The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief Part 27
by Shane Migliavacca
The Strange Shape of Anne's Grief chapter 27 Arlo Hendricks
The bitch has some nerve, Hendricks thought. Calls in during the busiest time of the year and then shows up the next day like it was no fucking big deal. He’d warned Anne, couldn’t say he hadn’t. He’d told her he’d call the sheriff. Tell him about her and Carol’s argument. Well she had given him no choice now. Bitch hadn’t even said anything to him when he saw her out there on the floor this morning. Didn’t even apologize. Let her deal with the sheriff. He hadn’t made up his mind if he’d fire her or not. With Carol’s position still vacant they were shorthanded as it was. He could always send her ass packing after New Year’s.
He finished off the leftover spaghetti from last night. Jill’s stuff always tasted better the next day. Popping the Tupperware lid back on after, he couldn’t stand the sight of dirty dishes. Nor other people’s half eaten food. That’s why Jill did the dishes. The mere sight disgusted him. Made him feel sick. It was time to get back out there anyway. He savored the respite lunch in his office gave him. Out there on the floor there was a thousand reminders of stuff that had to be done. Things to be arranged. Messiness to be cleaned up. Especially now. Snow, mud and salt tracked into the store, dirtying the beautiful polished floor.
Pushing open the doors the familiar sounds of the store greeted him. It was a din he loved. It meant success. It meant money. Hendricks wasn’t greedy. But money made the world go ‘round the saying went. Money kept the bills paid. Kept Jill happy. That in its self was a full time job. Seven years ago, they lost their only son Nathan. A stupid accident. He’d slipped and fell on the ice, hit his head. The boy had been a difficult birth. They were warned Jill might not make it through a second. There was the possibility of adoption. Jill didn’t want another child in their life if it couldn’t be Nathan. She had her good days and her bad. Around his birthday and the holidays where the worst times. He was glad to be busy this time of the year.
He’d shifted his attention to the store after Nathan died. It would become his legacy. Jill had her work, she was a substitute teacher. There was some down time there unfortunately. Allowing her to dwell on his death. He knew she blamed herself. That she hadn’t been watching him properly. He was fairly certain she felt he blamed her as well. Was it true? He often wondered that himself.
He walked through Automotive. Arms behind his back. Time to inspect the troops, he thought. There’s a laugh. He felt like a Drill Instructor with some of them. They had to be told something repeatedly before they did it. Others would just stare at him blankly like he was speaking goddamn Chinese.
He stopped by the aisle with motor oil. One of the cans sat slightly out of line with the rest. After five minutes of adjusting, inspection and readjustment it sat perfectly in line with the other cans. In the process he’d brushed against some of the other cans. Moving them out of whack. After another few minutes he had them lined back up. Careful not to upset any more of them.
Satisfied he stepped back to admire the shelf. Better. Not perfect. Nothing could be as perfect as he’d like. Arlo had come to accept that. He’d had this inclination since he was a boy. Arranging his toys just right in their box just right when he was done. After Nathan though, it had become worse. There were times he wondered, did he die because something wasn’t perfect? Because I didn’t do something right?
He refused to accept his son would be taken away for something like that. He hadn’t cried in a long time. Those first few weeks he’d cried all the tears he’d ever had till there was no more. Jill though, she had a tendency to get positively maudlin at times. Sitting on the couch crying over some little thing that reminded her of the boy. It fatigued him. He found it difficult to try comforting her. Instead he’d often slip away when he found her like that. Pretended he hadn’t seen her.
He went to the front of the store. Watching the flow of customers through the checkout lines. Business was steady today. Anne was there bagging at one of the check outs. She wasn’t making eye contact with anyone. A morose look on her face. Not even smiling at the old woman she’d been waiting on. Yes, he’d call the sheriff. It would at least rattle her to have him asking her questions. If it led to something more…hopefully that would happen after the holidays.
Hendricks had asked the sheriff to come in at the end of the day. And to enter through the back of the store. Worrying that people would get the wrong idea. It was bad enough the police had come when Carol was killed. He didn’t need another sighting of the sheriff starting any rumors.
Pinbacker sat across from him in Hendricks’ office. Here I have the power here he thought. Watching as the sheriff lounged in the chair.
“So, you’ve witnessed Anne Marsten and the deceased have these fights?” The sheriff asked. Flipping through as small notepad as he talked.
“Not personally, no.”
“So, you’ve only got hearsay? That what your telling me Mr. Hendricks?” He sat forward.
