Last week, as you'll recall, Ollie is feeling better, and Consuelo is back. So now what? Find out in this week's installment of Stan and Ollie. And don't forget to visit the other Wednesday Briefers, whose links follow my tale. Enjoy!
Stan and Ollie #21
I’m determined that he goes nowhere until I’m sure he can handle it, but as usual he has a mind of his own. “Can I get some more…” He weakly points toward the table. I snatch up the bottle of brandy, unscrew the cap and offer it to him. He tilts it, pouring the liquid down his throat in a single stream, draining half the bottle in one swallow before he stops, takes a breath and hands it back to me. I can see color flow back into his pale skin. I breathe a sigh of relief. I know he’ll be all right, but I can’t help worrying about him.
“Consuelo, can you tell us how to get to the road?” He turns his attention to the spirit, who seems more translucent than ever. He swings his long legs over the side of the bed and stands, wobbling slightly, but he quickly recovers and I can feel his growing strength. Xylina leaps onto his neck, and curls there protectively. I nod my approval, as the dead girl gives Ollie the low down.
I don’t bother to ask why we can’t just follow her there, because I know why. She has no real control over her movements. The only reason she is here now is because Ollie’s presence has drawn her, even weak as he was. That’s his gift and his curse. Mostly the latter.
Sure enough, mere moments later she’s faded from view once again.
“Do you think this is it? Do you think this is where her body is?”
Ollie nods. “I do.”
Good enough for me. Of course, our problem doesn’t end there. We have to alert the authorities, so they can call off the man hunt, such as it is, and search for the culprit, should her death be found to be an unnatural one, as we suspect. At that point, there’s no real reason for us to still be here, but I’m afraid my lover won’t rest at that point, knowing him as I do. Not until he’s solve the entire mystery and laid the girl’s spirit to rest.
No time to worry about that now, though. I grab the brandy, in case he has need of it later, take Ollie’s hand and we’re off to the car.
A strange feeling of déjà vu washes over me as we retrace our earlier steps, heading toward the parking lot where we originally rendezvoused with Egbert Montauk. Well, she did say it was near the church, didn’t she? Stands to reason.
Just before the turn-off to the church, Ollie directs me to a nearly-hidden road, and as we drive along the tree-lined route a chill grips my spine. This is it. The road Ollie showed me. Everything seems to be coming together now.
I’d expected the road to lead to the creek, but after just a few miles it ends abruptly. A yellow dead end sign dotted with reflectors reinforces the obvious. I pull the car just off the road and park. Looks like we’re hoofing it from here.
“Ollie…” I lay my hand upon his thigh and search his eyes. He already knows what my intention is, and although he is an ardent pacifist, he is also a realist. And he trusts me. At his nod, I reach across him, opening the glove compartment and pull out the piece that I have stashed there. I’m not near as trusting as Ollie, and there’ve been times when having a weapon has come in quite handy. While I hope this is not one of those times, I’m taking no chances.
I tuck my service revolver into my waist band, out of sight, and get out of the car, Ollie right behind. “Which way?”
He pauses, going quiet, and I hold my breath and wait until he points in the direction of a small path I’d not noticed until now. “The creek is that way.”
I insist on taking the lead. We cautiously make our way up the narrow byway. The path is littered in fallen leaves that rustle as we pass over them. I try to picture Egbert and Consuelo walking hand in hand on this same path, happily in love, a picnic basket between them. What has ruined their idyllic dreams of the future?
At the sound of a hiss behind me, I whirl, just in time to watch Xylina arch her bag, her ginger fur literally standing on end, before she morphs into a large scarlet bird with black-tipped wings.
“Are you crazy?” I angrily whisper. “You could have—”
She pushes off from Ollie with a disdainful flap of her wings and rises into the air, pointedly ignoring me.
“No time. Come.” Ollie is moving away from me, and I hasten to follow. I can hear it now, the sound of running water. Must be a good–sized creek, I surmise. It is, as I discover when we break out of the trees and find ourselves standing on its banks. I don’t know whether it’s actually a creek or a small river, not being an expert on bodies of water. The ground on either side is covered in a thick undergrowth, but closer to the water the soil is rockier and contains less vegetation.
A splash breaks the silence, drawing our attention.
And there they are, standing in the middle of the creek, a little ways down from where we stand. Pastor Will Robinson and Egbert. What in the world is going on?
I break into a run, Ollie just behind me. As we approach, the pastor beams at us, almost serenely. Egbert kneels in the water before him, head bent. He looks up in surprise at our arrival.
“Have you come to be baptized too?”
Before I can reply, I hear a drawn-out familiar wail. Standing just a few feet from us is the wraith of Consuelo Fairchild, possessed of an eerie red glow. I know what that means. Her body is nearby.
to be continued
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