There was a moment, when I was younger, that I think I may have encountered true darkness. I tell you this as something of a warning, that out there, in the most mundane of places, there are things so malevolent that imagination defies belief. I think I was fortunate, not for the encounter but for the ability to have learned the lesson.
In 1994 I was a studious young man, I was in my second year at Bristol University reading Animal Biology. I had a very positive relationship with my tutor and he put one of my essays forward for a competition to win a six month placement at Edinburgh to work with an eminent animal physiologist. I was given an allowance for six months, it covered my accommodation and living for the time I was there, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
I visited in my Christmas holidays and found that as I was not there for the full year, and starting part way through accommodation was going to be very difficult to come by. The university had nothing and their student welfare office were at a loss. They pointed me towards the union notice board and suggested it might be a good starting point. There were a couple of adverts of varying quality but all wanting a minimum of 12 months. I was also somewhat unnerved by the rents being asked. I was beginning to feel a little despondent when a young man who had been hovering around me for a few moments more than was socially comfortable coughed quietly behind me.
“Excuse me, but are you looking for anything in particular?”
“Yes, a room, for six months,” I replied trying not to sound like the anxious 19 year old I was.
“There is another notice board, it’s over in the Humanities block, people often forget it’s there. You might try there.” Came the apologetic reply.
The nervous, bespectacled young man swept his greasy long hair from his face and offered to take me to it. We walked talking about the university and his geography course. He gradually loosened up as he guided me to the small pin board covered in A4 posters advertising events for various societies, amongst them though was a library index card on which in perfect handwriting was written:
Room for short term let.
1 - 6 months
Lovely house, excellent location.
149 St Logan Street
I’ve changed the name of the street for reasons you will soon understand.
The young man, whose name I forget, said he lived quite close to the house and offered to walk with me. I took him up on his offer and we strolled along past the grand Georgian townhouses. He was impressively knowledgeable about the local history and was able to tell me all about the streets we walked down. He told me about the hidden streets they had recently uncovered, which I believe you can visit today. The vaults too which he pointed out ran underneath the street the house was on.
He escorted me to the door and gave me directions to the guest house I was staying in before bidding me farewell. I climbed up the stone staircase and knocked on the immaculately painted black door. There was a clunk as the key turned in the other side of the lock and the door opened. The warmth of the house spilled out onto the street and drew me in immediately, in fact I almost ignored the tall thin man who was stood in front of me. He welcomed me in with a broad, friendly smile and invited me into the living area. The man was called Ishan, he was an exchange student in his second month in Edinburgh, he was charming and gave me a thorough tour of the house. It was beyond my expectations. On the ground floor was a large shared living area with a wonderful coal fire, the kitchen was equally large and appealing and even before I had seen the rest of the house I knew this was where I wanted to stay. Ishan had one of the three rooms on the second floor, the other two were taken by girls from France and Italy. The free room was on the second floor along with a room inhabited by a mature student from Japan and above that was an attic space that was used for storage.
The room was furnished and perfect for my needs so I was quick to ask Ishan how to contact the landlord to secure my place. He chuckled to himself and took me back downstairs to the living area.
“He is a very traditional man, he does not have a phone so we leave him letters in the tray by the door. That is where we put rent and any requests. He is excellent. He always corrects any problems very quickly. If you leave a note with your details he will get back to you.”
I did as Ishan suggested and then made my way back towards the guest house via an outstanding chippy my guide had recommended.
I had only been home a day when the letter from my new landlord arrived, it read:
I wish to inform you that your request for rental of room four has been accepted. We look forward to your arrival on the 12th January. Please ensure you pay your £50 key deposit and first month’s rent of £200 by placing it in an envelope with your name clearly marked in the tray by the front door.
You will find your room key and welcome information on the bed in your room.
I immediately penned my reply and it was in the post before the end of the day. What was to later occur makes my haste to do so seem very foolish now. However, that night I slept well knowing I had secured my lodging for the coming six months.
I arrived on the 12th of January after a pleasant train journey up the east coast viewing the frosty Northumberland countryside and the still, pond like North Sea. The contrast of this peace with the bustling Edinburgh Waverley station was remarkable and I was grateful to have made the decision to only travel with one bag as i wrestled my way off the train and down onto the manic platform. I was relieved to be out of the station but the street was not much improved and I made sure I began walking as quickly as I could. It was mid afternoon and I wanted to be settled in time to revisit the chippy for my supper.
