So . . . I’m going to be about a month late on this newsletter. My goal is to have updates about my life and writing sent out every quarter as a kind of supplement to the posts I do here on the blog. I’m hoping to have things like sales and special offers (when I finally have some published works) and info about new releases. But I’m hoping the real drive will be exclusive fiction which I’ll write every quarter that will be for members of the newsletter only (if any of that sounds cool please sign up for my newsletter)
But this month, it didn’t quite go as planned. Publishing Narmer and The God Beast and the promotion I did for it took up a considerable amount of my time. I did manage to hack out a zero-draft during a writing retreat I did during Labor Day weekend, but with Pitchwars and other stuff I had not completed much by my October 1st deadline.
So, my new goal is to push the newsletter on October 31st, and have exclusive fiction for subscribers at that point. So far that seems to be going well. I finished my first draft and sent it away to be critiqued this coming Monday. Once that feedback has come through, I can make any tweaks before the 31st deadline.
Then it’s November which is a whole other thing I gotta figure out . . .
Anyway, I thought it might be cool to see a little of what I’ve been working on, and so I’ve posted the first part of the story, Boutilier House, for y’all to read and enjoy. The rest will be sent out with the newsletter on Oct 31st (so sign up!)
The first thing about Boutilier House which set Adam on edge were the locks. There were none.
For a house — no a palace — such as this, Adam had suspected that every porcelain dish in the China cabinets, or any gilded vase along the entry table might somehow prove under lock and key. Perhaps even the guest book was bolted upon its wood and silver pedestal.
But it was simply not the case.
Adam might have nicked the polished gold nightjars roosting on the table runner as easy as removing candy from its wrapper. In his youth, perhaps he might have, just because he could.
But Mr. Cunningham had not sent him here for larks.
No, the prize Adam was to take with him when he left was far more valuable than a few gold trinkets.
And so it was that the full seven seconds it took Mathieu to respond to his comment about the locks was actually the third thing which set Adam on edge.
“Oh, there are locks Adam — May I call you Adam?” Mathieu said abruptly.
“Oh, um. Of course.”
Mathieu’s light-blue eyes seemed to brighten slightly as he visibly committed the name to memory. “My father thought of everything when designing the house. Why carry with you a cumbersome ring of keys — which might get lost or stolen — when the house can recognize you and welcome you inside simply by the touch of your hand upon the doorknob?”
Adam had no argument there. It was truly remarkable.
Before coming to clerk for Mr. Cunningham, Adam had fancied himself something of amateur engineer, tinkering here and there as each new trend caught his attention.
But Boutilier’s work simply defied understanding.
“But surely it can’t remember everyone,” Adam pressed. “Or what if it does remember a past tenet and accidentally lets them in while another guest is here. If the system is mechanical surely there is a way to override — ”
Mathieu held up one finger.
“You must trust us, Adam. Relax. The system works and it has never been wrong. Father has seen to everything.”
Mathieu turned slightly so that his body no longer impeded entry into the house. He gestured invitingly at the large greeting area, flanked by two enormous wooden staircases which bent around and behind a door on the first story.
“Come,” he said simply. “Let me show you around.”
As they walked, Adam could see doorways leading to the different wings of the house along the left and right walls of the entryway, but Mathieu lead him through a center door instead.
“In here is the dining area.”
Mathieu gestured to a long and narrow room, with an equally long and slightly narrower wooden table. Cabinets lined each of the walls, filled with glass and porcelain in every shape and size of plate or cup Adam could imagine. Those automated doors must work well indeed if nothing had been taken.
“Simply let the house know what you would like to eat, and it will be served upon your request,” said Mathieu as they left the dining area, and went back the way they’d come. He picked a staircase and began climbing.
“The master bedroom will be through that center door. The bath is at the end of the hall on your right.”
Mathieu continued to lead Adam through the house, mixing in bits of the Boutilier’s family history with the amenities Adam could expect from his stay in the mansion. Apparently, this had been Gregoire Boutilier’s first house upon coming to the new world. He’d lived there with his three children, Roseline, Joel, and Isabelle.
But it wasn’t long before Adam began listening with only half an ear. The house was large, yes, and clearly furnished with the highest quality of accommodations, but aside from the locks, displayed nothing of the marvel Mr. Cunningham had described when they’d met for dinner last week.
Nothing that would warrant the abrupt separation from his wife and toddling daughter.
Adam felt his jaw clench as he remembered Helen’s reddened, tear-filled stare through their apartment’s front window. Lexy cried in her arms and Helen soothed her half-heartedly.
All of the arguments Adam had constructed while at dinner with Helen’s father had seemed to mean little when held up against Lexy’s anxiety at their separation, and Helen’s pleas for rest and relief at the end of a long day.
Mr. Cunningham had sent a nanny of course, to help out while Adam was away, but even Adam knew it would not be the same as having both parents at home with their child. Adam speculated briefly what discovery he might make here that might possibly absolve him his absence.
Nothing came to mind.
Suddenly Adam had very little patience for the number of threads woven into the master bedroom’s sheets or knowing the exact temperature of his bath water when he washed.
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Adam finally cut Mathieu off. “All of this is very nice. Really top notch. But this is a bit of a business retreat. Is there somewhere I can work? Without being disturbed by the servants that is.”
Mathieu got that look again, the one in which he appeared to be staring at something far off in the distance.
“Servants? . . . Work? Ah!” Mathieu said at last. “You must mean the library. Magnificent. One of my favorite parts of the house. My own father spent many of his nights there working on his inventions. Would you like to go there now?”
Mathieu led Adam through a series of twists and turns which did not seem to match any layout Adam had built in his mind of Boutilier’s house, and arrived at the library within a few minutes, though the tour before that had seemed to take much longer.
It seemed nice, a large open room with a domed ceiling that reached several stories. Bookshelves climbing three of the four walls and packed full of books and mechanical devices.
The fourth wall sported two massive windows which must let in plenty of light during the morning and afternoon.
Adam looked around, judging its fit. That table over there could serve as a workbench. Maybe the chest of drawers which seemed to be a card catalog could contain screws and nuts, bolts and small glassware.
It would do.
He’d get his project done and then go home to Helen and Lexy before they even processed he was gone.
“Thank you, Mathieu. I think we’re quite finished with the tour now.”
“Of course, sir,” Mathieu said, courteous as ever. “If you need anything, simply ask and the house will provide.
“You keep saying that . . . Never mind. Where are the switches for these lamps? I should like to get to work immediately, but it will be dark soon.”
Mathieu paused in his way before answering. “Ah! Sorry Adam. I’ve been remiss in my duties. You simply say the house’s name and the house will listen. Normally we would say Boutilier, but we’ve taken into account your English sensibilities, so we’ve asked the house to respond to the English equivalent. Go ahead and give it a shot. All you need do is say the name and ask for what you want.”
“Butler . . .” Adam tried cautiously. “Please turn on the library’s lights for me.”
Adams heart felt like it had stopped beating in his chest.
The library’s lights came on dimly and got slowly brighter until they were bright enough to read by.
Mr. Cunningham had been right. There was something worth discovering in this house after all. It might even be enough to absolve him.
Anyway, that was the first part of my (hopefully spooky) story. The rest will be released along with the newsletter on October 31st so be sure to sign up!
Please leave any feedback in the comments. See you next time!