Serial Saturday: Mines and explosions. (Kati’s story part 6)

As promised, here it is, part 6.  I like it.  I hope you do too.

(Need to start at an earlier part? Click the appropriate number:   1  2  3  4  5 )

Jonathan was extremely surprised at Walter’s declaration for lots of really good reasons; but the best reason was that he was seeing something he had not ever seen before.  In fact, the emotion on Walter’s face was so foreign to his long time friend, that he struggled to place it.

“Walter, you seem so…um, what’s the word…not hopeless,oh wait, hopeful.  Really, hopeful?  Is that it?”

Walter rolled his eyes, but didn’t entirely disagree when he said, “Ok, so maybe you weren’t entirely wrong…not about Providence, you are completely wrong about that, but about the value of this particular expedition.  It might even be fun.  The three of us, looking for it I mean.  well, while it lasts, which surely won’t be long, and probably less fun than I think…still.”

“Well that’s good.  Jonathan, I’ll admit you caught me  with that stupid haunting letter of Landry’s, but I’ll be glad to get this over and done with so I can get some sleep!”

It was Katherine, apparently having just risen, but already flawlessly and elegantly attired in yet another creation of her own.  Jonathan smiled broadly, admiring his truly beautiful friend with affection, and was surprised to see her return the smile not to him, but to Walter.

Katherine was surprised too.  When he smiled  at her, his eyes glimmered, and it was probably this new affect, this light in his eyes, which made the aquamarine in them stand out.  She had, she supposed noticed them before, but not how striking they were, nor how much compassion they held behind the sadness.    It was a little like looking into the depth of the sea; what mysteries swam in those depths?

Suddenly, she realized she was staring, and he was staring back unblinking.  Somehow continuing to stare seemed awkward, but turning away at this point seemed somehow even worse; like acknowledging that something awkward had happened.  And as it continued it became a match, a competition; at least that’s how Katherine saw it.  She couldn’t imagine why he kept staring.

Walter was quite simply admiring her; first the beauty of her figure and dress, and then, as she turned her eyes to his, he was caught, not so much in her face as in her expression.  He hadn’t felt anything remotely like this in years.  There was nothing romantic in it, not yet, just interest, curiosity and a small sense of pleasure in seeing her returned interest.   She seemed to be studying him like a book, determining if he was worth reading or not.  As he watched her eyes narrowed, almost as if in challenge.  With a shock he realized that somehow this had become a staring contest.  He felt foolish as he realized what he had perceived as interest had only been competition.  That made sense.  That was the Katherine he’d met…was it really only yesterday?

As Katherine watched, the light went out, the aquamarine almost entirely extinguished, his eyes now appearing the same dull dead brown they’d been.  Katherine spent exactly one second feeling mildly concerned she might have somehow caused that and then she turned to Jonathan, dismissing Walter somehow with that simple act.

“So then, what’s the plan.  How can we get this thing over with?”

Jonathan looked as if he’d just seen something puzzling and extremely amusing.  He seemed to be mulling something over before he said, “Well, Walter thinks he’s solved it.  Although I can’t imagine how.  Still, he says he knows where it is.”

Walter looked up.  It was like his normal melancholy expression had somehow hardened, become steely and even a little cold.   “No, no I was wrong.”

Jonathan looked surprised, “Wrong?  What do you mean wrong?  Two minutes ago, you told me you knew exactly where it was.”

“Well, I didn’t say exactly, but yes I know where it is.  I wasn’t wrong about that.  I was wrong about trying to go there.  It won’t be fun.  it will be disastrous.”

Katherine felt suddenly very impatient.  “What do you mean disastrous.  I heard you when I came in you were saying it might even be fun.  Why all of a sudden would it be disastrous?”

Walter sighed, “No reason it wouldn’t be.  For one, I’m involved.  Maybe if it were just you or Jonathan, but with me, I’m afraid it’s just a cursed trip from the beginning.”

Katherine’s  stern frown, which had never failed to goad the laziest or most cynical of people towards action, bounced hollowly off Walter’s impenetrable sense of despair.

“You are the most insufferable man I’ve ever met.  You and your determined sense of gloom.  Then just tell us and Jonathan and I will go find the mine.”

Walter shook his head.  Only to Jonathan who understood Walter so well, was there barely visible a small sense of triumph, an uncharacteristically mean glee as Walter said, “No, I would still be too involved.  It’s just too dangerous.  And consider the letter itself.  Could ever a more doomed story be told.  No, it’s just too dangerous.  Better to give up the whole idea.”

