Thursday, July 28, 2011

Third Person Thursday: Suspect Ted (Part One)

Instead of working into the wee small hours of the morning to create one massive story, I decided to leave this one where it's at and make it a serial.  Tune in for part two next Thursday.

Nobody had seen the new owner of the fifty acre patch of wilderness prior to the beginning of autumn.  In fact, none of the residents of the nearby, secluded Montana town had even had a chance to talk to Paul Jenkins about the identity of who he had sold the land to over the summer because he had rushed off on a hastily planned trip to Europe with his wife immediately after it sold.

They had, however, heard a circular saw buzzing and a hammer falling consistently echoing through the valley on the quiet mornings.  Whomever it was that had bought the land, they were busy doing something with it.

The mystery of the new owner was not solved in the least when a bearded man in a dirty flannel shirt, slightly torn blue jeans and a faded baseball cap concealing his eyes pulled into town one day.  He parked the mud splattered Jeep with the Virginia license plate directly in front of the hardware store.  He walked in and, across the street, the lunchtime patrons of Edna’s Diner watched in anticipation from the windows.

“That must be him,” John said to everyone.

“He looks a sight,” Helen said, the coffee pot still hovering above John’s cup where it had been, about to pour, when the event began, “what with that beard and all.”

“Whattaya suppose he’s been doin’ up there?” wondered Elmer aloud.

This was met with silence.  Everyone else in the diner had been wondering the exact same thing for the past several months.  Elmer was simply the first to ask it aloud.

That silence hung in the air and, in the minds of every man and woman present, began to take on a more sinister tone the longer it remained there.  It was broken finally when Helen exclaimed, “He’s comin’ back out,” and the patrons all rushed back to acting naturally in case the stranger happened look toward the diner.  They all wondered who he was, but courtesy dictated they at least behave normally as far as he knew.  Once the Jeep disappeared around the corner, the diner’s occupants resumed their speculations.

“He’s gone,” Helen announced.

“Wonder what part of Virginia he’s from,” Elmer said as he folded up his napkin and tucked it into his shirt pocket.  He wasn’t sure if anyone noticed him jot down the Jeep’s license plate.

“Anybody see what he come out with?” Edna herself asked from behind the counter.

“Two paper bags,” John said.  “Not sure what was in ‘em.”

“Probably some hardware,” came a voice from the rear corner booth.  Everyone turned to see Carl, the only one of them who hadn’t disrupted his own meal to watch the show, with his face down in his meatloaf.  “He did go into the hardware store, after all.”

Everyone guiltily went back about their business, except for Elmer.  He stared out the window at the hardware store.  He wanted to know who the new man with all that land was and what exactly he set his mind to doing with it.  He’d be damned if he wasn’t going to find out.

Elmer stood up defiantly.  He looked at Carl and announced, “I’m going to see what Bobby has to say about our new neighbor.”  He strode confidently across the diner floor.  “I’ll be back to finish up and pay my bill, Edna,” he said as the bell above the door jingled.

Most of the patrons watched him go as Carl mixed his corn into his mashed potatoes.  He was beginning to feel full and had slowed his pace.  Despite Edna’s massive portions, he refused to ever let a scrap of food on his plate go to waste.  Still, he only had a forkful or two left by the time Elmer was seen exiting the store across the street and almost falling over himself in his rush to get back to Edna’s.

Elmer’s face was practically white as he rushed into the door and sat in a breathless heap on one of the stools at the counter.  Those curious enough to have watched him come in, which included everyone but Carl, waited to hear what he had to say.

“Helen,” he gasped.  “Can you get me some more coffee?”  Without a word, she rushed to get him a clean cup and fill it.  Elmer leaned heavily onto his elbows and took a few sips of the black coffee.  Everyone continued to wait, staring at Elmer.

“Dammit, man, what’d he say?” John exclaimed.

Elmer took a deep breath.  “Told Bobby he’s building something.”  He took another sip.  “I asked Bobby if he found anything out about him.  He said his name’s Ted and he’s an engineer from the Washington DC area.  Works for…” he dramatically looked around the room, “…Boeing.”

“Airplanes?” asked John.

“That’s what Bobby asked him,” Elmer replied.  “Said he worked in the securities division.”

“What’s that mean?” asked Lucy.  "Like a banker?"

“Military,” said Elmer into his coffee cup.  “They make fighter jets and,” he gulped another mouthful of black coffee and finished the cup, “bombs.”

Everyone, except Carl, turned their gazes from Elmer to one another.  They hoped against hope that someone else would have an answer to their concerns.

“Well…that don’t mean,” John began feebly, but Elmer cut him off.

“He bought some sections of pipe.”

As the diner exploded into whispered murmurs, Carl stood from his booth and walked toward the counter.  He slapped a ten dollar bill down.  “Thanks, Edna,” he said.  “Great as usual.”  Then, as he walked toward the door, he called behind to Elmer, “So you got a bomb builder named Ted with a bunch a’ pipes and a whole lot a wilderness around him livin’ up on the hill.  Good luck crackin’ the case, detective.”

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