An excited squawk from a walkie three rows away sent us scurrying behind one of the larger mausoleums in this section of Nevermore.
That’d been a near thing.
Who knew Seth (the newest groundskeeper) could summon that much stealth? Counting off a hundred heartbeats (sounds like a long time, but my heart was beating a brisk tempo at the moment) I slowly eased an eye around the corner, trying to catch even the smallest movement. Despite not seeing a single hint of our pursuer my heart refused to settle down into a normal rhythm.
Me (whispering): “Wood can you see anyone?”
Since no one’s yelling ‘got you’ or ‘their over there’ I will take it as a promising sign. Maybe this time we’d lost them? Hope springs eternal.
Wood (softly): “Nope, nothing.”
It seems Laney and Beatrice came to the same conclusion, or they were just tired from all the running and/or rum, either way, they’d sunk down to the ground for a rest. Wood joined them, leaving me to keep my eyes peeled for motion amongst the tombstones.
Me (taking a beat to talk to them): “We’ll catch our breath here for a few minutes then make a final push for the Crossroads.”
The Tricornies murmured their agreement and settled into more comfortable sitting positions. Inching around the side of the vault trying to get a better grip on our surroundings, I nearly screamed when a figure stepped out in front of me.
The Figure: “Caretaker, did you hear about the kids running around Nevermore in costumes tonight?”
As my hands were covering my mouth, trying to keep the squealing I was doing on the inside, I couldn’t reply to Orin’s question right away.
Orin (taking in my current attire – long coat, embroidered vest, linen shirt, bandolier and the dark plume in my tricorn hat): “I think you might have.”
Seems the dip my toes took in the creek during our hasty exit from the farm numbed them to a greater extent than I’d realized. Well, that explained why it hadn’t hurt very much when I’d kicked that rock – I’d chalked it up to wearing boots instead of sneakers (tomorrow’s bruise tally will prove fascinating).
Me (whisper yelling): “Orin! You nearly scared me to death!”
Orin (dismissively): “Don’t worry, no one’s died of that in years! Hey, aren’t there supposed to be more of you?”
Stepping around me he peered around the corner of the crypt and started laughing. Following behind, I glimpsed the three Tricornes as he must have – Beatrice one leg in the air pulling up her sock inside her boot, Wood with his phone aglow and Laney taking a slug from yet another flask (which she whipped behind her back when she saw the whites of my eyes). All of them wearing full pirate regalia.
Me (hissing at Wood): “Are you trying to get us caught? Put the phone away! Laney! Seriously?”
Doing a one-eighty, I tried to glimpse any activity amongst the shadows, while my ears strained to hear any tell-tale sounds of feet on grass (Orin’s laughing didn’t help my efforts). Stepping back around to the side of the vault I beckoned Orin to follow me.
Me: “Orin. Orin! Please stop laughing! We need to get to the Crossroads, can you help us out?”
His laughter slowly died during my plea, the silence stretching between us while I watched his wide grin slide into a sly smile.
Me (trying to wrangle what little patients I currently possessed): “Okay, what do you want?”
Orin (taking a moment to think): “You know Mazy’s squirrel? Could you make sure it has enough to eat this winter?”
This night just keeps getting better and better.
Me: “Done. Now, will you help?”
Orin: “No problem Caretaker. Let me round up some other Residents.”
On those words, he walked out of sight. Orin might have laughed, but we needed the Resident’s help. We were at the edge of the old original section of Nevermore – after that would be the Crossroad’s burials.
Where we’d have absolutely nothing, except for the night, to hide us from sight.