She came back to Deacon, lowering her head, turning her back to the crowd as they filed into the theater doors. “Did I sound convincing?”
Deacon looked puzzled. “What?”
“I’m scared shitless, but if you think I’m going to show it to that lot, you’re daft. Now let’s get in there and with the stiff upper lip, as my grandmum says.” Plastering a confident look on her face, she walked to the theater, chatting with people as she passed.
“Hell of a girl, isn’t she?” Dino looked after her proudly, admiration in his blue eyes.
“Yeah, she is. I wish I’d met her ten years ago.”
Ducking his head so Dino couldn’t meet his eye, he walked into the building, trying to do this best to follow Kacy’s example and act as if nothing was wrong.
The day went smoothly until shortly after the lunch break. Dino bought them all sandwiches from the deli next door. They ate and chatted happily, seated on the floor of the theater, when the lights went out.
“I’ll check the breaker,” Dexter said, pulling on his heavy rubber gloves. He took a flashlight off his belt and walked to the back room where Deacon told him the box was to be found.
“I’ll look outside,” Deacon said, pushing himself slowly to a standing position, his leg having stiffened on him as he sat on the floor.
Just as he reached the back door, a rending crash echoed through the building, followed by the scream of twisting, crunching metal. Sparks illuminated the interior of the darkened building. Hysterical yelling and screaming echoed from the deli next to them. Deacon rushed to the door, but Dino got to it first, throwing it open. Destruction met their eyes. The electrical pole lay at an odd angle, broken about half way up, the top lay on the trucks and cars in the parking lot next door. Sparks flew wildly as the deli emptied out, people trying to run to their cars.
“Everyone out the front door!” Dino yelled, not waiting for anyone to answer.
His cell phone already in his hand, he furiously dialed the emergency services, and followed the rest of them out. The deli evacuated, and the people stood in the parking lot of the theater. Deacon, Mac and Dexter did their best to get everyone accounted for.
The fire trucks and other emergency vehicles arrived in a flurry, shoving them further back. They were trying to stop the fire licking about the roof and back fence of the deli, encroaching upon the smashed and twisted cars. Deacon could just imagine if those caught fire and started moving the crowd further back, to the far side of the theatre lot.
Police set crowd control barriers in a wide perimeter, keeping idle spectators at bay. “Nothing to see here,” they said. “Please move along.” No one moved on, and the police didn’t really expect them to, but they had to try to do their jobs.
Several tense hours later, the fire chief decided the deli was saved and could rebuild. The cars didn’t blow up as Deacon feared, but the fire cast a pall over the day. Dino told everyone to go home. Meanwhile, he went to the deli’s owner, talking earnestly to her in French. She was the smallest woman Deacon had ever seen. He didn’t know her name. The others all called her Madame, and deferred to her as if she were a goddess. Dino spoke consolingly to her, also to the owners of the damaged cars.
He eventually made his way back to Deacon and Kacy, who were the only ones left in the lot. “I told her I would help pay for the repairs. Her deductibles are outrageous. I also am going to help rent cars for those people, until they can settle with their insurance companies.”
“Dino, that’s so thoughtful of you,” Kacy said quietly, her hand on his shoulder. “You aren’t responsible for that.”
“Madame Fleur told me something interesting. She’s been approached about selling her property as well, in fact for longer than I’ve been. She’s refused like I have. This business is all she has in the world. Her husband and she built it over thirty years ago. He died last year, after a long illness. I paid the medical bill for her, she couldn’t have come up with that kind of cash. Like me, she is holding on for sentimental reasons, although it is a very profitable business. She won’t give it up until she dies.”
“Sort of puts a whole new, spooky spin on things, doesn’t it?” Deacon said what all three of them were thinking.
“Yes, it does,” Dino agreed, taking out his phone. “I think I need to call Detective Reyes immediately, and have him talk to Madame.”
He walked to his car, sitting in the front seat, hunched over his phone, he looked alone and lonely. Kacy could hardly stand to look at him.
“That poor man, he takes everything so to heart. He always has. I worry about him, he has high blood pressure, you know.”
“No, I didn’t. He’s in such good shape, not exactly the kind of person you expect to have that.”
“This father and grandfather and uncle all died of strokes. His dad was only a little older than Dino is now, when he died.” She looked worriedly at Dino and started to take a step toward his car, but Deacon stopped her.
“You can’t be his mother and his friend. You have to choose one, Kacy.”
She smiled sadly. “Pete was always telling me that. I have the same instinct Dino does, I want to take care of everyone.”
Deacon pulled her ever so gently to him their hips touching. “It’s a wonderful characteristic, don’t ever lose it.”
©2021 Dellani Oakes