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Amnesty (Amnesia #2)
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There’s freedom in remembering.
My past is a double-edged sword.
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I thought I was safe.
Widow West was still in the hospital, still unresponsive and immobile. She wasn’t able to come for me. Not anymore, at least not right now. I let my guard down with a false sense of security… And now I was regretting it.
I don’t know why, but I assumed the man who sent the widow after me wouldn’t come. It seemed he was content with having someone else do the kidnapping. Or perhaps he just wanted to remain out of sight. Regardless, the idea he would come to finish what she started didn’t occur to me.
Until, of course, he did.
Just as I was finishing my workday at Loch Gen—a job, as it turned out, I really loved—there was a sound toward the back of the store. Maybe I wouldn’t have noticed the noise at all except for the fact my fingers were still on the locks; the sign I just flipped over to “closed” was still moving against the windowpane.
No one was in here.
No one but me.
Eddie ran out to drop off a grocery delivery to one of the town people who called needing a few essentials but was too sick to come in. Being the man he was, Eddie jotted down the order immediately and bagged it up. These small details here at Lake Loch were never lost on me. I knew there were other places in the world where things like this didn’t happen. Things like neighbors counting on neighbors and everyone pretty much being your friend. It was something I would never take for granted, especially since recalling some things that proved this world could be a cruel place.
After assuring Eddie I could close up and start a few restocks before we called it a night, he took off and I was left alone.
At least I thought I’d been alone.
Still standing with my back to the store, hand paused over the lock, I listened. The ceiling fans, which were always on, hummed slightly, creating a sort of warbled whirring overhead. The low drone of the coolers on the other side of the place kicked on, and I wondered if perhaps that’s what I’d heard.
But the sound that made me pause came from the other direction. Back toward the stairs and the tiny bathroom. Back where all the Lake Loch merchandise was, including the little stuffed Loch Ness monsters I loved so much.
The sound of hangers knocking together, as if someone bumped into a rack of clothes and caused everything on it to collide, was fairly distinct. It wasn’t a noise that could be easily explained away. At least not in that moment, not as my ears searched for another reason and my fingertips trembled.
“Hello?” I said, brazenly calling out in my fear.
No one replied as I turned fully away from the door and stared out across the section of store I could see.
“Is anyone here?” I called out. “I’m closing up.”
The sudden trill of the phone near the register made me leap off the floor. With a gasp, I pressed my palm to my chest and scurried around the counter to pick it up. “Loch General,” I said, partially out of breath.
The sound of static greeted me. Nervous energy crackled along my limbs, buzzing beneath my skin. “Hello?” I asked.
Replacing the receiver, I began closing out the register, trying to evade the uneasy feeling coiling inside me.
The distinct scuffle of feet against the floor brought my head up. Instantly, my heart began to pound. Leaving the cash drawer wide open, I crept cautiously around the counter toward the back of the store where the noises were coming from.
I was just being paranoid. After everything that happened, it was understandable that I’d react this way to intrusive noise. That every single sound would take my imagination to the furthest point and panic would build. I should probably mention this to Dr. Kline.
The merchandise section came into view; everything looked okay. I saw no hulking figure standing there ready to attack.
My sigh of relief was so strong it lifted my shoulders to my ears, and as I released the tension, I rested my hands on my hips. Shaking my head at my own paranoia, I started to spin back toward the register.
That’s when I saw it.
Out of the corner of my eye, a familiar shape, small and dark, had my feet stopping, my lips pulling down into a frown.
One of the small Loch Ness toys was on the floor. It lay there against the wood planks, on its side, completely out of place. The rack where all the toys were displayed wasn’t even near where it lay. It was as if someone had accidentally dropped it there as they’d been shopping.
Or placed it there on purpose…
Brushing off the thought, I told myself to stop being so sinister. Why would someone deliberately place a harmless stuffed animal on the floor?