* * *
Pavil put his gun cleaning kit away and slung the rifle on his shoulder. He donned his backpack before going downstairs. He found Wallin in the dining room. Oâ€™Brien came in with a plate of food and stared at the rifle in terror. He quickly left the dining room.
They waited for a couple of hours before Cloverfield came down, wandering into the dining room.
â€œGood morning,â€ Wallin said.
â€œDid you sleep well, New Yorker?â€ Pavil asked.
â€œYeah,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œIâ€™ve slept better. I prefer my bed at home.â€
â€œThat bed, Deryl told me, was amazing,â€ Wallin said.
â€œUh-huh,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œSpent a pretty penny on it.â€
Cloverfield eyed Pavilâ€™s rifle suspiciously. Nurse Petrov came down the stairs after that.
â€œMorning, Nurse,â€ Wallin said. â€œHowâ€™d you sleep?â€
â€œHmm,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œOkay, I suppose. Not sure if slept well. Canâ€™t remember.â€
Oâ€™Brien brought more food out for the other two. It was filling but very bland. The water had a slightly metallic taste and was evidently from a well.
Wallin left as the other two ate and returned with a chainsaw.
â€œThis is really good food, Oâ€™Brien,â€ Pavil said.
â€œThank you,â€ Oâ€™Brien said.
He scampered away.
â€œHe seems more nervous than usual,â€ Pavil said.
â€œYeah, more nervous than he was last night,â€ Wallin said.
â€œI wonder why,â€ Cloverfield said sarcastically.
â€œWhat do you mean by that?â€ Pavil said.
â€œYou have a gun and he has a chainsaw,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œIâ€™m a lumberjack,â€ Wallin said.
â€œOh,â€ Pavil said.
â€œThis is my job,â€ Wallin said.
â€œYeah,â€ Pavil said.
â€œTrue,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œBut he doesnâ€™t know that.â€
â€œNot very inconspicuous too,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œNext time he comes by, Iâ€™ll let him know why,â€ Wallin said.
â€œDonâ€™t think he wants,â€ Nurse Petrov said dryly.
â€œI reassembled it,â€ Pavil said. â€œI donâ€™t feel like taking it back apart. Or putting it back together again.â€
â€œTrue, but the chainsaw is â€¦ a bit â€¦ much,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œWhat if weâ€™ve got to cut something out of our way?â€ Wallin said.
â€œI think it adds a nice aesthetic touch to our table,â€ Pavil said.
â€œLike murder pictures,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
When Mr. Oâ€™Brien came in to get the plates, Wallin told him he was a lumberjack. The hotelier just looked nervous and got out of the room as quickly as he could.
It was around 10 a.m. when Ezekiel entered the hotel.
â€œI thought you folks were coming over for breakfast,â€ he said, sitting down at the table.
â€œOh well, Oâ€™Brien made some breakfast for us,â€ Wallin said.
â€œOh,â€ Ezekiel said. â€œThatâ€™s good.â€
â€œMe and Petrov slept in,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œI didnâ€™t feel like denying his hospitality,â€ Pavil said.
â€œI see,â€ Ezekiel said. â€œI see. Well, yeah, thatâ€™s fair.â€
They made small talk for a little while. When they asked for Fort Someplace, Ezekiel said he might be able to look it up but noted he hadnâ€™t been out of town for a while. Cloverfield asked for a map and Ezekiel said they could probably scare up an atlas from somewhere.
â€œWeâ€™re going to send some people out to see whoâ€™s body that was,â€ Ezekiel said. â€œNobodyâ€™s at Mr. Biceâ€™s house so maybe he was him.â€
â€œUnfortunate,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œYeah, it is. It is. Heâ€™s â€¦â€
â€œSorry for loss.â€
â€œYeah, itâ€™s a shame. Itâ€™s a damn shame. He was a pretty old man. He was all tore up with arthritis, unfortunately. He wasnâ€™t able to really work. But â€¦ weâ€™ll get him settled. If thatâ€™s him. It probably is. His jacket was there. His coat and everything. I donâ€™t know why he was going out in the snow wearing nothing â€¦ but â€¦â€
â€œHe was old. Maybe â€¦â€
Ezekiel waved his hand near his head, pantomiming craziness.
