I’ve just learned that Philip Pullman detests the present tense. Which disappoints me, because I was expecting him to discover my blog at any moment now, and immediately refer me to his agent.

Ah, well. At least I’m not a blasphemous old codger. I hereby guarantee you, God does not die in this instalment of Crowsnest. Nor in earlier instalments, which you can read here. (Oh, and by the way… remember when she was opening the door? That’s where we are.)

“Mr. — Mr. MacLeod,” I stammer. I opened the door feeling as if my life were going to rock with the swing of the hinges. What’s waiting for me on the other side is far worse than I’d imagined.

(Okay, okay. That paragraph may have some tense issues. Shut up.)

“Mr. MacLeod,” I say again. My mind doesn’t seem able to move beyond that, beyond the physical existence of him here, hundreds of miles from his parents’ home. My eyes dart from his face to those of the two men looming behind him. They’re both taller and broader than he is. As if in film frames clicking by, I see them as constables, about to arrest me and pull me back across the country to face a dead girl and a deserted employer.

Their eyes hold no malice, though. They betray bemused but slightly impatient curiosity, that’s all. And when I look back at Mr. MacLeod, I can see that he’s just as shocked as I am.

“Didn’t know you had a girl out west, Frank,” one of the men says, clapping a hand on Mr. MacLeod’s shoulder and speaking into his ear, close enough to pretend discretion but loud enough that I clearly hear.

“He most certainly does not.” The words fly out before I can bite them back.

The men seem to find this amusing, and maybe it’s their laughter that finally goads him into action.

“An unusual coincidence,” he says, taking off his hat and nodding to me. “My friends and I have just arrived in town. We were told this was the best place to find lodging.”

I move aside and let them out of the rain, finally. Soon, Janina has taken over and I’m left only to heat water and reheat dinner for the new arrivals.

The new arrivals. I began the day with snakes in my belly, and here’s a real live one, slithered right into my house.

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