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Tim McEnroe
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Keeping this quote close by as I try to finish out NaNoWriMo with a win. Another 5k worth of shit to shovel... Let's go!
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Happy Saturday, everyone. Both of these scenes for this week's #SaturdayScenes are a little shorter than normal, and they fit nicely hand in hand. So I decided to include them both. The first scene is straight from Drake’s journal, which he writes in every night. This writing session takes place the day after his discovery at Kadyn’s old house. He talks about meeting a new friend, and if you read my earlier scenes (way earlier… like last year) you may remember her. Thanks for reading. Feedback is always appreciated.

Last week’s scene: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+TimMcEnroe/posts/YTZz636hBW9



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Saturday — April 23rd, 2016

I had a productive day today, and if luck goes my way I’ll have an even better one tomorrow. We’ll see if my ‘new friend’ comes through.

I spent the afternoon in Trenton — more specifically, the courthouse where Arrigo Barbu was tried and convicted for the murders of those kids at Shriek Shack and as it turns out (according to court records anyway), the murder of Kadyn’s dad, Frank James Hopplar. To think that I actually stood in the room where he was murdered. That had to be HIS fucking blood on the floor!

I also found out another juicy tidbit. That word Omertà? The one carved in the bedroom wall above the blood puddle? Per my Google search, its a popular mafia term that has to do with a code of silence. Kadyn didn’t comply. So they killed her dad. Simple. Witsec managed to get her out of there before Barbu’s goons killed her too. Double simple. It’s all making sense. It’s all falling into place.

When I got to the courthouse I went to the first desk I saw. It had a large, granite counter big enough to comfortably fit the three officers that sat behind it — one male and two female. I did my best to act like I belonged there, like there wasn’t a dead body of an overweight candy man in my basement or that I spent the previous night breaking and entering.

I did my homework. I had a story all worked out. I told the male officer in a pleasant, happy-go-lucky voice that good morning, my son was doing a research paper on the justice system, and that I thought the best place to get information would be right here in the courthouse.

With a smile, he said that yes sir, he would be glad to help. Then he asked me if my kid had a certain area he’d like to start with. He even peeked over the desk, I assume looking for my boy. I told him that I wanted to surprise him with this information, that he didn’t know I was coming to the courthouse today.

He seemed so forthcoming and welcoming that I did something that might have been a little rash. But hey, my poker instincts kicked in, and I always trust my gut. My gut told me that it was time for a feeler bet.

I said to him that the one case that stuck out in my mind was ‘The State of New Jersey versus Arrigo Barbu’, and from what I heard of the testimony Kadyn Hopplar pretty much wrapped up the case for the prosecution.

The thing is, there was nothing in any of the public records at all about Kadyn Hopplar. Witsec, no doubt, had those records sealed for good. So when I mentioned her name, I did so like it was the most common knowledge in the world. The worst they could do was call my bluff. But, as it turned out, my gut got it right because not one of them denied my statement or seemed confused by it.

One of the female officers then escorted me to another room of the courthouse — one downstairs that had a computer and several shelves full of thick black journals. Each journal had a white square attached to its spine, and on the white square was a range of years. They were arranged that way and spanned quite a few decades, the earliest starting at 1910. Given time, I’d love to check out some of those first cases.

She ushered me to the chair behind the computer, gave me a big wide smile and told me that she’d be back in a little bit and if I would be so kind as to just wait there should I complete my search before her return. Before she left, I asked her if she knew of the case that I mentioned upstairs. She said she did.

The rest was pure instinct. I swear I could have went on to be a pro poker player if Nora hadn’t forced me to ‘grow up’, as she put it. Damn her.

Anyway, I did my thing. I let it out slowly — placing my little feeler bets to see where I stood. Reason being, if things should stop going my way I didn’t risk blowing my entire stack of chips. I could fold and still afford to play another hand.

I asked her if she knew what happened after, in Colorado. Her smile went away. I could see her gears turning. If this was poker, I’d say that she knew that I had something dangerous — maybe a full house or a high triple. There’s only one thing to do in that case depending on the cards she held — fold or raise enough to force me to go all-in. She put me all in.

“How about you stop dicking me around,” she said. “Tell me why you’re really here.”

