Some of my favorite times are when I'm watching Napoleon and he doesn't have a clue. It's hard to do as we tend to click into each other's presences rather succinctly. It has to be when he is so involved in a task or subject that the entirety of his concentration lies therein.
This morning, I was finishing some minor prep for breakfast and noticed Napoleon sitting on the picnic table just outside the window. He was holding a pumpkin and making faces at it. At first I thought he was seizing, but quickly realized that wasn't the case. He'd contort his face one way and turn the pumpkin, then try another one and twist the gourd once again. He rubs it and caresses it as if he was expecting it to respond to him. Of course, considering very sexuality, it didn't surprise me that he's attracted to a monoecious plant.
This is one of the many things I truly love about my partner. He is so completely comfortable with himself that doing something so obviously nonsensical in public doesn't faze him in the least. I would be hard pressed these days to even begin to attempt something as exploitive as sitting and making faces at a fruit.
Finally, it was just too much for me and I had to find out what the hell he was doing. I set what I was doing aside and walked out into our little courtyard. Immediately, Napoleon started grinning at me and I grinned back, not because I wanted to, but rather because he has that effect upon me. He just makes me want to smile... all the time.
"What are you doing?"
He had a dozen or more pumpkins lined up on the table beside him and he holds this one up for my inspection. "I'm waiting for him to show me his true face. When he sees it, he'll tell me and then I'll carve it for him."
"And do you frequently talk with gourds or should I be placing a call to Dr. Hilbert?" Dr. Hilbert was the psychologist Napoleon had seen after his abduction and rape. I, also, begrudgingly used him too for awhile until I got my head back on straight again.
"Only the special ones and only at certain times of the year." He set the pumpkin aside and spread his knees just a bit farther apart and held his arms open. It didn't take Fellini to read his body language, nor did my mother raise a fool; an opportunist, perhaps, but not a fool. I took my place in his arms, always a bit startled that anything could feel so right. Settling my chin on his shoulder, I was willing to stand there as long as he was willing to hold me, like a leaf caught in an eddy. After all this time, I still have not had my fill of him and I sighed at the sensation of his running a hand up and down in back. But something else is nagging at my brain.
"Napoleon, why are you hacking up pumpkins?"
"Carving, Amante, it's called carving jack o 'lanterns." One hand drifts up to start stroking my hair, always with the hair.
"Very well, carving, hacking, it's the same thing. You are ruining a perfectly good fruit."
"No, it's a fruit, Napoleon. Trust me." I gesture to the pumpkins.
"You cut them and they are rendered useless to me."
"If I don't cut them up?" His mouth is on my neck now and holding my train of thought is getting tougher.
"I'll make pies of out of them for Thanksgiving." Napoleon's answering rumble made my skin of my neck vibrate. "Mmm, pumpkin pies."
"And I have your mother's recipe." I knew he was a sucker for his mother's pies. Her recipe book was one of the few things I brought home with me from Vermont.
"Did you celebrate Halloween in Russia?" Napoleon wrapped his legs around mine, his ankles locking behind my knees. I couldn't escape now if I wanted to, not that the thought ever occurred to me.
"Napoleon, every day in the USSR was a parade of people hiding behind masks, some pleasant, but often not. As for the inevitable trick or treating, there were too many tricks, not half enough treats." I kissed him to stop the conversation for a moment and hopefully distract him from that topic. I don't like talking about my homeland. It's as foreign to me now as the thought of having anyone else in my arms. "So why are you even bothering? You've never made much of a show before," I whispered into his ear before nuzzling it.
"Been the first year I've actually had a chance. First year, we'd just gotten married. Then Mom died and all that garbage. Next year, Velon, then your hand." He brought my right hand to his mouth and licked the barely visible scarring there. The skin is still incredibly sensitive and the feel of his tongue against it is insanely erotic. "So did you just come out here to malign my pumpkin carving technique or did you have something else in mind?"
It took me a minute to convince my brain into cognitive thought again between his nuzzling my hand and the sheer nearness of him. "Yes, your breakfast is up."
