I had never told James about things going south with Rachel Lynn and was too hungry to get into it at that moment. I needed to get to the Main Street Diner for some real food.
When I walked in, I took a deep breath of that smoky diner air. Everyone had cigarettes on them in that place; it made me a little homesick for the Lower Wacker bar. I took a seat at my usual booth -and by “usual” I mean that one other time I had been there- and perused the menu. That’s when my old friend, the evil Marjorie, approached to wipe down the perfectly clean table with her disgusting rag. I looked down as she dirtied the surface, then up at the more stable of her eyes.
She could tell my tone was dripping with sarcasm. The other eye came whipping around.
“Would you like to know your fortune today, sir?” She asked with a bit of gravel in her voice.
“Ok, Ok, we’ve done this dance before,” I said, putting my hands up.
“Don’t you believe me after what you saw?”
“All I saw was a hysterical woman losing her mind in the middle of the road. You didn’t prove a thing!”
“Suit yourself.” She shrugged the hump on her back and began to walk away.
I, however, was not satisfied and went for one final blow.
“I’ve been through a lot since last time I saw you. Why couldn’t your fortune-telling abilities give me a heads up on all that stuff that was about to happen?”
“You didn’t need help then. This time you do.” And she began moving away from me again.
“...Help with what?” My head was on a swivel, searching for an answer. “Hey, what does that mean?” I leaped up, almost knocking over a waitress holding a tray of malteds. “What do you know scororess?”
“Someone ought to warn you about Rachel Lynn.”
I suddenly had a small bout of vertigo.
“How do you know about Rachel Lynn and me?”
“That’s not the question you ought to be asking right now.” She said as she continued wiping down tables.
I thought about it for a moment and asked, “What do I need to be warned about?”
“Sadly, that’s not how it works. I can’t see the future clearly. If I could, I wouldn’t be working at a diner.”
“I don’t get it, what do you see then?”
“It’s more of a feeling. Certain colors. An aura, I suppose.” She shuffled from one table to the next. “Right now all I can tell is that you’re in trouble. You have to give me something more to go on before I can see any details.”
“So it’s like a game of hot and cold.”
“Now you’re getting it.”
“What an absurd stipulation! It could be anything!” I said brusquely.
“It’s not so hard if you think about it. Is there something strange or peculiar that you’ve noticed lately?”
“Strange or peculiar? Are you kidding? I’ve seen flying goo, talked to dead people ...YOU are strange and peculiar!”
She took a break from the table to look around toward the ceiling. “No… those aren’t it.”
I deflated like a sack of rice with a hole in it. I thought about everything that brought me there. I thought about everything that I had stumbled into recently and realized it had only been a week.
At a loss for anything more to ask the evil Marjorie, I drug myself out of the diner. I was moving about as fast as a slug and probably resembled one as well. The only place I knew I could go was back to the Ferguson’s guest house.
James and Linda were out, probably still out celebrating, but I was able to get it through to Linus that they wouldn’t mind. I also convinced him that they wouldn’t mind him fixing me a sandwich and cheese plate, and opening a bottle from the wine cellar. Staying on premises was an extra charge for my private detective services; James was really racking up a tab. I was going to have a serious discussion about boundaries with him next time I saw him.
That night I had the weirdest dreams. At first, I was running from Agent Baumen and Dr. Zake. They wanted to kill me after I sent them to prison. Behind them was a whole army of prostitutes. They were mad because they lost their best clients. I ran down an alleyway but got cut off at a dead end. Just as the horde was about to slam into me, I woke up and sat straight up. I immediately blamed Linus and the sandwich he made me on my restless sleep. The next time I dozed off I found myself tumbling around the time machine house like I was Dorothy caught in the tornado except instead of landing in color, this time, everything was black and white. I set about looking for Rachel Lynn and was haunted by what I saw when I found her.
She was the witch.
“You couldn’t see what was right in front of you.” Rachel Lynn, the witch seethed.
I started falling.
I was spinning out of control.
I couldn’t see anything.
And then… Spinning clumsily around in the endless vortex of which I was falling…
The grandfather clock.
It came at me like a brick be hurled through the air. I couldn’t get out of its way, and there was nothing that could stop it. Just as it slammed into me, I awoke once again.
It was mid-day. I had been out for hours.
Now they say dreams mean things. I don’t know about all that, but I knew what I was supposed to ask the evil Marjorie about. I shot up and threw on some pants as I stumbled out the door.
I saw her through the window of the diner and started shouting. “The clock! It’s the clock!”
She had a confused look on her face and pointed to her ear to gesture that she couldn’t hear me. I started slapping the glass with both hands.
Everyone in the place looked perturbed, and one of the grillmen was aggressively making his way toward the door, wielding a spatula. The evil Marjorie waved me around back so I ran off to avoid a physical confrontation of which I, of course, would be declared the victor.
She emerged from the kitchen, arms and rogue eyeball spinning every which way.
“You tryna get me fired!?”
“The clock, The Evil Marjorie!” as I braced her shoulders.
“...What did you call me?”
“What does the clock have to do with me being here?”
“The clock…” She said, trailing and looking off to the distance.
“Is counting down…”
“Oh no! Countdowns aren't good. In fact, they usually lead to explosions.”
“Not this one. It’s counting down toward… something eternal.”
“This makes sense! The first night I was here it struck seven times. Then it only struck six! I bet it’s been striking less each night.”
“For how many nights?”
“Let me think. Last night was six.”
“That’s not good.”
“That clock presumably struck two times last night. When the clock strikes one…”
“The mouse will run down?”
“No! Something will be made permanent!”
It finally hit me. “I’ll be stuck here forever.”
I stood there in a daze.
“That’s what the warning is,” she said, snapping me out of it. “Make sure that clock don’t strike tonight, whatever you do.”
“Ok. I can do this. Thanks, Evil Marjorie!”
“Stop calling me that!”