Serial Saturday: The Figurine, Part 13

The house was like an oven inside, and Jefferson felt sweat springing on to his forehead immediately. The creak of the floorboards echoed in the short entry hall, loud with no other noise to cover it. The sitting room was even hotter than the entry, sun streaming in through the curtainless windows.

Jefferson pulled out his handkerchief and ran it across his forehead as he looked around. There wasn’t much to see, just a few worn and threadbare pieces of furniture and an old radio. A newspaper lay in an untidy pile on one chair, and Jefferson picked it up to check the front page. It was dated three days ago.

He dropped the paper back on the chair and made his way down another hallway. He took one step into a small kitchen and stopped dead.

“Damn,” he muttered before continuing into the kitchen. There was a small table in the kitchen, covered in a stained tablecloth, which had been shoved aside to give access to the wall. A picture, its frame broken and glass shattered, lay nearby where it had been flung from its place in the wall.

The faded floral wallpaper was covered with the Old Tongue. Some of it had been hacked in with a butcher knife–Jefferson could see the knife lying against the baseboard, its tip broken off–and more of it was drawn in some sort of brown liquid. At first, Jefferson thought it was blood; then he saw a nearly empty tureen of gravy on the counter, dried and buzzing with flies. It looked like Reeves had been seized with a need to get the words out of his head while he was fixing supper. Not that it would have worked. If Reeves was still alive, Jefferson was willing to bet that whatever had been twisting around in his head would still be working. Folks tried all sorts of things to work out the influence of the Sciribath–writing things, killing other people, cutting on themselves–but none of it ever seemed to work. There was likely only one thing to do for Reeves now, and best it was done soon.

There was a knock at the front door, and Jefferson froze. He waited for a moment,, listening. Maybe it was just a traveling salesman, hawking lightning rods or the like. His gaze darted around the kitchen as he waited–the words on the wall were starting to crawl around on him and he didn’t like looking at them.

His gaze landed on a pulp paperback on the counter, last month’s issue of Spicy Stories, with something scrawled across the thigh of the woman on the cover. He was just squinting at the book when he heard the front door open. Without thinking, he grabbed the book tucked it into his jacket as he waited, head cocked. The floorboard out front creaked, and Jefferson was pretty sure it was louder than it had been when he’d walked over it himself a minute ago. But then, he wasn’t a 300-pound slab of meat in a seersucker suit.

He eased the Smith and Wesson out of its holster as he stepped to one side of the doorway–it was more effective than the Colt for pistol whipping in his experience. Heavy footfalls approached slowly, following the same path Jefferson had. Gantry’s massive bulk eased into the room. He froze a few steps in, just as Jefferson had, staring at the wall.

“Gantry,” Jefferson said. It was a mistake, and he should have known better than to startle someone looking at something like the Old Tongue. At least not someone with arms like a gorilla in a small kitchen.

Gantry spun jerkily, arm out. One meaty fist caught Jefferson’s arm, knocking it and the gun to one side. Jefferson stifled a cry as Gantry pushed forward and his back slammed into the stove. He tried to bring the revolver to bear, but one of Gantry’s massive hands grappled with it, while the other pawed at Jefferson’s face. For a few seconds, the two stood, wrestling. It felt like Jefferson’s neck was about to be pushed back until it snapped, and he was making no progress at all in fighting the gun free.

Gantry’s massive gut was pressed tight against him, making going for the Colt impossible. Gantry was wheezing a bit already with the effort, but Jefferson figured the big man would kill him with his bare hands before he ran all the way out of wind. From the look on his face, from what Jefferson could see with his own head tilted back, he intended to–he wore a savage grin and had a nasty gleam in his eye.

Jefferson gave up trying to lever Gantry away with his free hand and punched, as hard as he could at the awkward angle. The blow connected with the side of Gantry’s head, bruising Jefferson’s knuckles but having no other effect from what he could tell. He struck twice more, once on the head again and a second time on Gantry’s well-padded ribs, which was even more useless.

“Cut that out, you little bastard,” Gantry wheezed, and suddenly the grip of his right hand had shifted down to Jefferson’s throat. That inspired Jefferson to frantic action, and for a moment he almost had his gun hand free. Then Gantry shifted, driving even more air out of him by pressing him against the stove, and everything started to go gray.

Then he was lying on the linoleum, somehow. He was no longer pinned to anything, but his limbs didn’t want to obey his commands. It took him a second to realize what those commands even were, since they seemed to be subconscious, but it came to him that he was trying to get at his Colt.

“Settle down, tough guy,” came Gantry’s voice, and Jefferson looked up blearily as the big man roughly flicked aside his coat and yanked out the automatic. He slid the pistol into his coat pocket as Jefferson tried to get a hand on the floor so he could rise.

“I said, settle down,” Gantry said, and reared back to kick Jefferson in the ribs. Jefferson let out a startled grunt, and tried to curl up as Gantry followed the kick with another. Gantry stepped over him and crossed to the window that looked out on the back of the house. He slid it up and leaned toward it as Jefferson gasped in a few painful breaths. His gaze landed on the Smith and Wesson, sitting on the stove, but it might as well have been on the moon, the way he felt.

“Come on around the front,” Gantry said out the window. “It’s open, and you’ll never guess who’s in here.”


Copyright © 2012 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on June 30, 2012.