Friday, January 11, 2008

Chapter 8: Lights, Part II

By the time he got to the far corner, Theron was not only waiting for him, but he'd already measured out and coiled the rope. He finished securing the large ring with masking tape, lifted it with a grunt and handed the rope over. Vernon stuffed both lights under one arm and awkwardly slung it over his other shoulder. He thanked the old man, who nodded and shuffled away. Vernon clutched the items and made his way to the counter. He waited impatiently in line behind three other customers, two men purchasing power tools and a woman pushing a cart loaded down with potting soil. The lanterns kept trying to slip out of his arm, and every time he pushed them back in place with his free hand, the rope slid down to his elbow. The woman turned back frequently to watch the jerking, shuffling dance, usually with an eyebrow raised at the steady stream of angry mutters flowing from his mouth.

The line moved slowly. The first guy's drill wouldn't ring up on the scanner, and the second argued about the price of his jigsaw for ten minutes before storming out of the store. The woman waited until the last minute to even begin making out her check out, then Gary had to step away from the register to help get the bags in her car. Grumbling, Vernon let the rope slide down his arm to his hand and slapped it on the counter. The lanterns picked that moment to jump free of his grasp; he spent several exciting seconds juggling the pair until he managed to snag both by their handles and deposit them next to the coil of rope. He frowned at them for a moment, then went down another aisle to get several more packages of batteries.

Gary had returned and started ringing the items up by the time Vernon got back to the front. He dumped the batteries on the counter and waited for the numbers to stop flashing. He paid the bill, hoisted the rope over his shoulder and took the paper bag.

"Say, could I get a couple more of those sacks? I forgot to take the flashlights in yesterday, and the bag broke in my car."

"Sure thing." He tucked a pair of bags inside with the batteries and lanterns. "We going to see you tomorrow?"

"I certainly hope not," Vernon replied with a laugh. "I think I've brought enough business your way for a while."

"Can't blame a guy for trying." Gary chuckled. "Well, you know where we are if you need anything."

"You guys'll be the first place I stop." He waved and walked outside, blinking in the afternoon sunlight. He set the rope in the passenger front seat and placed the bag on top of it. Pulling the two flattened sacks out and unfolding them, he placed on inside the other and scooped the batteries off the floor, followed by the flashlights, which he set gently on top of the D-cells. The doubled bag went on the floor, and he walked around to the other side and climbed in.

Once he got out on the highway, Vernon set his cruise control at sixty and left it there. He ignored the horns, dirty looks and birds flipped his way. He felt doubly glad of Marvin's warning from that morning as he passed a quick succession of patrol cars, both state and county, between Paris and Arthur City. Looks like they all want to crack down today, he thought as he sat at the intersection for FM 197 in Arthur City. Traffic cleared quickly and allowed him to turn.

He cast frequent glances at his hardware store purchases. He might have gone a little overkill with the lights, but after tonight he expected to have more people to protect. First, I've got to make sure I don't have any distractions tonight. He pulled up outside the Williams' house and sat with the engine running while he stared at the two-story brick home and tried to figure out what he'd tell the babysitter. With its deep red masonry and white trim, it looked nearly picture-perfect. The only thing he could see wrong with the image was a complete lack of trees or even shrubbery. I might want to get rid of that pecan tree out in the yard. Certainly looks to cut down on the shadows.



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Part III coming Monday!

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