The Harsh Mistress - Lyonesse

According to Hank Crandall’s GPS, the little house did not exist. The last home on this street was supposed to be number 87, but there it was: Number 89. Its white aluminum siding was in need of a good power wash, and the landscaping had gone to hell from neglect. As near as he could figure, 89 Cedarcliff Road was in his sales area.

He parked his old Toyota in the cracked, empty driveway and lugged the sample vacuum cleaner out of the back seat, through the overgrown grass, and up the stairs to the stoop. Looking at his reflection in the streaky glass of the storm door, he adjusted his tie and ran his hands through his mussed hair before ringing the bell.

It had been a slow month. His commission would be practically nil – which would make the big boss, Mr. Potts, happy. The lack of sales, however, would not do the same. Surely, someone wanted to buy the quality cleaning instrument which is the Velocity Vac 3700!

Maybe in this house.

The interior screen door was whisked open. The short, white-haired man had a surprised look in his eyes. He took a couple of cautious steps forward and eased the storm door open, which Crandall then held in place with his hip.

Hank launched into his sales pitch: “Good afternoon, sir,” he repeated by rote. “My name is Hank Crandall, and I represent Potts Industries, Inc., makers of the –”

“How did you get here?” the man interrupted nervously, his eyes darting about the outside world as though it was all new to him.

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