Serial Saturday: Road Trip, Part 6

Israel had gotten the idea of where to go from a woman named Nails, who as far as Israel was concerned belonged in the private mental institution the Blue Candle Society ran more than he did. After all, she’d gotten her name by tearing her own eye out with her own fingernails when she’d seen something so horrible she didn’t want the picture to get into her brain, which was crazier than anything Israel had ever done. On the other hand, it seemed to have worked, since she was a lot happier than most of the people actually living at the institution in Kaycee. He supposed she must have been really quick, and had her other eye closed at the time as well.

She was there visiting some friend of hers, someone who hadn’t been so quick to yank out their own eye, presumably. He’d known her from the old days, back when they had both rattled around the North Country on the east coast, and she’d stopped by while he was sitting in the rec room.

“Goddamn, Izzy, look at all the wards around here,” she said, dropping into a chair next to him.

“Yeah, they make everyone feel a little safer,” Israel replied. The wards, whether they were words of the Old Tongue or complex weavings of bone and sinew, were disguised as abstract decoration so that the state mental health people who visited now and again wouldn’t get nervous. They were even more numerous on the grounds outside the building.

Nails cocked her head to one side to look at him. “They make you feel safer, Izzy?” she asked. She wore a knowing grin, which he felt himself returning.

“Sure they do, Nails. I can practically feel the tingle when I walk past them.”

She ran a hand through her unruly blond hair and scratched idly under her eye patch. “Those ones done in fingerpaints–those something the patients did themselves, or is that just camouflage?”

Israel shrugged. “I’m surprised you’re talking to me, Nails,” he said. “I’m sort of a persona non grata these days.”

Nails giggled, in the way she’d started doing after the business with the eye, and leaned closer. “But it weren’t your fault, what happened, right Izzy?” she said. “You just went a little off up here, right?” She tapped her head by way of illustration, and he found himself fighting the urge to look around and see if anyone was listening in. He didn’t like the gleam in her eye.

She laughed again, and clapped him on the knee, causing heads to turn all around the room. Laughter made people nervous here. Israel saw one of the nurses glaring at them from behind her caged-off desk, and he was about to tell Nails to quiet down when something caught her eye and she quieted down on her own.

“Hey, is that Amity Quinn?” she asked. Israel followed her gaze to where a woman with ratty brown hair was shuffling past in a threadbare bathrobe.

“Yep,” he replied.

“I can see the resemblance, I guess.”

“Resemblance to who?”

“Her daughter, JT.”

“I thought she was dead.”

“No, she just ran off, but got tossed into prison before we could kill her-” she smirked. “Or institutionalize her.”

“So, you, what, met her before she went to prison?”

“Oh, she’s out now, has been for years.”

“And the society let her live? Let her back in?”

“That first one, anyway, not totally sure about the second one,” Nails replied. “She’s almost like a contractor or something now.”

“How does that work?”

Nails shrugged. “Reckon she’s just so damn good at killing Old Ones she’s useful enough to keep around. They even let her hang on to some Old Weapons.”

“Old Weapons?” Israel asked, emphasizing the plural. That was unheard of, as far as he knew. Old Weapons were rare, and precious because of the damage they could do to the Old Ones. Even having one was a mark of favor in the society, and only the most trusted members were allowed to hang onto them, as he was well aware.

Nails shrugged. “Things have changed since you came here,” she said. “I mean, she doesn’t have any of the real impressive ones–no swords or anything. It still pissed a lot of people off, her only sort of being a Blue Candle, but still getting them. Never heard anyone complain about it after they’ve seen her use them, though.”

She turned to watch Amity begin to slowly pick out a tune on the rec room’s piano. “Hard to believe they’re related.”

“She dangerous, is she?” Israel asked.

Nails appeared to consider that. “Jane Temperance Quinn,” she said at last, “is a goddamn force of nature.”

Copyright © 2011 SM Williams

~ by smwilliams on May 14, 2011.