Chapter 3

The persistent cold, a constant companion in Colorado during mid-November, reaches out with determined arms, encasing Max in a chill he's unable to shake even after scampering quickly inside, burying his neck against the collar of his jacket and his numbed hands in his pockets. Scrubbing his boats-layered with a crust of mud-across the WELCOME mat spread out at the front entrance he welcomes the heat of the building as he begins to regain feeling in his fingers.

Directed by his familiarity of the entryway and by the black sign with an arrow pointing to the left stating, PLEASE REMAIN SEATED UNTIL HELPED, he approaches the seating area, plopping down on one of the four chairs beside a man, his face buried in an open newspaper. As soon as he makes a disturbance the man glances out the corner of his eye, wearily scrutinizing Max like a specimen under a microscope.

Immediately discomforted by his unwavering stare Max allows his gaze to wander around the spacious room, the only furniture being the four chairs and a large attendants desk directly ahead, the office chair vacant of Roberta, who's usually the one to guide Max to the bossman's office.

Biting his bottom lip, becoming more impatient with each slow second crawling by, he checks his watch on his wrist, wincing at the nine and the three the hands point at, an hour after he left the house, and usually in his bosses eyes even though he isn't required to come to work until at least ten, an hour late. With Max's designated line of work he's considered special and as soon as he wakes up is as soon as he's supposed to make an appearance.

To everyone in The Ville, the little building trapped in between the Shoe Store and the Pharmacy is simply a Police Department, but a single office huddled at the end of the hall concerns something much bigger, a sort of bounty hunter type of deal with a minimal amount of employees accepted. Max's dedication, focus, and lack of family to tie him down earned him the slot early on, and despite the line of work not particularly being his style the paycheck never fails him.

Fidgeting slightly in his seat he glances over at the man beside him, gaze focused on the bold font making the title of each article pop, dragging one's eyes to the page. PIZZA MAN ESCAPES 'INVISIBLE' KILLER. Arching his eyebrows Max begins to shake his head, looking down at the next one, HOWELS IN THE NIGHT AND SINISTER ACTIVITY.

As he skims through the text a loud snort pops free from his control and the man looks sharply his way again, prompting Max to clear his throat and say, "Ever thought it might just be the wind?"

Big hands curling tightly closed and the paper crackling loudly once smashed in his iron grasp he glares. Gulping Max is quick to continue, attempting to scramble back into a less tense situation, "They're hinting werewolves right?" When his dark eyes only narrow to near shut Max adds with a shrug, "Ever think it might just be the wind?"

Another crackle and Max's eyes flit to his clamped fists, knuckles whitening underneath his already pale skin. "I don't think you we're thinking at all, son," he growls in a deep voice sounding like thunder confined in his throat.

Never one for knowing when to back down Max scrambles for words, eventually stating bluntly, "They're not real."

His glower intensifying and his bushy black eyebrows mashing in close against the bridge of his nose he grumbles, "You seem pretty real to me."

Before Max can get into anymore trouble by confronting him about the fact that his response didn't make sense at all, Roberta approaches from the left, briskly rushing down the hall, back toward her desk, a stack full of cardboard boxes piled precariously atop each other and cradled in her limited amount of arm-span. Pushing himself to his feet he meets her halfway to the desk, sliding two of the boxes into his own hands, granting her the ability to see without having to crane her neck left or right.

A wide grin spreading across her lips painted the usual cherry red-matching the curly puff of dyed hair piled atop her head like an untidy afro-and her eyes lighting up with gratitude she breathes a sigh of relief, "Oh Max, you're too kind."

Glancing over his shoulder briefly back at the man who still stares heatedly his way, raising the hairs on the back of Max's neck in acute awareness, he says nonchalantly, "No problem."

Plopping her collection of boxes on the tabletop of her desk she tisks, clacking her tongue against the roof of her mouth and shaking her head, "That man don't know how to give anyone a break, you nor me."

Eyes brought to the hallway by her words, the dark brown carpet, the ugly green walls, and the dim low watt bulbs making it look like the throat of a beast, Max is slow to add, "Keeps us sane though, am I right?"

