Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chapter Thirty-Five

Shoulders Hill, Virginia
9:51 AM

I had arrived an hour earlier.  I sat in the car across the street from the storage facility.  I was fighting it, but knew what was coming -- not what might be coming from outside, but from my own body.
I was exhausted. Shooting pains fired in my legs. A dull throb beat my head. My skin felt afire.  Fibromyalgia had me.
I never know when it will flare up.  Stress, extraordinary effort, weather – all could tip me over the edge.  I could push it back some with mass quantities of Vicodin.  But I had just counted the number I had left and felt sick dread wash over me when I found I had too few.  My addled brain doesn't keep track of these things.  Some months I have plenty left when the refill is due.  Others, like now, barely enough. 
I opened the bottle and grabbed a pill.  I wanted two.  I looked at it for a while and fought the urge.
I broke the pill in half with my thumb, then dropped the second half back into the bottle and screwed it shut.  I had nothing to take it with so mustered some saliva and choked it down.  They taste bad.
Waiting would not make this easier.  So I re-started the car.  I had just entered the four lane when a truck’s horn blared at me.
My heart raced.
How did I not see that truck?
I backed off the road, put the El Camino into park again and tried to slow my breathing.  I felt sick.
A light rain began to fall.  Thunder rumbled in the distance.  I checked my pulse.  Slowly, my body regained equilibrium.
After double-checking each way, I pulled across the highway and into the parking lot of the cold storage facility.  The lot was only half full.  Probably the economy.  An open space fell between a beat Camry and a pickup with designer wheels. 
What the hell do I do now?  Walk in and say, "You guys know anything strange about Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes?"
My body spasmed.  I sat, flinching from pain, and stared at the front door.  The door was white, scratched and dented with crappy red lettering that bespoke the company name.  The engine continued its soft purr until I realized I hadn't even put it in park. 
I turned the engine off.  Then I looked at my sea bag.  It was heavy canvas in OD green (olive drab).  At a gas station I had secreted my 1911 pistol into the false bottom I had sewn into the bag long ago.  I wanted to take the pistol, but didn't want to dump the bag's contents if I had to make a quick reach for it.
Shrugging, I grabbed the duffle and pulled it as I got out.  It fell onto the ground but left enough clearance for the door to swing over it.  I locked the door with the key.
Why did I lock it?
I grabbed the strap of the bag, slung it over my shoulder and walked to the entrance.  Taking a deep breath, I opened the door and went in.
Fluorescent lights high above cast shadows in the dim front area.  A forklift groaned somewhere in the back.  A bald man in blue coveralls sat on a stool at the counter with a sheaf of papers in his hand, a pencil in his teeth and glasses low on his nose as he looked into an old computer monitor.  He muttered through the pencil and ignored me as I walked over. 
He typed with two grubby fingers.  I could see the monitor; it was monochrome black with orange type.  I hadn't seen one of those for twenty years.
I coughed politely.  He ignored me. 
Finally, he took the pencil from between his teeth, hashed some lines across the top paper in his hand, and then peered over his glasses at me.
“Whadda ya want?”  Real friendly.
“I'm expecting a package to be delivered here.”
“Name?”  His expression did not change a wit.
He grunted and looked at his antique screen.  With the same two dirty fingers he pounded the keyboard.  He stared at it for a moment, then grunted again.
“Yeah. Back here.” He grumbled as he lumbered off the stool and started walking. He moved fast for a guy who looked like he'd been glued to that perch forever.
I stood for a moment before realizing he wanted me to follow.  So I did.  He didn't slow down.  I was gassed from driving all night and the sea bag wasn't light. I fought to keep up.  He rounded a corner. When I came to it, I realized he had sped up.  Cinching the strap up from where it had slipped, I half ran to catch him.  A single bulb lit a door at the end of the corridor.  He went through about 50 feet ahead of me.
I jogged to the door and flung it open.
“Hello, Jake,” said Walters.
I stared at him. 
Something hit the back of my head and I dropped to the floor.