Groundswell: Chapter Twenty-six

“Took me forever to find you.”

Wallace didn’t look up. He didn’t even flinch, just held his fishing rod steady in his hands and gazed ahead at the rippling creek before him. A big floppy hat covered his head. “Maybe I don’t want to be found.”

“Maybe you should make yourself more available while I’m dealing with all this shit you caused,” said Kimball. “I don’t have time to run all over creation trying to track you down. This is your ass too, y’know. More than mine, even.”

The way the old man’s ears perked up, Kimball could tell he was smiling.

“The shit I caused, eh? It’s all my fault, is it?”

“Well who in the hell else’s is it?”

Wallace turned and glowered at him. “You know damned well I didn’t have a choice. I could either fight it and lose, badly, or I could go with the flow and come out alright in the end.”

Kimball laughed. “Oh, you came out alright. You came out just fine in your little deal with the devil you made all them years back. You’re gonna pay with your soul, though.”

“How come I haven’t seen Clancy’s obituary in the paper yet?”

Kimball sighed and removed his hat, running his fingers through his sweat-dampened hair. “I’m not gonna do it. I can’t do it. There’s no way I can kill that man and have it not be suspicious as hell.”

Wallace narrowed his eyes. “Well, he’s already talked to Hayes anyway, I’ve heard. I guess there’s little point now. What did he tell him?”

“Nothin’ much. When I walked up he was callin’ him Walter. Whoever that is. He didn’t know what the hell was goin’ on.”

“No,” said Wallace, “he doesn’t know what the hell’s going on. And that’s what I’m afraid of. Now they’re going to go and talk to Walter.”

“Who’s Walter?”

“Walter Scheckley. Crazy old bastard who still lives in groundswell. Used to be on the city council! He refused to leave and as far as I know, he’s still out there. Sticking it to the man by living like an animal. Oh, we tried bringing him in a few times, but it wasn’t worth all the hassle. Starts shooting soon as he sees another soul out there in his little ghost town kingdom. Sad.”

“Well that’s just great. What’s he know?”

“Everything. Like Clancy. Crazy like him, too. He’s liable to shoot your boy if he goes out there. This could be the solution to our problem, and we wouldn’t have to lift a finger, ‘cept to get rid of that gun you took from him. How’s that going, by the way?”

“It’s not the same gun he was carrying before.”

Wallace raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”

“Maybe eighty percent.”

“Well, then. He’s hiding something. Don’t you dare arrest him, though. He’ll talk. He either leaves town of his own free will or stays here forever in a hole in the ground. I don’t care which. Now that’s your ass, Kimball. I don’t have anything to do with this. Take care of it.”

“You got a bite,” said Kimball, nodding at the jerking line on Wallace’s rod.

Thanks, said Wallace. He grabbed the rod and tugged it a few times before reeling in a trout of disappointing size.

He unhooked the panicked, flip-flopping creature and tossed it back in the water.

“Off ya go,” he said. “A second chance.” He turned back to Kimball. Ever wish someone’d give you one of those?”

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