A few years back, there was a construction project taking place next door to our house, on the lot that had once contained the old Drackenstein place. Well, it wasn’t so much a construction project, as a lot of fencing and sand-piles and a little planning shed and a bunch of people coming and going. And it wasn’t so much taking place as just, sort of, existing. And then nothing really got constructed.
I guess you could say it was our kind of construction project.
Anyway, the regulars at the little planning shed were four guys, I guess they were architects or something. They’d usually show up very early in the morning – so early, in fact, that I usually only saw them arrive when I was staying up late. They’d come along in cars, three of them arriving more or less together and then the fourth arriving a bit after that. They had a pretty set routine so it was more or less the same every day, and the living room window looked out on the lot so I could see them arriving. Two cars would park side-by-side, then a third would park in the other corner of the yard, leaving space for the fourth car in between.
The interesting part was the fourth car.
I’m not sure if it was because he was a bit of a perfectionist, or paranoid about hitting the other cars, or what it was. But the fourth guy invariably took a solid ten or fifteen minutes parking his car. He’d back in meticulously, he’d pull forwards and adjust a little, he’d back in again, he’d straighten up and go forward and back again. Sometimes he’d get as far as opening his door, sometimes even walk away from the car and look back, but he’d always be unsatisfied, he’d always go back and shift his car’s placement or angle.
Eventually, it would be just-so and he would be satisfied, and he’d go into the planning shed and, I can only assume, drink coffee and watch TV with his three co-workers until quittin’ time at the end of the day. I’m sure they were making great plans in there, but those plans never saw the light of day. And really, when you think about it – if their job was planning, then they did their jobs, didn’t they? It was the implementation guys who dropped the ball.
You just think about that.
After a few months the site was abandoned again, the little shed was hoisted up onto the back of a truck and driven off, and Drackenstein’s place was left to collapse in … well, I suppose this is a perfect opportunity to say that the stately manor collapsed in a stately manner, and I would be foolish to pass that up.
But shortly before that, something had happened. Something had happened to that fourth worker.
Two weeks before they upped stumps and moved on – I remember, it was a Monday because I’d been up all night watching Sunday Schlock With Spookerella – his car pulled into the spot left for it between the others. And that was it. It pulled in, he switched it off, got out and strolled over to the planning shed.
The next day, and Wednesday, he parked with his usual fifteen-minute adjustment routine.
Thursday, he swept in and got out and walked.
Friday, the adjustment ritual.
The final week, every single day he parked without alteration or hesitation, just car-in and car-off and stroll-to-shed. After that week, none of them ever came back.
And that was how I knew.
I didn’t know exactly what I knew. He seemed to be the same guy, physically at least. Was it a body-snatcher pod-people possession type thing, or was it a shapeshifter changeling imitator type thing, or was it a more deep-seated psychological event like a buried personality or a Mister Hyde type thing? What did he do to his co-workers? What happened to the development project? What was the real story?
I didn’t find out any of that. One thing I’ve learned, after years in this business, is that you can’t investigate ‘em all. You can’t save everybody, and you can’t solve every mystery. Some things just have to be stamped DONE ENOUGH, to allow you to move on with the rest.
But I knew.