Chapter 21 – The House
The large man then turned to the three of us and gave us each a broad smile. “Come along. You will be my honored guests for supper.” He clapped one hand firmly upon my shoulder, the other landing heavily upon Rick’s shoulder. He slowly led us up the roads and through a few yards to a large building on the far edge of town. It seemed to be the oldest and largest house in the entirety of Paradise, and it was perfectly tended. Not one blade of grass seemed out of place and every inch of the building was freshly painted. Even the trees seemed somehow perfected, as if someone had counted each individual leaf and checked each one for quality before pruning down to perfection.
Alexander stopped us, standing at the edge of his property to admire his home. “No matter how many times I see it, it still warms my heart that such a place of beauty is a result of this community and its hard work. Not more than a few months ago, this was a dilapidated old ranch house; overgrown and forgotten by the little town that had grown up around it. When we started to clean up our acts all those months ago, we agreed, as a community mind you, that we should restore this place to its former glory. Consider it, if you will, a symbol of the restored purity and perfection of every man, woman, and child in this fair city.”
I rolled my eyes. This man and his self-aggrandizing wasn’t fooling anyone. At least, it wasn’t fooling any of us. I watched as Bobbi rolled her eyes, almost in tandem with my own. Rick seemed to be growing distant, his eyes tracing the lines of some faraway place. This left me with my determined attention to detail and my goal to decipher just what was so upsetting to me about everything in Paradise. The man was arrogant and the people loyal, but that wasn’t enough to explain it.
“My apologies, miss…” He dropped both of his hands from upon our shoulders and held a hand up to his mouth in an expression of feigned horror. “Why, dear me. I asked so many questions and I forgot to ask the most important of them all. I don’t believe I received your names, have I?” He looked me up and down, as if seeking admonishment from his social faux pas.
I gave him no reaction other than a simple and curt, “Susan”
Bobbi smiled awkwardly as she turned to face Alexander for the briefest of second, before gruffly muttering, “Bobbi,” and looking away just as quickly.
“Richard.” Rick’s response was detached and perfectly formal.
“Thank you, my friends. I cannot tell you the depths of my embarrassment that I could have neglected such an important
detail about yourselves.” He clapped his hand on our shoulders once more and started leading us up the concrete path to his large home. “I can only hope that my wives have prepared a meal that can hope to approach a true apology, worthy of our guests.”
Bobbi and I locked eyes for the briefest of moments, and she mouthed the word “wives” to me with a questioning expression. I merely raised an eyebrow and shrugged slightly, careful not to dislodge or impact the hand that was still firmly placed on my shoulder. I had no idea. I could guess, but I had no way to be certain. I was already forming an opinion of this man, a mental picture that had plenty of room within it to contain womanizing amongst his list of offensive eccentricities. Nonetheless, I continued to follow along. The firmness of his grip on my shoulder was doing much, even at that very moment, to tell me that this older man was much stronger than one would expect. This man was not what he seemed.
“Here we are.” We had been led across the lawn with such determination, that it took but a moment for us to be standing upon the large home’s front door. Alexander, barely hesitated, never removing his hand from upon our shoulders, as he lightly kicked the door open.