Silas awoke as Adelaide shifted in his arms. She had heard a sound, but it apparently wasn’t ominous as she settled back against him. It didn’t matter, the damage was done and he was awake, and he shifted in the blankets and looked at the shelter around him. It had stood up fairly well through the night, and the wind that had picked up later had not gotten through the tarp he had laid over the structure and weighted down with heavy stones on the outside. The night had been cold, but between his blankets and Adelaide he had hardly felt it.
He shifted and Adelaide perked up again, standing and stretching as she waited for him to do the same. He smiled at her and moved the blankets aside, and then immediately began folding his blankets to put them away. He always made sure to pack up his entire camp and taking all of his things with him if he was planning on leaving it during the day. He had learned the hard way that anything he left lying around could be stolen by a hiker. It was better to be safe and avoid that possibility entirely.
Over the night he had wrestled with whether or not he would venture into town for the three-o-clock appointment with Chelsea. She had seemed nice and sincere in her desire to get to know him better, but there remained that sinking suspicion that his brother was still looking for him, and . . .
Was that really a bad thing? Silas wondered as he slid his blankets into this backpack. Although he still resented his brother for leaving and never trying to contact him, he was also the only person in town who had a possibility of understanding exactly where he had come from. The possibility of having someone to talk to who knew his parents for who they were was something that he was intrigued by, though he wasn’t sure he could face the fear within him that Ian would just abandon him again.
The next few hours were spent inspecting the snares he had laid out the night before and setting a few new ones. He hadn’t caught anything yet, though one of his traps was missing the small bit of food he had left for bait. He growled in frustration as he realized that he had set the trap too hastily and forgotten an important step in the middle. He couldn’t afford to make those mistakes; there wasn’t enough bait to go around for him to have traps fail. Not unless he had access to a food source that could replenish his stock without much cost.
Which brought his thoughts back to Ian, and the diner which could easily provide him with a small bit of food that could help him catch any amount of small game that he desired. All he had to decide was whether or not it was worth the risk of trusting his brother. Even one meal with sufficient leftovers to attract a few small animals would give him all he’d need to survive for a week or two, and that would be all the time he’d require to ensure that the cops weren’t still looking for him.
If there were even cops at all. He didn’t know how Ian had reacted beyond chasing him down the street. He didn’t know anything at all really, and that was the biggest problem he was facing. He needed more information before he could make his decision about whether or not to confront Ian, but that meant going into town. That meant the possibility of running into Ian before he was ready to do so. He had to be ready to run at a moment’s notice if things went wrong, and that would be easier if he packed light. He had managed to outrun Ian once before, but he had been fueled by pure fear then; he wasn’t sure that he would have the same result if the situation were to arise a second time.
“Addy, come here,” Silas said as he knelt against the cold ground. She came over and licked his face and then sat down in front of him, waiting for him to speak again. Silas eyed his pack and then her and said something he had never said before, hoping that she’d understand. “I need you to stay when I walk into town. Do you understand? I need you to watch our stuff.”
Adelaide barked when he finished speaking, but Silas didn’t know how to take the reaction. He wasn’t sure that she understood, and he had no way to tell for certain unless she actually stayed when he left. He stood and started walking toward the stream and the game trail that led away from the camp, and Adelaide fell into step beside him. When he turned to regard her she barked at him and ran back to his pack, barking again.
“Stay,” Silas commanded firmly but patiently. He then turned back to the stream and stepped up onto the first stone that would lead him across and heard Adelaide running across the ground toward him. He turned back toward her, shifting his balance on the stone. She turned and ran back to the pack, barking several times.
He sighed and hopped back to the bank and walked toward his pack before picking it up and sliding it over his shoulders. “All right, sorry for forgetting my pack,” he said with a grin as he crouched and pet the back of her head. “I suppose you’re coming then. I guess I can’t have it any other way, huh?”
Adelaide barked again and Silas shook his head, wondering if she had actually understood him and simply refused to obey his order of leaving her behind. As he looked into her loyal eyes, however, he realized that he had been foolish to try. She would never let him leave without her.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The trek into town was slower than leaving it had been the day before. He took the time to memorize the path completely, setting mental landmarks that he could use to help find his way back to his shelter. He made sure to use landmarks that would still be visible in the dark or in a storm, though he hoped he never had to deal with the former. Everything looked different in the dark, and though he did have a flashlight that was powered by kinetic energy, he knew a light on the mountainside could also attract attention that he wouldn’t want.
