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NINE/ƎИIИ 3. Death Certificate

How far could a ninety-four year-old man get on a cane and with some pocket change?

That was the question Nine Thyme often asked herself when she sat down in the library to read one of her grandfather’s journals. There was a great deal on the occult, both myth and historical fact. Augustus Thyme had interviewed numerous experts and researched old books from different parts of the world. Besides recounting interviews, the journals contained notes separating fact from fiction. And on vampires. Some of the scribbled notes in the corners of the pages could be interpreted as the ravings of a madman with an unhealthy interest in vampires.

Nine had read all of her grandfather’s journals and his three unpublished books. She had read them for research. Now sitting in the leather chair in the light of an antique lamp, she searched for clues that might lead to where Augustus Thyme had disappeared to seven years ago with only a cane and the clothes on his back. It wasn’t her first time digging for clues, and likely not her last. She would search until she had an answer.

This was more of a sentimental dig. Today was Augustus’s one-hundred-and-first birthday. None of the Thyme men had ever married young putting generation gaps at over forty years. Eighty years separated the births of Nine and Augustus, and that was only because Sebastian had married young for a Thyme at the age of thirty-six. Nine considered herself fortunate to have so many memories of her grandfather like the day they spent together on her sixteenth birthday, him retelling the story about how her father had gone missing as a child, and how Augustus had recovered the boy from an ancestor.

A living ancestor from several generations ago. Thyme generations.

Nine need not bother with the arithmetic. Old Thyme was ancient by any count.

It was a story her father had never believed. Someone had scared the shit out of old Augustus and drove him mad. Cruel, but as her father always pointed out, it was the sixties and people were really messed up in those days.

The door popped open, and Nine’s father strode in. He set a wood box down on the table beside Nine. After taking the chair on the other side of the table, he placed an envelope on the box.

Nine didn’t need to open the letter. The official seal told her it was Augustus Thyme’s death certificate. She set the letter aside and opened the box. Inside she found a leather-bound book. On top were two envelopes, one with Sebastian’s name and the other with hers, both in Augustus’s handwriting. She set her father’s letter on the table and set the other in her lap.

“We’ll have a ceremony,” said Sebastian.

Nine nodded. There was the family section near the top of the graveyard where two generations of Thyme men, four generations of Thyme women, rested peacefully. She already had a design prepared for the stone which would go beside the stone marking the grave of the old man’s bride.

“I just want you to know it was my idea,” said Sebastian. He nodded and scratched his balding head. “Your inheritance. The old man left everything to you.”

“What?” Nine couldn’t believe her grandfather would pass over his son. The Thyme Funeral Home had been with the men for three generations, four counting Sebastian.

He shook his head and smiled. “I was never good with the business end. You get that from your mother.”

It made sense. Her father had made a habit of hiding in the mortuary while her mother had met with the clients up until a car accident took her mother away. Since the age of ten, Nine had been working the books, setting schedules, and these last few years, running the services.

Opening her grandfather’s letter, she found a brief message and the answer she had been looking for these last seven years.

Augustus had unlocked the Thyme family secret and recorded it all in the leather-bound book found inside the box. As for his late afternoon walk seven years ago, he had left to join his ancestor in trade for more time. He had bought his granddaughter nine more years before the original Thyme would come for her.

How far could an elderly man travel with a cane and some cash in his pocket? As far as he damn well must go to protect his family. Protection from what, though? What did their ancient ancestor want? Eager to learn more, Nine picked up the book and opened it to the first page where she found a handwritten scrawl:

Nine Thyme, the perfect child, may this book guide you and keep you from evil.