He heard words then, in a woman's voice...
"I'm most elated to avail myself to you, sir. I know you espied me last even, with Father's looking-gla.s.s..."
Fanshawe couldn't move, couldn't open his eyes.
"Look for me again, any time thou art inclined," the voice issued on, only now it was edgy with excitement. "After midnight, sir-"
Then a chuckle resounded, the chuckle of an older man, then words like gravel grinding, "Ascend, if thou dost have the heart, and-ay-partake in the bounty that ye hast earned."
WHAT? Fanshawe thought through the madness.
"-and, sir? Go thither, if thou dost have the heart, to the bridle-"
Fanshawe tore away from the display; the fingers clasping his wrist slipped off. He deliberately kept his eyes closed through the motion and only opened them when he was safely turned away. The bridle? What the h.e.l.l? He dashed for the dim corridor that would lead him out. The drone still pounded in his head; he could barely even think the most basic thoughts. He took several long strides toward the exit sign, but it seemed an effort against his will when he stopped, turned around, and then began to walk back...
Don't do it...
He returned to the exit and found his fingers wrapped around the doorway that led back to the stage. No sounds could be heard from within, no...chuckles, no voices. In grueling slowness then, he inched his face toward the doorway's edge, paused to moan, and peeked back inside.
The grotesque forms of Jacob and Evanore Wraxall were both smiling now, smiling directly at him.
What am I SUPPOSED to think? he wondered, sitting crouched at an end table of a fussy cafe. De La Gardie's, the place was called. All the outdoor tables were filled-with patrons a bit too chatty for his liking-except for this minuscule table on the end. He didn't like being so close to the sidewalk, for those strolling by pa.s.sed right next to him. One woman-a bit too heavy for the body suit she wore-waltzed by with a small poodle; the hyperactive dog yelped repeatedly at Fanshawe. Was it his imagination or did the woman grimace at him? Fat rolls jiggled when she tugged the dog away without a word, her chin up. Take that mutt to the pound where it belongs, he thought, and take yourself with it.
Last night and this morning's visions haunted him, and now this business at the museum. When he could think again, his head was throbbing. No doubt about it now, I'm having hallucinations.
He could conceive of no other explanation. The cellphone in his hand could've been a talisman; he turned it over repeatedly in his palm. Instinct urged him to call Dr. Tilton immediately, but- His shoulders slumped at the table. What would I tell her, for G.o.d's sake? I was about to feel up a dummy in a f.u.c.king wax museum but it grabbed me and started talking?
He put the phone away.
Relearn my normalcy, relea
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