When I arrived the door was opened by Esme the French student who greeted me like an old friend before hurrying to the kitchen to make me a coffee while I put my bag in my room. I headed straight up the stairs and found the door to my new room open. The room was spotlessly clean with the bed made and a white envelope on the end. The room was simple, one desk with a matching chair, a wardrobe with a mirror in the door, a chest of drawers and the bed with accompanying side table. I put my bag on the floor and picked up the letter.
The handwriting on the front of the envelope was the same as that of the letter I had received in the post. I opened it and removed a sheet of paper and a heavy metal key. The letter was a welcome of sorts and a set of very simple and basic rules. They were to take care of the house, treat other residents with respect, place the rent in an envelope and put it in the tray on the first of the month and on the last day of tenancy leave the room tidy and collect the deposit from the landlord who would be in the house in his small office in the attic. However I must not enter the attic at any other time. Other than that there were no other instructions or rules.
I collected my deposit and rent envelopes from my bag, placed the key in my pocket and headed to the kitchen to join Esme. As I walked past I dropped the two envelopes in the tray and peered into the living room which I saw was empty. Esme had made me a fresh French style coffee which compared to the instant budget range I was used to was like opening a window and looking into a new world. From that point I felt Esme and I would be good friends, and this was to be the case.
During that first cup of coffee I learned that she was from Marseille, was on a four month exchange and was one month into it. She was doing fashion and had weekly day trips over to Glasgow to work at the school of art over there. She was more than me in every way. Taller, older, brighter, happier and much, much more perceptive about the world. Coming from a very rigid and traditional background her alternative world view was intoxicating. Just her hair blew my mind. It was jet black and appeared to be two styles at once as on one side it was past her shoulders and the other almost as short as my own.
She was keen to tell me about the other residents, she started with Ishan, who I had already met, was a computing student from India. He had been there for four months and was due to leave at the end of the week. He was outgoing but in Esme’s opinion it hid his true insecurities about his lack of interesting things to say. In the other room on my floor was the Mature phd Student Mr Sasaki who was completing politics doctorate and was using sources on James 6th as part of his study. He had two months left and kept himself to himself. He rarely joined the rest of the house in the kitchen or living room but was apparently achingly polite and very respectful. Then there was Carolina from Italy, she like Ishan was leaving soon. She was a Geographer from Piacenza who was in her final year and was comparing Arthur’s Seat to Vesuvius. She was adventurous and hated being indoors for too long. She jogged every morning and spent most weekends heading north on the train for long walks. Esme was very fond of Carolina and when they were both in the house at the same time would talk into the early hours.
After that first encounter I almost felt I knew everyone and those initial descriptions were absolutely confirmed as I met them as the week continued. One thing did surprise me from that first day though. I had placed my rent in the tray before I went to the kitchen, when I came out after an hour it was gone. The landlord must have collected it and chosen not to introduce himself. I found that slightly odd but when I mentioned it to Esme next time I saw her she simply shrugged and said, “he’s a bit like that.” She still hadn’t met him either but had never had any problems so didn’t feel any need to seek him out.
My first week was very ordinary, despite the excitement of being in a new city. My room was simple but perfect, it was quiet and I dropped off to sleep easily every night, I had bumped into all of my housemates and was on first name terms with the man who owned the chippy. The only thing that played on my mind was the stairway there was at the end of my corridor and the door into the attic at the top.
It was always closed and nobody recalled having seen it in use. It seemed very odd to me that if it was the landlord’s office that he only used it when residents left. The mystery of the attic room was not resolved by the departure of Ishan I had hoped he would be able to tell me about the landlord after his farewell meeting to collect his deposit but I somehow missed him between him leaving his room, my going to grab my breakfast and him heading off. That evening though I did see the first signs of movement from the attic. Just before I turned my light off to go to sleep I heard movement from the stairs. I climbed out of bed and darted to the door. When I opened it and looked up the corridor the attic door was shut, though I was certain I noticed a thin sliver of light flickering in the gap beneath it.
It was the weekend after Ishan departed that Esme introduced me to the other mystery of the house. In the kitchen there was a hatch in the floor. Usually it was under a rug under the large wooden table but Esme had dropped her coffee beans on the floor and In moving the table to clean up she had uncovered it. It didn’t take us long to decide we would look into it, neither of us had a torch and so we decided to cover it up until later in the afternoon before which I would pop to the local shops to get one.
