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Little Girls by Ronald Malfi



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Author: Ronald Malfi

Publisher: Kensington

Genres:

Publish Date: June 30, 2015

ISBN-10: 1617736066

Pages: 384

File Type: epub,mobi,lrf,lit,htmlz,pdb,azw

Language: English

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Book Preface

They had been expecting a woman, Dora Lorton, to greet them upon their arrival, but as Ted finessed the Volvo station wagon up the long driveway toward the house, they could see there was a man on the porch. Tall and gaunt, he had a face like a withered apple core and wore a long black overcoat that looked incongruous in the stirrings of an early summer. The man watched them as Ted pulled the station wagon up beside a dusty gray Cadillac that was parked in front of the porch. For one perplexing instant, Laurie Genarro thought the man on the porch was her father, so newly dead that his orphaned spirit still lingered at the house on Annapolis Road.

“Glad to see Lurch from The Addams Family has found work,” Ted commented as he shut off the car.

“It looks like a haunted house,” Susan spoke up from the backseat, a comment that seemed to underscore Laurie’s initial impression of the ghostlike man who stood beneath the partial shade of the porch alcove. Susan was ten and had just begun vocalizing her critical observations to anyone within earshot. “And who’s Lurch?”

“Ah,” said Ted. “When did popular culture cease being popular?”

“I’m only ten,” Susan reminded him, closing the Harry Potter book she had been reading for much of the drive down from Connecticut. She had been brooding and sullen for the majority of the trip, having already pitched a fit back in Hartford about having to spend summer vacation away from her friends and in a strange city, all of it because of a grandfather she had never known.

Who could blame her? Laurie thought now, still staring out the passenger window at the man on the porch. I’d pitch a fit, too. In fact, I just might do it yet.

Ted cupped his hands around his mouth. “Thank you for flying Genarro Airlines! Please make sure your tray tables are up before debarking.”

Susan giggled, her mood having changed for the better somewhere along Interstate 95. “Barking!” she cried happily, misinterpreting her father’s comment, then proceeded to bark like a dog. Ted wasted no time barking right along with her.

Laurie got out of the car and shivered despite the afternoon’s mild temperature. In the wake of her father’s passing, and for no grounded reason, she had expected her old childhood home to look different—empty, perhaps, like the molted skin of a reptile left behind in the dirt, as if the old house had nothing left to do but wither and die just as its master had done. But no, it was still the same house it had always been: the redbrick frame beneath a slouching mansard roof; Italianate cornices of a design suggestive of great pinwheels cleaved in half; a trio of arched windows on either side of the buckling front porch; all of which was capped by a functional belvedere that stood up against the cloudy June sky like the turret of a tiny castle. That’s where it happened, Laurie thought with a chill as her eyes clung to the belvedere. It looked like a tiny bell tower sans bell, but was really a little room with windows on all four sides. Her parents had used it mostly for storage back when they had all still lived here together, before her parents’ separation. Laurie had been forbidden to go up there as a child.

Trees crowded close to the house and intermittent slashes of sunlight came through the branches and danced along the east wall. The lawn was unruly and thick cords of ivy climbed the brickwork. Many windows on the ground floor stood open, perhaps to air out the old house, and the darkness inside looked cold and bottomless.

Laurie waved timidly at the man on the porch. She thought she saw his head bow to her. Images of old gothic horrors bombarded her head. Then she looked over her shoulder to where Ted and Susan stood at the edge of a small stone well that rose up nearly a foot from a wild patch of grass and early summer flowers on the front lawn. Yes, I remember the well. Back when she had been a child, the well had been housed beneath a wooden portico where, in the springtime, sparrows nested. She recalled tossing stones into its murky depths and how it sometimes smelled funny in the dead heat of late summer. Now, the wooden portico was gone and the well was nothing but a crumbling stone pit in the earth, covered by a large plank of wood.

Without waiting for Ted and Susan to catch up, Laurie climbed the creaky steps of the porch, a firm smile already on her face. The ride down to Maryland from Connecticut had exhausted her and the prospect of all that lay ahead in the house and with the lawyer left her empty and unfeeling. She extended one hand to the man in the black overcoat and tried not to let her emotions show. “Hello. I’m Laurie Genarro.”

A pale hand with very long fingers withdrew from one of the pockets of the overcoat. The hand was cold and smooth in Laurie’s own. “The daughter,” the man said. His face was narrow but large, with a great prognathous jaw, a jutting chin, and the rheumy, downturned eyes of a basset hound. With the exception of a wispy sweep of colorless hair across the forehead, his scalp was bald. Laurie thought him to be in his late sixties.

“Yes,” Laurie said. “Mr. Brashear was my father.”………………………….


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