A continuation of the previous chapter.
THE HAPPY VALLEY: MEAN SEASON
“Why did you want to meet me here?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge looked around the small bar; the light of day did not make The Post look any better. “I bet it smells like urine on a hot day even in the dead of winter,” she remarked.
“Because,” Deeds replied, though she did not know exactly why she was back there either, not after last night. “I didn’t want to meet you at my house.” After that morning, it was the last place she wanted to be. She hoped The Twins weren’t returning any time soon. Thankfully, they had absconded with their prize. Deeds was eternally grateful it was off her hands no matter what they were planning to do with it. The Post seemed like a safe place. As a rule no questions were asked and no fucks were given, even if Deeds was just double-fisting coffee and water.
“It can’t possibly be worse than this.” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge took in her surroundings. “I wonder how many people have died in here?”
“You’re the Spiritualist. And yes, right now the answer is yes my place is way worse than this.” She changed the subject even if her next statement was going to be a sore one. “How have you been sleeping?”
“You know the answer to that already.” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge said shortly.
“Poorly,” Deeds frowned as she saw her eyes well up as the Spiritualist attempted to hide her tears.
She managed to gain her composure. “It was a different dream last night. This one was about Bracken, he was burning and I was there to help him. Only I was also awake at the same time. I found myself in the cellar staring at the coal chamber. The cat was with me, I-“she stopped at the sound of breaking glass. An altercation broke out behind her. She turned around to see someone standing behind her armed with the broken beer glass.
“What are you looking at?” he snarled at her and pointed his makeshift weapon in her direction.
“Nothing really,” she said snidely.
“What was that?” he asked, not liking her answer.
“I said nothing.”
Deeds had noticed the mood had changed drastically in the small and sparsely populated bar. It had started with the gooseflesh and she felt the hairs on her arms rise. A sudden chill filled the room. She looked up in the air and could almost see the spores. She gasped, and thought about holding her breath and if it would do any good and that was when her attention was drawn to the Spiritualist, who was about to throw down with a local drunk. So much for no fucks given, Deeds thought as she turned to Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge. “On second thought, coming here was a horrible idea. I am so very sorry. Let’s go for a walk, a long walk far away from here!” her voice rose on the last part so the people in the back could hear. Together they stomped out of the bar to greet the day. There was nothing welcoming about it. The foul mood of The Post had spilled outside exposing everything to the harsh sunlight. They squinted for a second shielding their eyes. The voices of pedestrians and passerby’s were anxious and agitated.
“Did you see that? I almost got into a fight!” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge sounded exhilarated about that notion. The spores were getting to her too. She had been spending too much time at the house, Deeds feared. A woman walked by, purposely bumping into her shoulder as she stood in the middle of the sidewalk. “Excuse me,” the lady said but there was nothing polite about the tone of voice. “I was walking here!” She chided.
Deeds stepped out the way, brushed herself off, and slow clapped for the lady. “Well, good for you! Congratulations!”
She scoffed and huffed off.
“You almost got into a fight too!”
The Spiritualist was right and Deeds wondered if she had really gotten into her head. For that was what she was picturing. She shook the notion out of her mind. “You sound way too excited.” Deeds gripped her by the forearm and lead her across the road and they started to march up the hill and away from the town proper.
“Where are we going?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge said; making sure she kept pace with Deeds who was now walking with a purpose.
“We’re going on a hike. There’s a nature preserve a couple blocks east of us. I figured it would be secluded enough because we really need to talk. It was either that or the path along the canal and that’s the last place I want to go. Not since a couple of days ago, the morning of your show.”
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge stopped short. “That was three weeks ago.”
“What?” Deeds felt her words slice through her and she was dead in her tracks.
“I’ve been here for three weeks,” she said again, though this time she was not so sure any more about how much time had actually passed. Had it been that long? She looked over at Deeds and saw her pallor deepen into a shade of gray. Her mouth drew down in a wide frown. Deeds looked like she had a rough night and an even rougher morning. “Or, something like that, I don’t know, it feels like that much has time has passed.”
“Don’t say that.” Deeds replied her voice was as grim as the expression on her face.
“I didn’t, forget I said anything.”
“I know what you are doing. Your mind control tricks won’t work on me.”
“Excuse me?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge took on a defensive tone.
“What has gotten into you?”
Deeds sighed; it was getting harder to control the emotions that she had gotten so good at bottling up. “Sorry. I-“
“Mom! Dad!” a child shouted from the sidewalk, cutting her of in mid apology. Both Deeds and Bainbridge looked down with a start to see the girl pointing at the two of them from the edge of the front yard.
“Where did you come from?!” Deeds exclaimed and cringed, stepping away from the trajectory of her accusatory finger.
“What’s your problem, little girl?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge did the exact opposite and took a step closer to the child and towered over her.
“I’m not afraid of you!” She said snottily and looked up to meet her gaze. “I know your face, you’re on that poster.” She shouted the obvious like the little know-it-all she was. “You talk to ghosts! You are a witch!”
“What did you call me?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge threatened, “Oh I am a witch all right. I will curse you, your whole family, and your family’s family and so on! It is not nice to call people names!” She clenched her fist.
“Hey hey hey!” Deeds stepped into between them trying to break up the altercation. The child had to be six or seven at the most.
The girl looked up at Octavia Anton Deeds and screamed. “You’re the monster that lives in the old church. You eat people! MOM DAD!!!!!!!”
