spiring in the middle of the town square, and could count its individual leaflets. The blade-sharp acuity of the looking-gla.s.s made Fanshawe's mind jiggle.
But the Travelodge windows revealed not a single parted drape tonight, nor any late-night swimmers. Over at the inn, Abbie's window stood dark and so did those of the joggers, while another window offered only a withered old man-regrettably naked-who stumbled in and out of view. Probably one of the professors, Fanshawe concluded, after a few too many Witch-Blood Shooters. The window blinked out.
"Nothing tonight," he muttered under his breath, but that was good, wasn't it? No fuel to stoke his disease. And that's not why I'm out here anyway...
Of course it wasn't. He'd come to see if the looking-gla.s.s would actually "work."
As it had seemed to last night.
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