â€œSome things just donâ€™t deserve explanations,â€ Pavil muttered.
â€œBut youâ€™re welcome to stay as long as you need to until the weather clears a little bit,â€ Ezekiel said.
â€œDo have the means of getting my car removed from the snow bank?â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œIâ€™ll-Iâ€™ll tell the boys to see what they can do. Iâ€™ll have â€˜em take some shovels. Itâ€™s in a snow bank?â€
â€œYeah. Yeah. Iâ€™ll have â€˜em take some shovels out there.â€
â€œIâ€™ll more than happily pay.â€
â€œDonâ€™t worry about that. Donâ€™t worry about that. Weâ€™re glad to help. Glad to help.â€
â€œDo you need any work around town?â€ Wallin asked.
â€œUh â€¦ no,â€ Ezekiel said. â€œWeâ€™re pretty settled. Everybodyâ€™s kind of dug in for the winter. Most of the work around here stops most of the time during the winter, but youâ€™re welcome to stay as long as you want.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s the big kind of work around these parts?â€ Pavil asked.
â€œUh â€¦ well â€¦ weâ€™re just making do right now,â€ Ezekiel said. â€œMines played out some time ago so weâ€™re just â€¦ uh â€¦ we â€¦ weâ€™re just â€¦ trying our best to, you know, get by. Day by day.â€
â€œFair enough,â€ Wallin said. â€œFair enough.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t even introduce you to my wife or son. It was a surprise seeing people â€¦ we donâ€™t have electricity up here so people pretty much go to bed when it gets dark. Save on the candles and everything. But yeah, welcome to town. Welcome to Perdition. Sorry it was such a strange â€¦ terrible thing that happened when you got here.â€
â€œItâ€™s all right.â€
â€œWell, weâ€™re glad to have you. Glad to have you.â€
â€œSince you missed breakfast, if youâ€™d like to come by the house for supper tonight â€¦â€
Ezekiel pointed towards the front door.
â€œLike I said, itâ€™s right across the street,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™d be glad to have you.â€
â€œThank you,â€ Wallin said.
â€œIâ€™ll make a note of it,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œItâ€™ll be a simple meal but weâ€™ll probably have some of the people from town here,â€ Ezekiel said.
â€œVery nice,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œGet Dr. Reddick down,â€ Ezekiel went on. â€œMaybe have Oâ€™Brien come. Maybe Mr. McKensey, although heâ€™s a little shy, so â€¦â€
â€œYes,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
Ezekiel nodded, excused himself, and left.
â€œWell,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œHe seemed far less nervous,â€ Pavil said.
â€œHe is very kind,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œHe seems pretty insistent on us coming to eat with him,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œIs he mayor?â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œIâ€™m going to assume he may fill that function,â€ Pavil said.
â€œOr effectively the eldest person in the town?â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œSmartest maybe,â€ Pavil said.
â€œTown has to get by,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œMaybe he deal with outsiders.â€
â€œWell, he did seem, as you put it, very insistent on us going for a meal with him,â€ Pavil said. â€œSo I suggest we do that.â€
â€œWhat should we do in the meantime?â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œWe do have quite a few hours before supper,â€ Wallin said.
â€œNot sure,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œNot much to do.â€
â€œWe could go look at the mine,â€ Wallin suggested. â€œOld man was talking about it last night.â€
â€œWhy would we do that?â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œWhy would we go to the mine?â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œYeah,â€ Pavil said.
â€œWhatâ€™s there?â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œI mean â€¦ I donâ€™t know,â€ Wallin said. â€œHe was talking about how some man had some books or something.â€
â€œShouldnâ€™t we ask Ezekiel first?â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œYou had a book â€¦â€ Pavil said.
