Walking home Lyla can’t help but feel down and thinks maybe she should have been more supportive to what Marcus was saying. But he is so against Crispin and doesn’t want to hear the good things anymore than she wants to hear the bad. He’s just acting so odd about everything and she does not understand why. Lyla rounds the corner and is on her street when she looks up.
Further down the sidewalk and on the left is the gate to her back yard. She notices it is wide open and that a strange man has walked into her yard. Picking up her pace she says to herself, “Who is that? I was supposed to put a lock on this thing day’s ago, damn it!” she quickly makes her way to the gate.
Working in the yard are fifteen to twenty people. A large Iron gazebo with a dark shingled roof has been erected in the center of the yard with a stepping stone path to the water garden. Two individuals are trimming shrubs, others are hanging Chinese lanterns, placing blooming flowers in containers, intertwining climbing roses and honeysuckle up tall iron stands, and setting candles in little glass containers all around.
Startled she pauses and then says “Um, hello?” Stepping out from the shadows of the veranda is Crispin Duff.
“I don’t like this one bit.” says Marcus as he closes the laptop. “Everyone Duff comes into contact with, even over the web, somehow manages to fall off the face of the planet.”
“Hey you two!” squawks the voice of Marnie. Lyla and Marcus look up to see Marnie coming towards them across the grassy lawn. She is swinging her hips with each step and waving as if she were just crowned Queen. She stoops down near the blanket and sets a shopping bag from the garden shop on the grass behind her. “What on earth are you two up to today?” She does not wait for a reply because she really doesn’t want one. “Did you see my hair cut? What do you think?” she continues as she turns her head from side to side. “A woman stopped me on the street to tell me how much she liked my hair, isn’t that just a scream?”
“Looks great, Marnie, did you cut much off?” asks Lyla as she looks from side to side trying to see what the difference is from her last trim. “Oh god yes, it just grows so fast! I want it to look it’s best for your party tomorrow night. Can’t wait!” she says as she nudges Lyla on the arm. “Have you talked to Penny? She is really going all out on the food and I think the party list is up to 45 people.”
“Oh, wow… that’s a lot of people to have coming to my house, she didn’t tell me all that.” says Lyla as she looks at Marcus with a questioning glance. “I think she is really trying to impress a few people, I know that handsome Crispin Duff will be there. Penny said he accepted his invite in person,” says Marnie as she pulls out her mirror to put on bright pink lipstick. “He’s quite a catch. I wouldn’t let him get away, Lyla.” she says grinning at Marcus as she stands up to leave. “Um, funny to hear you say that, you seem to be quite taken with him,” says Lyla. She puts her hand over her eyes to block out the sun as she looks up at Marnie.
“Oh, I would never let a man come between the friendship we have Lyla. Not even someone as wonderful as Mr. Duff. You better snatch him up, he’s a keeper.” Again Marnie looks directly at Marcus as if she is purposely trying to get him jealous. “Well, it was good to see you Marnie.” says Lyla. “Guess I’ll see you tomorrow night then?”
“Oh my yes indeed you will. I’ll be there early to help. Bye bye for now.” Marnie turns and walks back toward the street. Several steps out she glances over her right shoulder at Marcus giving him an odd look, then grins and waves again. “Wow, she’s acting a bit odd.” says Lyla. “I’ve always thought she was a bit off and that conversation sealed it for me.” Says Marcus as he watches Marnie. “Yeah, you’re right there” states Lyla as she too watches Marnie mosey across the deep green grass. “Okay, so as far as your doppelgänger theory goes, I don’t know what to tell you Marcus. I think you are just reading more into everything than is actually happening.”
“Lyla, there is something bad about that guy and I don’t know how else to say it. I think you need to distance yourself from him.” says Marcus without wavering. “Marcus you are one of my most favorite people on the entire planet and I trust and believe in you.” says Lyla. “But.” says Marcus. “But, I honestly think all of these oddities are simple cases of circumstance. Penny is over worked and has always been a worrier and Marnie is so self-absorbed she can’t keep anything straight. Quite frankly, Crispin has been nothing but a gentleman to me and I’ve never felt like I or anyone else was in danger.”
“So what exactly are you implying?” asks Lyla now a little more serious than before. “I think Duff is malicious and I don’t think he is a regular person.” Marcus stops typing and lowers his voice. “I know I sound nuts, but, I think he is a doppelgänger.” Lyla looks at him mystified. “A doppelganger.” She repeats and holds back a laugh, “and how is that possible professor Marcus? Good grief. We looked for doppelgänger back in our early teens when we were going to be ghost hunters! None of that stuff is real, you know that.” She says with a laugh as she hands him a bottle of water.
