Episode 1, Chapter 2

In the morning they went into town to gather supplies. The house had come with a fully stocked larder but its new occupants required certain things even the most conscientious housekeeper wouldn’t think, off hand, to order.

Reggie had a fair bit to brood about and drove most of the way in silence, but that was alright. Neville had his head out of his window half the time, so excited he was to take in his new surroundings.

Trees,” apparently, interested him a great deal, for, as he said, “we had palms, of course, big shaggy things with broad leaves that worked passably as fans, but on the issue of shade they were strictly deficient. And they never changed colors like these.”

Reggie was forced to admit that the foliage of Westchester County that autumn was undeniably magnificent. Which simply irked him more because even the most bestial werewolf is still half human, and a miserable human finds nothing more unbearable than the dumb beauty of a splendid day in nature.

“And look! A little chapel in a grove, so very quaint!” Neville proclaimed. “And that barn there, you know, that color is called oxblood. For exactly the reason you’d think.”

Reggie imagined leaping on the back of an ox and tearing its throat out with his teeth, which made him feel all sorts of complicated things. Enough emotions, indeed, to last him all the way into the town of Pinemont, their destination.

A humble farming village that was turning steadily into a bedroom community for Wall Street bankers and business executives. A busy but old-fashioned train station with an ornate and gilt clock tower with four dials facing the cardinal directions, three of them telling the same time. Shops, of course, plenty of shops and at the end of the main street, mirabile dictu, a sprawling tavern where the salt of the earth could stop and have a stiff drink before having to head home to their prim wives. Oh, there were signs out front declaring that this was the era of Prohibition, and that the sale of malt beverages was strictly forbidden. Reggie, with his werewolf’s nose, could tell from blocks away that it was being carried out anyway, and in profligate quantities.

Reggie had been very concerned that when they explored the village they would not find such a place at all. Getting a drink in New York City had been easy enough, but out here in the country would it even be possible? He was unaware that the local constable, enjoying a drink as much as the next man, had gone to great lengths to provide for the town’s well-being. Mainly such lengths included choosing not to arrest anyone for serving alcohol, and for this Herculean effort the law man was rewarded by being allowed to drink for free.

This is what is oft called Yankee ingenuity.

A real, operating tavern, right in town, did a great deal for Reggie’s spirits, much as an oasis will cheer up a fellow lost in a desert. The thought of a cold glass of beer got Reggie through the shopping expedition, especially when it turned out to be such a bust.

The general store didn’t carry incense of any kind—Neville was directed to a religious supply shop two towns over, where, he was informed, some Catholics lived. Candles the store had in great supply but none of them were black. Neville sighed and pulled out his pipe.

At the sight of it the storekeeper, a man of middling age and tiny, squinting eyes, rubbed his hands together. “Tobacky we keep in stock, all kinds, Turkish and American,” he assured his customer.

“No need,” Neville told him. He tilted the bowl of the pipe to show that it was pristine, untouched by ash. “It’s just for the look of the thing.”

“Yer not a smoker, then?” the man asked, his face falling.

“No lungs. Had ‘em removed.”

The two of them laughed at what one of them was sure was a little joke.

Reggie gathered up a few tools and a little cask of nails. Some stout chain and a padlock. “These’ll do,” he said. They opened an account.

They had more luck at the grocer’s, where they put in a standing order for ten pounds of steak to be delivered daily, thereby improving both the local economy and the grocer’s mood. A visit to the town’s sole tailor proved decidedly perfunctory, the tailor seemingly more interested in staring at them through pulled-down blinds than in potential custom.

The big purchase of the day was in the next store down, where a gramophone—specifically a Victor Orthophonic Victrola—with a beautifully detailed horn took pride of place in the window. The machine was of the new portable type, and folded down to fit inside a large suitcase. Reggie tucked it under his arm. Neville took his time choosing which of that year’s most popular recordings to purchase, in the end picking “Lost Your Head Blues,” “Black Horse Blues,” “Early Morning Blues,” “Long Lonesome Blues,” and “West Coast Blues,” on the principle that at least he knew what he was getting.

Reggie loaded all their new things into the back of the Packard Eight while somehow managing to look constantly, and longingly, at the tavern. “One more stop, boss?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Neville said. “Mrs. Patavatsky will have dinner on in short order, and she doesn’t like us being late.”

“One quick belt, though? To steady my nerves for the drive home,” Reggie wheedled.

“I suppose I can’t fault that logic,” Neville said.

About David Wellington

Author of horror, fantasy, and adventure novels.
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