In a quiet neighborhood just west of Embassy Row in Washington, there exists a medieval-style walled garden whose roses, it is said, spring from twelfth-century plants. The gardens Carderock gazeboknown as Shadow Housesits elegantly amid meandering pathways of stones dug from George Washingtons private quarry.
Tonight the silence of the gardens was broken by a young man who rushed through the wooden gate, shouting as he came.
Hello? he called out, straining to see in the moonlight. Are you in here?
The voice that replied was frail, barely audible. In the gazebo . . . just taking some air.
The young man found his withered superior seated on the stone bench beneath a blanket. The hunched old man was tiny, with elfin features. The years had bent him in two and stolen his eyesight, but his soul remained a force to be reckoned with.
Catching his breath, the young man told him, I just . . . took a call . . . from your friend . . .
Oh? The old man perked up. About what?
He didnt say, but he sounded like he was in a big hurry. He told me he left you a message on your voice mail, which you need to listen to right away.
Thats all he said?
Not quite. The young man paused. He told me to ask you a question. A very strange question. He said he needed your response right away.
The old man leaned closer. What question?
As the young man spoke Mr. Bellamys question, the pall that crossed the old mans face was visible even in the moonlight. Immediately, he threw off his blanket and began struggling to his feet.
Please help me inside. Right away.