If it is true that the Devil makes work for idle hands, then the Devil never met Old Joe. For as long as anyone could remember, Old Joe had been well past working age; indeed no-one in Micklethwaite could really recall his former trade.
Mavis Claythorpe, who knew everyone’s business and could not bear to admit to ignorance of anything, claimed her grandfather had worked with Joe as a thatcher, but Janet Armstrong, the blacksmith’s widow, who had comfortably exceeded her biblical span, was prepared to swear Old Joe had already been ‘Old Joe’ when she was a little girl. To the best of her recollection, the fallen tree beside the duck pond on the green, into which a seat had been roughly hewn by the removal of a quarter-round section, had always been the vantage point for the graybeard’s observation of the slow rhythms of village life.
Misty watched Joe pace the living room. Things had been going missing—car keys, loose change, magazines, and now his cigarettes.
“That’s the second pack this week,” he growled, lifting a stack of papers off the coffee table.
“Sorry, Joe,” she said from the couch.
“How does this keep happening?” He stomped into the kitchen and Misty heard drawers opening and banging shut. The edge in his voice told her to stay on the couch, out of his way.
He stalked back out of the kitchen and stood in the living room, fists on hips. Misty watched him take a deep breath in and out as he scanned shelves and windowsills. She supposed he was counting to ten. “Guess I need to get another pack,” he grumbled.
She had to get him out of this mood. “Maybe Chelsea’s swiping them,” she said, reaching over to pet the small, rust-colored tabby curled up next to her. “Maybe kitty doesn’t like smoking in the house.” Chelsea purred and rolled over to expose her soft white belly. Misty looked up at Joe with a tentative smile.
“The cat, eh?” His face was unreadable. Behind her smile, Misty clenched her teeth as he sat down next to her on the couch.
Lucy hated visiting Tom’s flat, mostly due to the risk of vampires.
“Why do you have to live in such a dodgy area?”
“Rent is cheap. Besides, it annoys Father.”
“But what about …”
“The vampires? Oh Lucy, don’t be ridiculous. You’ve been reading too many tabloids.”
“Fishie?” Little Evan asked over the sound of his mother flushing the toilet.
Ray stepped between Evan and Cecelia, squatting down to look into Evan’s watering eyes.
“I thought you said that Fishie went to heaven.”
Ray took a deep breath, keeping eye contact. “Evan, … Fishie, … well, he did some things… He’s gone to a bad place.”