Roberta's icy blue eyes harden into accusing twins of disapproval, "Not many folks'll like the way you been talking, Max." When he opens his mouth to defend himself she stops him by raising her tone slightly, "Now I like you, boy..." Trailing off she lowers her tone back to a hushed whisper, "but in this town there isn't sane and the sooner you realize that," shedding emphasis on her warning in an attempt to make him take heed she glances at the man who's returned his paper, "the better off you'll be."

As he attempts to piece together a response Roberta reverts back to her usual cheery self, relieving Max of his handful of boxes, "Now, Oscar needs to see you, best make haste, Lord knows that man doesn't take well to waiting."

Nodding in agreement he says simply, "Right," before spinning around on his heel and marching down the hall, and, although he'd never admit it aloud, inwardly trembling at the oddity of Roberta's revelation.

Working three jobs is hectic and stressful in any given location, but here at The Ville, it's a recipe for distorting bags under the eyes that could cart a gallon of water and an underaged case of grey hair.

Olivia's fingers, firm and sure from practice, comb through Miss Benson's tangled mess of greyed curls, darkened by the water clinging to the strands, displaying a resilience that Olivia can only envy. Distraction has proved to snatch her from her duties at the hair saloon and carry her off to new dimensions, those dimensions being the many hidden corners of the handsome man's curiously captivating eyes, all blue and green, and...

"Darling." The old woman's voice, although naturally timid and quiet, raises an octave, indicating she's been vying for her attention for quite some time.

Jarred from the inner chaos spiraling her thought process into useless mush Olivia clears her throat and shakes her head, clearing her mind and asking, "Yes Miss B?"

Her voice lowering back to it's low and crackling tone she usually speaks in she says levelly as if stating that the sky were blue, "Yesterday I had the first orgasm I've had in years."

Disturbance and surprise causes Olivia's arms to tense up and her fingernails become caught amongst the old woman's curls, making a sharp gasp of pain pop from her mouth. "Excuse me?" Olivia shrieks, shock weighting the inquiry as it rolls clumsily off her tongue.

Smacking her lips and chuckling she drawls, "That Hector is a fine man."

"Hector?" With a furrow of her brow Olivia processes the name, attempting to put a face to it while latching onto Miss Benson's arm, hefting her out of the chair and guiding her away from the wash station. Realization dawning a she advances to her allotted desk Olivia adds, stumbling of the absurdity if her suspicions "You're... you're husband Hector?"

As Olivia aides the frail woman into a seated position she answers, "Why yes, who else would I be talking about, dear?"

Spinning around, her back to the customer, Olivia grumbles under her breath, "Gee where do I start..." while she opens her drawer, sorting through the chaotic mess of hair supplies and discarded candy wrappers until her fingers curl around the comb, buried at inconveniently at the bottom.

"What was that, doll?" Miss Benson questions, prompting Olivia to face her again.

With a deep breath she works past the oddity of the topic, pasting a thin, artificial smile on her face. "Miss Benson," she says softly, lowering her voice to a timid whisper, attempting not to damage the woman's easily bruised pride, "your husband's been dead for five years."

"You think I don't know that?" She snaps, nostrils flaring with rage, bringing Olivia to retaliate in an instinctual urge to protect herself. A knobby finger looking like the disfigured twig from a worn tree is thrashed violently her way for emphasis, "He a spirit girl!"

Crouched against the desk with the small of her back digging painfully against the edge of the tabletop she nods vigorously in agreement and the hand retreats back in the depths of the spilling black cloth shielding her neck and clothes from the falling strands of hair cut from her head. The flames of rage dulling from her slicing brown eyes she fidgets in her seat as if settling into a more comfortable position.

Her step slowed with hesitation Olivia moves in Miss Benson's direction, her feet shuffling against the floor with harsh scraping noises as the soles of her tennis shoes drag across the tiles. "So, um... how would you like your hair cut today."

"Not just cut dearie," her lips widening into a wide devious grin she gushes, "Hector loves a good red head."

Pursing her lips to prevent making another comment that will unleash the woman's temper she locks away her words and simply runs the comb through her hair. Oblivious to Olivia's disinterest Miss Benson continues, "I hope you do know that those five years have done Hector some good..."

And as she sinks into her work, ensuring the evenness of the direction her scissors travel Miss Benson's problems slip away into mumbled, routine responses of appropriate, 'mhmm's' and 'that's nice' when required, even though really her mind is set on just how much she wants to sprout wings and flee from the oddity of The Ville.