Island Mine - Cover

Island Mine

Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik

Chapter 2

Thursday Morning

Waylon woke groggily. He was surprised to see his roommate, Leon, studying. Leon's head was bopping along with the music in his headphones as he bent over a textbook. It was a small room, like in any other college dorm. Leon's side was a pigsty, decorated with band and concert posters and a string of LED mood lighting. Waylon's side of the room was neat. On his section of wall he had a map of the world and a Texas state flag. He'd arranged for his representative's office to have it flown over the capital in Austin on the day of his discharge from the Navy. He had the official proclamation that went with it stashed in a drawer.

He grabbed his shaving kit and prepared to walk to the communal shower down the hall. As he passed Leon, his roommate cursed and threw his headphones down.

Waylon turned to look.

"Whoa, what happened to you?" Leon exclaimed.

Waylon delicately probed his tender lip, "Little fender bender last night."

"Anybody hurt?"

"Just me," Waylon replied. "I slid off a gravel road coming back from my astronomy thing, but fortunately I wasn't going very fast."

Leon was poking and prodding his cables, trying to see what had happened to his stereo system. Maybe Waylon's day was looking up after all. He shuffled to the shower and exchanged caveman like grunts of acknowledgment with others from his floor. As he shaved, he took a close look at his lip, and what he thought might be the makings of a black eye. One thing he couldn't complain about was the dorm's commercial boilers because the showers always had plenty of hot water. He stood in the shower and tried to reassemble his memories of the previous night. He still wasn't sure what had happened.

He passed Leon on his way back to the room. His roommate said he was heading to the dumpster. Waylon dressed and checked the time. He desperately needed coffee before his Computer Forensics class.

Waylon pushed through the door at the coffee shop, and got in line. His back had definite opinions about last night's strange wreck, and was letting him know about it. It was weird, but he kept smelling grilled steak. He considered stopping at the student health clinic, but they'd probably make him wait an hour only to tell him to take some aspirin.

"What happened to you?" the girl behind the counter asked.

"Had a disagreement with a tree," he explained, afraid that he was going to have this same conversation over and over again all day long.

"Do you ever hear from what's-her-name?" she asked.

Leanne, the girl he'd dated for a few months, had worked here. "No, I sure haven't, how about you?" he asked.

She shook her head and took his store card to run through the machine. She ran it through a second time and made a sound. "I'm sorry, this thing is on the fritz again."

She handed the card back along with his coffee, "I think this one is on me. You should call me sometime."

He glanced at the wedding band on her finger, but she just smiled at him.

He made it to class on time. They only had a few weeks left in the course. Waylon enjoyed it, but didn't think he'd take many more classes in the computer field. The people who populated the computer sciences building could be an odd bunch, and he wanted a career where he could be more active.

They were about fifteen minutes into the class when the professor's presentation software crashed. He attempted to fix it while a few opinionated students offered their comments on the reliability of his system. This was followed by a loud commotion out in the hallway. The professor walked to the door and poked his head out. He talked to someone and announced to the class that he'd be right back.

Complaints echoed around the classroom, and got louder when the students realized that network service was down in the classroom.

Waylon shrugged and closed his laptop. The professor returned and told them that there was an ongoing hack attack against the university's systems. The internal networks were down, and somebody was going to be in big trouble if they were caught. He gave them a short lecture on the value of forensic computing in such a case, and then cut them loose.

Waylon decided that he didn't need to go to his geography lecture. He couldn't understand why some students had a problem with the class, he could sleep through it and still pull a 4.0. Instead he was going to use the time wisely and hit the auto parts store.

His truck didn't look any worse for wear in the daylight. The bumper was deformed, and several inches of matching body paint had popped off. Waylon groaned when he discovered that the turn signal assembly was cracked too. He put his key in the ignition and turned on his blinker. Sure enough, the turn signal was out. The last thing he needed was ticket. He drove straight to the auto parts store.

The employee at the counter tried to look up the parts on his computer, but the machine wasn't cooperating.

"Sorry about this," the worker muttered.

An elderly man emerged from the parts aisle behind the counter and asked what was wrong. The younger worker pointed at the misbehaving computer. The old man didn't need a computer to find Waylon's part. He was back after a few minutes with the right boxes. The man nudged the younger employee out of the way and wrote Waylon's ticket by hand, and called the debit card in to the credit card company.

Waylon had already spent a hundred and twenty bucks for the headlight and turn signal assemblies, and he still needed an airbag.

The old man scratched his chin when Waylon asked about the part. The model wasn't in stock, and the price to order was way over Waylon's student budget.

"Tell you what," the man said, "there's a place over on Fifth Street that rents out garage space for those that don't have their own. The fellow that owns it is pretty partial to students. Al Newberg's the name. He's also got a source for salvage parts at a reasonable price. Tell him I sent you by."

Waylon did a few mental calculations. He had enough money, barely, in his checking account. He had funds in his savings account, but didn't want to tap that. The bulk of the money from the last two years of Navy pay, along with his mother's life insurance settlement, had been put in short term bonds. He didn't do it because he was some sort of financial genius. It was to guarantee that he'd have something when he finished college because he didn't trust himself to leave the money alone. He could use it now though. Waylon spared a brief second to indulge in a bitter thought or two about his absent father. Abandoning a family was something Waylon swore he'd never do. He mentally scolded himself. His father had nothing to do with the repair bill. It was close to the end of the month and a new monthly stipend would soon fill his coffers thanks to the GI Bill.

