Evelyn just stood there.
Why the heck was she hesitating so much? Wasn´t this what she wanted? To talk to the owner of that house. Eileen Prince...No, Eileen Snape... Who was dead, which probably made the grumpy man standing at the door the current owner. So, Evelyn had to talk to him. That was the whole reason she had decided to come to Spinner´s End wasn´t it?
When she arrived that morning, after spending the night at a hotel in a more lively part of Cokeworth, Evelyn had the vivid impression of walking into a ghost town. "Isn´t this how most horror movies start?" She had thought to herself, as she watched through her car windows how the rows of decrepit houses passed by. From the little she had researched, Evelyn knew the whole neighbourhood had been purpose-built to house the families of the mill workers. The mill itself towered ominously over the dark and filthy streets and alleys bellow, its long chimneys pointing up at a steel-grey autumn sky. It didn´t function since the 80s, and it just stood there like a fossil, a skeleton of a once living monster, now dead and abandoned.
In fact the whole of Spinner´s End felt dead. She knew most inhabitants of that part of town had long left, following the closing of the mill. From the newspapers she had read in the local library, the exodus had started long before that. It seemed the mill offered very poor working conditions and the machines were rather accident prone, with many of the workers sustaining serious injuries...Furthermore, the rejects pilled up on the fields around it and into the river, severely polluting the water. When the competent authorities had finally closed down the mill, about half of the residents of the area were already gone, and the rest was soon to follow. Eileen Prince might not even live there anymore...
In retrospect it coming to Spinner´s End probably had been a quite stupid idea from the start. All that she knew was that her grandfather had a house in Cokeworth, located on a street called Spinner´s End. Nobody knew that until the day her father died leaving behind some old boxes filled with books and papers that he had hidden in the cellar after her grandfather´s death.
It all struck her as incredibly odd...
Evelyn was living in Dublin when her grandfather passed away. She had been thinking of coming back to Doolin, her hometown, and his death only sped up her decision. After the burial, her grandmother had given her father a number of old objects and boxes filled with bizarre stuff that her grandfather kept locked away in a spare room. Evelyn had a hard time convincing her father not to throw it all away. Instead he just locked everything up and never let her (or anyone else for good measure) anywhere near it. And those boxes stayed up there, abandoned in the cellar, collecting dust, for about two years, until her father passed away himself. Only then did Evelyn get to see what was inside...
Among the many bizarre things she found there was the deed of the Spinner´s End house. As far as she knew her grandfather had left England when he was a little over twenty, and lived in Ireland until his death. He had no relatives and no ties left with England...also as, far as she knew, he was from London... That he had a house on the Northen city of Cokeworth was a complete surprise to her and to the rest of the family. Maybe they shouldn´t have been so surprised...There was a lot of about him that nobody knew, not even her grandmother. Still, the house in Spinner´s End had intrigued her.
It had probably been a poorly thought-out move on her part to actually decide to move into her grandfather´s new-found house. But it only struck her as a downright bad idea when she actually saw Spinner´s End for the first time. She had arranged for the many books and objects she had brought with her from Doolin to be delivered on the morning after her arrival at Cokeworth. She had spent the day before researching the history of that part of town, but nothing could have prepared her for the reality of what was Spinner´s End. As she stopped her car in front of her new home, Evelyn had to pull the deed out of her bag and double-check the address, just to make sure it wasn´t a mistake.
The house was almost at the end of the street, there was only one more house separating it from the woods (precisely Eileen Prince´s house). It looked exactly as one would expect from a house that had been empty for decades: offensive graffiti and a thick layer of grime and dust covered the walls, to the extent that it was impossible to make out their actual colour, most windows were broken and the few that remained were so dirty the glass on them was opaque and the ceiling had many missing shingles. The stench coming from the nearby-river was almost unbearable, and the sheer amount of trash everywhere suddenly made her realize that a rat infestation was a very real possibility.
Still, she drew in a deep breath and entered.
Evelyn was surprised to find that the original furniture was still inside...For whatever reason the vandals that ran wild in the neighbouring areas had refrained from causing too much damage inside. A lot of the more delicate objects like mirrors and vases were broken, but the chairs, armchairs, tables, cabinets, paintings, rugs, books.....all were still there, albeit covered in a thick layer of dust and scattered around in complete disorder. But the most disconcerting part of it was not that the objects were still there.. it was the object themselves. Spinner´s End was a poor neighbourhood of mill-workers...And yet, that particular house was filled with very high quality furniture and decorations, mostly in an art-déco style, with lots of XIX-century looking stuff thrown in...It felt almost as if whoever had decorated it was purposely trying to hide all that luxury behind a working-class façade.
She thanked heavens for having had the providence to have the electrical wiring and plumbing checked. Spinner´s End wasn´t completely deserted yet so it had a supply of electricity and water and she imagined that, at the very least, she should make sure to have everything working if she was to move in. The wiring apparently dated from the 20´s which would have made it one of the first houses in the street to have it. The electrician and plumber she had hired for the job were both amazed that everything still worked...
After having her belongings brought inside, she decided to explore. Unlike the sitting room all the other rooms were closed. She had found many keys among her grandfather´s mysterious objects, and was pretty unimpressed by the fact that each one of them seemed to be a match for each of the locks in the house...
