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datatime: 2022-10-08 02:09:49 Author:EFTdpjrP

He reached for a cigarette. "It won't do that, even if I'm caught red-handed. All I have to say is that I was paying her a visit, and that the .Semples mistakenly took me for a prowler. Christ, Maggie, I'm not going to burglarize the place. I'm only going to take a quick look around the grounds and maybe a fast check through the windows."

At last he was able to reach out his left foot and cautiously test the guttering. Further along it was rusted through, but from the verandah roof to the bay window it looked as if it was reasonably intact. He pressed on it with more weight, and then decided to try his luck and stand on it with both feet with his full 192 pounds. The lighted window was now only two or three feet away, and he could hear voices more distinctly and the creak of floorboards as someone walked around in the room.

It took him ten minutes to make his way through the scrubby copse that led towards the house. There was still- no sign of the dogs, and he wondered if they were asleep. Maybe if he was- quiet enough he wouldn't wake them. He pushed his way through a tangled screen of bushes, and found himself on the very edge of the copse, with a wide stretch of lawn between him and the Semple mansion.

In three minutes he had scrambled up to the top. He sat astride the wall, winding the rope and catching his breath. Through the trees he could see twinkling lights from the Semple mansion, but there was no sound at all, and no sign of the prowling guard dogs. A freight train hooted mournfully in the distance and up above the clouds a jet scratched its way across the night sky.

This time, he had driven past the main gates and followed the road that led around the high brick wall to a point that, he hoped, was nearer the house itself, He had parked the car in the shadow of the overhanging trees on the opposite side of the road, and he left the keys in the ignition in case he needed to make a quick getaway.

"You really fell head over heels this time, didn't you?"

"Maggie, you're just making things sound awkward. All I'm going to do is hop over the wall. The place is enormous, they'll never see me."

Gene skirted along the southern side of the house, almost as far as the gravel drive that came from the main gateway. Every now and then he stopped to listen for dogs, but the whole estate was buried deep in darkness and silence. At one time, he thought he heard a faint crackling of leaves and twigs, but when he paused to catch the sound more distinctly, he realized it was probably just a bird in the upper branches of the oaks.

Quickly, he padded across the narrow road, trod softly through the banked-up leaves against the wall, and paused. Still no sound from the Semple place. He unwound a knotted nylon rope from his waist, and stepped back so that he could judge the height of the old, moss-crusted bricks. There was an aluminum rod tied to the end of the rope, and he hoped to toss this over the wall and tug it back until it was firmly wedged between the metal spikes.

He looked up. "And what's wrong with that? It's about time there was more committed passion in life, anyway."

It was a chilly night, and his .breath steamed as he climbed out of the car and gently clicked the door shut behind him. Low clouds were still obscuring the moon, and he had to blink a few times to accustom his eyes to the darkness. He listened again, holding his breath, but the Semple estate was silent.

This time, he had driven past the main gates and followed the road that led around the high brick wall to a point that, he hoped, was nearer the house itself, He had parked the car in the shadow of the overhanging trees on the opposite side of the road, and he left the keys in the ignition in case he needed to make a quick getaway.

Breathing with tense, suppressed gasps, he reached up for higher branches and began to scale the creeper like a ladder. At a height of about ten or twelve feet, almost level with the verandah roof, he paused once more and listened for sound of the dogs. He heard a low, erratic, rumbling noise, but he guessed it was a distant airplane turning toward Dulles.

Quickly, he padded across the narrow road, trod softly through the banked-up leaves against the wall, and paused. Still no sound from the Semple place. He unwound a knotted nylon rope from his waist, and stepped back so that he could judge the height of the old, moss-crusted bricks. There was an aluminum rod tied to the end of the rope, and he hoped to toss this over the wall and tug it back until it was firmly wedged between the metal spikes.

She thought for a moment longer, and then she stood up.

Quickly, he padded across the narrow road, trod softly through the banked-up leaves against the wall, and paused. Still no sound from the Semple place. He unwound a knotted nylon rope from his waist, and stepped back so that he could judge the height of the old, moss-crusted bricks. There was an aluminum rod tied to the end of the rope, and he hoped to toss this over the wall and tug it back until it was firmly wedged between the metal spikes.

It was a few minutes after eleven Thursday night when he arrived outside the Semple mansion. He was driving a rented, dark-blue Matador, and he was dressed in a black, polo-neck sweater, black corduroy pants, and a charcoal-gray cap pulled down over his eyes. He carried a small canvas bag with Mace gas and anti-dog sprays, a coil of rope around his shoulder, and a long-barreled .38 revolver tucked into his belt. He switched off the car's engine and sat there for four or five minutes, listening to the soft rustle of the night.

It took him ten minutes to make his way through the scrubby copse that led towards the house. There was still- no sign of the dogs, and he wondered if they were asleep. Maybe if he was- quiet enough he wouldn't wake them. He pushed his way through a tangled screen of bushes, and found himself on the very edge of the copse, with a wide stretch of lawn between him and the Semple mansion.

It took him ten minutes to make his way through the scrubby copse that led towards the house. There was still- no sign of the dogs, and he wondered if they were asleep. Maybe if he was- quiet enough he wouldn't wake them. He pushed his way through a tangled screen of bushes, and found himself on the very edge of the copse, with a wide stretch of lawn between him and the Semple mansion.

"You're paying a visit? At night? With a loaded gun?"

She thought for a moment longer, and then she stood up.

Gene skirted along the southern side of the house, almost as far as the gravel drive that came from the main gateway. Every now and then he stopped to listen for dogs, but the whole estate was buried deep in darkness and silence. At one time, he thought he heard a faint crackling of leaves and twigs, but when he paused to catch the sound more distinctly, he realized it was probably just a bird in the upper branches of the oaks.

"You really fell head over heels this time, didn't you?"

She thought for a moment longer, and then she stood up.

"You're probably right," Maggie said. "But it depends where it's directed, don't you think?"

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