Serial Saturday: The Figurine, Part 2

“Easy now, boys,” Jefferson said. “We’re just settin’ in a car here. You looking for money are you?”

There was a dry laugh right behind him, and a new voice spoke from behind the driver’s seat. “Just sitting in a car. Sitting in a car holding that thing. Hand it back.”

“All right now,” Jefferson said soothingly, though his heart had sunk at the way the man seemed to recognize the little statue. He took as much care as he could not to let the small tattoo of the blue candle on his wrist show as he carefully handed it back. Sullivan made a little noise of despair as it went by, drawing another laugh from the man holding a gun to Jefferson’s head.

Jefferson took a glance back as he passed over the figurine, had the impression of a vast bulk and a sleeve of seersucker, a large gun held to the back of Sullivan’s head. Then he was back to looking out the windshield, thinking.

“What is it?” the man behind Jefferson asked.

“Bad business, Mr. Farthing,” the large man replied.

“Wellsir, you and I are in agreement there,” Jefferson said. “I was just saying something along those lines, myself.”

“And who are you, anyway?” the large man asked. “We expected Mr. Sullivan. We didn’t expect him to have a friend.”

Jefferson sighed. “Mr. Sullivan, you’re a bit too much a man of habit for your own good, I think. Everyone seems to know when to expect you to be around.”

The gun barrel rapped him smartly on the back of his head. “Answer the question,” Mr. Farthing said.

“I’m just a friend of Mr. Sullivan’s,” Jefferson said.

Sullivan released a humorless bark of a laugh. “Friend.”

“Mr. Sullivan, I’m about the closest thing you’ve got right now,” Jefferson said. “I do believe these gentlemen intend to kill you.”

“You just can’t answer a simple question, can you?” the large man said. “Mr. Farthing, divest this fellow of any identification and weaponry he may be carrying. That or shoot him; I’m not sure I care which just now.”

Jefferson held still as Mr. Farthing reached around the seat and groped under his coat, first removing one pistol, then the other, and finally his wallet. The pistol didn’t leave the back of his head the whole time, nor when Farthing began flipping through the wallet. Jefferson felt another drop of sweat slide down his face and fall off his nose. The addition of the two men had done nothing good for the stifling heat of the car.

“Jefferson Quinn,” Mr. Farthing said at last.

“Now, that name rings a bell, wouldn’t you say, Mr. Farthing?”

“I would, Mr. Gantry,” Farthing answered. “It seems to me that there was a Blue Candle by that name, one of Tacy’s flunkies.” Farthing’s hand suddenly came around the seat again and grabbed Jefferson’s wrist. He twisted the arm to display the little tattoo of a blue candle with a red flame just under Jefferson’s cuff. He made a disgusted noise and released the arm.

“Now, I don’t know if ‘flunky’ is quite the right word,” Jefferson said, “but I’m glad we all know each other’s names now. Makes it seem downright friendly in the car, wouldn’t you say?”

“Who are all you people?” Sullivan asked, his voice rising to a desperate whine.

“Well, like the man said, I’m a member of the Blue Candle Society,” Jefferson said. “And I reckon these boys are Badgers, orBa’ahd’chars as they like to call themselves. That right boys?”

There was no answer. “Well, I hope it is,” Jefferson said. “Seeing as how we all seem to know about the Sciribath, and if they ain’t Badgers that leaves a couple cults that are crazier ‘n shithouse rats. I don’t like Badgers much, but at least they ain’t likely to start babbling in the Old Tongue and slicing off parts of themselves to summon something at the drop of a hat.”

“I’m glad we meet with your approval, Mr. Quinn,” Gantry said, sounding amused.

“Oh, I’d be downright fond of ya’ll you’d take this pistol off the back of my head.”

“When we get where we are going, maybe,” Gantry replied. “Start the car, Mr. Sullivan. I’ll direct you.”

Gantry’s directions took them out of town within a few minutes, and the pistol barrel remained at the back of Jefferson’s head the whole time. It was steady, despite the suffocating heat and all, and Jefferson couldn’t decide whether that was good or bad. If Farthing had been jumpy it might have given him more opportunities to avoid a deliberate bullet in the head, but it would have also increased the chance of one ending up there by accident.

After a tense, sweaty half an hour, Gantry directed Sullivan to pull up outside a small house. The light had faded to near full darkness, but in the moonlight Jefferson could see that the lawn was overgrown and weedy, and the paint peeling to the point of being gone in several places. There was a dim light burning somewhere inside the house, casting just enough light to reach the front windows, but the front rooms themselves appeared unoccupied.

Jefferson got a better look at their captors when they all climbed out of the Packard, though the deepening dusk obscured them somewhat. Gantry was even larger than he’d thought, a fleshy mass standing as tall as Jefferson. Farthing was smaller, and once he was no longer holding a gun to the back of Jefferson’s head, remarkably twitchy. He couldn’t seem to remain still for even the short time it took to reach the door, mopping his forehead with a handkerchief and rubbing at his head. Through it all the hand holding the gun stayed steady. Jefferson glanced around, but they were were in an unpopulated area. The nearest house was several hundred yards off, screened by trees, and dark. There didn’t even seem to be an auto in front of the house, though the old garage off to one side could have held one. Farthing held the pistol on Jefferson and Sullivan, off to one side, while Gantry stepped forward to open the door.

He led the way in, and Jefferson and Sullivan followed, with Farthing bringing up the rear. The front room, from what Jefferson could see in the dim light, was completely empty, save for one wooden chair with three legs lying on its side in one corner.

Gantry led the way through the room, the floorboards creaking in protest under his weight, and down a narrow hallway toward where the light burned deep in the house. The smell hit Jefferson halfway down the hall, a horrible rot with a sharp tang underneath it.

“What’s that?” Sullivan asked.

“Steady,” Jefferson muttered. Sullivan was as twitchy as Farthing, and having the both of them jerking and popping behind him was making him nervous. Gantry eased through the doorway, nearly having to turn sideways to do it, and stepped to one side to allow Jefferson and Sullivan past.

The room they entered had only a few more furnishings than the front room; nothing but a chair and a small table. There was an old woman sitting in the chair, looking like a pile of skin and bones. She was hunched over the table, which held an oil lamp, facing toward them but not looking up.

“Oh, God,” Sullivan said quietly, and Jefferson realized where the smell was coming from. The woman was hunched over some sort of small creature, flayed open and pinned to the table. She was picking at something that might have been a rib with a pair of tweezers, though it was black in the lamplight. Her other hand held a scalpel, and as they watched she sliced into the thing with a slick, wet noise.

She made a small, satisfied noise at whatever she saw, then set the tools down on the table and looked up with a yellow smile. “Well. Who do we have here?”


Copyright © 2012 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on April 14, 2012.