The next morning I found myself, at Cross’s request, standing in front of Miss Mary Adell’s estate. It was at once the place I most desired to see again and yet, it was also the place I most desired never to see again. I couldn’t help but believe that this place was where all our troubles began. And, that, perhaps, if we had never seen this house or the suitor as he departed from it, we might never have been in danger.
I won’t deny there was some small part of me that wished to see Miss Mary Adell once more. And , I won’t deny there was more than a small part of me that wished I had met Miss Mary Adell under more favorable circumstances. Death is always a nasty business. And, murder, the nastiest business of all.
But, the prospect of seeing Miss Mary Adell again, coupled with the pleasure of hearing, once more, the melodies of her voice, was enough to fortify me into going—if only to ensure the young lady’s safety where her new suitor is concerned. It would not do for us to leave Miss Mary unattended while all our suspicions fell upon the murderous character of her suitor.
As I stepped through the gate and waded through the foliage that was growing over the path, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of it all. The garden, though wild in its overgrowth without appearing untamed, seemed even more exotic and, should I dare to say, protective than it did before. It was as if the very greenery of their lawns sought the shield the house and its occupants. I know it was just a fancy of mine, but, I felt as if the vegetation provided more than just beauty and shade. I suppose this fancy of mine was meant to offer some relief from my concerns, not that there was any truth to it. But, I will admit that, for a moment, it did bring some relief.
Once past the flora, I made my way up the steps, recalling my first introductions to Miss Mary Adell while nursing my wounded knee. Had I the chance to do it over, I would never have met so fine a lady in such a condition. Bleeding on the steps of the host’s house is not the sort of desired impression that anyone would want to make.
The same young maid, who before had slammed the door in our face, greeted me at the door. She led me into the same sitting room where Miss Adell had so tenderly cared for my knee. I stood, silent, listening for the soft tread of my graceful lady’s approach.
When Miss Mary Adell stepped through the doors of the sitting room, everything around me dissolved. Had I not already been silent, waiting for her arrival, I would surely have lost the power and command of my own voice. Her eyes, with their wild and wide black pupils, were at once beautiful and— as there is no other word for it—unsettling.