Sunday, July 21, 2013

Baxter: Chapter Five

Chapter Five

Baxter’s regular routine was never very particular or very punctual, but he did the same things a lot. Like sit in front of his over-sized TV, watching TV shows in long, overdosing sessions, playing video games in extensive, butt-numbing stretches, broken up by the occasional movie. The treadmill squatted in the corner of the living room, pointedly ignored. Nothing but dust was on it, as to use it for any purpose, even to drape a towel on it, would be to acknowledge it. 
Every few days he made a trek to the grocery store. It was five blocks downhill on the main drag, and it was the only exercise he took anymore that wasn’t in the bedroom. It was on one of these trips that he’d been photographed by the Chase ATM just outside the Safeway. The trips were more for drinks and snacks than food, as he mostly had that delivered from a short list of expertly chosen eateries. The pizza delivery guy came by so often that he only had to pick up the phone and say “It’s Baxter,” and the same order would show up within 45 minutes. He came by after work sometimes to shoot the shit and blow stuff up on the PlayStation. 
One of the only modern conveniences he hadn’t embraced was digital books. And, strangely, some odd string of frugality in him didn’t want to take advantage of the convenience of Amazon, so he made a once-weekly pilgrimage to the neighborhood library, dropping off books on international policy, biographies of bands and small volumes by comedians, then picking up murder mysteries, horror novels, and books about World War Two. 
On the way back from the library, he would break up his walk by stopping at a local restaurant where he’d spend the evening in the bar, eating, reading, and drinking tooth-achingly cold martinis. 
Years ago, Baxter had misled a bartender into thinking that he was in Witness Protection. The guy had his phone number and would buzz him if someone came around looking for him. It was basic tradecraft, it was just what you did when you didn’t want to be found. But when that guy stopped working here, he hadn’t extended the relationship to a new bartender. By that time, he barely even considered it. 
Baxter would weave his way home from the bar with his bag of fresh books and pour himself into bed. The restaurant closed at 11, which made Library Thursday the only night of the week you wouldn’t find him up past midnight. 
Something about his training or his years of working in intelligence had given him almost no internal clock whatsoever. Mostly he was aware of night and day as something that really only mattered or applied to other people. He would realize that he was hungry at 4 a.m. and grump to himself that no one would bring him food at that hour. If he wasn’t completely wrecked, his car might see its only use in any given week when he took it to the Jack in the Box for a break-of-dawn snack. He’d bring the food home, sit out on his deck and watch the come up. It reminded him of how little living he’d done for so long and how much he still felt like he was making up for that. 
Even though he had stopped worrying about his physical fitness, the car was in perfect shape. It was the fifth or six car he’d had since “Gordon Duke” had bought a Taurus in Detroit. He typically got rid of them when he went on his long trips, he’d had a Jeep when he lived in Wyoming, of course, and life went on. Now he had a three-year-old Jetta that was serviced every three months whether it needed it or not. 
He never used the boat. Never even went near it.
And, of course, as often as three times a week, Baxter had an afternoon or evening assignation with one of the women from the local condos, or even the women from those women’s yoga classes and nail salons. They viewed him as something like the neighborhood cabana boy, their village bicycle, he was almost something of a local mascot. He never questioned it, just took advantage of it, one more perk that he’d missed out on and that he felt he was owed. He never considered how many faces it meant would recognize him if anyone started asking around about a guy who looked like him, in his 40s, blond hair, kinda fucked up nose... And that showed how far his tradecraft had fallen, how vulnerable he was when Falconer arrived. And how easy he made things for her.

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