Welcome to another story. I’m still working on closing down some of the longer running stories so that we get endings to everything that is supposed to have an ending. To that aim here is part two of Chatterton. 2188 words, this is an urban fantasy that follows Sue Carrow, a witch from working class, inner city, Manchester in England.
Part one of this story is over here. Now that you are caught up, let’s go on to part two…
Susan Carrow – Chatterton
“Is this it?” Paul asked. The walk from the village had taken slightly longer than expected, they’d taken one wrong turn, which amazed them both as the village really only had one road. Sue’s leg ached from where the zombie had gripped it. Over the afternoon it had developed into an annoying throb that demanded attention. Sue regarded the open ornate black metal gates, a sign on the right gate read ‘Chatterton Estate’. That nagging voice returned in the back of her mind, but it provided no new memories. She’d heard of the place but couldn’t recall how or why.
“It’s the longest drive we’ve seen, so yes.” Sue replied, indicating the sign.
“Mnhm.” Paul grunted. He’d been in a grumpy mood all afternoon, The Mace and Bow hadn’t been the happiest of pubs. She’d given him a brief overview of the feeling she’d got earlier; something old, intricate and demonic was at work in this village. She couldn’t head home until she learned what was going on, and then kicked its ass.
“Well, come on. Are you OK?” She asked as she walked up the curved red driveway, which looked as subtle as a yellow Porsche.
“That’s my line.” Paul said, his eyes questing her face. He thought she hadn’t told him everything and he wanted to know why. Sue was annoyed and sad about that, she hadn’t yet told herself everything either.
“I asked first, arsehole.” Sue said, keeping her tone light.
“I don’t like this. The feel of the village or your school love.” The walked in silence for a couple of minutes, as they approached the steps to the house, which Sue was stating to consider a mansion, she replied.
“Something evil is here, and not just Toni.”
“You said that earlier, so really, what is go…” The door burst open before they’d even pulled the old fashioned chain. Toni stepped out, dressed in a different outfit from earlier.
“Hi!” She sang.
“Hello, we came.” Sue said in a dry tone.
“So I see. Do come in, there’s about three hours before the guests arrive.” Toni’s words were precise, the non-regional BBC accent had returned.
“Eh?” Paul grunted.
“Shoes over there, your jackets there.” Toni continued, imperiously indicating a row of shoe cubbies behind a long bench and walk in coast cupboard. Her mud-room was huge and had obviously seen very little actual mud.
“Then why are we here so early?” Sue said.
“I did see you earlier, you need to clean up. Yes?” Toni said, as though it was obvious. Which, Sue thought, it kind of was, if your mind cared about other people’s opinions. Her mind had given up on that years ago.
“What!” Paul said, he stopped, his face stormy. He’d taken it as an insult, he was already on edge, Sue decided to take charge. Sue took him by the elbow and carried on walking, pulling his arm sharply.
“You know, I’d kill for a shower.” Sue said with false enthusiasm, and then realised it was genuine. She really did want a shower, it’s had been a long, muddy stinky and zombie encrusted day.
“Smashing!” Toni exclaimed, she seemed genuinely excited.
“Oh, great.” Paul muttered darkly, git his anger had faded in the face of Sue’s unfaltering march. Toni trilled on, saying nothing that seemed to matter as both Sue and Paul tuned her out.
“You’re muddy and you smell. Only, I’m worse, you’re not covered in Zombie goo.” Sue whispered.
“Is that why the pub emptied.”
“I did wonder.” Paul murmured.
“You have no sense of smell.” Sue said with a grin. It was true.
“Good, I live in Manchester, why would I want a sense of smell?” Paul replied.
After her shower Sue had found that some of her clothes had been washed and dried, her ripped top had been replaced, as had her socks and knickers. She dressed, lounged around the room, which was so large her room had two rooms, and headed downstairs a little after three hours had passed. Other guests had arrived and Toni was clucking around them and shining her teeth. She spotted Sue as she reached the bottom of the stairs and steered her directly into a large front room. Sue didn’t mind that so much as drinks on silver trays were arrayed across a heavy dark wood table. She snagged one as she passed.
“Mrs Hawthorne, this is a friend of mine back from university. She was here on other business but I invited her along for the evening’s fun.” Toni said. Sue considered this statement for a moment, she could think of many, many, ways this wasn’t fun. Clearly this was a whole new definition of fun she had before never encountered. She settled for downing half of the small glass of wine. An old lady regarded her, she looked like Angela Lansbury who had been in a terrible accident in a lace store. Somehow all her clothing had been covered with lace. It must be non-removable, Sue thought, as it would have been removed otherwise.
“Hello.” She offered. Sue wasn’t sure how to handle a fussy old woman, she’d only had limited interactions with old women and they’d been northern old women. An entirely different species, they were hard as nails and twice as frightening as the men.
“Oh, hello,” Mrs Hawthorne drawled, holding out her hand, she then recoiled as though Sue had slapped her. “oh, I’m sorry but you smell funny.” She said, her hand withdrawn and a polite attempt at a smile on her lips. Sue was confused, though she wiped that off her face before it could be mistaken for embarrassment. She didn’t understand how the woman could smell anything other than soap, she’d showered for what felt like a very blissful hour. She scanned the room for Paul, he was no-where to be seen.
“O’Conner’s field.” Sue quipped in reply, nodding slightly to where the priest stood chatting to a heavy man so covered in hair his mouth was only visible when he was pushing food into it, which seemed to be often.
“Really, the Priest?” Mrs Hawthorne said. Such emphasis was on the word priest, she almost spat it, Sue wondered at the history behind that.
