Thursday, August 11, 2011

Third Person Thursday: Suspect Ted (Part Three)

If you haven't been reading our continuing story from the previous Third Person Thursday posts... well, then, frankly, I'm wondering just what the hell you have been spending your time doing.  But I forgive easily and urge you to read them now at these links for Part 1 and Part 2.  once you've done that, you can enjoy the fictiony goodness below.

Seconds before the bell above the door jingled, Edna’s Diner was alive with movement.  Helen made her rounds with a coffee pot in each hand, regular and decaf.  Edna shuffled plates and glasses about behind the counter.  A nearly full room of patrons’ conversations melted into an indistinguishable buzz.

Only three people sat silently.

Carl sat in his all but reserved corner booth by himself.  As usual, he paid close attention to his meal.  If Edna left the hash browns on a minute longer than usual, he would be sure to notice.

Elmer and John sat beside one another at the counter.  Both looked into their coffee and barely touched the food before them on their plates.  They had the same thing on their minds, but dared not speak of it, not where so many others might overhear.

Eventually, however, the silence got to John.  “How long do you think it will take him to build a…”

“Quiet, man,” Elmer roared in a whisper at him.  He glanced around suspiciously, his shoulders hunched forward.  “Ain’t a matter of time to build anything.  Probably got ‘em built already.  It’s a matter of scoping things out, gathering information.”  He pointed two fingers from his right hand at his own eyes, then pointed them at John and panned them back and forth.  “Surveillance.”

John’s face took a knowing, enlightened look and he turned back to his coffee.  Then, when Elmer’s words had really sunk in, his face dropped and turned nearly white.

“Everything alright?” asked Edna.  “You two have barely touched your plates.”

“Just fine,” Elmer smiled and nodded.  “Must be something going around.”  He leaned back slightly and patted his rounded stomach.  “Maybe a little bug.”

By the time he had finished speaking, John was slapping his knee with the back of his hand in a shoddy effort to be covert.  John was staring wide eyed out Edna’s large picture window and the entire diner had become stone silent.

Everyone was watching Ted as he sauntered past the front window and pushed the front door open.

RING-A-LING, went the bell and, “Good morning, everybody,” said Ted, who expected to get some looks when he had entered.  He was the new guy after all.

All eyes followed as Ted walked down the aisle.  Some people even craned their necks in an obviously uncomfortable attempt to watch his every move.  In their minds, many thought that his mannerisms and confident strides as he made his way to the counter and sat down on the stool beside John made it look as if he thought he owned the place.

“Good morning,” Carl was sure to call back loudly from his corner.  The words he barely got out through repressed laughter served to wake up the rest of the diner.  “Mornin’,” several people mumbled and went back to their own affairs.  Soon, the background noise returned to its previous volume and a few glances were still shot Ted’s way.  Ted didn’t notice.  Meanwhile, Carl grinned mischievously.

Edna stared at Ted like the rest until he sat and picked up one of the menus held between the napkin dispenser and syrup jar.  At that point, he suddenly became a paying customer in her eyes and all jitters disappeared.  “What can I getcha?” she asked.

“Hmm.  Well, I’m new here, which is probably pretty obvious to you all,” said Ted and a few people chuckled at the joke in the distance, probably too far off to have heard unless they were downright eavesdropping, “so I don’t know.  What’s good?”

“Honey, you ask me, everything’s good.”

“Are you Edna then?” Ted asked.

“The one and only.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” Ted replied and stuck out his hand.  When Edna placed hers in it, he shook it lightly and gentlemanly.  Edna felt momentarily like she was twenty years old again.  “My name is Ted.  I bought the hillside property from Paul Jenkins this past summer.”

“Nice to meet you,” Edna blushed slightly, though few would have seen in through the wrinkles on her face.

“And since everything is good,” Ted continued, “I’ll have this, um… ‘Lumberjack Meal.’  That seems to have some of everything.  And a regular coffee please.”

Edna smiled and turned to the kitchen as Ted replaced the menu where he had found it.  He looked around the area behind the counter, smiling at the old tin coffee pots on the high shelf, the framed pictures of the town shortly after its founding and the quaintness of it all.  Then he turned to his right and smiled at John, who desperately tried to wolf down his previously untouched plate of food, hoping it would give him an excuse to avoid speaking with the new stranger.

As he felt Ted’s eyes on him, John slowly raised his eyes and loudly swallowed the mouthful of eggs.

“Good morning,” Ted said cordially and stuck out his hand.  “I’m Ted.”

John stared in disbelief.  He was too terrified to move.  He certainly didn’t want to shake Ted’s hand.  He felt suddenly like the new kid in school who just wanted to turn around and run home.

