“…So you’re scared and you’re thinkin’ that maybe …”
Maybe she should not worry about the tiles and concentrate on the job at hand. She knew that the construction supplies in the kitchen were there for display purposes only. This particular safe house had been set up to look like an Average American Home undergoing renovations. A few people had hastily gathered items and placed them in the house to set the scene, it didn’t matter if they didn’t exactly coordinate with each other. In all honesty, the tiles were suited to the environment.
The gas range was hooked up and had a brand new copper tea kettle sitting on the back burner. Above that a microwave oven had been mounted, the kind with an exhaust fan built in. The plastic wrap from the factory still hung off one side, so she had used her truck key to cut the rest off. There was a brand new fridge, these were usually rentals, and a deep bowl copper sink with one of those touchless faucets. Set the temperature you want and use it anytime, no matter how gunked up your hands might be. Not too shabby.
Someone had started the tile work above the sink and it reminded her of a rough graph of polling numbers from not too long ago that Holly was so fond of citing. The tiles climbed slowly from the left in a gradual build, then ran sharply down to the right disappearing behind the bottom of the refrigerator. Art imitating life. She still didn’t get the seashells, but figured that those tiles must have been the cheapest and most readily available for a cash and carry transaction.
Examining the house had been top priority after Mary had loaded in her gear. She needed to get the lay of the land as well as take inventory of what had been left in the house for the set up. Everyone received the same basics, but it was up to each to fill in the list of items that might be required in the event that they were found and confronted.
A quick check of the fridge confirmed that she would need to find a local grocery. There weren’t any Piggly Wiggly’s this far north, but she had noticed a few grocers scattered among the other big retailers in the all too typical strip malls that appeared at the bottom of any given exit ramp off of the parkway.
The two six packs of Stella on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator had not escaped her notice, nor the open box of Arm and Hammer baking soda next to them. On the table sat a recently purchased coffee machine with the needed filters and grinds, along with step by step instructions for making a decent cup of coffee.
Someone was looking out for her.
Across the room from the sink was a grouping of cabinets topped with a rough cut piece of plywood. Stacked on top of the wood were five round metal tins, varying in size. The largest declared it had once held Charles’s Chips, the smallest was from some past Christmas and might have been used for home baked treats.
Mary had opened all of the tins on the first night, but did not notice until now, skittering across the room, that one of the five had a piece of masking tape on it. The tape had been split at the seam of the lid and only part of it remained, but She could read the letters on it quite clearly.
They said “Do your Best”.
The force of her body landing against the window frame caused the air to escape her body, past her bitten tongue in a spittle filled hiss. She grasped one curtain panel to balance herself and was pleased that it held. Thank God for her staple gun. She leaned over and lifted the edge of the cloth to peek out the window. Directly below there was a brown dumpster sitting in the driveway, presumably there to catch any renovation refuse. The contents consisted of some sheetrock and a worn out kitchen sink, but it was enough to make things appear believable.
Shifting her gaze further down the driveway, she saw what she expected. Though the light rain had begun to splatter against the panes, the pitted front bumper and cracked grille of a white van parked behind the dumpster were clearly visible and confirmed her fears. He was here.
The hand holding the curtain back twitched violently and before she could stop it, the small package of colorful candy propped on the window sill knocked the figurine it was leaning against to the floor.
Shards of porcelain flew across the room. The only piece of the statue of the Disney Princess that remained intact was the umbrella she was holding. It landed on the floor on the tip of its pole and spun around like a dreidel set loose by an expert hand.
She was mesmerized by the spinning, until she saw the umbrellas likely trajectory. As she crouched to stop the eventual crash of the umbrella into the table leg, the doorbell let out another harsh ring. She bolted upright at the sound and drove her right shoulder into the table, sending the coffee pot and all of its accessories crashing to the floor.
Like on a cheap watch from a fly by night auction, Mary thought the time was was passing by way too quickly.