The lilting shrill of her voice sliced through their eardrums. Deeds was afraid they were going to rupture for she hadn’t quite gotten rid of the malingering headache. “Oh if you don’t shut up right now, I will eat you. I’m going to start with the tips of your toes and work my way up while you are still alive.” She whispered low threatening, her voice almost a growl “You will be so young and tender.” The girl clamped her mouth shut for she could see the saliva pool and the corner of her lips.
“You’re creepy,” the child added after a moment matching her dangerous tone and armed with the best comeback. She gloated about owning the last word in the argument and that her parents were coming to back her up. “HELP!”
Sure enough, there was a commotion from the front porch as her parents burst through the door hearing the cries of help of their sweet baby girl. “Shit, let’s go.” Deeds swore made a run for the nature preserve. A couple of steps behind her Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge turned around. “I’m not done with you little girl!” She shouted back at the child, raising a finger. “You are cursed! I put a curse on all of your houses!” She hollered triumphantly into the midday air and spun back around and sprinted to catch up to Deeds.
“What is happening?” Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge asked as soon as she caught her breath. She had never been much of a runner and that was a serious uphill climb they had accomplished. “I almost dropkicked a child. I cursed her whole family.” She did not know why she was whispering, for there seemed to be a moment’s peace between them in middle of the woods. They hunkered down in the ruins of a mill or a house on top of the hill. All that was left was a polished stone foundation. A quiet descended upon the two of them, which they filled with heavy panting for it appeared as though neither of them enjoyed exercise. Far off, she could still hear the tumult on the streets below. Voices were raised in anger and confrontation. People were so quick to leap down each other’s throats. Below them everything was going to hell. Tensions were wound tighter than a clock spring. She felt that speaking above a whisper would cause everything to snap back and smack her in the face.
Deeds looked nervously through the honeysuckle, she was sure there was going to be a search party and probably a lynch mob after them now. She shrugged, “she deserved it,” she also whispered. “Calling people names is not nice. I threatened to eat her alive”
Despite her normal degree of agitation, Deeds seemed pretty even keeled about the whole situation. Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge made a note of it. “Why are you so calm about all of this? Why aren’t you panicking?”
“Because, I know that there are things out there far larger than just ourselves to worry about.” Deeds divulged the secret to her seemingly calm seas. “The world has changed for the worse, and everyone knows it, but it is beyond their comprehension. It’s like a gut feeling or a bloody ulcer. Since they don’t understand it, they just ignore it. That is what we were trained to do for generations. But it is getting harder to stuff it all down and sweep everything under the rug. Everyone down there,” she paused and motioned to the skyline, “is waking up to it. They’re just reacting as it bubbles over, the only way they know how to and that is through violence.” Deeds reached a hand up to the bruise that grew on her check. She hadn’t even realized she was doing it. No wonder her head hurt so much.
“Were you in a fight?”
“How did you know?” Octavia Deeds said defensively. “Oh wait, that’s right you’re a psychic.”
Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge rolled her eyes. “Seriously. I don’t have to be a psychic to see you look like hell. What happened to you?”
“There was a break in this morning. These two goons stole Grander’s relic. They were twins or something. Hell, it knocked me for a loop when I found out there were two of them that I was fighting with. That’s when I was punched. They also shot me with awesome gun they had.”
“No wounds,” Deeds motioned over her body, “they even shot me in the face. I was completely paralyzed. Minus the uncomfortable interrogation, not feeling anything was rather enjoyable. I was way too drunk or hungover to be to be fighting, anyway.”
A cloud passed over The Spiritualist’s face, “you let them get away with it!?”
“Yes, I couldn’t move-”
“You didn’t go after them, after they unfroze you?”
“Like I said, I was still drunk.”
“What if it gets in the wrong hands? They interrogated you, about what? What did you tell them?”
“Hey, look at me Evelyn Lavinia Bainbridge, they asked me questions like if I had remorse for what I’ve done. I’m pretty sure they’re one of the good guys. They didn’t kill me, even though I asked them too. They had to keep me alive. The twins said they’d destroy the statue. Somehow, I believe them. If I am wrong, I will burn that bridge when it get to it,” she added prophetically. “That’s part of the reason why I wanted to talk to you, to warn you about my encounter with them this morning. They might be good but I don’t know how good.”
“Speaking of snake ladies, how’s Grander doing, after his, um, possession?”
“Oh, Max Grander, you know I don’t see much of him as of late, he mostly keeps to his room. When I do see him, he is convivial, but I don’t have any idea what goes on in that room of his or if he is even alone. He carries on conversations with himself or that cat of his. Sometimes, it’s not even in English but a language far older than Latin that he speaks in. This one time he was chanting in his sleep, only it was all numbers. He was spouting math equations that sounded like the antithesis of sacred geometry, in his sleep. The memory made her cringe and Deeds felt for her. “I hate math,” they said together.
“During the day he pours over his paper work, he’s planning on building something but I don’t know what. I don’t want to know-”
“That was another thing I wanted to talk to you about, keep an eye on him, though I don’t think you have much to worry about. It would be nice to know what he’s building in there… You said earlier that Bracken was burning, and you were there to help him?”
“Yes,” her voice rose on an upswing as she thought about the recent development in her dreams. “Do you know what that means? It means that I can save him. I was there.”
“I don’t know. I don’t like the sound of that. Please, stay away from the basement and don’t go near the crawlspace.”
“You don’t understand, every night everybody wants everything from me. If I can save just one of them, maybe it would help put my mind at ease. I can find Bracken’s body. I know it, I did it. I was there.”
Deeds knew there was no arguing with the Spiritualist. Her heart was set. “I was also going to try one last time to convince you to leave town. Get the hell out of Knowlton’s Corner, but I see now that you are set on staying to see this through. All I ask is that you stay safe, keep your head down, and try not to dropkick any children.”