After thanking the auto parts guys for their help, he decided to check out the garage. He couldn't see doing much work in the dorm parking lot with his limited tool selection.

He located the business on Fifth Street as promised. It was rambling affair, but clean looking. Waylon rang the bell in the small office. It was a short wait before a middle aged man emerged, wiping grease from his hands.

"Help you?"

"Yes, sir. If you're Mr. Newberg, the man over at the auto parts store recommended you. I need a replacement for the driver's side airbag on my truck and a place to do some repair work."

"Well, you've got the right man, let's take a look," the man said. "What do they call you?"

"Waylon Eckermann, sir," he answered as they walked toward his truck.

Mr. Newberg cast a critical eye at the damage and Waylon told him about the replacement parts he'd purchased. After spotting his student parking sticker, Mr. Newberg offered him a deal. For twenty bucks, Waylon could use an empty garage stall and a set of tools do the work while Mr. Newberg made some calls on the airbag.

Waylon considered the offer and stuck out his hand, "You've got a deal."

Mr. Newberg directed him toward a corner of his business, and opened one of the half dozen garage doors. Mr. Newberg pointed the tools out to him and told him he'd be back to check on him

It took some work, but Waylon got all the fasteners and screws undone. He had to hammer a bracket back into its original position, but he got the assemblies swapped. He borrowed a shop rag and tried to buff out the scratches on the grill trim and bumper.

Mr. Newberg returned and inspected his work with an approving comment. "Not bad. You know, I could track down a replacement bumper if you'd like."

Waylon sat back on his heels and thought about it. It was mostly a cosmetic issue since the dented bumper wasn't hurting anything. "How much?"

"Oh, a new one would cost you about one forty, used in good shape, maybe half that."

Waylon frowned, "Not today. Thanks anyway. I heard you rent out these garage spaces, how's that work?"

Mr. Newberg explained that for thirty-five dollars a week the rental would get you the use of a lockable garage stall, and a key. The business had security camera coverage and good lighting. Mr. Newberg had a rule that you kept the place clean, and took out your own trash. No funny stuff allowed.

"You interested?" Mr. Newberg asked.

Waylon said he might take him up on it toward the end of the semester. He had a long list of maintenance he needed to do to keep the truck running.

Mr. Newberg explained that the winter break was always a slow time at the garage, so he'd be able to get a garage stall without any trouble. He'd also found a junk yard that had an airbag for eighty dollars, cash only.

Waylon thanked Mr. Newberg for the help and that he'd wait a couple of weeks before buying a new airbag. The man told him he was welcome back any time.

Waylon needed to make some money. The trade-off was that it was going to eat up some of his precious study time. He walked to the front door of 'The Patriot Zone.' A big bold sign outside the front door, repeated inside in the entryway, instructed that all firearms were to be unloaded and cleared prior to opening the interior door. An unloading station was positioned between the outer and inner doors for this purpose. Security cameras were numerous and obvious.

He waved to the camera as he opened the interior door. The storefront portion of the range was brightly lit and very professionally laid out. It was very much a retail space that any shopper would be familiar with. It was only the inventory that was unique.

The proprietor of the range was behind the front counter helping a customer. Waylon waited until he was finished before he walked over.

There was a back wall with a row of double thick safety glass windows. Through the window you could make out the brightly lit shooting lanes. The Patriot Zone was a modern facility and the owner's pride and joy.

The man behind the counter was as wide as he was tall, with dyed blond hair that stood straight up with the help of some mysterious hair product. It would be a mistake to dismiss the large man with the ready smile and small pistol on his hip as harmless. Waylon knew the man was a skilled shooter. Alphonso Srabian was an Armenian immigrant whose pride in his American citizenship knew no bounds. He was relentlessly cheerful, a fervent supporter of the Second Amendment, and the first acquaintance Waylon had made in town.

Alphonso made the same joke about Waylon's name that he always did. The large man was one of the few people who could get away with the joke, since his own name was unpronounceable by most in the country. The name Alphonso had been adopted much like the country he loved.

Waylon was forced to explain once again about his fender bender, and the resulting need to generate some cash flow.

The range owner smiled broadly. He knew that Waylon also wanted to get some range time in. Alphonso told Waylon to go on back to the employee's locker room and through to the range while he checked the training schedule.

Waylon felt an immediate sense of relief. He could teach a couple of classes and cover all of his repair costs with a couple of weekends or weeknights at the range. Alphonso buzzed him through the back door and Waylon went to his locker. As an independent contractor, he wasn't technically a range employee, but Alphonso had done him an immense favor and let Waylon store his weapon and teaching supplies at the range.

He secured his locker and walked through the back to the employee entrance to the shooting range. He entered the code on the keypad and slipped inside. Most of the shooting lanes were empty at this time of day. He picked one and got set up. He relaxed and ended up putting a hundred rounds downrange. It was good therapy.

After the customers left, he took advantage of the empty range and unlocked the door that separated the adjacent open section of the range from the shooting lanes. The open section was where the various practical pistol groups, or the local police, ran their training scenarios after regular business hours. It was added profit for the range to attract weekly shooting groups. The active target machine was still set up, so Waylon turned it on and ran through a couple of drills on a moving target. He practiced moving to cover and shooting, reloading on the move, and for kicks, repeated the action while shooting with his off hand.

He had gotten his concealed handgun license (CHL) immediately after he was discharged. The state made it easy by waving the fees for active duty or recently discharged veterans, and when the time came, he'd only have to pay half the regular fee when he needed to renew his license.

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