Brink Meets Wraithe
I limbered up behind the mossy shack, swinging an oar level, perfectly horizontal. Then I swung it low. Then high. I heard the oar cut through the air, a swishing slicing sound.
I stopped swinging and stepped back into some bushes.
Wraithe strode towards me.
He hadn’t seen me. He stopped a few feet from the shack. I slowed my breath. One of Carrie’s Buddha tricks for my moments of over-excitement. That’s girl’s weirdness continually served my practical needs.
I was looking right at Wraithe through some of the overgrowth engulfing the shack. If he saw me he’d leave me in this bush to die.
Noise distracted him. The flotilla was assembling a little south from the shack. The sun had risen above the ridge. A dock extended out into the lake. Wraithe turned from me. A fish broke the surface of the lake. He moved like he had a bad back. Or because he was surveying something. Like an animal. Hunting.
He walked towards the dock, his cowboy boots crunching the gravel. I heard the boots stomp on dried decking. A hollow woody sound rung. He walked to the end and lit a cigarette. The dock wobbled. Wraithe moved with the motion, knees slightly bent.
My plans of late had not been working to my advantage, but so far, so good.
I lurched from the bushes and gripped the oar. Sweaty, I rubbed my palms, one at a time, off my jeans and refashioned a grip.
I had never been so afraid.
To contemplate murder.
And that’s what the judge would call it. Because I had every intention of killing Wraithe.
I intended to kill him. Oh, yes, I had. Remarkable how life pushes one.
Time for resolution. Ben would approve. Give me liberty or give me death. Or was it, Don’t Tread on Me? Both worked.
Wraithe smoked. He lowered his sunglasses from his head onto the bridge of his nose. His eyes remained fixed on the horizon. I crunched the gravel. He did not turn. I stepped on the dock, which rocked. He turned.
“Oh, and what do you think you are planning to do?”
“Well, if you hadn’t turned around, I was going to bash you into the lake.”
“I’m still game to try.”
I talked smack.
Wraithe did not yield to my bluff.
He tossed the butt into the lake and walked towards me. I reared back and took a swing, just to show him I meant business. He leaned back.
He pulled out a knife.
I had not anticipated that.
“Once I get that oar from you, you know what I’m going to do?”
He eyed the shack.
“And then you’ll go swimming.”
I tried to dry my palms. I swung again. I was doing well keeping him fifteen feet away from him. But what after this stalemate?
“And who are you?” Wraithe said.
“Names are unimportant.”
I did not know much about Screen, but if I got out of this I would compliment his sense of timing.
He stood taller than Wraithe, and from my view that established a useful advantage. Plus he had a look of a heron spying a fish. He had an out-of-this-world eye that could be unsettling. He didn’t appear concerned about the knife.
“None of your business.”
CJ! That was it – the plan! I had forgotten all about it due to my desire to finish off Wraithe on my own.
Screen put his backpack down, unzipped it and pulled out a mason jar. He placed it on the edge of the dock, in between us and Wraithe.
“What’s that?” Wraithe asked.
“Part one,” Screen said.
“But what’s in it?” Wraithe knelled low and peaked at the contents.
“The pig!” CJ yelped. “You didn’t bury it.”
“Is that alive?”
“It’s a pig, isn’t it? What do you have a dead pig in a jar for?”
“Part one,’ Screen intoned.
Screen went into his pant’s pocket and produced a small brown nut. He held it up, spied it and mumbled a few words. Then he tossed it at Wraithe. It bounced off Wraithe’s shoulder and plopped into the lake. Concentric rings mesmerized Wraithe.
“Why did you throw that at me?”
“What was it?”
“A Betel nut. Kid’s stuff.”
CJ pulled from her shirt pocket a piece of black paper. She unfolded what appeared to be the figure of a man. Screen pulled from his inside coat pocket a jar filled with red liquid. He unscrewed the top, stuck his finger in and wrote a W on the black figure.
