Midnight Crossroad Page 35

’’Though,’’ Fiji said, raising her voice, ’’he doesn\'t deserve it! After talking to that woman!’’

’’She stepped on my tail,’’ a muffled voice called back, and Bobo laughed.

Manfred reflected that all the inhabitants of Midnight had accepted the news that Mr. Snuggly could talk with remarkable equanimity. Even Bobo, who was the most unmagical person Manfred could imagine, had come to take the cat\'s conversation for granted after a day or two of expressing wonder. And the death of Connor had become part of the life of the town. It was never mentioned. Only the Reeds had expressed shock and amazement at Connor\'s confession and the vanishing act of Shawn Lovell. Teacher was working full-time at Gas N Go, according to written instructions left by Shawn, until he could sell the convenience store. And Teacher seemed very happy with that, though Madonna was predictably grumpy.

The town had closed over the Lovells\' sudden absence.

All in all, Manfred realized as he sipped a beer, he\'d had an amazing time of it since he\'d moved to Midnight. He felt more and more at home. As the beer took hold, Manfred found himself wondering if his selection of Midnight had been predestination? Fate? Chance? Manfred couldn\'t decide and wasn\'t sure he needed to. But he still regretted Creek\'s abrupt departure. He withdrew into himself a little as he thought of her, letting the conversation of his new friends wash over him.

Bobo stood up, so quickly it startled everyone in the room. The silence that fell jolted Manfred out of his reverie.

’’What\'s up?’’ he asked, thinking he\'d missed a cue.

’’I have no idea,’’ Joe said. ’’Bobo?’’

’’I have something to show you all,’’ he said. ’’And I\'m going to do it now while I still have the courage.’’

’’Where?’’ Fiji said. ’’If it\'s far, I\'m going to put on my sneakers.’’

’’Across the street. In the shop.’’

’’Okay, just wait a sec.’’ Fiji hauled herself up, wincing as she walked back to her room carrying the boots that had given her such grief. Very shortly she returned, still in her black costume but with battered Pumas on her feet. ’’I\'m ready,’’ she said, and they all got up. Manfred didn\'t know how the others felt, but he was kind of worried and kind of excited.

They trailed after Bobo as he crossed to Midnight Pawn. Instead of going up to the door to the stairs to his apartment, he went through the main door to the pawnshop. Olivia was sitting in Bobo\'s favorite chair, and Lemuel was behind the counter reading a tattered book. They both looked very surprised that Midnight was coming to the shop.

’’We\'ve had no customers,’’ Lemuel said. ’’And it\'s been a slow night in every respect.’’

’’Looks like you had a crowd over there,’’ Olivia said to Fiji. ’’Did everyone have a good time?’’

’’Yes,’’ Fiji said, but not as if she were paying attention to what she was saying. ’’Bobo says he has a surprise for us.’’

’’Really?’’ Olivia stared at Bobo. ’’I thought we\'d kind of had our fill of surprises.’’

He laughed. ’’You may like this one. I don\'t know.’’

He walked toward the back of the shop, pulling some keys out of his pocket as he went. When he got to the storage closet, he unlocked the padlock, then the dead bolt, and opened the door.

Manfred first noticed all the televisions on the shelves, maybe thirty plus a small locked case full of guns and jewelry. And there was a shelf of power tools and appliances.

’’That\'s a lot of TVs,’’ he said. ’’But surely that\'s not the surprise?’’

’’That\'s not the surprise. Those are just the first things people think of pawning.’’ Bobo went down the narrow corridor between the shelves to arrive at a wall at the back. It would have been a good place to put some extra shelves, now that Aubrey\'s boxes were gone.

’’What are you doing?’’ Lemuel said.

To Manfred, the vampire sounded not only surprised, but unhappy.

’’I found this,’’ Bobo said, looking over his shoulder at them. He was not-quite smiling. ’’It made me feel like the shop was the right investment.’’ He reached up high he was the only one of them who could stretch that far and lifted up the corner of an old heat register. It was in a dark corner, and it had looked for all the world like it screwed firmly into the wall. Bobo\'s fingers, fully extended, pressed something inside the aperture, and there was an audible mechanical noise. Somewhere, parts had worked together.