He took out his little notebook.
â€œIsnâ€™t that your dream?â€ he said.
â€œYeah!â€ Wallin said.
â€œBooks in a mineshaft?â€
â€œYeah, it was.â€
â€œWhat dream?â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œWhat?â€ Nurse Petrov said.
Wallin described his dream to them: of going through a mineshaft with books, chanting something, and something appearing on his arm that he was not able to see before waking. Pavil helped him remember the chanting and that the strange bulge had appeared on his right arm. Nurse Petrov didnâ€™t know what to make of it.
â€œStrange,â€ she said. â€œSo, you believe because of this dream we should go check out this mine where your arm will bulge?â€
â€œUh â€¦ we donâ€™t know that will happen,â€ Wallin said. â€œI donâ€™t know that thing I was speaking.â€
â€œBut old man wanted to run,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œDreams have always been weird, Miss Petrov,â€ Pavil said.
Cloverfield looked at Wallin carefully, remembering the house.
â€œDreams are strange, Miss Petrov,â€ Pavil went on. â€œThereâ€™s many cases of dreams in the good Holy Book of dreams leading people to both their doom and their salvation.â€
â€œHm,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œWhat this is, I have no idea.â€
â€œHoly Book have arm bulge?â€
â€œPotentially?â€ Wallin said.
â€œHoly Book had talking burning bushes, so â€¦â€ Pavil said.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t be surprised,â€ Wallin said.
â€œHoly Book very strange,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
Wallin realized the dream might have simply been in relation to the story the dying man had told them by the road outside of town. It was a terrible occurrence. Heâ€™d never seen someone die before. He mentioned that to the others. Nurse Petrov still found it strange.
They got up and parted ways.
* * *
Cloverfield and Pavil donned their coats and headed up the street to the bank. The building was made of stone and seemed solid but proved to be boarded up. The word â€œBANKâ€ was carved onto the faÃ§ade. Looking in through the thick, glass-paned doors on the front revealed teller stations and a marble floor. A large safe stood near the back. It didnâ€™t look like it had been used in a long time.
â€œIs there anything else in town?â€ Cloverfield asked.
â€œWe could check out the local billiard hall,â€ Pavil said. â€œItâ€™s always nice to see what the watering hole offers.â€
They headed back up the street.
* * *
Wallin left the hotel to look for a telegraph office. He wandered the opposite direction the other men had gone, crossing the intersection outside of the hotel to a general store that stood on the other corner. He found the building still in use with a couple of old men playing checkers by a wood stove. A third man wore an apron and watched the game. There were very few goods on the shelves and racks. The place was nearly empty and all three men seemed surprised to see him.
â€œCan I help you?â€ the man in the apron asked.
â€œOh, Iâ€™m one of the visitors that came in last night,â€ Wallin said.
The men looked at each other and nodded.
â€œI was just trying to find something to pass the time before â€¦â€ Wallin said. â€œEzekiel asked us to come to supper.â€
â€œOh, Ezekiel,â€ one of the old men said. â€œOh.â€
â€œDo you need any wood for that stove back there?â€ Wallin asked.
â€œNo,â€ the man in the apron said. â€œWeâ€™re fine.â€
â€œAll right,â€ Wallin said.
The men eyed the chainsaw warily.
* * *
Both Pavil and Cloverfield couldnâ€™t help but notice they were constantly under observation. As they walked up the street, they saw the villagers kept a constant eye on them. They passed villagers who would wave but then try to surreptitiously watch them after they had passed. There was always someone around where they were. After leaving the bank, they noticed someone walking down the street towards the south side of town. Another person peeked out of a window, keeping them in view as they passed a house. Yet another came out of their house as they passed and started to sweep snow from the porch, smiling at them and then watching them.