“Mornin’,” Elmer interrupted, leaning across John to intercept Ted’s handshake, which was firm and powerful.  “I’m Elmer, and this is John.  You’ll have to excuse him.  I think he’s a little hung over from last night.”

Ted laughed politely.  “No problem.  I’ve been there.”

Elmer hit John on the arm and he then shook hands with Ted, barely whispering, “John,” as he did so.

“Nice to meet you both,” said Ted.

“Likewise,” said Elmer.

Ted paid attention then as Helen poured his coffee.  As he added his own cream and sugar, Elmer tried to clear his plate so that he and John could make a hasty exit.  Ted took a big gulp of coffee then set down the cup and sighed in satisfaction.  He was obviously pleased with Edna’s brew and he smiled again in anticipation of how good the rest of the food might be.

“So listen,” Ted said to the counter.  “I have a few questions for you,” he then turned and pointed his finger at each of them as he said their names, “John and Elmer.”  After they hadn’t corrected him, he was confident he got it right and continued.  “You’re local guys, right?”

John found himself unable to answer.  Panicked, he turned to Elmer.  “That’s right,” Elmer said.

“You know much about the woods here?” Ted asked.

Elmer hesitated before answering, “Our fair share, sure.”

“You hunters?  Do any hunting in those woods?”

Elmer met eyes with John, who looked as if he were about to flee.  “Whenever we have the time,” he said and chuckled.  Then Elmer punched John lightly in the shoulder.  “Ain’t that right, Johnny?”

Elmer had never called him Johnny.  So after a confused look was exchanged, John snapped out of his trance and took his cue to follow Elmer’s lead.  “Often as we can,” John added.

“That’s great,” Ted said.  He turned on his stool so that his whole body was squared to them.  “You’re just the guys I’ve been looking for then.”

John began laughing loudly and nervously.  “Looking for us,” he said.  “Why would you be looking for us?”  Elmer stared daggers into him.

“I had some… intruders on my land the other day,” Ted explained and John immediately stopped laughing.

“Intruders, huh?” asked Elmer.  “What sort of intruders?”

“I’m not too sure,” Ted squinted and said thoughtfully.  “I didn’t get close enough to get a good look.  It was something large, though.  Could have been a deer, but seemed to make too much noise.  A lot of rustling around, you know?”

“Maybe some coons,” Elmer said seriously.  “Group of ‘em together can cause quite a ruckus, pushing aside the brush and all.”

“Hmm.”  Ted nodded and turned his body back to the counter.  “I suppose it could have been raccoons.  I hope it was, actually.  That would be preferable to what I thought it might have been.”

Elmer glared at Ted and narrowed his eyes.  “And what did you think it might have been?”  Elmer’s mind raced.  Could he have seen the two of them in the woods?

Ted took another sip of coffee.  “I was a little frightened that it might have been a bear.”

“That’s possible too,” Elmer said, still suspicious.  “Could’ve been a bear.”

“So, if it was, do you have any advice?  I mean, I didn’t buy a house out in the wilderness without expecting to encounter some wild animals, but I’m not really a hunter.  The rifle I have would certainly put a hole in you or I, but…”

“Or me,” interrupted John.

“Um, yeah, you too,” Ted continued, “but I’m not sure it would do much to a bear besides piss it off.”

“So are you askin’ what size firepower you might need to take down any ‘intruders’ that might wander into your property?” asked Elmer.

“Just want to be able to defend myself against a worse case scenario, if you know what I mean,” responded Ted.  “I would hate to get caught out there by myself and be unprepared.  If there’s anything else you might think of, I would appreciate knowing.  I would hate to have to shoot a bear or whatever it was that was out there that day.  I’d rather just do what I can to keep it away from my land in the first place if you know what I’m saying.”

Elmer took money from his wallet and placed it on the counter.  “I get exactly what yer sayin’.  I’ll see if there’s anything I can do to keep any of them ‘intruders’ off your land.”  Elmer then stood and placed a hand on John’s shoulder.  “Let’s go, John.”

John looked around, confused again and stood with Elmer.

“Thank you so much,” Ted said as Edna placed his breakfast in front of him on the counter.  “Nice meeting you and I appreciate the help.”  Then he looked at the food before him and said, “Oh my, this looks fantastic.”

Once outside, John asked Elmer, “So he thinks it was a bear?”

“Course not, idiot,” Elmer scolded him.  “He knows damn well it was us.  Maybe not us, but he knows it was somebody snooping.  He’s sending a message.”

John looked back into the diner.  Ted smiled and waved at them through the window with a mouthful of food.  He pointed at his plate then gave them a thumbs-up as they walked out of sight.

“What do we do now?” asked John, distraught.

“Don’t know yet,” Elmer said, angry yet determined, “but nobody comes into my town and threatens me.  I got a few ideas.”

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