About Dead of Winter
Al's in the closet, which is not unusual in 1950's Pasadena, and thanks to that and the fact that he's broke, he doesn’t have a lot of time to grieve when he finds out his former lover has died. He has a job to do, spending some time in an apparently haunted house, and the realtor, Krebbs, wants him to check it out.
When Al moves in, strange things begin to happen. The house does seem to be haunted, and there's more to it than things that go bump in the night. His dreams are filled with Richard, his ex, and they're becoming more and more real. Can Al figure out what Krebbs is up to and figure out how to get the house, and his dreams, to settle down?
So Richard Wallace was dead, to start off with. No doubt about it: I'd received a telegram about him from one of the few pals I had left back in Bradlow. The notice of his death was in the Bradlow Sentinel, too. A heart attack got him, and so much for all those healthy meals and runs along the lakeshore before he opened his antiques store every morning. Yeah, Rich was dead, all right, and I was hurting.
Of course, I didn't know yet that he'd be back.
That Friday morning in December, I was busy trying to come up with some way of getting to his memorial service. I'd already worked through sensible ideas like emptying out my puny savings, hocking my stuff, and borrowing money. Now I'd moved on to desperation, which was the reason for my current job interview. "You want me to stay in a haunted house?"
Mr. Krebs looked annoyed. "Fella, it's not haunted, it's reputed to be haunted. Kind of a difference there, yeah? Your job will be to stay at the place over the weekend and then write me a report about how the rumors are phony, so I can dump the place. I figure if there's no problem with the house, there's no problem for me in getting my commission."
I snorted. "If there wasn't some sort of problem with the house, you wouldn't be offering me thirty bucks for three night's work." At least, he wouldn't be offering me so much cash for easy work with my clothes on, but I didn't say so aloud. In 1952, thirty bucks was good money and implications of homosexuality were to be avoided at all costs.
Krebs shrugged. "You want the job?"
"I'm auditioning for an M.R. James story," I muttered. But if I was going to be walking away from my usual between-semesters job to get on a Greyhound— "Yeah, thanks. I'll need any newspaper clippings or background information your office has about the place. If you don't want me to see anything, I have to know what I'm not supposed to be seeing."
My logic stank, but he handed over a file folder and the keys without protest. I packed away my transcripts and track-and-field medals, stopped by his secretary to read and sign the contract, pocketed the envelope holding the first half of my fee, and walked out of his real estate office on Sunset Boulevard.
Startown Estate Agents had advertised for a mature, robust, and scientifically minded college student, and that's what they got. Now I was off to my apartment west of campus to sort through a file folder full of superstition and figure out what was going on. This so-called haunting had better not be some jerk trying to lowball the price on the house. I really wasn't in a mood for nonsense. Did I know anyone who could loan me a gun?
A sidewalk Santa interrupted my thoughts by jingling his handbell at me. I stared at him glumly.
"Ho, ho, ho," he announced.