So I did. I told her that I was with Kadyn when she ‘died’ (I used air quotes), that I was there when the man took a shot at her and even accompanied her to the hospital. The officer sat down next to me, straddling the chair backwards, I think because it was the quickest way for her to sit and not fall over in surprise. Even for a black lady, her skin went pale.

I had her beat. Nothing left to do but flip up my cards and wait for her to do the same.

“I’m not really here for my kid,” I told her. “I’m here because I don’t think Kadyn Hopplar a.k.a Sarah Leaver is dead.” I explained to her that I’m not a bad guy, I don’t want to find her for any nefarious purpose. I just want to know that I’m not crazy. I want to know that what I did made a difference, that I really did save a life.

She studied me like I was a riddle that needed solving. When she asked me if I have any proof, I told her that I didn’t, but that’s why I was there. She took it all in. More mental gymnastics going on behind her eyes.

Then she excused herself. She told me to stay put, which I did although I did think about running as soon as she was out of sight. I wasn’t sure if I overstepped the bounds of witness protection or what the consequences would be for doing so. Again, I listened to my gut. My gut told me to stay.

She came back about fifteen minutes later with a piece of paper. It had writing on it. She told me that the fact was, she really felt for that little girl, that she had heard what happened in Colorado and was devastated. If she could do anything to help find out that Kadyn was alive and safe, it’d mean the world to her. She gave me the paper. It had her cell phone number on it. I took a pen from the desk, wrote my new cell number at the bottom of the page and ripped it off. We agreed to call one another if more information should surface.

Before I left, I had another idea. Initially, I planned on doing some research at the town library on the thing I found at Kadyn’s house. I could even do it here, given the fact that I now had access to the computer in front of me. But since I had the assistance of someone with more pull, I figured it might be easier to ask for help.

I handed her the yearbook that I found under Kadyn’s bed. She didn’t ask how I got it. So I didn’t bother telling her.

She immediately opened it to the page I had creased, the one of Kadyn’s seventh grade class. I didn’t need to, but I pointed out the picture anyway, the one with a heart drawn around the brown-haired girl wearing makeup, the one that had girly-script written under it.

‘To Kadyn, my best friend in the whole world. This is going to be one heck of a summer! Genie Gable. XOXOXO’.

++++++++

Drake was contemplating the next sentence in his journal when his cell phone rang from atop the dashboard. It startled him enough to make him drop his pen, and it rolled somewhere under his seat.

“Shit!”

He started to reach for it but stopped. He’d worry about the pen later. More important was the phone call. No one had his number, no one except —

Drake quickly pulled the phone from the dash, but it snapped back as if on a rubber band.

He cursed again as he fumbled for the phone. The first thing he did when he grabbed it was yank the ridiculously short charging cable from its side. He hated this stupid phone, and it wasn’t just because of the short charging wire it came with. It couldn’t hold a charge to save its fucking life, and he couldn’t seem to get used to it’s old-school design. The damn thing had physical buttons for Christ’s sake. It took another two rings before he found the green talk button. He pressed it and hurriedly put the phone to his ear.

“Hello?” he said sharply.

“Sam?” asked a voice on the other end. “Sam Doren?”

For a moment Drake almost said that she had the wrong the number, but then he remembered that he had used that name at the courthouse earlier today.

“Speaking.”

“This is Lieutenant Shelby.”

“Lieutenant Shelby!” Drake said, exasperated. He could feel his heart pumping like a madman in his chest. Had she actually found something? Something he could use to find Kadyn Hopplar? “I’m glad you called. I—”

“Listen,” she interrupted. “I got something for you. You got a pen and paper?”

“Yeah. One second.”

He ripped a blank page from his journal (something he hated to do — one fewer memory he could jot down) and felt around under his seat until he found his pen.

“Okay. Go ahead.”

Drake scribbled down what she told him.

“Just let me know what you’re able to find,” Shelby said.

Drake told her that he definitely would. Then he said goodbye, but she had already hung up.

Drake went back to his current journal entry and added one last line.

