I had thought that Isaac Ashford's house might look less gloomy in the clear light of morning, but it didn't. I pulled open the gate and we stepped inside. The path to the front door was overgrown, the crazy-paving tiles half-covered with dirt and moss. As we got closer to the house, it looked just as gloomy but quite a bit more shabby. I got the impression that Mr. Ashford was devoting more attention to atmosphere than to maintenance.
The paint on the double doors was faded and chipped. My employer raised her cane and used the head to rap on the door.
After a moment, the door opened (I won a small bet with myself – it did creak, and quite loudly) and a young woman regarded us. She was thin and pale, with long black hair. She wore a black mini-skirt and a small black bikini top. Her feet were bare, her toenails painted black to match her fingernails.
When it had become apparent that she was going to stand there looking at us until we went away, my employer said, "My name is Jan Sleet, and I need to see Isaac Ashford."
The girl nodded very slowly. "I'll see," she said, and she moved to close the door.
My employer's hand shot out to block the door, the head of her cane hitting the wood with an impressive crack. The girl looked stunned as Jan pushed her way into the small entryway between the outer and inner doors. "This is not a social call," she said. "Where is he?"
The girl was having some trouble comprehending this behavior, so my employer led us through the inner door and into the front hall.