Friday, September 11, 2015


By seven-thirty Wednesday morning -- half an hour after opening the Gold Tone Gym -- trouble had already slapped the staff and equipment. Every clean towel in the gym was in the dirty laundry hamper, with no explanation for how they got there. Pins were missing from nearly half the weight stations, tossed into corners or tucked under the pads of the seats. How could anyone use the equipment if they couldn't adjust the weight? Vaseline -- or something equally slick -- coated seats and hand grips on nearly a third of the stations.

If Baxter and Shane hadn't been on the alert for trouble already, several customers could have been hurt before the sabotage was discovered. A dozen more would have walked out, unable to exercise.

To make matters worse, Charlene's cousin, Connie something-or-other, nearly strangled herself on the cable of the triceps station. Fortunately, Shane caught her bringing the bar down farther than specified in the instruction poster on the wall next to the machine. Plus, she stood with her back to the station and brought it down over her shoulder, across her chest, instead of facing the station. Shane grabbed the bar just as Connie lost her grip, before the bar and steel cable caught around her neck.

"Weird lady," Baxter added as he reported the mishap to Vic over a second cup of coffee in his apartment behind the gym. "She was actually ticked at Shane for saving her. Like she wanted to get hurt or something."

"She was probably embarrassed Shane had to save her from herself," Vic offered.

"Yeah. Probably right."

Still the conversation stayed with Vic through most of the day. He worried it like a sore tooth, rubbing it with his tongue until that grew sore, too. In this case, the soreness found itself aiming at God.

Hadn't he done enough to pay for all his crimes before he became a Christian? Tabor was the third town he had settled in since fleeing New York. He didn't want to leave.

But what if this stupid, petty sabotage of the gym was the calling card for someone with a score to settle? What if things were about to heat up?

"I can't take it, Lord. I'm not the same guy I was seven years ago. I don't have the steel nerves anymore. Why can't I stay here?" he blurted, his voice rising to echo through the vaulted ceiling of his loft apartment. "With Rene," he added a moment later, on a whisper. The apartment didn't throw the words back at him, but that was no comfort.

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