The Dog Cart

Emily wasn’t sure about getting on Mr. Coffer’s dog cart but her father’s boiler works was five miles outside of town. The old man was also the only one who seemed to know something about where her father might be. “Do you know where my father is?” She asked him.

“Mr. Drake has gone off to find Mother. I’m afraid this is all my fault.” He answered.

Emily frowned, “That isn’t very nice Mr. Coffer, you know mother died four years ago.”

Coffer blinked several times and shook his head slowly “No, that can’t be, how did she die?”

Emily stamped her foot in frustration at this awful man. Her eyes welled up with tears at the thought of her mother passing. She had gotten so weak before her death and the sanatorium wasn’t able to do anything for her. “Mr. Coffer! Really! You know full well my mother died of consumption.”

Again he blinked at her confused for a few moments as he considered this. “Ah, you mean your mother. Oh I’m sorry child, for your loss. ‘Cept I wasn’t meanin’ your mother, I mean Mother. Get on and I’ll take you to your father’s boilerworks. Siegfried will ‘splain it all when we get there. ”

Siegfried Adler was her father’s boiler works foreman. He was a stout man ruddy in complexion and as sweet as the chocolates that he would bring for Emily. He had come to the house many times to have dinner with them and afterward her father and Mr. Adler would retreat to the workshop and lock the door behind them. If there was anyone who knew about the cutter and could explain the notebook it would be Mr. Adler. Emily decided that if there was anyone that could bestow some clarity on this situation it would be him. She reluctantly stepped up on the cart.

Mr. Coffer flicked the reigns and Harold, his old horse clip clopped down the cobblestone out of town. Once they had gotten out of town Mr. Coffer kept looking toward the sun. Something was making him uneasy. “It’s no use Harold, the sun’s almost setting and we both know you’ve got no stomach for this. They’ll smell me and come runnin’, I best let you pasture out here and draw them off you.” He stopped the cart, got off and started to untie Harold’s bridal.

“Do you intend to pull the cart yourself?” Said Emily, a bit bewildered at this turn of events.

Coffer’s face scrunched into a strange knot. “Ms. Drake, do you remember the feeling of laying in bed and being afraid that there was something under it?”

Emily felt that he had gone mad from drink, “You are a strange man Mr. Coffer, what kind of question is that? I’m sixteen years old, I haven’t worried about that kind of thing since I was four years old.”

He regarded this for a moment. “Aye, that’d be about right. That’s about the time yer father discovered the jackal spiders. Shortly afterward he met me, I’ve been fighting off them beasties for near on thirty years now. Yer father is special though, I need a good measure of drink in me to see them, he doesn’t somehow. I wonder if you can see them like he can?”

Emily was quite sure he was completely mad. Now he had let the horse go and they wouldn’t make it any farther tonight. She would have to walk home and get another cart tomorrow. Then Mr. Coffer walked up to the front of the cart, opened a door in the front of it and began turning a crank. A curious little wheel emerged from the front of the cart and supported the front of the cart. The old man climbed back on, opened a panel on the side of the driver’s bench and pulled back on a lever. To Emily’s amazement the cart lurched forward in fits and starts.

“One of yer father’s designs, came before the soda engines he’s been workin’ on. A great spring drives the wheels, like a giant clock. We used this thing for years chasin’ down them jackal spiders.” He shouted every word with glee over the sound of the gear work in the cart.

The cart now built up to a tremendous speed. Emily feared that she’d be thrown from the back of it. As they bounced along the road, Emily caught out of the corner of her eye something that Mr. Coffer was waiving around. She turned to see what it was. He had an enormous pistol and he was pointing it at various places along their path. “What are you doing?” she shouted.

“The’ll be comin’ fer me. They know my smell an’ I haven’t had enough drink to see em’ coming. As soon as the sun is down they’ll be comin’ out. Fact, they’re probably in them shadows now.” He fired off a deafening shot. “That should scare em’ away for a bit.”

How could her father put his trust in this lunatic? He was absolutely mad. Emily thought about leaping from the cart but then she felt something that she had not felt since she was four. She looked into the shadow underneath a hedgerow and felt that something was there. She retreated back to the cart’s bench and hung on as tightly as she could.

“We should make it before the sun’s all the way down.” He said and then fired off another thunderous round.

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