Serial Saturday: The Figurine, Part 7

“I can’t recall if you take coffee or tea, Mr. Quinn,” Mabel said.

“I am offended, Mabel, long as I’ve been coming here. I thought I’d have made more of an impression.”

“You’ve only been in town three days, Mr. Quinn. Most of my customers have been coming in here every day for twenty years or more. Besides you spend all of your time sweet-talking Betsy, and she hardly ever lets me even bring you a glass of water.”

“Aw, well, Betsy’s a nice girl, and I try to be polite and all, but we both know you’re the reason I keep coming back here.”

Mabel shook her head. “You aren’t the first salesman to come in here, Mr. Quinn.”

Jefferson smiled. “Maybe everyone who ain’t a salesman just gets tongue-tied around you, darlin’. Coffee, please.”

Mabel shook her head and walked off, returning a few moments later with a coffeepot.

“So what else do you need?” she asked as she poured the coffee.

“Pancakes, eggs over-easy, and bacon,” Jefferson replied. “Big day ahead of me. Ya’ll are making me work for every lightning rod I sell.”

“Well, folks don’t have a whole lot of money to throw around these days.”

“True enough. And maybe my timing wasn’t so great.”

Mabel looked around the diner, which had begun to empty out this late in the morning. “That’s true,” she said, her voice lower. “Tragic, really. I knew the mother of one of the boys.”

“Weird, an alligator being this far north.”

Mabel snorted. “I wasn’t an alligator that did that, Mr. Quinn. No alligator strips the skin off someone, or leaves so much behind. Can’t see how it would have gotten both of them, either.”

“Maybe so,” Jefferson replied. “But what else could have done it, you reckon?”

“There are things out there we don’t know about. We haven’t figured it all out yet.”

Jefferson nodded. “They still searching the marsh?”

Mabel nodded. “Don’t know how much longer they’ll keep at it unless they find something though.” She leaned closer. “There are some saying it wasn’t an animal at all, that they should be looking for a man, and he could be here in town, not down in the marsh.”

“Well that is unsettling, given what happened to those to.”

“There’s no beast as cruel as a man, Mr. Quinn,” Mabel said solemnly.

“Well, that’s true enough, I suppose,” Jefferson replied, even though he knew it wasn’t.




Jefferson surveyed the marsh, hands on hips, for several minutes. Finally, he drew out his cigarettes and slid one into his mouth and looked around again before striking a match. He wasn’t entirely sure why he was even bothering. The ground near the edge of the open water was trampled and torn up from the scores of people from the village, searching for whatever had killed the two boys. Any clues that would point the way toward whatever really had killed them would be long gone.

Unless of course it came back. And then there was the fact that a body could feel Sciribath that were nearby. Mostly, the feeling the Old Ones gave off made people want to leave without even knowing why, unless they were crazy. But a sane man could force himself to move toward it too, once he was used to it.

That feeling was Jefferson’s best hope of getting somewhere, what with all the crashing around in the marsh that had been done over the past few weeks. It was a wonder none of the searchers had died themselves, just from falling into sinkholes of the like.

The trouble, of course, was that he was feeling jumpy enough that it was hard to locate any particular source of nerves. He glanced around again. The marsh was oppressively hot and muggy, but empty as far as he could tell. A few shore birds flew over, and there was a small splash nearby as something jumped into the water, but he saw no humans, and nothing dangerous.

He fished his flask from his coat and took a quick swig, then began walking along, picking a path to save his shoes as best he could. After he’d finished off a cigarette, he realized that he’d managed to get himself lost, or misplaced at any rate. The tide had come in while he walked along, changing the appearance of the landscape enough to make it unfamiliar.

He stopped and took out a handkerchief to mop his brow while he examined the sun on the horizon. He couldn’t go too far wrong by just going west, so after a few moments he turned his back on the morning sun and started walking. It wasn’t easy keeping his bearing through the swampy ground, and after another half-hour he’d not only given up on the shoes he was wearing, but he wasn’t optimistic about his trousers surviving the day either.

He released a sigh of relief when he realized that the ground was rising and heard a car in the distance. A few minutes later he stumbled out onto the road that ran near the marsh. Now it was just a matter of figuring out which direction he needed to go to find his car and he could head back to the hotel for a much-needed bath.

The stretch of road he was on didn’t look familiar, but a glance to the right showed a glint of metal off in the brush off the shoulder. He headed that way, since it seemed better than nothing.

The glint belonged to a Plymouth coupe, tucked away on the wrong side of the road for the time of day and baking in the sun. Jefferson paused as he came alongside it. He drew out his flask as he stood on the road, listening to shore birds in the marsh. It was strange, he reflected, not hearing frogs and the like in a swampy area. He supposed it was the salty water. He screwed the cap back on his flask and replaced it, still thinking.

The car didn’t look familiar, but there was something about it, all the same. He peered into the window, shading his eyes with a hand, and seeing nothing interesting. He straightened and glanced around again. The car he’d heard pass by before just before he reached the road hadn’t been followed by any others, which wasn’t unusual. It was a fairly desolate stretch of road, too close to the marsh to be attractive for housebuilding.

After a few more moments he walked around to the back of the car, pulling out his pocket knife. He glanced around again, then began working at the latch. In a few moments he had it open. One more glance around and he opened the trunk and looked in.

In his head, he was stumbling back down the road with a cry, but there in reality he somehow stayed where he was, frozen and staring into the trunk.

It was definitely a Sciribath, the thing that was sitting there on a tarp next to the spare tire. It was dead, despite what his thudding heart and nervous system were telling him, that much was clear. He had an idea it might be similar to the thing Mrs. Glass had been examining the other night, but bigger. It had the same rubbery limbs and teeth jutting out at strange angles. It was hard to tell how it had died, given how far along the decay had gotten, which also made it hard to be sure that it was similar to what he’d seen before.

That thought, the realization that without Mrs. Glass’ treatment it had to be freshly-killed to have any cohesion at all, was what made him look up, as much as anything. Two men had just emerged from the brush not fifty yards off, both moving silent as cats and both dressed much more like men planning to hike a marsh than he was. Both carried shotguns.

For a moment, everyone froze. Then one of the men threw his shotgun to his shoulder.


Copyright © 2012 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on May 19, 2012.