By Mark W. Meier
Prophet of Death
“Where were we?” You thought a moment, then looked up as the bell on the door tinkled. Woods walked in, and your conversation with Amy halted. “Amy, it looks like I’m going to have to cut this short.” You turned beet red and pointed over her shoulder. “Someone wants to speak with me.”
Woods looked at his watch then back at you, but otherwise left you a bit of privacy.
Amy glanced over her shoulder, then took the last bite of her roast beef sandwich. “Law enforcement. Probably federal.” Her eyes narrowed. “What have you done?”
You sighed. “Nothing. He’s a federal marshal and thinks I have, though. Someone’s making it look like I did things.”
She looked you deep in the eyes, and again she appeared somewhat sad. “I believe you.” She stood. “Would you like to go to church with me on Sunday?”
Your embarrassment turned to surprise. “Uh, well, sure.” You didn’t want to go, but the request was so unexpected in such an awkward moment you couldn’t manage to decline.
“Let’s carpool. Friends usually pick me up, and we can get a ride from them.” She took one last sip of lemonade and gave you a vacuous smile before turning to leave. “See you then.”
Woods grimaced and edged away from Amy as she walked past, then he swaggered over to your booth. “Mind if I join you?” He sat without waiting for an answer and helped himself to the fries Amy had left. He sneered at the taste and added some ketchup. “They’re cold,” he complained.
The family hit with the food bomb left without paying, but also without eating. The manager continued berating the waitress about being more careful. Woods smirked at the situation.
“Perhaps you could have come sooner and ordered your own meal.”
Woods took a large swig of Amy’s lemonade and another handful of french fries. “I just got some news.” He paused.
I couldn’t wait to hear. Having the Marshal Service pestering you really helped advance my purpose. Having Woods show up to chase Amy away was a bonus. Woods’ news should be exquisite.
Instead of indulging the marshal by asking, you simply finished your sandwich while staring at him. Then you gulped down some cherry soda and waited.
“Okay, have it your way. I’ve had some more news about your case.”
You remained silent. He wiped his fingers on a napkin.
Woods glanced up. “Did you leave your TV here somewhere?”
Not amused, you crossed your arms and waited.
“We’ve found airline tickets in your apartment.”
You turned white, but refused to say anything.
Woods went back to eating. “Do you remember telling a construction worker in Boise he shouldn’t go to the movies in December?” he mumbled through a mouthful of fried food. “A movie theater burned to the ground last night with him inside. Preliminary inspections say it could be arson. Guess where that plane ticket was to.”
He pointed at you with the last of Amy’s french fries. “Bingo. And we have video of someone who looks just like you arriving in Boise the day before the . . . incident. The manager of a motel near the airport picked you out of a photo lineup. He said you stayed two nights, then checked out. A cab driver described you, saying she picked you up and took you to the airport, and you arrived two hours before a returning flight to Waterloo via Chicago.”
“Not possible. I was online at home during that time. Surely you had someone check my internet usage.”
“We did.” Woods drank the last of Amy’s lemonade. “That’s why you’re not under arrest. Yet.”
Sweat stood out on your forehead. “Don’t you need a warrant to search my apartment?”
“We got one.” Woods patted a pocket in his suit coat. “That’s how we found the airline tickets.” He stood. “Don’t try to leave the area. You’re being watched night and day.” He left.
On the way home you again arrived at every traffic light just as it turned red. At the fifth stop you screamed and pounded the steering wheel in frustration. An old woman walking her ankle-biter scowled at you on her way past. She pulled on the leash to get her Pomeranian to come away from the shrub it barked at.
To keep the dog entertained, I hid in the bush and growled at a frequency the woman couldn’t hear. It yapped and yapped the entire time you waited for the traffic light to cycle. The woman’s screechy voice chastised her pet as she kept trying to yank it away from me.
The little things.
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