Walter hadn’t noticed it, but now that he thought about it, the Swann Inn had been busier than ever. He hadn’t been able to ask Uncle Obel about Mr. Crabb because his Uncle had been busy attending the taproom and by the end of the day he himself was too weary to even remember. “I don’t understand. Why are there more travelers in Asbjorn?”
“Some come to experience the occurrences while others to seek the light, study it, and explore it. They think she is still alive and the bird. They go searching for it. It’s mostly a sport now.”
“Why do people in town fear it?”
“As I said, strange things happen around here. Mother once found all the paintings in the house turned upside down. Others have complained of other uncanny experiences. Last year, everything in my room floated in the air. Another time, mother found father in a frozen state, wouldn’t talk or move until the end of the month when the witching hours passed. Mother and father dread this time. Sometimes it’s funny other times it gets really scary. I guess no matter how many times it happens, people dread it. There is still someone in the town that is a descendant of the Thatch family.
“Really? I thought you said the children were the last of the family?”
“Well they were, but he prefers to deny it,” Alden. “Bad for business my grandfather would say.”
“Who is he?”
“Your sister works for him,” Alden smiled. “Mr. Berry. He is not a friendly man. He does his business mostly out of town. Keeps to himself, lives like a hermit. He hates visitors and won’t see anybody. I guess you can say he is the last of their kind. He is sort of like a distant cousin, but still part of what remains here. I don’t even know what he looks like. Does your sister talk about him?”
“Not really,” Walter said dubiously. “She doesn’t live with us anymore. I don’t see her much. She moved in to the manor before we had the problem with the crocotta.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Alden bewildered, but he said nothing more.
“Is there something the matter with Mr. Berry?” Walter said.
“Oh no,” Alden said. “It’s just that—well—anybody who works for Mr. Berry becomes like him, reclusive.”
“You barely seem them just like Mr. Berry. They keep to themselves,” Alden said. “My mom has a sister that works for Mr. Berry. To this day she sees very little of her”
“Do you see her?”
“Not often, but I do see her at times,” Alden said. “Father has seen Mr. Berry travelling at night. Father also says, he keeps his curtains drawn at the manor. Mom says he is a vampire or a werewolf and that he has built tunnels underneath his home as an escape route. He only hires females and then keeps them hypnotized. His only male servant is the chauffeur. There have been other rumors about him too.”
“Do you believe them?”
“I believe some of it. Though, I always wondered why he travels at night. My Aunt doesn’t tell me much of him either, just that he is a good man and that mother should stop talking ill of him.”
As Walter keeps listening to Alden talk, from the corner of his eye he sees a dark figure moving from the shade of the trees. When Walter turns to look, it simply fades away. Maybe his eyes were playing tricks on him, but he knew what he saw. Someone had been lurking nearby. Walter was started to get the jitters. Alden must have felt it too, but he didn’t say anything.
“I think we better go,” Alden said. “It’s getting cold and I have to be back before they think I have gone missing again.”
Walter and Alden walked back to town in silence, feeling eyes watching them from a distance. It was starting to get dark early as it does when it gets colder. The mountains didn’t help as it hid the last rays of sunlight before the sun set. Casting, a never ending shadow over Asbjorn. Winter was coming soon.
That night, as Walter laid in bed he noticed the Odyssey ring. He had been meaning to use it to visit Archibal, but lately he had been too exhausted to even think about it. He also wondered where Cadi was. She had visited him a few times before the heavy rains fell, but even those visits were few and apart. He doesn’t think much of it and falls asleep.
In the middle of the night, Walter wakes up agitated. Sounds from outside woke him up. He looks around the room wondering where the sounds were coming from. Whatever it was, caused him to sit up in a panic. His eyes fell on the wooden floor, illuminated by the moonlight, he notices sortie of shadows moving. Walter was frozen in fright. What could that be?