Tom stopped at the plant door and scanned the parking lot carefully. There was no sign of anything out of order. He had hung back for a few minutes after the quitting whistle, giving the parking lot a chance to clear and reduce the number of places where somebody could hide.
He checked the tires on his car, verified that the hood was still latched down, and looked through the windows to make sure no one was hiding behind the front seat.
After getting in, he stopped to think about a route home. I took the short route down Market yesterday. Should I take South today? That's a pattern itself; long route one day, short route the next.
He pulled a quarter out of his pocket and balanced it on his thumb.
Heads I take Market, tails I take South.
He flipped the coin. It came up heads.
Okay, I'll be home sooner. Maybe I'll even beat Judy home.
When he reached Market, he carefully nosed his car into an opening in traffic. Once into the traffic stream, he relaxed and simply followed the cars ahead of him.
The traffic lights're well timed tonight. I’m hittin' all the greens.
His thoughts drifted to his and Judith's unsolved problem.
What's Grubbs up to? He made a point of letting us know he's found us. I keep watching for him, but either he's invisible or he's laid off us. Maybe he's waiting until we get tired of watching, and relax. Then he'll jump us.
I know we've got to be alert the rest of our lives. Grubbs isn't the only crook out there. But he's the one who's specifically after us. The rest of the crooks're just looking for somebody easy to hit. If we make ourselves hard to hit, the rest of the crooks'll leave us alone. But Grubbs'll be after us until he takes us out, unless somebody takes him out first, no matter how hard to hit we make ourselves.
He looked ahead, through a break in traffic.
Hey! That's Judy's car up ahead. Looks like we'll get home about the same time.
He checked the left-side mirror, pulled into the left-most lane, and started to pass the line of cars behind Judith's, to catch up with her. Suddenly something caught his eye.
That gray car is just staying a couple of places behind Judy's. I wonder if it's following Judy.
He picked an opening in traffic and eased back into the same lane as Judith's car.
The gray car stayed put, never more than two or three cars behind Judith's car, but never making any move to catch up with her either. It followed her as she turned off the boulevard. It followed her through several turns down side streets.
Traffic is light here. There aren't any other cars he can hide behind. But he's keeping a steady block or so behind Judy. I wonder if he's spotted me following him yet?
Judith turned into the cul-de-sac on which they lived. The gray car turned in, then slowed. Tom made the turn, then hesitated.
Whoever he is, he has to come back out this way. Should I wait for him here? But what if he's after Judy? I'd better be there in case she needs me. Damn! I wish I had my gun with me. If he's a crook, he's probably got a gun with him. It's only the honest people who obey the gun laws.
He continued to follow Judith and the gray car. Judith pulled into their driveway. The gray car slowed as it passed their house, then went by. Tom pulled to the side of the street. The gray car continued to the dead end of the street, where it made a U-turn, and came back toward him. The car slowed again as it passed their house. It was still creeping along as it passed Tom's car. He got a good look at the driver.
As Grubbs caught sight of him, the gray car suddenly accelerated. Tom's first reaction was to whip his car into a U- turn and follow Grubbs.
No! That would mean leaving Judy alone. I'd better get home and call the cops.
His tires squealed as he braked to a stop behind Judith's car. He dashed past King, who stood with forepaws on the fence and looked imploringly at him.
“Judy! Did you know that Grubbs followed you home?”
“What? No! Are you sure?”
“I'm sure.” He recounted his drive home behind her car.
“He was already following you when I first spotted you on the boulevard.”
“But I take a different route home each night, just like you're supposed to. How did he find me?”
“Maybe he's been waiting every day on that route, and finally got lucky.”
“Or maybe he followed me all the way from work. That's really scary. What's the point of taking different routes, like they tell you to do, if someone's waiting for you right at the start.”
“Or what if he's waiting for you right here at the end? What could you do if he was waiting here to ambush you?”
“If I saw him I guess I could just turn around and leave.”
“But what if he's parked his car somewhere else and walked here. We've made sure there's no place he could hide in our yard, but he could be hiding behind some car parked partway down the street. By the time you got the alarm turned off and the door unlocked, he might be able to run up here and grab you.”
“I've thought of that. I take a good look around before I open the car door. I make sure I have one hand free, even if that means I'll have to make several trips to the car to bring things in. The first thing I do after I unlock the door and lock it behind me is load my gun. Only then if there's anything still in the car do I go get it. I figure King'll bark if somebody tries to sneak up on the house once I'm inside.”
“That's good, but I still don't like the idea of Grubbs stalking us. The cops have made it clear they're not going to help us. I wish the Justice Cooperative would hurry.”
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