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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Past Life - Chapter 3, scene 1

(Latest installment. To read the story in order, go to the "Writing - Past Life (story)" category)

Katherine stood on the veranda for some time; it was pleasantly warm, the willows by the river swayed gently in the breeze and a pair of ducks swooped down to land on the water: it was a very agreeable location. But at her back was a dark house full of intrigue and a room where a man had been killed. It was a house full of foreboding and, apparently, it was going to belong to her.

Foreboding or not, her curiosity only allowed her to linger in the fresh air for a few moments before she reentered the house leaving the front door open; not wanting to sever the link with the light airiness of the world outside.

Katherine opened the door on the left of the hallway - opposite the one that led to the turret. It was the house's formal lounge, though clearly Jeff had never used it as such. It had an old three piece lounge suite, a couple of standard lamps and an old fashioned, tiled, fire place. But every spare space in the room seemed to be filled with stacks of cardboard boxes and packaging materials. Clearly Jeff had never used this room for entertaining.

Leaving the lounge, Katherine returned to the hallway and from there through to the passage and the door opposite the study that she had been in earlier with Jean. It was the dinning room; empty except for a table, four chairs and a rug on the polished wood floor. On the table was a mixture of newspapers, junk mail and a few opened letters, along with a couple of coffee mugs presumably from the last time the room was used.

Katherine was already imagining what she would find in the kitchen and, passing through the adjoining door, was not disappointed. It could have been worse she supposed, but the dishes from the last meal had not been washed and there was still a pot on the stove which, she discovered, contained the remnants of a stew. Fortunately it was not more than a day or two old.

The only other room downstairs was a utilitarian laundry with a tub and washing machine. This was decidedly a man's house; a paractical device to be lived in and used, not a proxy statement for social position or status.

Katherine made her way back down the passage and entered again into the study to look at the rows of computers sitting silently behind their glass enclosure, winking their orange LEDs at her. She wondered what the room might look like in the dark with all those winking lights? She didn't expect to find the answers to her questions in this room but, right now, she wasn't ready to go back upstairs to the scene of the murder.

She lingered in the study looking at the computers. At first sight they all seemed to be identical but gradually she began to detect subtle differences in models of motherboard, processors and other components. This collection of computers had been built up over a period of time: The motherboards themselves, though the same make, had different model numbers and there were a variety of different processors on the boards. Even the types of RAM used were different. It was hard to be certain, but if these were current models when they were purchased, then it looked as though the oldest was about two years old and the latest quite recent.

As she came to these conclusions, the analytical side of Katherine's personality began to overcome the feelings of darkness and foreboding that was keeping her on the ground floor and she turned and left the study.

There were two routes to the upper floor; one was via the spiral staircase in the turret, the other was through a more traditional staircase that started in the hallway. It was this staircase that Katherine now took and found herself on a landing with doors leading off to bedrooms and one which must lead to the upper story of the turret. She tried this door but it wouldn't budge. Perhaps it was locked? But then she recalled the inside of the turret room and couldn't remember there being a doorway in the upper room at all. Jeff must have blocked this door off when making his modifications to the turret.

She turned down the landing - at the far end, over the kitchen was the bathroom. The other three doors led to large double bedrooms. One was reasonably clean, but clothes were either hanging in open cupboards, or were stacked on top of the dressing table and the chests of draws. Katherine recognised some of the jumpers and concluded that this was Jeff's room. She backed out closing the door, feeling that somehow she was invading the privacy of her boss of the last three years.

It was bloody silly, she didn't even like the man and yet here she was standing outside his bedroom. His bedroom in a house that was apparently hers; none of this made any sense.

The second bedroom was undoubtedly Martin's. One wall was covered with posters from a number of well known films. Most of the women in the posters were pretty scantily clad - at least that didn't suggest any unusual relationship between Martin and Jeff. She wasn't quite sure why she found that comforting, but she did.

The final bedroom, over the front lounge room, was probably the tidiest room in the house. There was a large double bed made up ready for use with two towels neatly folded on the bed. It was a guest room, clean, tidy, and ready for a visitor. Somehow it seemed so out of place amongst the drabness and untidiness of the rest of the house.

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