"Mmm, is that what you're calling it these days? I can quite clearly feel 'breakfast' poking me in the stomach." He ground against me and I am only human, no matter what others say. Breakfast could wait, but suddenly I couldn't. However, I wasn't having him out there, not where someone could wander in. Not that I'm ashamed of what this man does to me or what I do with him, but I hate being interrupted mid-coital.
"So what are we doing today?" Notice it's not what are you doing? It's always we, what are we doing. Napoleon always included himself in our day off activities unless it's something so horrifically boring or just awful that he'd rather weed the front flower bed or rake gravel. I'm careful to make sure that doesn't happen too often. So much of our lives, even now, led us in opposite directions that it was important we connected as often as possible.
We'd had some very satisfying sex, even managed to eat breakfast and now was the time to talk.
"Matt and Rocky should be here in about forty minutes. We're headed over to Apple Hill to pick up some apples. You interested in coming along?" I always gave him the option. The last thing I would want is for Napoleon to think I take him for granted. He gave me a lazy smile, the kind that warms me from the bottoms of my feet to the top of my head. He knows the effect that has on me and while, I can accomplish quite a bit in forty minute, I was still calming down from an explosive climax, so my response was tempered. "And your nephew is due here any moment."
"You are planning on putting pants back on before opening the door, I hope. He's still a little young for some things." I grinned, standing up and stretching, knowing that makes him crazy. Making love on our couch isn't the best place in the house for such activities, but it was as far as we got this time. And better the couch than the floor, I'm still recovering from the latest rug burns.
"Certainly and, in fact, I'll even put a shirt on for him." I grabbed my jog pants and tee shirt from the armchair and headed upstairs, knowing that Napoleon's eyes weren't off me for a second. You would think after this many years, this need of ours would begin to cool off, but it hasn't given any indication of it so far. This delights me to no end.
By the time I got dressed and combed my hair, Napoleon had gotten our dishes washed and was sharing a cup of coffee and some gossip with his nephew. I wasn't sure what to think of Winston when he first showed up on our door step, but he's as serious and driven as Napoleon ever was. He has his uncle's sharp intellect and work ethic, as well as his natural charm around people. He's funny, candid and a breath of fresh air. "Winston," I said, nodding to him. Immediately there was a change in his posture. He stood a little straighter, became a little more somber.
"Good morning, Chef." He stopped just this side of saluting and Napoleon chuckled.
"Illya is fine, we're not working." He still hadn't quite come to terms with the dividing line between our working and personal relationship, even after nearly a year of being under my thumb. He grinned, relaxed and I could see a young Napoleon in his face.
A knock interrupted us. Matt had finally learned how to knock after getting more than his share of embarrassed surprises.
Immediately Winston scrambled to go let them in. He does nothing slowly "So where are we headed specifically today?" Napoleon is always one who wants his day planned out. To be sure, he can handle spontaneity, but only if he's had time to plan for it.
"I'd like to start at Morgan's, then go over to Kincaid's." It's one of Napoleon favorite wineries and I saw his face light up at the mere mention of the winery. "And then over to Bixler's." I admit it's my favorite stops at Apple Hill. Not only do they have the largest assortment of apples to choose from, but they also have a huge craft fair and the best dining facilities on that side of the valley. Is it wrong of me to favor the one place where I don't have to worry about pilfering everyone else's fries in order to feel full? Their portions are legendary. I like that in an eatery. And their food is very edible, if not exactly healthy. And they have the best apple beer, hard cider and Dutch apple pies of anyone in the valley. With me, at least now, it's all about the food.
Napoleon's car, while not exactly gas efficient, could seat five comfortably and there was enough room in the trunk to accommodate most of what I'd purchase today. Now as to what Napoleon would purchase, that's another story. I'd have preferred to have taken something a little less pretentious, but that would have meant taking two cars or bikes and I'm not comfortable with anyone except Napoleon on my bikes.
