First Sighting

The sharp rhythmic beeping stops, and a solitary tone an octave higher sounds; a red light on the device turns off, a green light illuminates. I exhale, then turn my attention to the kitchen.

There’s a panel of switches next to the garage service door, and I flip all of them up, flooding the kitchen with light. The kitchen looks like a museum, the marbled counter tops and island clean and clear, no dirty dishes or garbage in sight. Light reflects brightly off the appliances and floors, no fingerprints or smudges in sight; it seems abnormally clean, like the room has never actually been visited by humans. I have to test this hypothesis, so I walk over to the refrigerator, open the door. Milk and orange juice, both partially empty; canned beverages, bottles of dressings and condiments, cold cuts, leftovers in plastic containers. Well, there’s my proof of human habitation.

A wide doorway leads to a carpeted living room, as immaculate as the kitchen. The room is furnished with a large leather sofa, a recliner on either side. On the strategically arranged tables are vases of plastic flowers and small framed pictures; I don’t recognize any of the pictured faces. I scan the walls, adorned with posters of European art, nothing I haven’t —

On the wall behind me, I find a large photograph. A couple, bride and groom, embracing each other in front of a gazebo, a lake in the background. The man is unmistakably Murph.

I walk up to the photograph, studying the woman. She looks in her early thirties, as does Murph. Curly brown hair, face narrow and lean. Short. It’s the first time I’ve seen an image of Stephanie, and she’s stunning, just like I’d expect from a happy bride.

Or a very good actress. I turn, head up the carpeted stairs leading to the second floor.

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