Serial Saturday: The Figurine, Part 6

Chipper stood and strode from the study without a word, her heels clicking on the hardwood floor as soon as she’d cleared the threshold of the carpeted room. After a few seconds, Jefferson stood and wandered over to the bookshelf. He browsed the titles for a time, sipping his bourbon, until a squeaking and rumbling noise made him turn.

Chipper pushed a wheelchair through the doorway. She had a moment’s difficulty in getting it over the threshold and onto the carpet of the study, but Jefferson was too startled to help.

It wasn’t a surprise to see the Colonel in a wheelchair. Not only had man been shot in the leg during the ruckus that ended Jefferson’s last visit, but he’d served in the war between the states, and had to be pushing 100 years old. But he was hardly recognizable as the the man who’d been so important in the Blue Candle Society for so many years, who’d held sway over the whole village below, and used its residents for his own purposes. He’d been vigorous for his age, suspiciously so. He’d seemed, in fact, twenty or thirty years younger than his true age, and those years seemed to have abruptly caught up with him.

He slumped in the chair, and the blanket that covered him didn’t conceal the fact that he had withered away, to the tune of maybe fifty pounds, Jefferson guessed.

With a final heave, Chipper got the wheelchair through the doorway. “You remember Jefferson Quinn, Grandfather.”

Colonel Tacy glowered up at Jefferson. “Couldn’t very well forget him.” Even his voice had changed from something with iron in it to a thin quaver.

Jefferson nodded. “Colonel. Pleased to see you again.”

“Pleased to see me,” snarled Colonel Tacy. “Plan to put another bullet in me, do you?”

“It was the other fella that shot you, Colonel, the one they got up in Kaycee now.” He knocked back the last of his Bourbon. “And if I recollect, you took a shot at him first.”

The Colonel glared at Jefferson for a moment longer, then looked down at his lap. “You ruined everything,” he muttered.

“Grandfather has had a difficult year,” Chipper said from over his head. She wore an irritated expression, possibly because the Colonel was giving Jefferson credit for ruining his setup, when Chipper had really been more responsible herself.

“Well, hell, you look just as spritely as can be, Colonel,” Jefferson said.

“You mock me, you jackanapes,” the Colonel said. He craned around to look back at Chipper. “I won’t stand for this,” he said. “I’m still an important person in this society. I’ll write to Jed Roth, and we’ll see if you all still find me so amusing.”

Jefferson scratched the back of his head. “I think you’ll find that Roth’s dead, sir. Six or eight years, now.”

“He is,” Chipper said dryly. “And you’re the one who had him killed, grandfather.”

Confusion swept over Colonel Tacy’s face and he looked down at his lap again, blinking.

“Jefferson has a problem he would like your advice on,” Chipper said after a moment.

The Colonel slowly looked up, and the confusion on his face was gradually replaced with something else, a kind of animal cunning. He’d been better at keeping his expressions civilized, back in the old days. “So, still need me, eh? You lock me up, a prisoner in my own house, and now you want my help, because my granddaughter doesn’t know everything yet.”

“It’s about the A’kar’kchurk,” Jefferson said. “Wondering if you might tell me if could maybe have some influence outside that swamp down there.”

Colonel Tacy’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”

“Found a little figurine some fella had. It put me in mind of the A’kar’kchurk and the things it made.”

“Where?” the Colonel asked, his voice suddenly sharper.


The Colonel grinned. “I had it under control. You people don’t understand, don’t realize how hard it was to keep it reined in. My granddaughter thought she could do better than I did, but all she did was anger it, and force it out into the world.”

Chipper swung around the front of the wheelchair and bent, blocking Jefferson’s view of the old man. “What do you know, Grandfather? What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything, dear,” Colonel Tacy said, his voice a mockery of offended innocence. “I just listened. No one asked me what I heard.”

Chipper straightened, her mouth a thin line. She took a deep breath. “I’m asking you now.”

“You roused it,” Colonel Tacy said. “You thought you could humble it, but that’s not how you control a Sciribath. I’ve heard it reaching out, calling. I still have a connection with it, you know.” He assumed an expression of mock surprise. “Do you mean to tell me that you cannot hear it? That you don’t have it under your thumb?” He shook his head. “Boston won’t be the end of it. It will have reached farther than that.”

Jefferson pulled out his cigarettes. “Chipper, you know what he’s talking about?”

“I have an idea,” Chipper said, her voice cold enough to freeze water.

The Colonel let out a rusty laugh. “An idea. I thought you know what was out there, girl. In time, perhaps you could have succeeded me–I always thought you were intelligent. But you made your move too soon.”

“If I had waited any longer everyone in that village would have been twisted into something crawling in the swamp,” Chipper muttered, almost to herself. “Lord knows what you would have turned into.”

“What I would have turned into!” Colonel Tacy spat. “Look at me, look at what I’ve become, now that I no longer have an understanding with the A’kar’kchurk.”

Chipper sighed. “You’d just about run out of people to feed the thing, Grandfather,” she said. “It was an impractical arrangement.”

“Not to mention a trifle murderous,” Jefferson put in.

“That as well,” Chipper replied. “We don’t exist to simply give the Sciribath everything they want.”

“You don’t understand the reality of the situation,” Colonel Tacy said.

“I understand that I may not be able to protect you, once this gets out. Do you think the society wanted to let you reside here in comfort after what you did?”

“We are a society of realists,” the Colonel said, somehow pompous and hesitant at the same time.

“Not such realists as that,” Chipper replied. She looked up at Jefferson. “It seems you aren’t done with this job yet. It was not random that Sullivan got involved in our business, and there may be others. You’ll need to track down what got Sullivan interested, see if there are others being influenced, if you’re willing.”

Jefferson nodded. It was no less than he’d expected.

“I assume you haven’t talked to Temperance lately?”

Jefferson shook his head. Last he’d heard his fiance and Chipper’s childhood friend had been on her own job, up near the Canadian border.

“I’ll get word to her,” Chipper said.

“Don’t want to call her off something important.”

Chipper shook her head. “Her task is not all that critical. And I’d never hear the end of it if something cracked your bones and drank your blood and she had no chance to intervene.”

“You really know how to make a fella feel appreciated, Chipper.”

Copyright © 2012 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on May 12, 2012.