Matt, Rocky and Winston slide into the back seat, obviously content with the extreme tight quarters. Far be it from me to lecture propriety and if they are comfortable with it, then I just let it be. What they choose to do on their off time is entirely their own business. Typical, Napoleon tosses the keys to me. I don't know exactly when he decided he didn't like driving any longer. It was during our UNCLE days, but the exactly time and reason is a mystery.
"So what's the National doing this year?" Rocky asked as we passed by the hotel. I never pay the hotel much mind, mostly because they don't have a restaurant.
"The usual song and dance harvest fest, but I think they're talking about adding a hay ride this year." It took me a minute to figure out what they are talking about, but then I remembered. The National Hotel enjoys the reputation of being haunted and by the middle of October their rooms fill to bursting with would-be ghost hunters and paranormal investigators. This means good business for the rest of Jackson.
"I think we should participate this year." Matt leaned forward to hook a chin over my shoulder. "We could have a kissing booth and dress Chef up as Fabio."
"As whom?" I asked as the back seat erupts in laughter. I could tell from the look Napoleon shot them that he was equally in the dark. When did we get this old?
"Fabio," Matt continued. "He's the one with the flowing blond locks and muscles upon muscles that the women swoon for on the front of the romance novels. You would be a natural, Cara."
"Matthew," I kept my voice very calm. "I know that it's been awhile since we've been together, but I can assure you I don't have nor have I ever had muscles upon muscles in any part of my body. Nor is my hair long or flowing." The mental image made me cringe. I have enough trouble keeping Napoleon away from it as it is.
"That's what the costume is for.... Cara." He was on a roll now. "Oh, all the women would be lined up to get a kiss from Chef!"
"Don't Cara me, Matthew and I don't kiss women as a rule these days" "Then the men could line up instead. It would be glorioso, spettacolare, una vista di contemplare!"
Glorious, spectacular and a sight beyond compare, my ass, but I concentrated upon the road in front of us. The roads here twist and turn and dip abruptly. It paid to be alert.
"Oh and Uncle Napoleon could have a torn bodice and swoon." They really were a bad influence upon Winston.
I could see a devil of a smile forming on Napoleon's lip and suddenly he plopped over, his head in my lap, staring up at me with wide eyes. "Oh, whatever shall I do? Wherever shall I go?" We'd watched Gone with the Wind two nights ago and even I had to start laughing at my goofball of a partner and his horrific Southern accent.
"Frankly, my dear... south, I think... my dear." I thrust gently up against his head and he grinned. I know if we'd been alone, he'd have my fly down by now, but he just turned and kissed it instead before sitting back up. Always an adventure with this one.
The afternoon is nice. The clouds moved in, tempering the sun as the day wears on. It makes me glad that I had the foresight to grab a jacket. It's going to be a chilly. We picked up two cases of Napoleon's favorite wine, plus a mixed case of bottles for him to sample. And then while he and Rocky ran rough shod over the crafts fair as the rest of us sniffed and sampled our way though a dozen different types of apples and other produce. The owners always welcomed us with open arms and were extremely accommodating. We repaid the favor by making sure the menu mentioned their farm's name prominently. Up here, it pays to look out for one another.
It was good to have Winston with us for he watched and imitated us, tasting the fruit, learning how to judge its character. For example, one type of apple is perfect for baking, but does not hold up during the cooking process. For pies, you want an entirely different apple than you would want for, say, an Alsatian sauce. By the time we got our purchase crammed into the trunk and our lunch order placed, the day had darkened and the wind had come up, driving most of the customers inside or away entirely. That's fine with me—I had all the company I could possible want with my current companions.
By the time we finish eating, fat drops of rain were splattering on the ground. Surprisingly, Napoleon appropriated the keys from me and we started the two hour drive back home.
Fueled by hard cider and too much apple beer, Matt, Rocky and Winston kept up a steady serenade of fairly recognizable songs and even Napoleon joined in at times. I just relaxed and relished the fact that the people I hold most dear are so close at hand. Napoleon rested a hand on my leg and he traced lazy circles on my thigh, conveying to me exactly what was on his mind... as if there's ever any doubt.
