Becky really loathed going to the grocery store since Jake’s indiscretions.
Shopping had been an enjoyable task before then. It had been an opportunity to connect with neighbors and customers, to plan new menu ideas for home and the diner, and a little escape from married and work life.
Now it was a nightmare. Not because of anything that had happened, but because of what Becky imagined the other customers were thinking whenever they saw her.
A quick sample of what Becky assumed the other people in the store thought about her:
“Poor Becky. Can’t believe her husband would do that to her. Did you hear her took all their money? As if the millions he stole from his company wasn’t enough! I hear the secretary he ran off with is only 25. Her diner is okay, but now I feel like I need to go there more often because the poor woman is so desperate for money. She hasn’t divorced him yet. What’s that about? But did you notice she dropped his last name? As if that’s going to make people forgot. Maybe she should have stuck with her high school sweetheart instead of marrying the charming out of towner. I hear the secretary was actually only 23. The least he could’ve done was left her a few dollars so she could afford a proper haircut and some decent clothes. Do you think she could possibly fit another wine bottle in that cart???”
The thoughts went on and on, and there was nothing Becky could do to stop them. So she tried to shop during off hours, keep her eyes down, and never engage with anyone in the store.
She probably could have taken all her meals at the diner, but there were still other essentials she needed to get at the store. Of course, that’s where all the wine was. Becky was willing to risk a barrage of the worst imaginable thoughts as long as it meant refilling her wine supply.
As usual, the ratio of wine bottles to other supplies in her cart was about even. Lightning Bug Junction had a decent wine store, but the prices were outrageous, and Becky could only assume that the snooty customers who frequented the establishment would think really mean thoughts about her should they run into her there.
So she put on a brave face and stuck to the grocery store.
“That will be $135.73, Mrs…”
Becky shot the pimply faced cashier a dirty look before the poor kid could finish his mistake.
“I mean Miss Riley,” he said with a whimper.
Becky pulled out her wallet and then paused for a moment.
The cashier leaned in and said in a low voice only Becky could hear, “Are you having a problem with your cards again? My boss said I can just have you sign for it and he can send you a bill later.”
The kid thought he was helping, and had no idea that he had gotten on Becky’s last nerve. She did not need to be reminded of the total embarrassment she’d felt the first time she’d gone shopping after Jake’s incident, and all her cards had been declined.
That time, there had been a line of people behind her to witness it.
“I am not having a problem with my card, Roger,” Becky replied curtly. “I was simply thinking that I might pay in cash.”
The cashier’s eyes lit up because he was genuinely happy that Becky finally had some money. He’d heard what her husband had done, and felt really bad for her.
Becky handed over two crisp one hundred dollar bills from her wallet. Bills that had most recently been in an envelope along with forty-eight hundred other dollars.
Roger quickly made change, and handed it over to Becky. A look of relief washed over her face, like she had feared that merely trying to spend the money would cause law enforcement to descend upon her as if she had topped the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
“Have a nice day,” he wished her as she tucked the money into her wallet.
“Oh, the wine is going to make sure of that,” she replied with a wink.
Travis and Michael met in the church parking lot. The building was empty at this time of day, so they had the place all to themselves. They parked next to each other, and ate their fast food lunches while sitting on the hood of their respective vehicles.
“Do you ever feel like you’re cheating on Becky when you order from someplace else?” The Sheriff asked as he bit into his burger.
Michael rolled his eyes. “She doesn’t expect us to eat all our meals at the diner. If we did, she’d probably get sick of us before we got sick of her food.”
Travis chuckled and shoved a few fries into his mouth.
“So why’d you call this pow wow?” he asked, mouth still full of food. “Not that I ever mind seeing you, but the clandestine part of it intrigues me.”
Michael looked around just to be sure there really wasn’t anyone else around.
“I thought you told that security guy from Ephrem/Regis to leave Becky alone,” Michael clarified his reason for calling the meeting once he was sure they were alone.
“I did,” Travis said as a concerned look crossed his face. “Did he go by her house again?”
Michael shook his head. “He stopped by the diner last night. Becky wasn’t there, but he asked to speak to the owner. He made a not so veiled threat against Becky, and totally creeped out Kyleigh.”
“Well, there’s nothing I can do about the creepy part,” Travis admitted with a sigh. “And to be honest, I don’t really have much authority to keep him away from Becky. I’d be happy to arrest him for trespassing, though, if she makes a complaint.”
“Maybe I should have a talk with him,” Michael suggested. “See how he reacts to having an unexpected guest get a little creepy with him.”
Travis shrugged. “You can try, but this isn’t the Marines so you don’t have much to fall back on if the guy wants to make trouble for you.”
“I can handle that weasel,” Michael said confidently.
Travis did not disagree.
Paige had been waiting on Becky’s porch when she’d returned from the store. She even offered to help bring the bags inside, but Becky assume that was only because it would allow her quicker access to the wine contained within.
Now, they were in the living room, sharing one of Becky’s latest purchases.
“So what did you do last night?” Paige asked before taking a long sip of her wine.
Becky quickly flashed back to the previous evening with John, and then sipped her wine before fabricating the lie she needed to tell her best friend.
“Spent it here,” she said. “Made dinner, had some wine, and read that trashy novel you forced on me.”
Paige laughed. “I might have forced the first one on you, but I believe you are on number five now, and you demanded I bring it over the moment you finished number four.”
Becky swirled the wine in her glass. “Perhaps your version is closer to the truth.”
They both laughed, but Becky felt guilty about her lie.
“Michael told me the world’s freakiest scarecrow showed up at the diner last night,” Paige changed the topic to the true reason for her visit.
Becky nodded and sipped more wine to give her the courage to discuss Alex Foley.
“I’m really getting tired of that man,” Becky confessed with a sigh.
“I asked Travis to have a talk with him, but maybe it’s time I went to have a chat with the scarecrow.”
“I’d love to get that guy alone and tell him what I really think about his surprise visits and creepy threats,” Becky said with a glint of mischief in her eyes.
Paige extended her glass as if to toast to the idea.
Becky smiled, and polished off what was left in her wineglass in one long gulp.
Alex Foley liked to get up before the sun to run. He preferred having the streets to himself, and it allowed him to get into the office before anyone else.
If he was going to strike fear into the hearts of all Ephrem/Regis employees, he needed them to think he never left the office, and was forever watching their every move.
Foley lived in a good part of town, so the streets were well lit, and he had no fear of being alone in the dark. Besides, he carried his gun at all times, and it was easily hidden in the oversized sweatsuit the he wore on his runs.
Foley always listened to music when he ran because, even though the streets were virtually empty, he still wanted absolutely no distractions.
That was probably why he didn’t hear the car pull up behind him.
The headlights were off, but the driver suddenly turned on the brights when the car was just a few feet behind Foley.
The street’s being engulfed in light caught Foley’s attention, and caused the man to spin around.
The bullet caught him in the middle of the forehead. Foley dropped to the street like a scarecrow that had been cut down from its post.
The driver came around to stand over Foley. The unseen assailant put one more bullet into Foley’s left eye, then quickly relieved the corpse of its expensive fitness tracker, phone, music player, and wallet.
The driver turned off the headlights, and then backed down the street.
Leaving Foley’s dead body to bleed out in the middle of the street.
TO BE CONTINUED…