Masked by Norah McClintock

Book: Masked by Norah McClintock Read Free Book Online
Authors: Norah McClintock
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Chapter One
    â€œUh, do you have a bathroom I can use?” I’m ready with an excuse for when the man behind the counter says no. I thought long and hard to come up with it. You have to when you’re asking to use the bathroom in a convenience store, which doesn’t have to provide one the way restaurants do. I have to get yes for an answer if my mission is going to be a success.
    The man behind the counter scowls. He peers at me from under gray eyebrows that look like steel wool. Is he on to me? Does he suspect?
    â€œWhat about your coffee and taquito?” he says. “Are you still going to want those?”
    â€œYeah. And a two-liter cola and the latest Wrestling World , if you have it.” I throw those in to improve my chances of getting a yes.
    â€œWe have it. What about Wresting Today ? You want that too?” His piggy little eyes drill into me. I see immediately where he’s going. If I want to use the facilities, I’m going to have to cough up some more money. I take another glance at the magazine rack.
    â€œAnd Wrestling Connoisseur ,” I say. What the heck—I’m getting paid enough. A few magazines aren’t going to make a dent in my paycheck.
    â€œThrough the door beside the coolers and down one flight,” the man behind the counter says.
    As I head down the narrow aisle toward the coolers, I glance in the security mirror at the back of the store. The man at the counter, the owner, is watching me.
    Going through the door beside the big Coke-sponsored cooler is like stepping from Oz back into Kansas. The tile floor in the store sparkles. The wooden floor on the other side of the door is dingy, scuffed and slightly warped. The lights in the store are blindingly bright. On the other side of the door there is only a single naked lightbulb that makes the places it doesn’t hit look inky and a little spooky. The walls of the store are chockablock with neatly displayed and colorful products. The walls of the small room are bare except for a car dealership calendar that hangs from a nail directly above a battered old table and chair. On the table is an adding machine—I didn’t even know those still existed. Next to it is a two-drawer olive-green filing cabinet. On the wall, in an ancient fixture with a pull chain, is another naked lightbulb. This is where the store owner does his accounts. To the left of the door is a flight of wooden stairs. But I don’t go down it.
    Instead, I listen. It’s quiet in here. It’s also quiet out in the store. I tiptoe over to the desk. I’d been expecting a computer, but there isn’t one. I open the top drawer of the filing cabinet. It’s jammed with files. I thumb through them, looking for the one I’ve been sent to find. I don’t see it. I close that drawer, open the next one and thumb through more folders.
    Bingo! There it is, neatly labeled.
    I pull it out and scan the sheets inside. They look like the ones that were described to me. I dig the miniature camera—a spy camera, if you can believe it—out of my pocket and photograph every sheet. I put everything back into the folder and replace the folder in the file cabinet. I tuck the camera into my pocket. I start back to the door.
    Before I get there, I hear the man behind the counter yell something— a name. I’m about to push the door open and go back into the store when I hear a different voice—a familiar one. I decide to wait. If I go out there, I’ll be recognized. If I’m recognized, I’ll be exposed. If I’m exposed, I’ll have to abort my mission. And if I abort… let’s just say I don’t want to kiss my paycheck goodbye.

Chapter Two
    â€œWhat’s taking so long?” Corey calls.
    â€œ Shhhh! ” I dart out into the living room, my finger pressed against my lips, and glower at him. I must have told him a million times to be quiet. Shouting does not

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