Eventually he made it back to the dirt road that led into town and looked down at his watch. It was one in the afternoon, and he still had to make it to Main and Third, an address he knew nothing about. He assumed that Main Street would be near the center of town, and would head in that direction until he came across a business where he could ask for directions.
With it being the middle of the day on a Wednesday, he didn’t see many people outside in their yards other than a few women who were doing some early spring planting. Most of them ignored him, though he did catch a few glances while he was walking. Only one woman really watched him for long, and he waved and smiled at her and she smirked before going back to work in her flower beds. He shook his head and continued without giving the exchange another thought.
At least until he heard a vehicle slow down behind him, and he turned slowly to see a police car approaching him at a crawl. His heart began to race as he considered his next plan of action carefully. He didn’t know how he had failed to pay close enough attention to his surroundings not to notice the car when it was further down the road, but that didn’t change what the situation was. He played it cool and kept walking, not planning on giving the officer any extra reasons to talk to him by arousing suspicion.
The cop pulled up alongside him and stopped, the window rolled down so that the officer could speak to him, and he turned to regard the driver of the car with a neutral expression, though he prepared himself mentally to run if he had to. He doubted that he would get away, but he’d rather do anything than end up sitting in a cell and have the police look into his affairs.
“Excuse me, sir?” The officer said, looking at him over the top of her sunglasses. Her blonde hair was pulled up into a bun, and though he couldn’t see her eyes directly he could feel the intensity of her gaze. Silas stopped and glanced down at Adelaide who looked ready to leap to his defense, sensing his tension.
“Yes, ma’am?” Silas said calmly. “What can I do for you?”
“Are you aware that your dog needs to be on a leash?” She asked stoically.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. No, I didn’t,” Silas replied as some of the tension left him. “My family and I just got here, I’m afraid. We’re renting a cabin for the spring,” he explained with a shrug. “I don’t even own a leash for her; she’s very well trained.”
“I can see that she doesn’t even have a collar,” the officer said with a half-smile. “See that you get a leash on her as quickly as possible. Since you’re new in town, I’ll just let you off with a warning today. There’s a pet store on Fourth Avenue, between Chester Lane and Oak Shadows Drive.”
“Um, thanks,” Silas said nervously. “And how do I get there again?”
The officer smiled crookedly and replied, “I suppose if you’re new in town then none of that means anything to you, huh?” Silas shook his head and she continued, “Chester Lane is a few blocks straight ahead. Take a right and keep going until you hit Fifth. Take a left and the store will be about three fourths of the way down the road.”
“Thanks,” Silas said with a nod and looked down at Adelaide, “I’ll make sure we take care of it as soon as I can get down there.”
“You’re welcome,” the officer replied casually. “Now, as to the main reason why I stopped you . . .” Silas’s heart skipped a beat as he turned toward her nervously. “A woman called a little while back and said that there was a suspicious stranger walking around with a dog, and I came to check it out. I’m going to assume that you haven’t lied to me, and that you’re really who you say you are, since you seem like a good kid, aren’t you?”
He was being condescended to; being treated like a child. He hated being treated like a child, but at least the irritation made his nervousness go away. He smiled sweetly back at her and nodded though he was gritting his teeth behind the mask of politeness. “I suppose so,” Silas replied with a shrug, “I mean, I try to stay out of trouble.
“What’s your name, kid?” She asked with a maternal smile.
Silas was about to say Drake, but on the risk that his brother was well known or had said anything to the police he thought better of it and answered, “Silas, ma’am.”
“Silas?” The officer echoed and Silas nodded. “That’s not all that common of a name around here. It’s Biblical, isn’t it?”
Silas shrugged and looked her straight in the eye, “I’m not much of a churchgoer, ma’am. My parents raised me homeschooled,” He lied. “And although they did teach from the Bible sometimes, I can say that my education hasn’t always gone that deep into it. My parents named me Silas because they liked the name. That’s all they’ve ever said.” The latter part of his explanation was true, at least as far as he knew it to be. His parents had never said where they had gotten the name, though he knew he had a great uncle with the same name. He had never bothered to ask them where they had gotten it from.
