Excerpt from Shadow of the Son:
From my first visit, the house had projected an aura of mystery and a brooding watchfulness. Deep currents moved beneath the surface. I remembered Rhinebeck’s dark gray exterior looming out of the fog on a threatening afternoon in December just before Christmas.
Johnny had briefed me on the estate’s many secret hiding places, but most of all, he had wanted to introduce me to Alice, his favorite aunt. Not only did she have an uncanny ability to thwart mischief, he informed me, but an alarming prescience that was vaguely comforting. He was unable to articulate such feelings at the time, other than to warn me to guard my thoughts, as he was willing to bet his aunt was able to read minds, including mine. I considered the implications and was more than a little intimidated from the outset.
If she could read my mind, then she would know how tentative my existence was, and how I yearned for a sense of belonging. She would also know the loneliness and the darkness that lay within my soul, and that was more than I was willing to convey to anyone. I fretted over this as I endured the long drive to meet her.
We had turned down the sloping driveway to the squared roundabout that marked the entrance. I watched the front door open, and a tall woman with jet-black hair stepped out wearing a thin, cream-colored dress that seemed to defy the bleakness of the weather. She stood alone at the top of the steps as she waited. She smiled as the car approached, but for a moment I saw a flicker of something else. It might have been that she too anticipated our meeting with a sense of trepidation. I wondered at the reason. She knew Johnny and Raymond, Mr. Dodge’s chauffeur, therefore that passing emotion must’ve been due to meeting either the new nanny or myself. That I could elicit such a feeling was inconceivable, but in that brief moment of vulnerability, my heart went out to her. I saw that she, years older and an adult, was as alone and fearful as I was.
As we crunched around the driveway toward the front door, I watched a man in a somber morning suit step out, drape a dark blue shawl about her shoulders, and then step to the side. The car stopped, but Johnny didn’t wait for Raymond to open the door. He flung it open himself as the nanny squawked, and he dragged me along in his enthusiasm to be the first to introduce me to his aunt.
Johnny bounded up the steps with me in tow and announced, “This is Percy. He’s staying with us.”
The lady smiled and leaned slightly toward me as she held out her hand. Still caught in that precious moment of impossible connection, I stepped in close and hugged her waist. She laughed and said, “Whoa, little man. Here we do things a little differently, but I thank you just the same. I’m Alice.”
I stepped back a little flustered, but as I looked into her dark eyes, they sparkled with a pleasure that seemed to focus only on me.
“My name is Percy,” I said, looking up at her.
“Yes, it is. And this is Stanley,” she said, turning toward the man in the dark suit next to her. Something passed between them, and then he looked down at me. I stuck out my hand, but he didn’t take it. I let it drop to my side. He examined me with bright blue eyes that could have hidden any emotion, or none at all. He didn’t speak but only nodded. And so Stanley, a few seconds after Alice, entered my life as I had entered into his.