Serial Saturday: The Figurine, Part 11

“This friend of mine,” Jefferson said. “Woman, was it? Blond? Nice looking gal?”

Dennis laughed. “You must have to fend them off with a stick, eh, Mr. Quinn? No, this was a Mr. Clyburne.”

“All right then,” Jefferson said, forcing a smile. “A boy can hope, right?” He continued on toward the stairs, wondering who the hell this Mr. Henderson was supposed to be. He reached his dingy room and took off his hat and coat, then sat on the bed and produced another cigarette. It was making his head hurt, trying to keep track of all the possible threats clustering around, so he drew out his flask to ease the pain a bit.

After a few sips and, and a few more drags on the cigarette, he shifted on the bed and reached out to drag the telephone closer. He gave the operator Chipper’s name and waited through the connection, but there was no answer.

He sat for a while after hanging up, thinking. The idea to head out to Boston after Sullivan in the first place hadn’t come from Chipper–they’d been from a fella by the name of Crick who lived out Cape Cod way. He eyed the phone for a time, considering giving Crick a call, then ground out the last of his Lucky Strike, and pulled out his Smith and Wesson instead. Once he’d assured himself that it was in order, he holstered it and checked the Colt, then just sat and stared at the door for a while.

Finally, he picked up the phone again. He had to work his way through the man’s secretary before he finally got him on the phone.

“Mr. Quinn.” A dry voice–listening to Crick always made Jefferson want to clear his throat.

“Mr. Crick. How long’s it been since you started rating a secretary?”

Crick sighed a long dry sigh. “Did you have something important, Mr. Quinn? I don’t have a great deal of time.”

“Yeah, neither do I. I’m sittin’ here in a hotel room kinda waitin’ for someone to walk in and try to kill me, so I probably ought not be on the telephone too long. Just trying to throw in a few pleasantries there at the beginning of the conversation. But if you want to get right down to business, that’s fine.”

“Who’s coming to kill you, Quinn?” Crick asked, sounding like he was asking Jefferson about the kind of suits he favored.

“Well, now, I was hoping you could tell me, or maybe you’d have a theory anyway.”

“And why would that be?”

“Well, if someone kills me, I expect it’ll have to do with society business. Kind of hope it does, really–I try not to get people that riled up when I’m not on the job.”

“Society business,” Crick said, slow and dry. “You’re not asking me about some creature crawling up the stairs toward you, are you, Quinn?”

“Not just now, no.”

“Then I don’t think I can help you. I thought this was a fairly simple job. Might these men you’re concerned about have something to do with one of your many other jobs?”

“They might. They might at that. Some of them, anyway.” He pulled the handset from his ear and held it against his chest, head cocked to listen to the hallway. After a moment, he spoke into it again. “You hear from Miss Tacy lately, by any chance?”

There came another dry sigh in his ear. “No. I take it you are still mixed up with her?”

“Might say that.”

“That would certainly explain men wanting to kill you. She has a habit of stirring people up.”

“Badgers or Candles?”

Crick released a dry chuckle. “Both, obviously.”

Jefferson sighed. “How about a Mr. Clyburne. Know any Candles or Badgers by that name?”

There was a long pause, broken only by static on the line.


“Well, yes, I know a Clyburne. Several, actually. Can you describe the gentleman?”

“No, I ain’t seen him yet. I just hear he’s coming to call.”

“Hmm. Well, obviously, we don’t want to jump to any conclusions, not knowing exactly who we’re talking about. You should be careful, but then you always are, right?”

“Crick, who are you thinking of?”

“I really must go, Jefferson. I’ll look into this a bit more and get back to you.”

“Dammit, Crick-“

Crick had hung up. Jefferson stared at the receiver for a moment, then hung it up with a disgusted sigh. He called Chipper again, and again received no answer. He lit another cigarette and smoked it down while he paced the room.

“Goddamn snake pit,” he muttered at last and threw on his coat and hat before leaving the room. He went to a restaurant he hadn’t been to before and ate dinner without tasting it, staring glumly off into the middle distance over his meatloaf. Afterward he took a walk around town as dusk fell and streetlights began to come on. He was hoping to come up with some sort of clarity, or an idea at the very least, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched. Every porch seemed to have a group of people sitting on it in the cooling air, hidden by shadows, creaking rocking chairs or clinking ice in their glasses of lemonade. Of course they’d watch a stranger strolling past on the sidewalk, but their gazes felt heavier than they should have, and they made it hard to think.

“You missed Mr. Clyburne again,” the clerk said cheerfully as he walked through the hotel lobby again.

“Dang, I was afraid I might. Don’t suppose he said when he was going to stop by again.”

The clerk shook his head.

“Well,” Jefferson said, “I’m sure we’ll catch up with one another eventually.”

He mounted the stairs to the second floor, and paused outside his room. After a glance up and down the hall, he stepped off to one side and unlocked the door before awkwardly pushing it open. After another moment, he ducked and scurried into the room, one hand on his revolver under his coat. The room was empty, and after shutting the door he made a quick search of the bathroom and closet.

Finally, he sighed and rummaged around for some spare towels and blankets in the closet. He arranged them on the floor near the bed, and after taking off his hat, coat, and holster rig he kicked off his shoes and made himself as comfortable as possible in the little nest.


Copyright © 2012 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on June 16, 2012.