Great Summer Novel, Chapter 2

Cat on wall

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Tater jumped off the counter, landing at the feet of the mysterious knife-wielding monk.

Davis’ jaw dropped to the store’s dingy, tile floor.

Palisade was the sort of town where police responded to calls of horse-drawn buggy vandalisms and loud music complaints. It wasn’t the sort of place where strange men saunter into businesses asking for mysterious trunks while hiding swords or daggers in their pockets.

Even more inexplicable was Tater. Normally a lazy, reserved cat, he circled the monk’s feet, purring loudly, as if they were long-lost friends.

Davis shouldn’t have been surprised. The entire morning, albeit a whirlwind of disappointment and confusion ; had been odd. And the past few days in Palisade had been strange. People had been so, well, socially uninhibited. A rogue monk in a hardware store was simply the latest disruption in Davis’ mundane life.

“I’m sorry, sir, but do we know each other?” Davis asked in a nervous, dry-mouthed whisper.

Davis searched his memory bank. Had they met when Davis worked as a U.S. Foreign Service officer in Thailand? Had they met when Davis and Lina visited that old monastery in Laos? Lina loved those places. She was always talking about monks, Davis thought to himself, all annoyed.

Tater’s purring and ankle rubbing must have calmed the monk because he put the knife back in his robe pocket. Tater returned to the counter.

“No. You do not know me, but I know you,” the monk said. “I am here to reclaim the trunk delivered to Mr. Cooper nearly 15 months ago. This address.”

“I’m sorry, sir. As I said earlier, I’m Davis Cooper. My father was Mr. Cooper, Mr. Truman Cooper, but he passed a year ago, leaving me this store. This address.”

“Well, then, he must have left the trunk. Where is it?”

With the knife away and Tater unalarmed, Davis relaxed, but he decided it best to address this strange monk’s concerns instead of hang out by the front door waiting for someone to walk in to peruse the paint brush selection. He flipped the “Open” sign to “Closed” and escorted the monk to the back of the store.

Tater followed.

“Sir, you are welcome to look through my inventory,” Davis said. After all, if this man wanted to dig through boxes of bolts, nails and bulbs, fine by Davis. He had nothing to hide.

“I will,” the monk said.

Davis asked the monk to describe the trunk. Truman Cooper never mentioned anything about a trunk, so Davis figured this search was a waste of time, but he wasn’t about to say that to the monk. Images of that huge knife kept flashing in Davis’ mind. Being helpful and courteous seemed the safe things to do.

The monk stretched his arms about three feet wide. Then, he placed his right hand about two feet above his left to indicate its height. The trunk was made of rare black and white ebony found in Laos, so it would be recognizable in a Palisade hardware store, the monk added.

Davis shook his head.

“Sorry, but I have never seen anything resembling the trunk you speak of.”

“Keep looking,” the monk ordered.

The men opened several boxes of tools and moved to smaller, flat envelopes of rags and cloths Davis stocked in the cleaning section.

A trunk made of rare wood large enough to hold a hefty stash of old books wasn’t the sort of thing to go missing in a small Palisade hardware store. Davis kept meticulous records, and his father was an organized person, as well.

Davis articulated this to the monk, apologizing profusely, but politely emphasizing that if a trunk from Southeast Asia had been delivered to this hardware store, it most certainly would have been the sort of delivery Davis would have noticed or his father would have logged.

“No,” the monk said, waving Davis off. “I have searched for this trunk for more than a year. I have asked many people.” The monk rubbed his hand over the robe, where both he and Davis knew the knife was hidden. “It was taken from Laos to Thailand and mailed to Palisade, Colorado, 15 months ago. This address.”

Davis sighed. He was frustrated and scared but didn’t know what to do. The monk sighed. He was frustrated and knew he couldn’t hurt Davis because Davis was the one person who could find the trunk.

The men turned to leave the back storage area when they heard a crash and the sound of glass breaking.

Davis quickly turned and found Tater up on a shelf by the back door. The monk walked toward the cat and the broken glass.

“Oh, my cat is probably excited that a stranger is here and knocked photographs of my father onto the floor,” Davis said, trying to diffuse the situation, while simultaneously wondering what had gotten into Tater to jump onto a shelf. How odd. “Those are just shattered picture frames. Nothing to see there.”

The monk picked up the photographs and studied Truman Cooper’s face.

Davis grabbed Tater. The cat dug its claws into the wood shelf, as if telling Davis not to move him.

“Wait. What is that photo?” the monk asked Davis, pointing to the photograph behind Tater’s claw marks.

“Oh,” Davis said, a bit embarrassed. “That is Lina and I at the Grand Palace in Thailand. We moved to Palisade after my father died a year ago.”

The monk reached for the frame.

“What is her name? How do you know her?” the monk asked.

“Lina. She is my girlfriend,” Davis said. “Sorry, ex-girlfriend. She moved away months ago. I should throw this photo away.”

“Catalina?” the monk asked.

“Yes,” Davis said, regretting immediately that he had picked Tater up from the shelf. “That is her full name.”

“This is the woman who mailed my trunk to Palisade.”

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