Upstairs, the dark rooms stood empty. A fleeting presence passed the open doors and had anyone been up there, they would have seen a shadowy outline cross the threshold of Maggie’s room, although the spotted glass of her mirror reflected only the wall.
The boy would be the only one to observe all of the events that would unravel under the roof of this old inn tonight. The uneven, bulging walls had silently borne witness to many dramas, births and deaths over the centuries; comings and goings that no one now living would be able to recall. Set upon its lonely summit, Cauldhame Inn kept its secrets, absorbing them until they became part of the fabric of the place. The wind blasted it, the snow fell and smothered its black-painted eaves and whitewashed walls, and then melted again with the arrival of the spring thaw. And over the years the ghosts of the past had left a residue of memories behind, a rich deposit as tangible as dust. Voices murmured in the air. And now this ordinary family were about to add their story to the long list of scenes that had been acted out here – a catalogue of lives lived and ended in the shadow of Cauldhame Inn.
The boy paused in the doorway to Maggie’s room and glanced across at the head of the staircase, twisting down into darkness. He could hear voices below – human voices. Attracted by the sound, he began to drift slowly downwards, stair by creaking stair.