The Second Time Around

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Dr. Mathis pulled his Wagoneer into the driveway and parked it in front of the garage door. He got out and pulled three bags of groceries from the back. As he walked up to his front door, he was careful not to look down the block at the dark SUV he’d seen out of the corner of his eye. Gregory had warned him that the house was being watched and that he wasn’t to look at the SUV for any reason. Dr. Mathis focused instead on taking out his house keys and unlocking his front door.

Once inside, Dr. Mathis let the plastic bags drop to the floor and he leaned his back against the door, shaking from head to foot. Cold sweat formed a slick sheen across his forehead, and his mouth felt as dry as talcum powder. He locked the deadbolt and waited for what he was sure would be the inevitable thump of heavy feet on the front steps, but they never came. He had an overwhelming urge to open the door and stick his head out to see if anyone had followed him, but he resisted it and picked up the groceries instead. He carried the bags into the kitchen and began putting things away somewhat mechanically; more to give himself something to do than out of any great concern for the groceries themselves.

With that task done, Dr. Mathis sat at the small round table in their breakfast nook and tried to keep his calm. He was beginning to feel sympathy for all of the worms and crickets he’d put hooks through and dropped into a lake or river over the years. As fun as it was to pull the fish out of the water, it was no fun whatsoever being the bait.

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