Although the house followed the street´s general and rather simplistic pattern of one sitting room, one kitchen, two bedrooms and one bathroom all in minuscule proportions, each of the rooms was as richly decorated as the sitting room. Also, aside from the dust, the other rooms didn´t seem to have been touched in the least. Probably because they had been locked up until now. Everything looked as if the former occupants had just left home for a stroll in the park and never came back, leaving everything behind as it was. There were still clothes and personal objects, all organized and kept in their correct places, as if waiting for their owners to come back and use them. Among the seemingly normal things like shoes, spectacles or books, she could see numerous unidentifiable articles...She couldn´t even begin to phantom the utility of any of them.
But the most unsettling part was by far the alarming lack of rats, cockroaches or any other pest... How could a house abandoned for some seventy-odd years not have one single mouse? She had opened the wardrobes and cabinets, rummaged though the clothes and books, taken out the bedsheets, flipped the mattresses ...and nothing. Not one insect, not one rat, not one sign of termite, clothes-moth or bookworms. Not even a single fly. More startlingly still, she found no traces of mold, no infiltrations, no cracks on the walls, no rips on the wallpapers...
It was all too..bizarre.
Curiosity had always been her most proeminent personality trait. Her father and grandfather often praised her inquiring nature, and gave her free reign to exercise it. They would feed her curiosity with books, movies, fairy-tales, everything that could serve as fuel for her intellect and imagination. She remembered how, growing up, her favorite past time had been investigating the old Celtic and medieval ruins and relics scattered around the valleys surrounding her hometown, always in the company of her big brother Paul. Her mother was less than impressed by their adventurous outings, but her father and grandfather were always openly proud of her intellectual pursuits. It was pretty obvious from an early age that she would follow on her father´s footsteps and become a Historian. Actually she had gone a bit farther than that...while her father was a History teacher in a small catholic school in a little Irish village, she was a professor of history, a successful one if her published books proved anything. Her inquisitive nature had brought her far and she was proud of it.
But this day, as she rummaged through the room of the freakish house her grandfather had left her, she started to think that maybe, for the first time in her life, being curious might not be so great... But her greatest flaw wasn´t curiosity, though...It was stubbornness. Which obviously meant that she was going to finish what she had started. She had moved into her grandfather´s house, now she had to find Eileen Prince.
Eileen Prince´s house was right next door, and all she had to do was come over an knock. It was simple enough. An yet, as she stood in front of that door, she felt quite disheartened... What did she know about Eileen Prince? Only her name and date of birth... What if she wasn´t there...Then what would she do? Go back to her grandfather´s papers and reread them all, look for clues in that indecipherable house...Trying to make sense of it all just seemed like something she couldn´t do alone. Eileen Prince, whomever she was, was probably the only person who could help...What would she do if she wasn´t there? She knocked and, as she feared, nobody answered. She kept knocking... Once, twice, three times, four times, six times. As if it would work...
Just as she turned to leave, cursing the day she had had the brilliant idea of starting this ludicrous investigation, the door opened and her heart actually skipped a bit. It obviously wasn´t Eileen Prince who had answered the door, but a tall, hook-nosed man with black over-long hair and sickly pale skin dressed in black from head to toe. For a moment she wondered if he was dressed for Halloween, even though they were in the first week of October. Relieved to find someone to talk to, she had tried to start a conversation, but he would have none of it. But it didn´t really matter how rude he was, Evelyn had to get the information she wanted. Making her best to remain calm in spite of his snarky replies, she insisted, not even acknowledging his resistance. After all, she hadn´t come all the way here to be have some random blockhead with poor social-skills thwart her plans. After a little verbal tug of war, she finally managed to ask what she wanted to know.
"I´m just looking for someone..." She said, using the gentlest tone she could muster in the midst of her crescent exasperation "Eileen Prince. Does she live here?"
Evelyn had never seen a man´s expression change so quickly. That condescending grimace vanished from his lips, and his dark, aggressive eyes turned to puzzled and then to melancholic in a split second.
"Snape" He said quietly, in a tone that was almost gentle.
"I beg you pardon?"
"Eileen Snape...Prince was her maiden name" His voice was suddenly filled with a unmistakable tone of sadness.
"Oh, so she does live here" Evelyn let out without thinking, just to keep him talking.
"Not anymore" His deep voice just grew graver and graver with each word. Only now the muted tone let her notice his voice was a quite beautiful baritone.
"I see..." Evelyn shifted on her feet, uneasy "She moved then..."
"She´s dead.... Has been for twenty years actually." That last sentence had been barely more than a whisper,.
Evelyn looked at his face. His contemptuous expression had now completely vanished, and his face was merely somber. The dark eyes seemed to look right through her. Having lost her brother at a young age and both her father and grandfather not too long ago, Evelyn could say she knew what thousand yard stare meant. It was obvious this man was very close to Eileen... He was too young to be her husband or brother...A son maybe...Evelyn immediately regretted having pestered him so much.
I´m sorry to hear that...In that case, I guess I should get going then..."
But just as she turned away, his resounding voice reached her hears and there was no more scorn in its tone. Only a very pristine seriousness.
"Wait a minute, Miss...I´sorry, you said your name was..?"
"Black. Evelyn Black." She relaxed and, for the first time, felt like she could have a normal conversation with the man "Mr... Snape, I assume?"
"Severus Snape..." He opened the door all the way and cocked his head back gesturing for her to come in.
Evelyn just stood there.
Wasn´t this what she wanted? Eileen Prince was dead, but this man...Severus Snape...Severus Snape was standing right before her, inviting her in.
She wasn´t sure yet, but Severus Snape might be the one she was looking for...The one who would help her make sense of her grandfather´s secrets.
So, she entered.