The Search for the House

He sat back, lit a cigarette, and turned to other work, till, somewhere about half-past eight, Pewitt also rang up. Pewitt was a young fellow who was being tried on the mere mechanics of this kind of work, and he had been sent up to the Finchley Road not more than two hours earlier, having been engaged on another job for most of the day. His voice now sounded depressed and worried.

"Pewitt speaking," he said, when the Commissioner had announced himself. "I'm--I'm in rather a hole, sir. I--we--can't find the house."

"Can't what ?" his chief asked.

"Can't find the house, sir," Pewitt repeated. "I know it sounds silly, but it's the simple truth. It doesn't seem to be there."

The Assistant Commissioner blinked at the telephone. "Are you mad or merely idiotic, Pewitt?" he asked. "I did think you'd got the brains of a peewit, anyhow, if not much more. Have you lost the address I gave you or what?"

"No, sir," Pewitt said, "I've got the address all right--Lord Mayor's Street. It was a chemist's, you said. But there doesn't seem to be a chemist's there. Of course, the fog makes it difficult, but still, I don't think it is there."

"The fog?" the Commissioner said.

"It's very thick up here in North London," Pewitt answered, "very thick indeed."

"Are you sure you're in the right street?" his chief asked.

"Certain, sir. The constable on duty is here too. He seems to remember the shop, sir, but he can't find it, either. All we can find, sir, is--"

"Stop a minute," the Commissioner interrupted. He rang his bell and sent for a Directory; then, having found it, he went on. "Now go ahead. Where do you begin?"

"George Giddings, grocer."


"Samuel Murchison, confectioner."


"Mrs. Thorogood, apartments."

"Damn it, man," the Commissioner exploded, "you've just gone straight over it. Dimitri Lavrodopoulos, chemist."

"But it isn't, sir," Pewitt said unhappily. "The fog's very thick, but we couldn't have missed a whole shop."

"But Colonel Conyers has been there," the Commissioner shouted, "been there and talked with this infernal fellow. Good God above, it must be there! You're drunk, Pewitt."

"I feel as if I was, sir," the mournful voice said, "groping about in this, but I'm not. I've looked at the Directory myself, sir, and it's all right there. But it's not all right here. The house has simply disappeared."

Charles Williams
War in Heaven (1930)

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