He gazed across the street at a house indistinguishable, except in detail, from the ones on either side. It had a door of a green so dark that it was almost black, with its number-139-picked out in plain brass characters. To one side and above it were symmetrically proportioned windows, their light lending a haze of warmth to the chill November dusk. Framed within them he could see an interior of clean lines and ordered spaces; from where he stood he had an angular glimpse of paintings, furniture, and works of art arranged in what looked like a pleasing mixture of the antique and the new.
It was a prospect that he would normally have found inviting, but all he felt now was a profound apprehension, verging on dread, of what and who he was about to meet in there.
Sam had spoken to Ralph Cazaubon on the phone only once-less than an hour ago. He knew nothing of him apart from what Joanna had told him, which did not include the fact that they were married. “My wife” was how Cazaubon had referred to her. It made no sense that Joanna and this man should be married, and it filled him with an aching sense of something far more disquieting than jealousy, and to which he could not yet give a name.
He noticed a couple of passersby dart a curious glance in his direction, and realized that he had lost track of how long he had been standing there. A few minutes at most. He waited as a cab picked up a fare in front of him and pulled away, then stepped off the curb.
The house seemed to grow, filling his field of vision as he approached. He had the fleeting impression that it was reaching out to him, enfolding him, preparing to absorb him. He felt a moment of irrational panic, but forced himself on without breaking his stride.
As a scientist, Sam was committed to a rational response to all things. Reason and logic, he believed, were the only tools at man's disposal in any attempt he might make to penetrate the mystery of his being; though how far they could take him on that quest was becoming, at least to Sam, increasingly open to doubt. These past months had seen the widening of a gulf between things that had happened and any ability he may once have had to make sense of them. It was a gulf into which the shadow land of superstition had begun to insinuate itself, spreading into every corner of his mind like the gray mist of the Manhattan twilight that settled all around him into every crack and crevice of the city.