Marcus pauses and looks at her intently for a moment, then grabs a sandwich. They sit in silence for several minutes as Lyla watches, waiting for him to respond but he stays quiet. Thinking she hurt his feelings she starts to apologize, “Marcus I didn’t. . .” but Marcus starts talking, interrupting her apology.
“First thing this morning Penny was in my shop for a short time, then about 5 minutes later she showed up again talking about seeing herself leave my shop.” He looks at Lyla then squints. “Penny and I both saw her exact double in her exact clothes, step out of the garden shop across the street! She then turned the corner out of sight.” Marcus pauses for a moment then says, “I chased after the double but they were gone, vanished! Some kids were playing nearby and said a man, ironically matching Crispin’s description, walked past them, but not a woman! I went back to my shop, started looking Duff up on the net. Without sounding the bell at the door the next thing I know he is standing right behind me! That scared the hell out of me!”
“What the. . .?” says Marcus to himself. He tries another search and the only thing that pops up is from the local news and Marcus reads it aloud. “Locally well known entrepreneur Randall Weston transfers ownership of recently purchased land to Duff Industries for an undisclosed purchase amount. What?” questions Marcus, he reads on; “Mr. Weston went on to say that he plans to relocate away from the area very soon.” Says Marcus in a snide way. “Just like every other story that now I cannot find!” says Marcus completely frustrated as he punches the top of the counter with his fist.
“Having technical difficulties, Marcus?” comes a voice from very near behind him. Completely taken off guard Marcus spins around quickly to find Crispin Duff within two feet of him. “How’d you get in here?” asks Marcus. The chimes at the door did not sound to alert him that someone had arrived so he glances in that direction expecting them to be broken or on the floor. To his surprise they are still intact and hanging very still.
“The sign says you’re open.” states Crispin calmly as he lifts his hand pointing at the sign on the door. “I thought I’d check on the progress of my painting while I was in town running errands. Will it be ready for Friday’s event?” quizzes Crispin as he steps closer to Marcus and rests his arm on the counter next to the laptop.
Marcus nods yes as he closes the screen on his computer and steps toward Crispin. He wonders if Crispin was in the room all this time and if he was, he now knows he is questioning his motives. “I finished the painting earlier this morning.” States Marcus and without hesitation he continues with, “You know, I’m kind of curious as to why you’re staying around this little town for so long. I mean, you’re a busy man I would think you would have flown home or gone on to another place of interest by now.” Boldly remarks Marcus as he heads toward his painting room at the back of the shop. “Surly the web stuff can be done long distance so I can’t imagine Lyla needing you here in person.”
Crispin grins as he looks out the window and replies with, “Actually I genuinely like it here, it reminds me of home.” He pauses for a moment. “Lyla and I have things to work on so I felt it best to set up residence here for a while.” He turns to see where Marcus is. “Is it a crime for me to stay long?” he asks in a very sly way.
“I have my questions and I’ve been researching a few things.” Replies Marcus as he twirls the paintbrush in the cup turning the clear liquid into a murky white blend. “And I’m not going to share my suspicions quite yet, so you can forget about digging any deeper.” He turns away from his artwork as he sets the cup of thinner down hard. It’s a miracle the glass container didn’t break. He then faces Penny as if subconsciously asking her to leave.
Looking as if she is insulted, Penny says “fine then” and quickly turns on her heels and leaves the shop. Marcus grabs all the supplies he was using to complete his project and steps into the backroom to thoroughly clean his brushes. About five minutes later he hears the chimes ringing at the door so he walks back into the shop where he finds Penny sitting on a chair near the counter.
“Long time no see,” says Marcus as he walks out into the shop while wiping his hands dry on a soft cloth. Then he stops and tips his head sideways as if confused. “Did you forget something Penny?”
“Wha, what?” says Penny jumping slightly as if Marcus scared her. “Did you forget something?” repeats Marcus as he looks at her oddly. “I, I’m just. . . ” stammers Penny as if she is dazed. “Are you okay, Penny?” asks Marcus as he moves closer to her. She is acting very strange and he is now concerned. “I don’t know,” she says “You’re going to think I’m crazy.”
“I already think you’re crazy but that’s beside the point.” exclaims Marcus jokingly. But Penny does not laugh; she simply sits there looking out the shop window. “Penny, what the hell is going on?” asks Marcus a bit frustrated and worried at the same time. “Do you need a doctor?”
