Serial Saturday: The Figurine, Part 21

The clerk turned, his head rotating remarkably slowly. “A room,” he said. “Yes sir.” He slowly rotated the book on the desk. Jefferson signed in as Mr. and Mrs. Quinn, which seemed close enough, given that Temperance had announced they were engaged a while back. He kept his eyes on the clerk and Temperance as he scribbled blind, but neither of them moved. He slid the book back across the desk, and the clerk slowly turned and snagged a key from a rack behind him.

“Room twenty-two,” he said, then turned and slowly walked back through the door behind the desk. After a moment, Temperance lifted her valise from the desk, and Jefferson picked up the remainder of the baggage.

“What was that about?” Temperance asked as they made their way to the stairs.

“You tell me, you were the one holding a Tommy gun on the man.”

Temperance shot him a look, but said nothing until they’d reached their room. She crossed to the window and drew the curtains aside. “Well,” she said, “you wanted to get the lay of things.”

Jefferson stepped closer and looked out the window. He’d noted how quiet things seemed when they’d driven in, of course, but the view from a story up brought things home a bit more. There wasn’t a soul on the street out front, as far up and down as he could see. Quiet was one thing, but this was a bit much. “You reckon everyone is waiting for something, or you think something’s already happened?” he asked.

“We’d better find out, I suppose.”

They made their way downstairs and out past the once-again empty front desk. Thunder rumbled in the distance as they walked out onto the empty street. “I wish that storm would just get it over with,” he muttered as they walked down the sidewalk.

Temperance nodded absently, looking around as she swung her valise. “That place looks decent,” she said, pointing to a little restaurant with a sign out front reading “Cora’s”.

Jefferson shrugged, and stepped forward to open the door for her. Inside, the restaurant was a cozy place, with decorations in a vaguely nautical theme. For a moment, Jefferson thought it was as empty as the hotel lobby had been. Then a waitress detached herself from the wall where she’d been leaning, stock-still, and slowly approached.

“Two?” asked the waitress, a young woman who nonetheless looked remarkably tired; her uniform wrinkled and mussed. She led the way slowly to a table and handed Jefferson and Temperance menus. Jefferson glanced at his watch as she walked away. It was two in the afternoon, a quiet time for a restaurant, maybe, but it seemed like someone should have been at one of the other tables.

The waitress returned, heels echoing in the silence, and put down two half-full glasses of water on the table.

“Always this quiet?” he asked. The woman stared at him for a time, not seeming to comprehend, then looked over at Temperance.

“I’ll have the fish sandwich,” she said after another moment.

“Chili for me,” Jefferson said.

“Always assuming there’s someone in the kitchen,” Temperance muttered as the waitress left, menus in hand.

“Well, this ain’t good, is it?” Jefferson said.

“It is definitely not good,” Temperance said, picking up her water glass and eying it. “You never saw Colonel Tacy’s village, before Chipper decided to do something about it. It was like this, at the end.”

“At the end?”

“Took years to get this bad. For a long time it was just people acting a little tired, staying inside more often.” She set down the glass. “It was very gradual, so it wasn’t obvious that people were disappearing one by one.”

“Hell, someone’s got to notice what’s going on here soon. It ain’t some tiny village in the middle of nowhere.”

“Maybe. Either way, we’ve got to do something.”

Jefferson nodded, and looked out the window, where he could just make out the approaching storm on the horizon. The chili, when it finally arrived, looked like it had been cooked down to half its original volume, and Temperance’s fish had been fried to oblivion. Jefferson tossed some money onto the table, and they left without getting so much as a word from the waitress, who’d taken up her station against the wall.

“Any ideas on what to do next?” Temperance asked.

“One,” Jefferson replied. He led the way back to the hotel, and walked across the empty lobby to the unoccupied front desk. He dragged the guestbook over and spun it around, then flipped back a page. “There we go,” he said, pointing to where the name “Reeves” was scrawled in shaky script.


Copyright © 2012 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on August 25, 2012.