the smuggler’s bible

Pontchartrain

They take him out the front, past the sheet covering the butler’s body. Someone has tipped off the newspapers. Flash bulbs sparkle in the evening snow.

“I had good intentions,” Cratchit whispers as they put him in the car. “Marley found out I was donating to the shelters. He would have stopped it then.”

“You can keep quiet. This is admissable.”

“I don’t care.”

“Fine,” Pontchartrain says. “What about Scrooge?”

“Scrooge.” Cratchit pauses. “Well, Mister Scrooge deserved it. Will he live?”

“The medics think so. Probably. But he’s going to wake up different tomorrow. You changed the man, all right.”

Cratchit

The head clerk is called Cratchit. He takes them up a flight of bare metal stairs to a room in the rear of the warehouse. They wait, breath misting, while he shuffles through his keys. His fingers tremble.

“Cold isn’t it?”

“Mister Scrooge won’t pay for heating,” Cratchit says, “because documents don’t shiver.”

The bolt clicks. Inside is a cramped desk and several shelves. A bitter wind rattles through a cracked window pane.

“Does anyone use this office now?” Pontchartrain asks.

“Not since Mister Marley died. After all, it’s, uhm.”

“Go on.”

“This is where we found him,” Cratchit says.

Pontchartrain

The traffic on the interstate is merciless, so she drives the two-lane until Boughbury then swerves onto the county road, making for Port Advent with all possible speed.

She parks at the top of the drive and raps at the broad wooden door. A butler leads her through frigid halls into a back room where the man himself sits beside a fire.

“Someone is threatening my life,” the old man says, watching her with flinty eyes. “Even so, don’t think I can be bullied into overpayment.”

Pontchartrain shrugs. “I work for the city, Mister Scrooge. I’m used to miserly compensation.”