Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature the work of Writers Forum member and Program Chair Sharon St. George. Enjoy an excerpt from Sharon’s first book, Due for Discard.
Due for Discard (Chapter 9)
by Sharon St. George
Saturday morning I checked my disguise in the mirror. In my shortest skirt, highest heels, blue contact lenses and a blond wig left over from a grad school Halloween party, I was ready to visit the Natural History Museum where Bonnie Beardsley had flirted with her alleged stalker. Odds of running into him, if he existed, were astronomical, but I liked the museum and had nothing better to do.
After an elderly gentleman docent gave me an absurdly detailed lecture on the skeletal structure of turtles, I wandered over to the aquarium’s viewing wall to wait for a highly-touted visitor favorite: fish feeding time. The gathering crowd squeezed together for a better view of the fishy antics. Feeling slightly claustrophobic, I tried to step back, but whoever was behind me didn’t budge. Meanwhile the space in front of me had closed, and I couldn’t step forward. The body behind me wasn’t quite making contact with my backside, but I definitely felt my personal space being invaded. The mini-skirt that barely covered my behind wasn’t helping.
A low voice spoke near my right ear. “Awesome creatures, aren’t they?”
I responded with a barely perceptible nod of my head. This was creepier than I’d expected. What would I do if this was the stalker?
After a few minutes of watching various forms of marine life snatching and gobbling their breakfast, the crowd dispersed. I wondered if the man behind me would make a move. I didn’t have to wonder long.
He stepped alongside me, still watching the fish-viewing wall. I was surprised to see how harmless he looked. Probably in his late thirties, only a couple of inches taller than my five foot four, he was slender, clean-shaven, and handsome verging on pretty. His clothes were Eddie Bauer. His light brown hair was thick and well-cut. The term metrosexual came to mind. A straight guy, apparently, but with a flair for grooming and style. And not creepy in the least.
He turned to me. “Hi. Do you come to the museum often?”
“Once in a while,” I said.
“Do you live in the area?”
“I hope you won’t think I’m too forward,” he said, “but I haven’t met many people since I moved here. Could I buy you a cup of coffee? Pick your brain about things to do in Timbergate?”
The museum cafe was a short walk within plain sight of staff and visitors. I figured that was safe enough, so we headed for the coffee shop where we found a free table.
“I should introduce myself,” he said. “I’m Arnie Palmer. No relation to the golfer. I suck at sports.”
Holy crap. Of all the fish exhibits in all the natural history museums in the world, Arnie Palmer had walked into mine. He had to be the Arnie Palmer from Manton who popped up in my online search. And he was a guy, so he sure wasn’t Arnetta, but was he Bonnie’s stalker?
“And you are . . . ?” he said.
My mind raced in warp speed as I tried to invent a name for myself. What came out was really stupid.
“Ingrid . . . ?”
Damn, I needed a last name. A lock of hair from my wig tickled my cheek.
“Wiggins,” I said, feeling a little faint. “Ingrid Wiggins.” A waitress came by to take our orders. I asked for coffee and apple pie. Arnie ordered green tea and pecan pie.
“Lots of apples where I live,” Arnie said.
“Oh?” I played dumb.
“Manton. Thirty minutes east of here. Up in the pines. Do you know it?”
“I’ve heard of it.”
“Not much to do there, but it’s cooler than Timbergate, and the rent’s reasonable.”
I took a tiny bite of pie and washed it down with coffee. I was torn between the need to know more about this guy and a yearning to get the hell out of there, but there was one question I had to ask.
“We have a newscaster here named Palmer. Are you related?”
“No.” He shrugged. “I get that a lot, though. It’s a very common name.”
True. I’d discovered that during all those people searches.
I glanced at my watch. “You asked about things to do in Timbergate. I have a couple of suggestions, then I have to be going.”
“So soon?” His obvious disappointment was flattering, and just short of pathetic.
“We have community theatre, a concert series, a convention center, art exhibits, a sports arena, but you said you suck at sports, so I guess that’s out.” I took a breath, trying to slow my rapid-fire delivery. “Anyway, you can get more information at the Visitors Bureau. When you leave the museum parking lot, make a right at the intersection. It’s just down the street.”
“Any singles bars in town?”
“Probably, but I don’t do the bar scene, so I’m not a good person to ask.” Considering my mini-skirt and four-inch heels, he probably found that hard to believe. “It’s been nice meeting you, Arnie, but I really have to go.” I stood. “I’m meeting my boyfriend for lunch at the gun club. He teaches marksmanship there.”
“No problem. In fact, I’d like to meet your boyfriend. I just bought a gun and I could use some pointers. Can I get your phone number? I’d like to follow up on this.”
Mr. Harmless just bought a gun? Great. “I just moved,” I said. “I don’t have a new phone number yet.”
“No cell phone?”
He looked disappointed, then brightened. “What’s your boyfriend’s name? I can call the gun club and ask for him.”
Would this never end? “He doesn’t like me giving out his name. He’s a little paranoid. Besides, anyone at the gun club could help you.”
I walked out of the coffee shop, pinched toes screaming in pain, stomach growling protest at the apple pie I’d left behind.
What a fiasco. Ingrid Wiggins with a paranoid, gun-totin’ boyfriend. Not the alter ego I’d have imagined for myself. Worse, I had no hard evidence that Arnie Palmer was the museum stalker. And yet, there was the bizarre coincidence of his name. I sensed there was something connecting Arnie to Bonnie Beardsley, but short of seeing him again, I had no idea how to figure out what it was.