Parker shoved open the door with his shoulder. He struggled with his load. The large duffle was just the right size. The strap dug into his left shoulder and he shifted it again, letting the blood rush back into the gouge it was making in his skin. He walked down the dimly-lit corridor, passing the other storage units. He stopped in front of the one marked 347, let the bag drop to the concrete floor, and fished in his jacket pocket for the key ring.
Parker scanned the hallway. He had assumed the place would be empty at this hour and he was right. What business would anyone have at Mt. Pleasant Store It at two in the morning? Unless they were in his kind of business. Not many were. Especially not the homespun residents of this sleepy community.
The whole scene struck him as rather quaint. The tree-lined streets, the old homes with wide porches, the occasional porch swing squeaking in the breeze. He’d been watching the town for a few weeks. The whole place just shut off around nine at night. The corner grocery closed up and it was lights out in the safe town. Folks didn’t even lock their doors. Made his job easier.
Even the storage facility had an old-timey feel. It was situated next to the train tracks in an old brick building. From the faded sign atop the three story building, Parker gathered it used to be a factory of some sort. The dark corridors were lit by intermittent bare bulbs dangling from rusty chains. The garage style doors were painted a dingy blue that had chipped and cracked over the years. It was a surreal experience this job, nothing like stalking the dank city streets, navigating crowds of vagabonds and degenerates in an effort to remain anonymous.
Here the people made a point of greeting him with phrases like “mornin’ neighbor” and “how’s it goin’?” When he had happened upon his quarry while staking out her home, she had looked up from the herbs she was tending to flash him a friendly smile and ask him how he liked the change in weather. She wasn’t even suspicious of a strange man prowling around her back yard. She just struck up a conversation.
“You must be Mr. Williams. Welcome to the neighborhood.”
“Sure am.” Parker thought quickly.
She strained to get up from the stool she was sitting on, dusted off her dirt-covered hands, and reached a hand out in front of him. Parker took the wrinkled hand and marveled at the tight grip. She’d been out of the game long enough to let her guard down, but he wasn’t taking anything for granted. He knew this was his chance. The two were alone in her yard, surrounded by fruit trees and other plants, under the cover of dusk. He saw the shovel leaning against the trellis.
“The change in weather is nice. It’s been such a hot summer. Don’t you think?”
“A real steamer.”
“One might wonder what brings a man like you out of the city.”
“Just a job, ma’am.”
“I figured. Well then. What do you think of our little town? It’s no big city, now is it?”
“Not in the least, ma’am.”
She turned her back to him, knelt in front of the herbs, and resumed her pruning. He heard her laughter as he swung the heavy shovel. The metal blade made a resounding thud against her skull. She fell forward into the garden, dropping a sprig of rosemary she had just plucked. Parker waited for her left foot to stop twitching before he tossed the shovel aside and made his way back to his car for the duffle. The streets were empty and only a few houses on the block still had porch lights on. He thought it must be getting close to nine. With all those friendly neighbors down for the night, he’d have plenty of time to clean the mess, dispose of the body, and finally get the hell out of this creepy place.