Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lucky Dog (19)

For a week he waited for a sign from Shellen. He arranged to go to the shop five or six times a day on this or that pretext. Each time Shellen managed to slip out the back just as Geoff appeared. To pursue him further would have raised the other mechanics’ suspicion. When Shellen was forced to be in his presence, he avoided eye contact. At home, no phone calls, no notes posted on windows, no drunken late-night appearances on Geoff’s front porch.

What most upset Geoff was the calm that Shellen affected at Redwood Auto Mart. No agitation, no nervousness at all, even as he managed to dodge Geoff. Not only did his evasions seem effortless, even with the strategic element of surprise, Shellen carried himself as a man for whom Geoff’s mere existence was debatable.

All that would change.

Geoff picked up the phone and dialed. “Margaret, sweetheart, this is Geoff Harvey. I’m not coming in today … strain of flu or something. … No, not that. … Sure. … I hope I’ll be back on Monday. … Thank you. … No, nothing. Probably all I need is rest. … Right you are, as always. … Tell Mr. Dale I’ll try to call him over the weekend. … Thank you, honey. … Goodbye.”

Fifteen minutes later he was hunched in the driver’s seat of the company Camaro he sometimes took home with him, about half a block from the address in Shellen’s file. Parked behind a muddy Gremlin, he could see the bungalow Shellen lived in and the rat-colored VW van he drove everywhere. He tapped his fingertips on the steering wheel. His armpits were slippery and cold.

He didn’t have to wait long before Shellen emerged in tight T-shirt and jeans and headed for the van. Even at a distance, even without an audience that he could know of, Shellen’s stride was muscular and assured. Shoulders square, head up, athletic body adroitly pivoting up and into the van.

The van started and disappeared down the street.

Geoff leaned forward and rested his forehead on top of the steering wheel. He felt butterflies inside. Still, his blood churned excitedly with a sense of momentousness and climax. What he was about to do was irreversible.

He turned to the passenger seat. “This is it, Hubert. Moment of truth. If you don’t see me signal five minutes after I go in, come inside to back me up.”

The smooth-skinned boy in skimpy baby-blue trunks said nothing, a look of placid self-confidence on his face.

(To be continued)


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