Burch (Part 5)

Alex pushed through the barbershop door, setting the bells jangling, and joined the bustle on the city streets. He sported a new cut, a fresh shave, and a different identity.

Al was gone, and Alex had things to do.

He hailed a cab—a necessary expense—to get to the other side of town quickly. He had more of a deadline now, less time to waste. Speaking of time…

A cab finally stopped for him. Alex told the driver he needed a mall, but sat forward on the seat, his eyes scanning the passing streets for what he really needed…and there it was. He tapped the cabbie on the shoulder and pointed.

The strip was a faded has-been full of empty windows and low-rent chains. One of these was a shoe store. Alex pointed until the cabbie parked in front.

“10 minutes,” Alex said, halfway out the cab door. The driver did not protest.

The store was dusty and faded. Though a chime greeted him, no human did. Not that this bothered Alex. He went straight for men’s size 11. Predictably, there were few options, but he chose a pair of gray New Balance marked $60. He doubted it cost half that to make them, though the box proclaimed this price a steal at 70% off. Alex didn’t bother to try them on, but gathered the box and hurried to the front of the store. His shuffle and amble were gone.

He found a wallet and a pair of sunglasses that weren’t too cheap looking, but none of the watches would do. It was a small touch, but an important one. Still, Alex saw no one. He considered leaving then knocked on the counter.

A young Asian man poked his head through the back door. He was chewing.

Alex gestured with the shoe box.

“Give you forty” he said. He thought it a generous offer considering he could have lifted them easily. He waved the bills in his other hand.

The young man swallowed and wiped his chin. He nodded then disappeared.

Alex placed the bills on the counter and left the store.

The cabbie was still there.

Alex needed a few more things, so he let the cabbie proceed to the mall. On the drive over, Alex changed his shoes. He put most of his money in the new wallet and gathered his unnecessary items into the plastic bag from the Salvation Army. On his way inside, he dropped the bag into an outdoor garbage bin.

Alex entered through the food court, inhaling the mixed aromas and feeling his stomach cramp in protest, but he did not slow down. He could eat later. He blended into the lunch crowd, relaxed but efficient, unhurried but determined.

In only two stores he found the rest of his items. A watch, a briefcase, and a baseball cap. He donned the hat and emptied his pockets into the briefcase.

Alex found a service exit and took it. Adopting the stance of a tired retail worker, he moved past the massive parking lot and onto the main road before he hailed another cab.

This one took him to the airport.

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