After a long drive up from Boston, we stopped for a coffee and a snack before going round the town to see a few places which included a witch’s house with the witch still living in it. Perhaps.
We had left Boston earlier that day and while it was very hot, we spent some time enjoying the sights in Salem, famous for the witch trials that were held there. The museums were informative, if a little kitsch, but I was happy to have seen them, nevertheless.
We drove a little further up the Atlantic coast and stopped at a small town for a snack. The weather had changed by now. There was a light sea breeze that I found refreshing but I noted the clouds looming on the horizon and made a mental note to make sure that my umbrella wasn’t buried at the bottom of my suitcase.
My partner went online and found a few possible hotels for the evening. They were all within a short drive of our current position but there also was the possibility of staying at a B&B in the town itself. Google Maps showed us that we only were 2 blocks away so we figured that it would be worth checking it out.
We walked there and reached the address. The place was a wooden house with a small porch. We opened the gate and walked up the short path. There was no sign of a doorbell of any kind so I knocked. I could not hear any noise from inside but I could see a light in one of the windows to the left of the door so I figured someone must be home.
After a short pause, I knocked again. I tried peering into the window but could not see anyone there. My partner and I decided that perhaps the address on the web site was wrong. We turned to leave when we suddenly heard a voice creaking, “Yes?”
We turned, slightly taken aback.
Behind us, a woman of indeterminate age looked at us through pale blue eyes and a greying fringe of hair. She hobbled forward with a walking stick and a bandaged foot and as she did so, the door creaked behind her. How did she open it without us hearing it?
We explained why we were there. She nodded and invited us in to a hall that was as musty and old as the trinkets that she had set about the place. Three cats lazily ignored us and decided that there was something more interesting in some other room. The place was cold, despite a roaring fire in the front room that I could see. The temperature did not seem to bother our host who was wearing a flimsy blouse of sorts.
We climbed a rickety staircase to a large double-bedroom with en-suite facilities. The place looked, smelt and felt like it had not been used in years. I was not impressed by the option and, in Maltese, said as much to my companion. It was still light outside but there was a sense of gloominess inside and it seemed almost unnaturally dark. We told her that we would get back to her within the hour and started to make our way out.
I offered to help her down the stairs, given her condition but she politely declined, insisting that we go down first. We did and I almost tripped on another cat that was lying on one of the steps.
At the foot of the stairs, the cats all seemed to be lining up. There were 5 of them, all different colours, all staring at us. One of them was licking its lips as it looked at me. It was the black one.
“Make sure you call me as soon as you make your mind up,” the lady said with a smile.
To this day, I have no idea how she managed to descend those steps with an obvious disability so quickly and without making a single noise.
Her cats gathered round her as we walked out.
We decided to go and try one of the hotels. Not that we were scared or anything.