“Looks like I have a new lead. Tomorrow, I’ll be making a stop by Genie Gable’s house. To be continued…”

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Need to remember to use 'Incognito mode' for my NaNoWriMo research. My eleven-year old daughter happened to use my phone and saw searches upon searches for black tar heroin -- where to buy it, cost, how much it takes to get you high, proper method for injecting it...

Yeah... that was an awkward conversation.
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Happy Saturday everyone. This #SaturdayScenes is a continuation of the scene posted from last week. Again, thanks for the feedback on that one. It was very helpful. This scene finds Drake in the old Hopplar residence, where bad stuff had definitely gone down at some time. He is at the top of the stairs, ready to get the hell out when he hears footsteps below him.

Here’s a link to last week’s scene:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+TimMcEnroe/posts/jfD1QfcunSU

Again, thanks for reading and for any and all feedback.


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Fuck!

Not knowing what else to do, Drake clicked the penlight off, and suddenly he was thrown in complete darkness. The darkness held a horror all its own, especially with the murder room just behind him.

The footsteps were closing in on the bottom of the stairs. He had to get out of here NOW. Using the banister as a guide he crept through the hallway, thankful that the plush carpet was there to hush his footsteps.

He closed his eyes, visualized what he saw in the house’s online schematic. The next closest room was about halfway down the hall and on the right. He just hoped it had more cover than the one he was just in.

The footsteps reach the base of the stairs, and then stopped. Drake stopped too. He pictured Christian Barbu ten feet below him, one hand by his ear to listen for the slightest bit of movement. And in the other? A gun?

But it wouldn’t be Barbu, would it? It’d be one of his thugs, the kind that kills people with as much compassion as it takes to wash dishes.

Drake had to move. He just wasn’t sure if he should slow-foot it now and risk being heard or make a break for a door he couldn’t even see as soon as the footsteps started again. Each plan carried its own risks.

Suddenly a beam of light punched the wall at the top of the stairs. Dust motes swam around it like curious fish, and it gave Drake just enough light to see the outline of a door frame just across the hall from him.

A stern voice cut through the silence. “This is the Phillipsburg Police Department. Is anyone there?”

The tension in Drake’s body let up a half a tick. He now knew two things that he didn’t a moment ago. 1. His life wasn’t in danger and 2. The policeman didn’t know for sure that someone else was here.

But still, if Drake didn’t move his ass, he was about to get arrested for trespassing, not to mention all the shit he’d be in once they found out who he was and how he was connected to a certain candy store with a certain dead body in the basement.

The footsteps started up the stairs, and Drake took two big ones into the room across hall. He turned his penlight on for a moment, a quick burst, just enough time to find a good place to hide. The room of a young girl popped in front of him — a pink and purple canopy bed, posters, toys, glossy pictures affixed to the walls.

Kadyn’s room. It has to be.

He wanted to keep the penlight on and process the treasure he quite literally stumbled upon. It was like reading your favorite book over and over and finally seeing it come alive on the big screen. But Drake didn’t have the luxury of time. He killed the light and hid under his best chance — the bed. It was stripped of its linen, but if he moved back far enough…

The minutes that passed could have been hours. Drake watched the shadows swell and shrink as the policeman’s flashlight led him into the Omertà room. Then the hallway burst into a corridor of light. Drake shut his eyes, tried to take a few deep breaths to prep for holding it if necessary. When he opened them again a moment later what stood before him nearly made him jump — two shiny black shoes at the bedroom doorway. The view was abruptly cut off after a few inches of pant legs, but he sure as shit recognized the color of them as “police blue”. The flashlight’s beam flew over the room, hurried… even shaky, and Drake wondered if the cop felt it too — the sense of foreboding in this place. He bet he did. And that would be good news for Drake.

The cop would probably make this a quick search, not bother turning over every rock in fear of what he might actually find. As the flashlight passed over the bed, a flicker of bright light caught Drake’s attention. He watched for it the next time the flashlight passed by, and THERE IT WAS! Something shiny, something pinned between the bed and the wall with just enough below the bed line to reflect the cop’s light.

A few agonizing moments later the black shoes, the hint of the cop’s musky cologne, the source of light, EVERYTHING, was gone. Drake was left in the intimating blackness once again as the cop moved on to the rest of the upstairs. He gave the officer some time and then felt around the edge of the bed. Sure enough he could feel something there. He got his fingers around it and slid it free without much effort. His anticipation diminished as he figured out what he was holding — nothing more than a thin, glossy magazine.

