Myrah was the first to speak to him. Actually it was more like she shouted at the man using a tone that came out sounding shocked, angry and elated all at once. Months of worry, calls from the searchers and the mortgage payments that her husband had been making for the man during his absence all swelled up into an emotional bubble that burst inside her the moment that she laid eyes on him.
“You bastard!” She spat at Kinkaid. He was stooped in a corner of the store trying to help the pregnant woman sort through her bundles of clothing..
He looked up, his face going long and drawn out with concern. “I beg your pardon?” He asked. The man didn’t sound like himself anymore. He was using a refined English accent and his dress had changed. Now instead of dirty cargo shorts and T-shirts he wore a pair of corduroys, a white button down dress-shirt and a sweater vest.
“Where the hell have you been?” Myrah asked marching over to where he was crouched.
At his side the woman laid a hand on her belly and looked away.
She watched as her missing neighbor stood up very slowly. His brows knitted. “Do I know you?” He asked.
“You’re damned right that you know me.” She shot back jabbing a finger in his chest. “I’ve been paying the note on your house for four freaking months.”
He cocked his head. “I’m terribly sorry.” He answered. His accent had taken on a pitying tone.
“Why are you speaking like that?” Myrah asked angrily.
“Like how?” He replied. The music thudded around them. Kinkaid seemed to be regarding her as one would an insane street person. The pregnant girl at his side busied herself by looking anywhere but in the direction where she and Jill stood.
“Like you’re gay.” The builder’s wife answered giving her hand a little flip.
“I beg your pardon?”
Stepping back she pointed at him. “That right there.” She chided. “That stupid sounding British crap that you’ve got going on. Why are you talking like that?”
The pregnant woman furtively stepped behind him. “Come on.” She muttered as she grabbed his shoulder and started pulling him away.
Myrah reached out and took his arm. “No way.” She said shaking her head. “You’re not getting away again. Not until I get some answers.”
“I’m sorry but I don’t have any.” He said. Gently he tried to wrestle himself away from her but the Myrah held on.
“Where have you been?” She asked.
Shoppers in the store stopped to take notice of the scene playing out in the corner.
“I’m afraid that I can’t help you.” Kinkaid said jerking away from her.
Both Myrah and Jill followed the couple out into the mall. “You owe me some answers dickhead.” She yelled giving the back of his shoulder a thump.
“Please.” He said turning around. “I don’t know who you are and I’d rather not have this conversation. I’m a very sick man.”
Myrah softened a bit. “You’re sick?” She asked.
“Very.” He said with a lift of his eyebrows. “I’m afraid that I have a snake coiled around my heart.”
The builder’s wife squinted. “That’s crap!” She shouted reaching out to punch him hard on the shoulder. “You’re just fine.”
Men and women swirled past them, carrying bags and trying to mind their own business. A kid with a stuffed dog stopped dead in the aisle to watch. His mother quickly ran back to collect him and be on her way.
“I’m dying.” The man argued. He looked down at his feet sadly. “The snake is feeding on my organs. I don’t have long to live. I have to make the most of my time while I’m here.”
“Come on.” The pregnant woman said again.
Myrah stepped around to confront her. “Who the hell are you?” She asked half-chasing the girl behind him. “What’s your role in all of this?”
“This is my wife.” Kinkaid answered. Clumsily he tried to turn to face them both as they orbited his body.
“That’s a load of bull!” The builder’s wife spat. “You’ve been married one time too many. You told us that the day that we met you. You said yourself that you were never getting married again.”
“This is my first wife.” He argued. Gently he reached out and scooped the woman up in his arms. “We were married in February.”
Myrah’s eyes narrowed as she finally got a good look at the girl. “I know you.” She said pointing at her. “You were at the New Year’s eve party.”
“I’ve never met you before in my life.” The girl shot back.
Despite her claim the woman was most definitely the girl that Kinkaid had brought with him to Biggs’s house that night. She was a little less done up, a little more swollen in the face and her waistline was made slightly paunchy now with the baby bump at her naval but it was still her. She had the same disinterested expression in her eyes that she’d been wearing when they’d stood outside on their neighbor’s doorstep wishing one another well.
“Don’t mess with me.” The builder’s wife growled.
“Please leave us alone.”
“Screw you!” She spat. “I want to know why you’re with my neighbor and why he sounds like some kind of poet-fag now.”
“You don’t understand.”
Myrah regarded the woman. “Why doesn’t he know who I am?”
“Stay out of this.”
“Why!” She shouted. The outburst made people stop and stare. The pregnant woman began to cry. Kinkaid cradled her face into his chest with gentle compassion. The mall suddenly felt very quiet.
A security guard stepped up beside them coming from the direction of the food court. Myrah thought that he looked young and stupid in his oversized hat. “Is everything okay here?” He asked timidly.
The builder’s wife leveled a finger in the couple’s direction. “This is Randy Kinkaid.” She stated defiantly. “He’s been missing since January.”
“I have not.” Kinkaid argued. He stroked the woman’s hair and patted her on the shoulder.
“I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” The boy said. He made a gesture as if to usher them out.
“No way dude.” Myrah shot back stepping away from him. “This guys my neighbor and I’m not going to leave until I know why he’s been gone.”
“But you’re causing a disturbance.” The kid continued. “You can’t yell at a pregnant woman.”
“Half the county’s been looking for him.” She continued refusing to take her eyes from the couple.
“This guy right here.” She said growing frustrated. “I’m paying his mortgage. People are stomping around fields poking around with sticks to find him. Surely you’ve seen his face on a missing person’s poster or something.”
The kid looked at the man long and hard. Slowly he took a step behind Myrah and Jill to get a better view of his face. “He looks like that guy on the news.” He said cocking his head and scratching his chin.
Kinkaid shook his head. “I have no idea what any of you are talking about.”
People gathered in corners and at the entrances of stores began to whisper back and forth among one another. The search had been a hot item earlier on in the year and had even been featured on the national cable channels. Suddenly, the images of the man that had run on the television became reconciled in the minds of the shoppers. He was standing right before them.
The guard unclipped his radio. “Based this is 224.” He spoke into the keyed mike. “I think I’ve located a missing person.”
“Child or elderly?” Came a clipped reply from the other end.
“Neither.” The boy said. “I think it’s that guy that everyone’s been looking for.”
The pregnant woman slipped out from beneath of Kinkaid’s arm. “You’ve ruined everything.” She growled launching herself in Myrah’s direction and clawing at her face.
The builder’s wife fell over as the girl collapsed on top of her swiping and grabbing huge clumps of her hair. Together, they rolled across the aisle struggling with one another as people looked on and gasped in horror. Jill ran over trying to pull the woman off her friend. The young security guard looked on in shock. Kinkaid grabbed his chest. “The snake!” He said with an agonized wince. “It’s constricting.”
“I’m going to need back-up.” The kid said frantically as the man collapsed and Jill was pulled into the scuffle.