Traffic oozed like a snail in need of a triple shot cappuccino along the surface streets of downtown San Luis Obispo the following morning while the leaves of the green trees lining the city boulevards dripped away the nightly dew. The Omni, rattling a bit less since the rendezvous with Vince, slipped into a parking slot immediately behind a black and white cruiser outside the old brick building which bore a dove on the front door. The dawn air drifted cool and moist, the rising sun new on the horizon, when I moved around the pinging hood and was swallowed by a rolling cloud of cooking bacon and waffles from the shelterâ€™s open window.
My intention was to move quietly into the lobby as the residents breakfasted unaware of my presence and retrieve Chastityâ€™s belongings from Gracie, who I presumed had them packed and ready. Or I might at least make arrangements to pick the items up later in the day if things were not yet prepared. My plans vanished in an instant as I stepped across the threshold and into a maelstrom.
MacElveign strode toward me like an angry buffalo, his face as red as his hair, eyes bulging, and lips drawn. In the split second it took to recognize the person and his intent, my mind flashed on the image of a speeding steam locomotive, no brakes, careening downhill. â€śWhere the hell did you put her, Jesse?â€ť He didnâ€™t halt his advance until his chest bumped mine, causing me to stumble back against the wall.
â€śI donâ€™t know what youâ€™re talking about, MacElveign. Where did I put who?â€ť I pressed myself away from the barrier and faced the smoldering red hair man. I stood close to him, matching his intensity with my own.
â€śI warned you about messing with Chastity,â€ť he shouted, veins protruding from his forehead, the tendons in his neck straining against his perspiring skin like a clothesline under a wet sheet. Droplets of spittle flew from his mouth as he spoke, causing dark spots to appear on my clothing.
â€śListen, Einstein,â€ť I glared, â€śif I had taken her someplace, why would I even be here today?â€ť I tried to move past him and toward the door, but he grabbed my shirt and held me in place.
Fingers twisted into my collar as he lifted and threw me against the wall using his 6â€™1â€ť frame to leverage me to my toes. His breath stank of rancid mouthwash and stomach acid as it whistled across his jutting teeth directly beneath my nose. â€śI donâ€™t know, Jesse, maybe youâ€™re here to molest another teenage girl. Seems to be a hobby with you these days. Sending out another green weenie. That was you, right?â€ť
I tested his grip and found it viselike near my neck, his anger fueling his force against me. â€śRed,â€ť I scoffed, â€śyou suffer from cerebral incontinence.â€ť
His fists clenched the fabric tighter, pressing the collar into the flesh around my windpipe. Breathing became difficult due to the pressure, and I felt my face turning red under the strain. His eyes glared with a flaming hatred. â€śListen, you puke,â€ť he hissed, â€śIâ€™m going to pull a warrant to search every place youâ€™ve ever been until I find your little crank whore and lock her away.â€ť
â€śYouâ€™re way over the line again, MacElveign. The ice gets thin over there.â€ť My voice held firm despite my rising need for a full breath of oxygen.
â€śOver the line?â€ť his expression turned from rage to a mocking sneer. â€śYou think I am over the line?â€ť he repeated. His body moved away from mine, and my feet came to rest fully on the floor. He let go of my collar with his right hand but continued pinning me to the wall with his left. â€śThatâ€™s not going over the line, maggot.â€ť His free arm pinioned back like a hydraulic log splitter, and he drove his heavy fist deep into my solar plexus, pressing up beneath my ribs. â€śNow Iâ€™m over the line.â€ť He released his hold as I doubled over into a heap.