The Mirrors (part five)

Posted by ractrose on 25 May 2022 in Fiction, Novels
Oil painting of Luna moth with female figure
The Mirrors
(part five)


















For his sake she threw a keen look along the wall, where creeping charley undulated, wider in the shade. Rain began to pelt.

“Get you inside, ma’am.”

“No, I’m fine…”

There, of course. A glimpse, and the form, crumpled on its right arm, knee up, a well of black, rimmed red, under its left eye. The vision—she willed its vividness away—was too surprising to shock. Wright stood bent to show her a place sun might fall, its weeds mostly dandelion.

The rain stopped.

“He was right-handed? Most people are.”

“Well, I don’t know that.”

“It was in the papers.”

Why she stated this as fact, she did not herself know. Here was a man who offered her what he could, who kept himself polite and reserved…and she sounded to her own ears like an interrogator, peremptory.

“Reckon,” Wright said.

Carmine came down from the kitchen, frowning at his shoes’ descent. “Mr. Wright. You can answer me a question.”

His gait, like his knock, self-conscious, he trotted to them, giving Charmante the tightlipped smile of a conspirator. “A little patch of ground, that hath in it no profit but the name. But really…”

He swallowed, and said another thing. “My impression is that the cellarage must be achieved via that area Rothesay says is yours…” He shrugged a shoulder at Wright’s shed. “I may find myself needing access. I may not.”

“Mr. Carmine, I lock up afternoons fore I go. If it’s only morning times you need down there, door’s always open.”

Carmine kicked a dandelion gone to seed, sending gossamer flying. “Come with me, you two, won’t you?”

The stairs were open backed, unrailed. Light came cottony, through the well of a never-cleaned window.

“It’s that room he means, Mrs. Demorest.”

“Dr. Dumain’s pharmacy.”

Somewhere in the catalogue of high manners was the rule that maids have no ears to overhear, but Charmante nodded Carmine this.

In Rothesay’s favor, the cellar wasn’t dirt underfoot, and didn’t smell like the floodtide biding its hour. It smelled of must; and faintly, of carbolic acid. A surgical table took much of this outer room, then enameled cabinets, instruments in a glass-front cupboard…a duo of pendant lights above the tabletop, another on a bendable arm fixed at the head.

“I never been in there myself,” Wright said. “You want me to look for you?”

Carmine gave an embarrassed laugh. “Let’s just have all the lights on.”








He acted as he spoke, catching each pull-chain. The walls showed paneled wood, painted ecru, a circus of cobwebbing under the beams.

Wright put his head inside the pharmacy door. “Nothing to see, far as I can.”

Charmante went next. Carmine’s future darkroom was furnished with empty cabinetry, lit by a naked bulb. By impulse she closed a door that sat cracked.

It swung back to tap her on the shoulder.

“Rothesay, actually,” Carmine told them, low-voiced, “is going away for a few days.”

He laid a hand on the knob and thoughtfully shut them in. “His paper on false walls and acoustics. Medicos’ meeting in Boston, hoping to raise enthusiasm…that is to say, funding. Hence, his notion of my busying myself in his absence with an educational project. He does not want further experiments with the mirrors. But, Mrs. Demorest, I hope you will…”

Breaking, he breathed a word…hell. “We’re just in here!” he called out.

Charmante hadn’t known Rothesay to be a doctor. He surely did not have it in him to come sneaking to the cellar, from some jealous mistrust…

Of his assistant, having a private word with the help.

A human noise, the frustrated exhalation that accompanies fruitless search, came to them, with the swinging of hinges. The noise went on, and someone seemed to murmur to himself, “Now…Jesus God…now…”

Wright moved soonest. “Let me get out there, Mr. Carmine.”

He edged with a hand on Carmine’s arm, hauled back the door…

And said, when they joined him a moment after, “I guess it’s all right. He couldn’t hardly have stole anything, but I’ll go check my tools.”

“A thief.”

Carmine’s eyes, though, were bleak as he said this.















The Mirrors

Oil painting of Luna moth with female figureThe Mirrors (part six)
















(2020, Stephanie Foster)




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