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.
©2020 Chel Owens