Through the Fog (Chapter 7)

It’ll make more sense if you start with Chapter 1.

Through the Fog

With a bridge, yes, but an island.

I didn’t want to go to an island; not in the present company, at least. It was all beginning to feel slightly sinister, which is just fine for the hero in a movie; he’s got backup on the way and a secret phone in his shoe.

In real life, it’s just plain unnerving. So much for my certainty about taking care of myself. Guess that’s par for the course when you don’t even know yourself’s name.

We swerved and curved and wound to the eleventh or twelfth spot where an old stone house was crumbling by the roadside, and turned left onto a dirt road; cart path, more like.

More winding, swerving, and generally disorienting directionless wandering, and we pulled up in a little graveled area between two cottages at the end of the road.

The smallish one to the right was white with green trim, and looked modern and snug with bits of light leaking out past drawn curtains; a place I’d want to come home to.

The one dead ahead was another matter entirely. Stone, square, forbidding; its two stories looked like something ancient and malevolent. The skies had gradually darkened as we approached the island, and besides a spray of light on the grass from a downstairs window the stone house was dark.

I threw open my door and scrambled so fast I almost fell in the gravel. In the books, fear always gives you the adrenalin rush to fly. In real life, six hours battered by rough roads in a tiny tin box after fourteen more in the air in a larger tin box gives you aches and stiffness and an almost complete lack of coordination. I made it maybe 20 feet before Dope slammed me to the ground, a little harder than necessary, I thought.

“Get off him! Geez; we get him all the way here without a scratch and now ten feet from the boss you’ve got his face bleeding, ya dope!”

“I wasn’t lettin’ him run off like that!”

“Oh, and where was he going, like, with the next four cottages working for us? Nah, shut it,” as Dope started sputtering again. “You can explain why he’s roughed; I’m right out of it.”

“Oh, and who let him slip out the door without a word or a hand? No, he tripped in the darkness, that’s all, and don’t you say no different.”

Pally was silent.

Dope headed for the house. Since he had my arm twisted behind my back, I headed for the house, too.

Just before we entered the light from the door, a large sliding glass affair, Dope let my arm go and Pally stepped up next to me, as if they’d been like that all along. Dope slid the door open, and we stepped into a lavishly furnished living room where a tiny little man sat in a chair three sizes too large.

“What’s that on his face? What happened? He was not to be harmed, fools! This is not how we solicit assistance from our friends; it is most certainly not!”

During his tirade, startlingly violent in tone, he’d slipped from the oversized chair, crossed to Dope, and started slapping his face for punctuation. He almost had to jump, but he slapped, nonetheless. I expected Dope to snap him in half and use the sharp end for a toothpick. Nothing doing.

He was white as a sheet, eyes wide in fear.

A quick glance showed Pally was a mirror image of Dope.

Seeing that, a mirror would have shown the same look on my own face.

“He tripped! We were just helping him out of the car, like, and . . . “

“Nonsense! Shut yer gob! You’ve frightened him and injured him and if this doesn’t go well, he’ll not be the only one to suffer.”

This was not going well. No, not at all.

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