Kennick:A Volanis Brothers NovelBy: Meg Jackson
The storefronts on Main Street were charmingly old-fashioned, and despite the dust and “for lease” signs in the windows, there was a hint of what had once been lingering in each one. Many of the now-defunct businesses still had hanging signs that declared the ghosts of themselves on antique wood and chipping paint: “Kristy's Stationery and General Store”, “All You Want Hardware”, “Ricotta and Basil: Fine Italian Dining”. A tiny library tucked between a still-open frame shop and a closed-down butcher shop gaily advertised a summer reading program.
The municipal buildings at the end of Main Street, of which there were two, screamed small town. All white exterior, white columns, white balustrades. The Town Hall appeared to also house the DMV, Town Clerk, Post Office, Mayor's Office, Town Council, and just about every other possible government office one could imagine, while the courthouse next door doubled as the police station. A single poster hanging from a streetlight outside the town hall invited readers to the weekly farmer's market, held in a small park nestled between Main Street and the woods that began not four blocks away.
Out past the main street, the town grew slightly more industrial, and far less charming. There were a few car repair shops, a pawn shop, some office buildings and advertisements for an insurance agency, a pediatrician, and a tax agent. A diner called Sid's boasted a whopping six cars in its parking lot and promised, on its retro-style sign, “Best Eats 'Til Dover”.
And then the town dwindled again, houses few and far between, and it was here, just before the town ended entirely, that the kumpania had made their new home, in the very same trailer park that Pieter Volanis had brought his caravan to thirty years prior.
The gypsies made quick work of clearing up the place, which had fallen into a sorry state in the few decades since they'd last occupied it. With a bustle of energy and loud music to accompany their labors, they set up a new home for themselves in the span of an afternoon. There was business to attend to, applications to fill out, shipments from vendors to check on, connections to be made, and a bevvy of other responsibilities, all doled out to whomever was ready, willing, and able to lend a hand.
Even the oldest and youngest members of the kumpania made themselves useful. The unease lingered amongst the different families that made up the caravan, but they covered it with cooperation, companionship, and, at the very end of their first day, a party fit to raise the dead.
And, in effect, wasn't that the whole idea of returning to Kingdom? They would raise the dead, and demand the truth. Be it whispered or shouted, it would be heard. And then they would be free.
The mayor was already well-situated by the time Kim arrived at the bar. By the smell of his breath and the woozy appearance of his eyes, he was quite well-situated indeed. He sat at a table near the bar with four men, all of whom were business owners or employees in the town hall. Kim would be the only woman. That was not unusual. Ordering a beer from the bartender, she hoisted herself into an empty stool at the Mayor’s side.
“Kimmy! You made it! But you already have a beer. Bad girl, I told you I was buying,” Mayor Gunderson said with mock disapproval.
“You can get the next one, Tom,” she said, slipping into a more casual lingo now that they were out of the office. Across the table, Paul Tiding was smiling at her, and she respectfully returned it, wishing heartily that he wasn’t there. Paul, who worked for the town council, had been trying to get into her pants for years. She was not interested, and as often as she told him so, he never stopped trying. He was persistent. She supposed, in some people, that was an admirable trait.
Ed Kerry, owner of the town’s only supermarket, Phil Topher, banker at First Delaware, and Bob Talkee, council member, made up the rest of their little party. From the look that Bob was giving her, Kim knew she was less than welcome at their informal round table. He was of the old order, and didn’t see what place women had in a bar, with men, talking politics. Or anything else, for that matter. Kim sipped her beer, staring daggers right back at him, though her anxiety yanked at her stomach and begged her just to go home and leave it be.
“So, what’s up?” Kim asked, her voice giving no indication to her discomfort. She hoped their conversation would somehow allow her to discuss the business proposals she’d spent the last two hours going over. They excited her. Well, most of them did, anyway.
There had been seven applications in total. Some were quite traditional. A hair and nail salon, a tattoo parlor, a cheese shop. The last one had particularly interested Kim; there wasn’t another cheese shop between Kingdom and Dover, and she knew that the richer towns nearby were full of yuppies and well-to-do people who would probably come out just to pick up a nice gruyere.
The application to open a veterinary practice had surprised her, but she thought it, too, would help attract business to the town. She wasn’t quite sure what an “exotic grocery” was, but there was an application for that as well, and it described a shop that would specialize in imports of caviar, cured meats, wines and coffees, among other things.