I'm not sure what woke me for I wasn't even aware I'd be asleep. The car was halfway off the road and Napoleon was cursing under his breath. The rain was pelting the roof of the car so loudly it was hard to hear him.
"What's wrong, Napoleon?" He's far too careful a driver to have fallen asleep or to have lost control.
"The car just went dead and the steering locked up." That's the problem with power steering, but this wasn't the time to go into that now. I could see Napoleon's frustration in his body language, but I really couldn't muster any desire to crawl out into the rain and pop the hood, not with the way it was coming down.
"No idiot lights came on?" I slid closer to him to stare at the dashboard. Just as he says, everything is dark.
"No, nothing. It just stopped."
"Any idea where we are?" I moved back across the seat and wiped condensation off the passenger window with my shirt sleeve and peer out. There are a few buildings not far from us, but nothing looks familiar. "Not really. I saw a marker not too far back that said we were on 49." I reached over the seat and slapped Rocky on the leg, once I figured out which one is his. He grew up in the Foothills and knows these roads and towns better than anyone. "Hey, Sleeping Beauty, rise and shine."
"Are we home?" Rocky stretched as much as he can with both Winston and Matt draped over him in a rather familiar fashion.
"No, we're stuck with a dead car. Do you know where we are?"
He rolled down the window and stuck his head out for a minute. It's sopping when he pulls it back in. The rain, if anything, has increased since we stopped.
"Georgetown, I think, but it's hard to tell. There's not much here." He shook Winston awake as Matt joined the party and yawning, pointed out of his window. "Well, the sign on the building over there says Georgetown Hotel. I'm thinking that's a safe bet."
"So what do we do, chef?"
All heads turned towards me and I sighed inwardly. I'm still not sure when becoming a chef meant I was in charge of things, but it seems rather the case these days. "We have two choices. We spend the night in the car or we check into the hotel, get a good night's sleep and deal with the car in the morning."
It didn't take a brain trust to figure out which one was the most attractive, especially to the three six foot plus guys in the back seat. We waited for a break in the rain, grabbed a flash light out of the glove compartment... does anyone ever actually keep gloves in there? And we make a run for it, skidding to less-than-graceful stops before the massive doors.
It isn't until I'm looking at the actual padlock chaining the front door closed that I realize a slight stumbling block in my suggestion.
"Now what, oh great leader?" Napoleon grumbled. He hates being wet, at least with his clothes on, but it's not like I could have known the damned hotel was out of business. Things came and went so far up here it was hard to keep track of who was and wasn't solvent anymore. I handed him the flashlight and dug out my wallet. From the spine, I withdrew a lock pick and smiled. Napoleon immediately brightened. "That's my sneaky Russian."
"Chef... that's breaking and entering." Rocky started looking around frantically, as if a dozen police were going to descend upon us. He shielded me with his body, just in case someone decided to brave the torrential rain and express any interest. As far as I could tell, there's not a light on for miles.
"Technically, it's only breaking and entering if you get caught," I said and popped the lock after working on it for a minute. It took me longer than I'd have liked, but I am sorely out of practice. I turned the knob and pushed. Wet weather and disuse made the door reluctant, but it creaked open under the weight of my shoulder, revealing a dank and murky interior.
Mistake Number One—Never leave a secured area for unfamiliar territory.
"Oh, this is pleasant. I stayed in something just like this in Calcutta," Napoleon quipped as he shined the light around the lobby. "I think it was called, The Black Hole."
"I know, I was there and I have the scars to prove it," I reminded him as I took a step in. I took Napoleon's hand and directed the light. "I think the front desk is over there."
"I think the night clerk has gone home, Illya." Winston was sticking close to Rocky and Matt, obviously exercising the safety in numbers theory. "Maybe we should just leave."
