The storeowner's eyes cut the room to ribbons. Darting to the counter in front of him; the stack of books beyond, sitting on the table in neat little piles; a small, but elegant circular table diagonally across from him with a pyramid of books, new released by the looks of them, doting the center; the door, which hadn't made a peep since I arrived; me, not me, me again, some indiscernible spot on the ceiling; repeat.
Sick of it, I moved away form him into a narrow aisle farther into the room. It lay between two too-thin standing bookshelves that looked like they were a faint breath from a little old lady away from being featured in the obituary section of the local paper. Before I disappeared behind a rack of crime thrillers, I watched the little old man's eye pop in realization that he wouldn't be able to see me anymore. I doffed my hat.
The store was colder here. Twenty paces or so away stood a large, unfinished brick wall. It looked as thought it represented the building's end, but a glance out the window--which I achieved by staring between the tops of a row of books and the shelf above it--told me the building went on a for a fair few yards beyond it.
It differed drastically from the previous store my travels took me. The lingering sight of the burnt countertop where the owner once occupied still visited me from time to time. And the question as to what had become of him had started to haunt.
Feeling a slight change in the room, I held my hand out before me, trying to judge if the room got colder the closer I came to the door. Walking slowly, I lowered my breathing, closed my eyes. There, faintly, was a thin chill. A sliver of difference in temperature with every step. If not the end of the building then perhaps the beginning of a warehouse. But if it was windowless and the walls unfinished, it would cause this noticeable I drop.
As if waking from a trance, I pulled up and stumbled forward. The owner eyed me with shock, then suspicion. For my part I shook my head back and forth, going from him to the stone wall. A frail, gasping gesture that made me look like a fish choking for air.
Running my fingers down my suit, I straightened myself and hurried away. The bell resounding clang of the little bell hanging above his door served as my own farewell.
"I don't want to ask too much."
That was the pleading voice of Margaret Thatch. The illustrious woman who owned my building, collected my rent, and neglected my calls for her to send someone to fix my pipes. She was standing before my door, hair be-showercapped, body, robbed. The giant glasses that sat on her nose and made her eyes bulge out of her head at grotesque angles. The faint whisp of a mustache above her lip. Charming woman. She was asking my help. Each word leaping from her lips with all the vigor of a dead fish.
"But could you keep from keeping such odd hours. The opening and closing all night. It's not good for my health."
After promising to endeavor to improve my habits--she suggested I try the presbitiaryian church on the corner, however seeing as how it was a latter day saints, I chose not to take that as a ringing endorsement--I bade her farewell and returned to my quarters.
Her words startled me. True, I had been keeping uneven hours the past few nights. But opening and closing doors all night? If I had been out late, it had been rare. And even when I did return home at absurd hours, I always had a mind to keep my comings and goings as quiet as possible to avoid just such an interaction.
Of course, there existed a more terrifying possibility. One that shook me to my bones and positively rattled my sinews. Had someone been coming by and looking for me? Or, perhaps, simply to sift through my things? Look for clues?
I devised a plan. Using the buckle of my belt, I hung it above my door. As it lay straight down, the jam keeping it from making contact with the door, pushing it ever so slightly beyond it. Then, on the door, I made a mark with a piece of chalk. If someone was coming into my room through the door, creating these nuicenes (sp) My Thatch was speaking to and grze the chalk against hte belt, leaving a mark.