Ward jogged along Delano Road, slowly but deliberately. He’d pushed himself over the last two weeks since his encounter with Morris Sinclair. When he wasn’t working, he was jogging or riding a bike. Despite his fears of the great outdoors, his obsession with Morris drove him.
He’d seen the daughter, Moody, more than once—even one day at the bookstore. He wondered that she’d had the gall to visit the site of her father’s crime. After her father’s attack on Ward, she wasn’t welcome.
Ward had come to know the neighborhood well, recognizing names on mailboxes. He could even put a few names to faces. The woman jogging with her dog was Leia Menendez. The gnarled old man on the porch was Eloy Franklin. Approaching the Sinclair’s house, he slowed. The music Morris usually tormented the neighbors with was silent.
Paying too close attention to the house across the street and not enough to his environment, he didn’t notice a neighbor’s dog running around in his yard, playing with some children. A Frisbee flew past his nose with the dog leaping after it. Startled, Ward backed up a few steps, into the yard. Stumbling over a rock, he yelled loudly as the large canine snapped the Frisbee out of the air in front of him. He tripped over the low stone, arms windmilling crazily. Another step back and he was almost in the rose bed. His glasses flew off as he staggered, trying to catch his balance.
Electricity surged through Ward’s body, rocking him around like a tire swing in a hurricane. Static energy crackled through the air, making his hair stand on end. He caught his balance briefly before another surge of electricity launched his body in the opposite direction. Arms and legs went rigid as he lurched into a parked car. Green arcs traveled over the surface of the vehicle, scattering dust in their wake. Predictably, the car alarm screeched loudly, calling everyone in the neighborhood to their doors.
Screaming, the children scattered, taking the dog with them. The Frisbee lay a few feet away, forgotten. Spread-eagled on the hood of the car, Ward stared at it for a moment, trying to focus. His arms and legs flopped uncontrollably as the electricity tried to ground itself. With an ear wrenching scree of pain, the car alarm fizzled, sizzled and died an inglorious death. Grateful for the silence, Ward took stock of himself.
“You okay there, young man?” The old man from the porch leaned over him. “Stay put, son. I’ll call the EMT.”
“No. I’m okay.” His voice sounded funny, his diction slurred like a drunk.
The old man handed Ward his glasses with a wry grin and a chuckle. “Son, you can’t see yourself.”
Ward put on his glasses, hands trembling, not cooperating. He nearly poked himself in the eye twice before getting them settled on his nose.
“What happened?” A well modulated alto joined the conversation as a shadow loomed over him. The scent of jasmine floated around him as the dark haired woman stood by his side. She sucked in her breath sharply as she saw Ward.
“That bad?” Glancing at his reflection in the windshield, he saw a wild haired, wide eyed face staring back at him. Dust from the car hood covered him. He pushed himself upright, leaning heavily against the car for support.
“I’ve seen worse,” she remarked calmly. “What does the other guy look like?” Her lips twitched in a grin.
Ward tried to laugh. It hurt.
“I’ll go call the EMT,” Eloy Franklin offered.
“I’ve got it,” the woman said, whipping out a cellphone. “I’m Egypt,” she said as she dialed.
The phone call placed, she helped Ward sit on the grassy verge and squatted beside him.
“Could he have some water?” she asked Eloy.
“Oh, sure. I was just about to offer.” He sprang to his feet and walked rapidly to the house.
Ward watched him retreat, wondering where his cane was. He’d thought Eloy Franklin was disabled, but he moved like a man half his age. The older man came back with two bottles of water and a golf umbrella.
“Keep the sun off,” he said as he opened it and handed it to Ward.
Egypt opened the bottles, giving one to Ward. He thanked them both, trying not to move too much. His body ached horribly and his face itched from dirt and sweat. He wanted to pour the water over his head instead of drinking it.
“What happened?” Egypt asked him.
Ward ducked his head, embarrassed. He had to come up with a convincing lie quickly, not his strong suit. “I was looking at Morris Sinclair’s house.” That was true and came easily.
“You a fan?” Egypt’s tone was sharp.
Ward squinted at her. “Sort of. I work at the Yellowed Page bookstore in Rojo Duro and I was hoping to get him to agree to a book signing for charity.”
Eloy snorted loudly. “Don’t waste your time. Morris Sinclair is the devil. He doesn’t do anything unless it benefits him.”
“Tax write off?” Ward asked.
“He’s so greedy, he probably doesn’t pay them!” Eloy fumed. “Try living next to the man. If I have to hear that god awful song again, I’ll shoot myself—or him!”
The arrival of the ambulance stopped the diatribe. Ward submitted to treatment, but refused to go to the hospital. One asked what had happened as the other took Ward’s blood pressure.
“Dog chasing a Frisbee. I tripped over that damn rock and got a hell of a shock.”
“How the hell do you get a shock from a rock?” Eloy asked.
The EMT turned it over. “It’s one of those things to keep your dog out of the flower beds and stuff. I’m surprised it shocked you. Usually, it only affects the dog. You’re not wearing one of those collars, are ya?” He joked, winking at Ward.
Ward didn’t think it was very funny, but said nothing. The paramedics urged him again to go to the hospital, but he refused.
“We’ll have your doctor follow up,” the paramedic said.
The ambulance drove away. Eloy reached down to help Ward rise.
He groaned, letting loose a string of expletives that would have shocked his mother. Eloy and Egypt chuckled.
“Anything for pain at home?” she asked him.
“Yeah. If I can get there.”
“I’ll drive you,” Eloy declared. “Can you come help?” he asked Egypt.
“Sure. Happy to.”
They got Ward ensconced on his couch at home and Egypt offered to stay for a little while. Eloy went home, leaving Ward and Egypt alone. After finding and dispensing a pain pill, Egypt offered to fix lunch, but Ward told her he had very little in the house.
“Let’s order pizza,” she offered. “My treat.”
“Veggie, extra cheese. I’m a vegetarian.”
“And here I had you pegged for a double meat man.”
Laughing slightly, he groaned as he shifted position on the couch. “There’s cash in my wallet on the table.”
“My treat,” she reminded him as she dialed the local pizza place from the number on his fridge.
They chatted until the food arrived. After eating, Egypt helped Ward settle for a nap on the couch.
“I have to go for a little while. I’ll check on you this evening. I’ll bring stuff to cook dinner.”
“That’d be great,” he mumbled, nearly asleep. “Take the spare key. Red . . . on the hook by the door.”