Bobo pressed the wall, and it folded back.

’’Jesus God,’’ said Chuy. Bobo reached in to pull a chain hanging from the ceiling, and a bare bulb lit up the closet, which measured about four feet by three feet.

It was full of guns, rifles, grenades, ammunition. Those were the things Manfred could recognize. There were things he couldn\'t.

’’You had them all along,’’ Olivia said, after a shocked silence.

’’You had them all along,’’ Fiji echoed.

Olivia sounded admiring. Fiji sounded angry.

Manfred had to bite his lip to keep himself from saying the same damn thing.

’’Well,’’ Joe said. He took Chuy\'s hand. ’’I guess we didn\'t know you as well as we thought we did.’’

39

Bobo felt terrible. He ran his fingers through his hair and looked down at the floor for a minute, gathering his thoughts. ’’I never wanted anyone to use them,’’ he said, trying to explain. ’’And I never wanted law enforcement to have them, because that would mean it was for sure that my grandfather had done more terrible stuff than he was even charged with.’’ He sighed, and the big intake and exhalation of breath helped him steady his voice. ’’Mostly, I didn\'t want any right-wing militia types to use them, and I didn\'t want anyone else to know about them. I\'d rented a storage unit under another name in Oklahoma. I left them there for a long time, making sure to keep my payments up. But when I came here, and it felt so so doable . . . I knew I could learn the business, and Lemuel didn\'t throw me any . . .’’

’’How did you find the secret closet?’’ Lemuel asked, and he didn\'t sound happy.

’’I just held my hand up to see if warm air was coming out. You remember, I moved here in the cold weather, in November. I was taking inventory in here, and I thought it felt kind of cold, and I thought it was strange since there was a heat register in here, and then I thought it was strange that it was way up there, and then I started fooling around with it . . .’’

’’What was in here, instead of the guns?’’ Olivia nodded her head toward the guns.

’’Just some old books. I carried them up to my apartment and hid them in that old TV console that I have under the front windows.’’

’’Old books,’’ Lemuel said, as if he couldn\'t believe it. ’’The old books I\'ve been looking for, all these years.’’

’’Seriously? If I\'d known, I would have told you,’’ Bobo said, honestly surprised. I found something a vampire didn\'t find, he told himself, and tried not to smile.

’’And you went to get the rifles?’’ Joe said.

’’Yeah, I took a Sunday and Monday and drove over to load them up. I sweated bullets all the way back, thinking a state trooper would stop me and find all those guns.’’ He looked at Fiji. ’’Hey. Sweated bullets?’’

’’I got it,’’ Fiji said, with half of an unhappy smile.

He was used to Fiji giving him the full smile, all the wattage. He knew he\'d screwed up. ’’Okay, I get that I should have told you all either before this or never,’’ he said. ’’I just couldn\'t take the secrets anymore. My grandfather was a shitty human being. I hate that the world knows our family as the kind of people who think bombing a church is a good idea. I hate having a secret to keep. Since I realized what a what kind of person he was, I\'ve lived to refute that.’’

’’I understand,’’ Joe said. He turned to look at his partner. ’’You, Chuy?’’

’’I\'m having to rearrange the way I think about you,’’ Chuy admitted. ’’But I understand why you hid all this stuff. This is what everyone\'s looking for?’’

’’Yeah. This pile of rifles and guns and the other stuff. This is what everyone is looking for.’’

’’Hard to believe,’’ Manfred said.

Bobo wasn\'t sure what he meant. Did his tenant mean that the fact that Bobo had the guns after all was hard to believe? Or the fact that people would go to such lengths to acquire a secret cache of weapons that wasn\'t nearly as fabulous as it was reputed to be? ’’I think it was just . . . these aren\'t any different from rifles and guns you can buy anywhere,’’ he said hesitantly. ’’It\'s just the legend around them. And the fact that they\'d be hard to trace, or at least not as quick to trace as guns stolen from Walmart or Jack\'s Outdoor Center.’’ Looking around, he didn\'t see any faces that weren\'t displeased or outright unhappy.

His back straightened, and he lifted his head. ’’So, if you\'re going to come back at me on this, say so now.’’