I chuckled, mostly to relieve the tension that seemed to be mounting. "I'm aware of that, Winston, but the lobby seems to be still furnished. Perhaps the rooms upstairs are likewise. They might be dusty, but at least it would be some place to rest until day break."
Suddenly, Napoleon started to laugh. He stalked up to the desk. "Oh clerk, I say, clerk, three rooms, best in the house toot sweet!" he called in a horrific English accent and slapped the front desk. He glanced back at us to gauge our response as we all laughed. Then he looked back at the desk and fell silent.
"Cara, what's wrong?" Matt was starting to relax a little
"There are three keys here. I swear there wasn't before." Like I said, Matt was starting to relax. I could almost see him draw into himself in an attempt to make as small a target as possible.
Rocky shook his head and draped an arm around Matt's neck, kissing him, the other arm around Winston's waist. "No, you're not pulling that old chestnut on me, Mr. S." He scooped up the keys, squinting at them in the illumination the flashlight provided. "Rooms Two, Three and Seven. We'll take two, Winston, you can have Three. That way you'll be right next door in case the boo-jums decide to call and you can crawl in with us."
"Not funny, Rocky!" Winston caught the key and I reminded myself just how young he is and realized we have an obligation to keep him safe.
"If anything happens, Winston, you come and get us," I told him and then looked over at Mattie and Rocky. "Same goes for you two."
"I guess that leaves us with Seven," Napoleon took the key and studied it front and back. "Not my lucky number, but beggars can't be choosers."
"Are you waiting for it to do a trick, Napoleon?" I kept my voice dry and it worked. He snapped back and studied me for a long moment before grinning sheepishly.
I lead the way up the stairs, because, quite frankly, I'm tired and the thought of stretching out and holding Napoleon, even for just a little while, appealed very much to me. I love the feeling of his body next to mine, although I counseled myself as to this probably not being the best time or place for lustful thoughts, especially with a spooked twenty-three year old and my less-than-brave business partner.
It's very strange, but even though we run the gamut from my height to Winston's, we all weigh roughly about the same within a range of fifteen pounds. If the stairs would hold me, they'd handle the rest, so I went up first. Again, I don't know why I'm always the one in front, but it seems to always work out that way. The steps creaked and complained, but were solid beneath my feet and we moved up them easily as our shadows danced across the walls. It's very quiet with the exception of the noise that we are making and outside the storm is pounding to try and get in to us. I can feel Napoleon just over my shoulder and one hand started to tickle the hair at the nape of my neck. In bed that was fine, but right now, I was concentrating on my footing and not in the mood for distraction. I shook him away and he was back in an instant.
"Napoleon, this is not the time or place," I murmured and then I was surprised as his voice answered from the other direction.
"For what, Amante?" He kept his voice low.
I'm not sure how he moved that fast, but he can when he wants to. "Leave my hair alone."
"Believe me, Illya, I would love to be messing your hair up at the moment, but as I have the only flashlight, but being trying to keep folks from tripping."
We got to the first room and I waited for Rocky to open the door. As we started away, Matt griped, "What are we supposed to do for lights? It's like a mining tunnel in here." The room was very dark, exceedingly so, but there was a kerosene lantern on a table and I got that to light. I left a couple of matches with them and we headed for Room Three across the hall.
"After this, I want no complaining about what I carry in my pockets," I muttered to Napoleon. It's a constant bitch of his come wash day. Likewise, we got Winston tucked into his room and headed for Room Seven. Napoleon shined the light around our room and stopped. "Hey, look, a fireplace." He was to it in two strides. "How are your Boy Scout skills? Can you build a fire with two matches?"
"Komsomol," I corrected automatically. "We weren't quite as interested in starting fires as we were looking for ways to fan them." I looked around the room and stopped an old rocking chair. It looked serviceable, but any port in a storm. "Think the owners would mind me breaking that up for firewood?"
"What...? Napoleon stopped again, staring. I followed his stare and the chair was slowly rocking, although I couldn't feel the wind that is obviously moving it.
"It's just a draft, Napoleon. You really are letting your imagination get away with you here." I walked across the room and reached the chair.
