Despite the brat keeping her promise, Flag had been unable to sleep. The awareness of a familiar stranger in his room mingled with his regular series of unsettling dreams and left him lying awake for uncomfortable stretches of time. When the sky had started to turn blue, he had given up the fight to suspend consciousness and decided to go ahead and set out on the task he volunteered for.
Scott's Square Truck Stop was exactly as advertised; a small square building in Logansport where people could stop to fuel their vehicles and pick up whatever they needed for their trip. The car needed gas and he needed bagels.
By the time that he had returned to the street in Burrows, the sun had managed to break past the horizon. It was still early, but Leonard was a morning person, which he hoped would work to his advantage today.
He rapped on the door to the little book shop. "Hey Leo. I brought you a bagel."
He was greeted with silence, to which he responded by knocking again.
This time he heard movement inside the shop; distant at first but then just on the other side of the door. "Two bagels, actually."
"I told you to leave."
"I did. I came back... with bagels."
A long silence, followed by "what kind?"
"Damnit. Come in."
Flag could hear the locks sliding open and he shook his head. As the previous night indicated, the locks could be the most amazing door guards in the world, but if the windows were unprotected, they did no good.
"What was that last night?" The shopkeeper inquired as he let his associate in.
"My business, as you stated." Flag sighed.
"Then why are you here?" The shopkeeper eyed him as he pulled the first bagel out of the bag.
"Forgot my bone folder."
"You know that you can buy those anywhere, right?"
"Yes and 'anywhere' happens to be over an hour away. You're right here."
"Yeah yeah. Get it and go."
Flag left the man to his breakfast and stepped into the back room where his scuffle with Neb took place. Nothing was out of place, which meant Leonard had gone through and sorted it all out, but the smell of the girl's smoke bombs lingered.
She had mentioned that she had dropped a taser, but he couldn't see where. Probably Leo's by now, he mused and made his way over to the queue shelves, where he would have realistically left the folder had he not already stuffed it into his satchel.
There sat the million-dollar book with the scratched and bent cover that wound up being the cause of this whole mess. It was large, but thin and in a single, fluid movement, it was removed from the shelf. He tucked it into the back of his pants, under the suspender straps he had worn just for the task, so that it sat flush against his back and was invisible when he adjusted his dark t-shirt over it.
He then pulled the piece of bone used for folding paper from the top of his boot and returned to the little room at the front of the shop, where he held it up. "Thanks Leo. See ya whenever."
The man waved him off between bites, completely unaware that he had just been robbed.
* * *
Neb had slept soundly at first, but then the dreams came, building in violence like storm clouds until they pushed her awake. She’d open her eyes, make sense of her surroundings, check to see where Flag was in relation to herself, then go back to sleep, until after several turns of this she woke to find him gone.
“What the hell?” she mumbled as she shambled across the room to the window. His belongings were still there, so he couldn’t have gone far. Then she froze.
He didn’t go out and get the f*cking thing now, did he?
The man Flag had described Leonard to be was meticulous with his books and was sure to notice one that valuable missing. She didn’t want to be around when he did.
“F*cking Flag what the f*ck, man, you couldn’t give me a warning?” She swore under her breath as she threw her clothes on. Then she went to the door, but paused, conflicted. The man wasn’t stupid, but he wasn’t necessarily on her side, either.
After five minutes of agonizing debate and much more swearing, the woman returned to the couch to wait.
* * *
Flag parked his car around the front of the BnB so that he could check out with the owners and deposit the keys. He then went around back and barged into the room where he left Neb to sleep
"Good. You're up. Time to go."
“He’s not out there with his shotgun, is he?” She asked flatly as she went to the door.
"Yes and he brought his army with him." He stated as he shut the door behind them. There was nobody outside but an elderly woman walking a dog down the street.
He led Neb to where he parked his car and opened a door for her. "What cornfield did you park your bike in?"
“The one closest to here. Like, pretty much over there.” She gestured to a field across the street. “I could just walk, provided Leonard isn’t a problem.” She paused to catch his eye. “Is there any reason why Leonard might suddenly become a problem?”
He shrugged with one hand as he leaned on the car door. "I suppose that would depend on how fast he eats."
Flag's unusually light mood turned heavy as he considered Neb's words. She had offered him payment for the book he pilfered, but as he thought it over, he realized he didn't want money. He wanted something more personal. "I'd like my journal back."
She smiled briefly as she put together he’d done, then frowned at his demand.
“I don’t exactly have that on me,” She said as she glanced at the entrance of the bookstore. Much as she hated to leave the book, there was no time to debate this change of payment and no way she could fight him for it. With a sigh she opened her wallet and handed him a business card for a New Age healer. “If you want it, you’re going to have to come to my apartment in San Francisco.”
Flag looked at the card, looked back at Neb, looked at the card, and looked back at her. He then shook his head and pocketed it, laughing with only his eyes as he pushed the passenger door shut. He didn't like the idea of being in ACME's shadow, but the venue was absurd enough to be beneath their watch. "Fine. I'll see you there in 4 days."
TO BE CONTINUED!
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