It’s become my #1 NaNo Rule: Who’s talking? Okay, I’ll listen. I’m still working on In Dark Places from last year–even though I got to well over 70K words with it. Josiah’s been talkative the past few days. I’ll listen. I’ll write it down… after I get the nerve to crawl out from under the desk… talk about unnerving…. Not this part, though… yet.
I know I’ll work on a bunch of things over NaNo. I still want to hunker down and get to work on my latest idea, but who am I to hold up a hand and say, “Ep! Ep! Not now!” to ANY of my characters? Here’s bit that leads into ANOTHER bit that I’m not going to post here yet, but trust me… yikes…Enjoy! (and then GET BACK TO WRITING YOUR NANO! BREAK’S OVER!) ^__^
An iron-cold breeze played at the edges of Josiah’s coat as he left the Assay Building, closing the door quickly and turning toward the low water crossing of Kupfer Creek that
skirted the structure. He glanced up briefly at the trestle, but thought better of it, striding quickly, purposefully, toward the ice scuffed rough with the feet of other men, with the conveyances that would forego the rails in winter in favor of the frozen creek. He pulled his scarf more tightly around his face and his dark eyes strained against the gathering gloom as he moved swiftly toward the frozen crossing.
“Josiah Craig,” a low voice drifted across the frozen creek toward him. Josiah hesitated.
“Where is he?” Josiah ventured softly from behind his scarf.
He received no answer. Josiah felt his heartbeat quicken. He waited.
“Please,” he whispered, a ring of light from a lamp above him on the trestle reflecting off his wire-rimmed glasses. He shook his head. “Where is he?” Josiah felt a twinge within his chest; he bowed his head as he reached within the folds of his coat for a moment, bearing down pressure against the muscle that continued to spasm. He drew a trembling hand from beneath the coat and realized the heat against it was blood. Josiah felt his eyes close.
Josiah looked up, startled, at the sudden audible draw of breath across the creek. The boy, Lennart’s assistant, Olaf, stood on the opposite bank, his eyes wide as he took a shaking step back.
“Olaf,” Josiah smiled as he quickly withdrew his hand from sight.
“Mr. Craig,” Olaf faltered as he took another step back.
Josiah hesitated. “How are–”
“Fine, sir!” Olaf said quickly. He continued to stare across the creek at the mining engineer. He took a breath. “Lennart’s expecting me.”
Josiah’s brow furrowed.
“But I’m fine here, sir,” Olaf continued, his voice nearly breathless.
“What’s the matter, Olaf?” Josiah ventured as he stepped closer to the frozen creek, wiping his hand carelessly against his wool coat.
“You can’t–” Olaf faltered as he stumbled back.
Josiah stopped. “Can’t what?” he ventured.
Olaf looked away and shook his head.
A smile twisted Josiah’s lip as he stepped carefully out onto the ice. Olaf’s breath caught. He watched as Josiah quickly and nimbly crossed the low water crossing, his feet feeling across the ice easily and stepping gingerly onto the icy bank beside Olaf.
“Sir–” Olaf’s voice caught.
“What is it, Olaf?” Josiah ventured quietly, his breath condensing in the cold air as he leaned toward Olaf.
“It’s just that,” Olaf stammered, “I was afraid that–”
“That I would fall?” Josiah smiled helpfully. He watched Olaf grasp at the proffered explanation.
“Yes, sir,” Olaf said readily, “that’s it, sir.” He looked away from Josiah and shrugged uncomfortably in his coat. “I should go, sir,” he muttered.
Josiah smiled and watched Olaf take a tentative step out onto the ice. “Olaf,” he said simply, and Olaf turned back to him. “It’s true what you’ve heard.”
Olaf’s eyes grew wide. “Sir?” he faltered, his voice trembling.
“Evil cannot cross running water,” Josiah continued. He watched Olaf visibly relax.
“Sir?” Olaf feigned ignorance, but Josiah was not taken in. Olaf took another breath. “You’re bleeding, sir,” he whispered.
Josiah followed Olaf’s gaze and gently pulled away his coat. Olaf jerked back abruptly, slipping on the ice, nearly falling before Josiah caught at his arm.
“Sir!” Olaf yelped. He trembled as Josiah’s eyes darkened suddenly.
“I may be too late,” Josiah whispered urgently as he pulled at the boy’s arm. “You must come with me.”
Olaf’s blood chilled suddenly in his veins. “Lennart–” his voice caught as Josiah pulled insistently at his arm, pulling him up the rise toward the depot. Olaf stumbled behind Josiah who moved swiftly down the rail bed, past the store, past the bunkhouses and the school. Olaf attempted to jerk and twist against Craig’s grip, but was too terrified to
attempt an all-out struggle. He looked down at the school as the trim figure of Emma Worthington swept out the front door, taking time to turn and lock it before dropping the key smartly into her purse and turning toward the walkway that would lead her up to the rail bed. In an instant, Emma met Olaf’s frantic, pleading gaze. The boy watched the
schoolteacher pale before he turned back to Craig who continued to stride toward the edge of Kupfer.
©2011 A.K. Marshall