“Maybe,” she says. “Are you hurt, are you having chest pains?” he asks. “No, I’m seeing things.” says Penny. “Seeing things? Like what?” asks Marcus as he pulls a stool closer to where Penny is and sits down near her. “Myself.” she says as she looks directly at Marcus. They both sit quietly for a moment, looking at each other with puzzled expressions. “You saw yourself. Where?” ask Marcus. “I was coming up the sidewalk to see you and I saw myself leave your shop and walk across the street. It was me, in my clothes, I walked across the street.” She points out the window.
Marcus gets up and quickly goes to look out at the street. He sees what appears to be Penny coming out of the garden shop which is right across the street from his art gallery. She walks down the sidewalk and past the red brick building where she turns the corner stepping out of view. Marcus then looks back at Penny who is sitting right there, in his shop. She has a very blank look on her face as her eyes slowly look from the street to Marcus.
“I’ve really enjoyed spending this evening with you,” says Lyla as she tips her head to the left leaning it against the back of the sofa while she looks directly into Crispin’s green eyes. They watch each other intently for several seconds, neither one saying a word. The silence that could be very awkward is actually remarkably comfortable. The bubbling sound of the downspout has slowed slightly and the flames in the fireplace continue to pop and snap as the fire burns on. Crispin then breaks the silence.
“I find you absolutely fascinating,” he says to Lyla as he becomes a bit more serious and reaches out to hold her hand. With a slow blink of the eyes, Lyla smiles then takes in a deep breath. “Um, it’s getting late; I should probably be heading back now.” She says, not really wanting to say it but knowing she should. She looks back at Crispin and for a split second there is a slight glimmer that flashes making Crispin’s eyes glow from within. It was odd, yet beautiful and slightly mesmerizing. “Hum, you know, you have very interesting eyes,” says Lyla as she tries to focus on them. Crispin leans in closer to her not blinking or wavering in any way as he looks into her pale blue eyes.
“Eyes are the windows to the soul.” states Crispin as he gently cups her face in his hand in a very tender way. Lyla closes her eyes as she leans into his gentle touch. She looks up and Crispin’s eyes gleam once more as if small flecks of glitter have caught the firelight.
“Oh.” She says pulling back slightly and shaking her head from side to side as Crispin pulls his hand away from her face slowly. “I’ve had way too much to drink,” she brushes the loose strands of hair away from her eyes and laughs at herself. She continues to back away slightly and again she rests her head on the back of the couch and takes in a deep breath as she closes her eyes for a moment.
“You can stay here if you like and I can take you home in the morning,” offers Crispin as he takes the glass from her hand and sets their drinks on the end table.
As they approach the large wooden door it slowly glides open and is held by a well dressed older gentleman. He is a tall, thin man with thick white hair. His face is a soft rosy color and he seems to be very refined and proper. He tips his head slightly and steps back revealing a dazzling candlelit room with a warming fire crackling in the large stone fireplace. “Good evening, Quinn,” says Crispin in a very courteous manner as he steps aside to allow Lyla to enter first. “Good evening, Sir,” states the elderly gentleman. He tips his head down slightly then continues with “Ma’am” as he nods to Lyla and says, “Please do come in.”
“What a lovely place,” says Lyla as she steps through the threshold and looks around in amazement at the cozy room. “I never knew this cottage was here. How on earth did you find it?” she questions as she looks around the room. Each nook of the place is lit by white candles in stained glass and sparkling crystal holders. The flickering glow of the lighting against the shiny wooden floor and furniture makes it appear as if it’s all made of gold. A beautifully dressed table for two has been set up near the fireplace. On top of the emerald-green tablecloth is an overlay of very delicate lace and the dinnerware is sparkling as it catches hints of light from the array of candles.
“I’m glad you like it,” states Crispin as he pulls the chair out for Lyla to sit. “Apparently we have similar tastes and tonight you shall enjoy a true Irish meal with all the trimmings.” He then looks toward Quinn and says, “Quinn here is a master chef, or he believes himself to be, that is.” says Crispin with a laugh as he gently pats Quinn on his shoulder. Quinn’s lips rise just a little on the right side as he nods in agreement and slowly pours wine in their glasses.
“Well hello there,” says Crispin happily as Lyla steps into the lighting of the porch. “Good evening to you too,” replies Lyla with a beaming smile on her face. “Oh, I have a file to bring . . .”
