Ever since he was sixteen, he found it funny that Marrakech had a Poe Street and Lovecraft Lane. Someone, from way-back-when, really loved horror writers. There were no Poes or Lovecrafts in the town cemetery. As he passed the intersection between the two roads, Tarot breathed a chilled sigh of relief. His destination was the last house on Lovecraft Lane, and it wasn’t all that far, even if the driving rain seemed to be slowing everything down.
The house itself seemed to sit on something of an island. There was the footbridge and driving bridge over the river. The back of the property ended abruptly at cliff, which overlooked Marrakech Gulch and the remains of the old silver mine on the other side. The other side of the property butted against the aspens, pines, and shear rocky southern face of Mount Marrakech.
Like many places in the rural mountains, there was something ramshackle about the house. At first glance, it looked like a strong breeze might just blow it over. Only after looking closer did one notice the sturdy construction that had withstood several blizzards, wind, and thunderstorms. Tarot smiled, noticing a few lights were on against the dark of the storm. It made the house at the end of Lovecraft Lane feel that much more inviting.
He knocked on the door out of courtesy. There was a vehicle out front and the lights were on. Someone was home. It was only in the bigger towns in the county, like Petra or Leeds, that people actually locked there doors, just like the big cities. The front door swung open almost immediately. At first, Tarot didn’t see anyone as he pulled his rain-soaked and chattering frame inside.
“You look like a drowned rat, Jimmy.”
Lankin was standing off to the side and slightly in shadow with his arms folded across his chest. Despite himself, Tarot jumped. Often, he would tell people, that if a big cat decided to dress up like a human being, that cat would be Lazarus Lankin, because there seemed to be so very little that was human about him. His mannerisms were decidedly feline, and his gray eyes, which burned with such feral intensity, did not seem to belong in the skull of a person. A set of chin-length rust colored dreadlocks framed his angular face and his skin was the color of polished bronze.
It was said he could be dropped into the Back Country in a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, sneakers, with only his pocket knife, and, a week later, he would show up in a bar, none the worse for wear, for a burger and a glass of red wine, before taking the long way home, that being at least a two week excursion through the tundra. The fact he drank wine didn’t phase anyone. Old timers, who would make fun of any other man who drank anything less than beer or hard liquor, were known to buy him glasses. Tarot would say it was because he was Lazarus Lankin. The men respected him and the women loved him, even if, or perhaps because, he carried himself like a big cat endlessly stalking its prey.
“My name’s Tarot now.”
“Sure it is,” Lankin seemed unconcerned. “Are you trying to give yourself hypothermia?”
“I thought I’d get here before the storm,” Tarot muttered.
“Take that off and stop trying to be fashionable,” Lankin ordered. “Remember, cotton kills.”
Reluctantly, Tarot did as he was told. The hoodie was almost a security blanket for him, even if he wasn’t even born when the Misfits first came out. Upon the removal of his saturated hoodie, he felt a blanket being placed over his shoulders. It didn’t even register that the front door was open until he heard it being closed gently behind him.
“I hear you want to get married,” Lankin said.
“Ira Milligan already tried to tell me I’m too young,” Tarot snapped.
“Is your wanting to get married the reason you’ve been kicked out of your house?” Lankin asked. “Or did you steal your dad’s cheap rotgut?”
Tarot was shocked. Lankin had been up in the tundra for almost a month. When he turned to look at his host, there was an expression Tarot imagined a mountain lion might have right before it eviscerated a deer.
“You’ve been couch-surfing all around Melbourne’s trailer park,” Lankin continued. “By the way, do you want some tea?”
“How the fuck did you fucking hear that?!?” Tarot exclaimed.
“Why, Jimmy, you silver-tongued devil, we live in a very small place and secrets are very hard to keep,” Lankin chuckled. “Ira Milligan’s really worried about you, but thinks you’re too busy being rebellious to even think of asking for help, and, by the way, when were you going to tell your beloved?”
Tarot hung his head, feeling defeated. He should have known; of course Lankin would know what happened. He was Lazarus Lankin, after all. All of the cool lines Tarot rehearsed in his head for days faded away like the mist clouds along the peaks after a storm. He was in the last house on Lovecraft Lane in the presence of Lankin, any attempt at a front would be ripped apart for the façade it was.
“You never answered me about the tea,” Lankin said. There was a slight softness to his voice.
“Please,” Tarot replied, knowing he couldn’t even joke about getting something stronger. Not with his dad’s reputation. That man wasn’t allowed in any place that served alcohol within a hundred miles until he learned how to pay a bar tab and not get into fights. “And is it okay if I stay here? At least for tonight?”
“I was going to extend the invitation,” Lankin said, his smile was eerily warm. “And I wasn’t going to accept a refusal.”