We’d both employed the same cunning strategy – waiting. Perhaps my “plan” wasn’t as lame as I’d previously thought.
The coffee seemed to need a few more minutes to seep into my system to bad I didn’t have the time. Even in this deluge maintenance would be working (death doesn’t wait for a sunny day) and I really didn’t want to answer the inevitable questions they’d ask if they ran across me sitting in my car. I had a feeling my hair would give away last night’s sleeping arrangements.
Which meant Joseph and I had a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time.
Joseph (still looking amused): “So why were you waiting for me?”
Me (taking another swig straight from the thermos): “The Stalker, isn’t a Stalker, she’s a Woman In White.”
Joseph (his gaze sharpened): “Tell me.”
Me: “I found her genesis point when I went up into the mountains…”
While I laid the relevant events from the Fall Foliage Tour into a coherent narrative, Joseph sat in the passenger’s seat listening, his fingers tracing the inside band of his grey fedora over and over while I talked.
Joseph (enunciating each word): “You think she will come here, at some point.”
Me (nodding): “Yes. After I got back I asked Aunt Pearl about the whole affair, she told me Tiffany’s father still lives in Rye, so I expect she’ll come to Nevermore. When she does, we’ll need a plan.”
Aunt Pearl also hinted at some other old gossip about Tiffany, but wouldn’t repeat it, “not wishing to speak ill of the dead.”
Joseph: “A plan?”
Me (nodding): “If she’s allowed to wander the grounds she will find a Resident then hunt down the others. She won’t hesitate to increase her own power at their expense. With my odd hours and the uncertainty of when she’ll arrive we need to coordinate. You can contain her until I get here and salt her bones directly, right?”
Utterly oblivious to my companion, I failed to notice his amusement and continued to spout off half-formed ideas.
Still Me (spacing out for a moment): “Sarah would call me the moment she arrives if I asked…. Though if she’s cremated that would eliminate all our worries since fire purifies everything… I could ask Sarah to try to steer things that way…Then there’s the rubber ducks, work, sabotage, and I’ll need to shower sometime…”
Joseph (interrupting my revery, amused): “Phoebe.”
Me (fretting): “I could sleep in my car here after she’s found so I could be on hand more.”
Joseph (plonking me in the forehead with his index finger): “Phoebe. The Residents and I can manage her. What do you think happened before you came here?”
Me (puzzling): “I never put much thought into it.”
My brain jumping the tracks, how did they cope? The first burial happened in 1840, Nevermore (as it is now) came about in 1846, and I’ve been coming here for twenty-seven years, so that leaves one-hundred-and-seventy-eight-years unaccounted for. Something to think about later…
Joseph (catching my attention again): “…Woman In White.”
Me (my mind reversing from its derailed state): “Pardon?”
Joseph: “I will handle the Woman In White.”
Me (nodding, my head still not entirely on this portion of the conversation): “Okay, I’ll leave her to you…”
Joseph (a hard look creeping into his eyes): “You have a handle on Little Ben’s expansion? I assume there’s a problem.”
Me (nodding, diverted by the small opening he’d given me): “Yes to both…How did the Residents cope before I came?”
Joseph (his hands finally still): “They have me. I protect Nevermore and the Residents from all threats.”
Me (slowly sinking into the quicksand of the conversation): “Like Women In White, Stalkers, Walkers, and Soldiers?”
Joseph (somber): “And anything else.”
Me (feeling small): “So Nevermore doesn’t really need my help.”
Joseph (his tone commanding me to meet his eyes): “You value those who’ve been forgotten. You find the lost and bring them home. You protect those who undervalue you – no matter the cost. You are Nevermore’s most unique Resident because you choose to be here. You are needed, never doubt that.”
Not know what to say and trying not to cry – I moved on – Joseph doesn’t do tears.
Me (blinking rapidly): “Since I’m not here as much right now, how can I find you if I don’t want to ask a Resident to pass on a message?”
Joseph (looking at me thoughtfully, pausing for a beat longer than I’d anticipated): “Knock on a gate, Toby will lead you to me.”
Me: “What’s a Toby? And any gate?”
Joseph (smiling): “He’s shy. But I think he’s ready for you to meet him. And yes, any gate in Nevermore.”
Me (startled into dry eyes): “Wait, there’s a Resident I haven’t met yet?”
Joseph smiled, put on his hat an exited the Princess, the rain (plus his grey suit) erased him almost instantly from my sight. So many layers to the conversation, but no time to consider them if the clock on my dash was correct. I had precisely forty-five minutes to get home, shower, change and eat before my shift starts.
Aspirin, I also needed to take many aspirins, not being able to turn my head right – due to a stupid crick – won’t make my day any easier.
(Unsplash Picture Credit Here)