Tom realized, suddenly, that he was hungry. More like starving. His stomach felt showroom-quality, brand new, 100-percent devoid of food. He turned into the first 7-Eleven he saw without even tapping the brakes, without even realizing he was going to do it. Screeching into the parking lot like that was dumb and he knew it. He sat in the car for a full minute, long enough so that anyone interested in who was making such a scene would have gotten bored and went back to their Big Gulps or whatever.
He looked in the rearview mirror and smoothed out his hair; there was some dried blood on the back of his hand. He scratched at it — not his. Tom laughed softly to himself, but not softly enough. His ribs stabbed at him under his jacket. His hand found the grip of the baseball bat reflexively, and tightened around it. GD Schutze. He let go of the bat, and braced himself against the armrest to get out.
Even with his head ducked down as he entered, the clerk recognized him, doing a not-subtle-but-trying double-take. The Mayor didn’t meet his gaze. He walked down the middle aisle and pawed at a few candy bars. He was so hungry, nothing sounded good. And then, there was the clerk, right next to him. Tom noticed just in time — the clerk was about to poke him in the side, the bad side, to get his attention.
“You’re him, right?” Tom did his best to look confused at the question. “Mayor Leppert, yes? You came to our church, remember — before the election? Yes, yes! Mr. Mayor! How are you?”
He knew Carol would hate him for what he was about to do, but right now, he didn’t really care about the election. There was time to glad hand later, to fake interest in this guy’s story.
“Yeah,” he said, not smiling. “It’s me. And you know what? I’ve had a long day. And I’m about to start on a long night. So why don’t you go back to doing your job and I’ll go back to doing mine, which now includes making sure your church gets as many code violations as I think we can get away with without people questioning my relationship with Christ.”
The clerk stared at him. Tom stuffed a dollar in the clerk’s shirt pocket and unwrapped a Snickers.