The Tambinder Engine (part nine)

Oil painting of river landscape and lock-like structure




The Tambinder Engine 
A McAlley Story

(part nine)



“He’s a little like Dustin, that’s how I feel, reading him. Grand schemes, wanting to be discovered, admired. Like a genius, like a vault with money inside…safe.” She laughed at the unmeant pun, nervous. “What a jumble I just said!”

“You haven’t mentioned a Dustin to me.”

“I saw him last at nearly eighteen. He’ll be twenty-six, September.”

“Will he? Dustin?”

“My son.”

“Ah. Wants contact, or not?”

“Contact,” she said, after seconds, “is not possible.”

“Put my foot in. Deenie, I’m sorry…”

“Jared. Dustin’s alive. Just leagues away, oceans. Can’t be done.”

The tanned face, too lined for its age, altered. From a detective’s keen calm to stake, to Deenie’s side. “Might be done.”

Her last words, seeing him out the door, had been, “I’ll trust you.”


McAlley was gone. Now Railsback. She rode hours on Ondine, Jyff quartering the landscape ahead, Bobbo perched on the saddle. She had taken a picture of this, posted it to the Gaia site, garnered seventeen likes. That would be nearly all of them, the working members.


Deenie, fantastic! What a clever boy your Bobbo is!

How nice. You’re an empath with the animals. We’ll need you back when the fires come.

You’re making me envious, girl! If I could only ride in the woods, instead of being on the phone all day.


“They are nice people. They are very nice people.”

Deenie spoke this mantra, her brain eager to find contempt veiled in comment. Mick was never sighted, lurking on Lynn’s errand. Some accident to make the deceased a forever scapegoat, Matthew’s allowing of this woman on family property the reason Lynn’s promises had seemed lies.

She saw Matthew.

Dismounting, leading Ondine to the eave of the barn, where the drinking trough filled, she saw Matthew at her kitchen window. His window, she supposed. He peered like a lost man, meeting her eyes…not lighting at the contact, only staring.

She spun to look behind—

The empty trailhead, the dry pines that flanked it, no movement. She patted Ondine, loosened the saddle girth. She glanced to see Matthew fade…an effect of the dirty glass…

She said aloud to the animals: “He’s come after more of his knickknacks he doesn’t trust me with.”

Anger kept her fiddling over Ondine’s turning out. A car engine started, and Deenie entered her kitchen expecting Matthew gone.

He was, and a package was on the porch. A cardboard mailer.






The Tambinder Engine

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
















(2023, Stephanie Foster)