The child had been more than easy to provide for but that was a given. A girl with little, in his experience, was usually grateful for even the smallest of kind gestures and the child he lived with had come from nothing. It was truly more difficult to stop himself from burying her in things that would surely overwhelm her. She would, however, be taken care of for years to come at this point with the provisions that he’d made and that was likely to leave the poor girl bewildered already. He had made arrangements for the rest of the staff as well while he was here and the additional effort would likely be something that would keep everyone happy. It did the house good to be shown their efforts were appreciated and it took so little that he found that his errand could’ve been something that, given more time, he might have been in danger of getting too caught up in adding to the festivities that he hated so much. Though it did him some good to know that he would be able to provide for everyone and especially the one person in his house that needed it the most, Victor was grateful to be finished with this task early. He was relieved to know that no matter what happened today, there would be some kind of peace in his household for a while, even if it did end up being temporary.
It was more difficult to keep this air about him as he made his way towards the address given to him in his letter. He was thankful at this point that he’d managed to slip away early in the day as he knew that driving this at night would have been a nightmare. As it was, venturing to this mystery location was something he would rather not be doing at all and it was causing him just as much unease at the height of the afternoon. He wondered to himself what exactly this place was going to be and why it was so crucial for him to meet Mr. Gray here. It was unfamiliar to him and the roads were getting worse the further they went. He wasn’t headed towards the forest which was a relief but it was further out of way of town than he had suspected. Victor only hoped that where they were headed wouldn’t take them along the more infamous trails.
This only made him wonder again about that dastardly Mr. Gray. He wondered if he had perhaps brought him out here on purpose. Did that man whom he’d put this much trust in really wish for him to die? Probably. Knowing his associate, he was likely itching to move his talents elsewhere and that was of some understanding. Victor could almost sympathize if he didn’t loathe the idea of being in an area that was so populated. The men of business who lived in such places were expected to be of a kind, their wealth on display as much as they were. He had no intention on becoming such a man and he knew that Gray resented that. Did he resent it enough to send him out to the trails, though? His associate had largely noted that he avoided town and its goings on. Granted, that was partially his job, to keep Victor informed of the things that transpired in his absence. Had Gray decided that he was oblivious, though? That he didn’t know what these trails were and what they were used for? Could his associate had truly taken him for that much of a fool that he might have sent him to his death on the rum soaked back trails?
“No need to worry, sir,” his driver spoke up for the first time since they’d left the main streets. “No need to be asking but I’m well aware of where those trails start to get hot. We’ll be on a pleasure cruise through the more scenic areas of town well before we get close to their edges.”
“You’ve been a treasured member of my staff for years, my friend,” Victor replied, looking out the window at the grey skies that seemed to be pulling downward and creating an icy fog that was twisting around the trees now. “I have no reason to doubt you and my faith in your abilities has never wavered.”
“And this fellow we’re meeting? Am I sensing that perhaps your faith is a little shaken in this gent?”
“Suffice it to say that the further we get from the areas that he is known to occupy, the more concerned I’ve become in exactly what he’s gotten me into,” Victor sighed. “No need to jump to conclusions yet, of course. Still, this is quite the departure, even for him. I was not prepared for his response to my last correspondence with him to take me out this far.”
“Like I said, I have a keen eye, sir,” the driver said, confidently. He patted the glove box with one gloved hand. “I make it my business to be prepared for whatever comes my way whenever I’m out in this area. I should like to think that I have this covered, sir.”
“Again, my faith has never been in question, my friend,” Victor nodded, his face showing no emotion.
