The Last of the Line
by Liam Martin
Witch Finder General Roderick rang the doorbell to six Hertingdale Drive.
He was wearing a long leather coat, a black bowler hat and a woolly scarf that was pulled up over his nose and wrapped so tightly that his two milky grey eyes seemed to bulge from his face. He peered at the brass number six on the wooden door frame, someone had written a six at either side with a felt tip pen.
“Who’s he meant to be?” A ginger haired boy mockingly asked his mother as they walked by, “he looks like he’s gone funny in the head.”
Roderick, pretending not to hear, rang the doorbell again.
Eventually the door opened and a blue eyed old woman poked her head out.
“Sorry to keep you waiting pet, my knees aren’t what they used to be.”
Roderick took a piece of parchment out of his pocket. “By the decree of Witch Finder General Hopkins and all who followed thereafter, I accuse you of being an occultist. What do you have to say in your defence?”
Miss Figgleroot thought for a moment.
“What’s an occultist?”
“Well, in that case you better come in. And don’t forget to wipe your shoes.”
Roderick unsheathed his axe and scraped the sludge from the soles of his boots before going inside.
“I’ll put the kettle on.”
“Nothing for me.”
“You sure pet? There’s nothing like a warm mug of tea to warm up your insides.”
“ I’m sure.”
“Tell you what, I’ll make you one anyway, if you don’t fancy it just leave it.”
The sitting room had pastel pink wallpaper, luminous red carpets and a porcelain frog on every surface. “It’s a nice house you have here,” Roderick lied.
“What,” Miss Figgleroot shouted, “You’ll have to speak up, I’m going a bit deaf.”
“I said you have a nice house,” he shouted.
“I do don’t I, can you believe they wanted to put me in one of them old people’s homes a bit ago. But I told them straight, I said it’s all about hanging on to your independence when you get to my age.”
Roderick sat down on the sofa.
“Now pet,” Miss Figgleroot was carrying a tray with two steaming cups on, “I didn’t know how you take your tea so I left it black. I prefer mine black. But if you decide you want some milk I’ll go and fetch you some.”
She put the tray down on the coffee table and sat beside Roderick.
“So pet, what’s your name?”
“Witch Finder General Roderick.”
“That’s a nice name, my name’s Ethel.”
A black cat slinked into the sitting room.
“Look Mr Tiddles, a visitor.”
The cat came over to the sofa and jumped up.
“Have you come to say hello to our guest?”
Mr Tiddles purred at the Witch Finder General.
“What’s a matter pet, don’t like cats?”
“I’m not that keen on animals.”
The cat curled on the sofa.
“They said you had a black cat as your familiar, so is Mr Tiddles a demon name?” Roderick asked.
“No, I just call him that because he’s always been a little bit incontinent.”
Roderick budged away from Mr Tiddles.
Miss Figgleroot looked at the clock. “Is that the time? My programs will be on soon. Mind if I put the telly on?”
“Go ahead,” Roderick told her, picking up his cup of sludgy tea.
She rummaged through the box by her feet and took out a thick silver remote.
“This is the one.” She pressed the big, red button and the DVD player came on.
“That’s funny, that didn’t happen last time, I must have the wrong thingamajig.
Roderick grimaced as he sipped his tea.
She pulled a thin black remote out of her box and pressed it hopefully. The intro to Antiques Roadshow flickered on the screen.
“I do love my programs you know. Don’t know what trouble I’d be getting into without them.”
Roderick coughed on a lump of congealed tealeaf.
He put his tea back on the table.
There was a picture beside the TV. It was a black and white photograph of a raven haired young girl and a scowling middle aged man.
“Is that you in that picture?” Roderick asked.
Miss Figgleroot glanced at the photo.
“Yes, that’s me when I was a girl, and that’s my uncle Damien. We were in Mablethorpe I think. Must be fifty years now. He passed away about a year ago.”
Miss Figgleroot sighed. “It’s just me now, the last of the line.”
Roderick bowed his head.
On the TV a thrifty old man was haggling with one of the presenters over a set of antique spoons.
“You let him have it have it pet.” Miss Figgleroot cheered.
Roderick took out his axe and began inspecting it while Miss Figgleroot sat slurping her cup of tea. He had been told by the order that he was hunting down an evil sorceress, but Miss Figgleroot was just a kind, old woman with bad knees. Was she really that much of a danger to society?
When the closing credits rolled over a picture of the triumphant old man holding a set of spoons, Miss Figgleroot turned the TV off.
“Right, how are we going to do this then?” She said.
Roderick looked at his axe. “It turns out that I have brought the wrong axe for the job. This one’s strictly for wizards.”
“We can’t be having that. You need the proper tools if you want to do something properly.”
Roderick got up and sheathed his axe. “I’ll better be getting back to the monastery then.”
“You sure you don’t want to stay for tea? I’m doing corned beef sandwiches.”
“Have it your way then. Mind if I don’t show you out though, my knee’s playing up again.”
“Farewell Miss Figgleroot.”
“Bye pet, same time next week?”
Roderick smiled. “Same time next week.”