Matty Dimmock grumbled to himself inside the Nanticoke Crossing gas station and convenience store. Damned part-timers, he thought. Bliss is late again. I put in the long hours for PetrolCo. They come and go as they please.
He continued to slide packs of cigarettes into an overhead tray when he noticed the prison guard pull up in his Chevy pickup. What’s it this time?, Dimmock thought to himself. Cigarettes to smuggle inside? A message? I don’t know how they can employ someone so heavy and out of shape.
The guard, Phil Knowland, pushed open the store’s door and almost knocked over a stand of newspapers. One stack fell to the floor. He ignored it and walked to the counter.
“Two cartons, slime,” he said. “And here’s a little love note for you.”
“Be nice to know who my suitor is,” Dimmock replied.
“Don’t get your nose in this. It’s liable to get cut off.”
“What you make on the smokes?”
“None of your damned business what I do with these, sleaze.”
Knowland paid and left, stepping on the papers on the floor. Dimmock read the tiny folded scrap of paper: “Cabin = Ashes.”
“Somebody’s going to get burned out,” he said to himself. He tapped a text message into his cell phone to a number he was supposed to send these messages to and sent it. Then bent over to pick up the newspapers, The weekly Courier, special edition. He looked at the headline. Okay, they’re on Jesse again, he thought. I’ll read this later. He stuck the scrap of paper in his pocket. Keepsakes, he mused. Bliss McConkey pulled up in an old Honda and parked.
“About time,” Dimmock said when she entered, thin, heavily made up, in jeans and a red blouse, hair dyed black, 60 years old, always late.
“Car’s screwed up,” she said. “I had to get somebody in the trailer park to give me a jump.”
“Log in. I’m going out back to eat my lunch.”
Dimmock unwrapped his sandwich, took a bottle of cola from a case, and sat at a small metal desk. He looked at the inset photos on the front page of the weekly. Earle, Alicia Lys, Gil Stephens, with a patch on his eye, Helen Rice, the namelines read. Two stories about Earle, one on suspicions he’s operating schemes from inside Seneca Lake prison, the other about attacks on the other three, with the idea that Earle might be behind them.
“Old Jesse’s gonna be pissed off about this,” he uttered.
Wait a minute, he thought. That’s Alicia, the lady who used to bring meals to that guy in the wheelchair who lives in the single-wide up the hill. She’d stop in here for coffee. Nice looking. He read on.
“There’s been attacks on the old guy’s cabin,” he said. “Holy shit.”
He looked at the scrap of paper again. “Cabin = Ashes.”
Dimmock stood up. Crap. I’m in the middle of this, he thought. And I just got the letter with the 25 bucks in cash to relay the messages. That fat guard’s mixed up in it, too. And he knows it. And they’re aiming to burn down the guy’s cabin. What the hell do I do now?