“Did you do some, erm, work for him then?” This time the term work was the dirty word and suffered Mrs Hawthorne’s disapproval. Sue wasn’t really sure how to respond, so her natural instincts took over and plain honesty fell out of her mouth.
“I banished a Zombie for him.” Sue said. Mrs Hawthorne paused, blinked a few times then decided a reaction was called for. During her pause the room had grown quieter as people took in the word ‘zombie’.
“What!” Mrs Hawthorne said loudly, adding at least six additional letter a’s to the middle of the word. Her exclamation filled the drop in noise so perfectly that the few people still talking stopped and regarded the interaction.
“What! What!” Said Sue, in her best 1940’s impression.
“Well!” Mrs Hawthorne spluttered. Out of the corner of her eye Sue could see Toni approaching quickly. Sue had very little time to get in the last word, but had to try.
“Indeed!” She said as primly as she could. Then Mrs Hawthorne was whisked, very slowly, away on the arm of Toni. Conversation started up again like a timid mouse afraid of a run in with another cat. The hairy man gave Sue a tremendously huge wink, Sue assumed he didn’t care who saw, so winked back in the same way. He started laughing, then choked on whatever was in his mouth at the time. Much to the surprise of the priest.
“Please, Sue, try not to annoy them too much, I do live here you know.” Said Toni, reappearing at Sue’s shoulder.
“I only annoy that ones that annoy me first.” Sue replied, letting Toni steer her to back of the room. Sue paused briefly by the priest.
“Psst.” She said loudly, and held out her hand. Toni sighed.
“Oh yes.” O’Conner said and pulled a folded cheque out of his pocket.
“Ta.” Sue said and Toni pulled her forward as Sue pocket her zombie slaying fee.
“But Sue, doesn’t everything annoy you?” Toni said.
“Little bit. Got more of the red ale?” Sue continued, holding up her wine glass, she aimed to wind up Toni as much as she could while she had the chance.
“In the Kitchen, the drinks fridge. Do please go easy. Let’s have no…messiness, if that’s alright.”
“Oh, no fear, I daren’t get drunk here.”
“That’s good, at least,” Toni walked back into the room, her smile switched into overdrive. Sue watched her for a moment, Toni walked to a huddle of old woman, probably called a ‘gossip’ of old women mused Sue, “Mrs Hawthorne, would you like a top-up?” Sue turned, and headed for the Kitchen. She looked for a handle as she approached the door, it didn’t have one, she pushed the door and it swung easily, like a decent restaurant’s door. The under counter lights were on, she could see easily enough but it wasn’t bright. She was thankful for that. Paul stood leaning against the island, a can of Stella lager in one hand. He raised it in a toast.
“Ah, this is where you’re hiding.”
“You know me, I’m the king of the lurkers.” Paul said.
“Top quality lurking, well done.” Sue looked around the kitchen, everything was immaculate, if food was to be served tonight, and she presumed it would be as it was called dinner, then it hadn’t been prepared here.
“It’s quiet and the drinks are here. Want one?”
“Yes, but it’s my last.”
“Oh?” Said Paul, as he bent to the lower door on the drinks fridge, it opened and made a sucking sound followed by a series of muffled clinks. He pulled out a bottle of Speckled Hen and handed it across to Sue.
You know something is going on. I have to stay as sober as a judge.
I met the judge, he was pissed when he arrived. I know something is here, I can kinda feel a pressure over everything, you know? All afternoon you’ve been switching between silence and bitchiness with nothing in-between. More than usual, I mean,” he held his arms out, voice laced with exasperation he said, “and of course, you told me something is up around a here hundred times now, without ever providing detail.”
“I’m going to let that one slide.” Sue muttered. That was the longest speech she’d heard Paul make in ages. He was more on edge than she’d realised. He was the stoic one, damn it. Realising that made Sue even more on edge.
“Yeah, I thought you were tired. Normally you’d nail me for that.” He looked down, started at his can, then took at long drink.
“I know it is a demon, and it’s got power, aside from that, I don’t know.”
“I worry when you say power. How much are we talking?”
“It’s enough to keep me sober.”
“True. That’s bad.” He seemed to relax after he said this, Sue noticed his shoulders settle, his breathing slowed. Perhaps he needed to talk, or thought she wasn’t telling him everything, which she wasn’t. Sue hadn’t told him about that nagging voice in her head, a memory out of reach. She wasn’t going to now either, not when he’d calmed down.
“And I need to keep you sober.” Sue said.
“Well fuck, we’re all doomed then.” He looked over at her, one corner of his mouth turned up into a barely perceptible smile.
“It may not be that bad. Toni knows about it.” Sue replied.
“Oh yeah? That’s why you agreed to come here then.”
“Yeah.” Sue noticed her own beer then, looked around for a bottle opener and didn’t immediately see one.
“That and the free food.” Paul said, as Sue twisted her belt buckle, slipped in the bottle and pulled. The cap popped off and beer sloshed over the front of her trousers.
“Shit. Ah, fuck it. Look,” Sue breathed softly, she walked over to Paul, tapping him on the shoulder with her beer glass, “keep your eyes and ears open, OK?” The gesture was as about as reassuring as she could manage.
“Will do. Sober, eyes and ears open,” Paul said, a little brighter than he intended. Sue gave him a wan smile and nodded to the door. “Into the breach once more, dear friends!” Paul exclaimed. They walked back down the hallway and as they reached the front room they saw that people had started to take seats, Toni saw them as they walked in and caught Sue’s eye with a disapproving look. Sue guessed it was along the lines of – I don’t know what you two were doing but don’t do it again.
“Excellent timing, dinner is about to start. Please take a seat.” Toni said in a neutral tone, she indicated which seats the pair should have. Sue noticed she was well away from Angela Lansbury.
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