Saturday, March 28, 2015

Serial Saturdays III: Getting By

Isda put her arm around Jacque’s shoulders and put the weight of her left side on him. “How bad is your ankle?” Jacque said.
“I don’t think it’s anything a little ice and rest can’t take care of. How bad is whatever you’re storming away from? The look on your face when walked into each was a little intimidating.”

“I’ve been having a bad day.”
“You must be. When you were helping me up your whole demeanor changed. The kindness I can see in you suits you much more than the pain I saw.”
Jacque didn’t know what to say to that. Was he so transparent? He was also offput by how forward Isda was being, so he changed the subject. “It seems I wasn’t the only who had their head in the clouds. Not to say I’m blameless, but what had you so wrapped?”
Isda looked at him, a little coy smile showing. His attempt to divert the conversation wasn’t a subtle one. “My brother and I had a fight. I left, blew off some steam, and now I’m heading home.”
“Oh, well, I hope cooler heads prevail.”
“Do you want to know what we fought about?”
“No?” It seemed this woman couldn’t help but get personal. Yes they in each other’s space as he walked her home. Jacque was basically holding her up against, but she was injured. It was the least he could do. But this woman could at least respect the bounds of decency. They’d only just met.
“In our line of work, things often require a strong hand. Sometimes though, a gentle one is required. Uzziel doesn’t agree with the way I want to do things, and so he doesn’t trust me.” The ever present pain of the accusations Tesha made against him had never left his mind. Talking to Isda made it easier to bear, and not being trusted was something he understood. “When a loved one can’t trust you, one must wonder if there’s any love left. Uzziel. Isda. Those names are not Lanun. Where are you from, and what is your family’s business?”
“Pearl diving. We’re immigrants from far away. I don’t think you’ll have heard of our homeland.”
“Across the Aegean?”
“Hmm. I don’t know much of the nations on the other side of the ocean, let alone ones further inland. How did a family of pearl divers end up here in Innsmouth?”
“I suppose the same as any other immigrants I guess. The work at home had dried up, and lead us here. It sounds like someone you know is having trouble trusting you. Care to  share?” Her eyes were back on him.
“I...well, no. It’s personal.”
“You’re holding me up against you. I can’t imagine this getting any more personal.”
Jacque merely blushed. When it faded, he said, “My wife thinks I betrayed her.”
“That’s a bold claim. Did you?”
“Of course not! I would never do anything to hurt her.”
“She must have a reason to think otherwise.”
“Tesha found something in our home that isn’t mine, but she thinks it is. I’ve never seen it before. It just doesn’t make sense.”
“If you didn’t put it there, whatever it is, then someone else must have. Who do you think would?”
“Her father never liked me. I can’t imagine him stooping to this.”
“What about the rest of her family?”
“Henry? I’ve never found him to be anything but accepting of Tesha and I.”
“What about Tesha? Maybe she wanted to end things, but didn’t have another way. Legally I mean.”
Could Tesha have planted those vials? Could her unhappiness about not getting pregnant drive her to resented him that much? He couldn’t remember the last time they had any fun together, let alone intimacy. Maybe Jacque had become blind to her pain, and this was the only way out Tesha could find. The implications though, was that Jacque would be locked away. Executed even. Then it hit him, he was a wanted man now. Despite the pain he was going through, he needed somewhere to hide! His first thought was Darin. Maybe -
“We’re here.” She pounded the door a little too impatiently. Jacque heard some locks click and the door opened. Standing before him was an overly muscled man. He was so tall that his head completely cleared the door frame. His brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and piercing blue eyes stared down at him.
“Isda, who is this?”
“Uzziel this is, oh, I never got your name. I twisted my ankle, and this stranger was kind enough to help me home.” Isda received an incredulous look from her brother. He turned back to Jacque. “I must thank you then, stranger. What is your name?”
“I’m Henry.” Now Uzziel gave Jacque a look of incredulity.

Isda wouldn’t let Jacque leave without staying for dinner. She and her brother lived in a modest home. The furniture was nowhere near the quality that Jacque crafted on a daily basis. There was something about it which it made him surprised anyone lived here. It was spartan, to say the least. The table was set with a barley stew with chunks of rabbit to be found. “How’s the pearl diving business? I feel like I’m diving for pearls myself chasing those rabbit chunks. It’s really good.” He was trying to give a compliment, though now that he thought about it sounded kind of awkward. “Not to say that there isn’t enough meat, just that the stew is delicious.” Uzziel glared at him.
Isda spoke up, “So Jacque, do you live nearby? We’re new to the area and don’t know that many people yet. Maybe you could introduce us to your friends some point.”
“Yeah, that sounds like fun. It’s getting late. I don’t want to worry my wife.” Isda raised an eyebrow. “Well we had a fight, but she that doesn’t mean I’m moving out. Couples fight all the time. Thanks for having me for dinner. I hope your ankle is better. Uh, it was a pleasure meeting you. Uzziel went back to his stew. Isda gave him a wave and a quiet, “Good night.” Jacque went to the door and let himself out.
“Isda, that was not in accordance with the parameters set in our mission,” Uzziel said as he lowered his spoon back to the bowl. He cannot be turned until the betrayal is complete.”
“We’ve been at this for how long, Uzziel? Following the rules isn’t working. We need to try something different. At least when it is time to reveal ourselves, Jacque will recognize us to be friendly faces. Well, my face anyway.”
“You dare to question our orders?”
“Not at all, but I don’t think either of our masters would be displeased if we succeeded through unexpected means. Nor would they be pleased if we continued to fail all for the sake of following orders.”
Uzziel stood and walked away from the table. “Uzziel! What do intend to do?”
“Perhaps we have been away too long. I don’t if it’s been my time with you, or heaven forbid this place is changing me. Maybe it’s time we try things your way.”

There was one place Jacque could go and it wasn’t home. Darin would let him stay at his place until he could figure out how to escape Innsmouth. He knew it wasn’t safe here anymore, but the feeling of danger didn’t compare to Tesha’s betrayal. It wasn’t clear if she reported him to the authorities, or if she framed him for the illegal drug stashed in their mattress, but at the very least she didn’t believe him innocent. Their marriage was built on a bed of sand, not trust, and certainly not love.
It wasn’t long before he made it to Darin’s house. The door opened before Jacque’s second knock. Out of the darkness Darin appeared. “Jacque! Get inside, quick!”
He stepped inside and said, “You know?”
“Of course I know. The constable paid me a visit, and trashed my place.” Darin went to the window and drew the shades closed. He turned to Jacque, “What have you gotten yourself into?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. When I got home, Tesha and her family were furious with me. They didn’t even tell me what was going on until they were accusing me of being a criminal! I really don’t know what to do, Darin.” Jacque went over to Darin’s couch and sank into the cushions.
“Hey, I’m here for you, buddy. So you don’t know anything about the poison?”
“What have you heard?”
“All the constable said was that it was dangerous and illegal, and that wanted to know where you were. They think you’re smuggling it into the city.”
“Of all people why would they think it’s me?”
“I really don’t know, Jacque. But don’t worry, there’s a way out. I know some people who can help. Every now and then I treat those traveling merchants to a nice evening at the cathouse, just in case I need a favor. They’re in town this week. Stay here. I’ll go get in touch with them, and we can have you stowed away in their caravan tonight.”


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