Carthage swallowed hard as he rounded the exit’s long curve.
“Mark Caten is evil incarnate.”
“Mark Caten is really a demon possessing a human body.”
“Mark Caten isn’t human at all.”
“Mark Caten abuses his servants.”
“Mark Caten is a child molester.”
“Mark Caten has literal skeletons in his closet.”
“Mark Caten is a raging egomaniac.”
“Mark Caten has severe mental health issues.”
“Mark Caten used to be a vampire hunter, but was kicked out for being too violent and heartless.”
“Mark Caten killed his only child.”
“Mark Caten killed his wife.”
“Mark Caten is an alien.”
“Mark Caten has no heart.”
“Mark Caten is incapable of love.”
“Mark Caten is a monster.”
“Mark Caten kicks puppies and eats kittens.”
“Mark Caten is—-“
“Enough!” He slammed on his brakes at the first red light. “It’s all just rumors and they can’t all be true. That just isn’t possible.”
Maybe he’s just misunderstood.
Mark Caten is terribly misunderstood.
Maybe he donates millions to needy children in Uruguay.
Maybe he works at a soup kitchen in his free time.
Maybe he helps Sarah McLachlan make those “Save An Animal In Need” videos…while laughing maniacally at the animals’ misery.
He’s just misunderstood.
He’s a good man.
He’s a great man.
He’s well on his way to sainthood. He’s practically the Pope.
Carthage pressed his forehead against the steering wheel.
There’s just no way that any of that, good or bad, can be all true. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between.
“But what does that even mean?”
The light turned green.
He raised his head and stared at the green light.
“This is stupid.”
The cars behind him threw fits.
“Fine. Fine! I’m moving.” He drove forward. “See? Look, I’m moving.”
As he drove across the intersection, a bright yellow Mazda blew past him, blaring its horn.
I can’t go back to Pinkerlee. I’ve made it this far. I’m going all the way.
All the way to Mark Caten’s residence.
The train pulled into the station.
The conductor came over the speakers with an enthusiastic, “WoooooOOOOOOooo! We. Are. Here. And. Here. Is. Henspence. You know, it isn’t easy to talk in staccato like that. It’s hard on one’s vocal cords and all that stuff. Anyway! We have arrived at our destination and what a fine destination it is. Just look out your windows and marvel at all of that superb Henspence scenery. Or you know. You could leave the train, get out on that platform, and rubberneck until your neck twitches. But hey! It’s all up to you how you want to spend your trip. If you want to stay here, well. That will be an extra $300,000. Hahahahhahaahhahaha! Just kidding. It will be half that price. Bzzzzt! Still kidding.”
LM stood and pulled Maelin up to her feet. “Let’s go before I turn him into a fish.”
“Can you really do that?”
“Ohhhhhh, I love a parade.” the conductor sang for some reason. “The lights. The colors. The banners. The fun fun fun times had by everyone.”
“I don’t know.” LM said. “But he is really annoying me. So, I just might try.”
They left the train together and LM held onto her hand.