They found the billiard hall tucked between the drug store and the restaurant, the latter obviously closed up. They went inside and found two billiard tables and several cues in racks on the walls. Several of the billiard cues seemed to be homemade and the professionally made cues, of which there were few, looked old and worn. A wood stove warmed the place and a man stood behind a short bar at the far end. A large keg was on the floor beside him. Two younger men played billiards.
â€œYou want something to drink, sir?â€ the man behind the bar asked.
â€œI would love that,â€ Pavil said.
â€œAll right,â€ the man said.
He got out a jug and poured clear liquid into an old glass. It was about a swallow and he handed it to the man. Pavil slammed it down. It burned as it went down and he nearly coughed as it was very strong corn liquor, obviously homemade. The man looked at him, looked at the jug, and raised his eyebrows as if asking â€œAnother?â€
â€œYes!â€ Pavil said.
The man gave him another swallow of the harsh liquor.
â€œYou, sir?â€ the man said to Cloverfield.
â€œUh â€¦ no,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œNo thanks.â€
Pavil slammed the second shot of moonshine. It was horrible but also a wonderful distraction. The man offered him another one but he waved him off.
Pavil asked the man behind the bar to fill his flask with the moonshine and the man shrugged and searched for some time for a funnel small enough to do so but ended up filling up the flask.
* * *
Nurse Pavil, bored, finally left the hotel and went outside. She started to build a snowman and saw Wallin come out of the general store. They both realized people were not bothering to shovel snow from the street or their front walks. The snowman Nurse Pavil was making was very large.
â€œRemind you of back home?â€ Wallin said as he approached.
â€œMuch more snow home,â€ she said.
â€œFair enough,â€ Wallin said.
â€œMake igloos at home,â€ she said.
Wallin remembered a sign they had passed on the way into town that said â€œPerdition Post.â€
â€œIn Soviet Russia, you jump in pile of snow and be fine,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œFrom tall tower.â€
â€œDo you know where the other two went?â€ Wallin asked again.
â€œNot been paying attention,â€ she said. â€œBeen rolling snow.â€
â€œFair enough,â€ he said.
He headed down the street towards the Perdition Post. He realized when he got there it wasnâ€™t a post office but a boarded up newspaper office. He noticed someone loitering across the street, shoveling snow ineffectively but obviously keeping an eye on him. When Wallin looked his way, he quickly looked away. Then he glanced back at him. He headed back to the hotel, waving to the villager who ignored him like he didnâ€™t notice.
He found Nurse Pavil next to an unfinished snowman that collapsed under its own weight.
â€œSnow is not very packed,â€ she said.
* * *
Cloverfield left the billiard hall and went next door to the drugstore, which proved to be closed and obviously long-abandoned. He saw the others up the street and went to join them.
â€œNice â€¦ snow man,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œIt collapsed,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œNot very good snow. Better in Russia.â€
â€œDo you know where Marco is?â€ Wallin said.
â€œGetting alcohol,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œAh!â€ Wallin said. â€œIâ€™m assuming from the place you just were?â€
â€œItâ€™s some sort of alcohol but â€¦ yeah,â€ Cloverfield said.
Wallin headed down to the billiard hall.
* * *
Pavil had a filled flask of moonshine. He pulled out his wallet but the man just waved him off. Pavil took the manâ€™s hand and shook it graciously. He turned to find the two men who had been playing billiards had stopped and were just staring at him. He walked over to them.
â€œWhat you looking at?â€ he said.
The front door opened and Wallin walked in. The two men looked towards him.
â€œHey,â€ Pavil said.
â€œHey, Marco,â€ Wallin said.
â€œYouâ€™ve got to try this!â€Pavil said.
He waved his flask and handed it to him. Wallin took a swig and choked on the rough corn liquor. It burned going down.
â€œThat reminds me of a night with my brother,â€ Wallin said.
* * *
Cloverfield approached one of the villagers who was walking down the street.
â€œHello there,â€ he said.
