Web of Deception: Chapter 2 - A Welcome Visit

Tue 18 Mar 2008

NOTE: This is a continuation of the "Web Of Deception" round-robin story. If you're late to the party, please start with Chapter 1 on Ben's site and go from there. You can also follow the RSS feed hosted at http://www.andthentheboilerburst.com/WebOfDeception.rss.

Web of Deception "Hey darlin'", Mike yelled from the back bedroom as he unpacked a box, "go check to see if that's someone knockin' at the door, wouldja?"

"Of course I will, my darling Schmoopie," came a sweet reply from the kitchen, followed by quick footsteps.

"Schmoopie," Mike mumbled to himself. "Why the hell does she always call me Schmoopie?" He pulled out one of his many bowling trophies, admired it briefly, and placed it high on a shelf.

At the other end of the old farmhouse, Callie creaked opened the front door and looked up at her visitor: a tall, large-framed man in his fifties, with close cut grey hair and wire glasses. He smiled broadly and held out a calloused hand. "A fine pleasure to meet you young lady. My name's Tom. Tom Dufay." He had a deep, slightly raspy voice, that seemed both commanding and gentle. "I ran into Harmon -- Mike's Dad -- down at the library last week, and he told me you two were going to take up residence in this place. I thought I'd stop by and try to make you welcome."

"Well that is so nice of you," Callie smiled back. "We've only been here for a couple days, and you're the first local we've met. Please, come on in and have a seat. And pardon our little mess, this front room has become a dumping area for everything that still needs putting away."

"Why thank you," he said as he walked in. "Oh, and you'll meet plenty more folks if you head into town every so often. Won't be able to help it. People will walk right up and start asking questions if you're not a familiar face." Tom weaved through a maze of boxes, bags, and old furniture, and finally made his way to an overstuffed armchair near a window. He leaned back comfortably and assessed his surroundings, looking pleased. "I run the local drug store, but that doubles as a general supply store around here. I can get my hands on just about anything you want. We don't have any fancy Wal-Marts here like they do in the city, so you just let me know if you have a need, and I'll help you out." Then he waved a hand at the disarray in the room and added, "Of course, if you need help unpacking I may not be much use. Bad back, I'm afraid."

"Why how good of you to almost offer to help unpack," Callie smirked, shifting some boxes to form a makeshift throne to perch on. She hopped up on her seat and let her feet dangle above the floor. "I'm being sarcastic, of course. It really is nice of you to come by and say hello. I've been wanting to ask someone all about the town, and this old farmhouse, and the whole area."

As Tom began to respond, Mike wandered in through the hallway, brushing dust off his shirt and rolling the sleeves up to show off his biceps. He gave his unexpected visitor a bit of a stern look, then glanced at Callie and softened, and then finally reconsidered the visitor and made his way over with his hand out. "Well hi, I'm not sure we've met. I'm Mike."

Tom stood up, a few inches taller than Mike, and shook the hand he was offered. "Tom", he said, bright and friendly. Both men sized each other up for a moment and then relaxed slightly, Tom settling back down in the chair and Mike finding a short but sturdy box next to Callie to hunch down on.

"I heard you say that you saw my Dad the other day," offered Mike. "You know him I guess?"

"Met him once or twice when he had to pick something up at my store, and saw him in town plenty more when he'd come by to check in on this place. I'm not sure you'd say I know him, so much as we know who each other are. I haven't seen him too much since the... um, anyway he seems to be looking well."

"Yeah, he's all right," said Mike, who paused and struggled to find something else to say. Nothing came to mind, and after a short uncomfortable silence he bumped Callie lightly with his beefy shoulder. She had been staring out of the window, squinting at something, but she now focused her eyes back on the room they were in and turned toward Tom.

"Well, it really was nice of you to introduce yourself Mr. Dufay, but you can probably see that we're not set up to entertain guests quite yet." Callie made the short drop off her stack of boxes and started towards the door. "We will certainly make a point to come by your store tomorrow."

Tom could see that he was being dismissed, and he grinned again as he stood up and followed Callie to the door. "Nothing would make me happier," he said, shaking hands with Mike again and giving a little wave to Callie as he passed through the doorway. "Great to have some fresh blood in town. And remember, anything you need..."

Tom climbed in his old pickup truck and drove off in a cloud of dust and gravel. Callie watched from the doorway until the dust settled and the truck was most certainly beyond the tall hedges and down the road, and then she went out and walked around the front porch to the side of the house.

"Where you goin' honey?" Mike asked, following her. "Something wrong with that window? I saw you starin' at it before. It ain't broke is it?"

"No, I just thought I saw a hummingbird or something. They generally start coming out in this part of the country just after the spring equinox."

Mike rolled his eyes. "Is that another one of those astronomy words you're always comin' up with? You and those star books you read."

Callie ignored this as she knelt down and pulled something out of the patchy grass; it was a rough strand of black yarn a few inches long. She rolled it in her fingers for a few seconds as she studied the window. Then she sniffed it, furrowed her brow, and headed back inside, brushing absently past Mike as she tugged the yarn gently with both hands.

Mike tagged along behind her. "What's that you found? Looks like a string from that ugly old black sweater you wear all the time when it gets cold at night. You didn't snag it while you were cleaning the windows, did you?"

"Um, yes, I'm sure that's what it's from. And I'll thank you not to call that sweater ugly, Schmoops. It was a present from my great-grandmother when I turned 16." Callie tugged down on Mike's shoulder and pecked him on the cheek, pocketed the piece of yarn, and started whistling another one of her strange melodies as she went back inside.

Mike shook his head and talked to himself as he watched her go in. "Schmoops... I swear she's tryin' to piss me off with that." He took a step up on the porch to head into the house, when suddenly a grizzled grey alley cat leapt from the bushes, grabbed hold of his jeans, and started humping his leg with a fury Mike hadn't seen since the last WWF cage match he watched on pay-per-view.

"Help Callie! I'm being attacked! Ahhhhhh...! Get offa me you crusty ol' cat!" He fell to the ground and flailed his leg, but the cat just dug its claws in and kept holding on. And humping.

This story is continued by Rob McDonagh, who kindly included the word "flotation" in Chapter 3. Stay tuned for updates to "Web of Deception" at the RSS feed hosted at http://www.andthentheboilerburst.com/WebOfDeception.rss.