Drake sighed, defeated. But really, what was he hoping that it would be? He wasn’t sure, but he felt like a fucking loser just the same.

No, not just a loser. A loser hiding under a child’s bed.

The policeman’s footsteps returned as did the meaty beam of his flashlight. This time, however, they passed right by the bedroom. To Drake that meant the officer must be done searching the upstairs. And sure enough he heard the cop proceed down the steps a moment later.

He’d give the cop another thirty minutes (an hour tops) and then get the hell out of here himself. But at least he didn’t have to be in the pitch-black darkness anymore. He aimed his flashlight straight down at the carpet and clicked it on. The light bounced right back at him, momentarily blinding him.

Fuck’s sake! Fuckin’ magazine.

Only as his vision returned he realized it wasn’t a magazine. Far from it. His heart raced as he flipped through the pages. About halfway through he stopped. Drake couldn’t help but smile.

++++++++
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It's okay, Jack. I'm the same way during NaNoWriMo.
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Happy Saturday everyone. Its been quite a while since I posted on #SaturdayScenes. Sorry about that. I’ve been working away on the final draft of my WIP every day. A lot of it I don’t want to share yet because it gives some of the surprise away. I finished this scene this morning though and thought it’d be fun to post. I’m not going to give it any kind of buildup. I’m just curious of how you think it stands on its own. Definitely looking for honest feedback. Thanks!

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Drake took the turn too hard, and the crowbar that was resting on his passenger-side seat slammed loudly into the door, scaring the shit out of him. He grabbed it with his free hand.

“Fuck you!” he growled as he did his best to squeeze it into jelly between his fingers. Not until a bolt of pain shot up his arm did he throw it to the floor, disgusted.

The crowbar wasn’t secured. That was his fault. He used the hotel lobby’s computer last night to go over the satellite views of where he was headed. He’d stared at them for nearly two hours — planning, vetting, thinking… He had known how curvy all the roads were. He should have secured the damn crowbar better.

“It’s okay, he told himself aloud. “It’s all going to go according to plan.

The satellite images weren’t just useful for mapping a course. They were also essential in selecting a good, inconspicuous place to park his car and for scoping out the property for the best places of entry. Shortly after studying the aerial views, he had found both.

There was a long wall of hedges that wrapped around the backyard and the left side of the house. Parking his car two blocks away on Cipher’s Road, he could walk a back alley all the way to the hedges. Once there, he was as good as in. To make things even lovelier, there was at least a thirty yard gap between the Hopplar residence and their closest neighbor.

If he wanted, he could probably break open the back door in the middle of day and no one would be any the wiser. But Drake was smart. Drake was wise. Go in too early and he’d have to deal with people out and about their business. Go in to late — like two or three in the morning — and that would attract suspicion. No, he was smarter than that. Drake’s dashboard clock read 11:58pm as he passed by the Hopplar residence for the second time.

He made the exact same trip this afternoon, and it was just as hard to ignore the house’s call then as it was now. He squeezed the steering wheel as he drove the two blocks to Cipher’s Road. There he made a right, followed it to the end and parked.

The small alley was practically abandoned save for a dark blue Oldsmobile that had been here earlier today. After concealing the crowbar inside his jacket, Drake walked the broken sidewalk like he was one of the locals, calm and collected — at least on the outside. On the inside he was giddy with excitement. To think that Kadyn Hopplar probably walked this very street on her way to school each morning.

He could probably follow her path right to the Shriek Shack if he wanted. But perhaps he’d save that for another day, depending on what he did or didn’t find here.

Drake parted the hedges and then vanished inside them with nary a sound. The backyard appeared before him as if materializing from a dream. Even a light mist had settled over the grass, completing the effect.

The Hopplar family, from everything he gathered so far, used to be a happy family. And the backyard put one more notch in the ‘happy family’ column. There was a swing set with its small chains blinking in the moonlight, a square wooden sandbox — homemade, Drake thought, and for the love of God… a tree house. Kadyn’s dad must have been Bob The Fuckin’ Builder — a true God in his child’s eyes.

