Jerry Thorton hustled up to the glass door of the diner, at least the lights were on! He peeked inside and saw two.....no, three people inside, counting Luke, the diner's owner/cook. Jerry tried the door: it refused to open. A few seconds later and Luke was unlocking same and ushering him inside. Jerry aimed words at the other.
"Good god, Luke! If you're gonna lock the door, what's the point of being open?" "Oh, I got a few customers." Luke relocked and got back behind the counter. Jerry turned as one of those present strode up. Gus Hutton was a man of dark complexion, thinning hair, potbelly and owner of Bantam Mill's hardware store. The two men nodded in greeting.
"What you doing out, Gus?" "I was about to ask you the same thing of you." Gus looked unhappy. "The last couple days...crazy. Don't know what the world is coming to." "I thought I saw the biggest pack of dogs ever." "Wolves, Jerry. Wolves. Been running in and out of town since nightfall. Most people have locked themselves in thier houses." "All the smart ones, eh?" They both managed a laugh but someone else was at the door. A uniformed man; big dark flashlight in one hand; banging on the door with the other. His big 'smokie-bear' hat was about to fall off.
Luke came and got the door open and the deputy stepped inside. He looked flushed....no, decided Jerry. Harrassed. Having to do a lot with little.
"Luke: in my studied analysis it is time to shut down tonight. No one's safe out." "Buck never had a problem with me deciding my own hours, Fred." "Well, I ain't Buck." "What's happening, Fred? You outta know."
Fred Silverman looked at all those essembled. He tugged his hat down a little. "Wolves...""We know." "Did any of ya hear the gunshots earlier?" No one said a thing. Deputy Silverman, the eldest of the town's deputies, continued. "Out on one of the swamp-roads..." "Anywhere near Crabby mansion?"
The other person in the diner; sitting back toward the others at a counter-stool, turned about. He had a face that was hard. Yet....brocken somehow. As if once having been stone; with sharp features chisled out. Now his face reminded of a old, old gravestone....too many years in the rain and snow and sun.
Herbert Johnson. Father of Joy Johnson.
All the rest stirred uncomfortably. No one would meet Herb's eyes. Deputy Silverman aimed words at the floor.
"Everyone's got five minutes to finish your biz here, then you're all going..." "Maybe not." "Herb....look. You been thru enough. You need to be home..." "Fred; I've been thinking it over and I know just what I'm going to do. I got a ax. A big ax; in the trunk of my car. used it last christmas....getting a christmas tree, ya know? The real thing. For the kids...." He swallowed hard and seemed to fight to keep from shaking. At last he stood and without a word walked toward the door.
Silverman slid quietly into his path.
"I think you could do with a ride home, Herb. Too much on your mind to worry about driving." "I can drive myself. I know what I'm doing..." "No, you don't." Silverman tried to make it sound final; end of the discussion but it wasn't a skill he was all that good at. He took Herb by a arm, leading him back out the door. He threw words back over his shoulder as he went.
"When I drive back this way; I wanna see the lights out and no one here."
The door closed, Luke locked it and Jerry and Gus were left facing their thoughts. The mood wasn't cheery.
"THings sure gone haywire around here, Jerry. 6 monthes ago; I couldn't think of living any place else. Now..... hell would be a vacation." "Gus... maybe Herb was onto something." "Herb's had his daughter killed. He isn't..." "He's right about Crabtree, though. I'd sure like to have a long, to-the-point talk with Randal. Wouldn't you?" There was suddenly a dangerous twinkle in Jerry's eyes. Gus found it drew out something of similar nature in him.
"Gus..." "Yeah?" "How many folk do you think we can get?" "To do what?" "Throw a party." "Is a exculsive list of guests involved?" "Only one for sure. Randal Crabtree." "Oh, my....what a happy chance. Got a big shipment of pitchforks in yesterday, too." "Be terrible if someone broke into your fine store and made off with them pitchforks." "Or 2 by 4's. Lot's of them. And all sorts of flammables. If I lost those, I'd be heartbroke." "I feel your pain, Gus. Maybe we need to share our sorrows with like-minded folk." "Yes. Yes, indeed. Let's do that. Right out this door.."
Something boomed, bellowed a bit a way. They hurried off to their task.