Paul was gone for a long time. Employees were starting to eye me. I pretended not to notice. I picked at the cold scraps on my plate. Where was he?
I had read the papers through twice already. I had visited the restroom out of boredom four times. Maybe Sculptor had gone to Ginesbury’s house without me. Maybe he had forgotten about me.
Well, time for another visit to the restroom.
I got up and walked as slowly as I could manage out the door and around the corner of the restaurant to the back.
A man in a sweat-stained trucker hat was leaning against the wall by the door. He glanced at me as I came around and then his eyes went back to his phone. I stood a little ways off and leaned against the wall as well. The view from this side of the building was nice. The front of the restaurant faced the freeway, and the side faced town, but at the back, there were only peanut fields.
The stifling Florida humidity and sunlight made the air above the peanut plants waver, like a film on reality that was melting away. I had only been out there a minute, and I was already starting to sweat.
Whenever I came out here, I always kept my eye open for alligators. So far, I hadn’t seen any.
Someone came out of the bathroom and the man with the trucker hat went in and locked the door. I moved a couple steps closer and leaned against the wall once again.
Those fields…they looked like they went on forever. I wondered how far they actually went. It had to be at least a mile.
In the roiling green and blue of the sky, I saw a blotch of color. Not much, just a bit of darker blue I hadn’t seen before.
I squinted at it. I looked away and looked back. I rubbed my eyes. It didn’t leave.
It looked like a person in a blue shirt, just standing in the field. It wasn’t really any of my business, but I thought it was odd. Plus, I didn’t have anything better to do than watch him.
He couldn’t really be a field worker, or if he was, he had shown up on the wrong day, since he was the only one out there.
Now that I was looking, I saw, further off, the sloped roof of a black car parked a ways off, hidden in the heat waves.
The figure put its arms out and swung them back and forth. It shielded its eyes and looked up at the sky. It turned to face me.
I moved further into the shade. I had a very bad feeling about this figure in the field.
It was still staring at me. It shielded its eyes. Then it started walking.
My heart skipped. Adrenaline vibrated through my limbs. Harmless stranger or not, he was paying too much attention to me. I walked briskly back around the corner of the building towards the entryway to the restaurant, planning what I would do.
I would gather Paul’s junk and leave. I would go across the street to the gas station and hide in the bathroom over there until Paul came back. Damn Paul. It’s his fault if I got caught, but I’d still be the one in trouble.
I went directly to the table and stuffed Paul’s papers into the bag. I slung it over my shoulder and shoved the trash in a waste bin on my way out, doing my very best not to draw attention to myself.
“Please,” I whispered to myself, glancing behind me over and over. “Please, please, please, please let him be slow, please just a little further, please just a little longer, please just until I’m out of sight.”
I walked to the spot where the off ramp met the main road. I crossed with a brief glance to make sure I wasn’t going to get run over. The worst part about that was that it would have slowed me down.
The other side of the road had a few sparse shrubs, but I was still severely exposed.
The gas station was only a stretch of gravel away. I glanced back again and still I didn’t see the figure. But if he was following me, he would be coming around the corner of the restaurant any second now.
I walked quickly around to the back of the gas station. There was a one-room restroom there as well. I went inside and locked myself in.
I sat on the toilet and exhaled. I ran my shaking hands through my hair. Damn Paul. Damn him for leaving me alone. He knew I was on some psycho hit list. He knew that and he still left me alone in a fast food restaurant in a strange state.
I tossed his bag against the wall, not much caring where it landed. Let it sit in old soap and pee. Paul, too.
I kept an ear open for Sculptor’s car, but I wasn’t going to expose myself to go see him. Let him find me. Let him think he’s lost me for a couple minutes. He deserved some panic.
A/N: Paul shouldn’t have left Luis alone, but really, Luis, putting Paul’s bag on the floor of a truck stop bathroom? That’s a little harsh.
Anyone have an idea who the figure in the blue shirt is?
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