This is the second part of Chapter One. If you need to read the first half, click here.
Chapter One continued…
“Billy,” Melanie said. “You know, I’m a big girl now. You don’t have to keep walking me to the car.”
Deputy William Ortiz of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department, dressed in his tan uniform, laughed. “I know, but I made a promise way back when to always watch out for you. But that was before this uniform. Now I kinda have to – my job and all. Besides, Rose is working at the restaurant tonight, so I was just putting in some O.T., trying to make the boss happy. And you know that’s a challenge.”
“No kidding,” said Melanie.
“I’m on the way home, anyway. Town’s kinda dead tonight.”
“In that case, here,” Melanie said, holding out the PA. “Don’t expect a tip. If I didn’t make any tonight, neither do you. I’m not far anyway.”
“Slow night?” Billy asked, taking the PA from Melanie as they resumed walking down the sidewalk.
“Terrible. Just a few kids studying all night, mooching free WiFi and only buying one drink apiece. Don’t see how Harold makes it through the off-season. His rent must be low.”
“That might be changing. I hear someone finally bought most of Old Bay Street, including the old movie theater. The market must be picking up. Landlord might raise his rent.”
“I don’t know anything about that stuff,” Melanie said.
“Me, neither, and don’t care. I just hear Sheriff Cransford talking to old Councilman Masters about real estate all the time. They’re always scheming about something,” Billy said and switched the PA to his other hand. “Diner tomorrow morning?”
“Always. Work. Work. Work.”
“OK. Maybe I’ll stop by. Gotta special event in the morning. It’ll probably be on the news tomorrow night if Sheriff Cransford has his way. Seems we’re stepping up immigration enforcement. He’s gotta get them votes, ya know.”
“Seriously. How do you put up with that jerk?”
“The key is out of sight, out of mind. I try to avoid him, mostly. But tomorrow my special comunicación skills are needed,” Billy said and chuckled.
The two reached the old Wagoneer. “Think the Gray Ghost will start tonight?” Billy asked.
“Yes,” Melanie said, feigning aggravation. “An old Jeep doesn’t start one time and a girl doesn’t ever hear the end of it.”
“Shut up. Anyway, it likes the warmer weather better,” Melanie said and let down the rear tailgate. They placed the equipment in the back, and she closed the tailgate.
“Alright. Prove me wrong. Start ‘er up and get out of here,” Billy said and opened the driver’s door for Melanie. She climbed in and turned the key. The engine turned over once and quit.
Billy started to say something, but she held up her left hand, palm outward toward Billy. “Remember, it’s a carburetor,” she said, pumped the gas pedal twice, and tried again. This time the Jeep fired up and stayed running. “Told ya,” Melanie said.
Billy smiled. “Good night,” he said and closed the door.
Copyright Greg Fowler 2020