â€œHowdy,â€ the man said.
He continued down the street. Cloverfield moved to walk at the same pace.
â€œSo, uh, how are you doing?â€ he said.
â€œIâ€™m fine,â€ the man said carefully.
â€œThatâ€™s good. Where are you going?â€
â€œIâ€™m just going down to Dr. Reddickâ€™s.â€
â€œYou mind if I â€¦ uh â€¦ join ya.â€
â€œUh â€¦ itâ€™s right over here.â€
The men went into the house with the sign over the door that read â€œDoctor Reddick.â€ The front room was obviously a place for patients to wait. The older gentleman there seemed surprised to see him.
â€œWhat you need, Barrett?â€ he said to the villager.
â€œIâ€™m - Iâ€™m just coming to have you look at my cut, Doc,â€ Barrett said. â€œJust make sure itâ€™s okay.â€
Dr. Reddick looked at Cloverfield.
â€œCan I help you, sir?â€ Dr. Reddick asked.
â€œHelp him first,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œI have some questions for you.â€
â€œAll right,â€ Dr. Reddick said. â€œCome on, Barrett.â€
Barrett and Dr. Reddick went into what looked like an examining room, Dr. Reddick looking out at Cloverfield as he closed the door. Cloverfield heard movement and the mumble of conversation from the other room. A few minutes later, Barrett came out with a fresh bandage. He left and Dr. Reddick approached Cloverfield.
â€œYou one of them strangers in town?â€ Dr. Reddick said.
â€œYeah,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œHmm. Are you â€¦ you hurt?â€
â€œNo. Iâ€™m quite fine. I just had questions.â€
â€œDo you know â€¦ anything about the town weâ€™re in?â€
â€œI would hope so. Iâ€™ve lived here for 30 years.â€
â€œBut â€¦ do you know about a town called Fort Mac â€¦ Something?â€
â€œSeems to be the common answer here.â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t know what the â€¦â€
â€œHow would anybody know if you donâ€™t know?â€
â€œDo you know this person?â€
Cloverfield took out Dr. Sappingtonâ€™s card. Dr. Reddick didnâ€™t know any names.
â€œWell, do you know anything about the mine?â€ Cloverfield asked.
â€œWell, it ran out,â€ Dr. Reddick said. â€œAbout 20 years ago.â€
â€œI heard someone went in there, though.â€
â€œYou heard someone â€¦ whereâ€™d you hear that?â€
â€œWell â€¦ I just heard it from one of the townsmen. Ezekiel was talking about it.â€
â€œWell, you should ask Ezekiel about it then.â€
â€œBut â€¦ true.â€
Cloverfield awkwardly walked out.
â€œGood day,â€ he said over his shoulder. â€œSee you at supper.â€
He left the office, red-faced and embarrassed. He saw Nurse Petrov was making three tiny snowmen out of the remains of her larger one.
* * *
Wallin got a glass of moonshine at the billiard hall. It was very rough and very strong. He started to feel it after only the couple of drinks. Both he and Pavil could feel it though they were fine for the moment.
â€œWe should go back to Nurse Petrov,â€ Wallin said.
They left the billiard hall and found Cloverfield with the woman.
â€œDo we want to go look at the mine?â€ Wallin said.
â€œYou are one about that mine,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œNo one wants to talk to me about it,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œReally?â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œSee thatâ€™s why I thinkâ”€â€ Wallin said.
â€œWell, the doctor refused to speak about it,â€ Cloverfield said. â€œHe told me I need to speak to Ezekiel, when I tried to divert around plowing down the man.â€
â€œThatâ€™s why I think we should go check it out ourselves,â€ Wallin said. â€œJust take a quick look around the general area.â€
â€œAs much as I hate to admit it, that is sound logic,â€ Pavil said.
â€œDo you know the location?â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œNot a clue,â€ Wallin said.
