Jake almost missed the narrow gravel drive that broke through the tightly packed cedars that had lined both sides of the road for the past two miles. He hit the brakes too hard, causing the front end of the aging ford truck to dip, and skidded to a stop just past the gravel drive. No need to worry about being rear-ended, he had only seen a handful of vehicles since he turned off the highway at Northfield village, over an hour ago.
Jake squinted at the faded sign beside the drive. Black Forest Furniture, est.1944. This was the place. After a moments hesitation, Jake backed the ford up and drove in.
After driving a short distance, the cedars closed in over the road and Jake had to turn on the headlights.
His uncle's lawyer had told him he would have to drive about half a mile through the cedar forest, before he came to the furniture factory. Past the factory the road would curve around a big rock outcropping. Following the road around the rock he would see several houses, before the road came to a dead end at a steep, heavily wooded ridge. The house at the end of the road was the one his uncle Raymond had left him.
Jake drove up a short but steep hill, then the cedars abruptly thinned out, to reveal the furniture factory, a long low wooden building that looked very old but in good repair.
Jake was startled to see what looked like gas streetlamps, and a row of small, nearly identical houses that couldn't have been built any later than the forties. Had he driven backward in time as he drove through the cedars? Then he remembered what the lawyer had said.
“Don't let the look of the place throw you.” The lawyer, Jason Burrows, was a bear of a man, tall and barrel-chested with thick hair and a full beard. His mountain man looks
seemed a strange contrast to his chatty disposition. He had known Jake's uncle Raymond since their days together in university.
“There's electricity and phone service, even indoor plumbing. Cell phones don't work too well though, big hills all around the area, and the nearest cell tower's probably halfway to Northfield.” Burrows picked up the documents Jake had just signed, flipped through them.
“This house your uncle Ray left you, it belonged to the Schultz family. Actually, they own the furniture factory and all the houses along your road, and a sizable portion of the wooded acreage around them. They lost a lot of business in the last downturn, almost lost their factory. They had to sell their house to your uncle to stay in business.
Awful big place for a guy on his own, but Ray said he had to get away from the distractions of the city to finish his book. You writers are such lone wolves!” Burrows thumped Jake on the back playfully.
“You should be able to get some writing done, the Schultzes and their workers keep to themselves. Did I mention they rent out all their houses to their employees? You'll be the only one on the street that doesn't work for them. Anyhow, it's a damn shame about your uncle Ray and I hope his place works out for you." Burrows held out a huge hand for Jake to shake.
No one was in sight as Jake drove by the row of houses, and the curtains on the windows were drawn. He thought he saw movement at the edge of the curtain in one of the houses, but couldn't be sure.
The row of houses came to an end but the road continued. Because of the curve of the road and the rock, he couldn't see very far ahead. Had he misunderstood the directions? Should he turn around or ?
Suddenly the road straightened out and ended. At the house. Jake stood on the brakes and stopped the truck, still twenty yards short of the house. He left the engine running and sat in the truck, eying his new home. What had he gotten himself into?