chapter xxxixMature

Eventually they were out of groceries and the task of going to fetch supplies became a real concern.  Because he wasn’t an idiot, Graeme knew to lay low for as long as he could after the slaughter he’d left behind in the factory district.  While he’d left no survivors, they would be discovered and a manhunt would begin for their killer.  How close the demons were, or how likely it was they would be able to figure out who had done it simply based on the site, neither of them could estimate.  Caution was the best course of action, even if Graeme hated feeling stircrazy.  At some point he was either going to have to sneak out to earn some money or tell her the doom-and-gloom status of his very-close-future finances.  He felt better handling the matter solo. 

She had been quiet since their argument, and he understood the distance she was placing between them, but she’d also become a sort of prison guard in place of the more-than-friend she’d been before.  She was a storm of things he didn’t understand and he so desperately wanted to return to the comfortable back-and-forth that they had grown rapidly into.  Maybe that had been the problem; maybe it was such a strong flame because it lived so briefly.  The theory did not settle well within him.  He wanted more.

It seemed unlikely she would allow him to leave the condo alone, but it was worth a shot.  Worst case, he had to ditch her once they were at the store.  Even furthering her disenchantment with him was better than asking her to help him.  Had it been a lack of means, he thought he would feel differently, but the means were available; it was her approval of them that was in short supply. 

When he asked, she didn’t even acknowledge his request to go alone.  She simply shrugged on her coat, freed her long blond curls from beneath it, and  pocketed her keys.  He sighed to himself and opened the door, resigned to having to lose her somewhere in town.  Her intentions were good, even if she wasn’t quite aware of how to go about implicating them.  He let her drive without argument and did not try to sneak off until they’d filled half of a shopping cart full of groceries and she’d slipped into the restroom.  He left a hundred dollars in her coat pocket, which she’d draped over the arm of the cart, and made his way out of the store.  It would probably cost him his last few bills to make any money, but it would be a profitable expenditure if all went well by the end of the night.  He walked a few blocks, casually, enjoying the sense of aloneness that he had for the first time since he left the factory district.  He had no regrets about his activities, and he’d said as much to her, which had, of course, only made the entire problem worse. 

She wanted distance, but she also wanted him to answer to her.  The arrangement she was attempting to enact was not acceptable to him, and though he wanted to be able to say his feelings on it were purely platonic, he knew they weren’t.  Of course he didn’t want distance between them; he wanted as little of it as possible, but he didn’t want to feel like he was forcing her to go along with it, or like she was using that to her advantage to get him to be compliant.  Graeme chewed on these small enigmas while he made his way closer to the city and the regular taxi routes.  Once the cabs began to make appearances on the road, he waved one down and told the driver which part of the city he wanted to be dropped off in.  The lower quadrant wasn’t wealthy, so there was very little work for him there, but the north-west quadrant had a number of the developments where locally wealthy families made their nests.  The pickings were easy, if you knew where to look, and Graeme had been doing it for years.

He paid the fare and gave the driver a nice tip for  not trying to make any small talk.  A few more blocks of strolling and he found his target.  A gold Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, parked haph-hazardly along the curb, four-ways blinking.  The house it was in front of was massive and burning with light – every window was illuminated and motion sensor lights lined the pathway to the front door.  Graeme could hear a man and woman screaming at each other from inside.  With a small smirk to himself, he hopped into the still-running vehicle and sped off into the night.

Jackson’s garage was on the opposite end of the city, but that was why Graeme often did his shopping where he did it.  It was best to not be close to places they might think to trace it back; most auto thiefs didn’t want to drive very far in the stolen vehicle until it had been cleaned and swiped of all identifying information.  Graeme was not concerned – he’d travelled to and from so many times it was statistically impossible, and yet, he’d never once been spotted in a stolen vehicle.  Some said it was his calling, and he didn’t dispute it.

The only one in the garage at such an hour was Jackson himself, and when he caught sight of Graeme pulling into the open slot, he leapt from his cushioned desk chair and smiled as if he’d seen an envelope of cash fall from the sky.  “Graeme, my friend!  It has been a long time!”

“Sorry, Jackson, I’ve been occupied lately.  I figured it was about time I brought in a haul or you’d think I was dead.”

“Since you said something, I’ll admit I had grown a little concerned.  It is good to see you, and even better to see that your taste has not changed.”  They shook hands and Graeme handed him the keys.

He climbed into a taxi outside of Jackson’s garage twenty thousand dollars heavier, and a little drunk.

The End

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