Styx and Stones: Chapter Four

The cup of tea, handed to her by the young priest, was cooling in Dorothy's hands by the time they had managed to discern most of little Brigit's mumbling sentences. Roger stood by the window, looking out into the grayness that had once again taken over the city. His brows were drawn down in deep thought, his arms crossed. He struck an imposing figure, silhouetted so in the dim light filtered through the thick clouds.

Dorothy took a sip of her tea to cover up the sudden feeling of unease that had crept up her limbs at the sight of him. Something in him struck a chord in her, just as the old deaf man had. Some distant human Memory was flowing back to her, and the image of Roger was like a match to dry kindling. Suddenly her coat felt just a little too warm, but Dorothy was loath to remove it. The weight of it on her shoulders seemed to stave off the feelings that only grew every time Brigit spoke.

Brigit hiccupped.

Mrs. McFearson, still holding tightly to her little girl, shook her head. It was not a shake of disbelief, but a shake of permission denied. She refused to even acknowledge such dark, ancient things existed in her world of pious obedience and devotion.

"No," she said simply, still shaking her head. "No. It can't happen. He won't let it, I know He won't."

"Faith is an admirable quality," Roger said gently, moving his gaze to rest on the middle-aged woman and her daughter. "But every god abandoned this city a long time ago."

"Don't you dare say such things!" Mrs. McFearson hissed, her voice slipping through clenched teeth. She pressed Brigit's head into her shoulder, covering both of her daughter's ears. "Your Gordon Rosewater isn't any more of a savior than you are, sir!" she continued angrily. "Rosewater doesn't care what happens outside of the domes! The only thing we have out here is the Good Lord, and all your wealth and good breeding and expensive suits and pretty little friends," here she jutted her chin sharply at Dorothy, "won't save you from the wrath of the Almighty!"

"First of all," Roger retorted, stepping away from the window, "I live outside the domes! Secondly, I like Gordon Rosewater about as much as anyone in this city, which isn't a hell of a lot! And thirdly, my relationship with my pretty little friend is none of your business!"

His face scrunched in the most adorable way when he was angry.

Dorothy quickly gulped down the rest of her tea.

"Get out of my house, you unbeliever!" Mrs. McFearson screeched suddenly. The priest, chanting softly until this moment, let out a little yelp and jumped away from the couch.

Startled, Dorothy jumped to her feet, dropping the now-empty teacup onto the top of the coffee table, where it shattered.

Brigit began to cry again.

"Get out, you heathen!" Mrs. McFearson repeated, struggling to her feet with the child in her arms. "Get out, and take your little harlot with you!"

And just like that Dorothy wanted to hit something - namely, Mrs. McFearson. Instead, she turned and strode quickly out into the weak afternoon light. The fumes from the burning cars still choked the air - the fire had been put out only minutes ago. Roger stormed after her, slamming the front door on his way out.

Roger continued to storm, all the way back to the car, and Dorothy had to jog to keep up. He opened the passenger door for her but refused to look her in the eye. She flinched when he slammed the car door shut. Then he stormed around to the driver's side, jerked open the door, and slammed it shut when he was situated. He drove faster than was necessary, and refused to meet Dorothy's gaze, even in the reflection of the rear-view mirror.

Dorothy stared at her hands, folded primly in her lap. Words and all the things that came with them -the pauses, the insinuations, and the double entendres - had never before evoked emotion in her. Suddenly, a great many things became clear to her, in light of how important a tool the mastery of language was for a human. Suddenly Roger's choice of employment seemed much more difficult. Suddenly, she was glad she didn't have the use of her voice, for fear any of her newly found inflections might put forth the wrong message.

At the red light on Park and Fifth, Roger pulled Dorothy's stone out of his pocket. She'd made such a sight standing in the rain that he had forgotten to give it back to her. It was warm in his palm, and the very sight of it made him feel slightly ill.

Dorothy held out her hand and made a face that clearly said, "Well? Give it here."

Roger was more than happy to oblige her.

Dorothy spent a few moments studying it. The surface was still black as coal. The longhaired mermaid was still white as snow.

She pulled Brigit's stone out of her own pocket, set them side by side in her hands, and looked at them together. They were the same size, the same shape, and the same color. The only difference was that one bore a mermaid and the other a hawk. Even then, the pictures had a similarity of livelihood. There was something that made the mermaid smile and brought out the glimmer in the tilted eyes of the hawk.

So Brigit could not see and Dorothy could not speak: not a clear lead to what their mysterious woman was up to, but certainly more than they had had an hour ago.

The car horn blared as a teenaged boy ran into the street chasing a basketball. Roger, ever a man of many words, felt it necessary to roll down the window and shout, "What are you, deaf!" at the uppity youth.

Blind, deaf, and dumb…

Dorothy gestured wildly at Roger as the possibilities began to fly through her mind. He just glanced at her, shooting her a look that clearly indicated she was crazy. She mimed drinking from a glass, and could barely contain her frustration when Roger continued to eye her warily. Finally, she wrenched open the glove box, ignoring Roger's cry of "Careful!" and rummaged around for a pen. She managed to lay hands on a black sharpie, and scribbled the word 'bar' on her palm.

"What about it?" he asked skeptically, turning left toward home.

'Go there!' she wrote on the back of her hand, complete with exclamation mark and underline.

He snatched the pen away from her and threw it in the backseat.

"Stop that," he admonished. "Norman'll kill me if he thinks I've been letting you mark all over yourself."

