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Authors: Vicki Grant

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Dead End Job

BOOK: Dead End Job
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Dead-End Job

Vicki Grant

orca soundings

Copyright © 2005 Vicki Grant

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data

Grant, Vicki
Dead-end job / Vicki Grant.

(Orca soundings)
ISBN 1-55143-378-8

I. Title. II. Series.

PS8613.R367D42 2005    jC813'.6   C2005-900339-1

Summary:
When it turns out that the boy Frances has met at her job working the nightshift is a stalker, she realizes she may be in serious danger.

First published in the United States, 2005
Library of Congress Control Number:
2005920401

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage's Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.

Cover design: Lynn O'Rourke
Cover photography: Firstlight.ca

Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 5626, Stn. B.
Victoria,
BC
Canada
V8R 6S4

Orca Book Publishers
PO Box 468
Custer,
WA USA
98240-0468

08 07 06 05 • 5 4 3 2 1

Printed and bound in Canada.
Printed on 30% post-consumer recycled paper,
processed chlorine-free using vegetable, low VOC inks.

In memory of Meg Richardson,
who loved stories and who loved us
.

Chapter One

There was something really weird about that bag of cheese doodles. It was too fat at the bottom or too pointy at the corners or something. I stared at it for ages, but I couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. It was making me crazy.

I grabbed my hair and screamed.

Someone said, “Are you all right?”

I nearly jumped out of my skin. I hadn't even heard the guy come in. I tried to casually put my hand over my drawing. I didn't want
him to see it. I said, “Oh. Yeah. I'm fine. Can I help you?”

He put a chocolate bar on the counter. He said, “I just came in to buy this.” Then he smiled in a way he probably thought was cute and whispered, “But now I'd really like to see your picture too.”

I sort of smiled back. He was a customer after all. I didn't want to be rude. But I didn't want to encourage him either—especially since he was nowhere near as hot as he thought he was. He was just sort of normal. Your average eighteen-year old with the hoodie, the jeans, and the earphones hooked around his neck. He was sort of pale, sort of skinny and could have used a shave too. (I only noticed that because I was trapped behind the counter looking at him. Normally I wouldn't have noticed him at all.)

“Pleeeease?” he said. He gave me that cheesy smile again. This was getting embarrassing. Even more embarrassing than me screaming.

I said, “Ah, no. I don't think so.” I pulled a box of bubble gum over my drawing.

“C'mon. Don't be shy,” he said and tried to take a peek.

“That will be $1.07 for the bar,” I said. I covered the rest of the picture with a copy of the week's Lotto numbers.

“Okay, okay.” He shrugged like it was no big deal. “Here's one and a quarter. Keep the change.”

Oooh. All that charm and a big tipper too. I threw the money in the cash and then we both just sort of stood there. I found it really awkward, but it didn't seem to bug him at all. He took a bite of his Krispy Bits and said, “Mmmm. Good bar.” As if I had something to do with it. He leaned against the counter until he finished eating. Then he wiped his hand on his jacket and said, “Well, I guess I better get going.”

No kidding, I thought.

“Thanks for coming in,” I said.

He was on his way out past the magazine rack when the phone rang. What a relief. It was almost midnight. It had to be my boyfriend. I crouched down behind the cigarette rack and acted like the perfect little receptionist.

“Highway Buyway Convenience Store. This is Frances. How may I direct your call?”

Leo
demanded
to speak with the head of Customer Relations immediately! He was appalled at the shabby treatment he'd received that day from one of our sales-people. He didn't catch her name, but he could describe her. She had scraggy blond hair, brown old-lady glasses and size eleven feet. (It sounded a lot like me, but I wasn't going to admit to anything.)

According to Leo, she had refused to sneak out of biology class with him that day. He'd even promised to give her a biology lesson himself in the back of his “way cool” 1985 Impala. If this behavior did not stop, he said, he would be forced to report the Highway Buyway to the Better Business Bureau!

We had been goofing around like that for a while when I heard someone in the store. I figured it was the owner coming in to do the nightshift. I whispered, “See you at the usual time,” and hung up. Mr. Abdul's a niceguy
and everything, but he still doesn't want me flirting with my boyfriend on company time.

I hopped up from behind the counter and said “Hi!” in this really bouncy cheerleader voice. I wanted to sound like your ideal employee. The type of person who just loves spending her Friday nights restocking the cigarette shelves.

“Well, hello there!” It was Mr. Krispy Bits again.

Great.

“Can I help you?” I said.

“Yeah. Mind if I stay here for a few minutes? It's really starting to rain outside.”

I did mind, but what could I say?

“I guess not,” I said and actually started to restock the cigarettes.

He said, “You don't have to sound so happy about it. I mean, I could help you.”

Oh right. Just what I wanted.

“No thanks,” I said. “This'll only take a second and my shift's almost over anyway.”

