An Easy Favor Pt. 6

The next day, Hawthorne set out on his last day between prison and his new job. He had to search out Art’s daughter that day because he did not know when his next day off would be. He also owed it to the old man to keep his word about passing on the message. It would probably be awkward but if he just got through it and stayed polite, he could get out of her hair with minimal fuss. He knew that he came off physically imposing. His height was already towering but when you added on the metal arms and back, he could easily be mistaken for a monster. Thankfully, he had covered his face throughout his criminal life which had kept his face unscathed.

A cart on the corner was selling delicious breakfast sandwiches with a handful of hash browns in a sack. Hawthorne was in heaven as he sat on a bench for a little bit and dug into the food. His mother had always chided him for eating standing up and eating while walking was absolute insanity. Besides, sitting allowed him to focus on how good the food tasted. It was greasy and salty and probably horrible for him but at that moment he pushed such thoughts from his mind. He just focused on each perfect bite and even found himself closing his eyes.

When he opened his eyes, he saw a young woman on the other end of the bench staring at him. He blinked for a moment and then turned away before he was caught staring. Then he realized that the woman was the same one he had seen entering the halfway house the night before in the rain. She looked a bit different now that she was dry but there was no mistaking her eyes. He thought for a moment that she was following him but there was no way that she had seen him through the one-way window the night before. She was probably just waiting for a bus. He got to his feet as nonchalantly as possible. He tossed his breakfast trash and went on his way again.

He was finding it hard to shake off the paranoia that had kept him safe in prison. A little paranoia was healthy but too much would give him a heart attack eventually. He reminded himself that this was his first full day out of prison. Adapting back to the real world would take time. He knew that getting into a routine and breathing the outside air a bit more would help clear his head and his heart. These things took time and he wondered if the Department of Corrections would pay for a therapy session or two. It seemed unlikely. His parole officer would have probably mentioned it if that was the case. He seemed to actually give at least a little bit of a damn unlike Erinyes and other Corrections employees he had met.

The place where Art’s daughter was supposed to be working was actually not far and it was a nice day for a walk. He was also just a little bit rattled to wait for the bus. He had plenty of time so he started to make his way through the streets of Baltimore. Things had changed since he had been inside. He had gotten a bit of a look while riding on the Jones Falls Expressway but you always got a better look when you were on foot. Hawthorne loved Baltimore and he had missed it a lot. He had tried to separate the city from his mind while he was inside. Some guys had talked about their home base all the time, trying to hold onto that for hope. Hawthorne had done the opposite, he had made the prison his home. Now he had to find a new home. He thought he would pass through Baltimore to find that home but now he could not imagine leaving the city again.

He wondered what he would do for lunch. He was walking over to Mount Vernon so there should be several good restaurants in the area. He wondered how many of them might refuse him entry. He was looking a bit scruffy and could probably use a haircut and a beard trim. If he was looking for jobs he probably would have shaved the beard off. He shook his head gently. He was too much in his own head. He needed to just stay in the present for now until it made sense to think of the future. Just enjoy being out and having some of his freedom returned to him. He briefly watched a trio of seagulls fight over a bagel.

He stepped onto Charles Street and it was just as bustling as it had always been and he was a bit overwhelmed. He waited at the crosswalk to get across the street for a while and then hurried across. Even with plenty of time, he still got honked at. It was not worth it to get angry. The elevator at the office building was taking a while so he took the steps. He climbed three stories pretty easily. He was still in shape.

“Excuse me,” he said to the guy at the front desk of the office. “I’m here to see Marianne Grover.”

“She just stepped outside,” the guy said without looking up. “If you hurry you can catch her. Unless it’s business. If it’s business you can take a seat.”

“Thanks,” Hawthorne said. “It’s not business. He walked back toward the stairs and hustled down them. That explained why the elevator was in use. If he had just waited, he might have caught her. He reached the bottom and stepped outside and saw a young woman hanging up her cell phone. “Excuse me, Marianne Grover?”

The woman turned around with tears in her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Whatever you want will have to wait. My dad just died.”

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