This should have gone up yesterday, but we were without internet for almost three days, so I was stuck. A day late, but here is part four.
Five and Daemon
Fran offered to show them how to get to Miss Lucy’s, since her shift at the diner was over.
“And I’m kinda curious now, “ she said, as they walked out of Essie’s. “You think Miss Lucy is peddling these demons or whatever on purpose?” She shook her head. “She seems like such a sweet old girl.”
“Those are the most dangerous ones,” Cerise said. Fran looked at the beat-up yellow car.
“You sure this thing will make it across town?”
“Yeah, I keep telling him to ditch it. He says it has ‘character’.” Fran scrambled into the rear seat. Johnny climbed in behind the wheel, and turned the key. With a few sputters, a jerk or two, and cloud of black smoke, the engine coughed to life.
“She does have character,” Johnny said, as he pulled away from the curb. “As for this Miss Lucy, I doubt anyone could have that much contact with demons, even low level ones like you have here, without figuring it out. Unless she’s some sort of middle man.” Cerise looked across at him from the passenger seat.
“You mean some big shot demon deliberately comes to little, worth-nothing Carroll Fork?”
“Hey!” Fran interrupted from the back.
“Sorry, but you know what I mean, Johnny. A demon ends up here, grabs hold of an old lady, and compels her to sell possessed sweaters? Where does that make sense?” Johnny shrugged, sliding a pair of blue-lensed sunglasses on.
“Dunno. Won’t know till we get there.” They drove in silence through the small town, and Fran directed them onto a narrow, two-lane road that wound into the quiet countryside. They drove for a short distance and Fran pointed.
“There! On the left. That small sign.” It was small and would be easy to miss. The ornate lettering on the white sign read “Miss Lucy’s Emporium. One half mile.” There was an arrow pointing up the side road. Johnny nodded and turned the car onto the dirt road.
They rounded a bend and approached the shop. It was a small, square building, white with forest green shutters on divided windows. Curtains hung in each window, pulled back to let in the light. Across the front was a wide, wooden porch with balustered railings and simple columns, also painted green. A long white sign with scrollwork edges hung above the porch over the steps leading to the door. The sign read “Miss Lucy’s Emporium” in large letters. Below the name, in smaller lettering, it said “Sundries Household Goods Gently Used Clothing.” Johnny pulled up to the shop and parked. Cerise put a hand on his arm. He looked where she pointed.
Set back from the road was a house. Small, two storied, its wood siding was painted a soft yellow. Gingerbread trimmed the roof and eaves. Johnny looked back at Cerise.
“Look real close at the trim on the house.” Johnny leaned forward and stared. A moment later, he sat back and turned to Cerise again.
“Well, now, that is interesting.”
“Yeah.” They got out of the car, Fran scrambling from the small back seat.
“What did you see?” the waitress asked. Johnny started up the stairs into the shop.
“Enough to convince me we are in the right place.” Fran rushed to catch up with him.
“And what was ‘enough’?” Johnny stopped on the top step. He turned and pointed to the house behind the shop building.
“See the house?” Fran nodded. “All that gingerbread trim?” Another nod. “It’s not your usual trim work. Worked through it is what you would probably call hellfire. And that is not a good sign. You might want to stay out here.” Fran shook her head.
“Uh-uh. After what happened in the diner, I’m not letting you out of my sight.”
Johnny shrugged and pulled open the green door. A string of bells hanging on the inside chimed as they walked in. A voice called from a back room.
“I’ll be right with you, folks. You just wander around and look. I’m sure you’ll find something you will just love.” Fran began to inspect the items on the shelves. Cerise stood near a glass-enclosed counter, on top of which sat an old-fashioned cash register. She scanned the room slowly. She looked up at Johnny and nodded.
“Yep. Most everything in here is flashing.” Johnny just nodded. He walked around the room, looking at the assorted merchandise displayed in cases, on shelves, and hanging on racks. The place was a mash-up of conflicting things: toiletries, household items, a few shelves of canned goods and snack foods. Most of the store was given over to the secondhand clothing and other goods that filled the center of the room. Johnny concentrated on those, without touching anything.
“Now, how can Miss Lucy help you today?” The voice came from the direction of the back room. Johnny turned to see the gray-haired woman in the red shawl standing in the doorway. She had gold wire-rimmed glasses perched on her nose, and she wore a flowered dress that fell to mid-calf, and what Johnny’s grandmother would call “sensible shoes.” She saw Fran standing near a rack of coats and jackets.
“Why, Fran, how good to see you again,” the woman said, a smile beaming through her ruby red lips. “How do you like that scarf you got here last time? I still say it complements your eyes like nothing else ever could.” Fran raised a hand to her throat. She simply stared at Miss Lucy. The woman lifted one gray eyebrow. “Cat got your tongue today, Fran? Well, you just look around. There are some really nice jackets on that rack. And who are your friends?” She turned toward Cerise and Johnny, who were standing by the cash register. The smile froze on her lips as she stared at Cerise, then looked up at Johnny. Cerise was staring back, her green eyes even bigger than normal. She fluttered a small hand out to tap Johnny on the leg. The woman in the doorway regained her composure and smiled again, although this time it was colder and her dark eyes glinted behind the lenses of her glasses. A distinct smell of rotten eggs rose from around her.
“Well, I suppose I should have expected this, sooner or later.” Her voice was no longer pleasant and musical. It was deep and resonant, and rang in the small room. She took a step forward. Cerise looked up at Johnny.
“Uh, John?” was all she said. Johnny nodded, without looking down.
“I know, Cerise,” he said. He turned his attention back to Miss Lucy. “Not sure what I expected, but not you. What exactly are you doing, Luc?”
Go to Part Five
(Copyright 2015 M.A. Kropp)
A collection of six short stories in varied worlds of mayhem and mischief. Learn more here.
A short novelette set on a dystopain Earth after the climate collapses. Can the experimental food crops be saved from a survivor of the environmental disaster? Learn more here.
Coming in mid-August: “Circle Unbroken”, a science fiction novel. Kaili has come home to Geb, a planet rich in the minerals needed by a depleted Earth for her sister’s installment as head of the family mining business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner must use every talent at their disposal to save the company and the sisters’ lives.