Gary dreaded of leaving home. He even had a dread of being at home alone. The nights were difficult, filled with speculation and fear of the improbable.
He reasoned Old Black Maggie now knew he was spending his time at the drugstore. He could no longer go there. He went back to Russell’s Market.
The little bell above the door tingled when Gary opened the door. Mr. Russell leaned on the counter reading the newspaper. He looked up, but remained leaning. “Gary, haven’t seen you in a while.”
“Yeah,” Gary said. “Not since that day when Old Black Maggie was in here.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Russell said. “That’s right. The old hag scared you off. So where ya been hiding.”
“Walton’s Drugstore,” Gary said.
“Let me guess,” Russell said, “she found you there.”
“Yeah,” Gary said.
“Let me tell you how it works,” Russell said. “She’ll keep coming for you until she finds someone else to distract her.”
“She trailed me into the park a few days ago,” Gary said. “She warned me. She said I was in danger.”
“Ah!” Russell said standing. “Those old hags messing with your mind. They tell you they’re coming for you. They want you in fear. Those necklaces on the counter,” Russell said pointing to a display of hanging necklaces. “They’ve been blessed. It says so right on the tag. One of those could protect you from that hag. You won’t every have to worry about her again. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious, but that necklace will protect you and help you make good decisions.”
“They’re 79 cents,” Russell said. “But I know the bind you’re in so I’ll knock a nickel from it. Tax and everything 75 cents.” Russell handed one to him. “Look at it. Anyone can tell that it’s good material. It’s got a cross on it and the holy mother. What else do you need?”
Gary looked closely as he fondled it through his fingers.
“They make ’em in a small village in Mexico where there have been many miracles,” Russell said. “This is the second batch I’ve had. They won’t last long. Look here, I got one.” Russell showed Gary the one around his neck. “Mrs. Cavanaugh bought one last week. She fell in her house. No one ever comes to see her, but on the day she fell a door to door salesman came by her house and found her. If not for the necklace she’d still by laying there rotting.”
Gary reached in his pocket and counted 75 cents.
“This is the best money you’ll ever spend,” Russell said.
Russell put the money in his pocket.
“Why didn’t you put the money in the register,” Gary said.
“If this money is mixed with the money in the register the necklace won’t work,” Russell said.
Gary nodded slightly, skeptical of the explanation.
Gary walked from Russell’s with the necklace around his neck not certain of its power, but certain Russell just made some under-the-table gain. “It’ is better to be safe than sorry,” he mumbled.
In the distance, two blocks away, he saw Beez’s car parked in a driveway. No sooner did he take notice and Beez drove away. Gary smiled knowing that others were looking out for him including Russell and the holy mother.