"Stop that," a voice ordered and I looked back at Napoleon.
"It's all right; I'll reimburse the owners if you want."
"What are you rambling on about?" Napoleon had set the flashlight on the table and was stripping the bed spread off.
"You told me to stop it."
"Why would I do that, Illya? I'm cold and wet and the one who wants the fire."
It's odd, but it's also late and I'm tired. I reach again for the chair. "Leave it alone!" And this time I'm pushed physically back a step.
"What the hell?" I know Napoleon hadn't moved, but self interest seemed to dictate a different path.
"Illya?" He was watching me closely now.
"You didn't hear that?"
"Just you swearing and stumbling back."
I eased away from the chair and it started to rock again. "Let's just go to bed. I'll warm you up."
We managed to shake most of the dust and other accumulated crap from the bed spread and pillows. I pulled off my jacket and put it over the pillow and slipped off my pants. Hopefully anything living in the bed would be polite and share tonight. Napoleon followed suit, draping his pants carefully over a chair to keep his pockets from emptying all over the floor as well as to preserve the crease and crawled in beside me. The building cracked and moaned, as old buildings do, but with Napoleon here, I was willing to even give that business with the chair a pass for now.
I was nearly asleep when I heard a knock on the door followed by an "Uncle Napoleon? Illya?"
Napoleon sat up and turned the flashlight on. Winston was standing in the door way looking like, well, like he'd seen a ghost.
"Winston, what's wrong?"
"Can I sleep in here with you?"
"There's someone in my room—a little boy, playing in front of the fireplace. I exchange a look with Napoleon, barely discernable in the darkness. "When I went to talk to him, he vanished."
"Into thin air, literally... and then he came back. I can' stay in that room tonight, Uncle Napoleon, I just can't." He looked around. "I can sleep in the car if you'd rather."
"Nonsense." Napoleon reached across me and raised the bedspread. "We're all adults, jump in."
Winston hesitated until there's a loud snap in a darkened corner of the room and suddenly he's in beside me, smiling uncertain at our proximity. "Okay, since you put it that way."
Mistake Number Two—never assume anything.
I discovered that cuddling is apparently a trait that runs in Napoleon's family. I woke to a crushing weight. For a moment it was hard to breath and I struggled against it until I was awake enough to recognize Napoleon's familiar scent and remember where we were. But there's added weight on the other side and realize Winston has moved closer. Between the two of them, I was being suffocated by their combined weights and body heat.
I pushed at Napoleon and he backed off a little. That's when I hear the scream and all three of us sat bolt up in bed.
Winston wasn't inclined to move, but Napoleon and I were out of the bed and into our pants before the sound can finish reverberating. There was only two other people in the hotel that I knew of and I'd be hell bent if anything is happening to them on my watch. We ran down the hallway and nearly crash into them coming out of Room Two.
"Matt, what's wrong and if you say you saw a mouse, I will hurt you." I knew he believes me to be serious.
"There's a woman in our room." Rocky was looking distinctly unwell. "She's the one who screamed, not us."
"Probably not used to seeing two guys in bed," Napoleon tried to make light of the situation, but neither Matt nor Rocky were having any of it. "I vote we go back to the car." Matt murmured, a death grip on his partner's arm. Rocky was wavering between playing the brave hero and scared little boy.
Napoleon nods and reaches into his pants pocket for the keys. He tries the other pockets and frowns. "That's odd."
"Maybe they fell out on the chair," I suggested as we walk back to our room. Winston was sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at the rocking chair. He'd obviously found my matches and started the kerosene lantern. The flickering light did nothing but accentuated the slow measured motion of the chair as it rocked back and forth.
"That chair is moving by itself." He looked at me and I nodded. What else could I do? I could not offer a rational explanation any longer.
"What are you doing in here?" Rocky asked Winston.
"There's a ghost in my room."
"Us too," Matt whispered and clung even tighter to Rocky.
