Sensitive

“This is beyond unorthodox.”

The seller’s agent shook his head but didn’t unlock the front door of the house.

“Gerry, I know,” the buyer’s agent said. Her blond hair blew across her face and she brushed it away. “I’ve never had anyone do this. I hope it’s not a trend.”

“You know what it is? It’s that damn book by what’s-his-name… Anson.”

The woman nodded. “Probably. You know they’re making a movie out of it?”

He chuckled. It was a hopeless sound. Gerry looked at his watch and tapped its face. He’d made plenty of money selling real estate and even though it wasn’t a Rolex yet, it would be someday.

“Maybe we should go see it together,” Jerry said.

“What?”

“That movie.”

She paused. “Oh, I don’t know.”

“I know you like me Jeri, and you know I like you.” He smiled. It was the smile that always closed the deal and he knew it. They were about the same age and had known each other for years.

“Well…”

“Think about it,” Gerry said. He pointed with his chin. “Here they come.”

The little Ford, bright and shiny, well-kept, pulled into the drive. Both Gerry and Jeri had parked on the street. Jeri waited for them to get out of the car before approaching them.

Gerry watched her interact with them and admired her skill in the situation. She’d probably spent less than four or five hours total with these people and she seemed as intimate as an old friend. She hugged the woman and put her hand on the man’s shoulder. They were maybe ten years younger than both Gerry and Jeri, and this was going to be their first home together.

“Hello, again,” Gerry said, extending his hand when Jeri escorted the couple to the front door. “Good to see you Phil, Tara.” He shook hands with them both. “Are we waiting on —?”

“Mrs. Vecsey,” Phil said. He was taller than Gerry, more muscular. “She chose to drive herself. Said she wanted to get a sense of the neighborhood.”

“Well,” Gerry said, taking out the key to the house. “Let’s go inside, then, and wait for her. She knows the address?”

Tara nodded. She was pretty, dark-skinned. Gerry decided she must be at least half-Japanese. Her enormous brown eyes lit up as he held the door for her.

Inside, the buyers went through each room oohing and aahing at every detail they’d oohed and aahed at on the previous two visits. Gerry gave them free reign and Jeri let them go, too. They stood together in the kitchen where they could see the driveway and the arrival of the mysterious Mrs. Vecsey.

“What is she going to tell them?”

Jeri shrugged. “What they want to hear, I hope. Like I said, this is a first for me, too.” She turned to face Gerry. “What is an ‘eidolon inspector’?

“No idea,” Gerry said. “Ah.”

A giant red Oldsmobile was in the driveway and an elegant-looking woman was walking to the front door.

Mrs. Vecsey introduced herself to the real estate agents. “Alannah Vecsey.” She shook hands with both of them. Gerry was taken with her, intrigued. He’s imagine her to be a little woman, old, crone. This ‘eidolon inspector’ was the opposite of that. It wasn’t her symmetrical features or gray-blue eyes that caught his attention, nor her near-perfect figure, it was her personality that had drawn him in. “I bet you’re wondering about all this. Really, I’m just here to take a read on the house and let the Bowerses know a little about the history of the house.”

“Oh, I have a sheet for all of that,” Gerry said and went around the island in the kitchen.

“That’s the legal stuff,” Mrs. Vecsey said. “I know all that already. Four previous owners, built in 1967 by Patrick Washington, a fire in 1972 when the back bedroom was added, etcetera and so forth…”

“Ah,” Gerry said and put the paper down.

“Average occupancy 25 months, and currently unoccupied.”

“Right,” Jeri said. She put her hand on the other woman’s elbow. “Shall we start in the living room?”

The eidolon inspector stood in the center of the kitchen, having insisted on starting there. “There’s more information to work with than in almost any other room except maybe the master bedroom. If you could all be quiet?”

Two real estate agents and the young marrieds watched as Alannah Vecsey slowly turned in a circle, eyes wide open but not seeing anything they could. “This is a nice house,” Mrs. Vecsey said. “Very complimentary to the two of you.”

Phil and Tara nodded and looked at one another. Gerry knew they were deeply in love. He hoped it lasted.

“The foundation is solid,” Mrs. Vecsey said, continuing her assessment. “The bones in the walls are good, free of any cancers.”

Jeri rolled her eyes and turned around slowly, not wanting to disrupt the proceeding. Gerry glanced at her. He hoped his little smile conveyed more than just comfort to her. She shrugged and he turned his attention back to Mrs. Vecsey.

“But – wait.” The eidolon inspector held up a hand, her brow furrowed in concentration. “There’s something in between the bones. Something that…”

Tara leaned forward but Phil put a hand on her arm. She relaxed a little but kept her attention riveted on Mrs. Vecsey.

