I climbed up the crumbling steps to what was once the front porch of the decaying, old house. There wasn’t a single unbroken windowpane, but the front door was padlocked. I stood on a rusted glider and crawled through a window. The floor of the entry hall was shot through with rot. Nothing moved but the dust motes that danced in the streams of light from the late afternoon sun. The only sounds were my own inhalation and exhalation and the pounding of my heart. The house smelled like liniment and snuff and something else I couldn’t place. Something sweet and pungent. The world on the other side of the padlocked door suddenly seemed far away and unreachable. I took a step. When the floor didn’t give way, I took another step. What was that smell? It was so familiar. I had played here when I was a child. Always alone. This was my secret place. The house had been abandoned for years. The last owners had left suddenly. They had wired instructions to their solicitor to dispose of the furniture and put the house on the market but the solicitor was hopelessly flawed. Before he got around to following his clients’ instructions he was arrested for shooting a man in the back. Justified, he said, because the man was crawling out of his wife’s bedroom window at the time. The judge didn’t agree. “A man in your position should be setting an example for the community. We aren’t a bunch of savages, you know.” So I guess the solicitor had more to worry about than selling the house. Strange thing was that apparently the owners never made any inquiry about the sale of the house. No one ever heard from them again. Rumors circulated about the house. Most of the tittle-tattle ended with decapitation, disemboweling or hidden crypts. From the time I was old enough to disappear without setting off alarm bells I explored the house from attic to cellar trying to uncover its secrets. I never found anything more sinister than some letters written in a language I couldn’t understand and a chest full of rosary beads.