"And ask Illya all about that rocking chair. It yells at you if you get too close." Napoleon was searching the armchair and on the floor. "Winston, would you bring that light over here?"
We scoured the room looking for Napoleon's damned keys, but turned up a lost earring, fifty four cents in change, a mouse skeleton and a theater program from 1969, but no car keys.
"Never mind," I finally had enough of everyone jumping at every crack and noise. "I will get the car open."
"But we need the keys to start the car." Winston protested one eye still on the rocking chair.
"I don't." I assured him. If I can hot wire a tank, I can hot wire a Lincoln.
"But the house key... "
I patted my pocket. My set of keys is still in place. "I have house keys. Turn off the lantern, Winston." I shook out my jacket, pulled it on and gestured to the door. "After you gentlemen." I didn't need to repeat myself. As we left, I made sure the all lanterns are out. I had no intention of burning the place down.
We were halfway across the lobby when Napoleon dipped his hand into the pocket of his trousers and pulled out a set of keys. "I'll be damned. Illya?"
"Napoleon, I'm tired and I just want to get the hell out of here. I don't even want to think about it right now. Ask me again when we're in our own bed."
The rain had stopped, but the night was bitterly cold and the damp made every joint in my body start to ache almost simultaneously. There was no way I could move the car back onto the road myself, so the four of us pushed and Winston steered. In neutral, the car was slow, but maneuverable. We got her back onto the black top and we climbed into the car.
I saw Napoleon slide the keys into the ignition and shrugged. "Go ahead, Napoleon, try it. Maybe whatever got wet has dried." I knew well and fine that nothing in the engine gotten wet and stopped, but the three in the back seat didn't and they looked like they could use a little hope.
The car started up perfectly and my poor lover looked like he was ready to crawl away into a hole and pull dirt and rocks over his head. "It's okay, Napoleon, it makes as much sense as anything else has tonight. Just drive." I cranked up the heater and stared out the window at the hotel. There was a flash of orange and I sat up. I knew all the fires we lit are out, but I was still worried. Then as suddenly as it was there, it was gone.
We pulled into Jackson just as the sun is starting to turn the sky white. It had poured on and off since we left Georgetown, but the only noise in the car had been the sound of the wipers. There weren't more than three words exchanged since we got back on 49. The three guys in the back weren't asleep, but were nevertheless, sitting in a very intimate tangle of arms and legs.
As we're drove into town, we passed the National Hotel, a banner hanging across the front proclaimed it to be the most haunted hotel in the Foothills. Somehow, I didn't think any of us had the least interest in proving or disproving their claim at the moment. After what we'd experienced, haunted anything doesn't appeal.
We pulled into the parking lot of Taste and there seemed to be a collective sigh from every occupant in the vehicle. We climbed out and I watched the dynamics as Winston glanced over at Vinea and his apartment above it and sighed, long and hard. Then Rocky's arm was around his neck, pulling Winston towards their car. As I said before, we're all adults and it's really none of my business.
Napoleon didn't even notice. He was hell bent on getting into the house. As we passed through the courtyard, he looked over at the pumpkins, still lined up, still awaiting for their faces.
"Pie, you say?"
"If you wish. Or I can make bread, soup, gnocchi, or a dozen other things."
"They're all yours."
"I thought you were really into Halloween this year."
"For some reason, I seem to have lost my taste for it..."
"Well, just in case you want a reminder later on." I tossed him the key for Room Seven and he dropped it like it's hot.
"Thanks I'll pass. I've had as much as I can take tonight."
And I'm sure there was a rational explanation for everything we experienced, but I, for one, was in no hurry to get back to the Georgetown Hotel and check it out. For me, I was just as happy to let those spirits alone. The only spirits I was interested in at the moment were the distilled ones. But at least I didn't have to worry about being persuaded into participating at the Harvest Fest this year. All of us have had our fill of Halloween for this year.
Author's note—Both the National in Jamestown and the Georgetown Hotel in Georgetown are supposedly real haunted hotels. They are open and can promise an interesting, if not particularly restful night's sleep
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