Are You Haunted: part nine
Are You Haunted
“Well, as I see it, so long as a thing’s broken, it does no harm poking about its innards. Can’t get worse, might get better. Now, let me ask you, Powell…did Connolly not advance you something, for tiding you through to payday?”
“I’m going to take the car, then, and get what we need for our housewarming party. You’ll have to give me that money.” Alfin slid to his feet, clambered inside, pushed the starter and sat smiling, pleasantly, in anticipation.
One of the helpful townsfolk would tell the Big Chief that Alfin Tovey had been witnessed behind the wheel of Mrs. Drybrook’s car. Powell could see the mix of incredulity and disdain on Guy’s face…he’d seen it already. He dug the ten out of his pocket. He could not persuade himself he had a choice.
Dropping the trunk hatch, Powell backed off waving, one arm hugging his box of crockery, Drybrook’s suits over the other, trammeling the gesturing hand Alfin had probably not seen. He might have insisted he could do his own shopping, and taken the car (taking, then, the housewarming party for granted), and would, in the meantime—while clinging to the money—cede the run of the place to the Toveys. He might have read the riot act to Alfin, ordered him off the premises.
Guy would say it was a question of Powell’s doing his duty.
Well, he told himself, duty doesn’t always answer…there are times following orders leaves you stuck just as bad as you were to begin with. He would have turned his back on Alfin, still letting him take the car if he wanted, and marched up to the house, to repeat his speech to Dennis and Isobel—he couldn’t, because he liked her, exclude Isobel. And Guy, measuring the world by his own yardstick, discounted that he had some weight to throw around.
Guy was against the Toveys, even where they did no apparent harm…maybe only because they were said to be low class. Maybe because they’d been getting the better of him.
Cogitating thus, and wandering, Powell found himself at the front of the house. Alfin had parked his truck here…this made a fair show of good faith. Possibly, the truck was not Alfin’s. The cab was sun bleached and rusty, the flatbed gouged to the metal, dented where it had borne the impact of weighty things, red and black paint under aqua. Looking back down the driveway, Powell considered the view. They would have needed earth-moving equipment to crack through the rock face and grade the slope. Maybe thirty years ago, when they’d bought their first car, the Drybrooks had laid this in.
He could see the top of the barn from here, and a scant border of grass. If a car were parked in close, he ought still to see its nose. But just over the hill—going north, he thought, on Mill Road—might be houses, someplace people lived that was within walking distance. Toveys, Powell meant, being honest with himself…he pictured them that way, like one or two families he’d known back home, all congregated in a hollow. He turned in the other direction, looking for the mill’s gate.
The front door opened. Tovey shouted: “Kenzie, what are you doing, surveying the property line? Get in the house!”
And always appeasing to a superior, even in a hierarchy founded on sarcasm and noise, Powell moved too fast, bumping up to the stoop. He heard what might have been the breaking of another dish. Setting the box with care on the floor, he draped his suits over it, and straightened, ear cocked to the staircase. He took a step or two after Tovey, and in the dining room stopped.
(copyright 2015, 2018 Stephanie Foster)