A pang of guilt hit his belly. He always wanted to build a tree house for his little girl, but life had a funny way of fucking him over. Because of the way things worked out, all he left her with was a bump on her nose and a fear of him that ran to her core. But that’s what this was all about, wasn’t it? Getting her back? It sure as shit was.

A cobblestone walkway led him to the house. Though the moon shone with a frosty brilliance, it couldn’t quite reach the inside of the screened-in porch — a small, maybe five by seven area, hidden away from would-be prying eyes. A yellowed CONDEMNED notice was affixed to its flimsy, wooden screen door. Drake pulled a pen light from his jacket, ignored the notice and went inside.

He was pleased with how everything was going so far. Pleased with how much progress he had made. Hell, just a few days ago, he didn’t even have her real name. Now he knew where she lived, and in minutes, he’d be inside her world.

Drake must have been smiling as he unholstered the crowbar and aimed his penlight down at the door jam, ready to start. He must have been smiling, he thought, because he felt it melt away into a frown. The back door was already opened by at least two feet, and quite forcefully too — the knob had been broken off.

Suddenly Drake was back in Colorado again peering through Joyce and Sarah Leaver’s back door. He spun quickly around to make sure no one was about to sneak up on him.

He swallowed hard, raised the crowbar into an attack position and forced himself to walk inside the house proper. Glass crackled beneath his feet. As soon as he passed the threshold Drake stopped and listened for company. A beat passed. Then another. Nothing. Nothing that he could hear anyway.

A bum must have broken in, he told himself, to keep out of the cold. Or maybe some high school punks needed a place to party.

Either way, the house seemed empty… of people anyway. Drake aimed the penlight around the room — first around the floor looking for signs of varmints and then a little higher. He saw that he was standing in the kitchen. Of course he was. He went over the floor plans on Zillow.com several times before he left home and knew exactly how to get around. He moved the flashlight’s beam over the kitchen. Nothing, besides the door, seemed out of place. Everything, right down to the salt and pepper shakers on the table to the coffee pot and microwave that sat on the counter, seemed to be where it should.

The living room looked to be in order as well. Television, coffee table, end tables and lamps. Nothing seemed to be missing or even disturbed. It was as if they didn’t move out but simply vanished into thin air. For the millionth time tonight he wondered what happened here. Why did they have to leave so suddenly? Was it because Witness Protection said they had to? Or was it something else? And why hadn’t anyone looted this place in the past eight months? Deep down he thought he had the answer. There was a stigma attached to this place. He felt it. Something wasn’t right, and people (everyone with the exception of him and whoever smashed in the door) stayed away. It made him want to hurry.

From the back of the living room, Drake began his ascent to the upstairs. At about halfway up he stopped again and listened. Still nothing. Once he got all the way up, he noticed that across a little square of carpet stood an opened doorway.

Kadyn’s room?

Drake’s excitement sent him barreling through. His hand clipped the door frame as he went in, and the penlight went airborne. For a moment he thought he would be okay. He watched the wild arc of light as the penlight pinwheeled to the floor. But it clicked off as it hit the ground. Everything went black.

“Shit!” There was nothing else to do but find it on his hands and knees. He went to all fours and began feeling his way around on the carpet. As he got deeper into the room he noticed the texture of the carpet change. It had been soft and fluffy, but now… now his fingers ran against something matted and rough. Just on the edge of the transition Drake’s finger touched the penlight.

He got to his feet and clicked it on. The beam hit the far wall first. A headboard and bed frame were leaning against it — no mattress though. He brought the beam to the floor, towards his feet, towards where he had just been crawling a moment before. The beige carpet abruptly gave way to a rust-colored, puddle-like stain, one about as wide as his upper body.

An uncontrollable shiver ran down his spine. Something bad had happened here. Something terrible, and now Drake was right in the thick of it. Slowly he moved the beam to the wall on his left, the one directly behind the stain. There he saw spatter marks, the same rusty color as what was on the floor, some going as high as his waist. And there was something else too.

Drake tried to keep his hands from shaking, tried to keep the swath of light still enough to read what was written there. Carved in large, angry letters — more or less centered above the bloodstain on the carpet — was a single word — “Omertà”.

