This is a rough draft of a novel in progress published in participation with Tuesday Serial. If you would like to follow along, pelase see the side bar with linked chapters.
Collector of Souls: 10 - Cookies
Gladys shook her head, “I guess I should have been expecting his visit.” She held out her hand. There in her palm was a marble covered in mouths filled with sharp teeth. “You done this to my Skippy?”
Tad did not see any point in lying about it. “Sure, yeah, that was me.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Look at this way…”
“No! You look here.” She pointed at the marble in her palm. “Do you know how long and how hard it is to grow one of these.” She looked down the streets and then whispered, “How many souls?”
“I have a good idea, how many.”
Gladys swiveled her neck and hips. “I have a good mind to see you sent over and, well…” She stopped. “Why are you here?”
“Can I come in? I have a favor to ask.”
Gladys pinched her eyes, “Favor? You come here,” she pointed at the marble, “asking me for favors?” She stepped aside, “This I got to hear.”
Gladys’ sitting room looked like it was out of a Jane Austen novel. In the center of the room was a small serving table on which rested a tea service set for three. The only piece that was missing was the pot of hot water. Around the table three high-backed plush chairs with lace fringe were arranged to allow ease of access to the table. A small fire was burning in a fire place with a high mantle that housed pictures of what mush have been her family, all of which were black-and-white and looked at least a century old.
Without asking, Tad sat down in the eastern facing chair and took a cookie from the tray. “Wow! You still have the touch.” He took a bite. “Still can’t believe you sold your shares in Tollhouse.”
“Those are not for you!” She sat down across from him. “And, I was done with those knuckleheads. They were always wanting to change my recipes, make cheaper cookies.” She swatted his hand as Tad reached for another. “Those are for the ladies. I’ve got tea in twenty minutes, so make it fast.”
“I need to cross over.”
Gladys leaned back in her chair and whistled. She did not say anything for a few minutes. She just looked at Tad. Finally, she asked, “You know that means for someone like you?”
“I wasn’t expecting concern. I was expecting that you would, as you were about to say earlier, relish sending me.” Tad took another cookie while she was distracted. “So, what’s it going to cost me?”
“I… tell you what.” She stood and made as if she were going to go to the kitchen. “I’ll send you over. If you come back, I’ll ask something of you. But…”
“Good.” Tad interrupted. “I’d like to leave as soon as possible. As in, now, if that is possible.”
“Now you’ve got my curiosity all tingling.” She stopped at the doorway. “If you tell me your business in the Dreamlands, and you comeback, my request will be less of you.” She winked.
“I need to know why my master is waking.”
Gladys froze. “You say what?”
“Besides emptying your pet, I’ve taken,” he started to count on his fingers, “at lest two dozen souls this week.” Tad ran his fingers through his hair. “I can’t figure that out, so I need to take a look-see.”
Slowly, Gladys took a jar down from a middle shelf. She removed two waver thin cookies and put them in a small bag. “Here.” She held out the bag. “Now you get.” She made sweeping motions. “I don’t need him string up in here.”
Tad got out of the chair and let Gladys shoo him from her porch. “What do I do with these?”
“Eat them, fool.” She shooed him again. “Get!”