Sunday, February 2, 2020

Side Story #1 - Colt - Page 14

<<Page 13 || All Side Story #1 pages || Page 15>>

Colt just leveled a flat stare at the girl for a moment. "I'm wondering the same thing about you."

Susan squinted at him with one eye.

Colt pressed a little more. "You don't seem very concerned about your boss here." He glanced at Nina. "You are her boss, right?"

"Well, I--"

"I'm not good with emotional stuff," said Susan with only slightly more fervor than before. "Sometimes it rubs people the wrong way."

"Is that right?" said Colt.

"It is," said Susan.

He hadn't come here to get into an argument, but as he considered his options again, an argument seemed like it might actually be the most productive direction he steer this conversation. Being too aggressive was obviously a stupid idea, but at the same time, being too passive would just result in him having to leave without having learned anything useful.

"You seem more like a heartless little brat to me," said Colt. He honestly didn't give two shits about what this girl's relationship with Nina was like, but the longer he could keep them talking, the more opportunity he would have to gain some kind of new insight.

It seemed to do the trick, though. Susan's vacant expression tightened, and she raised her voice a little. "What the fuck would you know?"

The twins both looked at her now, and Colt held them a bit more tightly. "Would you mind not using that kind of language around my kids? I thought you were a babysitter."

"You--ugh, whatever." She settled back into her chair and stared at the wall.

"Not very good at your job, huh? Can't say I'm surprised."

Susan was just ignoring him now.

He turned back to Nina, who looked flabbergasted. "Sorry," he said. "Didn't mean to stir up extra trouble for you. I'm sure you're having a hard enough time as it is. But do you have someone to talk to? I'm happy to stand in for you, but it doesn't have to be me. I'm just concerned." He gave the old woman a window to chime in, but she still seemed lost for words. "Heck, even that brat over there would do--assuming she can think about anyone other than herself for two seconds."

Susan leapt up from her chair. "Okay, asshole! Who the hell do you think you are?!"

"Colton Thompson," he said calmly, still seated. "You can just call me Colt, though."

"Oh, great! Well, Colt! You are insanely rude, y'know that?!"

"You aren't exactly full of sunshine yourself," he said. "Have you done anything to help make your boss' day here any easier? Hmm?"

At that, Susan's mouth twisted, and her face turned red--whether through embarrassment or anger, Colt couldn't tell.

Nina finally found her voice. "Th-thank you for your concern, but I'm fine. I have people I can talk to."

"Glad to hear it," said Colt. It didn't sound like he was going to get any useful information out of her. Judging from her tone, she was about to ask him to leave--which was certainly reasonable. He knew full well that he was the one being ridiculous right now. "When I went through it, I was out of commission for weeks. Couldn't concentrate on work at all. As far as I'm concerned, it's incredible that you even came in at all today."

"Yes, well, it wasn't by choice," said Nina. "Certain clients just can't be, um..." She didn't finish.

Hmm? Clients? Colt was about to inquire further when Susan decided to chime in again.

"Can't you see she's stressed out right now? She doesn't feel like talking to you, you obnoxious freak."

Colt eyed the teenager again, but Nina interjected first.

"I'm sorry, but I--I just can't deal with this, right now." She shook her head tiredly. "I'm sure you mean well, Mr. Thompson, but unless you intend to use our services, could I please ask you to leave?"

Colt stood up with the twins. "I understand. Thank you for your time, and I'm sorry for your loss." He started for the door, then had one last long shot of an idea. He threw a glance back at Susan, and said, "On second thought, I guess it was presumptuous of me to assume that you were here for work and not the other thing."

"...Wha?! Hey! What the hell is that supposed to mean?! Hey, come back here!"

Colt was already outside and returning to his car.

This was the long shot part. She had to chase after him for either an explanation or to continue the argument. And most people wouldn't bother.

Ah, well. He supposed he'd done all he--

"Hey, I'm not done talking to you!"

Oh, hey.

"What the hell did you mean?! What 'other thing' would I be at a daycare for, huh?!"

After hearing the door open and close again behind him, as well as her angry footsteps catching up to him, Colt waited until she sounded close enough, then spun around to look at her. "Y'know what? You're right. That was out of line. I'm sorry."

Her mouth was open, but she apparently had no response. She still looked pretty angry, though. If anything, she seemed even more pissed.

"I mean it," said Colt. He looked around for something he remembered seeing earlier, and he found it when his eyes fell upon a convenience store across the street to his left. "In fact, to prove it, how's about I make it up to you? I'll buy you an ice cream."

She blinked, and her expression trembled with confusion. "Wha?! You can't just--! I don't want an ice cream, you fucking weirdo!"

He tilted his head at her. "No? Well, I'm gonna got some for me and my kids." He started walking again, this time in the direction of the convenience store. "You can come if you want."

"You think I'd go anywhere with a creep like you?!" she shouted after him.

"Alright!" he said over his shoulder. "Have a nice day, then! Sorry again for bothering you!"

And he just kept walking. At this point, he'd somehow convinced himself that he really did want that ice cream.

After another minute, though, he heard steps rushing up from behind him again, and then Susan was there at his side.