When I returned Carolina had returned from her run and was sitting in the kitchen with Esme. I had barely removed my coat before they called me into the kitchen. I put the batteries into cheap plastic torch and we were ready to go down into the basement. Esme kindly volunteered me to go down first. We lifted the hatch and peered down, the torch was surprisingly good and lit up a massive space. I climbed down the open wooden stairs sweeping the room with the torch. When I got to the bottom of the stairs Esme shouted down and when I confirmed it was safe she joined me, Carolina followed immediately after. The basement was dusty but tidy and ordered, it also seemed much larger than the footprint of the house. What was particularly remarkable were the strange arch shapes along the floor, they looked like the tops of doorways. Along the other wall were a set of shelves with pots of magnolia paint, boxes of lightbulbs, batteries and assorted tools. There were also a number of smaller wooden crates, all with lids and small brass padlocks. I had a look at them but they were dusty and looked like they had been there some time. We decided that as much as it was an interesting space there was no mystery attached and that our adventure should be concluded with coffee. I held the torch on the steps as Carolina and then Esme made their way up, half way up Esme stopped and pointed at the shelves. On top of one of the boxes were a pair of smart polished shoes.
“Aren’t they Ishan’s?”
I had never noticed his shoes in the short time we had been there had never noticed and was unable to confirm her suspicions so we made our way out of the basement and back into the kitchen for coffee.
The following week I worked flat out on my exciting new set of studies, when I was at home I spent quite a lot of time in front of the fire relaxing the Living Room with Esme and Carolina. My two new friends were keen to spend as much time as they could together as Carolina was heading back to Italy at the end of the week. Carolina was full of wonderful anecdotes which were always hilarious, even when they were incredibly mundane. I think it had a lot to do with her especially twinkling voice with its wonderful Italian lilt. She was the longest standing resident by this stage and had stories about Hector from Spain who kept getting lost and had a special card made with the address on to show to taxi drivers. The Icelandic girl Birta who was always too cold because of the “infernal rain”. And Colm from Ireland who only drank tea and Guinness and never ate, ever.
Our evenings were warm and filled with joy, though on the Wednesday Carolina seemed somewhat off her usual rhythm, Esme spotted this too and inquired. It took Carolina a moment to compose her mind, it seemed for a moment she would keep her own counsel but with a small embarrassed cough she began.
“I didn’t sleep too well last night. I had a dream. It was horrible. There was fire, and I was running away from it, down a corridor and the walls, they burned and the fire followed me. There was a man at the end of the corridor, an old man with pale skin and long grey hair. As I got closer I could see he was smiling and beckoning me. I was as scared of him as of the fire but I kept running towards him.
His smile was wrong. I don’t know why but it was wrong. Oh and his eyes were too big. But when I got close he started opening his mouth and it was too wide. I can’t stop thinking about it. It was horrible. But then I woke up. Thing is I never dream, but this. This was awful.”
Esme grabbed her hand and squeezed it.
“I am next door if you are scared.”
Carolina smiled and thanked her before departing onto an anecdote about a former resident whose snoring woke the whole house. We laughed together and I made my way to bed before the girls did. I heard them chuckling away as I nodded off to sleep. Before I did I heard one of them break into what sounded like a cackle it made me start briefly but I was so tired I paid it no attention.
Friday was Carolina’s last day and both Esme and I needed to be in University early so we prepared a very early breakfast in bed for her, said our goodbyes to her and helped her prepare her room and then left her to complete her final checks before she handed over the key.
When I returned she had gone and the house seemed a little emptier. However as I prepared myself a snack Mr Sasaki walked in with a young Irishman who was hoping to take Ishan’s room by the following weekend. I introduced myself and he seemed quiet and charming, I was pleased to know that there would be another person in the house, especially someone close to my own age who might want an occasional trip to the pub to watch the football.
Finn was a great addition to the house, even If he didn’t really like football. He was going to be there until not long after me and it felt that l was becoming a part of the furniture as he would ask me where things were and how to do things. He was a tonic for Esme too as she was still feeling the absence of Carolina and with her own return home fast approaching helping Finn settle she needed something to take her mind off it.
