“The Computer Nerd” Chapter 3

With the October 20, 2015 release date for The Computer Nerd less than a month away, I think it’s time to start pumping up the hype wagon a little, so I’d like to release individual chapters every few days until the day of release. Obviously, I’m not going to post every chapter, as I’ll want to save something for your e-book reading devices, but I’ll be giving you a decent preview of the book if you stick around long enough to check them out.

(9/27/2015 UPDATE: After giving it some thought, I’ve decided that I’ll release a new chapter every Friday until release. This will make it possible to give you a substantial amount of story without giving away everything in advance.)

Because I’m still finalizing the story, the blog version and the e-book version may have some slight differences. But this will give a decent idea of what to expect. If you’d like to comment on the direction of the story (with positive or negative reactions, advice, etc.), please don’t hesitate. I welcome any and all feedback. And thanks in advance if you do post a comment.

If you haven’t read the first two chapters, you can view them here:

Chapters 1 and 2

And now to continue the story:

Chapter 3

“Security Measures”

The problem with his ex-wife was that she was unpredictable, and whatever she was up to, and wherever she was going, Anston knew he would have to prepare for a confrontation. He didn’t know when it would happen, or how, and he wasn’t entirely sure which preventative measure was the most sensible for keeping her away. If she were to approach him midday while he was heading to his car, for example, she would catch him at his most defenseless. That, of course, would’ve spelled trouble. And, though a normal person was less likely to start trouble in the parking lot of a small IT firm, she had spent the last year at the Happy Place Enrichment Facility because she wasn’t normal. Attacking him in public was something she was probably capable of now, especially after surrounding herself with like-minded people for so long. But that would’ve been unpredictable because even crazy people knew that attacking someone in private is better. It’s the reason so many slasher films take place at cabins in the woods or in the heart of a spaceship hurtling ten thousand light years to nowhere. Even murderous nut jobs knew that isolation is scarier than public gatherings when confronted by a stalker (even for socially anxious people like Anston). It was more likely she’d come for him once he was confirmed alone. The truly unpredictable part was in determining exactly when she would come for him. The problem with Anston was that he was usually alone.

But he was a smart guy. He could prepare for that eventuality. If she were planning to impose on him serious harm, he didn’t want to improve her odds by keeping himself defenseless, so he searched his Maserati Biturbo for a weapon. Unfortunately, it was equally defenseless. He searched the glove compartment for a knife, or even a pen, but all he had was vehicle registration slips from years past and copies of his auto insurance. He’d kept the cabin of his car mostly free of junk. There was an aluminum sun shade folded up in the rear footwell, but it was useless as a weapon—its soft edges ensured that he wouldn’t inflict even a paper cut should she attack. Next, he searched the trunk. He didn’t have much in there, either: just plastic bags, discarded candy wrappers he’d forgotten to throw away after his last road trip, and a teddy bear he’d bought for her when they were dating but decided not to give until after they married (as a token of gratitude) and then simply forgot about until his last road trip, which he took several months after he’d committed her. But he did have a tire iron.

Anston gripped the tire iron between his fingers and marveled at its weight. If swung correctly, it could do a lot of damage to an attacker. He slashed at nothing, just to test the force of its swing. If she came after him in her expected psychotic rage, he would have to aim below the neck to keep from putting her in a coma.

Then he considered his desperate thinking. He was holding a weapon that could stop his ex-wife in her tracks, in ways that could prevent her from ever recovering. And he was contemplating using it on her.

He grunted at his shot of lunacy and tossed the tire iron back in the trunk. Why would he hit anyone with a heavy piece of metal, much less the one he’d married once upon a time? He closed the trunk and grumbled as the Happy Place Enrichment Facility popped back into view over the roof of his car. He had to vacate the parking lot before its mental effects rubbed off on him.

As he sped away from the institution, he continued to think about safer measures for subduing his vengeful ex-wife. He didn’t want to put her in the grave, or even in the hospital. He just wanted to give himself time to escape should she confront him. But he needed to consider the likelihood that she could catch him anywhere at any time. That meant he’d have to carry with him some form of deterrent. At all times. It was the best way to handle her while not killing her. He would need a humane solution.

He decided after several minutes of racking his brain that the answer to his problem was sitting somewhere at the mall.

***

When Anston pulled up to the mall’s south entrance, he spotted a group of teenagers loitering on a low wall, each one smoking a cigarette. The girls were flirting with the boys, and the boys were flirting with each other. Most of them had tattoos, and all of them were communicating with each other almost exclusively through rude gestures and filthy language. He wasn’t sure if they were capable of speaking intelligently. He rolled his window all the way down and tested them anyway.