He didn’t know what that meant, and now, right now, he didn’t care. The darkness felt as if it was closing in on him, and his heart was telling him that if it did, it wouldn’t let go. He’d become a part of this nightmare forever — as permanent as the salt and pepper shakers or the dismantled bed frame. He had to get out.

But he couldn’t. Drake got as far as the top step before slamming on the brakes. Coming from below he heard the clip clop sound of careful, slow moving footsteps, and they were nearing the bottom of the stairs.


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Happy Saturday! For this week’s #SaturdayScenes , I’m offering another scene about Drake, one of the story’s protagonists. He recently acquired a candy store (under unusual circumstances) and is still adapting to his new role as owner. Needless to say, there’s also a little bit of cleanup he has yet to do.

Looking for honest feedback – what works, what doesn’t. Thanks in advance!

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“Sorry kiddo,” Drake said, pushing through the door of the candy store. “I didn’t mean to keep you waiting.”

The little blond girl whipped around in surprise, apparently not expecting Drake’s quick arrival from behind. He noticed that her eyes were hazel — like Sarah’s.

She let out a shaky breath. “Th-that’s okay.” Then peeking around him as if expecting someone to be following behind, she added, “Where’s Joe?”

“Utah… with family,” Drake replied, not missing a beat. He had created a whole series of answers to possible questions that customers might ask. “He told me that they’re having some sort of family reunion.”

“So you’re his… helper?”

Drake bowed, pulling an invisible hat from his head. “Drake Menda at your service.”

The girl giggled. Damn, he was good with kids. If only his ex could see. “What can I get for you, my dear?”

“Do you have Lemonheads?”

“Yes ma’am we do. I just didn’t get a chance to put them out yet.”

“Oh?”

“Fresh off the delivery truck this morning. I’ll be right back.”

Drake jogged to the storage room. The ancient wooden-planked floor squawked with every step. As the new owner, maybe he should replace the floorboards with something from this century. He’d be sure to add it to his list.

As he passed the basement door Drake slowed, then stopped. It was easily noticeable — a smell whispering in over the scent of bubblegum, the smell of decay. His wide went wide.

How the fuck can that be? How could the smell get through?

He didn’t know, but he knew that had to do something about it and quick.

Suddenly the front door’s bell clanked again.

Shit!

He hurried the rest of the way to the storage room, ripped open the twenty-count box of Lemonheads, grabbed a single pack and returned to the store’s main area. There were two more customers waiting for him.

The two boys stood near the counter — one squat and fat, the other lanky. Both looked like they should be in high school, not the elementary school down the street. Drake noticed their back packs. Neither was as nice and proper as the girl’s. These ones were haphazardly zippered, malformed lumps of books or whatever it was they carried with them. The taller, skinnier kid’s had a safety pin connecting to frayed ends of the strap together. They looked his way as he came in, the floor playing him to the counter.

Drake started biting his lower lip. He hadn’t seen these two punks since they drew on his car. He did his best to act like he didn’t recognize them. He gave the girl a tight smile and held up the Lemonheads as she neared the counter.

“Here ya go, miss. Twenty-five cents.”

She slipped her book bag off one shoulder and unzipped a small inner pocket. Drake heard coins clinking together as she searched.

From the corner of his eye, Drake saw the thinner kid elbow his fat friend in the gut — not hard, just enough to get his attention.

“Pete. You smell something?” he whispered.

Drake’s gut tightened.

Meanwhile, the girl must have said something because she was looking at him expectantly. Drake ignored her, tried to hone in on the boys’ conversation.

“Mister?” the girl said. “Did you hear me?”

The fat kid, Pete, took an exaggerated sniff and looked confused. “I don’t smell anything.”

“You sure? Take another whiff,” his friend urged.

“Mister!”

Drake wanted to shake her, make her shut up. Instead he made the inside of his lower lip pay for her crimes.

“Sorry, my dear. What did you say?” Afraid that his teeth might be stained red, Drake made sure he smiled with his mouth closed.

“I have fifty cents. Is that enough for a bag of Swedish Fish too?” She tapped the glass counter above the small bag.

