To most of the people in this rinky-dink town, I’m Simple Walt. To the rest, I am a harmless piddler, a relic of a war that no one allowed us to win. According to everyone, I saw too much and did too much, thus, my mind could not bear the strain.
And that’s not the truth at all.
I’ve been piddling since I returned from the war. My devices bring instability to certain geographical locations. Well, according to the media the explosions do that. Some kill bad guys, others lead to bad investments in bad guy economies.
Thin Man has brought me plan after plan for the past year. As I built each device, a larger picture emerged. What began as a simple job has become a massive device with 32 triggers. This knowledge has led me to the conclusion that I’m not the only builder.
The more I build, the more certain I am that I won’t survive the completion of this job. Media hounds kept yapping about ‘the greater good.’ This project, I’d assume, is also going to get implemented in the name of said ‘greater good.’
Time is running out for me to get out of this project alive. Thin Man’s probing questions about my habits, my hobbies, and more are signs that my end is drawing near. It’s time to exit stage right-fast.
And I’ve got to find a new diner with a cute waitress and good coffee on the double.
I’ve prepared some for the eventuality that my partnership with Thin Man went south. “Keep one hand hidden at all times,” my drill sergeant instructed us recruits. “You never reveal all your cards at once.” His instruction concerned tactics we used in battle. The Art of War clarified this point: “never interrupt your opponent when they’re making a mistake.”
Thin Man made a mistake by asking his questions. I wanted to meet Rebecca and go to the park with her. “She’s the first woman to take an interest in a broken old piddler,” I thought as I walked to the bookstore/coffee shop. Still, I couldn’t wait. A kill-team might already be at my apartment.
Karen Tine, manager of Booked, smiled at me when I walked in. A middle-aged woman, she was not the homely sort. She wore a bright blouse that looked like saffron leaves on the Natchez Trace during the fall. A multi-colored headband kept her hair from falling into her eyes. Her glasses were too large for her narrow face, and they gave her an alien look.
“Hiya, Walt. How goes it?”
“Hey, Karen. Is my bag in the back?”
“It is,” she said with unforced cheer. She tossed me the keys. “We’ve got a new Dean Koontz novel in if you’re looking for something to read.”
I nodded and made my way to the back. Blue metal lockers lined the storage wall. My locker was #19. I walked to it and unlocked my locker. I took the small black backpack from it and unzipped it, then I shoved the money from earlier into it.
After zipping the bag up, I took out a suppressed Sig Sauer P320 and shoved it into my shoulder rig. I slipped a heavy denim shirt over it, unbuttoned of course, and put two extra magazines in my left pants pocket.
After I slung my backpack over my right shoulder, I made my way up front. Karen scrunched up her nose at me and gave me a knowing smile.
“Take care, Walt. I’ll see you, when I see you.”
“You too, Karen. Be careful.”
Then, I walked out of my favorite bookstore and joined those absorbed in their phones.