Orin (calling down to me): “We really got the old ticker going tonight didn’t we!”
The heat of my anger welded me in place.
Unlike the Inebriated Three.
They were, for the first time, taking a real interest in remaining free of police custody. Wood dashed to the curb intensely surveying a deserted Ash Street. Apparently, it did not meet his expectations because he started intently texting someone. Laney meanwhile crouched down and pressed her eye against the gate’s keyhole while Beatrice mimicked her attitude only with her ear against the timbers.
Laney (whispering): “Wood, see if anyone’s coming thru the other gate.”
Orin (leaning backwards in an exaggerated motion): “Nope, not a soul that way!”
This sent the idiot urchins on the wall into more guffaws.
Wood (after a quick check agreed): “Nothing.”
Beatrice (consternation clear): “They were right behind us.”
Ruby: “Nope! It was just us honey.”
Paul: “A bit of wind and nails raking over cement makes it sound like a whole hoard is on your heels.”
Walking over to Wood I wordlessly pulled on his lapel exposing the flasks residing in his bandolier. Slipping the last one out of the line that lay across his chest, I slowly unscrewing the top then took a deliberately long draught of spiced rum. All the while eyeing the chortling miscreants atop the wall. Their mirth sputtered out quickly under the waves of fury they finally felt rolling towards them.
Me (turning to Beatrice): “No, I think we succumbed to the sinister atmosphere of a cemetery at night.”
Beatrice (glancing at the top of the wall for a moment): “We knew they’d been chasing us, so we thought we heard feet behind us.”
Alice (contrite): “Sorry Caretaker. We didn’t mean to scare you and your friends…”
Paul (crestfallen): “….it’s just when we saw you wearing those silly costumes causing such a commotion….”
Orin (sheepish): “…we just couldn’t resist.”
Laney (looking up at me, hope unmistakably sprouting): “So no one’s on the other side? Our imaginations were working overtime?”
Me (looking first at Laney, then up to the Residents): “This is how these places get such rotten reputations, they play tricks on you.”
Orin (pleading): “Don’t be mad Caretaker. Please? Joseph sent us to help you. He and the others lead the search parties up to the Manor and Great House so you could get away. We just got carried away.”
Beatrice: “We should still get while the getting’s good. They’ll figure we gave them the slip eventually.”
Wood (beating me to the punch and with visible relief): “Don’t worry I think I see out chariot now!”
With our luck, it will be a patrol car.
A wave of exhaustion engulfed me, extinguishing all traces of the fury threatening to explode moments before. Did Wood add Xanax to the rum tonight? More likely my adrenaline finally ran out. The Residents sensing my anger withering away, burst into a chorus of apologies aimed at all of us (irregardless that only I could hear them it’s the thought that counts).
Iris: “Looks like a station wagon Caretaker.”
Me (wondering out loud): “Why is Robbie driving Aunt Pearl’s car?”
It turns out the Resident’s weren’t the only ones playing games this evening….When the silver station wagon pulled to the curb, I figured out who Wood been texting.
Stifled giggles erupted when Aunt Pearl and Uncle alighted from the car.
Aunt Pearl: “Well good morning! Funny running into you here.”
Yes, a real coincidence.
Aunt Pearl (stepping on to the curb and waving her hand): “Your costumes are wonderful. Now line up in front of the gate so I can take a group picture!”
The Residents knowing they were still in the doghouse valiantly attempted to keep it together. Only an occasional muffled tee-hee-hee escaped their lips.
Aunt Pearl (pumping he arm): “Give me a nice ‘AARRGGHHH!’ for the camera.”
If it was possible for the Residents to die of laughter they might have at this point. I really couldn’t blame them.
Aunt Pearl: “Phoebe stop glaring at Dourwood and smile!”
Wood, who’d adopted the countenance of an angel, beamed the entire time Aunt Pearl performed precise micro adjustments to our costumes, hair, stances and facial expressions. All so she could capture the perfect piratey portrait of the four of us (and the trip down memory lane, of every Halloween photo shoot we’d endured as kids, was just an added bonus). She didn’t even break stride when discovering one of our number was a complete stranger to her – ‘Don’t worry dear I’ll send a print to your folks.’ And didn’t Beatrice looked just thrilled at the prospect.
Uncle watched the entire process with a rather amused expression – despite my pleading glances.
Joseph (wryly calling down): “You might want to head out now. The search parties are dispersing.”
Please let the earth open up and swallow me now.