They were still heading home. Dorothy waved her palm across his eyes, and he swore.

"Fine! What the hell's at the bar?" he asked, finally acquiescing and turning the car around.

Dorothy, in quick succession, covered first her mouth, then her eyes then her ears.

Roger blinked at her.

When they pulled up to the curb beside the bar, Dorothy was out of the car before Roger had put it in park. She rushed into the dingy little building, coat flying behind her, ignoring Roger's pleas to wait. She found the old man just rising from his seat, pulling a cane out from under the bar where he had laid it earlier that afternoon.

"What brings you back, Red?" he said, his toothy smile a pale blotch on his dark face.

Dorothy pulled both the stones out of her pocket, one in each palm, and offered them to the man. He took the mermaid from Dorothy, turning it over in his fingers.

"Pretty little stone you got here," he murmured, "I got one a lot like it. Last trip I took before I lost my hearing. Lemme see if I can find it…" He began to rummage in the pockets of his coat, pulling out all manner of things and laying them on the bar. Roger entered then, coming to stand beside Dorothy. She held up a hand to silence his questions.

"Ah!" the older man exclaimed, "Here we go!" and he laid a black stone in her hand. The emblem of a long-eared hare stared mischievously up at her, and Dorothy handed it to Roger.

He took one look at it, and swore. Then he offered his hand to the old man, now gathering his things from the bar. "I'm Roger Smith," he said, then gestured to the tiny red-head beside him, adding, "and this is Dorothy."

"James Isaac," the old man proffered, taking Roger's hand and shaking it vigorously.

"Do you think you have some time to talk with us, Mr. Isaac?" Roger asked. "We were just about to go for dinner, if you'd like to join us."

Mr. Isaac chuckled, and winked at Dorothy. "No, no," he said, waving them away. "I don't think an old man like me has any place at the dinner table with a fancy young couple like you."

Roger began to tell him that he and Dorothy were as far from a couple as any two people could be short of not knowing each other, but Mr. Isaac plowed on. "No, I'd best be getting back to my granddaughter. She's got a baby now, herself… Needs my help around the house, these days."

Dorothy smiled understandingly, and offered him the stone. He closed her hand around it and said, "You just keep that, Red. You got yourself such a nice little collection going, and I don't need it all that bad."

Roger elected to return home for dinner. He'd thought an outing to a restaurant might be an enjoyable experience for Dorothy, but his fuse had been going all day, and it was running short. All people outside of his household grated on his nerves, and generally made him want to beat something with a stick.

The rain had returned with a vengeance on the drive home in the form of thick, icy sheets that poured out of the gray sky onto the dirty city, doing nothing to alleviate the brown, broken look of things.

Dinner was a quiet affair, involving beef stroganoff, Dorothy's newly discovered distaste for mushrooms, and the clinking of silverware.

When the dishes had been cleared away and the rain was still falling from the sky, Roger retired from to his room with little more than a gruff "Goodnight."

Dorothy helped Norman clean the kitchen, took the cup of warm milk and honey he offered her –"Just in case you have trouble sleeping"- and went to her room.

The pinching shoes and itchy dress finally came off, to be left in an unfolded heap on the floor. Her nightdress was soft and cool, and the bare floor was cold against her feet, so crawling into bed was no small comfort. It was cold as well, but warmed quickly when she snuggled down under the thick comforter, pressing her cheek to the pillow as she rolled about in attempt to find an agreeable position. After a few minutes she settled on her left side, one hand under her pillow, the other curled beneath her chin.

Drifting off to sleep was another matter entirely. The past day's event played over and over in her mind, riddled with unanswered questions and new ideas, all leaping through her head in a very unsleepy manner.

It was late, when she finally drifted off. Roger was still awake, pacing in his bedroom.

Two people that they knew of; one quite young, and the other very old already shared Dorothy's experience. This… thing, whatever it was, had been out and about for at least fifty years, if Mr. Isaac's testimonies had been truthful

When did I become a damn detective? Roger couldn't help asking himself as he lay down in bed for the third time that night, determined that he would sleep.

Early that morning, on his walk home from a long, taxing night, Dan Dastun stumbled upon an old woman sheltering herself beside the steps of a run-down apartment building.

"Some money?" she murmured, reaching out to him. "Just a little, or some food. Something for my strength."

He had no money, but he did have the ends of a half-eaten roast beef sandwich, which he willingly handed over, saying, "Take it, lady. Get yourself inside. It's too nasty out here for someone your age."

She just smiled wildly at him, and bit into the sandwich.

As he was walking away she called him back.

"Take this," she said, reaching out to him. "Take it, as thanks for the food. I make 'em in my spare time, sell 'em for a little money."

Fully expecting to receive a folded paper bird or a tin cut-out, he was much surprised when she dropped a small painted stone in his open palm. It was a little round thing, white as bone, with a tiny bull inked onto it's smooth surface in deepest black. He was too tired to fully appreciate the precision such a small, intricate drawing must have taken, so he pocketed it and went on his way, fully intending to crawl into his warm but lonely bed, sleep until mid afternoon, then eat himself silly on steak and shrimp. The restaurant down the block had a special on the meal if you made it before five o'clock.

The first half of his plan went well. He slept soundly, and awoke at half past two, discovering that he had just enough strength to open his eyes.

He could barely roll over in bed.

Something was very wrong.

AN: It's been too damn long. Don't give up hope, folks! I am alive, and I am working on this... kinda...