"I want chocolate," she said with a frown and a forward-locked gaze.

"You can't have chocolate," said Colt.

"Wha?!"

"That was a joke. Get whatever you want."

"Rrgh..."

They arrived shortly. Susan picked her brand and flavor instantly, while Colt took his sweet time. And since he was paying, she had to wait for him.

"Lived in Orden your whole life?" he asked.

She was tapping her foot. "What do you care? God, you're such a creep."

"Hmm. What flavors do you think the kids would like?"

"How should I know? You're their father, aren't you?" She paused. "You are, aren't you?"

That particularl implication, he didn't much appreciate, and he couldn't help glaring at her briefly. "Yes. I am."

"Then why're you asking me?"

"You have experience with kids, don't you? What flavors do they normally like?"

"I don't know. They're kids. They don't care. They like everything, as long as it's sweet."

Colt sighed. He decided to forego the prepackaged products and go for ice cream from the dispenser with cake cones. He settled on vanilla.

Susan snickered. "After all that time and fuss, you choose vanilla? Honestly, what is wrong with you?"

"Sometimes, I overthink things."

That also made her laugh for some reason. "No kidding."

He ignored her and paid for everyone's ice cream. She had to carry the ones for the kids, since his hands were so full.

Outside again, Colt's eyes went to the bench in front of the store, and he sat down so that the twins could start enjoying their treats as well. He tried to help them eat so that they didn't get it all over their faces again.

There was enough space on the bench, but Susan remained standing as she ate hers.

Frankly, Colt was surprised that she wasn't already leaving.

"How long've you been in Orden?" said Susan.

"I asked you first," he said with a mouthful of vanilla.

She clicked her tongue. "Fine. Yes. I've lived here all my life. Now your turn."

"Only just moved here," he told her. Colt frowned as he noticed that Thomas had managed to dip his entire nose in ice cream. He started wiping the boy's face with a napkin.

"They're pretty cute, I guess," said Susan.

Colt just threw her a look.

"How old are they?" she asked.

"Almost two," he said.

"Where's their mom?"

Colt allowed that question to linger. He was already growing tired of answering it, but he knew that it wasn't going to stop popping up anytime soon. "Dead," he lied.

"Oh..."

He focused on enjoying his own ice cream for a minute. He'd experienced this same amazement just yesterday, but he still couldn't quite get over it. Damn, he'd missed ice cream.

Susan took the opportunity to sit down. "So... back in the daycare, when you were talking about experiencing what Nina is going through..."

Colt chose not to say anything. He didn't feel like lying any more than he already had. Susan could draw her own conclusions.

"I'm sorry, uh... I was, er... being insensitive."

"Water under the bridge."

She gave a faint laugh. "It happened like fifteen minutes ago."

"Water under the bridge," he reiterated, this time with emphasis.

"You're really weird," she said.

"Hmm. So are you. Where'd all that anger from earlier go?"

She shrugged as she kept eating. "I guess I'm a sucker for sweets. You've uncovered my weakness."

That earned a small chuckle from Colt. He still needed to be careful, though. All of this would be for nothing if he said the wrong thing. "You still haven't told me your name, by the way."

"Oh. Susan Rock. Nice to meet you." She offered him a handshake.

His hands were still quite full, though, so rather than trying to fumble awkwardly to accept it, he said, "I'm not touching that. Who knows where it's been?"

She punched him in the shoulder.

He went back to enjoying his ice cream for another minute.

"...So your boss," said Colt, knowing that he had to ask a riskier question, "who, ah...? Or, which relative did she...?"

"Her son," said Susan.

"Ah..."

"I guess you wouldn't know him since you're so new," she said, "but he was the town sheriff, believe it or not."

Colt did his best to feign surprise. "That's horrible."

"Right? I didn't know him all that well myself, but I'd seen him around a lot. It's weird to think that he's just... gone now."

Colt just nodded, considering what next question to ask.

"They're saying it was a suicide," said Susan.

He shook his head. "How awful..."

"Yeah..."

He had to take it slow. "Were there any... ah, signs? Was he depressed?"

"Not that I know of," she said. "Nina seemed pretty shocked. But I mean, I guess anyone would be, warning signs or not. It's just so crazy. Again, I didn't know him well, but he seemed like such a happy-go-lucky guy."

Agh. He wanted so badly to ask the typical cop questions here, but he knew only too well that he couldn't do that without arousing suspicion. He didn't need to give Susan here any more reasons to think that he might be up to something. He had to be more creative with his words, more subtle.

"Is this the first time you've seen death so close to you?" said Colt.

Susan took her time answering. "...No."

And Colt wanted to, but he decided not to push for more there. If she wanted to volunteer it, then great, but he felt like he shouldn't try to force that kind of information out of her.

She did eventually elaborate, though. "A friend of mine... died in a fire a few years ago."

Colt blinked. A fire? "I'm sorry to hear that," he said.


<<Page 13 || All Side Story #1 pages || Page 15>>

These Side Story pages are released each week on Sunday at 6 pm EST.
However, they are released four weeks earlier over on Patreon, along with many extra pages of the main story.
Thanks for reading, everyone.

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