New Winslow S4E11
With everything going on, Iris woke up a few mornings later and realized she was just about due to renew her business license in New Winslow. As much as she hated the idea of being around Town Hall right now, knowing what she knew, she couldn’t afford to draw attention to herself by having an expired license.
She groaned, pulling the covers up over her head. Couldn’t she just stay in bed? In her warm, cozy bed where Roland couldn’t get her and nobody could find her? Was that really so much to ask?
Apparently it was if she wanted to continue to have a livelihood. So after a long moment, Iris lowered the covers and got out of bed, flinching in the cold air of her bedroom as it hit her skin. Normally she didn’t turn her heat on until at least after Halloween, but this week had been so cold that she might have to.
The shower blasted icy cold water as soon as she turned it on. So she waited, brushing her teeth while it very slowly warmed up. Should she get someone in to look at that? It seemed like it was taking longer and longer for her water to heat up these days and it probably wasn’t anything paranormal. More likely that the water heater in the basement needed repairs. Great, more money that she didn’t have.
But before she dealt with that, she needed to deal with spending other money she didn’t have on renewing her business license with the town. She wasn’t opening the shop until ten today, so she would go straight over there when they opened at nine.
So Baxter was connected with it all, Iris thought as she finally stepped into the shower. She started washing her hair, trying to focus on the idea of washing out fear and unease and everything she didn’t need. Normally this was a great way for her to center herself before starting the day. But today, the world seemed a little colder and a little more dangerous than it had before she found the connection between Baxter and Barlow.
Did this mean Baxter knew what happened? Did he know what caused the curse? If he did, he just kept it to himself while it destroyed the lives of people around him. Why the hell would he do that? Did Council President in a town of nine hundred people actually give him enough power to make it worth it? Or maybe he didn’t know and it was just a gross irony that he spent his life trying to hide the curse.
No, there was no way he didn’t know. Not with how fiercely he fought to keep the council from doing anything connected with the curse. So what did he have to gain? If anything, she’d think he would want to be the savior, rescuing the town from the curse with the knowledge he and only he possessed.
But Iris knew one thing for sure as she finished showering and dried herself off, hurrying in the cool air. She had to avoid letting Baxter know that she knew. Right now he still considered her a joke. Sure, Dr. Degas joining the team might have caused some more speculation about them, like she’d warned. But nobody had approached her about it.
Yes, there was whatever was watching them. But (and she hadn’t told Andrew this yet) that was seeming more and more to be firmly in the realm of the paranormal. After she’d sensed it at The Countess the other night, she’d realized that it didn’t feel like a person. And if it wasn’t a person, it would explain how it continued to find her and Andrew even in situations where they would spot someone trying to spy on them.
A little while later, Iris was dressed and walking down Main Street toward Town Hall. It wasn’t a long walk from her building and nobody else seemed to be out just yet. She kept her attention on everything around her as she walked, not letting anything pass by without noticing.
Town Hall had just opened when Iris got there. She slipped in the door and got her permit renewed within minutes, wincing as she paid the fee. But it was done, one less thing for her to worry about.
As she walked out of the town clerk’s office, Iris stopped in front of a wall of plaques. Almost automatically, she began scanning it for any sign of Harrison Barlow. And it didn’t take long before she found one.
Town Council 1921-1929. Eight years, that was nothing in this town. No sign of whether he was president or a general member of the council. But maybe a more modern plaque would show Baxter in the same format.
Speak of the devil. Iris jumped and spun around. Charles Baxter stood there, glaring like he was about to tell her she’d failed another test. “Um, Mr. Baxter, hi.”
His eyes darted toward the wall, then back to her. “What do you need?”
“What?” Did he know?
“From town hall. Why are you here first thing in the morning?”
Iris laughed and knew that it rang false. “Oh, just updating my business license,” she said, holding up the receipt the clerk had given her.
He looked at her for another moment, like he was trying to figure out if it was a lie. She held his eye as best she could, trying to read him and see if he had any suspicions. But she couldn’t get anything off of him before he turned away.
“Right,” he said. “Have a nice day, Ms. Davies.”
“You too,” she said as he walked off.
With one last glance at the wall, Iris left too.
“I don’t suppose you’ve had any success with this in the past?”
Andrew’s question broke through Iris’s thoughts and she jerked her head up. “What?”
“This crystal business,” Andrew said. “I’ve meditated with more things than I could count over the past six months and it hasn’t gotten me any closer to getting out of New Winslow. Why do you think this particular piece of white quartz will do more for me than those did?”
“It’s larger and able to absorb more energy?”
She realized how the words sounded as they left her mouth. Andrew clearly did too because his eyebrows rose almost past his hairline.
“It will work,” he confirmed, voice incredulous, “because it is a bigger rock?”
Iris sighed. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m looking for other angles, but I’m just saying, it’s worth a shot.”
“Is it though?” Andrew asked, and for the first time in a while, a tinge of frustration had entered his voice. “Because I don’t feel that this is any different from anything we’ve been doing. And judging by the fact you’ve just told me that the only difference between this and every other rock that I’ve focused my total and complete concentration on for more mornings than not, is that it is, in fact, large.”
Iris wasn’t sure what to say to that. Part of her understood that yes, more volume meant more space for it to absorb more energy. And if that energy was keeping him here, taking more might help. But she also, on a slightly less frazzled level, understood that they were treading water here.
“Iris,” Andrew said. “Is everything alright?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been somewhere else this entire meeting. And you’ve worried that pen down to a point I’m pretty sure you won’t be using it again.”
She looked at the pen in her hand, suddenly conscious of how chewed the end was.
He was looking at her now and she felt an urge to tell him everything. How the research at The Countess had led to the president of the town council’s involvement in the curse’s existence. He deserved to know, she knew that. But at the same time, it was too dangerous to tell anybody else. If Andrew knew, what would he do? Would he insist on confronting Baxter? Or if Baxter found out, would he go after Andrew? Something was watching Andrew and Iris got the feeling she was responsible. So what happened if things took another turn?
No, she couldn’t tell him. It wasn’t worth the risk.
“I’m fine,” she said.
Andrew nodded, then turned back to the rock in his hand.