Winter Rain, part 62

The gravel drive opens up into a clearing of stone pavers, set against a wall of rough, grey field stone. There are three cars parked in the clearing—all big, and all very expensive-looking—and we roll to a stop behind the last of them. It seems unlikely he’s home alone. Not unless he keeps a lot more cars than he needs.

From the look of it, the place really is an old monastery or something—low and long, all stone and slate, tucked into the forest like a place forgotten. The outer wall disappears into the trees to the left, and a tall stone tower pokes up above the roofline from somewhere on the far side of the structure. Narrow lancet windows—all dark—peek out through the stone at random intervals around a wide archway, about a dozen paces in from the car park.

I look around as Brennan kills the engine, but there are no dogs in sight. In fact, save for the parked cars, the place could be abandoned.

I open my door and climb out, and Keely follows behind.

The air is damp and cool in my nose, scented strongly with wood smoke and decaying leaves. Somewhere in the middle distance, probably around the far end of the structure, I can hear the muffled sound of water running over stones.

“We go in?” Brennan asks, as he quietly shuts his door.

I glance at Keely—whose eyes are fixed on the archway—then around into the trees . . . but there’s no one about. I nod to Brennan.

I take the lead as I round the car, and we follow the pathway along the wall. The few windows are a bit too high for me to see in, and the effect leaves me uneasy, as if we’re being watched from behind, but I resist the urge to turn and check.

Within the archway, two massive, intricately carved wooden doors stand open, inwards, revealing a stone stairway up into a tree-lined inner courtyard. Warm light fills the space, cast from wrought-iron lanterns on either side. Under different circumstances, it would probably feel welcoming. But we aren’t welcome guests. Not yet, anyway.

“This the way?” I ask without turning, as I pause at the threshold. But I already know the answer.

“Yeah—up the stairs and to the left. There’s a door with a bell,” Keely says, stopping beside me.

I smile to myself—at least she’s figured that part out. I look to Brennan, but he just shrugs, so I step through.

At the top of the stairs, we emerge into a covered walkway that runs most of the way around the courtyard, supported by carved stone pillars. To the left, a short way down, there’s another heavy wooden door.

Across the courtyard, something grey, shaggy, and huge climbs to its feet and begins to stalk toward us.

I can’t imagine how Torrin will react when we introduce ourselves over his dead wolfhound, but I have a sinking feeling we’re going to find out.