Starlight Spectre • Part 9: Tired Eulogies


This is Part 9 of a serial horror novella. Learn more about it here.

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Part 9: Tired Eulogies

The next day, Barton cornered Rudy at the library.

“Got a second?” Barton said, leading them to the quietest spot he could find, away from the weekday patrons.

“Give you two fer the price of one,” Rudy said. “What you all hopped up for, Barty? Ain’t better be selling me any drugs now.”

“Drugs? No, I just need to ask you something.”

“Had that drug dealin’ look aboutcha, you know the one?” Rudy broke into an exaggerated sneer and gave Barton the stink-eye.

“Look, Gabby and I went up to those tracks the other week, and everything was fine, until…” he couldn’t quite bring himself to say it out loud.

Rudy frowned. “Not a nice thing, trying to run a circle ‘round a feeble old man’s head, you know. If you weren’t lookin’ all cracked out as it were, I might even be offended.”

“I don’t know what it was Rudy. It was bad and I’ll sound like an idiot if I try and explain it. But I need you to help show me where those records are. There was one book with clippings but if there’s more…” Barton shrugged, fearing that a rebuttal was growing in the old caretaker with every passing moment.

“You ain’t putting me on? Seen some strange scenes in this lifetime, son, I tell ya that. Can’t fully say I’d set a watch by any scoutmaster’s bedtime ditty but I know this world ain’t as cut ‘n’ dry as we’d ‘spect or hope it to be.”

Barton let his breath out. “I just want to learn more. I was drunk and maybe had some heatstroke and maybe just made it up, but there was something else there besides us that night.”

“Kids havin’ a lark.”

“Nothing like that.”

Rudy kept on frowning, then nodded once and shuffled over to the area Gabby had been poking at. The old man leafed through the bound leather, pulled out papers, put them back, and repeated the process. It reminded Barton of the engineering student going the same motions, little maglite in her teeth. He glanced over at the spot where the shadows had made him see someone. Maybe it hadn't been shadows after all.

“They was here, a clippings book and a map and some other billyclub notes,” Rudy said. “But theys ain’t now. Unless my ol’ thinking box done finally gone to seed.”

“There were police reports?” Barton walked closer, staring at the wall of books as if his will alone would reveal something.

“Aye. Particulars on the dearly departed and thems earthly remains. Or lack thereof. That’s how I knew the full story, y’see. But it’s been an age since I last looked at them scratchins and less than half an age is all what’s needed to lose ‘em, ain’t it so.”

“Ain’t it so…” he echoed, something stirring in his gut. “Thanks Rudy.”

Barton walked over to the place where the shadow had stood. It was an unremarkable part of the library, safe and uninteresting in the light of the day, surrounded by the murmur of conversation. He was in a science section; books on chemistry lined the shelves.

He called Gabby, and it went to her voicemail. He didn’t leave a message. The next call he made was to the company that installed the library’s alarm system. He left a message with them.

Barton spent the rest of his shift on edge, taking time to read over obituaries from one hundred and three years ago whenever there was an opportunity. The tired eulogies offered no clues, and even less comfort.

Continued in Part 10: Goodnight – April 25

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