Life went on in its pleasantly mundane way for a couple of weeks before the spectre of another departure loomed, this time it was Esme. She had been preparing herself for it making self deprecating jokes about the house returning to a smell of tea and crumpets rather than coffee an croissants. She was due to leave on the Monday morning and so we planned to share a meal and some drinks on the Saturday night. Neither Finn or I saw her all day on Saturday morning and we were both equally shocked by her appearance when she joined us in the kitchen around midday. Her complexion was far paler than I had ever seen her, her eyes were red and her hair was chaotic, so different from her usual effortless perfection.
“Are you unwell?” I enquired.
She wrapped her arms tightly around herself and shook her head.
“No, I, I did not sleep well.” She replied.
I was about to ask but she looked me in the eyes and locked her gaze.
“It was him, the man Carolina saw, he came to my dream. I was in the same corridor and he was there, smiling at me and beckoning me. He was awful. I was so scared.”
I walked over to her and put my arm around her shoulder before guiding her to a seat at the kitchen table and sitting her down.
“You can’t have dreamed exactly the same thing, surely?” I said in a poor attempt to calm her nerves. Her response was swift and unnerving.
“I know it was, and it wasn’t a dream. I could feel the heat from the flames. It was not like any dream I’ve ever had.”
She shivered as she said this and dropped her face into her hands. She paused for a moment then lifted up her head with defiance.
“It was a dream, let’s make today count. Coffee?”
She was as good as her word and that Saturday Esme, Finn and I toured all of her favourite parts of the city, unsurprisingly many were close to very unique and unusual cafes. We had a fantastic meal that we cooked together and relaxed with a bottle or two of red wine. It was a memorable if not remarkable evening and we talked into the early hours. The following day Esme spent most of her day packing, Finn was out for the day with a University Society and I knuckled down to some of the work I gad been judiciously putting off for a few weeks. We met briefly and said our goodbyes before retiring to our rooms and that was it, the following morning I was awake early and into the University and by the time I returned her room was vacated with the door and windows open.
Of everyone who left the house Esme left the biggest hole. It was almost instant, the evening she left the house felt sad and quiet. When I went to bed I could hear every creak under my feet as I walked up the stairs, the clanks of the radiators sounded incredibly loud and I could even hear the wind moving through the guttering. As I lay on my bed every spring that stretched creaked and twanged and kept me awake. I closed my eyes, found a comfortable position and tried to relax enough to drop off. I thought I was tiring but the noises were there and I just couldn’t block them out, I tried concentrating on my breathing but that made me notice how loud my breathing was. Then I heard something out of the ordinary. I wasn’t certain but it sounded just like crying, quiet muffled sobs. At first I wasn’t sure but as I focused on them I became more convinced, but they were the cries of a woman and right now there were only men in the house. I opened my eyes and looked into my dark room. There was little light coming through the curtains so my room was very dark. From experience I knew where everything was and tried to identify the desk and the wardrobe, but as I did I felt the uneasy certainty that from the corner of the room I was being watched. I looked in the direction I thought my unwelcome guest was standing and for a moment I was sure I saw a blue reflection of eyes staring out of the darkness at me. I grabbed at the bedside lamp and pushed the switch. The room lit up to show me that nobody was there. The room fell silent and I could no longer make out the sounds I had before. I turned over, choosing not to turn the light off and fell into a restless sleep.
Little of any great note took place during the next few weeks, Mr Sasaki left, though neither Finn or I really noticed he had gone. Two new tenants arrived, a very austere professor from Oxford and a lady from Norway who spoke little English and wasn’t keen to try so Finn and I found ourselves relying on each other more and more. We made an effort to join each other for a chip supper at least once a week and it was on one of these occasions, as we were standing in the queue I spotted the student who I had met on that first day. I was surprised he remembered me and after getting talking I recalled his mention of the vaults. This sparked a thought in my mind, were those arch shapes in the basement parts of the old vaults. This, understandably fired an interest and it resulted in me inviting him to join us with his own supper and I could show both he and Finn the basement.
After we had eaten I went to my room to collect my torch. Finn disappeared too and returned with a similarly small and dim torch. We moved the table and pulled back the rug to reveal the door. I pulled it open and climbed down into the dark. I flicked on my torch, climbed to the bottom and waited for the other two to follow me down.
After inspecting the arches for a few moments we collectively agreed that the house was most likely sat above the vaults and we speculated what might be under our feet before deciding we should probably climb out as it was very cold.
Finn wandered over to the shelves and aimlessly ran his torch along them. Halfway along he stopped and held the dim beam on one spot.