“What in the – what are you doing. What is that?”
“From a pig. Now shut up while I finish cursing you.”
“Cursing me?” Wraithe dropped the knife, which slipped through the dock’s slates, into the lake.
CJ pulled from another pocket a threaded needle. She handed it to Screen, who sewed the figure from its head to its toes, shrinking it into a ball. He threw the ball into the lake. It absorbed water and sank.
“What was that?” Wraithe asked.
“Part three. Bad luck,” Screen answered.
“Why are you doing this to me?”
Finally, I was enjoying my time with Wraithe. I relaxed my grip of the oar. I believe Wraithe appeared anxious.
“Now for part four.”
From his sack, Screen pulled out an empty coffee can and filled it with a scoop of lake water. He set up a small contraption and ignited a sterno, which he placed under a little frame. He placed the can on the improvised stove and dropped in different items from another can.
“What are you adding?” That was my pre-arranged line to recite.
“A bird’s eye, a worm, a twig of blackberry brambles.” Screen then took a pair of tiny scissors and snipped some of my hair. He tossed that in and uncapped the blood and poured a dram in.
Wraithe stood with wide eyes.
The liquid boiled.
“What is that for?”
“Be prepared for some stern headaches. This rarely fails.”
“You’re BSing me.”
“It’s your life.”
“What does that mean?”
“Lay off Brink.”
Wraithe looked at me as if he saw a witch.
“What if I don’t?”
“Part five.” Screen went into his bag.
Wraithe rubbed his head.
“Okay, call this crap off. Just give me my money and I’ll call it even.”
“Brink’s debt is wiped clean.”
Screen approached Wraithe, opened his jar of red fluid and doused Wraithe’s torso.
I stood transfixed by Screen’s performance.
“You sick mother - ”
Screen picked up the pig.
“If I throw this in the lake, your future is bleak.”
“You are one sick puppy!”
“You are an Aquarius.”
“So what if I am?”
“Your antagonist is the pig. You’re in a bad place.”
Wraithe side-stepped Screen, backed off from CJ and me and ran past the shack and disappeared.
“That went well,” I said.
“He seemed unnerved,” CJ added.
“He should be,” Screen said. “This stuff works.”
“I didn’t know you practiced the black arts.”
“A side hobby. But useful. He was easy. His days ahead will be difficult.”
Hoo-wee. I did not want to be on the wrong end of Screen’s cosmic stuff.
“What did you use for the blood?”
“Emma had some leftover raspberry coulis.”
“But I loved that coulis!”
“And that business about Aquarius and the pig? There’s no pig in the zodiac. A ram, but no pig.”
“I was done with the Betel nut. Figured he could be pushed further. My hexes will have an effect. But if he was convinced that he was spooked, he’ll hurt himself. Watch what happens to him the next few days. That boy is unstable,” Screen concluded.
I couldn’t imagine that my troubles were over. But Screen does have the ability to make one belief what they want to think. I thought my life was about to improve.
A horn sounded. We turned to the flotilla. CJ grabbed my shoulder and led me to our boat.
“Now Brink, what were you doing with that oar? That wasn’t part of the plan.”
“Oh, softening him up till you arrived.”
“You could have gotten hurt. He looked like he meant business with that knife.”
“Me worry? Knowing the great CJ Stark was on her way.”
“We’ve travelled a long road together. Nice resolve Brink. Ben would be proud,” CJ said.
“I didn’t mean anything, you know, about your mom and your sheets.”
“Water under the bridge.”
“And sorry for having to threaten you about Carrie. I’m highly possessive.”
“Oh, you’ll do something stupid, she’ll dump you and I’ll be on that tattoo faster than -”
“Keeping dreaming Stark.” I gave her a good punch in the arm that was meant for Wriathe. She rubbed it and mouthed a swear word.
Screen picked up the pig and peered inside. I swear he spoke to it. Probably congratulating that pig on a job well done.