Feb. 12th, 2013


Feb. 12th, 2013 11:11 am
“Who said I have half a brain?” the barkeep retorts. “Anyway, I’m just here till the beer runs out. I’ve got some money put by, and when I’ve sold my stock I’ll be moving on, too. This town’s dead. No animal can survive without water, and neither can a town.”

“So, when you leave,” I say, breaking into the conversation that’s been plowing on without regard to me, “would you be doing it during the day, or in the dead of night?”

“Excuse me?” the barkeep says.

“I was just wondering if you would head out during the day, or in the middle of the night.”

“I’d leave in daylight,” the barkeep says. “Of course. We have good roads and all, but what kind of fool sets out in the middle of the night?”

“The kind with half a brain,” I say. “Because Lloyd here said that the folks went missing in the dead of night.”

“Tosh!” the barkeep says. “If they left at first light to make a good start of it before the sun is high, it would look for all the world like they left in the middle of the night to anyone who came along after, wouldn’t it?”

“Good point,” I say. “Besides, it isn’t like whole families have vanished, leaving behind their clothes, possessions, and valuables, is it?”

Another shot in the dark, and another hit. It showed on his face.

I don’t believe the barkeep is stupid. Just very scared.

“And how do you explain that washerwoman?” Lloyd asks.

“Yes, how do you explain her?” I say.

“Who can explain a madwoman?” the barkeep says. “And why would I need to? She’s got nothing to do with strange noises or fogs or a well that’s gone bad.”

“She tried to rip her husband’s throat out,” Lloyd says. “Sweet old thing, never gave anyone a lick of trouble, until one day… bam.”

“That’s the way of madness,” the barkeep says. “There’s no making sense of it. Otherwise we’d call it sensibleness.”

“But how do you…”

There is a knocking sound, and all conversation… not just ours… stops. A man in a red tunic with a gold braid for a sash is in the doorway, holding a big knobby staff of office that he’s pounding against the door like a gavel. Perched on his head is a wig like a beehive under snow.

If I had been given one of Bel’s “Select” to dress up for the office, I couldn’t have done a better job than he did.



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