Freddy rubbed at the tattoo and checked his phone. Late in the afternoon, no messages. The meeting was tonight. He could hold out until then. He hated Kiera for not selling to him and loved her for the same reason.
Maybe he just wanted to fuck her.
"I don't know how you can wear that sweater. It's sweltering in here."
Freddy looked around and saw no one. He was standing in the fiction section near the back. He had pushed his cart of books, M to S, and had been shelving them for an hour or so without paying attention. A few people had come by, but nobody needed anything. Freddy kept his head down. Nobody asked him much if he could help it.
"Cat got your tongue?" The voice was deep and rolled like thunder over cold mountains. Slow and will ill intent.
To his right maybe? Freddy slouched a little and got his eyes in line with the shelves. Over the tops of the books he could see nobody stretching three rows or so to the far wall. He turned left and found eyes staring right in his.
They were blue. Crystal blue surrounded by dark black hair. Freddy had gone on a trip to Key West with his mom's church group one year. They had driven eighteen hours in a hot van on the youth pastor's crusade to save the gays. On the way, they had passed Pensacola and Panama City and Tampa and signs for Walt Disney World, places a lot closer Freddy felt could use Jesus just as much as the gays.
And they were not eighteen hours away.
They had spent two days walking the beaches of the small island handing out tracts and spreading the good word. Mostly they had been laughed at, sometimes scoffed at. One man yelled at them to mind their own damn business.
One morning, Freddy had woken early and walked from the economy motel down to the beach. The sun was rising, a bright pretty day coming. Freddy spent an hour staring at the Carribean before him, thinking he could see Cuba just ninety miles away. The water glittered and stretched as far as he had ever seen. A secret lost place shining warm and lonely. The blue of the water, the depth of it existing made him feel small and cold even as the sand warmed between his toes.
Looking into the man's eyes through the stack of books had the same effect.
"Can I help you, sir?" Freddy said.
They eyes kept on him, watching. They squinted as the man smiled. A rumble came through the shelving. Freddy realized the man was laughing at him.
"No, son. I'm doing quite well," the man said.
"Okay, well, let us know if you need anything," Freddy said. He turned away, back to the cart of books. For the first time since he had begun working at the library, he could not think of what to do with them. He rubbed absently at his tattoo.
"Maybe I can do something for you," the voice said again, this time right in front of Freddy on the other side of the book cart. The man stood like a monument to disheveled fashion. He wore a dark suit, double breasted and open to a vest and tie loose showing an open white collar. An unruly dark mane of hair wrapped his head, so dark the skin and his blue eyes popped. Those eyes in the nest of black hair popped like robin's eggs in a dark bush. Freddy lost his thoughts again.
"What?" he said.
The man picked a book from the cart. A book of poetry. "Maybe I can help you. Some advice."
"I don't think so," Freddy said.
The rumble started again and the beard moved as the man shifted his face to a smile.
"Well, Fred. That's up to you. Choices coming, big ones. One man in this place, he already became stuck. What's your thoughts on the matter?"
"I don't follow you."
The man said, "Give me time. You have a choice coming. One way or another, nothing so crude as a path. There will be someone who asks you a question about dragons and you can say no."
"A woman downstairs needs help. You can choose to help her or not. Everyone needs help, right? But how you help shows what kind of man you are."
Freddy tried to look away. "I can help you find a book or something, but if you have a reference question Mr. Chris might be better."
"Oh, he made his choice. While ago. Now it's your turn. I'll be seeing you, Fred," the man said and placed the book of poetry back on the cart. The name Milton peaked out in gold lettering.
"People call me Freddy," he said as the man turned to go. Those eyes looked back and winked. The eye closing felt like an eclipse. A secret between them, but Freddy had no idea what that could be.
"Be seeing you," the man with the black hair and suit said and turned and left.
Freddy walked after him. "Sir," he said, watching the large shape walk away. He saw the man was barefoot. Thinking of nothing else, he said, "Sir, I'm sorry, you have to wear shoes in the library."
Freddy followed the man but kept his distance. The guy was just so big, but his bare feet made no sound. Freddy reached the stacks the man had turned down and found no one.
The man had gone. Freddy felt hot suddenly, his seater confining. His tattoo burned, and he wanted the pills now more than ever.
To Be Continued…