“Just do me a favor while you’re there,” Dennis said. “Don’t fucking die. I’m not coming all the way to Booth just to plant your sorry ass in the ground.”
“Fair enough,” I said, giving him a hug before going through the door. “Fair enough.”
Because I owned the building, I had an entire section of the underground garage closed off just for me. The only other people with access to it were Miles and Alice; even Dennis had been banned from it ever since he had decided to borrow my classic Jaguar and then crashed it into a tree while drunk. I remember telling him that if he had died, I probably would have still been pissed about the car.
I opened the garage door and made my way past my prize possessions. The Ferraris and Porsches and Teslas stood side by side, while the classic ’65 Mustang brought up the rear. I wasn’t interested in them today, though. I was going back home, and I wanted to stay as anonymous as possible. None of these would have done that for me. Instead, parked to a far corner and covered in a tarp, was what I would be using on the trip home.
I hadn’t laid eyes upon the old 1978 Chevy pickup truck since college.
It had belonged to my old man, probably the only good thing I had gotten from him back in college when he had suddenly decided that I had become somewhat of a man. And a man needs to drive a real vehicle, he had said. I remembered the slight twinge of what I could only call appreciation that I had felt for him when he handed me the keys. It had been one of those rare moments I actually felt like I had a father.
I loaded the back of the truck with my bags and dusted my hands across my jeans, feeling more than awkward wearing them along with my boots and denim shirt. At one point in my life, the ensemble was the only thing I would ever be caught dead in. Now, though, I felt a little out of place, and had a feeling it would take a while before I felt any better about it.
The sound of screeching tires and a car door closing brought my attention around. Alice walked into view, carrying a laptop in one hand as she made her way towards me. She hesitated for a second, her perfectly professional gait wavering for a second when she laid eyes upon me, and then she smiled.
“You look like my cousin Billy Ray,” she said.
“You shouldn’t be,” she said. “He’s a dick.”
I chuckled and took the laptop off her, chugging it into the back with everything else.
“For a guy wanting a break, I really don’t see why you need that,” Alice said, gesturing to the laptop.
“Just in case,” I said.
“Well, it’s clean, just like you wanted. Only thing on there is Chrome, and you’re already logged in with a new account.”
“Good,” I nodded. “Don’t give the account to anyone. Only you. Just in case.”[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@@=======
Alice nodded and smiled. “Can I just say I think you’re doing the right thing?”
“Careful, Alice,” I said, opening the truck and pulling myself up into the driver’s seat. “You’re starting to sound supportive.”
“Just don’t do anything stupid,” Alice said, rolling her eyes.
I stuck the key in the ignition, turned, and waited for the engine to burst into life. It took a couple of tries, but eventually, the old girl coughed up and sang.
“You’re going to be okay,” Alice said.
“I know,” I replied. “Do me a favor, lock up here, and keep an eye on the company.”
“Don’t worry, but Dennis can handle things.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” I said with a grin. “Just keep your eyes on him.”
Alice smiled and nodded. I gave her a wink, shifted gears, and pressed down on the gas. The truck lurched, almost died, then roared back into life as I pulled out of the garage.
In the rearview mirror, I could see Alice watching me with a wide smile on her face. I wasn’t sure why, but I felt like going home was going to be good for me in more ways than one.
I loved living in Ludwig, Texas; population not that many.