Wasn’t that enough? “Plus, her behavior has been erratic.” He fidgeted, adjusting his shirt. Feeling self-conscious. “She used to be a good worker. Really with it.”
The sheriff scratches his stubbly chin. Grey hairs surrounded his mouth. “That doesn’t necessarily make her a killer.” He stood. “But, I’ll check it out all the same.”
“Need me to show you out?” Hendricks stood as well.
“No, I got it.” He walked to the door before turning around. “Keep this between the two of us, okay?”
“Sure. Not a problem sheriff.”
The door closed with a thud. Hendricks looked down at his desk. It didn’t go as he’d wanted. The sheriff did appear to consider her much of a suspect. Yet the ball was in motion. They’d have their eye on her now. Most likely they’d go to her house and question her. And she’d know. She’d know he pointed them to her.
There was nothing else left today except to lock up the store. He walked to the front of the store. Watching as the last few employees drove away. Their headlights receding into the darkness. Locking the main doors, he pocketed the keys. The lights were already mostly off except for the few left on overnight. He walked back through the store toward the rear. His sneakers squeaking on the freshly polished floor. He just needed to get his stuff from the office and leave. Make sure the safe was locked and go.
Passing the Children’s department, he nearly tripped over something. Looking down a doll lie on the floor.
He picked the doll up. “Fucking kids.” They couldn’t even put this back where it belonged. Somebody didn’t notice this? No, some of them were so lazy they probably just left it there. Figuring it wasn’t their problem. Who’d worked in Children’s tonight? Mike Evans and Liz Young. He’d chew their asses out tomorrow. He sat the doll back on the shelf. Putting it back just right.
What was that?
Something moved in the shadows.
Something hit his leg. Looking down a red rubber ball had come to a rest near his foot.
There was a squeak of feet on the polished floor. He strained his eyes, trying to make sense of the shapes in the darkness. A childish laugh echoed through the store.
“Who the fuck is here?” Some kid hiding in the store or a soon to be fired employee playing a prank? “Get your ass out here?”
A low guttural growl answered him. Then the sound of running.
He felt sweat beading up on his forehead. A quiet terror rising in his belly.
“I want you out of my store!” His voice cracking as he tried to sound authoritative. “If you go now, I won’t tell the police.”
Another burst of laughter answered him. This time closer.
“Get out of my store now!”
From the shadows came a mock wolf howl.
“Okay. Have it your way asshole.” He went to a bin filled with baseball bats. He took a metal one. It’s silver coating reflecting the dim light of the store lights. He swung it. The bat whispering through the air.
Advancing down the center aisle. His eyes adjusting to the pockets of darkness around him. Ahead something crossed through the center aisle. Passing through the light. A person. They were in woman’s clothing. He turned the bat over in his hands. What was the law against beating the shit out of a robber?
On either side of the large aisle were displays of clothing. A sea of them. The intruder could be hiding anywhere. Lurking in the shadows.
A rack of sweaters fell over on his left. He turned in time to see the intruder dart through the shadows. He had them now! Rushing forward, Hendricks chased after them. Following the shadow through the islands of clothing. Till ahead of him they stopped. Giving up finally? Or getting ready to fight him?
It didn’t matter. He was going to beat their ass on way or another. As he got close they run off again. Damn. Fucker was playing with him. As he tried find them again, something crunched under his foot. Looking down, he pushed it with his foot. A ripped open package for medical syringes.
What the hell was going on here…Then he realized. It must be a goddamn junkie. Here to steal pills or take stuff to sell to buy dope. He wasn’t going to stand for this crap. To his left, movement caught his eye. They were trying to sneak up on him. Spinning around he lunged forward, swinging at them. The bat connected with them, and they shattered into jagged bits.
Perplexed, he stepped forward to look at them. Staring back at him were multiple reflections of his own face. It was a damn mirror. It the largest piece of glass something moved behind him. He turned in time to see one them there. Wearing a Halloween mask. A hatchet in their hand baring down on him. The blade sliced into his right shoulder before he had a chance to react. A fountain of red sprayed into the air. Raining down in red drops.
He tried swinging the bat with his other hand, but the punk easily sidestepped his clumsy attack.
“What do you want junkie?” He says. Stumbling backwards into a rack of shirts. Tripping he goes down, landing hard on his back. The bat tumbling from his hand as his arm hit the floor.
“I want your blood.” The junkie said. Bringing the hatchet down.
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