“You kids know of a shop inside that sells Tasers?” he asked.

The boys collectively shrugged. One of the girls thought about the answer.

“Maybe the Screw Yourself store might have one,” she said with a sneer.

“You know where that’s located?”

“Yeah, in the Bendover District, next to the Kissmyass Department Store.”

Anston smiled and shook his head.

“No idea where any of that is.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Next to Starbucks, dude. Everything is next to Starbucks.”

He gave her the thumbs up.

“Thanks!”

Anston drove to the other side of the mall and parked there. He didn’t want to confront these kids when he approached the entrance on foot. They had looked and smelled like trouble. But at least they were helpful. Given their appearance, he was expecting the runaround.

Inside the mall, it was readily apparent that everything was shutting down for the night. Even with the holidays approaching and mall hours extending, it seemed he hadn’t gotten here soon enough.

But he raced through the mall anyway, trying to find someone who was looking for one last sale to make. He really needed a Taser. Even though he’d never used one before, he knew they were capable of stopping deranged lunatics at the press of a button. Plus, there was real power in carrying one, like transporting a handheld kiddy lightning bolt. He’d often dreamt of shooting a bad guy with one. Never thought he’d need to use a Taser on his wife, but it seemed that day had come anyway.

Gates upon closed gates sped past his peripheral vision in a blur, but he didn’t let it dissuade him. A few gates were still half open—most of them clothing stores where girls like the one at the other entrance could change their identities and interests at the flip of a switch—but each one had employees standing by, sweeping floors and preparing for that final pull that explained to customers that all new purchases would have to be made the next day. And ultimately, it didn’t matter because every store he passed was a rip-off of its neighbor. None of these places were likely to sell Tasers.

But then luck smiled on him. He turned the corner to find a Starbucks, a clothing store, a Starbucks, another clothing store, a fitness store, a tattoo parlor, and another Starbucks, and across from that third Starbucks was a kiosk that sold pocket defensive items. And the salesperson running the booth was still there. She was packing up her cashbox, but she was still there.

Anston startled her when he ran up behind her, screaming “Hey!” just inches from the back of her head. Without thinking, she grabbed for one of her products, a vial of pepper spray, and unloaded it in his face. He screamed from the utter pain of it.

“What the hell?” he cried.

“I might say the same to you, pal,” said the salesgirl.

“I was trying to buy one of your products before you closed for the night!”

“You’re a customer?”

“I wanted to be!”

She put her hand on his shoulder.

“Calm down. You startled me is all.”

“Calm down? My eyes are melting in their sockets.”

There was a change in the tone of her voice. She was all sweet and businesslike now.

“So you know the product works well.”

“Good God.”

She released his shoulder.

“Tell you what. I’m closed for the night, but if you come back in the morning, I’ll sell you this bottle for half off. Just remind me that you’re the customer I sprayed in case I forget.”

“I think you should just give it to me now, for free.”

Anston had his hands over his eyes, and he was on the verge of crying. He could already feel his sinuses congesting from the overpowering jolt of two million units on the Scoville Heat Scale (twice the intensity of a ghost chili pepper and a thousand times hotter than a jalapeno) destroying his will to live.

“Sorry, my boss would get mad. But come back tomorrow morning. I think I can give you a discount. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Anston stumbled out of the mall with his face turning inside out. He’d tried rinsing his eyes at the restroom sink, but the custodians had already locked the restrooms for the night. He still tried at the water fountains, but none of them were powerful enough to clear the mouth guard. It was a futile effort. Now he was outside, daring to face the dust floating under the night sky.

Laughter erupted beside him. He peeked through his fingers to see the boys and girls from before mocking him between each puff of their cigarettes.

“Look at this ass,” said the main girl, “like he’d just got kicked in the face by a stripper with standards after he tried to start a conversation.”

The others laughed with her.

“I guess you found the Screw Yourself store?”

Anston shook his head. He’d chosen the wrong exit, would still have to find the right one, and for all he knew, his ex-wife was still coming to reunite in all of her vengeance.

He decided it was best to cry after all.

(end sample)

Read Chapter 4

If you like what you’ve read so far and want to find out where the story is headed, click here for ordering information and additional book info: https://zippywings.wordpress.com/my-books/the-computer-nerd/

Thanks.

Let me know if you’re looking forward to this.

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