For Others

by DJ Tyrer

[this is the third in the three part series–
read Top Hat from the beginning, here]

Tales of Verethan by Donald Tulloch,” said Harry Bull, pipe flaring as he laid aside the book. “Very rare.”

Julianne steepled her fingers, tried to ignore the stuffed marmoset that was gazing down at her with glassy eyes from a high shelf.

“But, that’s not why you came here, is it?”

He produced another book.

A kitten skipped playfully about her feet.

Songs of the Singing Stone by Georgiana Fay.”

She leant forward, body tense, eyes predatory.

He almost expected her to lick her lips.

She didn’t, but she did nod.

“I located it in a used bookstore in Berlin. To be honest, I can’t quite see the appeal of it.”

Harry looked down at the kitten, which had commenced playing with the lace of one of his shoes and nudged it away with his toe.

“Please, Jezin, not now.”

It yowled up at him in displeasure and he shook his head.

“A rather dull book of rhymes for children.”

“It’s what I want,” she said.

He shrugged and removed the pipe from his mouth and tapped it out upon the head of a stuffed dodo that stood upon the floor beside his seat.

“Well, if you’re sure…”

“I am.” She smiled. “I am.”

“Then, it’s yours; if you have what I want.”

“I have.”

“The real thing?”

“As real as anything in this room.”

He smiled. “Quite.”

“Trust,” she said, slowly, “is a virtue seldom afforded to those such as we, but, on this occasion, I believe we can trust one another.”

Julianne lifted a tall hat box from the floor and place it upon his desk; he slid the book across to her. Jezin the kitten continued to dance about their feet, while ash trickled slowly down onto the dodo’s beak.

Picking up the book with reverent grace, Julianne studied its cover, which showed a lonely standing stone upon an area of grassy moorland. It was just as she remembered from her childhood, or possibly dreams of a life she had yet to live.

Harry opened the hat box and took out a top hat and span it in his fingers, examining its sheen.

“Yes,” he breathed, “this is the one.”

He placed it upon his head.

“You should read the story in there of Mr Top Hat,” he said, steepling his fingers and smiling a wide and predatory smile.

But, Julianne wasn’t listening.

She was staring at the book, the standing stone seeming the stretch off into infinity like the dark surface of a road beneath a clear and perfect azure sky, a motel at its side.

It was strange how it seemed so real…

“Are you jolly?” Harry asked and reached out towards her with long and slender fingers.

“No,” she said, “but, Mr Jolly should be here, soon.”

She looked up at him and smiled.

“I like your top hat.”

He smiled back, but he wasn’t Harry any longer.

The dodo watched him go.

It knew.



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