Chapter 18 - Traveling Pastor
The squeaky brakes on the aging motorhome woke me. A gaggle of fresh faced kids popped out, followed by mom holding a baby to her breast. Dad stepped out and locked the door. He put his arm around mother and guided her inside Burger King after their noisy brood.
I watched them inside running and playing. The sun was setting and the night chill had set in. The restaurant windows had fogged up at the edges and it looked as if the children were running in the clouds.
An older lifted range rover festooned with extra lights and black dome on the roof, pulled into the parking lot of the Shell. The driver got out, mid height, lean and with a pistol on his hip. “J&R Hunting Guides - We’ll track ’em so you can kill ’em” emblazoned on the door. He wore a weathered coon-skin hat and he glanced around almost suspiciously, before opening the back of the rover. I recognized him as one of Shen’s hunters, I think they called him Stinger. I’d never talked with him, but I’d caught him looking at me many times. He’d never come close to me, but I felt an involuntary shiver of fear at the sight of him. He opened a cage and clicked his teeth. A german wolfhound landed lightly and then looked up expectantly.
“Oh go on, you know I don’t eat this shit.” He waved at the dog.
The dog bolted as if cut from a lead and ran to the nearest fast food trashcan and then, daintily for a dog that size, stuck his head in to scrounge. He was so gentle the cans didn’t even make a sound. He visited each of them, smacking his lips noisily.
Ugh. You gotta be kidding me. That pig is eating all my food. There’s gonna be nothing left. I started to rise and Apoc stopped me with a look. Those blue eyes glittering in the gloaming dark, I eased back to the ground.
“Hep plotz.” The wolfhound streaked back to the man and looked up expectantly.
The hunter ignored the wolfhound at his feet and took his time glancing around. The wolfhound practically quivered with excitement and anticipation. Finally the hunter made a quick motion with his hand and the wolfhound leapt into the back of the rover and into his prison once more.
I actually hated that dog for eating all that food, and at the same time, felt a little sorry for the dog, what a sad thing to have a master who was so cold all the time. The hunter stood for a long moment staring into the trees where we were. My heart jumped into my chest and I stared without blinking. How could he see us? Finally he looked away. He reached into the back of rover and pulled something out. Then he walked around the backside of the Shell station, the wrong way up the empty burger joint drive thru. He jumped and stuck something to the wall as high as he could. The kid working the window popped his head out and said something. The hunter walked back and stood in front of the drive thru and said something back. The window snicked shut immediately.
The hunter walked slowly back to the rover and pulled across the street to the AM/PM. I only breathed again when he walked into the station.
Then I noticed that a black suburban with dark tinted windows (that I swear just passed by a few minutes ago) passed by again. I couldn’t be sure but it felt as if it was the same one. I began to watch the traffic more closely. The hunter walked out of the AM/PM, put a pinch behind his lip and drove away.
I saw another black suburban and this one slowed way down as it passed through. I could feel eyes behind the dark glass.
The pastor and his wife were ready to leave. The oldest child banged out the door of the with the RV keys in hand. He unlocked the RV to grab a diaper bag and ran back inside the burger joint. The door swung open a little because the latch didn’t catch. Apoc was on his feet and silently padding down to the edge of the tree line. I was on my feet and padding along to catch up. The kids were swirling inside next to the door and we’re going to come out any minute.
I wasn’t sure what Apoc was up to, was he looking for food? Trying to ditch me? Was he thinking we could hitch a ride? With all those kids? Was he insane? I held back at the tree line in fear. He marched out to the door and nosed it open and disappeared inside. I waited for what seemed like forever, and he didn’t come back out. One of the kids ran out of the restaurant yelling something. I glanced up and down the street. Coming back again was the suburban, but it was still on the other side of the RV. I had a few more moments where the RV door would be hidden from it’s view.