JJ found the car parked around the corner from the bar. It had a ticket under the wiper (meter expired, never fed) but looked intact. Night was falling and there were people going here and there, young people with hope and a bounce in their steps. There was an expectant Friday night feel. He sat on a bench near the car and strove for a post-binge clarity of his position and state of affairs. There were pros and cons.
Pro: He hadn’t lost the car and it appeared to be undamaged. The keys were in his pocket.
Con: He didn’t know what happened during the past three days.
Pro: Except for a sodden dread and a railroad spike of pain in his head, he appeared to be mostly intact. Dirty, but physically intact.
Con: All his cash was gone.
Pro: He still had his wallet and debit card.
First things first. Find an ATM. There’s a bank right over there with the little ATM booth attached near the side entrance. A swipe, a buzz, and the too bright flourescent light. Check balance? (A dreadful stirring and shadowy memories, much too recent.)
Before he left Massachusetts it was $51,000 and change, the last of his lottery winnings.
He stared at the current number. The digits floated a little on the screen, disconnecting then all lining up. He blinked but the number of digits didn’t increase. It took him a minute to do the math as his heart started to pound. The shadow beasts were starting to emerge from the mist.
He was missing $50,000.
Other memories now, little glimpses of a movie in which he was the slow-moving and dimwitted star. A bank. Bank employee in a suit (never a good sign). Phone calls and … signatures? And… And…
A person with him. A woman? Yes? A young woman. The Mountain Dude? That was later, he was pretty sure.
He stood frozen at the ATM until it double-beeped and threatened to end the transaction. He cancelled the transaction and stumbled back against the wall of the ATM booth. Sliding down to a crouch with his back against the wall, JJ tried to piece it all together and pierce the fog of the last three days. The ride from Denver, a liquor store along the way, a hotel off the highway, drinking and watching a baseball game on TV. Restlessness and boredom. Then the fog thickened. JJ, head down in concentration and shame, trying to keep the panic at bay, crouched there for a minute or an eternity.
There was a knock on the glass of the ATM panic room. JJ startled with a surge of fear and jerked his head up. The demons were trying to get in!
He saw a woman smiling at him through the glass. Was it…? Lila? But, no, just for a second there. The shape of her. The hair. But it was not Lila. JJ opened the door.
“I’ve been looking for you,” she said. “I got my stuff. The camping gear.”
“Are you alright? We’re driving up to see the land.”
“The land we bought?”
“You drive,” he said and handed her the keys. “And help me up, please.”