From February 2021 Newsletter – Step into the Paranormal
Back in February, I put a snippet of a new story idea into my newsletter because it seemed interesting, and I wanted to get some opinions. It seemed to go over pretty well, and since I couldn’t get it out of my mind, it’s grown, but I thought I would put the original snippet here for anyone who wanders by my blog, as well.
The orange light flicked to red and Anatole Durand eased his ancient Ford F-250 to a stop behind the shiny silver Prius he’d been following for the last six blocks. His breaks squealed slightly, drawing attention from an old guy with a cane on the sidewalk.
Anatole waved. “Hey Mr. Jensen.” He called the greeting through the open passenger window.
Mr. Jensen raised a hand in greeting. “Tolly. How’s business?”
Anatole grinned. “Mama Sarah is feisty as ever. You should come by for some iced tea some afternoon, Mr. J. She’d love to see you.”
Mr. Jensen smiled a quiet smile and nodded. “Take care, now. Tolly.” He waved again before ambling off down a side street.
Behind Anatole, a car horn honked and he glanced in his rear-view. Addison Clairmont. Most annoying girl in school, now most annoying real estate agent in town. She made an impatient waving gesture at him and he turned his eyes forward. The light had gone green and the Prius driven off. Cranking the old truck into gear, Anatole eased off the brake and onto the clutch, rolling smoothly as the truck’s old mechanisms would allow—which wasn’t very. With a little jolt and rumble, the truck hitched forwards.
He’d made it only halfway through the intersection when Addison swerved past him, one more blare of her horn fading with distance as she sped off. A car making a right turn from the side street into the intersection had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting her.
Anatole shook his head. “That woman is going to kill someone, some day, Squirt.”
Beside him, his slightly manic Jack Russell yipped over her shoulder, then went back to sniffing the town air out the window.
Another half block and he slowed to turn down an alley, easing the truck between the dumpsters and piles of flattened cardboard boxes to the back door of the Laughing Buddha. The restaurant, which had started out as a tiny, hole-in-the-wall omelette diner twenty-five years ago, now spanned two shop fronts and sprawled all through a network of back rooms, a side patio, and was one of his best clients.
“Here we are, baby. You stay put, eh?”
Again, Squirt yipped, drew back in the window, turned in three circles and curled into a white and tan fuzz ball on the passenger seat.
Anatole leaned past her to roll up the window enough she couldn’t jump out. Not that she probably would, but still. Didn’t hurt to be careful.
“Heya, Tolly.” The Buddha’s owner propped open his squeaky back door with a broken cinderblock.
“Hi Craig. How’s things?”
“Not so bad. You have eggplants for me?” He peered in the passenger window. “Hello Squirt.”
The dog flopped her tail a couple of times but didn’t get up.
“I surely do.” Rounding the back of the truck, Anatole lowered the gate, threw back the canvas tarp and slid a stack of green wooden crates forward. “Eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, tomato, romaine, assorted greens and an early crop of peppers. Also the usual carrots, radishes and onions. You have empty crates?”
“That I do. Gimme a load and come on back.”
Anatole handed off a stack of carefully packed crates to Craig, then followed behind him with a second load.
Because the Buddha served a mostly vegetarian menu—with the exceptions of some goat cheese and fresh eggs—it took the two men a few trips to unload the entire order into the back hallway.
“You need help bringing this through?” Anatole asked.
“No, man, we’re good. But come through for your empties, and I’ve got another stack of egg crates for you, if you need ’em.”
“Yes, please.” Anatole followed him through the hall to the smallest front dining area and through that to the kitchen.
Craig pointed to a knee-high stack of cardboard egg packing crates on the floor near the kitchen door. “Got them next door. It’s only a matter of time, my friend. Ol’ Pascale is caving. Soon he’ll be calling you for all his organic vegetable needs. He had to return an entire order last week because part of it was recalled for E.coli and he didn’t know how much of it was contaminated. Company only gave him half his money back, saying he could have used most of it and he was just being an alarmist.
