Saint John City, Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Ida stood, concern threatening to cloud her brow. She looked from floor to fridges to open aisle. Here, at the back of McClintock’s Mercantile, she attempted to gather her wits. At the least, she attempted to appear unaffected while those un-gathered wits felt completely unraveled.

Calm down. Calm. Down. Inhaling through her nose and exhaling with a soft whistle out through her mouth, she talked herself through a tempting panic. She, the great Ida Layton, could handle anything. She could certainly handle a person disappearing; Petey had to have gone somewhere.

She walked coolly forward. She studied a Get Well Soon card, its flowers a yellow and green shadow of what they once were. She turned the display this way and that, but a creaking spin was her only reward.

Returning the card and pursing her lips in an innocent expression of perusal, she stepped along the back wall. Bob had inherited the place from his father, and his father before him, and a cousin before him, and -rumor had it- that cousin’s mother before him. The shelves along the back betrayed the store’s age, sagging at their splintering plaster. Wisely, Bob set lightweight merchandise on these. No matter how casually she scrutinized them, however, Ida saw no evidence that the seed packets, balloons, tissue paper, or ladies’ hosiery had been disturbed. No fingerprints in the dust. No dislodged packages. Nothing.

She came to the furthermost corner. For a place of business so brightly lit and immaculately clean, the store’s back corner appeared dark and cluttered. When she glanced up, she noticed no light nor security camera. Odd, she thought.

Glancing down the aisles, she heard snatches of Bob and Sue attempting a conversation with old Mrs. Benjamin Wilson. Ida turned back to the task at hand. Her hands shook in excitement. She pushed aside a barrel-shaped display advertising Pepsi-Cola. She stepped over an old janitorial mop and bucket. At the back, she faced a cardboard cutout of some long-lost athlete with hand raised in greeting.

There, beneath the athlete’s armpit, shone the dim, straight outline of a doorframe.

Photo by Louis on Pexels.com

©2020 Chel Owens

Saint John City, Part 1

Times were slow in Saint John City. Events were slow. Sometimes, the people weren’t too quick, either. Yet, Ida knew a sleepy veneer could hide secrets. That’s why she stood against the stucco wall, black hair whipping across piercing gaze, soaking in the everything around her.

“Well, hello, Ida,” tottered old Mrs. Benjamin Wilson. “Waiting for your husband, are you?”

Ida smiled. “Hello, Mrs. Wilson.” She shrugged. “No, I’m just …watching.”

“Oh?” The old woman’s sagging eyes turned down as her mouth did. “Well, Dear, in my day…”

Ida saw movement in her peripheral vision. Petey Sanders shrugged out of his car and headed toward where Ida had been loitering most of that morning. She watched while Mrs. Wilson’s tongue kept wagging. She needed to keep him in sight.

“Of course, Mrs. Wilson.” Ida hoped her answer fitted the one-sided conversation. “Now, I’m so sorry to leave you but I need to get my shopping done.”

“Oh, all right, Dear-“

Ida heard no more, nor no less than she had. Like Petey, she entered the swish-cooled doors of the local, only grocery store. Like Petey, she walked past Bob McClintock and Sue Smith -the local, only employees. Like Petey, she walked past the gum and magazine racks, past the frozen food bins, and past the small display of bandages and greeting cards.

Here, the resemblance stopped. Fluorescent lines reflected from an empty floor, a vacant refrigerated section, and a vacated aisle. Petey was nowhere to be seen.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Keep reading to Part 2.

©2020 Chel Owens