Randi Lassiter took great care to unwrap the granola bar before having a bite. She hated eating in her car. The last thing she wanted was bits of oat and birdseed stuck in the fibers of her carpet. She’d skipped eating breakfast because of her hectic morning and a last minute phone call had her racing out of the office without lunch. So she’d grabbed the snack bar on her way out the door.
Now it seemed she had all the time in the world to eat as she sat in the lot across from Barstow Appliance Center and waited for Matthew Barstow to leave so she could tail him.
Betty and Matthew Barstow had worked side-by-side for the thirteen years they owned the store. A small town success, the business had afforded them and their three children a comfortable life. And with the girls off to college, Betty said they should be enjoying their empty nest time together. But recently Matthew was taking long lunches alone and running mysterious errands in the middle of the day. Betty suspected he had a mistress.
As a local, Randi knew just about everybody in Mt. Ouisco. It was hard for her to picture Matthew Barstow getting naked with anyone; his wife included. Just this side of fifty, the man had a slouch that started at his shoulders, melted down the front of his torso and stopped at the spare tire resting on his thighs. Not the most robust specimen of the male form.
Randi’s cell phone rang as she finished her snack. It was her secretary. Randi hit the speaker button as she picked up.
“How’s tubby today?” CJ Daniels asked.
“Tell me, you really think he’s grabbing ass?”
“It’s more likely he’s sneaking out to see a dietician or heart doctor than a sex partner.”
“Been a while since I’ve seen Matt, he still sporting that mullet?” CJ asked.
“Yeah, but it’s getting thin on top. Pretty soon it’ll be a comb over.”
For weeks now Randi had watched Mr. B. waddle to his car and squeeze behind the wheel. She was tempted to advise Betty—Honey, if he’s got something on the side let him go before he rolls over in his sleep some night and crushes you to death—but she didn’t. Barstow was just a nice man who didn’t take care of himself.
“What has it been, two months?”
“Yes, but the guy is unpredictable, only takes off once a week and never the same day or time.”
Betty had come into Lassiter Inc. and hired her to investigate her husband’s potential infidelity. Randi had no problem spending whatever time it took to catch the guy but Betty was on a budget, and although Lassiter Investigations prices were the cheapest around, Randi tailored the schedule to meet the woman’s needs. It’s what you did in a small town.
The plan was for Randi to leave her schedule open, as much as was possible considering she was running her own small business, and Betty would call her when Matthew took off. That gave her a five-minute window to get to the store. Plenty of time when you considered Matthew Barstow’s walking pace and the time it would take him to get to his car.
“So you going to catch him today and be done with this shit?”
“I’m telling you…the guy is paranoid. The minute he leaves the business he goes into stealth mode, making turns and circles through the neighborhood like he suspects someone is following him.” It was behavior that left Randi scratching her head and pushing out unbidden visions of bouncing naked flab.
“I’ve got to go, CJ. He’s leaving.”
As Barstow was wedging himself into his car, she left the parking lot and headed to what she knew was his destination, she was excited to finally get an answer to the mystery. It had taken a bit of effort to discover the pattern to the man’s midday missions, but she finally figured out that no matter which route Matthew took he always ended up at the same place—Doggie Style Pet Grooming.
Today she wouldn’t follow him; she would beat him there.
…to be continued.