The Tambinder Engine (part eight)

Oil painting of river landscape and lock-like structure




The Tambinder Engine 
A McAlley Story

(part eight)



“She was alone the day she came to his house, and he’s not believing about the boyfriend. Been cautious, Lynn, hair tidied back, dress a little old-fashioned…tucked shirt, khakis, shooting vest. Penitent. Ready to do her part in the stables.”

“Welcome to it,” Deenie said.

Railsback dipped a doughnut in his tea. “Boyfriend’s on the scene, though. Finds her ways of meeting up with him, errands in town…”

“Why, then…? Sorry.”

“Add your two cents as you like, ma’am. I’m a rhino for hide.”

“Why doesn’t he take your word, if he’s got you keeping tabs on her?”

“That Mr. Gilgan does not.”


“Well, I have an eye for situations, and I don’t see any profit for you. I see it for Lynn. I’ve never run into anyone too crazy to have a motive, so I discount the party line—you being a loon, making stories up. I asked him that afternoon we were out, driving home, what good would it do her?”

And he’d said? No, she didn’t want to know. “You’re acting for your own curiosity?”

“Curiosity, nicely put. It’s a pattern, you see, his daughter taking hold of him. Lynn goes off for the shopping, Lynn answers the phone and door, Lynn ferries him to his appointments…fewer of those, since she’s got him already off his volunteering. I’ve been by and I’ve called both, to needle her, but also to gauge her.”

“Which is dangerous…the boyfriend more than her?”

“Tell me,” he said, “have you had any prowlers along your road, or here at the house?”

“Jyff’s a good girl for barking at the out-of-ordinary. The horses used to kick at their stalls, but Ondine by herself rarely even snorts. Lonely. It breaks my heart.”

“You’ll consider, I hope…” Railsback, for this beginning, took his time over the choice of a second doughnut. He broke it, slid half to nudge her plate.

“Yes, I will, thanks. What are you warning me about?”

“It’s the property Lynn and friend are angling for. Friend, by the way, is one Mark Michaels.”

“Oh, truly!”

“All which devolves to Mick. I’d put a tail on Mick if I had the resources. Got his landlady reporting, at least, what his comings and goings are. Mick takes photographs, writes articles, tries to sell them.”

“He’s not… An idle biker, if there’s such a thing.”

Railsback left this, as perhaps too apparent for comment, and fished in his bag, drawing out a laptop. “Here’s something he has sold.”


At the end of the fires, the land sits cooled. A toe of my boot, dug in where a wisp escapes a charred trunk, releases ash, spiraling up, a small billow of smoke. I study these remains, looking for the orange of rekindling. But fuel in this greyscape seems spent. I hear the motor of a flying machine. I hear a chit or two, the once-forest not wholly deserted by its birds.


Deenie read, and looked up into Railsback’s eyes. “That’s good, isn’t it? One of those long, long pieces. All the moody black and white shots illustrating.”

“Are you saying, not the sort of thing you have the patience to read? Neither me. But I want you to note the personality, the mental resources. Lynn is not stupid. I see her as practical, Mick maybe fanciful. Their two types complementing, the one egging on the other…towards what?”






The Tambinder Engine

Oil painting of river landscape and lock-like structureThe Tambinder Engine (part nine)
















(2023, Stephanie Foster)




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