“We need to go to the basement.”

Gerry spoke up. “Full disclosure’s been given,” he said and looked at Jeri. “Everything there is to know about the house is on paper for your clients information.”

“I know,” Jeri said.

Mrs. Vecsey walked past the real estate agents and down the stairs. Gerry was the last one to follow and he spent a moment surveying the kitchen. “There’d better not be any cancer in the bones.”

The carpet was lush. Gerry had used it to sell the house last time to that nice couple from Maine who’d moved to follow a job out west. Whatever this so-called ‘inspector’ was looking for, there was no indication anything bad could be found. After all, his father had built this place and he had a reputation for good work.

“Yes, he does,” Mrs. Vecsey said. “Your father’s an excellent builder. None of his houses has failed my inspection.” She smiled at him as he entered the living room. Devoid of furniture, like the rest of the house, their voices echoed a little. Alannah Vecsey stood stock still in the center of the room. The others all gathered to her left but kept as much distance as they could. “Yes. This is it.”

“What?” Gerry couldn’t contain himself any longer. If she was half what she presented herself to be she’d read his mind and that gave him cause to panic. It showed in the insistent tone of his question. Jeri frowned at him.

Her hand out, palm down, Mrs. Vecsey asked for silence. Gerry shifted from one foot to the other, fuming.

Repeating her routine from the kitchen, Alannah Vecsey turned and scanned the room. Twice, a third time, she turned, her eyes wide open and seeing things that weren’t there. Gerry had trouble containing his frustration and took a step backward.

“Some of the bones are recycled,” Mrs. Vecsey said at last. “Some of the veins. The tendons.”

Gerry threw his hands out. “What does that mean? Bones and veins and tendons. Like the house is alive or something!”

Mrs. Vecsey turned to him. “Of course the house is alive, Gerald. Your father was an excellent builder. He knew how to do it.”

He gave the eidolon inspector a stunned look. Out of the corner of his eye, Gerry saw Jeri studying him. “Uh,” he said.

“It’s okay,” Mrs. Vecsey said. “He never told you. None of the Builders do. Ever.” She smiled and reached out to touch him on the forearm. He recoiled.

“You – you don’t know anything,” Gerry said. “You can’t. You’re a fraud.”

“Mr. Washington,” Phil said.

“No, this is over. Everyone out of the house. It’s no longer for sale.” Gerry walked to the stairs and indicated everyone should go up. “Let go.”

No one moved. Mrs. Vecsey smiled warmly at him. He felt unnerved. No, not just that, but unanchored, adrift. At sea. That was it. He felt at sea. Sixes and sevens. All he could do was lash out.

“Let’s go! Now!”

“Gerry,” Jeri said. “Calm down.”

He glared at her. The young marrieds didn’t move. That woman was alarmingly calm, almost as if she were enjoying the moment and his discomfort.

“He bought from reputable dealers, Gerald,” she said. She was so quiet he didn’t know if he really heard her. But her mouth moved and the others seemed to be paying attention, too. “He never stole anything. The bits that are here are from other houses like the ones he built. He saved them. Gave them a new life here in this home. This wonderful home. Your father was a good man who understood what he did and how it affected others and the world around them.”

“I don’t know what any of this means,” Gerry said. The tremor in his voice was too much. He couldn’t speak.

“It means that these two young people have made a very wise choice,” Mrs. Vecsey said. “This house will serve them well. The previous owners, all of them, weren’t suited to live here. That’s why they all left.” She gilded toward Gerry and this time he didn’t move away from her. “This house was meant for Phil and Tara. Your father built it for them.”

The feeling of loss was gone, now. Gerry, bewildered, closed his eyes. He needed to find his center. Ommm, he thought, and controlled his breathing.

“Gerry?”

“Mr. Washington?”

He opened his eyes and smiled. “I’m okay now.”

“What else do we need to know?” Phil had brightened noticeably when Mrs. Vecsey had said the house was built for him and his wife. He was eager to understand.

“Only that this house was built with lots of care and love and if you treat it well,” she leaned in close to Phil and locked her eyes on his, “it will keep you safe from anything. This is your house, but it’s only yours on its terms.”

The young marrieds were grave and acknowledged the weight of her words. They shook hands with Gerry and Jeri escorted them out. The look she gave him assured him she would call. Maybe not tonight, but soon. He’d have to see what movies were playing.

Mrs. Vecsey lingered while Gerry turned off the lights and closed the house up. On the front porch, she hugged him. She didn’t say anything and the embrace was comforting. He reluctantly returned it.

Before he got into his car, Gerry looked at the house with new eyes.

He would have to take the long way home.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at www.jasonarnett.com

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