“He was right to send it all back.”
“I keep telling him to call you. You’re worth the premium.”
Anatole winced. “Is it too much?”
“God, Tolly, no. If anything, you should charge more. Trust me, my customers know if I have to pick something up at the grocer. The taste, the texture.” He shook his head. “It’s to the point I’d rather take something off the menu if you don’t have what I need than try to make it with regular produce. Gimme another week with Pascale, and you’ll have another customer for life. Trust me, he’s going to positively swoon when he tastes your goat cheese.”
Anatole grinned, picturing the fat little Frenchman who owned the Li’l Montreal Bistro next to the Buddha, hand to his heart, extoling the wonders of goat cheese. “Believe that when I see it.”
“Believe it. You’ll be seeing it soon enough. Anyway, there are your crates. Need a hand?”
“Nah. I got this. Just a couple of trips, and I’ll be out of your hair.”
The main dining room was mostly empty when Anatole began the trip back through with the replacement crates. A young couple sitting at the bar giggling over their phones waved to Anatole as he passed through.
“Shouldn’t you two be in class?” he asked.
“PA day, Tolly,” one of them said. “You need a delivery monkey?”
“No, but there’s a fifty in it for each of you if you come clean out my coops this weekend.”
Anatole shrugged. “Suit yourself, but remember I offered when you’re slinging coffee at Timmy’s for ten twenty-five an hour.”
“I’ll do it,” the other teenager offered.
“Great. Pick you up at nine.”
“I got wheels.”
“Even better. Don’t be late!”
As he turned away from the teens, his gaze fell on the stranger lounging in the last booth at the back of the room. He was probably around Anatole’s own age of twenty-five or so, and had eyes of striking pale grey, the irises lined with indigo. His hair was that peculiar grey-mauve colour that seemed to be all the rage at the moment. It feathered around his face like whisps of smoke. If he had a slightly over-large nose, it was pleasantly offset by a full mouth and sky-high cheekbones.
He’d made the most of his striking eyes with glitter shadow and sweeping liner. Gloss made his lips shine and Anatole suspected he’d accentuated his angled features with just the right touches of blush and highlights. He wasn’t an expert on such things by any means, but he did watch RuPaul, and he liked a pretty, masculine face.
He nodded at the stranger as he passed.
The man watched him, gaze intense, unblinking, boring into Anatole like a laser. Sweat broke between Anatole’s shoulder blades. His scalp prickled. The glare should have felt invasive. Instead, it felt…familiar. Then he was past and out the back door.
Shoving the crates into the back of the truck, he leaned on the cool metal with both hands, trying to catch his breath.
The hair on the back of his neck and along his arms lifted. His skin heated and a cool morning breeze made him shiver by contrast. Straightening, he glanced down the narrow alley in time to see the retreating forms of two burly, plaid-clad men with shaggy manes and darkly hairy arms turn the corner onto the street.
One of them glanced back, caught Anatole’s glance, and curled a lip.
Anatole swore he heard an actual growl from the guy, even twenty feet away.
Squirt’s head popped up in the back window of the truck’s cab, her lips peeled back, her fierce, sharp bark echoing off the brick and cement.
Alarmed, Anatole gulped and hurried to the cab of the truck, almost expecting the man to stop and come back for him. Why, he had no idea. He was in the truck with the door closed before he fully registered his own panic.
“Quiet, Squirt,” he whispered.
The dog huffed at him, but stayed where she was, guarding the backward view, her tail straight out behind her, whipping furiously, snuffling and snorting, as though she smelled something foul.
Closer to hand, the back door of the Buddha opened. The stranger from inside stuck his head out, saw Anatole in the truck, and glanced both ways down the alley. He lifted his chin. His nostrils flared. Jaw set, he hurried off down the alley in the direction the two men had gone.
Anatole started his truck and all but sped away in the other direction.