I wandered up and down the tightly packed aisles of Wal-Mart and continued to add to the basics that I'd put into my shopping cart and what I thought Riley would possibly like to eat. I'd added 'blizzard supplies,' as near as I could figure them, even if I wasn't overly sure what exactly made up the complete werewolf diet. They tended to stick to rare red meats around me, usually, but I wasn't watching them twenty-four seven, so heaven only knew what else they needed. I grinned as I came to the lunchmeat section, and tossed in some sliced meats along with ten or so packages of various types of bacon. There were so many choices, but either way Riley struck me as a fan of bacon.
Once I got up to the checkout line I watched the cashier chew her gum like a cow, smacking and grunting while haphazardly tossing my food into the thin plastic bags with little regard to how they landed. After a loaf of fresh bread was buried beneath a few cans of tuna, I was growing concerned. I had picked up two cartons of eggs and I quickly snagged them from her, before she tossed them into a bag with like a can of soup or the white chicken meat. With a slightly sincere smile I said nearly sweetly, "Oh, hey, let me help!"
Rolling her eyes at me she said, "Like whatever."
Job security was obviously not a concern of hers, but I didn't want to pay for rubbish, so I continued to pack my own groceries without even a thanks from her. Once she was done she again did an elaborate eye roll while asking impatiently, "So cash or charge?"
There wasn't anyone behind me in line so I took my time getting back in 'place.' There was even more huffing from the cashier who glared at me through a heavy layer of mascara and lacquered-on spider-leg thick false lashes. The tangerine shade of lipstick with the gold and green eye shadow served to add to a clown-like effect. Naturally I didn't see fit to give the sullen girl my thoughts on her choice of makeup or lack of skills at slathering the junk on. She looked like she probably had a spare knife or three on her thick frame, not to mention she could probably bench press me with one meaty arm.
Her anger notwithstanding I smiled at her brightly and said, "Charge. Thanks for asking."
I was going for the winsome clueless tourist while she was thinking about going for my throat. I swiped a credit card that Uncle Harry had given me for expenditures. Since he'd seen fit to send Riley without asking me, I figured he could pay for it and if the cashier decided to sell my credit information I'd let Uncle Harry deal with her. I could tell, almost instinctively she was contemplating it. There was a chance she'd do it and find out that vampires weren't overly fond of being ripped off. With that in mind I grinned at her and punched in my debit card code instead of hitting credit card, and now she knew that there was money behind the card, not just a credit line with a possibly low limit. So I knew that it was more temptation if she had a friend in the cash room and at the bank. From everything I'd heard that wasn't unlikely in the current economy.
She sighed, quickly glanced at the receipt she tore off the credit card machine, and handed me the receipt saying, "Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart, Ms. Meredith. Please come again."
Her smile was nearly real and then I saw that while I had been punching in the debit information that her supervisor had walked up right behind me. He was thin and looked like he was ready to fall over from exhaustion. His hair was dark and he had old-fashioned horn-rimmed glasses perched on his nose. He glared at her over the top of the glasses, turned to me and asked, "I trust you found everything you needed, Miss?"
His smile was genuine ... genuinely disturbing. I'd met sociopathic men and women that were less scary. He had a slight chip in his front tooth that should have made him look pathetic, but instead increased his weirdo factor by at least a hundred percent. Every instinct I possessed told me to flee this creature. He wasn't supernatural, just wrong. The short hairs on the nape of my neck were standing up and a shiver of revulsion ran down my spine.
"Yes, I did. Thank you," I pushed my cart past him while he followed saying, "Oh, please allow me."
His hands pushed mine from the cart and he continued towards the door. He grabbed a thick winter coat from a hook by the door before I could glance at his nametag. I doubted it read 'Manager - Disturbed Psycho' but I was mildly curious.
Suppressing the urge to scream or pop out of the store I resigned myself to the man's unwanted attention. Mentally I reached out without thinking to Uncle Harry. I knew he was busy with California and vampire politics, but it was automatic.
"Emma??" Came back his thoughts. He sunk into my thoughts like a warm honey coating.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to 'dial' you. Weirdo at Wal-Mart." I mentally gave him a hug and pushed him out of my thoughts to disconnect.
"Where's your car parked?" The smiling creep asked me while pushing the full cart into the snow-filled parking lot.
The predicted next wave of the blizzard hadn't yet struck, but the winds were definitely picking up; and along with the bursts of cold air laced with new falling snow, the previously dumped snow was busy twirling and whirling around us, causing limited visibility. Biting back a groan, I said, "Over there." I indicated the third row that was nearly invisible. The shapes of snow-covered cars were disturbing. I felt again that haunting feeling of wrongness drifting from the supervisor. While I had been inside shopping at the store, there had been another three or four inches of snow dumped and the rapidly building storm was continuing to add to the accumulation and quickly growing drifts.