Drake reached in and grabbed the bag of fish, not caring that No, fifty cents WAS NOT enough for both. “Fifty cents on the nose,” he said, his focus still on those two assholes.

“I’m sure,” Pete said, sniffing the air. “What’s—”

His friend gave a quick grunt and farted loudly as close to Pete as he could. It sounded like he might have done more than just farted.

The girl gasped and looked up at Drake, blushing. Drake did his best not to show his relief.

Pete pushed his friend away hard. “You asshole!” But his friend was too busy laughing to respond.

“Boys,” Drake said sternly. “No swearing in here, especially around the lady.” He pointed to Joe’s famous sign. “The Lord Jesus Christ gave his life for you,” he said aloud. “Please do not take his name in vain.”

The girl put a quarter two dimes and a nickel on the counter without saying another word, took her candy and hurried out.

The boys already had their candy placed on the counter. Drake rang them up, and as he did he noticed them eying the store. He seized the opportunity of their distraction and squeezed the fat kid’s giant Snickers bar to paste before putting it into the bag.

“Did that old fat dude die or something and you’re his replacement?” Pete finally asked.

You have no room to talk about being fat, Drake wanted to say. “Nah. He’s just with family out West.”

The kid gave no acknowledgment that cared about or even heard Drake’s answer. Pete and his skinny friend took their bags and headed for the door.

“Have a good day,” Drake called after them (because telling them to choke on it and die probably wouldn’t go over well).

They didn’t acknowledge that either, but Drake didn’t care. He was happy to let the silence flood into the room after a final clank of the door’s bell. He allowed himself one calming breath. Too bad that it carried a hint of death on it. He had to take care of that little problem… and now.

Before heading towards the cellar, Drake went to the front door, twisted the deadbolt and flipped the sign to ‘Sorry, We’re Closed… Please Come Again!’.

He walked to the storage room and unrolled another three industrial-sized garbage bags from the box. Remembering Joe’s size, he took another two before heading back down the hall.

If he didn’t smell it before, he surely smelled the sickly sweet scent of decay when he opened the basement door. His knees weakened and that coffee he drank earlier did a nausea-inducing somersault in his stomach.

This whole thing was temporary, wasn’t it? As soon as he found out what happened to Joyce and Sarah Leaver, Drake would do a bit of research on how to best dispose of human remains, discretely of course. He wasn’t stupid. He would search for that sort of stuff at the library, using their computers, their IP address, no connection to him whatsoever. Then if the police ever asked what happened to Joe, he could tell them that before heading to some permanent vacation, Joe offered Drake the candy store, and being down on his luck as far as jobs go, Drake accepted.

“And by the way, officer, feel free to search the place. You won’t find anything in the basement.” ‘Easy peasy, lemon squeezy’ as his daughter used to say.

The old candy shop used to be the town’s first jail back in the early 1900’s or so Drake had been told. In fact, Joe might have been the one to tell him that. At first, he didn’t take it for any more than talk, but he saw it for himself after dragging Joe’s body down to the basement. At the base of the stairs stood a barrier of iron bars, ceiling to floor, where the concrete seemed to swallow the metal. Drake wondered how far down under the cement the bars went.

A thick chain kept the door fixed open, and the locks had been removed from every cell. But it still seemed to Drake that any type of deep exploration was a bad idea. He imagined being trapped in a cell, neighbor to a corpse. It sent shivers down his spine.

The smell grew stronger as he walked down the center aisle. Three dark holding cells — sleepy, empty and open — sat on either side. He stretched out his free hand, letting his fingers clack, clack, clack across the bars. He felt bad for leaving Joe in such a damp, dark place, but what choice did he have?

In the last cell on the right, Drake could barely make out a mound made of taped-together garbage bags resting on the floor.

Drake pulled his shirt over his nose, but it didn’t help. The smell still bled through. He stared at patchwork of bags for a moment, visualizing how Joe must look beneath.

He sighed as he picked up the roll of duct tape laying on the floor next to Joe’s body.

Joe deserved something better, Drake thought, but then again… don’t we all?

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I don't know what to think about a Bruce Springsteen tribute band playing at the inauguration. It seems wrong yet....I don't know....kinda fits?
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