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EXPLORING FOR TREASURE - Part 2
It was too late to try hiding like the little mice so Lynn stuck out her chin, squared her eleven, almost twelve, year old shoulders and assumed what she hoped was an intimidating pose.
“Whatca doin’ in here?” She made her voice deep like old Joe’s calling out gruffly toward the advancing figure of a man.
“Why, I just happened upon this place”, came the too smooth answer, “just as you did, I suppose. Or is this your property?” As he came closer she recognized him as the man from the book store who’d made his purchase just before her.
“Matter of fact it is,” a plan was forming. “My dad’s, that is and my uncle and brothers. They’re all just outside here a few feet away.”
“That so?” The man laughed, not so kindly. “Well, I’m Pastor Jenkins and I wanted to invite you … and your sizeable family, to join me for service this Wednesday evening at our church. You attend church?”
“I used to.” Lynn kept her answers short and watched his every move. She wasn’t sure what danger there was in men but her Mom had warned her often enough about not talking to them or getting too close. Her own father, if he was hers, was long gone and she really only had a sister that her Mom had the courts send away to a girl’s home because she was “Unruly.”
The man came closer and held out his hand for her to shake but she ignored it and stood, bringing her almost to eye level with this intruder, given her three foot tall concrete slab advantage. She looked into icy cool grey eyes and felt a twinge in the pit of her stomach.
The day before, just released from the Ft. Madison Penitentiary and wearing the standard release dress pants, shirt and patent leather loafers, Jesse Sheafer checked into the Burchard Hotel. He paid for five nights at the desk. Carrying a paper bag that contained of the rest of his belongings, he walked past a sea of none too friendly faces of the men gathered in the lobby. A television was blaring in one corner, several chairs, a couple of rockers, floor ash trays and a card table furnished the room along with a Coca-Cola cooler and a vending machine. A few outdated magazines, a well read newspaper and a comic book sat on a ledge near the rockers. As he started the ascent to his third story room his eyes rested on the comic book. Archie and his Gang, it was hard to tell if it was a boy or girl that had left it there but that didn’t matter to Jesse. A child was a child, they were all so tender and it had been a long time … too long.
“Well, I guess Dad and my brothers will be about done loading the pick-up,” Lynn claimed in a voice that betrayed her confident statement. The man stood between her and the exit not moving, but smiling at her silently. “I guess they didn’t teach you no manners at Preacher school, huh? I said, I guess I’d better get going before they come in here mad as Hell that I’m not ready to go and they get awful mean when something makes them angry.”
“Call out for them to let them know you’re in here”, came his response, “so I can meet them and invite them to church. I didn’t see anyone when I was walking around outside.”
Old Joe had awakened from his impromptu nap with a crick in his neck and a mighty thirst. He slowly rose and walked over to the Coca-Cola machine, dropping in a dime and sliding a cold bottle to the release chamber. He glanced up at the clock behind the front desk and realized it was past time for his daily game of checkers with the kid. Damnation – that wasn’t like her. Maybe she’d sneaked in and seeing him asleep she went on in to her and her mom’s rooms.
“Hey! Percy you or any of the guys seen the kid?”
The men looked at each other then one spoke up and said he’d seen her about an hour or so earlier getting a soda but she took back off out the door.
“Well, where was she headed?” Old Joe didn’t like the answer and knew she’d have woke him for their game, pretending not to notice he’d nodded off the way she did, or she would’ve went to her room and played with her cat but she wouldn’t have taken off and not returned this close to cartoons. The men suffered through a half an hour of t.v. for the kid every weekday right after she and Old Joe played a game of checkers. If she’d gone in her room she would’ve been back in the lobby by then.
“How the Hell should we know? Ain’t no babysitters – cept you!” One of the men called out much to his sorrow when Old Joe crossed the room and smacked him right upside his head with an open hand. Even then, it was enough to turn the man’s head plenty and make him wish he’d kept his mouth shut.
“Anybody? Anybody see where the kid went?” Old Joe was out the door craning his neck to look up and down the street now, not waiting for an answer. The blast of heat and an empty street sent him back inside where he pulled up a chair to the window and kept an eye out for her.