Friday, October 23, 2020

Storm Clouds

This is chapter 44 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Friday Afternoon, October 23, 2020, Seattle

John Stroud thumbed through the wallet that he had just pickpocketed in Pike Place Market. There was $45 in cash but no credit or debit cards—and nothing else that could be turned for cash. There was a library card, however. “This could be useful,” he thought, “And the sap wrote his PIN on it!

Stroud had come to Seattle from Spokane where his drug-dealing operations had been disrupted by a couple of overdoses suffered by his customers, one of whom had been the nephew of the police chief. He had run into more trouble in Seattle where he run afoul of some homeless punks who didn’t want him moving in on their turf. They didn’t live to regret tangling with him. The reason Stroud came to Seattle was that he had heard that his ex, Jo, had been in Spokane recently. The motel clerk at the Tiki Lodge (who knew them both from high school) had told him that she was living in Seattle under the name of Jo Stanford. She gave him the address that Jo had used when she checked in. Stroud thought that perhaps she would have forgiven him by now and he could crash at her place. When he got to Seattle he checked out the address: An upscale security-controlled apartment downtown. He had hung out around it for a few days but hadn’t seen her come or go. Her name wasn’t listed in the apartment directory, either. He was beginning to have doubts—she hardly seemed the type to have such a tony domicile. With the library card he could access the internet there to see if she really was in Seattle.

Jo and Mary were in Jo’s kitchen going over the lesson plans for Mareka’s home school. They could see Mareka in the backyard, dancing with a pair of crows.

“I always thought that she might be a different sort of child,” said Mary, “But I never imagined anything like this.”

“It could be worse, she could be eating carrion with them,” said Jo, laughing, “It reminds me of the final scene in The Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

Let Her Dance, in the supermarket, right?” said Mary, “How many times did we watch that?”

“It seemed like every day for a month, that winter when she turned four,“ said Jo, “That crow on the left can bust some serious moves.”

“What’s up for next week in school,” said Mary, “Besides the usual curriculum items?”

“The kids are planning the Halloween Show—they won’t tell me what it is—they’ve been talking to each other about it on the phone after school hours.“

“I had wondered what she was doing on the phone,” said Mary, “I knew she and Sara had  become friends. I guess I’ll have to wait and see what happens Saturday night. All the parents have said they are going to come, it will be a test of the garage’s ventilation system.”

“They all have costumes with masks so we can add regular masks under them,” said Jo, “I told them they can rehearse Saturday morning.”

“I love those kids,” said Mary.

John Stroud was sitting at one of the library’s workstations. He had used his stolen card to gain access to the internet and was searching for references to “Jo Stanford”, the name the motel clerk said she used when she had been in Spokane. He hadn’t any luck: neither a regular search nor an image search had turned up anything. He tried entering it again, using ‘Joe’ and ‘Joan’ several other similar names. He tried reentering her name again but this time he mis-typed and entered the name “Jo Sanford”. It came up with numerous hits.

And there she was: the news account of her killing of an intruder eight years ago, her involvement with the witch riot and, recently, the Twitter feed of Merritsthetruth. As he scrolled through the tweets, Stroud tried to make sense of them. He had never been really computer-literate. He did have some experience years ago, before his heavy drug-dealing days, but after he had seen other dealers and fugitives get busted with information the cops had obtained from it, Stroud made it a point to avoid on-line activity altogether. In his estimation the Merritsthetruth feed was nearly incoherent but: it did have pictures of Jo. What it didn’t have was an address. One of the pictures showed Jo and a guy named ‘Sean Carroll’ embracing in front of the building where she supposedly lived. He would have to get in touch with this Merrit woman.

Stroud typed ‘Barbara Merrit’ into the search box and then hit ‘return’.

Barbara Merrit had been thinking about her situation. Her efforts over the last four months to find information linking her brother’s death to Sean and Mary were suffering from diminishing returns. Her last tweet received no replies or re-tweets.  “This is it, the end of the line,” she thought. “I’m miserable, I’m hungry, my lease is up, and I miss my dog.

Her reverie was interrupted by the buzzer from her apartment intercom.

“Who is it?”

“Um, this is John, um, you don’t know me, but I have some information about the people you are looking for.”

She buzzed him in.

Next chapter: Creep Show

By Professor Batty

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