He smiled that creepy stalker smile of his and said, "Let's get you packed and off before the blizzard hits."
Nodding, I ducked my head and wondered how I was going to get out of whatever he had planned. I didn't need a crystal ball to tell me that the store manager wasn't thinking happy thoughts about me. He wanted me in his basement bound and vulnerable. I didn't have to ask Uncle Harry to read his mind. I knew it.
As we got closer to the car I wondered what the hell I could do short of popping out of Michigan. I needed to be here and still had to pick up Riley at the airport. His plane had to have already landed if he hadn't been re-routed to another airport because of the storm. I bit my lip and resisted sighing aloud.
The man had continued to shove the shopping cart over the snow with little effort, giving lie to his thin anemic appearance; he had some serious muscle hidden in his wimpy look. I caught a slight smirk flash across his face when he didn't think I'd been looking. He was confident in his skills. That's probably not a good thing when he set his sights on someone. Lucky me, I was the latest 'it' girl.
I pushed the button on the key fob to shut off the car alarm and open the doors. He grinned and pushed quickly to the vehicle and began tossing in my bags with even less regard to the contents than the cashier had shown. Growling softly I said, "Excuse me, I don't think that's the best way to shove my groceries in my car."
His dark side surfaced and flashed over his face as he said, "I don't fucking care. It's not like you are going to have any time to enjoy them." He turned and pulled a knife out from his coat pocket.
"Damn, I am so sorry you came to a gun fight with a knife." I mangled the line while pulling out a thirty-eight revolver I'd had in my purse.
I really loved "The Untouchables" with Sean Connery playing a tough Irish beat cop named Jimmy Malone. In the 1987 movie Eliot Ness was tracking down corruption and taking Al Capone down along with his Chicago gang-run empire. Al counters by sending in a man to get Malone. In a classic scene Jimmy Malone's pulls out a shotgun and catches a knife-welding assassin by utter surprise.
From the slack-jawed expression on the manager's face he'd never had a gun pulled on him -- much less by one of his intended victims. Snarling, he waved the sharp knife at me anyways. Major mistake. Uncle Harry had been giving me lesions with assorted weapons and crippling self-defense lessons since I was sixteen. I'd never expected to encounter some sicko in a Wal-Mart parking lot, but had a gun just in case some moron had tried to carjack me. I was trying to be more cautious about popping in and out of danger -- besides it was just a knife.
Most assailants would've dropped the knife and run or at least whimper when confronted with a gun. I wasn't holding it casually like it was filled with water but with purpose. Revolvers don't need to be cocked and if loaded properly -- mine was -- there was a nice bullet just waiting to be launched into the jerk's body. I was aiming for center mass but edged up the tip just a smidgen so I could shoot the second bullet into his face. I was of the school of thinking if I was going to shoot a gun at another creature -- human or supernatural -- I was going to use everything I had. This idiot didn't drop his knife or even look like he would cry out for mercy. Nope, instead he chuckled and stupidly said, "Go ahead and shoot. I doubt you're able to hit the broad side of a barn. I like feisty women." And he added a leer while waving the tip of his knife in a sketching motion.
It was then that I noticed he'd also slid a foot closer, so he was nearly within striking distance of me. Before I could shift away or even move there was this blur and the man was bounced off the car and onto the snowy asphalt. A figure in a thick heavy winter coat got up from the ground and began viciously stomping on the manager. It took me a second to figure out my rescuer's identity. The werewolf wasn't in his true form, but was still an impressive size and more than a bit pissed off. The knife the jerk had been wielding skittered away as it was kicked free of the man's fist by a very angry Riley. I was pretty sure Riley had broken a few of the man's ribs from the whining cry. Then Riley deliberately stomped on the hand that had held the knife with heavy boots. I could hear the crunching of large and small bones.
"Guess your flight was early?" I said watching Riley carefully as he circled the sobbing man.
"Yeah, and I hate waiting." Riley lifted his foot and swiftly launched a series of brutal kicks into the man's side and stomach. One final kick landed directly below his stomach and a squeal escaped from the man's now bleeding mouth and then silence. I was pretty sure he wasn't dead but seriously didn't care.
"Okay then. What about the sign?" I pointed to the one spattered with wayward snow that indicated the parking lot was monitored by cameras.
Laughing Riley said, "You mean that camera?"
I looked to where he was pointing and saw that the device was tagged with spray paint visibly over the lens and the side.
"Oh, so how'd ya get here?" I grinned while finishing loading the car.
Smiling he said, "Quickly." And he picked up the lifeless shape of the manager and tossed him ruthlessly into the now-empty shopping cart. He nicely put the cart into the slot of the nearby corral designed for them. He didn't even glance back at the bleeding body but joined me at the car saying, "At least you aren't ever boring."