Jonathan was torn between replying and watching how this battle played out. Walter had fired his salvo and now it was Kati’s turn.  Jonathan waited in anticipation of what he was sure was coming.  Calmly but firmly she would find the hole in Walter’s armor, wear him down until he gave in; either gave in to her persistent sense of confidence or just gave up in defeat.   Jonathan’s only concern was for Walter himself.  He would have to jump in here soon, if only to protect Walter.  That’s why Jonathan was completely caught off guard when Kati did the one thing he never expected.

She lost her composure.  She didn’t scream or yell, but she was clearly exasperated, no longer playing the game, clearly unsure even how the game was to be played at this point.  She, the game mistress was simply reacting. Jonathan had rarely seen her this angry.

“You are such a coward!  That’s all you are, just a plain ordinary coward.  You’re just afraid of failure.  You blame it on curses and gods, but everything that’s happened to you has been your own fault.  You’re to blame for that and so you refuse to be for blame for anything else so you hide your neck in the sand like Oscar!”

Jonathan cringed.  She had found the chink in his armor alright.  But she couldn’t have known.  Not even she, not at her most competitive would have knowingly hit him, hit anyone, there.

At first Katie thought his eyes were glimmering again, but it was just the shine of the growing moisture in his eyes.  The defiance was gone; the hardness was gone.  But so was any vestige of life.  His shoulders drooped, his hands hung limply at his side.  He looked crushed, lost even.  Then, while Katie watched, he turned gracelessly, like a stiff marionette and without a word, walked to the door.

“Wait, Walter, wait.” said Jonathan anxiety shading his voice darkly, “She didnt’ mean it.  She doesn’t even know.”

Kati, her fury spent, not understanding, but seeing enough tried also to stop him, “Wait, Walter.  I dont know what just happened, but…”

“No, “ Walter’s voice was surprisingly steady and clear, “No, you were right.  You did know.  You were exactly right.”

“No, Walter, she’s not right,” Jonathan moved towards him but stopped.   “Well, where are you going?”

“I’m going to find the mine.  If disaster meets me, it’s only what I deserve.  If not, who knows, maybe I’ll even bring you good news.”  Walter shook his head and laughed ruefully as if he’d made a not very funny joke.

As the door shut behind him, Kati tried unsuccessfully to shut out emotions she normally did without. But as the days passed with no word from Walter, Jonathan and Kati moved about his house, taking care of Oscar and the others, playing cards (Kati) or parlor guitar (Jonathan)  trying to treat it as a vacation, both of them waiting to hear something, anything, the unfamiliar feeling persisted.

It wasn’t guilt.  She knew she’d messed up and was already determined in her mind to make up for it somehow, if he would just return.  It wasn’t anger, there was none of that now.  No, it was something else.  For the first time since she was a little girl, Kati had absolutely no idea what to do.  Katherine was worried.

“Come on girl, figure it out, fix this problem” she prayed to herself, but nothing came.

Finally three days later, she and Jonathan were sitting at the table, and Katherine had decided on a germ of a plan, a half idea.

The problem was that the usually optimistic Jonathan was for some reason particularly unreceptive to her plan.

“No, Kati, we can’t.  I’m telling you there’s no way to know where he’s gone.”

“But he figured it out from the letter.  Surely we can do the same.  All we have to do is figure it out or at least figure out where he thinks it is and we can go find him. “

“Kati, you don’t understand.  I have no idea where he’s gone.  He didn’t tell me what he’d figured out and there’s no way we can figure it out.  There’s nothing to figure out.”

“What do you mean nothing to figure out?  Where the mine is.  There must be clues in the letter that Landry left.”

“There are no clues Kati.”

“How do you know?”

Jonathan swallowed hard, “Because there is no mine.  I made it up.  All of it.  I wrote the letter.  There is no answer. There is no mine.”

Kati looked dumbfounded, “But why?”

Before Jonathan could answer, the door flew open and a tired, dirty and smiling figure came unannounced into the house.

Jonathan was about to tackle the intruder whom he didn’t recognize (and for which he can be forgiven for both the untidy nature and the smiling face confused him) when Kati, who recognized, before anything else, the aquamarine eyes, ran past Jonathan giving Walter a hug and for the second time in a week surprising Jonathan by doing something uncharacteristic.

“I’m sorry Walter.  I don’t know what I said,(Jonathan wouldn’t tell me) but it was terrible I see that.  I’m very sorry.”

Walter returned her hug, stepped back still smiling and made an announcement, bringing Jonathan’s surprise and confusion to a peak, “I’ve found it!  Just where the letter said, I found the mine!”

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