When Tommy arrived at work at 3:00, the place was as swamped as it always was. There was already a spill call on aisle 7 that no one seemed to be answering, so he went to work fetching the spill caddy and mopping the floor of Prego.
When he finished and had returned the spill caddy, he went to assist Taylor in the check stands.
The afternoon wave of people certainly called for more than one bagger at each check stand. It was strange to Thomas how he would see the same person in Geil’s almost daily, yet they bought things like they hadn’t been to the store in weeks. He still hadn’t figured that one out.
After he’d been bagging for about fifteen minutes, he noticed the Beverly Hills girl standing in line at Taylors’ check stand. She was looking right at him.
He hoped it was just a coincidence that she happened to be in his line, or he was going to classify her as creepy, right up there with Hannah.
When Taylor starting scanning her items, she looked over at Thomas nervously.
“Hello…” she said rather quietly.
“You were the one that gave me directions to the apartments.”
“I’m Kaitlin.” She stuck out her hand awkwardly.
“Thomas…” She got really close to him. “Is this town always this dangerous?”
“…What?” He had no idea what she was talking about. The town had never been dangerous. There’d never been horrible murders, or gangs, or even notable break-ins. Petty thefts and one account of arson, yes, but nothing much worse than that.
“I mean…This dog tried to totally attack me! It didn’t look to have an owner anywhere, and it looked…kind of gross. Sick or something. Do people not take care of their animals around here or what?”
This was one of the strangest conversations he’d ever had with someone at Geil’s. He didn’t know what to say.
“Um…I’ve never heard of anything bad happening here, really…” he finally said to her.
“Well, then some bad person moved in. I felt terrible for that dog. And it was so mean!”
“Did you call the cops?”
“No, no. After it tried to have a snap at me, it ran away into the bushes. I figured it was going off the die, maybe. It smelled like it had already died, but you know…”
“Um, sure.” He hoped there wasn’t some outbreak of rabies or some sort among animals. He finished bagging her groceries and placing them in her cart, happily taking a step back from her.
“It just freaks me out a bit, you know? Dogs can be so dangerous, and if people abuse them like that…Well, I guess that would have made the decision to move here very bad.”
So maybe a Chihuahua didn’t fit her.
“What made you move here anyway?” he asked as she started to push the cart away. No one really moved to Riverside. No one even knew about Riverside.
“I needed somewhere to get away to, somewhere docile and small. I’m from New York.”
That explained a lot. “Well…docile and small, I guess you chose the right place.”
“Unless that dog shows up again.”
She left Geil’s, leaving Tommy to stew in what he’d heard.
She must have come through his line because she knew him, and she wanted to tell someone about her strange encounter.
And strange it was. People around Riverside were very good to each other, and, he assumed at least, their pets, since there had never been any animal attacks reported.