Constance 'Dusty' Miller
Howard Johnson’s, home away from home. He had an expense account, within reason. It didn’t pay to go too nuts, and he was a rational man.
The game was on, with the volume turned down low. He had the lights mostly off, and a cold beer. The remains of a deluxe pizza, everything on there but anchovies or the kitchen sink, sat on the table, still sending out that smell. It was warm, and he had a roof over his head.
He lay on the bed, hands up behind his head, propped up on the pillows.
The score was two-one, with the Wild uncharacteristically leading the Bruins.
What with the modern highway system and a fast, reliable car, Connor rarely had to stay in a motel for more than one or two nights. It wasn’t so bad once in a while. With the big Colorado Clipper still roaring outside his windows, it looked like he wouldn’t be home for a while. This sort of enforced idleness was a rare and welcome relief from a life that had become increasingly fast-paced and stressful. Success, at first not easily-built, had accumulated and then snowballed.
They were calling for him up at head office—maybe even vice-president in charge of sales. If he wanted it—and maybe he did. It’s not like he had anything better to do.
At one time, he would have had a quick shower, changed into something a little more casual, and gone out for a prowl. It’s not like he had any real hobbies, although he owned a set of golf clubs and went out religiously, three or four times a year, early in the season. Inevitably, it always fell by the wayside as the weather heated up, both weather-wise and work-wise. That was the thing with the agricultural industry.
It was all about them solar heating units.
He might have made a pretty good golfer.
The trouble was, he just didn’t care.
The money he spent on a luxury, executive suite in downtown Minneapolis would have bought a pretty fair house, and covered the taxes at least. Admittedly, there would still be heat, hydro, water and insurance. It would make a ding in his lifestyle, and yet at the same time he’d been thinking of it—possibly, as he saw now, for all the wrong reasons. Buying a house just so you could have a pool, or a garage or a deck, a freaking lawn for Christ’s sakes, didn’t make much sense for a single man who was rarely at home.
His sister was single, she had a place and she worked full-time, retail hours. Her days off were taken up with chores, yard-work, and cleaning the eaves-troughs. She’d just laid out four or five grand for a roof. No, having a house didn’t make much sense unless you planned on making it a home. That sort of implied a wife and a kid, maybe even more than one…he was only thirty-two.
It wasn’t too late for him. It might be too late for some other guys, but not for him…nothing’s for free.
That was for sure.
Sometimes he prayed that it wasn’t too late, and that he wasn’t too set in his ways.
The phone buzzed on its charger beside his bed.
It was Reb. He touched the screen and accepted the call.
“Hey, buddy. Mission accomplished.”
“So. How did it go?”
“Yeah. Anyways. I drove the truck over—the thing’s a real pig, I don’t know how she puts up with it. Anyways, she drove me back and I reckon she’ll be going to work in it. She works tomorrow, she told me that.”
“Are you all right?”
The line went quiet for a while.
“Whatcha doing?” The weather was bad, and there weren’t too many places to go anyways.
Reb didn’t get too many calls, but sooner or later, someone would need a tow or a boost and he had to stay by the phone. Connor was fifty miles up the road, trying to keep to some kind of schedule, so drinking or a game of pool, all of that was of out of the question.
“Just watching the game.”
“Yeah. Me, too, likewise…even.”
Connor chuckled, taking a look at the clock. He planned on being out of there by seven or seven thirty a.m. at the latest. A good night’s sleep would be nice. In the meantime he had time to kill.
The other thing was to call his mother.
At some point. All part of the narrative.
“Did she ask about me?”
“Not really, but I told her you and I have been friends for a long time…since college. What if I see her around?” Reb had been known to eat at the Circle-J himself from time to time.
They made a pretty good roast-beef sandwich. There were one or two little boutique eateries downtown, and then some family-oriented places. The choices were limited for bachelors and Reb wasn’t much for cooking. Sooner or later, she had to shop for groceries, or go to the dentist, and there were only so many places in town.
“Don’t make too big a thing about it.” Connor’s plan required a bit of time, in fact it relied upon it.
There was some risk—she could meet somebody else in the meantime, but for whatever reason, he didn’t think so. She worked full time. She wasn’t rich, she didn’t get out much, and she had the kid.
The ghost of that Richard guy would always be there in the background.
“So tell me again, what’s the next part of the plan?”
Reb snorted softly.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought you said.”
Left unsaid, on your own head be it.
And I sure hope you know what you’re doing.
Waiting broke with all classic theory, which said to strike while the iron was hot, and that to hesitate was fatal…on the other hand, this was no ordinary bar-fly pickup.