Ray Brannigan opens his eyes at the stroke of six o’clock. The last two days play like a newsreel in his mind as he absentmindedly follows his early-morning routine. Nattily attired with hair combed and teeth brushed, Ray heads down to the barbershop, removes another two-hundred dollars from the lockbox, and heads off to his favorite greasy spoon for breakfast.
Ten o’clock finds Ray ascending the stairs of Philosophy Hall, eager to obtain the letter of introduction provided by Columbia University professor, Rudolph Pearson. Entering the office, he exchanges brief niceties with the secretary and gladly accepts the envelope. Getting back in his truck, he briefly stops to buy a map and provisions, and then begins the eight-hour trek to Kingsport, Massachusetts.
The long, lonely drive with nothing to do but think is not what the doctor ordered. Although he feels sure that he’s doing the right thing, Ray can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the needle-in-a-haystack nature of his journey.
Dusk is descending upon Kingsport as Ray drives in to town. He decides to use the remaining light to his advantage, and begins driving up and down various streets, taking in the local flavor and looking for a place to stay. As evening approaches, Ray drives up to Mother Gamble’s Boarding House – a plain, little three-story on Mason Street. He knocks on the door and is greeted by a middle-aged woman, who appraises him cautiously.
“Rooms are sixty dollars a month – fifteen dollars a week,” Mother Gamble begins, authoritatively. “Breakfast is served at seven o’clock, lunch at noon, and supper at six. I lock up at nine o’clock – you’ll want to be in your room if you don’t want to sleep outside.”
Smiling slightly at the strict landlady, Ray hands over fifteen dollars and is shown to his room. He lies down in the bed, sipping from his flask and reading a book. Before long, he is fast-asleep.