The Dead: Book 3 (Frag. 2)

Submitted by Ken Watts on Thu, 03/06/2008 - 14:55

RALPHY GATHERED UP his courage and climbed to his feet.

"Judge Harris?" he said.

Judge Harris glanced his way.

"Did you just speak to me?"

"Yes, Sir—I mean, Your Honor, sir. I was, well, I was surprised, I guess, to see someone I knew here."

The judge examined him carefully.

"We've met, have we?"

"In a way, I guess. I was in your court last week."

The judge squinted.

"Last week. Oh—yes. For possession. You said it was for your grandmother."

"My aunt, actually."

"I remember. How much did you hear just now?"

"You mean what you said to that man? Not much. You said you were the ranking emissary of something or other..."

"A ranking emissary—not the. And you'd best forget you heard even that much. These matters are not for the uninitiated."

"Yes Sir—Your Honor."

The judge looked impatiently about.

"I wonder where that fellow's got to?"

Ralphy took a deep breath.

"I wonder, Your Honor, if you could tell me where we are. I mean, do you know what we're supposed—what I'm supposed to do, here?"

The judge measured him with a gaze.

"We're in The Hall. The Great Hall of the Gods. Now that you mention it, I'm surprised you got this far."

"Do you know what I'm supposed to do? Just wait around, or..."

"If you're here, there'll be someone along to take you in charge I expect. Sooner or later."

"I wonder, Sir. If you don't mind, I mean, could I—would it be all right if I came along with you?"

The judge stared across The Hall. He seemed to have forgotten all about Ralphy. But then he looked down again.

"Come with me? No. I very much doubt—probably shouldn't even have... Unless..."

He held the large jar out with both his hands.

"I suppose you could bring this along, if you like."

Ralphy took the jar. It was heavy and glazed, which made it difficult to hold.

"Whatever you do," said the judge, "don't drop it."

Ralphy managed to get it in position in front of him, in a kind of hug. He could just see over the cork.

The judge was surveying The Hall again. The short fellow in the suit still stood quietly by.

Ralphy suddenly realized what had made that fellow look so familiar. He was Ralphy's size, a foot or two shorter than the judge, but otherwise he could have been the judge's twin.

Ralphy turned one hundred and eighty degrees—carefully, so as not to drop the jar—and peered at the little fellow standing behind the pillar.

Now that he knew what he was looking for, it was like staring into a fun-house mirror.

The Used-Car Salesman rushed toward them from the center of The Hall, and mumbled something to the judge.

Ralphy inched his way around to face front again.

"Your Honor," he said, "do you know who... there's this little guy behind me, and he looks just like me..."

The judge gave a little huff of impatience.

"That's your Ka. Come along—and be careful with that jar."