He snorted. I'm not kidding. “I don't mean help stocking the shelves!” I turned toward
the low-tar section and rolled my eyes. Like he's too good to stock shelves.

“I mean, I could help with your drawing,” he said.

I heard this shushing sound. I turned around just in time to see him pull the picture out from under the bubble gum box.

“Hey!” I said.

He had my drawing in his hands and was studying it as if he was some kind of major art expert.

“This is good,” he said, nodding.

I was mad now. “How would you know?” I took a swipe at the drawing but he jumped out of the way.

“Ever heard of Tom Orser?” he said.

“Yeah. So what?” In a little town like this, who wouldn't know Tom?

I took another swipe at my drawing.

“He's my father.”

“Sure,” I said. Like I was going to fall for that one. Tom Orser is this really rich wildlife artist. He lives in an amazing house way out on the cliff at East Green Harbor. He's about sixty and his wife's about thirty. They
have two little girls. Zorah, who likes salt-and-vinegar chips, and Stella, who prefers all-dressed.

“He comes in here all the time,” I said. “He doesn't have a son.”

Krispy Bits went even paler than he already was. I figured I had him.

“Not by this wife,” he said. His face had gone really serious. “I'm the product of wife number one. The one who had to work to support the starving artist.”

He wasn't kidding. I didn't know what to say. I could hardly get mad at him now. It was really uncomfortable. Just to be nice I said, “When did they split up?”

“I was about eight. Tom started making money and decided to trade the old lady in for a newer model. A swimsuit model, in fact. That would be Sacha, wife number two. They had three kids. Then he dumped her for someone prettier. Margo got fat after the second baby, so he left her for the wife he has now.”

He had this fake smile on his face. I had a horrible feeling he was going to start to cry.

“Did you know he had other wives?” he asked.

“Ah…no,” I said. I was starting to wish I'd just let him take the stupid picture in the first place.

“So how did you know he didn't have a son then?”

He had me there. This seemed really painful for him. I mumbled some apology-type thing. I thought he was going to stomp out of the store, but he just shrugged.

“Hey, don't feel bad,” he said. “Most of the time Tom acts like he doesn't know he has a son either. Tell him Devin came into your store and watch what he does. He'll go, ‘Who's he?' I'm serious. Try it next time he comes in.”

He laughed and handed me back my picture.

“It's good, Frances. I mean it,” he said. “You just made the bag a little too short on the left side.”

I looked down at the picture.

Damn. He was right.

I was just going to thank him when something hit me. I looked up.

“Hey,” I said. “How do you know my name?”

He didn't answer. Somehow he'd managed to disappear just before Mr. Abdul walked in the door.

Chapter Two

We were driving home after my shift that night and I was telling Leo about what happened. He couldn't believe the stuff about Tom dumping all those women.

He said, “Let me see if I got this right. After he left his first wife, Tom had seven kids with three different women? In, like, what? Ten years?”

He burst out laughing. “The man's a love god! I hope I'm doing that good when I'm ninety.”

“Tom's not ninety,” I said.

“Okay then. I hope I'm doing that good when I
look
ninety.”

I cracked up. We both cracked up. That was mean. But it's true. Tom's this little round guy with a white ponytail and shorts that come up to his armpits. No one around town could believe he managed to get himself one tall, beautiful wife. They were going to die when they found out he'd had four.

Anyway, we were having a great time together and so I just kept blabbing away. I told Leo about Devin grabbing the picture and seeing right off what was wrong with it. I said the guy sure had a good eye. I was really impressed.

That was my big mistake.

Leo slammed his mouth shut and just stared at the road the whole rest of the way home.

I hate it when he gets like that. All I did was make one little comment about a guy having a good eye.

But that's not what Leo hears.

Leo hears: “The guy is really artistic so he must be really smart too. And, by the way,
did I mention that you're not? You're just a big dumb hockey player who wants to stay in Lockeport for the rest of his life and take over his dad's garage. That's why I'm going to dump you for some complete stranger.”

Which just goes to prove that Leo really is a moron.

Ever since I decided I want to go away to art college next year, he's had this big chip on his shoulder. Like I was doing it to make him look stupid or something. Nothing I could say made any difference. Leo
is
smart. I've always said that. Not in school, maybe. (Okay, not in school, for sure.) But he's smart in other ways. He can fix anything. He's got common sense. He's really funny. He understands stuff about people and the world that a lot of kids with good marks just don't get.

And if all that isn't enough, he's a whole lot hotter than a dorky girl like me deserves.

I love the guy. Even when he's being an idiot.

Part of me really wanted to let him have it right then. He was acting like such a baby. But the other part of me was just too tired. I was
working hard at school. I was working hard getting a portfolio together for Art College. And I was working at the Highway Buyway. Frankly, at one o'clock in the morning, I didn't have any energy left to work at our “relationship.”

It pissed me off to think that I even had to.

BOOK: Dead End Job
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