For those of you hoping for some violence, we'll be getting to that next week. Meanwhile, one more episode of muttering creepiness and potential evil and all that. But we'll have some good old honest brutality soon.
The effect that I'm not sure about, but trying for, is sort of borrowed from the genre of fairy tales. Famously, and pointed out by everybody since the mid 1800s, fairy tales begin in a mundane world (wood choppers and huntsmen and all that) and then lurch into the magical realm (or romance, to use the older word for "a space where everything is complex and meaningful and symbol is fused onto reality.") So what I'm trying to do here is to give Hal a too-complex, too-busy, ordinary life, and get a large cast of characters introduced because that's the kind of social world Hal lives in. That means a slow start, which is assuredly uncommercial. Thanks to all you patient people who have kept reading ... really, truly, we are almost at the Gates of Romance.
Meanwhile, though, here's more of Hal and Stacy and the surrounding cloud of impending ominous mystery.