One night in November, Beatrice was sitting in the restaurant at half past midnight, right in the middle of the notorious haunted hour. Her desperate hunger had driven her out of her flat into the darkness, the cold and the danger. Inside the restaurant she was safe as the owner had promised to defend her if necessary, but it would soon be closing time and she was far too shy to ask him to accompany her the short distance to the street where she lived. He would either laugh at her or take it as a sexual invitation, which would be very unpleasant. And what would the neighbors think if she was seen in the street with a strange man at this hour? A single woman living in a small town had to be careful with her reputation.


She had eaten her dessert and only a glass of water remained. If she stayed too long with just a glass of water, it might seem to the other guests that she was having some kind of affair with the owner and was only waiting for them to leave. It would be best if she could persuade herself to go home at once and enter the genuine safety provided by a locked outer door. But her insecure feelings made her stay alone at her table. She imagined that just now there was something evil moving outside in the cold night. Perhaps it would leave in another five minutes and then she could go home.

"You are not rational, Beatrice," she said to herself in anger.

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