â€œWell, we donâ€™t have any light sources,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œSo, we go there ourselves without asking?â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œYep,â€ Pavil said. â€œYouâ€™re right about that. Iâ€™m not going to go anywhere near it without a flashlight.â€
Cloverfield went to the general store in search of lanterns but the place only had the ones they used to light the place. When he offered to buy one, the man refused him though he noted he had a lot of money and even flashed it around. The man apologized but wouldnâ€™t sell him anything. Cloverfield left and walked down the street.
â€œThere was also a newsstand that was all boarded up,â€ Wallin said to the other two.
â€œI say we should actually meet with Ezekiel before we go near the mine,â€ Pavil said. â€œWe should talk to him first.â€
â€œI mean â€¦â€ Wallin said.
â€œHe makes me wary,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œEverybody makes me wary, so Iâ€™ll take your word for that,â€ Pavil said.
Wallin looked up and guessed it was about noon.
â€œAbout what time is it?â€ he asked Nurse Petrov.
She looked at her watch.
â€œAbout 11:30,â€ she said.
â€œWe could maybe head over to Ezekielâ€™s for lunch,â€ Wallin said.
â€œDid he offer lunch?â€
â€œNo, he offered supper.â€
â€œI thought he offered dinner.â€
â€œHm. Maybe not impose. I would not impose.â€
* * *
Cloverfield arrived at the bank and walked around to the back, where he found a back door. It was nailed shut as well. When he tried the handle, he found it locked. The windows all had bars on them as well as boards. He looked around but the buildings seemed to be inhabited nearby. He went further down the street, past McKenseyâ€™s house, but across the street, one house had a collapsed roof but otherwise seemed intact.
He moved behind the house and, though the door and windows were boarded up, the back door was not locked and the boards nailed up were not attached to the door, only the frame. He crawled through the boards. It was cold and dark though light came in through the windows. The curtains were pulled back.
He looked for lanterns and soon found the house had been ransacked and most of the items removed. The drawers and the cupboards were all open. Rooms were empty of furniture and the lanterns he looked for. Of note in one of the upstairs rooms was a noose hanging from a rafter. Though there were hooks where lanterns or even hanging lamps might have been on the walls, they were all gone.
* * *
The others discussed using the candles they were given at the hotel though Pavil was against it. Wallin didnâ€™t particularly want to go into the mineshaft but wanted to see the entrance. Pavil was willing to do that, noting they didnâ€™t even need a light to just find the place.
They headed out of the town to the north, passing a post office and a Dr. McMillenâ€™s house, when they spotted what looked like mine works on the mountainside in that direction. They trudged out of town through the deep snow and saw the hillside was less than an eighth of a mile from town. There were several mine entrances with narrow gauge rail tracks. Everything was very rusty. Paint peeled from the numerous structures built there.
â€œWhat do you think?â€ Pavil said. â€œAbout what I was expecting. He said it dried up about 20 years ago.â€
â€œNot much to go on,â€ Wallin said.
â€œWhat were you looking for exactly?â€ Pavil said.
They followed the mountainside past the unnamed and unnumbered mine entrances until they reached the 13th. Wallin recognized the last one: Number 13. It was eerily and terrifyingly familiar and Wallin realized it was from his dream the night before.
â€œOh,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m starting to think my dream wasnâ€™t just a dream.â€
â€œAre you sure?â€ Nurse Petrov asked.
â€œYeah, this looks too familiar and Iâ€™ve never been here before, so â€¦â€
â€œHm. Interesting. Well, lead us the way since you know this place.â€
â€œI ainâ€™t going in!â€
â€œWell, continue â€¦â€
â€œI say we ask Ezekiel more about this at dinner.â€
* * *
Cloverfield peeked into the uppermost floor of the house, which had collapsed, the stairway was choked with debris. As he came down the steps, he heard a door slam below. He put his hand in his pocket with his pistol.
â€œWhoâ€™s there?â€ he called.