“Is that what I think it is?” He said.
I looked at where he was pointing the torch and walked closer to get a better view. I shone my torch on the spot and immediately recognised what was there. It was Esme’s coffee pot. It was absolutely unmistakable.
Finn walked over and picked it up. It was definitely hers, he inspected it carefully under the dim light holding it by the handle and turning it round.
“She would never have left this, surely?” Finn said with and unusual quiver to his voice. I was about to reply when from above us came a loud creak indicating there was someone walking about above us.
Finn put the pot back and we bundled up the stairs to see who was above us in the kitchen. I was up first and found, to my surprise the kitchen was empty, this realisation brought a knot to my stomach. I darted into the hall and looked up and down the corridor, it was empty. If there had been someone in the kitchen they would not have been able to avoid being seen in the corridor.
Finn was now stood in the kitchen and he looked at me. I shrugged and I saw his eyes widen.
“It’s an old house, opening the basement must have an effect on the floorboards.” I suggested hopefully to which my friends readily agreed. We shut the door, replaced the rug and pushed the table back in place. We never spoke about it again.
The next few weeks went back to their regular pattern and I soon forgot about the basement, I say forgot, I perhaps ignored carelessly as there was something about the way I felt about the house that had changed. I found sleep much harder to come by, every unexpected creak had intent, I had enjoyed my time in the house, and indeed in Edinburgh but it was time to go home. When my final week arrived I was ready to head south again.
I was leaving on the Saturday morning and as it was a long journey I had booked an early train. Finn and I planned to go to the pub on Friday and pushed our chip supper forward to the Thursday but it was Wednesday that the house seemed to want to bid me farewell. I had returned from University later than usual and after eating I only had about an hour before the time I would usually retire. There was nobody in the living room so I decided to head to my room early and read for a while.
I had been lying on my bed reading for about twenty minutes when I suddenly began to feel cold. The chill in the room was made more uncomfortable by the sensation that again there was someone else in the room watching me. I put my book down and scanned around the room. There was clearly nobody there, however something caught my eye. On my desk there was an envelope, I couldn’t believe I had not noticed it when I retrieved my book from it earlier. I put my book down on the bed, got up and walked over to the desk.
The handwriting on the envelope was unmistakable, I opened it up and read the letter within.
Many thanks for your impeccable tenancy. I would be much obliged if when leaving on Saturday that you join me in my office in the upper room so I can return your deposit. I would be grateful if you bring your key so I may prepare for the next tenant.
There was something about the manner of this that unnerved me. When had it been placed there, had the landlord made a habit of coming into my room? I put the note back into the envelope, checked my door was locked and returned to my bed. I tried to read but my mind was far too distracted. I instead finished my packing and then readied for bed.
I turned the main light off and climbed under my sheets in the light of the bedside lamp. It was a warm June evening and I had the window open. Usually I could hear the noise from the street but tonight it was conspicuously absent. My room was silent and still, it made me feel somewhat nervous and this apprehension gave me the sense that I would struggle to sleep. This was compounded by the unusual scratching noise that slowly and inexorably moved its way from my door the instant I switched off the light. My body took over from my brain and I froze. I could hear the scratching move closer and closer, it was not like that of a scrabbling mouse or rat, nor like a dog or cat padding their way to me but more like the long fingernails of someone dragging themselves across my bedroom floor. I could hear it move past the end of my bed and scrape along it’s length to my head. When it reached the end it stopped and there was nothing.
I waited for those unseen fingers to climb up my bedsheet and onto my face. I waited. Eyes wide open I waited. But it never came. I lay frozen looking up at the ceiling for what seemed like hours but could have only been seconds. My muscles tensed waiting for something terrible, but it never came and as my body became unfrozen again I felt every sinew relax and with that instantaneous relaxation came a surprising slumber.
For all the waking experiences were terrifying they paled into insignificance in comparison with those while awake. I can’t recollect how I moved from my conscious bed to the unconscious corridor but I was there. It was long, the walls were panelled with dark oak, the floor white tiles stretched out in front of me and the light was a strange artificial yellow that pulsed like a broken strip light, but above me were no lights, only the same panelling as the walls. Gradually my eyes adjusted to the light and I could see at the end of the corridor a figure, I could not make out any features but I felt immediately repelled. I turned to walk the other way but when I did I was facing it again as if I had not turned round at all. I turned again and the same thing happened. Then without warning I felt a warmth in my hands, I looked at them and saw that the walls were ablaze. Instinctively I began to walk forward to move away but it moved with me, the faster I walked the more it moved. I had momentarily forgotten about the figure but one glance up showed me how much closer I had got.
