Many of the shops along Tremont Street had grinning illuminated jack’o’lanterns in their windows and bunches of cornstalks that rustled in the night breeze by their doors. Gold twinkle lights wrapped around lamp posts and decorated trees. Whoever had strung the lights in the trees did so in such a haphazard manner that they appeared to have been placed there by a wizard too drunk to operate his magic wand. Though all the little trick-or-treaters were gone from the street, adult revelers in costume were everywhere. Music spilled out of bars and restaurants and the cool night was festive in a nerve-wracking way.
On the Common a group of musicians dressed in black outfits with glowing white skeletons on them played music by the Visitor’s Center. A pushcart vendor sold hot mulled cider and pumpkin cookies to ghosts and zombies, mermaids and monsters. Viv cut across the Common and, once she crossed Beacon Street to the Hill, all the noise seemed to fall away. In the glow of gaslight she saw that many of the houses had pumpkins on their doorsteps and in their flower boxes, but the decorations were mostly natural and discreet. Walking past number eight Walnut Street, Viv noticed someone had spread cob webs between the columns on either side of the door and she could not help thinking of George Parkman who once lived there and the grisly way he was murdered. It was not a good night to think about gruesome murders. She walked faster and turned down Mount Vernon Street.
A few lights were on in Ramin’s house—the sort of low, subtle lights that anyone would leave on while they were away. Viv hurried around the corner and entered the little alley behind the house. Except for the dim glow of windows the alley was dark. Shifting, moody clouds broke to reveal a brilliant crescent moon that was just as quickly swallowed by another cloud. As she approached the iron gate to Ramin’s back garden, Viv saw that it was closed and that his Aston-Martin was gone. She stood for a minute trying to decide what to do and, as she did, she heard footsteps behind her. Someone entered the alley and, instinctively, she ducked between the wall of the garage and an old lilac bush. The shadowy figure was large and walked briskly. She worked herself into the shelter of the garage’s side door and held her breath.