The little crowd in front of him looked back at him. Fiji said, ’’Bobo, you did what you had to do, and it\'s a family matter. I\'m not telling anyone. It\'s none of my business.’’

He\'d known he could count on her. She\'d never let him down.

Olivia said, ’’I\'ll sleep better knowing that I can bring down Armageddon if I have to.’’ She smiled at him.

’’I would only like to see the books,’’ Lemuel said next. ’’I have to recover my pride somehow. I was too short to reach the grille and too dated to ask myself why the room wasn\'t warmer.’’

Chuy said, ’’Joe and I will not tell anyone.’’ But he didn\'t add anything else, and Bobo knew they were both disappointed in him.

Manfred said, ’’I\'d much rather they were here than in the possession of assholes like that Price Eggleston. And I\'d like to know how you feel, Fiji. About letting Price off the kidnapping hook.’’

Bobo blessed Manfred for diverting attention away from him. Everyone had had his or her say on the matter, and his secret was safe. And now, if something happened to him, everything in the closet would be taken care of in some way. He knew his friends would dispose of them wisely.

Fiji leaned against Chuy\'s free side, and he put his arm around her. ’’It\'s the price I\'m going to pay to keep the sheriff from coming to my door, asking how I came to freeze three people in position for an undetermined amount of time. I got away. They won\'t do it again. Mamie and Bart weren\'t a part of my abduction, though they would have covered for their son . . . but I get that. Price is the dangerous one, at least to me, and I\'m pretty sure he won\'t be back. Especially now that I know he didn\'t kill Aubrey.’’

’’But will he start up his group again?’’ Manfred said.

Bobo shrugged. ’’I don\'t know. That\'s beyond me. I think we\'ve done all we can. We can\'t stop extremists from spreading their propaganda. We can\'t kill everyone who attacks us, as much as we might want to.’’ His eyes slewed to Lemuel and Olivia. ’’And, as Fiji says . . . we know he didn\'t kill Aubrey.’’

’’And none of us figured that out, either,’’ Joe said, his voice very sad. ’’I should have seen it.’’

There was a long, hushed moment, as they all looked back, trying to think of some signal Connor had given, some wave he\'d sent off, that they should have been able to receive and decode.

’’Well, I\'m a witch,’’ said Fiji briskly. ’’And I didn\'t pick up a damn thing. Great-Aunt Mildred would be ashamed of me. My guess is that Connor never thought of what he did as wrong, so he gave off no guilt. I\'m giving myself a pass on that one. And now I\'m going home to put away the food and fall into bed.’’ She did not look at anyone as she left, and Bobo knew he had fences to mend.

Olivia and Lemuel resumed their seats in the pawnshop waiting for whatever business would come. Olivia usually retired about one in the morning, leaving Lemuel to have some alone time. ’’Tonight it might be later,’’ she murmured to Manfred. ’’Lem will want to talk about the books, I suppose.’’

Joe and Chuy left after murmuring, ’’Good night,’’ to everyone. Once they were outside, Joe slung his arm around Chuy, and the two walked home together in perfect harmony. They saw the Rev walking to his own home across the street, and they inclined their heads to him.

Once Bobo was up in his apartment, he looked out his front window, standing at the old console he\'d rescued from the back of the pawnshop. He\'d sanded it down and refinished it before installing some shelves inside for the books he\'d planned on reading when he\'d moved to such a very quiet place. Instead, he\'d begun downloading what he wanted to read onto an e-reader or ordering special favorites from a bookstore in Houston. And that had worked out fine, because the space in the console was perfect for the books he\'d removed from the secret closet. They were an unappealing lot. He was sure that if Lem was interested in them, they were not wholesome novels.

For the first time, as Bobo squatted to open the door and look inside, he wondered if he hadn\'t exchanged one secret for another. But the musty old books were so worn you couldn\'t even read the titles on the spines, and he had no desire whatsoever to open one of them. He shut the door and stood, looking out the window once again. As he watched, Fiji\'s yard lights went off and then the lights in her big front room. After a moment, the only light showing was shining softly onto the ground at the right rear of the house, Fiji\'s bedroom. All the lights at the Wedding Chapel and Pet Cemetery were off. The Rev had gone home to bed in the little house no one had ever entered.


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