Chapter 8: Jones
"Rise and shine!" a brusque, masculine voice yelled in my eye. I groaned mournfully and opened one eye. It took me a moment to comprehend where I was, but that sense of panic one has when waking up in a room they don't recognize no longer is an issue for me. I haven't slept in a bed I can truly call my own for weeks. That being said, waking up in a sleeping bag on the floor is still highly unpleasant.
The man standing over me was was the 'jolly giant' type. A full-beard, but short and trimmed, twinkling eyes, large smile, booming voice. He offered out a hand and pulled me to my feet. Being incredibly groggy, I stumbled and would have fallen back down had he not caught me.
"Come on boy, stay up," he chuckled, "I made you four omelets. I noticed Nick stretching dramatically and yawning on the couch next to me. Briefly, I found myself jealous of the fact that he had himself a nice, soft piece of furniture to sleep on while I had wound up on the floor. We dragged ourselves to the kitchen to find both Matthias and Natasha were already awake, though they had waited for us to start to meal.
"Why are you two always up first?" Nick asked. Sun poked in from the various windows around the house, which meant that the storm from yesterday had moved on. The house itself was very 'all-American', it looked as though it had been locked in the era of World War II. The rooms were dominated by white walls and bits of lace. There was an immensely tacky teakettle collection on a shelf off in the corner. Presumably it belonged the wife of the man who had taken us in.
"Ah! Perfect!" exclaimed the man as he inspected the omelet which was cooking in a grease-stained, ancient frying pan. He generously heaped it on to my plate. "You go ahead," said the man, and nodding to Nick he said, "Yours will be up in a few minute."
I was starved, presumably because I had forgotten to eat dinner the night before. In fact, all I could remember about the night before was the storm and this kindly, bearded man offering us refuge. Regardless, I did know I was hungry, and so I rather unceremoniously stuff myself with the homemade omelet, which may have been the most delicious breakfast I have ever had. Once I had satisfied myself, I became aware of the fact that there was indeed some conversation.
"Well once again, thank you so much for letting us stay in your home Mr. Granger," Matthias said.
"It is my pleasure," Mr. Granger replied, "I hardly ever get visitors, I do love it when they stop by."
"In that case, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you, we're going to have to leave your beautiful town soon. Actually, if I can ask you one more favor, I believe we will need some help digging Kat-... ah, our car out of the mud."
"Sure, we can get 'er out after breakfast. But you really can't leave! We've got a fireworks display tonight, most fantastic site in all of the Midwest! And you haven't even met my wife, Laura. She loves guest too. Come on, you four look so tired, why don't you just rest today?" Mr. Granger insisted.
"Matthias," Natasha leaned towards her partner's ear and whispered: "This is a relatively small town, perhaps it would do us good to lay low for a day. I mean, what harm can come of it?"
"Oh hell," Nick muttered, glancing pleadingly at Natasha.
"Fair enough," Matthias said, "In that case, I suppose you've convinced us to stay a day, Mr. Granger."
"Fantastic!" Mr. Granger beamed, "Laura will be so pleased."
The day passed by rapidly, and pleasantly. Midway through breakfast, Mr. Granger's wife woke up. While Matthias and Mr. Granger went off to dig Katie out of the mud, Laura offered to show us around the town. Light, Minnesota is the smallest town I have ever been in in my life. There are 36 residents, only 6 families. Each family is made up of 6 people, it's almost eerie how well it all works out. 6 families, 36 people. 636. I hope that's a coincidence, Nick keeps telling me it isn't.
After a few hours though, the misguided anxiety began to fade away. The longer I stayed in Light, the younger I felt. It was like being transported back to my boyhood. The cool autumn days, the flaming red trees, the falling leaves. At the far northern end of Light there was a massive lake, Lake Twain. There was a club house near the lake, and a fairly sizable beach, and so we wound up spending most of the day there. Excluding lunch that is, which we ate at the diner we had been too the day before. Towards the evening, the thirty six inhabitants of Light began showing up on the beach, and Mr. Granger reminded us of the fireworks display he had mentioned earlier. As everyone began to gather for the show, we claimed our own little patch of the beach with a picnic blanket and sat down, patiently waiting for the sun to set.
"Heh, you almost forget that we're on the run in a place like this," I said to Nick. He shot me a weak smile.
"I don't like it, Smith. This place feels way too much like Stepford, I'm waiting for the woman to start dispensing money from their mouths," Nick replied.
"You worry to much."
"Speaking of worry, what happened to Daphne?"
"She left about a half-hour before we did, she didn't finish her meal remember? She should've been long gone by the time the storm started coming down."
"Jones is right," Matthias had appeared out of nowhere, "I called her this morning, letting her know we had been delayed. She said she made it out fine."
"How did you call her?" Nick asked.
"She gave me a number to use to contact her yesterday, I used a pay phone."
"Personally I envy her," Natasha, who had been laying off to the side of the blanket, interrupted.
"Pardon?" Matthias said.
"I agree with Nicholas, I don't like this place. It feels... hostile," she trailed off weakly towards the end of her sentence.
"You two are paranoid," I said, "This place is fine. It's a small town in the middle of nowhere, probably not even on the map. Why on earth would anything be waiting to attack us here?"
"It'd be incredibly easy to hide the body," Matthias mused, "Doesn't matter though. We're leaving tomorrow morning. I suggest you don't mention any of your anxieties to the Grangers though. They have been very hospitable and it's bad form to spit in the face of your host."
"Finally, the sun going down!" said Mr. Granger, who had strolled over as if on cue. The sunset was dazzling, and we all watched in silence as the glowing orange ball of fire set the treetops alight, then all too rapidly disappeared. Moments later, as the last specks of red were disappearing beyond the horizon, dozens of rockets shot up into the air. Each one exploding with a radiant brilliance, and they way people whooped and cheered you'd think America had just won a war. Americana music played in sync with the display, the glow of the fireworks washed over us, and it all came together as the perfect thread to tie the day together.
After the display, we headed back to the Granger residence, and I once again found myself on the floor of his living room, with Nick on the couch above me. From the other room I could hear Matthias bidding Mr. Granger goodnight.
"No, no, you can't leave tomorrow! You must stay!" Mr. Granger pleaded jokingly, Matthias laughed.
"I'm sorry, I'm afraid we have to be on our way. Besides, I don't want to abuse your generosity!" Matthias responded. The lights clicked off, and I found myself left alone with my thoughts in the dark. Just not for very long.
"Smith?" Nick whispered.
"What is it?" I said, surprised that Nick was still awake.
"We need to leave. Right now. We need to get out of here, I don't have time to explain. Natasha is telling Matthias the same thing right now, in a few minutes we should hear Katie start up and that will be our cue to get out of the house."
"We don't have time for me to explain, just be ready to run," Nick's voice was totally calm. In fact, he didn't even open his eyes as he spoke to me. Before I could persist with my questioning, we heard an engine roar from outside.
"She's faster than I thought," Nick muttered, "Time to go."