Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Sapphire Coffee Shop, Ketchum, Idaho

   Cannon and Nicky walked to the nearby Sapphire Coffee Shop and found a corner table, ordering large coffees. A pert Latina was attending the shop and went back to her cell phone after serving them.There was  a middle-aged couple huddled at a small table whispering.
   Nicky and Cannon sipped their coffees and Nicky explained she had come to Ketchum for a season of skiing at Sun Valley. She was from Florida, had just finished college at Gainsville and was contemplating law school, but wanted a year off There was also a broken romance, but Nicky's voice trailed off and she left it at that.
   "What about you? Some kind of jock?"
   Cannon laughed and explained that he had played football at Vanderbilt, done quite well to start. Then in his sophomore year during the second game against Ol Miss he was popped hard by an Ol Miss safety. His knee went out. Season over; career finished.
   Nicky nodded. "And now you do what?"
   "Telecoms business, I'm the Western Region Representative and I scout for tower sites. I had hoped for a career in the pros, but here I am with my cell phone and GPS."
   Nicky smiled.
   "At least I was knocked out by a star; the guy who ruined my knee was Deshone Jefferson, now a pro bowl guy. He plays with the Cleveland Browns."
   Nicky slapped her forehead. "The Browns! We are die-hard Browns fans. My family came from Cleveland. Can any team be more hapless this year? They are 0 and 4 and well on their way to a 0-16 season.
  Cannon laughed. "I'm happy Deshone is playing for such a loser."
  Nicky shook her head. "The Browns need some magic. I mean voodoo magic!"
  And that was when the idea struck Cannon. He sat back in his chair as a plan popped into his head.
   "What?" Nicky asked, noticing his sudden change of expression.
   "You gave me an idea, but I need to sleep on it."
   "The Browns?" Nicky asked.
    At that moment, the entrance door flew open; a cold wind blew through the store and a shrill voice trilled: "This is the greatest day of your lives. I regret it's also the last day of your lives." And the man cackled.
   Nicky grabbed Cannon's arm. "Oh God, it is Billy Winn!"
   Cannon looked at the threatening figure who had burst through the doorway. Billy Winn was medium height and pudgy, with a round face and a scruffy beard, thinning hair, wild blue eyes. His "Gators" ball cap was skewed to the side and in his right hand, he waved a small automatic, which he pointed at Nicky.
   "And darling, the first bullet has your name on it." Billy Winn said to Nicky, cocking the gun.
   Nicky shrank back and Cannon sat very still, his mind racing. His instinct told him Billy Winn was Florida money, not hick, but dangerous money.
   Billy Winn looked at the Latina who was staring at the cellphone on the counter, and he shook the gun at her. Then Billy glanced at the middle-aged couple, who were clutching hands and trying to shrink into the wall. No problem there.
   Billy waved the gun around, then pointed it back at Nicky. "Look at my fiance. She is in town a week and already bedding the local stud." Billy lamented.
   Billy steadied the gun and raised his hand, inching closer to Nicky. He shook his head, tears welled in his eyes. "I'm not sharing my love, so..."
   Cannon put out his hands and motioned with his right hand. Billy Winn froze, his mouth open, the gun pointed at Nicky. The Latina was caught leaning toward her cell phone; the loving couple were pressed into the plaster, as if hoping to come out on the other side.
   Cannon quickly got up and went to Billy Winn, taking the gun and putting it in his pocket, then patting Billy to be sure he did not have a second gun. He then returned to the table with Nicky. Cannon motioned with his left hand and the scene came alive.
   Billy was sputtering," now."
   But Billy seemed to have lost his train of thought; he pointed his empty hand at Nicky's head and flexed his trigger finger. Nothing happened. No gun. Billy's eyes went wide as he saw the gun had disappeared. He stood there sputtering, his mouth working. He looked down on the floor, behind him for his gun, then under the nearby table. He searched his pockets to no avail.
    The Latina was clutching her cellphone, the moonstruck couple stared
    Billy backed toward the door, his pasty face was terrified. "You're all demons!" He raged, then turned and raced out of the door and without looking ran across Fourth Street as a Lincoln Navigator full of partying Boise State fans came around the  corner and broadsided Billy, sending him flying 30 feet down to the corner of Fourth and Main.
    The Latina talked excitedly on her phone; the spooning couple got up and slipped away into the night. Cannon and Nicky walked through the crowd to the corner crash scene. Billy Winn was sprawled lifeless on Main Street. The police were preoccupied with the drunks in the Navigator. Cannon and Nicky agreed tacitly to walk on by.
    "I'll  see you home." Cannon offered. " You and Billy Winn?"
    Nicky shook her head. "I don't want to talk about it. A foolish love gone wrong."
    She directed Cannon to the other side of Main, not far from the base of Bald Mountain where she rented an apartment in "The Pink House", a lovely old Victorian painted a mellow pink with rust trim.
   They stood at Nicky's private entrance. Nicky gave Cannon her card..."in case you want to rent something. I am the one to see."
   Cannon put her card in his pocket. "Before Billy barged in on us, you gave me an idea. If it works out, you will definitely read about it."
   Nicky cocked her head.
   "Not yet, the idea needs work." Cannon said.
   Nicky reached up and kissed Cannon on the cheek. "Thanks," Nicky said, "I'm vague on what happened back there, but you or something saved me a lot of grief."
   Cannon nodded as Nicky disappeared inside her apartment. He walked back to Main to find his SUV which was parked on a side street. He paused to cross the street, glancing at the Sun Valley Courtesy Bus in front of him, which was a handsome 1930s style bus painted forest green with wood paneling. A woman was looking out at him from one of the bus windows. Cannon gasped. She had raven hair, high cheekbones, a wide mouth, and glittering green eyes. It was Mary Jane Taylor.
   Mary Jane was the keeper of the little girl Radika. And it was Radika who had bloodied Cannon at the little schoolhouse on the prairie, tasting his blood and infecting him, passing to him his strange new power. Mary Jane gave Cannon a sly smile from the bus window, then raised her right hand as if in greeting.
   Cannon suddenly felt his limbs grow heavy, rooted to the sidewalk. Then the bus pulled away and Mary Jane looked back at him, raising her left hand in a dainty wave. Cannon felt his body relax and his feeling returned. He felt a chill run down his spine as the bus roared down Main and turned on Warm Springs Road.
   Was Mary Jane following him? If so, what did Mary Jane want?

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