Someone in this house had to know if the dog had been killed.
The silence felt even heavier downstairs. I walked the length of the hallway past half a dozen rooms I hadn't looked into before. They all had locked doors. Storerooms? Closets? Top-secret installations?
Retracing my footsteps, I went back to the deserted ballroom. The raised bandstand in one corner suggested memories of happier days, of jazz bands and 1920's dancers partying until the sun came up.
A heavy sweep of damask draperies covered a room-wide expanse of French windows. I pulled the cord and let grey afternoon light spill in to lighten the gloom. The windows looked out on a broad flagstone terrace and three guest cottages farther down the hill.
The locks on the windows were simple catches on each handle. Not at all difficult to open. Stepping outside, I breathed in the fresh damp air, and wondered if I had set off an alarm that would ring inside these stone walls. I waited, but no armed men came running.
Outside all was quiet, empty, peaceful. It was easy to understand why the household members were devoted to their morning walks. Out here the atmosphere was less oppressive. And I expected that would be true even if the rain came teeming down.
I sighed and stepped back into the ballroom. Fastening the French windows behind me, I turned to walk across the floor. And heard a sound...
A quiet, stealthy, unrepeated sound.
A footstep? A door closing? I couldn't tell, only that it came from somewhere off to my left. I stood perfectly still and listened.
I walked softly to the ballroom door, listening hard. No one was out there, I told myself. The besieged-castle atmosphere of this place was just making me jumpy. Plenty of people in the house had a right to be down here.
I jerked the door open wide. The hallway was empty. Of course it was. I told myself to stop imagining things. But I turned to the left, and walked very quietly to the end of the hall.
The door to the swimming pool stood half open. I peered inside. The elaborate tiled walls were dim, shadowy, the air heavy and damp. Everything was as still as a tomb, except for a slight play of light on the ceiling, a reflection from the moving surface of the water.
I stepped back into the hall with a feeling of relief, and pulled the door shut behind me. As my hand released the knob, I had a feeling of wrongness. Something was different, something had changed since my previous sight of that room.
I opened the door again. Took a step inside. And then another.
And saw why the light shimmered on the ceiling.
There was a man in the pool.
Face down, about three feet below the surface, arms spread but unmoving, his body rocked ever so slightly with the almost imperceptible movement of the water.