Professor Sidney Travison of Miskatonic University sat down to breakfast. His wife Edna pored over the newspaper, which lay stretched across the walnut table like Thanksgiving linen.
“What’s that?” asked the professor as he buttered a piece of toast.
Mrs. Travison scratched a pencil over the gray-white paper.
“Sudoku,” she answered.
“I thought that used numbers,” her husband remarked.
“It’s even harder using letters. You want to plug in more than nine.”
The professor sipped coffee absently.
“Looks like the magic squares of Abraham von Wurtzburg.”
Edna glanced up. “What?”
“Nothing. I see anything these days, I think of something obscure and bizarre. Occupational hazard for the keeper of the closed section of the library.” Continue Reading
“Then, of course,” said our hostess of the evening, “there is the matter of ghosts.”
“What is the matter of ghosts?” said the young man in the green brocade, and proceeded to pull a ghoulish face and moan softly into the ear of the young lady beside him.
The young lady put two glove-covered fingers to his face and turned it away. ”What is the matter with ghosts, would be more accurate, I suspect,” she said disdainfully. ”They are insubstantial, uncommunicative, and frequently disappear when sought directly.” She turned a pale blue stare to the young man and paused a moment. ”Two out of three,” she murmured pointedly. ”Hm. Pity.”
The room chuckled appreciation while the young man ducked his head. ”You would be a difficult woman to haunt, I think,” he said. ”But back to the question: what matter of ghosts?”
Gerard Mouras very deliberately did not finger the zigzag scar on his left cheek. He had started out in Oklahoma, but the Land-Sea War had been fought on the coasts. So he had come to decadent California and now resided, in the peacetime that must follow all wars no matter how outré, in debauched San Francisco. After all: how ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm…
The heat absorbed by the tarmac of the DMV parking lot was being scoured away by an early afternoon wind moist with gathering fog. You smelled the sea in this city; or Gerard did, anyway. It was a common enough post-traumatic symptom for wet-warfare soldiers who’d returned to Colorado, to Tennessee, to the most landlocked places they could find.
Gerard Mouras, however, didn’t mind the briny scent, or at least didn’t object to it, in much the same way he didn’t now touch his cheek’s scar. San Francisco was a lively city, and he had even sampled a little of its debauchery. Maybe more than a little.
Still, one had to make a living. He had only been a soldier for the duration. This was the work he’d done in Oklahoma, so now he did it here, sensibly.
His next appointed applicant showed up on time. Skwids weren’t usually good with clocks, with sun-measured hours. Gerard, determinedly fair and even generous, made a note of the punctuality on his clipboard. He was holding his pen very tightly. Continue Reading