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He didn't mind

Does he pay well

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Does he pay well

Hennings Farm and Home Supplies was a warehouse-sized building on the south of the town that sold everything from tractors to toys (the toys, along with the Christmas ornaments, were already on sale). The store was bustling with post-Christmas shoppers. Shadow recognized the younger of the girls who had sat in front of him on the bus. She was trailing after her parents. He waved at her and she gave him a hesitant, blue-rubber-banded smile. Shadow wondered idly what she'd look like in ten years' time.

Probably as beautiful as the girl at the Hennings Farm and Home checkout counter, who scanned in his purchases with a chattering hand-held gun, capable, Shaded had no doubt, of ringing up a tractor if someone drove it through.

"Ten pairs of long underwear?" said the girl. "Stocking up, huh?" She looked like a movie starlet.

Shadow felt fourteen again, and tongue-tie and foolish. He said nothing while she rang up the thermal boots, the gloves, the sweaters, and the goose-down-filled coat.

He had no wish to put the credit card that Wednesday had given him to the test, not with Chief of Police Mulligan standing helpfully beside him, so he paid for everything in cash. Then he took his bags into the men's rest room, came out wearing many of his purchases.

"Looking good, big fella," said Mulligan.

"At least I'm warm," said Shadow, and outside, in the parking lot, although the wind burned cold on the skin of his face, the rest of him was warm enough. At Mulligan's invitation, he put his shopping bags in the back of the police car, arid rode in the passenger seat, in the front.

"So, what do you do, Mister Ainsel?" asked the chief of police. "Big guy like you. What's your profession, and will you be practicing it in Lakeside?"

Shadow's heart began to pound, but his voice was steady. "I work for my uncle. He buys and sells stuff all over the country. I just do the heavy lifting."

"I'm family. He knows I'm not going to rip him off, and I'm learning a little about the trade on the way. Until I figure out what it is I really want to do." It was coming out of him with conviction, smooth as a snake. He knew everything about big Mike Ainsel in that moment, and he liked Mike Ainsel. Mike Ainsel had none of the problems that Shadow had. Ainsel had never been married. Mike Ainsel had never been interrogated on a freight train by Mr. Wood and Mr. Stone. Televisions did not speak to Mike Ainsel ("You want to see Lucy's tits?" asked a voice in his head). Mike Ainsel didn't have bad dreams, or believe that there was a storm coming.
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