New Winslow S6E39
According to local law, they needed to register the Limerick with Town Hall. The other permits, the ones involving sales and food distribution, were settled with the state and ready to go. Setting those up had been expensive, but simple. It was entirely online. But registering their business with the town of New Winslow had to be done in person, and they all needed to sign the paperwork.
That was the only reason Andrew was at Town Hall right now. This was the next step in the business plan they’d spent weeks outlining and arguing over as they scrubbed the Limerick from top to bottom. And it was the one he’d been dreading, despite how simple the process was. Thankfully, Liv and Noah had to be here with him, so he wasn’t alone in Baxter’s domain. He tried to focus on what they were doing, but both of them could clearly tell he was out of sorts.
But today wasn’t about all of that, and maybe he wouldn’t even run into the man as they made their way through Town Hall.
Once they were in, they were able to do everything quickly, filling out the necessary forms and paying yet another fee. And they were even able to schedule the inspection for the kitchen while they were there. Andrew was feeling pretty good as he, Noah, and Olivia walked out of the office and made their way through the main foyer.
At least, until he saw Charles Baxter standing there.
“Andrew, right?” Baxter said, in a pathetically obvious power move.
“Yeah,” Andrew said shortly. “Excuse us, we’re in a bit of a hurry.”
“Of course,” Baxter said. “Of course. Can I just speak to you for a moment? In private?”
Olivia looked alarmed and for a second, Andrew wished her fear wasn’t so obvious. Not that it mattered because Baxter knew everything Andrew knew and more. And if he didn’t go now, then things would get worse when Baxter came for him somewhere else.
“We really don’t have-” Noah started, but Andrew shook his head.
“Just a second, yeah?” he said, giving Noah and Olivia an encouraging smile. “Wait for me here.”
Neither looked happy as he stepped aside with Baxter. But if Andrew didn’t do this now, he was never going to get Baxter to leave them alone.
“You and Iris have been busy,” Baxter said.
“Well, Christmas is a big season for her shop,” Andrew replied, playing dumb. “But yeah, things have stayed well consistent even after the drop off in the New Year.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know that,” Baxter said, his voice dropping.
They were just out of sight of Noah and Olivia now and Andrew was beginning to feel the creep of remorse at stepping away from them. Baxter was fierce, his eyes blazing as he glared at Andrew.
“This is a good town,” Baxter said. “We don’t need constant reminders of things we can’t control.”
“It’s not like I have any control over it,” Andrew snapped. “Come on, what do you know that I don’t? Do you know a way out of here?”
The air seemed to ring in the silence that followed his question. Iris was going to be furious with Andrew, but he spent enough time furious with Iris that it seemed like an even tradeoff. Baxter’s face went white, then red, like an old cartoon character might.
“There is no way to break the curse,” Baxter said. “I’m sorry, Andrew, but that’s just the way things are. The curse is beyond all of our control, but it’s your problem. The town doesn’t need to be constantly reminded and shamed for something it has no control over.”
“It’s not just me,” Andrew said, knowing it was probably a bad idea to keep prodding. “There’s been so many-”
“Of course not,” Baxter said. “Do you think I don’t see Iris Davies all over this? She’s been digging through the madwoman Harbinger’s diaries and-”
Baxter shut up as Andrew looked at him. “How do you know that?” Andrew asked, despite knowing the answer.
Baxter had Iris’s library records. And Judith Perez had been grilled by the Council for the damage Iris’s pet demon had done to the first Harbinger volume. Of course Baxter had put it together.
“She’s wasting her time,” Baxter said. “Harbinger was a sick old woman, and she didn’t know what she was talking about. But her ideas were dangerous to this town and had to be buried.”
“Where did you put them?”
This time, Baxter was the one who looked caught off guard. Then the bastard had the audacity to actually laugh. “Knock it off, Andrew,” he said, as though Andrew were talking in class. “Otherwise…”
Andrew’s throat went tight as Baxter trailed off. The older man looked haggard, like he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in a while. Andrew hoped he was part of that stress, because he hadn’t been sleeping so peacefully himself after being trapped for a year. But then Baxter leaned in, whispering so softly that Andrew almost couldn’t hear him.
“Those final pages? Harbinger’s papers are gone,” he said. “They’re buried with her and they can’t hurt anyone else. But if something were to happen and you couldn’t get out of town, it would be a real problem.”
Baxter’s words were soft, but deliberate. “Who knows if you’d have the same luck as Roman Beckett. You wouldn’t want that to happen, so don’t let it.”
He gave Andrew a stern look as Andrew tried not to let the words he’d said sink in. No, he wasn’t going to be afraid of Charles Baxter. But apparently yes, he was, as he shoved his hands in his pockets to hide their shaking.
Baxter looked smugly at him, then walked away, leaving Andrew alone among the solemn statues and plaques of Town Hall.
With Baxter gone, Andrew took a deep breath, letting out slowly and shakily. He needed to get settled before he joined the others. But that had just happened. Baxter threatened him. He might as well have said he was going to hit Andrew with his car because Andrew couldn’t get medical treatment.
He needed to get out of this fucking town.
He never should have come back to this fucking town.
Everything he had was in this fucking town.
He wasn’t going to start crying right here in Town Hall. Not when Baxter could return at any second, or someone could see him and start asking questions. But Andrew’s face burned hot as he tried to cool it off by pressing his cold hands into the heated skin. He needed to get it together, then they could solve the curse and he could…
Well, he could get medical care when Baxter backed over him with his car.
Olivia’s voice behind him made him jump. He turned and could see by her face how horrible he looked.
“Come on,” she said, holding out a hand.
He reached out and took it, squeezing softly as she pulled him toward the exit. Noah was waiting for them by the door. His eyes went down to where their hands were joined, then he looked at Andrew with a frown. He moved like he was about to go after Baxter, but Andrew reached out and grabbed him, shaking his head as subtly as he could with his body still shaking.
“We’ll talk back at our house,” Olivia said, her voice low.
Our house. Another thing he needed to decide on. But he was still more rattled than he would have expected, so instead of saying anything, he just followed them out into the cold rain. He’d go home and calm down, then go talk to Iris.