Adelaide shifted in Silas' arms, waking him from his tormented slumber. Whatever sound she heard, she quickly determined it wasn't ominous and settled back against him, but the damage was already done. He was awake, and he saw no reason to waste any time.
He looked around the shelter, inspecting it for damages as well as he could without getting up just yet. It had held up well despite the wind which had picked up midway through the night. He'd laid a tarp over the top of the structure, weighing it down with heavy stones, and it appeared to have done its job well. The cold wind hadn't affected him much, either, and between his blankets and Adelaide he'd barely noticed.
Silas moved 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, immediately folding them to put them away. He always made sure to pack up his entire camp and take all his things with him if he planned on leaving the camp during the day. He'd learned the hard way that anything he left lying around could be stolen. It was better to be safe and avoid that possibility entirely.
Throughout the night he'd wrestled with whether he would venture into town or not for the three-o-clock appointment with Chelsea. She had seemed nice and sincere in her desire to get to know him better, but he couldn't deny the 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, Ian was also the only person in town who had a possibility of understanding exactly where Silas had come from. The possibility of having someone to talk to who knew his parents for who they were intrigued Silas, though he wasn't sure he could face the fear within him that Ian would just abandon him again.
Silas kept the question in his mind as he inspected the snare, he'd set the night before, setting some additional ones. He hadn't caught anything yet, though one of his traps was missing the food he'd left as bait. He growled in frustration when he realized his haste in setting the trap had caused him to miss a crucial step in the middle. He couldn't afford to make those mistakes; he didn't have enough suitable bait for him to have traps fail. Not unless he had access to a food source that could replenish his stock without much cost.
That thought brought returned his mind to Ian, and the diner which could easily provide him with food to help him catch any amount of small game he desired. All he had to decide was whether 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, possibly longer. A week would likely be all the time he'd need to catch a ride out of town. A lot of truckers were willing to give him a ride, some even for free, even though picking up hitchhikers was illegal.
But that brought up another problem—local law enforcement could also be looking for him. 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 faced. He needed more information before confronting Ian, but that meant going into town and possibly running into Ian or the cops before he was ready to do so. Silas 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'd managed to outrun Ian once before, but pure fear had fueled him then. He might not have the same result if the situation arose a second time.
"Addy, come here," Silas said as he knelt against the cold ground. She came over and licked his face then sat down in front of him, waiting for him to speak again. Silas eyed his pack and then her and said something he'd 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 she understood, and he had no way to tell for certain unless she stayed when he left. He stood and started walking toward the stream and the game trail which 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. He heard Adelaide running across the ground toward him and 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 to the bank, and walked back to his pack and picking it up, 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 considered her loyal eyes, however, he realized he'd been foolish to try. She would never let him leave without her.
The trek into town took much longer than leaving it had the day before. He took the time to memorize the path completely, setting mental landmarks he could use to help find his way back to his shelter. He made sure to use landmarks which 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 kinetic flashlight, he knew a light on the mountainside could also attract attention 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 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. A few people knelt in their garden, doing some early spring planting. Most ignored him, though he did catch a few glances as he walked by. Only one woman really watched him for long, and he waved and smiled at her. She smirked before going back to work in her flower beds. He shook his head and continued without giving the exchange another thought.
Ten to fifteen minutes after passing the smirking gardener, a vehicle slowed down behind Silas, and he turned slowly to see a police car approaching him at a crawl. His pulse quickened as he considered his next plan of action carefully. He didn't know how he had failed to notice the car when it was further down the road—he always paid careful attention to his surroundings—but that didn't change the situation now. 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 lowered so the officer could speak to him. Silas turned to regard the driver of the car with a neutral expression, though he mentally prepared himself to run if he had to. He doubted he would get away, but he'd rather do anything than end up sitting in a cell and have the police investigate 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 wasn'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 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 she saw a suspicious stranger walking around with a dog, and I came to check it out. I'm going to assume you haven't lied to me, and that you're really who you say you are. You seem like a good kid, aren't you?"
She was condescending to him. 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 gritted 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 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'd found the name, and he'd never bothered to ask, though he knew he shared the name with a great uncle.
"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 he was practically asking for her to check his identification. He repressed a sigh of relief as she simply gave him an appraising look.
"Well, even if you are, that's even 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. Silas watched it 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 she could no longer see it. "That was annoying, wasn't it, Addy?" Silas asked, rolling 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. She looked back several feet later as if asking if he was coming. Silas laughed and walked forward until he became the one leading the way once more.
Although interacting with the policewoman interaction wasn't the highlight of his life, he'd at least gained one thing from the conversation. She'd given him a perspective on the layout of the town, and he assumed 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 easily ask for directions if he felt the need.
He diligently followed the directions to the pet shop and found it easily. Iggy's Critters was a small shop with a puppy cage set in front of the large window bearing the store's name in green lettering. The name was repeated on the door to the shop, which also had an open sign displaying the store's hours. Silas opened the door, turning to Adelaide and commanding her to stay before stepping inside.
Adelaide settled on the sidewalk and Silas looked around the shop for any sign of the items the officer told him to acquire. 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, assuming he'd find the collars and leashes there. A man in his mid-twenties wearing a baseball cap and three days of brown scruff on his chin stepped up to the register, looking at him expectantly.
"Can I help you?" The man asked as Silas approached. Silas looked down to the nametag on the man's shirt and read 'Adam: Pet Expert'. He stopped in front of the counter to see that behind the register were an assortment of collars and leashes for both dogs and cats. Once he saw the variety, he realized that with his lack of experience in buying collars for Adelaide he'd probably need her there to find the right size.
"Um, is it okay if I bring my dog in here so 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'd worn when they were at home had become too worn a long time ago.
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 before coming around. Silas turned and walked toward the door, though he had the distinct impression that Adam was checking him out from behind.
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. There was no longer any doubt about Adam's flirtatious nature 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, glancing back at Silas. "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 held the door for Silas to head back inside. Silas turned toward Adelaide again and repeated his earlier command for her to stay before reentering 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 sifted through the collars hanging 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, selecting a collar and leash and setting them down on the counter before scanning the items into the cash register. Silas watched as the total came up on the display, and groaned inwardly before pulling 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 in their eyes," 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 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 meeting Adam's eyes and blushing. Adam blanched and glanced around anxiously, though he seemed completely unprepared for the next suggestion Silas confidently offered. "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 looking for something. Silas turned toward the door, his eyes widening as he saw Chelsea standing there, a wide grin on her face.
"When I saw your dog, I knew you'd be in here," Chelsea said. "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 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, pulling out her wallet and placing 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, mostly recovered from Silas' earlier offer, and though Chelsea's back was to him he smirked at her comment about it being the Christian thing to do. Although Silas believed Chelsea was sincere, he had to agree with Adam on that point. His own experience hadn't taught him Christians were as charitable as they professed to be, though he'd known a few exceptions to that rule. He was willing to accept that Chelsea was one of those exceptions.
"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 don't listen to her."
"Policewoman? 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 leave. 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 he hesitated and turned back. "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 circumstances hadn't forced him to make good on his offer.
Once they were outside, he knelt in front of Adelaide and considered what to say to Chelsea. 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 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 Christian charity?"
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