Almost SupperChapter 11
“Stopp!” Wimbledon thundered. But Thimbledon was storming across the room to Stopp who was on his back and cackling. Thimbledon put his foot on his chest and grabbed his flailing leg. Marian and Aaron’s eyes shot wide open as Thimbledon twisted the leg and ripped it from the joint at the knee.
“And I guess we’ll call you Stoop from now on,” Thimbledon growled at his shrieking brother.
Marian wriggled in her restraints. “Come on!” She yelled in frustration.
“There’s no hope for you, Dolor,” Wimbledon snarled. “There never was.” His hand wrapped around Marian and squeezed like an orange. Thimbledon stomped over to Aaron and opened his mouth around his head. She stopped struggling in Wimbledon’s arms and closed her eyes.
“Jesus, help us,” she whispered.
The door behind the trolls creaked and scratched the linoleum. A heavy footstep hit the ground. A hand wrapped around Stopp’s remaining leg and flung him through the open doorway. Thimbledon roared and charged the assailant. They scuffled on the floor and Thimbledon’s good eye was punched. He tripped and smashed through the doorway. Wimbledon let go of Marian. She opened her eyes. Aaron was stunned, mouth agape and eyes staring. Marian looked forward. A large man, dressed all in black, with a flat head and bolts sticking out of each side of his neck, fought Wimbledon handsomely. His fists pounded into the troll’s face and abdomen. Behind him, in the hall, Thimbledon struggled to his feet and pressed his hands against his bloody face. The raven was there, perched on Stopp’s abdomen and examining him. It cocked its head and stared at Marian before flying out of sight. The Monster grabbed Wimbledon’s long beard and ripped it from his chin. He lifted the troll up from his armpits and tossed him through the doorway. Wimbledon crashed into Thimbledon on the other side of the threshold. Before the trolls could gather themselves, the Monster slammed the door shut and pounded on it with his open hand, three times. He reached down and locked the deadbolt. Behind him, Esther was jumping up and down, cheering. Aaron howled in excitement. Tears streamed down Marian’s face in joy and sudden relief.
The Monster’s rough hands untied the brittle rope from Marian and Aaron. Esther clapped her hands, watching. When her bonds loosened, Marian wiped her tears away and laughed uncontrollably. The rope fell to the ground, and Aaron’s furrowed brow looked the Monster up and down, suspicious of the big man with Esther.
“Esther!” Marian hopped off the pool table and embraced her little sister. “I thought we lost you forever. What happened?”
Esther kissed her sister and spun around in circles. “I know,” she replied. “He saved me! —I’m sorry for going through the door. But yes, he saved me on the other side.”
Marian gazed at the Monster who had turned his back and removed himself from the bright room to a shadowy corner behind one of the bookshelves.
“I know he looks scary,” Esther explained, “but he’s good.”
“Are you sure?” Aaron clenched his fists. “I think I’ve seen him before.”
“He saved me from a witch,” Esther replied, “and got me back to the house.”
Marian shook her head at Aaron and hugged Esther. “Well, if you say he is, then I’m okay with that. How did you find us?” She begged.
“We heard you scream. And those big hairy things yelling,” Esther imitated the troll’s deep voices. “So we came running. Frankenstein—I mean—the Monster helped me.”
Marian looked at the Monster in the corner. She walked over to him and extended her hand. “Then we ought to thank you,” she smiled.
The Monster looked at her hand until the folds on his forehead grew as deep as corn crops. He took her hand gently, and the two stared at one another for a considerable time.
“I’m Marian,” she introduced herself in the awkward pause.
The Monster looked at Aaron leering at him and let go of her hand. Aaron’s jaw flexed.
Marian spun around, remembering what she saw in her parent’s bedroom. “Wait, Esther!” She exclaimed. “I saw you jump out of Mom’s closet. You were with Herbert—and I think Pascal. Where is Herbert?”
“Pascal?” Esther gawked. “Marian, what are you talking about? I haven’t seen Mom all night. And I haven’t seen Herb either. Actually, I have seen no onesince I left both of you at the door. Wait, you went to Mom—”
“No!—I mean, yes—but I saw you jump out of Mom’s closet the second Aaron pulled the bedroom door shut. Just before the trolls captured us. I know I did!”
Esther didn’t know what to say. “Maybe it was another trick from the song. How is Mom?”
“Not good,” Marian frowned.
“It doesn’t matter,” Aaron lamented. “All that matters is we find Herbert. He’s out there and they want him for some reason. This all started with him, and we need to find him.” Aaron shoved his finger at the Monster. “And he’s the one who took him.”
On the other side of his bedroom door, Herbert stepped into a dark pantry. Bushels of rice lay stacked on wine boxes, and flour and pancake mix filled the shelves, towering on each side of him. Sausage links dangled in front of his face like ominous chains from a horror film. Light cracked inside from under an accordion door. Herbert peered through the slats of the pantry entry.
“It’s a kitchen,” He whispered to himself.
It wasn’t his kitchen, though. Instead, it was a gigantic kitchen, like you find behind the walls of a restaurant. White and cream-colored tiles covered the walls and floor. Stainless steel instruments, pots, pans, and countertops hung, lay, rested, and cooked in every direction. On a large island at the center of the kitchen, two stove-top flames heated a pair of enormous cast-iron pots. Steam rose from their boiling water and Herbert smelled an unpleasant stew in the air.