He sighed and looked out as the last of the more common houses fell away. Victor tried not to think about the situation he was in at this moment. He was in a car with a driver he knew to be doing things that would often take him to the trails. How he’d managed to keep the car in such condition that it was never damaged or in dire need of service was a miracle or a sinister mystery. Then again, if one knew the right people, the trails weren’t always a death trap but that was hardly comforting. Victor had no such dealings directly with those people and he’d not planned on making their acquaintance like this. Still, he should have known better. He knew what this driver had been dabbling in even though he never went out of his way to know the details. He’d known about it but he never once thought about it other than simply to hope that the man would maintain his good sense in these matters. So far he had and he’d been extra careful to keep Victor’s name out of his other circles. It was a courtesy that Victor had paid him generously for. He only hoped it was generous enough. These trails were getting dangerously close and though he’d never ventured close to them before, he knew well enough where they were. Anyone in business in these parts did. Why in all damnation would Gray have brought him here? And of all things, he was in the middle of this detestable area with a man whom he didn’t know until now was armed. It was something small, likely nothing more than a pistol, he knew. Certainly nothing that would attract any attention should they find themselves pulled over. Still, he knew there was a gun in the car and that alone made him wonder about the outcome of this moment to come.
Victor hadn’t the time to worry about this for too long as their destination arrived on the horizon. It loomed over the edged of the road and seemed to tower over the whole of their path as they came closer. It was a house, or it used to be once. A large, monstrosity of a home that might have encompassed at least three generations of a large family once during better days. Now it sagged, its roof seeming to carry the weight of Atlas and every breath of wind that whistled by threatening to drag it ever closer to the ground. It was decadently hideous in its details and Victor could only imagine the gaudy exterior it once held. This showy piece had been left to rot and a part of him was glad for it. Let this sinking pile of disgrace fall into the ground and be buried by the white snow, he thought to himself with a grimace. He spotted the look on his driver’s face in the rear view mirror and saw that it echoed his own feelings. He also saw another car edge over the horizon behind them.
Victor resisted the urge to look behind himself as they came to the iron gate of the large sinking house. He couldn’t be certain but he only hoped that this car would be holding his offending associate. What the devil did that sour, horrible man want with this place and why bring him here? He knew that he would have his answers soon as the new car pulled up along side of theirs. He felt a bit strange to see the driver did not react, even as the car stopped. Victor sat up straight and waited for his cue to move. Whatever may come, he knew that he would not cower. He only hoped that the beast before him was not the last thing he saw. He did not know this house but he hated it already. He only hoped it would not be his final resting spot. He was disappointed that he felt no relief upon seeing Mr. Gray get out of the car and walk towards him. He sighed and rolled down the window.
“If we might skip the pleasantries,” Gray said to him, looking Victor over. “You look dreadful. You’re the picture of death. Had I not seen you before this I might believe you were a man in your fifties.”
“Since you’ve noticed that I’m hardly at the peak of health, I should kindly request an explanation on why you’ve insisted I meet you here,” Victor replied. “No doubt my driver would like to know why he is wasting an afternoon that could be better spent in a more pleasant locale.”
“It’s good to know that you’ve got your wits about you,” Gray said with a shark’s smile. “This is a rather special place, sir. Suffice it to say that I think you might find that it is very impressive once you get a closer look at it.”
“This hardly counts as an explanation, sir,” Victor said, flatly. He looked Gray in the eye but the man didn’t flinch. “Tell me why you’ve brought me to this abyss. What have you done or seen that could not be transcribed or photographed?”
“It must be seen,” Gray insisted. “There is something in that abyss that few people know about and fewer still would be able to appreciate. If you wish to take care of this problem you spoke of in your last letter as well as perhaps get a little bit of charity brewing in the community towards your cause, I suggest you follow.”
Victor rolled up the window and braced himself to move. He closed his eyes and sighed as he prepared himself for whatever lay ahead.
“You’re really going in there?” the driver said.
“I’m afraid that I have no choice,” Victor frowned, looking at the house. “In the event that I do not return, there is more than enough to keep you going for up to a year afterwards. I won’t see you make this run for nothing nor will I allow my lesser judgement to be something you need suffer.”
“Oh I got my ways of dealing with things, sir,” the driver said, grimly. “You want for me to come with you?”
“No, it’s better I go alone,” Victor said, making his motions towards the door. “I will give Gray fifteen minutes to give me an answer. By your watch if the minutes hit sixteen, leave and seek help in whatever area will offer it first.”
“If that minute hits sixteen, I’ll be prepared,” the driver nodded and patted the glove box again. Victor sighed and nodded back.
Without giving himself time to reconsider, he opened the door and stepped out towards the house.