Monday, October 26, 2020

Creep Show

This is chapter 45 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Friday Evening, October 23, 2020, Seattle

After Barbara Merrit buzzed in her mysterious visitor she immediately had second thoughts.

“What if it’s one of those Russian assassins?” she thought, “I know I’m desperate for information but this is ridiculous.” She picked up her phone and entered 9-1. “I’ll see what he looks like first.”

When she heard the knock on her door she looked through the peep-hole. Instead of a burly Russian thug, she saw a nondescript, vaguely hipster-ish man wearing a baseball cap and a charming smile. She put her phone away and opened the door.

“Hi, I’m John.”

Barbara Merrit blushed. The man standing in the doorway was handsome, no doubt, and had a hint of dangerous excitement in his mien. She was glad she opened the door.

“I-I-I am, as you probably figured out, Barbara Merrit,“ she stammered, smiling sweetly, “Evidently we have somethings to discuss… with masks on, of course,” as she put on the mask that was hanging by the door.

“Yo, sure, I didn’t want to startle you,” said John Stroud, pulling up a kerchief that was draped around his neck, “I saw your tweets about Mary Robinson and Sean Carroll.”

Oh, yes… ,” she said as tiny beads of ‘dew’ began forming on her forehead. The handsome stranger had become even more intriguing behind a mask. She took a moment to compose herself and then continued, “I understand you have some information I might be interested in?”

“Well, it’s not about that Mary and Sean so much, although it does concern them. It’s Jo Sanford who I’m here about.”

“Well, yes, she’s certainly a part of this,“ said Barbara, “What is it about her that I should know about?”

“It will cost you… ”

Here it comes,” she thought, “I knew it was too good to be true…

“… an hour of your time… “ said Stroud, “… over dinner? There’s a nice place down the block, with social distancing seating… my treat.”

Barbara Merrit laughed. The idea of spending an extended period of time in her apartment with a handsome stranger was only asking for trouble—albeit a delicious kind of trouble—but not quite this quickly. A little ‘social distancing’ right now would be a good idea. And she was hungry.

“Great idea! Let me grab my iPad and purse.”

“Check. I’m at your command.”

Merrit got her things together and the two went out into the night. It was cool and blustery, the spitting showers of the afternoon had ceased for the time being; Barbara and John made it to the local bistro without getting wet. They went in and were promptly seated.

“So, Mr.— what was your last name?” began Barbara.

“Um, Sanford, John Sanford,” said Stroud.

“You are Jo’s husband?”

“Um, no, I’m her… brother,” said Stroud. He was an experienced liar. “I’m here to find Jo and bring her home, her mother’s been heartbroken ever since she hooked up with those phoneys—that Sean guy and his witchy wife.” Stroud had only the vaguest ideas about Jo’s relationship with Sean and Mary, and those ideas were entirely from Barbara’s Merritthetruth Twitter feed. John figured that if he could play up to Barbara Merrit’s expectations he could find out where Jo was living.

“Oh, I see,” said Merrit, “Of course, it all makes sense now.” The alarms on Barbara’s BS detector were ringing; she knew that Jo was an only child and that her mother had died a few months previously. Who exactly was this creep? And how would she get out of this predicament? John lifted his beer to his mouth and Barbara noticed a tattoo of the head of a snake peeking out from his shirt-cuff. “Real classy,” she thought. She would play it cool throughout dinner and see what she could find out what this charming liar knew.

As they ate, the couple talked quietly, John spinning more and more outlandish stories of how Jo had been made a prisoner of a cult, how her mother was wasting away due to Jo’s refusal to come home. John seemed to be getting nervous and he started to fidget.

“So, I guess all this boils down to the question: where can I find Jo?” John said, abruptly.

“Look, I don’t know where she is now. After the riot they moved out of that apartment building. The last I heard they were in Iceland, Mary is some kind of bigwig in a new-age church there.” Barbara noticed that John’s right leg had begun to vibrate. “Are you OK? Are you high?” she said, pointing to his knee.

”Bitch, you know where she is. Tell me where she is,” he hissed.

“Look I told you what I know. You can look it up your self, Mary Robinson—the Icelandic Spells app.” John’s charms were waning fast.

John Stroud stood up.

“Where are you going?” asked Barbara.

“I’m just going to take a piss, bitch,” said John as began to walk to the back of the restaurant.

After he had been gone a few minutes, Barbara Merrit signaled the server.

“Did you see the man I was with?”

“He left, a couple of minutes ago, through the kitchen, out the back door… Would you like your check now?”

“I need a check, all right,” said Merrit, through a rueful grin, “A reality check.”

She pulled her phone out of her purse and scrolled through her contacts until she found M. DuPage and then she hit ‘call’.

“Hello, Marcel? Yes, it’s me,” she said, “Is your sleep-over offer still good? I need to hideout for a while.”

Next chapter: Halloween Spooks

By Professor Batty

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