“Well, you just make sure you stay out of trouble, Silas,” the officer replied pointing a long finger at him. “We don’t appreciate troublemakers in our town, so try not to scare the women when they’re gardening. I was going to ask why you weren’t in school, either, but you said you were homeschooled?”
“Yes, but I’m eighteen,” Silas offered, and then nearly winced as he realized that he was practically asking for her to check his identification. He repressed a sigh of relief as she simply gave him an appraising look and then nodded.
“Well, even if you are, that’s all the more reason to stay out of trouble,” She said with a knowing smirk. “The law is harder on you as an adult, you know. Have a good day, kid.” Without another word the car started moving and Silas watched until it turned a corner in the distance and disappeared.
He shook his head and looked down at Adelaide who growled at the distant vehicle until it was out of sight. “That was annoying, wasn’t it, Addy?” Silas asked with a roll of his eyes. “Looks like we’re going to have to put you on a leash. Are you still sure you wouldn’t have preferred remaining at the camp?”
Adelaide looked at him with innocent eyes and then started walking down the sidewalk in the direction they had been headed before. She looked back several feet later as if asking if he were coming. Silas laughed and walked forward until he was once again the one leading the way.
Although the policewoman’s interaction with him wasn’t the highlight of his life, he had at least gained one thing from the conversation. She had given him a perspective on how the town was laid out, and he assumed that if he found Fifth Avenue he could easily find Third. Plus, while he was inside the pet shop buying a leash and collar for Adelaide he could ask for directions to Third and Main.
He followed the directions to the pet shop diligently, and found it easily. Iggy’s Critters was a small shop with a puppy cage set in front of the large window painted with green letters that spelled the store’s name. The name was repeated on the door to the shop, where there was also an open sign that displayed the store’s hours. Silas opened the door and then turned to Adelaide and commanded her to stay before stepping inside.
Adelaide settled on the sidewalk and Silas looked around the shop for any sign of the items he had been told to acquire. There were cages and terrariums that held puppies, kittens, and reptiles in the first part of the store, and further back he could see several large aquariums for fish. Looking down the aisle in front of him he saw a cash register with several items on the wall behind it, and he made his way in that direction, which quickly became obvious as the correct way to go when a man in his mid-twenties wearing a baseball cap and three days of brown scruff on his chin stepped up to the register and looked at him expectantly.
“Can I help you?” The man asked as Silas approached. Silas looked down and saw that the man had a nametag that read ‘Adam: Pet Expert’. He stopped in front of the counter and saw that behind the register were an assortment of collars and leashes for both dogs and cats, and he realized that with his lack of experience in buying collars for Adelaide he’d probably need her there in order to find the right size.
“Um, is it okay if I bring my dog in here so that I can find the right size of collar?” Silas asked, glancing at the rack and shaking his head. He was completely out of his element. Adelaide had never worn a leash before, and he had never put a collar on her. The one collar she had worn when they were at home she had slipped out of the night she followed him. It was the only way she had been able to get away.
Adam’s features softened and he smiled at Silas, “Why don’t we both go out there and measure her neck? I’m sure she’s well-behaved, but I don’t want her to disturb the other animals. They’re easily spooked.”
“That makes sense,” Silas said, nodding as he looked Adam in the eye. The icy blue he saw there unnerved him for some reason, though the smile seemed genuine. Adam nodded and grabbed a measuring tape from the counter and started coming around. Silas turned and began walking toward the door, though he had the distinct impression that he was being checked out from behind as he walked.
Silas opened the door and stepped outside, and Adam brushed against him as he moved past to smile down at Adelaide. The bodily contact seemed intentional, as Silas had left him with more than enough room to get past, and there was no longer any doubt about the impression that Adam was trying to give him as he turned back to Silas with twinkling eyes and said, “I love dogs, what’s her name?”
“Adelaide,” Silas replied with only a moment of hesitation.
Adam stuck his hand out for Adelaide to get his scent before petting the back of her head and looking back at Silas. “That’s an interesting name. What does it mean?”
“It’s the name of an Anberlin song,” Silas explained casually. “They were my favorite band when she joined the family, and since she’s my dog . . .”
