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For LOST IN LOS ALAMOS Beta Readers Only - Please Do Not Share.

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For the following three days, nothing changed. Not the weather, which was just cold and gray. Not the cat-and-mouse game Todd played in showing or not showing. The slow, but positive progress in the house stayed constant as Scott simply put his head down and charged on. The long days and evenings continued. Occasional, relevant-to-nothing emails, texts, and the lack of phone calls or voice messages never varied. The morning trips to CookieSheet’s were a breaking-out-of-the-house diversion, but the visits were accumulating a sameness. The nighttime ritual became an unconscious reflex to the ending of the day. To Scott’s growing exhaustion.

The peep show continued across the street at Tom’s house. It was the middle of the week, so he didn’t see the Navajo around during the day, but the curtains showed signs of life when he came and went just the same. Scott thought he would like to go talk to this guy when he had a chance. He was curious about the guy and whoever it was keeping tabs on him behind the closing drapes. Presumably his wife.

He encountered Bobbie at the hardware store a few times as it seemed he’d always need that one little thing he forgot at Home Depot or was just missing from the looted supplies in the shed. 

That was something Scott thought he would have to manage at some point. Bobbie. She had kept up her flirting with him, assuming a familiarity with Scott that he did not share. His manners kept him from shutting her down. She seemed about to the point of asking him on a date, even. He saw that she was egged on by her older coworker, and Scott didn’t feel he could confront both of them together there in the store. He’d have to figure that one out.

Without exception, whenever Todd arrived, his mass of wiry red hair and his pink bulk and freckles and his thick lips flapping, Scott expected a Boston Irish accent and eastern seaboard slang. But to hear the bouncing Mexican accent dotted with street Latino come from his mouth, well, it just skewed his mind and image of Todd and he always had to catch up without showing Todd it took him off guard. He figured he’d get used to it, though. Todd had said he spoke Spanish fluently and primarily, coming up in Española.

Scott did switch up two things in his morning routine, though. The first was that he began bringing his coffee mug into the bathroom for his cold morning shower. He’d gulp down hot mouthfuls of creamy-sweet brew while in the shower and in-between verses of the National Anthem. That was the second thing he changed, though. The scalding-cold shower song became the Beatles’, “Yesterday”.

The days were spent doing what he could on his own. Todd would come by sporadically and each time would tell Scott that he had to get the frozen gravel pile in the driveway broken up. Each time, Scott would tell Todd that he’d get to it the next day.

Scott kept asking Todd about the gas bill because when Scott had spoken to Betty, she said she had been paying the bill all that time for Todd and his family. She gave Scott the credit card information she had used to pay the bill up until a few months after the Wildes had moved around the corner to their current place. Of course, Todd neglected to tell Betty when they had moved and so the gas stayed on and heated the place for a few months with no one in the house. 

Todd simply said he didn’t know anything about “Betty’s” bill.

“And do you know where the thermostat went to? It’s missing from the wall,” Scott asked. 

Todd was switching out blades for the circular saw. The new blade was one Scott had paid for at Home Depot. 

“I have no idea. Why ask me, Chollo?” he said in his usual accent, continuing his work.

Scott was prepping the bad drywall to try and fix it, a steel wide-blade putty knife in his hand. He felt a little testy.

“Kind of obvious, don’t you think?” 

“Dude, I haven’t been in here in a year,” Todd countered.

“That’s not exactly true, though. Is it?”

Todd stopped. He held the old saw blade in his hand like it was a ninja throwing star.

“You saying I am a liar?!” Todd’s face reddened. Scott went on high alert, but went ahead anyway.

“How’d Mikey get into the house when I first got here?”

Todd ran a few thoughts through his mind and relaxed a bit.

“Oh. I meant I never spent any kind of time here. Just put Mikey in to guard the place, you know? Taking care of Betty’s property and all.”

Scott thought, “Sure you were...” He asked, curious, “Guard from what?”

“Like the thermostat and shit from being stole.”

“The thermostat’s already gone.”

“Yeah, well that was before I put Mikey in. Nothing has happened since then.”

Scott eyed Todd and tilted his head. “So you knew the thermostat was missing.”

Todd dropped his head and shook it, then lifted it with his ‘I’m just an innocent bystander here’ look.

“I don’t keep track of what’s here or not here. Can we get on with this? I only have another hour left.”

Scott knew it was pointless. But he had started a list in his head and would transfer it to his Notes that night. Somehow, he’d hold Todd accountable for all he’d cost Betty. And him.

Later, before Todd left, he surprised Scott with the news that he’d arranged for his own helper to come over the next day to help Scott with the Gravel Pile. He was only going to cost Scott fifteen dollars an hour. Scott thought to argue with Todd on this point, too, but he was in a passive/aggressive mood and let it slide to get pissed off later. Besides, if he was going to get out of there any time soon, he’d need help. No way escaping that, especially if Todd couldn’t be counted on. Scott didn’t know if Betty could pay him back for this guy, but it was already too late for that kind of thinking.

“His name is Lee. He is kind of weird, but he will work. You will get along with him. He’s a nerd,” Todd said.

“When is he coming?!” Scott asked as Todd headed out. “I’m a nerd?” he asked himself.

“Tomorrow! Early! Be ready!”

Tomorrow,” Scott thought. “Hope it’s not Todd-Early.

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