Now I could make out it’s features. It was a man with long lank grey hair that passed he’s shoulders and fell awkwardly across his face. He had a rounded head with colourless skin and his eyes bulged from it, the skin around his eyes straining and turning a dark shade of purple. His nose was unremarkable if only slightly pointed but it was his mouth that turned this odd figure into one of terror. He smiled with thin pale lips, a broad and menacing smile, but with each passing moment the smile broadened, initially passed the line of his pupils, then to the corner of his eyes and then slowly deeper and deeper into his cheeks.
The fire made standing still unbearable but his hideous appearance made it unthinkable to move towards him. The heat made my decision for me and I moved as slowly as I could bear. He lifted his right arm and for the first time I noticed he was wearing a suit, all black, with a white shirt underneath and a black tie. At the end of his sleeves were black cuff links which appeared to do more than just hold his cuffs together as his hands seemed so wrinkled and old they might simply break off. He extended his index finger and I noticed that his nails were long, yellow and dirty. With that finger he beckoned me and his smile widened to almost the width of his face. I shuffled unwillingly towards him and as I got closer I could see just how poorly his skin was drawn over his bones.
I tried to stay out of his arms as he lifted his left too and reached out to me. I felt the movement of air as he swiped his fingers in front of my face, then he opened his huge mouth and I saw a row of thin needle like teeth on both of his thin receding gums arranged like trees after a hurricane and just at the point his long nails brushed my cheek I awoke with a start and was lying on my bed, covered in sweat.
I lay panting for a moment before I quickly rolled over and checked my watch that was sitting on the bedside table. It was 10.30am on Thursday, not only had I slept the whole night I had overslept. I rapidly readied myself and made it into University on time for my penultimate seminar, how much of what was discussed I took in I cannot say but I was there and continued my impeccable record of attendance. I made it through the day exhausted and drained before arriving home to meet with Finn to walk to the chip shop for our dinner. I chose not to share my experiences with him, something I now feel much remorse for.
Friday was a pleasant day, I was given a kindly farewell by my academic colleagues and the trip to the pub with Finn was a genial as imagined but returning back to my empty, packed up room left me feeling suddenly very uncomfortable. When I climbed into bed I was grateful of the sound of the passing traffic as it gradually helped me off to sleep.
My alarm woke me on time and I quickly packed my last few items away before breakfasting simply and returning to my room for one last check, then it was time for my final task, returning my key and recovering my deposit, I picked the key up from my desk and opened my door, I looked up the corridor and at the stairs that went up to the room the landlord called his office. I noticed a light under the door which indicated the landlord had already arrived. As I stepped onto the corridor there was a click as for the first time since I arrived at the house the door to the attic room slowly swung open. I stopped. I don’t know why, but I stopped. Something felt wrong. I went back into my room, grabbed my bag, threw the key on the bed and fled.
I did not look back up the corridor, I ran down the stairs without turning, unlocked the front door and bundled down the steps onto the street below. Immediately I felt a sense of enormous relief. I closed my eyes for a moment and then looked back at the house. What was I thinking? It was just a house. My eyes moved up the wall, passed the closed curtains of the first floor, my open ones on the second then up to the small window in the attic. I froze. There, at the small window was a face I recognised, it was him, that thing from my dreams, it’s mouth still smiling but the eyes told a different tale, there was menace, anger and fierce resentment. I threw my bag over my shoulder and ran all the way to the railway station.
This is my greatest regret. I can never forgive myself for it, I had saved myself but had knowingly left my friend Finn at the mercy of whatever was in that house. I wrote to the house and received no reply, I wrote to the University in the hope of it being passed on to him, hopefully it did, but I heard no reply. I have tried to find Esme and Carolina through various Alumni societies and more recently through the internet but it has proved fruitless. I have even returned to Edinburgh and tried to find the house but there is no 149 St Logan Street. It hasn’t been knocked down, or even redeveloped, there is a 147 and a 151 but they sit perfectly next to each other. I don’t know what happened to me in those six months, and I truly hope all that was lost was my deposit but I will always have that thought lying at the back of my mind, smiling in the dark.