There was no answer. He drew his pistol and crept towards the back door again. It was closed. He had not closed it. He pulled it open and saw no one outside. He kicked one of the boards several times before it came free. He crawled out of the building, looking around nervously. No one was around.
He put his pistol away and hightailed it back to the hotel. It seemed like everyone he passed was watching him. He stumbled and fell at one point but quickly got back up and continued towards the hotel.
* * *
The other three walked back to town. Nurse Petrov was not sure what the point had been to visit the mine and Wallin pointed out he wanted to make sure he wasnâ€™t going crazy. Nurse Petrov spotted Cloverfield running up the street towards them, stumbling in the snow and leaning heavily on his cane. She broke into a jog towards the man.
When she reached him, she grabbed him by the shoulders.
â€œWhat happened?â€ she said.
Cloverfield was out of breath.
â€œI â€¦ I â€¦ I was â€¦ checking out one of the â€¦ abandoned houses â€¦ for a lantern,â€ he gasped. â€œFor the mine. And â€¦ uh â€¦ uh â€¦. um â€¦ and there was a â€¦ I saw a noose in there â€¦ not important though. I was looking for a lantern.â€
â€œWas there a body?â€ Nurse Petrov asked.
â€œWas there body?â€
â€œNo. It looked like itâ€™d been there for a while.â€
â€œJust a noose? No one there?â€
â€œHanging from the rafters.â€
â€œI wonder if it was old man.â€
â€œMaybe. The house was stripped clean of anything of worth. Thereâ€™s no lanterns. But someone slammed the door, the way I came in. And then everyone was watching me as I ran up the street.â€
â€œI â€¦ I imagine.â€
â€œBut â€¦ but someone slammed the door behind me and I â€¦ I donâ€™t know who it was. I hurt my leg on the way over here. I tripped.â€
â€œThat is why you limp. Give me arm. Take you back to inn.â€
â€œI can walk on it.â€
â€œAre you sure?â€
â€œI â€¦ ran up here using the cane.â€
â€œDoes it hurt, though?â€
â€œAfter adrenaline. You know.â€
â€œIâ€™ll â€¦ be fine.â€
â€œOkay. I want to see house if you can.â€
â€œThat â€¦ noose house.â€
Cloverfield looked around. The few townsfolk were around but he didnâ€™t see anyone specifically looking at them. Pavil noticed them keeping an eye on them, though. He didnâ€™t see any familiar faces. The people heâ€™d noticed watching them before were not the same ones watching now.
â€œBetter idea,â€ Nurse Petrov said. â€œWe go ask Ezekiel. Ezekiel? Ezekiel. What house? Whose house that is.â€
Cloverfield led the way to the house across from the hotel.
â€œSo, we are going to lunch,â€ Wallin quipped.
No one laughed.
Cloverfield knocked on the door when they arrived and a young boy answered. They recognized him as the boy Ezekiel had brought to the house the night before.
â€œHello!â€ the boy said.
â€œIs Ezekiel in?â€ Cloverfield asked.
â€œNo, heâ€™s doing chores.â€
â€œWhere is he then?â€
â€œI â€¦ uh â€¦ the north field? Maybe?â€
â€œThe north field?â€
â€œThe south field? Maybe the east?â€
â€œIs he a farmer?â€
â€œCould be the west field?â€
â€œIs your mother home?â€ Wallin asked.
â€œAre yâ€™all coming over for supper already?â€ the boy said. â€œIt ainâ€™t suppertime.â€
â€œNo, weâ€™re just looking for Ezekiel to ask him some questions.â€
â€œMomâ€™s doing chores too. Sheâ€™s not here. Iâ€™m cleaning.â€
â€œOkay. Thank you.â€
â€œBe good boy now,â€ Nurse Petrov said to the boy, who was closing the door very slowly.
â€œYouâ€™re a big lady,â€ the boy said.
â€œYes,â€ she said.
The boy closed the door.
