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Slowly, carefully, Jay folded the strange message and tucked it in the key-holder next to the door. No matter how much it had to be a coincidence with his dream, clearly ‘signs’ were important in some way, or the note wouldn’t have been left for him.
Maybe it had to do with what Camden had said about town politics; it might be a code word around here. Perhaps the factions were color-coded in some way? Certainly, the local issues had been on his mind last night—that, along with reading the book, had obviously influenced his dreams, both shaping them and giving him reason to recall them more clearly than usual.
Had Camden mentioned anything about signs? He didn’t think so, but he couldn’t be entirely sure. Or maybe he’d seen something in the bedroom when he was moving Aunt Grace’s stuff around so he could sleep—either a sign, or the word sign might have been among her things. Perhaps it was a simple, harmless issue, an item someone had loaned Aunt Grace and never got back. It was capitalized; maybe it was the title of a movie or a book. Just a normal Have you found the book I loaned her, but more intimidating when taken out of context.
He could look for anything that might have made him get ‘signs’ on the brain later, he decided. One thing at a time. The part that played into his dreams was definitely of less an issue strangers nosing around. As much as he’d wanted to hide last night, maybe he should go out and see what he could learn, introduce himself to the neighbors, try to make a good impression.
After all, if there were cliques, as Camden had said, people were probably wondering if he’d be like Grace, who had apparently got along with everyone, or if he’d be swayed one way or another. It’d be better if he learned whatever he could about it as early as possible. And while he really didn’t want to deal with that after dark… everything was at least a little less intimidating by the light of day.
Besides, he was at least temporarily stuck with this situation. He didn’t have any other home, and the house wasn’t salable until he got it in order. So he’d better just get ahead of things, he thought, with a grim humor.
It’d be fine to bring some of Aunt Grace’s stuff down to town later today, or even tomorrow. For now…
Jay headed out to the car, checking it carefully to see if either the woods-lurker, or whoever had left the note, had made any attempt to get in. He didn’t see any; everything looked exactly as he’d left it, which reassured him a little that whoever had been around might not have meant any harm after all. He spent the next hour bringing his bins into the living room, dragging in his suitcase so he’d have some fresh clothes to change into, and freshening up.
Once dressed in clean clothes, he slid his folding knife into his pocket—not that he could imagine ever using it, but it certainly made him feel better to have. “Well,” he muttered to himself. “Time to meet the neighbors.”
As he headed out, he made sure to lock up behind himself, jiggling the knob to confirm that it was secure. Whether they were harmless visitors who were just curious about what was going on, or something less benevolent, he sure didn’t want them inside the house.
A short walk down his driveway gave him a better view of the houses on either side of his. Both were similar large, older houses. It wouldn’t have been difficult for people looking out of their upper-story windows to see his car, or see the lights on and someone moving around inside. He hesitated by the road, trying to decide where to go first.
Well, the stranger in the woods had gone off to the right. Although he didn’t feel comfortable confronting whoever it was, introducing himself and asking about the people around here might at least give him a chance to feel out who it might have been. He’d be subtle, of course. Not mention signs, or messages under his door, but only that he’d seen someone out for a walk—that would probably be fine.
Steeling himself, he headed up the drive of the neighbor on the right, and knocked on the door. He tried to swallow his beating heart, his impression of not belonging. Act like you fit in, he thought to himself wryly, even suspecting as he did so that he was too young, too queer, not white enough. And even if he hadn’t been all those things, he might still feel like an outsider; small communities like this went back generations. People were born here, lived all their life here, died here.
The door opened, and he stared. For a moment, his uncertainty vanished—along with all thoughts of subtlety.
“Good morning?” the young man on the other side said, prompting. He was tall, lean and muscular; there was no way he didn’t hit the gym regularly. Despite the fairly early hour, he was already dressed, wearing tight-fitting jeans, along with a t-shirt under a long-sleeved flannel shirt.
He was also wearing a plain white mask, hiding everything but his heavy-lidded pale eyes.
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