"It's...it's not far from here," You stammer. You're still not sure if you should be giving out this information. Wouldn't it be better if I could check out the place on my own first? What am I doing? You think to yourself. But it's too late; Joe is staring at you intensely, waiting for you to tell him more.
"Where is it? How far?"
"It's on the outskirts of the city; a ten minute drive maybe."
"We can walk." Joe begins gathering up his cards and packing his table away. You've noticed a distinct change about him; a determination, an urgency.
"It's a nice night." He shoots you a half smile; a weak attempt at disguising his newly discovered conviction.
Neither of you say much else as you make your way to the edge of town, as though the conversation has become stunted. The dim street lights give the sidewalks an eerie, deserted feeling; the surrounding areas are dark and cryptic. There is little noise other than two sets of sneakered feet hitting the concrete at even intervals. Joe walks with his head down, hands inserted almost nervously into his pockets, slightly hunched from the backpack on his back.
Some twenty-five minutes later you come to a halt at a small T-intersection. Looking left then right, you steal a glance at Joe. His face is expressionless. "I think it's up this way." You look into the distance on your right.
You both begin walking up the poorly maintained street, potholes and crumbling asphalt everywhere. The right side of the street is lined with a number of rapidly dilapidating houses, small and insignificant; no doubt, matching the inhabitants. On the left is an expanse of thick forest, obscure and unforgiving.
Leading up into the forest, only a few feet away from you, is a small gravel road. A pitiful sign stands crookedly in the ground, proclaiming it to be Dontin Road. You look down at the slip of paper that had been crumpled in your pocket. "This is it."
Joe accepts this information without question and leads the way up the narrow road. You reluctantly follow.
With trees looming on either side, there isn't much to see. But just a minute or two of walking and a small cottage curves into your view. It appears to be in good condition but it's hard to tell in the waning moonlight. You notice that there are no lights on anywhere in the house.
"It doesn't look like anyone's home." You state, aiming to kill the silence. Joe doesn't respond. You walk a little closer, leaving Joe behind to explore, and peer into a window. There isn't much to see save for a few pieces of furniture in an otherwise bare room. "I don't think anyone has lived here for awhile." You voice your observation. Again, Joe does not respond. "Joe?" You turn around and gaze into the darkness. Joe is nowhere to be seen. "Joe?" You shout a little louder. You drop your voice to a whisper, "Nicolas?"