At the helm, a fat cook wobbled around the island and stirred the pots. He scooted through the kitchen with a cigar dangling on his lower lip and puffed black rings into the dank air. The thin, gray hair draped across his forehead looked like old string beans. The fat skin peeking from underneath his undersized clothing both fascinated and disgusted Herbert. It wasn’t skin at all, but a moving amoebic substance billowing around the man’s bones and fat. It made Herbert think of white-water rolling itself down a creek. A ladle bobbled in his back-pocket, which he used often to stir and lick the concoction in the pots.
Herbert waited in the pantry, weighing his options of whether or not to sneak through the kitchen, presuming it to be the way Fritz had exited. The door behind him, leading to his bedroom, was open, and he heard the chamber door, still standing in the middle of his bedroom, creak open wider. Light dodged around the floating door’s edge, and the sounds of a thud and familiar scratching made the hairs on Herbert’s neck stand on end. He kicked himself for leaving the floating door open in his bedroom, allowing anyone or anything to follow.
Herbert glanced back through the accordion door slats, saw that the fat chef was turned away, and slid the pantry door to the side, scampering low alongside the wall. He now saw that the only exit lay on the far side of the kitchen in full view of the chef. Herbert held his breath and scurried to the near edge of the island, just missing the eye-line of the chef. He waited a moment and listened to the chef’s shuffling slippers and grinding teeth chewing at the cigar between his lips. He held his breath and wondered how long he would have to wait before the chef came around this side of the island and found him. Of course, he needed the chef to move somewhat, or else he would see Herbert leaving through the door. But he hoped he would turn away or perhaps go for the pantry behind him.
He shuffled around the edge of the island a bit more. He glanced up and saw a dumbwaiter system in the wall, with its door extended up. The waiter wasn’t in the hole, though. He put his cheek on the tile floor and looked under the island. The chef’s wide feet turned away from his direction and aimed toward the exit. Herbert sat on his haunches and discreetly ran his fingers up the wall to the dumbwaiter. He stood on tip-toe, praying the chef wouldn’t glance back at him, and gazed down the hole.
Surprisingly, he saw his father’s sedan below and guessed the tunnel magically led to the garage in his house. Since being woken and kidnapped, it was only the second room that he recognized, but it confirmed in his heart again that somehow this was all happening in his house. His heart raced, and he imagined himself getting down the shaft, through the garage door and out of the house. Mr. Wayne, next door, could help!
He removed the rope he had retrieved from his closet from around his neck and shoulder, glancing back at the chef while he did it. The chef was at the pantry door, wondering how it was open, shook his head, shut it, and rummaged over to his spice rack with his hands on his hips. Herbert wrapped the rope’s end around the dumbwaiter’s handle. He tried to tie a bowline like Mr. Dolor taught him, but fumbled it twice.
He gave up and tied two overhand knots on each other. The chef was still turned away. Herbert picked the rest of the rope up and flung it down the shaft. He stood on tip-toe and watched it slip down the corridor and land on the sedan’s hood.
A growl erupted from behind the pantry door and startled the chef and Herbert. Herbert slapped the tile and slid against the island. He listened to the chef squeak like a pig and rush to the pantry door. Herbert’s cheek was on the tile again, peeking through the crack. On the far side, he saw the chef’s wide feet and four other paws, one of which protruded a long, single claw. It was the monster from the attic, still pursuing Herbert. His heart slid to his throat, and he held his breath.
“Beat it, you stupid mutt!” The chef shouted and kicked the beast. It growled and snapped at his flying foot. The chef reached into the boiling pot with his wooden ladle and splashed the concoction over the animal. “Scat!”
Herbert was on his haunches, peeking around the edge of the island. The animal’s quills laid down on its silky black back like a submissive dog. Oil drooled between its crooked fangs. The beast rose its nose into the air and snapped its head toward the island, right after Herbert jerked his head out of sight. The animal took a step in Herbert’s direction.
“I said, ‘beat it’!” The chef squealed and kicked the beast’s rear-end. It scurried to the corner of the kitchen, away from the chef’s ladle. “The trolls are having some of the Dolors for dinner,” he said. The chef spoke in the manner people do to dogs and cats that they know cannot understand.
“Dolors,” Herbert whispered to himself and covered his mouth in shock of the unwitting noise. His chest hurt thinking about his sisters caught up in all of this mess.
“I need to make the stew for their sides,” the chef continued to himself. “And you know we’ve got the banquet tonight.”
Herbert crawled to the far edge of the island, facing the exit. He glanced back at his rope hanging down the dumbwaiter. He couldn’t leave yet. Not while knowing that his sisters were captured and going to be dinner for some trolls.
“Professor’s back-up plan is on the stove, too,” the chef muttered to himself and chewed on his cigar. “La Ars Nova tonic, they say—humph.” He looked at the animal sniffing the floor around the island. “I think if it has to get to the tonic, the Professor will lose his job—or his head.” He stopped stirring and looked at the animal. “What you smell, dog?” The chef bent low next to the animal and followed its gaze around the island’s edge.
Here was his chance!
Herbert scampered to the door. His palms pattered on the tile floor like suction cups. But the chef didn’t hear. He pushed the swinging kitchen door open and slid through the crack.
The chef looked around the island at the empty room and smirked. He kicked the beast. “Stupid animal—Get out of my kitchen!”