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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 8 July 2007 - 11:56pm.

Chapter 14

Ted carried box after box of groceries into the little house at the end of the lane. He knew that this day marked a change in his life and he was prepared for it. He welcomed it. He knew what was his and there would be none that would deprive him of it. No one. Not the police, not Denise and certainly not some old man who knew a few kung-fu tricks.

This area of the suburbs was almost stagnant, forgotten. Even those who lived here took the first opportunity to move away, if they could. Certainly none of the younger folks wanted to be in such a rundown area as this. As a result, there were many empty houses that had been on the market for years and would probably never be sold. The cities’ growth pattern had taken the housing starts and new business into other directions. That meant that this area was pretty much ignored—by the street thugs, the police and even the real estate agents. It was quiet, almost guardedly so and that was the way he liked it. It was a perfect place to keep something secret.

He went down the steps that led to the basement and opened the door swiftly. Denise jumped in surprise at the sudden intrusion. He stepped in and unceremoniously tossed a paper bag onto the floor and said, “I got what you asked for and a few other things you might need soon. I didn’t know what kind…uh, well…I got both, so I hope it’s okay.” He was visibly uncomfortable and Denise guessed readily what he was referring to. It would have almost been a sweet gesture, if he had not already put her in a situation where she was so afraid of him. He then took the bucket, which by now was becoming noticeable even in a cold basement and replaced it with a fresh one. “The paper is in the bag, too. And I will bring you some food in a little while.” Ted was much calmer than he had been at other times. At least he was speaking in the first person again and she welcomed the feeling that accompanied that. Denise concluded that she was playing the proper role by being compliant and submissive to him. He was relaxing and trusting that she would not try to escape. That could help her when the right time came—if it came.

Bill had found the perfect classified ad, as far as he was concerned. The ad read simply, ‘Single shot varmint rifle, used little, $200.’ It was followed by a phone number, which they called from a booth nearby the stand where they bought the paper Bill found in this situation an amusing note of irony—Ted could certainly be classified as a varmint of the most obnoxious sort. Skunk seemed to suit him, or a weasel, perhaps. Bill chuckled to himself as they approached the house.

They met with the owner, a widow that had kept the gun for a number of years after her husband was gone and, never having any sons that might want it, she’d finally decided that it was time to sell it. Bill was just in the right place at the right time. The price was good, better than he had expected. It was a small caliber, as all varmint rifles were—a .223, easy to handle, light and powerful. Accurate. The fact it was a single shot mattered not at all to Bill. His philosophy had always been that if anyone needed more than one shot to take out a target, it was either too far away or the shooter was inept. They paid for it, thanked her kindly and returned to the house to see how things were coming along for Mose and Jonathan.

Police database records showed Jonathan that Ted had not been to his own home in some time, but the possibility was always that he was just out of town on a sales trip. He was, after all, a salesman and it would not be inconsistent with his behavior in the past. There were no records of plane ticket purchases by him recently and he was not the kind to take buses anywhere. That seemed beneath him, even to Ron. Maybe he was just gone when the cops were there to visit. Yet, according to police reports, Ted’s car was still in his driveway, apparently untouched for several days, judging by the light skiff of dust that was deposited on an otherwise immaculately shiny car. The car spoken of in the records was a Jaguar XKE. A very nice classic auto. Not the kind that one would want to leave in an open driveway, but rather in a locked garage, he thought. Very peculiar—like someone had left in a hurry.

Further delving produced purchase records from many of the local stores. This man had to have the best of everything, it seemed. It was indeed not like him to settle for second best. His clothing, his autos, his restaurant meals, his baggage-all were top of the line goods and services. He was either spoiled rotten or an egomaniac. And it was certainly contradictory that such an immaculately clean and careful man would have let this very expensive car be so neglected if he were still in town.

Mose suggested that if he was this meticulous in so many things, it would not be like him to leave any steps untaken to reach his goal. This would make him more dangerous than they had suspected. There were no records of him having been in the military or on the police force, so he had never been trained in some of the things that these men would put him up against when they found him. Yet, they all knew that one should never underestimate an opponent. It was said that even a drunk man, if he wants to bite your nose off badly enough, might succeed in doing just that. Too much confidence could destroy their mission-and a treasured young lady. More needed to be known, Ron knew, but it seemed excruciatingly slow progress to him. He ground his teeth and paced the floor.

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