Just in Case
The lake was tranquil early in the morning; only one boat could be found on the water. Some of the morning mist still floated lazily in the air. The sun was climbing in the red eastern sky. A thick band of charcoal clouds was approaching from the southwest. A fresh forest smell wafted across the lake to the small New England town.
A lone spectator sat on the worn, wooden bench at the end of the dilapidated dock. He was dressed as he always dressed, black shoes, highly polished, a black suit with a black vest and a black bow tie. He also wore a black derby and overcoat despite the mild temperature.
Andrew watched the couple on the rowboat. The boy on the boat was a brawny workman from a nearby village. The young lady was a house girl for a prominent family in town. She was feeding the young man some sweet homemade breakfast morsels; he kept trying to lean towards her for a kiss which she coyly deflected. Andrew could hear her giggles and his admonitions across the water.
Andrew scanned the lake, the sky and the solitude of the town. Few of the inhabitants were up and out in the early morning. The train line was never extended as far north as the town, therefore it did not grow very large. Andrew liked the quiet. He sat nearly motionless, wearing a blank expression. The young man in the boat showed off his muscles by rowing very deliberately. His paramour admired his formidable physique. She leaned forward and whispered something in his ear then leaned back and laughed in a very unladylike fashion. Andrew could see the boy's face redden but his smile grew wider. He picked up the pace of his rowing towards the shore, as she boldly caressed his arm.
Andrew had never been the same since the "accident" with his father. He was committed to Peaceful Meadows after a quiet and speedy trial. Always taciturn, Andrew barely spoke to anyone in the asylum. He seemed to be content behind the locked doors and locked gates, reading and drawing. Until he received word that his mother had died suddenly. His father of course was already gone. Andrew stood to inherit the modest family home and a monthly stipend from the family estate.
Andrew began to tell the doctors, lawyers and administrators exactly what they wanted to hear. He was an intelligent man. The county judge appointed ancient Mr. Simpkins, the longtime family lawyer, as Andrew's legal guardian and executor of the estate. Simpkins, nearly blind and going deaf, gave Andrew a small allowance and paid all his bills once he was released. Simpkins hired a series of maids to keep Andrew's house tidy but none of them wanted to stay on despite the generous wage.
"He's a queer one all right!" declared Amanda Cruickshank.
"I don't like the way he stares at you and don't talk!" exclaimed Maddy Johnson.
"He ain't never done nothing bad to me but I just get the heebee-jeebees when he's around!" explained Millicent Purefoy as she vigorously made the sign of the cross.
Andrew was nearly always alone. He didn't eat much or keep many lights on in the house. He took walks late at night or early in the morning. He pretended to take his medication.
Andrew sat on the bench at the dock of the lake, just watching. He carried a black leather bag wherever he went. He looked up at the oncoming storm clouds low overhead. There were storm clouds in his head also; thick, dark, swirly ones that foretold thunder and lightning and chaos. In his leather bag Andrew carried a black umbrella just in case it rained and a meat cleaver just in case the couple in the rowboat came ashore at the dock.
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