Thursday, April 11, 2019


THE AIR WAS THICK with the scent of coffee and hot dogs.

The coffee smelled as if it had been brewed in Heaven from God’s personal pot. The hot dogs on the other hand, not so much. The two scents combined to make for something unique that only those who worked in gas stations could fully appreciate. Some find the mixture a stench that they simply can’t live with and are quick to find work elsewhere. Others find an odd comfort in the aroma. Tracey Fisher, the overnight clerk at the Gas and Stuff could take it or leave it. For her, the worst smell in the store has always been Adam Vance’s breath.

The Gas and Stuff was located on the north side of Highway 24 between Perry and Topeka, Kansas. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, in the middle of nowhere. There was the town of Grantville to the south over on the other side of the highway, but to call Grantville a town would be like calling a flea an elephant.

Besides, Grantville was far enough to the southwest that no one would hear her scream were the occasion to call for it. So really, when all the cards were lain upon the table, she would be all alone out in the sticks were it not for Adam Vance, his eye-watering breath, and the occasional customer.

Tracey had the misfortune to work the overnight shift. Not the safest of jobs in the world. Not when you take into consideration the store’s remote location and its direct access to a highway that is none to widely traveled. It was as if the place was just begging to be robbed. Which was why Tracey chose to put up with the stench that rolled from Adam’s mouth whenever he spoke to her. His presence made her feel safe. It helped, of course, that he was a cop. A Deputy Sheriff for Jefferson County.

Like Tracey, Adam worked the overnight shift. Apart from the occasional patrol, or order from dispatch to respond to a call, he liked to spend most of his time at the Gas and Stuff, talking to Tracey. Just having his patrol car sitting in the lot was enough to scare away any middle of the night would-be-miscreant out looking for an opportunity to score some quick cash.

At the moment, Adam sat out in his patrol car, which he did now and again to work on his paperwork. These were times that, normally, Tracey would relish, for it meant that she could be allowed some time alone with nothing but a good book, the music from the local Classic Rock station, and her thoughts. After all, at nearly Three in the morning, The Gas and Stuff was typically dead.

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