Blank faced, Colton shook his head hoping that his lack of enthusiasm would curb the old man’s rambling.
“There might only be a handful of people that know this. It was Janet Leigh’s character, Marion Crane, in the movie, Psycho.” He looked jubilant over his recitation of cinematic knowledge. He slapped one of his veined hands palm down on the counter and let out a howl. “Nothing like a good murder movie!” The metal key scraped against the wood when he shoved the key toward Colton. When Colton didn’t immediately pick it up, a satisfied smile appeared on the old man’s face. “Don’t worry; I’ll lock Norman and his mother in their rooms tonight.” With a wink of an eye, he shoved the key closer to Colton.
Anxious to put an end to the clerk’s jabbering, he picked it up and shoved it into his pocket. “Thanks.”
“Need anything else?”
“I need a toothbrush, toothpaste, things like that.”
“There’s a Mini-Mart a block from here. It’s got a washateria too.”
As he walked away, the old man told him, “We have free Wi-Fi and don’t forget about the continental breakfast tomorrow morning. It’s right here in the lobby.” He marked to the spot by turning a finger down. A voice on the scanner squawked out something undecipherable across the speaker.
Colton almost shuddered at the thought of stale pastries in cellophane wrappers that rattled loudly when opened, bad coffee, maybe a pitcher of OJ, not fresh squeezed, but from frozen concentrate. He politely thanked him and exited the building feeling grateful he wasn’t fond of breakfast anyway.
He mounted his bike and followed the paved drive to the cabin’s parking space. He retrieved the extra set of clothes that he kept in his saddlebag for emergencies and the sleeping pup. He found his cabin and on the inside of the door he read the typed out proclamation outlining the rules of the premises. One clearly stated, NO PETS. “What a load of crap that is.” He didn’t need the complication, not right now. But what choice did he have? With the pup cradled in his arm he went inside.
The small cabin was a combination living room, kitchenette and bedroom with a closet-size bathroom pushed out the back. The decor was retro early seventies complete with a nineteen-seventy four phonebook. He stripped off his clothes and climbed into the shower. He didn’t get out until the hot water began to ebb. Colton wrapped a towel around his waist and shoved the window open letting the steam escape the tiny room. Whimpering filtered through the steam. He scooped he puppy off its makeshift bed of towels and held it close to his chest. “Let’s get you something to eat.” After dressing in the fresh set of clothes, he wrapped the orphan in a towel and walked the block to the Mini-Mart on the corner.
The apron out front was empty, and he wasn’t sure if the place was still open until he pushed the door open and walked inside.
The girl standing behind the counter did a double take, and then said, “I thought you had hightailed it out of town after Toomey stirred up everybody at the diner today.”
“I can only imagine what those guys told you after I was gone.”
“It wasn’t pretty.” She glanced at him from under her lashes. “Any truth to it?”
“If you’re asking if I killed anyone, the answer is no.” There was an awkward moment of silence, and before the rift in the conversation grew too wide, he said, “It’s ancient history.”
She nodded. “Alright. That’s good enough for me.” Georgia’s blue eyes shifted to the squirming mass bundled in the towel. “What’s that?”
He opened it up.
She looked surprised. “Have you been carrying that baby with on your bike?”
“Not for long. I found him down by the water. His mother’s dead.”
“Poor thing. What are you going to do with him?”
“Find him something to eat.”
“There’s some canned dog food over there.” She pointed to a row of shelves stacked with canned goods. “But he looks awfully young, so you might want to get some puppy formula and a bottle too, just in case.”
“Thanks.” He wrapped the fur-baby back up and headed over to the shelf.
She appeared at his side with a hand-held basket. “I can hold him for you.”
“Are you sure?” She nodded and he handed the pup over to her.
It nuzzled against her breast. “Disposable bottles are two aisles over.” She headed back to her post behind the counter.
He gave her a nod and meandered through the aisles until he found everything that he needed. When he returned to the counter, the puppy was asleep in her arms. She gently stroked its head. “He looks happy,” he said as he sat the things on the counter.
She smiled and handed the sleeping bundle back to him.
It whimpered and he rocked it a little until it quieted down.
She rang up his purchases and bagged them. “I didn’t hear your bike.”
“I got a cabin by the water for the night, so I just walked here.”
“They’re a little prehistoric, but quaint,” she added.
“It sounds like you’re familiar with the place.”
“I live there.” She shrugged. “I live on tips and what I make here a few nights a week. The rent’s cheap and all bills paid.”
“Well, I’m only going to be here tonight.”
She nodded at the pup. “What are you going to do with him?”
“I’m not sure yet. What about you?”
She took a step back. “I can’t.”
“I move around too much and most places don’t allow pets.”
“I didn’t think you were from the area,” he said, scratching the pup’s ear.
“New York,” she replied.
“What about that Texas drawl?”
“Acquired. I find it’s better to assimilate with the locals.”
“What brought you here?”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.” The puppy whimpered and nuzzled his chest. “I should be going and get this baby fed.”
“Goodnight,” she replied.With an armful of puppy and a hand gripping the plastic bag, he walked back to his cabin wondering how his old man was doing. After making it back to his room he unloaded everything on the bed including the dog and made a call to the hospital. The report was encouraging, and he decided to make a trip to the medical center in Galveston that would finally shed light on the fifteen year old mystery