With the same diligent care I wheeled the cart out of the elevator and onto the tiled floor of the barn. I had never seen a barn with tiled flooring. They were tiny hexagon shaped honeycomb tiles, each only the size of a quarter dollar. In my many journeys as a plumber, I had only ever seen those diminutive honeycomb tiles in old classic bathrooms from the 1920’s and never imagined such a floor would be used in a barn. Regardless, it proved an adequate surface to roll the cart across.
Before I had gotten the cart more than a few strides away from the elevator, Catherine insisted I needed to take the key (the dog tags) out of the elevator and shut the wooden doors behind us.
“As soon as you close the doors, the elevator will return to LB again.”
Once I pulled the doors shut the barn went mostly dark, but a meager glow of moonlight shown through from outside. The distant machinery far below re-engaged the elevator started descending. It traveled a short distance and came to a silent halt after barely fifteen seconds. The now closed wooden doors looked like a typical pair of sliding wooden barn doors, leading into a windowless … “room.”
I turned from the wooden doors and resumed rolling the cart.
We passed the three curious horses, two cows, and a pen full of mostly silent goats and sheep. While the majority of the animals seemed uninterested in our presence, the horse with the white diamond watched us with an uncanny attentiveness during our entire trek through the barn.
Catherine guided me with a strained whisper as I wheeled her into the tack room. After I closed the tack room door behind us, a dog suddenly appeared outside the room’s only window. It was a black and white border collie, barking and snarling through the glass at us, the same dog whose bark I heard earlier.
“Misty!” Catherine whispered.
“Should I let her in?” I asked.
“Yes. She won’t bite.”
Beside the window sat a rustic wooden door. I opened it and in trotted a black-on-white dog with an asymmetrical splotch of black on her face. The animal went to the cart and immediately sensed Catherine’s distress, so the creature started licking Catherine’s hand with a sympathetic whimper. I smiled at the dog’s kindness and took a brief moment to glance out the still-open door.
I remained in the open doorway for only a few moments, allowing myself to survey the barnyard with the help of the pale moonlight. It was a well-kept gravel area meant to service both vehicles and animals alike. Straight ahead, about fifteen yards away, I could see the rear service porch of an unlit yet very large three-story (or was it a four-story?) house. Because it was only a half-moon that night, I was unable to make out the color of the house paint or the type of cladding it wore. But its nighttime silhouette smacked of Victorian sensibilities with many ornate flourishes, over a dozen chimneys, and at least one Queen Anne turret. Off to my right the gravel continued toward a closed barnyard gate. Beyond the gate the gravel driveway wrapped leftward around the unseen front of the house and then out of sight. I spent no more than three or four seconds making all these observations. Not wanting to let in the cold night air, I quickly shut the door.
The dog turned curiously to me, paused, blinked, and licked my hand as well. Finally she ambled up onto a nearby sofa, turned two marching-in-place circles atop the cushions, and settled down to rest, shifting her gaze back and forth between Catherine and me with a continuous twitching of her “eyebrows.”
I found a thermostat control on the wall and instantly set the heat on 78 degrees. I heard the heat kick in. It was a recently-installed Honeywell unit, one of their better systems, so I knew it would warm up the room very quickly. Regardless, I was impatient for the heat so I poked around the tack room looking for blankets. I found a closet full of horse blankets and asked Catherine’s permission to cover her with a few of them. She gladly accepted those musty old blankets and Misty watched in interest as I carefully lay the bedding down upon her mistress. The dog seemed to approve of my treatment of her owner. I lastly folded up one blanket as a pillow for Catherine’s head.
In my effort to help ease this makeshift pillow in place for her, I again lifted the back of her head with my hand, touching her soft flawless vestiges of hair. But Misty didn’t like this and -- while still lying upon the sofa -- raised her head and growled.
“Misty! Hush!” Catherine whispered, and the dog obeyed, dropping her head in silence. Misty’s “eyebrows” resumed their twitching.
Meanwhile, I could again smell Catherine’s perfume, the scent of which was also now mixed with a whiff of her own sweat. As I set her head back down again, I retracted my hands from any more contact with her body, but I only did so out of respect for Catherine as well as a minor fear of the dog and not at all because I wanted to. Misty blinked, watching me carefully. Catherine suddenly reached out her hand and grabbed my forearm. This startled me and I froze in shock, waiting for her next move.
“Don’t go away,” she whispered, looking intently at me, not releasing her grip on my forearm.
“I won’t,” I whispered back, shaking my head. She relaxed somewhat, but still didn’t release her grip on my arm. She merely loosened it a little while closing her eyes.
As the room grew warmer under the strengthening heat from the Honeywell unit, Catherine became very still, but her hand never fell from my forearm. I wasn’t sure if she was asleep but I didn’t care as long as she was breathing.
-------------------End of Chapter 11--------------------