“I get it. That’s as good a way as any to name a dog,” Adam said with a chuckle. “I’m going to measure your neck now, Adelaide,” he continued as he showed her the measuring tape. Adelaide looked up at Silas questioningly and he nodded, and she didn’t flinch as Adam reached around her neck and found her measurement.
Adam stood and looked back at Silas and asked, “How’d you even get her here? The cops cracked down on strays like crazy over the past few months, ever since they passed that ordinance about dogs being kept on leashes.”
“I was actually stopped this morning while we were on a walk,” Silas replied cautiously. “When I told the officer that I was new in town and didn’t know about the law, she let me off with a warning and gave me directions to your store.”
Adam smirked at that news and then held the door for Silas to head back inside. Silas turned toward Adelaide again and repeated his earlier command for her to stay before stepping back inside the pet shop. Adam stepped in after him and let the door close slowly before walking around Silas, again brushing against him more than he needed to.
“My lucky day, I suppose,” Adam said with a wink. “The cops are boosting my business, I guess. Well, not my business but if Iggy doesn’t get paid, I don’t get paid.”
Silas nodded as he followed Adam back to the counter and Adam began looking through the collars that hung on the other side. “What color would you like? We’ve got brown, black, or red in her size. And do you need a leash?”
“Yes to the leash and I think we’ll do brown. I’d rather have it blend into her fur than not,” Silas replied.
Adam nodded and selected a collar and leash and set them down on the counter before ringing in the items on the cash register. Silas watched as the total came up on the display, and he groaned inwardly as he pulled out his wallet, knowing already that he didn’t have enough.
“That will be thirty-two ninety-five,” Adam said with a casual smile, and then he saw Silas wince and said. “Um, you do have money, don’t you?”
“Do you think the police will take her if I don’t get a leash?” Silas asked as he opened his wallet to confirm his suspicions. There was a twenty and a one dollar bill inside, with an assortment of change. He might have had enough for another dollar with the coins, but definitely not enough to make up the difference in the bill.
“They aren’t very good at giving third chances, no, and you’re already on your second,” Adam replied. “Why, you don’t have enough?”
“I’ve got twenty-one,” Silas said, shaking his head. “Is there any way that I could maybe clean something around the store to pay for the rest? Maybe clean some cages or something, or sweep?”
“I’m sorry, dude,” Adam said, shaking his head. “That isn’t the way the business works. Iggy would kill me if he found out I’d done something like that. I mean, you seem nice but I can’t let you go handling the merchandise like that. Why don’t you just call your parents and have them pay for it?”
Silas shook his head emphatically and replied, “My parents can’t help me now. They made it clear from the beginning that Adelaide was my responsibility, and if I can’t take care of her then they aren’t going to help. They’ll just tell me that she’ll have to stay cooped up inside until I can afford to pay for what I need. I can’t do that to her.”
“Dude, look…” Adam said, “I don’t know what to tell you. I just work here, and I can’t just bend the rules. There just isn’t a discount in the system that could take that much off, and it’s the cheapest product we’ve got for your needs.”
Silas looked back at Adelaide, not wanting to be looking at Adam as he thought about his options. He didn’t want Adam to know what he was considering, not unless he decided to go down that path. But his only other option would be to try and steal it, and that didn’t rest well with his integrity and it also wouldn’t be fair to Adam. He made up his mind and turned back to Adam, doing his best to seem nervous.
“What if you paid for it?” Silas asked, blushing purposefully as he looked down and avoided Adam’s eyes.
“Uh . . . w-what?” Adam stammered, “I d-don’t even know you, kid . . .”
“Um . . . I can make it worth your while,” Silas said as he looked up and met Adam’s eyes. Adam blanched and was suddenly glancing around anxiously, though he seemed completely unprepared for the next suggestion that Silas made with a lot more confidence. “How about I give you a blowjob?”
“T-that would be . . .” Adam was blushing full crimson when the door to the pet shop opened again and he turned around and faced the wall as if he was looking for something. Silas turned toward the door and his eyes widened as he saw Chelsea standing there with a grin on her face.
“When I saw your dog I knew you’d be in here,” Chelsea said with a knowing grin. “I was on my way to meet you for lunch when I walked by on the other side of the street and saw her. How are you doing, Drake?”
