Here’s the first 1060 words I wrote diving back into Picture Perfect. As you’ll see when I didn’t recall a name I used X X. Deciding that I wasn’t aiming to legit publish had allowed me to ramble more, though even in the ramble I tried to bring in elements that either push the plot forward or reaffirm the direction it is going in.
Dan pulled off the road way into the dirt lot in front of the store. He made sure his camera was off before he got out of the car. The rusted sign swinging above the door said “Welcome to Flannery’s” over an advert for ‘Nutsy Nougat’ a chocolate bar he’d never heard of before. A dingy card board sign dangling midway behind the glass said “Open.” He peered through the dusty door to see if the sign was right. He tried the handle and bells clanged as door opened. The clang was toneless mental like a cow bell.
Inside was dim until lights were turned on. A young man came from behind a curtain at the back of the store.
“Don’t turn lights on unless we got a customer.” He wore an unbuttoned white shirt with a plain grey tee-shirt under it “Ma won’t let us use any of that motion sensitive stuff. Hope it didn’t scare you too much. Them coming on like that.”
In his arms was a nearly matching grey cat that leapt to the floor and came over to sniff that Dan’s shoes then hopped to the window sill.
“Cod doesn’t take to strangers.” He stepped behind the counter, brushed cart hair off his shirt sleeves.
“Grey is a good choice.”
‘Cod doesn’t shed much.
The store was larger than it appeared from the outside. It could have been a 7/11 from the layout right down to a coffee island in the middle of the floor near the front window. Only this one had a couple of comfy chairs like a coffee shop.
“Bottled water at the back. That’s usually what people’re looking for when they stop here. But we’re prepared. Coffee fresh this morning. Columbian we roast and decaf none of the flavoured nonsense. Coffee only. We’re not Starbucks.” The man laughed. “Maw bakes the cookies and scones. Fresh. Daily.”
“You’re certainly fixed for any tourist that do show up.”
“Locals like us. We’re the closest thing to a coffee shop that isn’t Timmies in these parts. Self-serve for the coffee.”
Dan had stopped for directions only but he couldn’t resist the man’s invitation. “Smells good.” He said as he filled a large take out cup.
The man went one to one of the coolers. “Whole milk or cream? Can’t help you if you’re lactose intolerant.”
“Cream’ll be fine.” Dan stirred the cream into the coffee and put on a lid. “I’ll take one of those scones.”
“We got cranberry lemon or broccoli cheddar.”
“Oh yeah, just because we’re not city doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s selling.” The man held Dan’s gaze. “You’re with that TV film crew that’s been talking to people around here?”
“Yes. Dan James” he reached out to shake the man’s hand.
“Nah. That was the sign when we bought the place two years ago. Didn’t aim to rewrite history. We figured it would better to fit in some. We call ourselves Flannery’s General Store and Cafe.”
“So you’re not from here?”
“Nope. Price was right and so far we’ve managed to break even.”
“You know the area well?”
“Lost are you?”
“No. As long my g.p.s works I’m safe. I was looking for the Nova Pentecostal Centre.”
“You mean The Slytherins.” Danny laughed. “Oh man those people are strange.”
“That’s what some around here call it. The snakes and all. From Harry Potter?”
“I see. It may be part of the show we’re doing. Thought I’d check it out before hand though. Research you might say.”
“Then you already know about them and the snakes.”
“Yes. X.X. at the Circus Museum told me about them.”
“Yours is that TV show about the missing children, right?”
“Yes.” Dan took out his cell to check the time.
“Weird about that psychic that got killed. I’m surprised they’re still going forward with it.”
“Too much invested plus she wasn’t a major on air personality. No footage to reshoot.” Dan went to the door.
“You think it might be connected?”
“No! Maybe the guy responsible for those kids might not want to be caught all these years later. Like those ghost hauntings shows there’s always something you don’t tell us. Maybe she was in contact with the killer.”
“Any thing is possible.” Dan opened the door. “Good coffee.”
“You didn’t let me tell you how to find Nova Pentecostal.”
“Right. The coffee was so good I forgot.”
“You just follow this street and turn left when you get Caledonia. It’s on the left about ten minutes down the road.”
A sign in a field across from the church made it easy to find. There was one car in the parking lot and he pulled in close to it. He checked to make sure his camera was on. “Interview with Joyce Hadley.” he said to mark the start of the recording.
The silence was the first thing he noticed when he got out of the car. Not even the whisper of wind from the field across the road.
The gravel crunch echoed as he walked to the church. The church looks more like a suburban strip mall than anything else. Siding that needed repair along the roof line. Stains mottled the wall that faced the roadway.
The dingy curtains behind one of the windows parted then closed as he approached the double glass doors he assumed were the entrance. They open out before he touched them.
A heavy set, tall woman greeted him.
“Welcome brother.” she tucked in a stray stress into the bun of red hair at the back of her head. The bun seemed ready to explode in the sun. “I was expecting you.”
“You were?” No one knew he was coming to New Pentecostal. Even he didn’t, until he deiced to visit it that morning.
“Madam Vanya or Joyce Hadley?” he asked.
“Once upon a time. It’s Joyce Hadley. The Reverend Joyce Hadley to be pretentious.” she laughed. “When I was Madam Vanya my gift was a parlour trick. It became real once I stopped playing with it.”
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