â€œDo you want me to show you the house, then?â€ Cloverfield asked.
â€œPerhaps we wait,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œYeah, we should just wait,â€ Pavil said.
â€œI guess weâ€™ll just â€¦ wait then,â€ Cloverfield said.
â€œLetâ€™s go back to the hotel for lunch,â€ Wallin said.
They returned to the hotel where Oâ€™Brien was surprised and terrified to see them, seemingly. He ran to the kitchen, calling back he would get them some lunch. He soon returned with cold roast beef sandwiches. There were no sides but just the sandwiches and they were not spiced or salted. He also brought a pitcher of water and glasses for them all.
While they ate, Nurse Petrov and Cloverfield noticed the door to the kitchen was slightly ajar. Nurse Petrov assumed they were being watched. Cloverfield got up and walked over, giving the door a little push. He felt pressure against it that went away as soon as he started to push it. It bumped into something.
He pushed it open all the way and peeked into the kitchen. Oâ€™Brien was scuttering away from the door almost as if he had been spying on them. Cloverfield sighed and let go of the door. He kept an eye on the door after that and soon saw it open a crack once again. Nurse Petrov noticed Cloverfield looking and the door open slightly again. Cloverfield realized she saw it as well.
They finished lunch. It was bland but filling.
Wallin and Pavil went back to the billiard hall to play billiards. Nurse Petrov looked at Cloverfieldâ€™s leg but it was fine. After that, Cloverfield joined them at the billiard hall.
Nurse Petrov walked down the street to the Perdition Post. It was boarded up and she peeked into the windows that showed an office in the front with a printing press, typewriter, and desk. A door led to the back room of the place. She couldnâ€™t see if there were any newspapers in the place, however. She didnâ€™t want to break into the building.
Next door was a residence. She passed a closed restaurant that was boarded up. The house next to it was boarded up as well. The drugstore was also closed up and boarded up as well. She was surprised the meat shop was open. She entered the meat shop and saw there was nobody there.
â€œHello?â€ she called. â€œHello?â€
A noise like the hacking of meat came from the back of the place.
â€œHello?â€ she called more loudly.
The noise stopped in the back and Oâ€™Brien came out. He wore a bloody apron and had a large, bloody knife in his hand.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ he said. â€œIs something wrong?â€
â€œNo, I was just â€¦ wondering if you sold salt here,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
â€œAh â€¦ no. We ainâ€™t had salt in Perdition in some time. Canâ€™t mine it, you know. I was just â€¦ slaughtering some meat â€¦â€
A woman entered the meat shop.
â€œWhat do you hunt?â€ Nurse Petrov asked Oâ€™Brien.
â€œWell, we slaughtered a cow,â€ he said. â€œSometimes the men in town will bring me â€¦ whatever they need cut up for them. Squirrel or deer or possum or raccoon â€¦ uh â€¦â€
â€œâ€¦ whatever they can bring. Okay.â€
â€œSorry for disturbing you.â€
The woman just stared at Nurse Petrov.
â€œItâ€™s okay,â€ Oâ€™Brien said.
â€œIâ€™ll be on my way,â€ Nurse Petrov said.
She left the place. As she closed the door, she realized the woman merely stared at her as she went.
She headed towards the fields to the north in search of Ezekiel without luck. The people she found seemed nervous around her. She merely nodded at them and then continued her search for Ezekiel. She ended up finding the man eventually. He seemed surprised to see her. He was in a barn where some cattle and sheep were kept, busily working with the animals.
â€œCan I help you?â€ he asked.
â€œI wish I had my friends with me but â€¦ we went to the mine and would like more information about that mine,â€ she said. â€œI know it was dried up.â€
â€œYeah, Iâ€™m kind of busy,â€ he said. â€œI can talk to you about that tonight.â€
â€œVery well,â€ she said.
She left, angry at the lack of answers she was getting. She went to the billiard hall and joined the others.
* * *