Silas cursed his luck at having his business deal interrupted but forced a polite smile onto his face as he replied, “I’ve had better. I was trying to buy a collar and leash for Adelaide but it appears I don’t have enough money. I was just asking about my options when you showed up. It looks like I’m going to have to go get some money and come back.”
“Oh, how much are you short?” Chelsea asked.
“About twelve bucks,” Silas said with a shrug. “Not a big deal, I just didn’t bring enough with me and . . .” He stopped as Chelsea reached into her purse and withdrew her wallet before putting twelve dollars on the counter. “Chelsea, you don’t have to do that. You don’t even know me very well.”
“I’m just spotting you,” Chelsea said with a wide smile. “It’s the Christian thing to do, to help out a friend when they’re in need. I wouldn’t be doing a very good job at holding to my faith if I didn’t help you.”
Adam turned around then, having recovered from Silas’ earlier offer, and though Chelsea’s back was to him he was smirking at her comment about it being the Christian thing to do. Although it was clear to Silas that Chelsea was sincere, he had to agree with Adam on that point. His own experience hadn’t taught him that Christians were as charitable as they professed to be, though he had known a few exceptions to that rule, and he was willing to accept that Chelsea was one as well.
“All right,” Silas said with a shrug, “I guess I’ll have to accept it and pay you back later. It’s a small price to pay if it means keeping Adelaide safe and me out of trouble. That police woman didn’t seem like the type to react well if I didn’t listen to her.”
“Police woman? Do you mean Officer Higgins?” Chelsea asked. Silas shrugged and Adam shook his head helplessly. Chelsea gestured to her hair and said, “Blonde, usually wears sunglasses during the day. Most likely snuck a reference to the Bible into her conversation with you?”
Silas nodded and laughed, “Yeah, she’s the one.”
“She’s in the church choir. I see her almost every Sunday,” Chelsea said, shaking her head. “She’s crazy, but she’s not a terrible person. It’s better than talking to the pastor.”
“Anyway,” Silas said after an awkward silence settled on the pet shop. Even the animals didn’t seem to know what to say in response to Chelsea’s words, and Silas was ready to get out of there as quickly as possible. He pulled his money from his wallet and put it down on the counter and looked up at Adam. “Thanks, Adam, for all of your help,” He said with a sly smile. “If I need anything else, I’ll be back, okay?”
“Um, sure, D-drake, was it?” Adam asked as he processed the transaction. Silas nodded and Adam reached for a bag before turning back and saying, “You don’t need a bag, do you? You’re going to use the items right away.”
“Right,” Silas confirmed. Taking the items from the counter. “Um, you can keep the nickel unless Chelsea wants it.”
“I’m good,” Chelsea said with a wave. “Have a nice day!” She started toward the doorway and Silas fell in step behind her, not bothering to look back at Adam. His instincts had been right about Adam, but he was glad that he hadn’t been forced to make good on his offer.
Once they were outside he knelt in front of Adelaide and considered what to say to Chelsea as he attached the collar to the dog. Adelaide whined as the collar was clasped and looked up at him with annoyance. “Hey, this is your doing,” Silas said with a grin, “If you had waited like I told you to then we wouldn’t have to worry about this.”
Adelaide whined again and Silas chuckled before hooking the leash to the back of the collar. He then stood and looked at Chelsea who had her arms folded over her chest. “So, I guess this means that if I want to have lunch with you I’ll have to spot you there too?” She asked with a half-smile. “Don’t tell me this was all an elaborate scheme to get out of meeting with me.”
Silas laughed at the absurdity of that statement and said, “If I wasn’t planning on meeting with you then I wouldn’t have come this way at all; I just would have stood you up instead.”
“Well that’s comforting,” Chelsea snorted. “Can I walk you to the place you’re staying?”
Silas stared at her as he considered how to respond, but then an idea struck him and he knew exactly how he could smooth over Chelsea’s feelings without taking her to his campsite. Not that taking her there had ever been an option. “Actually,” Silas said with a sly smile, “Do you think I could bother you for a bit more of the Christian charity?”
Author's Note: So, what did you think of Adam? What do you think Silas has in mind for Chelsea?
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