“Oh no you don’t!” says Crispin as he reaches out and grabs her hand stopping her where she stands. “This dinner is simply that, dinner. Let’s make a deal right now that we will not, in any way shape or form, discuss work.” states Crispin as if giving a direct order. “Um, okay.” says Lyla a bit hesitant yet relieved at the same time. She then realizes every time they have been together it has to do with business and it might be fun to simply be out as friends. After all, she does enjoy his company and she would like to know more about him on a personal level. “Actually, you are right. It will be nice to leave work at the house for a bit.” With that said Lyla pulls the door shut.
With the dense cloudbank drifting in from the west hiding the sun as it sets, it gives the impression of being much later in the evening than it actually is. Down near the horizon the clouds are a deep purple and the last streaks of sunlight are shooting up behind the dark expanding mass. Little yellow and white bursts of light here and there cause the tip-top of the clouds to be trimmed in a fine sliver of bright silver. The entire storm seems to be rumbling and tumbling slowly in their direction as they walk to the parked car. Crispin opens the door for Lyla and she slides into the passenger seat of his sedan.
As Marcus is working on the painting for Crispin, his mind begins to wander back to the conversation he and Lyla had earlier about ghosts and doppelgängers. Lyla is a very down to earth practical person so he finds it difficult to think that she is making this up. She has to be experiencing something in the house, but what? He puts his brush down and begins to research the term doppelgänger on the internet and finds a site devoted to just that. He reads aloud;
“In folklore, doppelgänger means double-walker of a living person. It represents evil or bad-luck. In some traditions, a doppelgänger seen by a person’s friends or relatives indicates illness or danger, while seeing one’s own doppelgänger is a warning of death.”
“Whoa, if that is real it sure doesn’t sound good,” says Marcus to himself. He continues to read aloud. “In Irish and British folklore this type of supernatural double of a living person is referred to as a Fetch. The sighting of a Fetch is generally taken as a forerunner of its targets looming death. This definition is derived from the verb “fetch” or to “fetch-life” as one who “fetches” the souls of the dying.” Marcus’ voice fades to a mumble as he finishes the sentence. He then looks up at his favorite painting that he must now, ironically duplicate.
“I was just going to pop in and see if you wanted to go grab a bite to eat.” he replies. “What, your phone stopped working?” she teases. “No, I simply wanted to see you and it’s a very nice day, thought a stroll would be good for the soul ya know.” He holds out his hand, palm up. ”You pick the place.”
“Oh I’m sorry Marcus, I have to take a rain check on that.” Lyla says as she reaches out and gently holds his hand. “I have several things to push through this afternoon and then Crispin is taking me to dinner.”
“Again?” asks Marcus. “You two sure seem to be spending a lot of time together. “It’s all business.” replies Lyla as she pulls her hand away. “Is it?” quizzes Marcus. He is not happy with sharing Lyla’s attention with Crispin Duff and is not sure why this bothers him so. After all, Marcus and Lyla have never been romantically involved with each other. But he can’t help the feelings that are so powerful now. There is something about Crispin that bothers him. He doesn’t really act arrogant, is it because he’s rich? Is it because Lyla wants to talk about him all the time? Marcus comes out of his deep thought process when Lyla speaks.
“I have to admit, I find him interesting and it’s exciting to be working with such a powerful person.” says Lyla followed by another short moment of silence. “So, is that where you got the flowers?” asks Marcus as he takes a sniff of the blooms. “Crispin brought them by when he stopped in. It’s no big deal,” she says as she stands up to look down the hall again.
“What’s up with you and the hall?” asks Marcus as he walks over for a better view of what she is looking at. He stands very close to her and says, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Lyla shivers at Marcus’ words. “I don’t know, I’ve been so jumpy lately and feel like I’m seeing things that I shouldn’t be seeing.” she says softly as if someone might hear. She is very focused on the hall.
“Like what?” asks Marcus. “Maybe this old house is haunted!” he says in a joking tone as he leans against her to get a reaction. She just pushes back at him. “Reflections or something, I’ve been seeing things out of the corner of my eye, Smokey is even a bit touchy and I could have sworn there was someone in the house the other night.” she says quietly as she turns to look at him. “I feel like I’m being watched. Then today, right before you knocked at the door I could have sworn I saw Penny standing in the foyer!”
“Okay, so that explains it, maybe she forgot something and popped back in and I happened to meet her as she was leaving.” says Marcus. “Mystery solved!” he says as he claps his hands together startling Lyla causing her to jump. “No!” says Lyla forcefully. “It was only seconds from when I thought I saw her to the time you banged on the door! Even on a dead run she would have still met up with you in the back yard. I even called out to her asking if she forgot something. It’s really odd.”
“Sounds like you’ve got a Doppelganger,” says Marcus jokingly as he turns to sit down.